My dad was in the Navy in WWII, and was on the beach at Iwo Jima on D-Day. He and his men completed their mission, came under machine gun fire, their landing craft was disabled, and it took more than a day for them to make their way to a ship and then to get back to their own ship. All the time in wet clothes.
When the flag was raised on Mount Suribachi, the smaller flag and then the larger replacement flag, ships’ horns rang out. But there was more than a month left of hard fighting.
The flag on Mount Suribachi was not a flag of victory, it was a flag of hope.
We currently live under a flag of hope. God’s kingdom is in believers, and we know, we know, His victory is coming. We know Christ will reign.
But we are in a hard fight right now. Victory isn’t yet achieved, but victory is certain.
A cartoon character was turned away at the pearly gate. “But it wasn’t gluttony, it was just the munchies.”
We may excuse our sin. It’s “just munchies,” rather than a heart issue. We need to call sin, “Sin!” We need to name it.
We might “solve” the apparent problem without having a change of heart, without repenting where it is needed.
Perhaps we work on “curb appeal,” ignoring that we are building on sand.
Our New Year’s resolutions may indicate areas that need God’s scalpel, core issues that need honest examination and repentance, rather than just “improvement.”
Perhaps a goal for weight loss should prompt more than a resolution to stop eating so many carbs. Is there underlying sin? Is food a substitute for dealing with anxiety or anything other than seeking the Lord? People can be normal weight and still love food in a sinful way.
Perhaps a resolution relating to temper or speech has an underlying issue of anger, which needs confession and repentance. A person might solve their speech, but seethe underneath, and have their anger come out in other ways.
If you do New Year’s resolutions, there may be unexpected hints where you need to reflect and repent. At least, that is what I found.
This is not to dismiss resolutions! For example Ezra set his heart to study the law of Yahweh, practice it and teach it! Ezra 7:10
Father, please show me my sins. Please help me be honest with myself. Please help me not excuse myself or minimize my need. Please help me confess and repent. Thank You that You promise to forgive and to cleanse me from all unrighteousness.
Good news is meaningful and welcome when we’re suffering from bad news.
The last two weeks, this blog talked about the trouble in the world (What is Happening in the World?) and about death (Sudden Death). Sin abounds. Rejection of the Almighty, Creator God is rampant. Eternal condemnation awaits those who spurn God’s Savior.
Next Sunday, though, is Christmas!
Do not be afraid; for behold, I bring you good news of great joy which will be for all the people; for today in the city of David there has been born for you a Savior, who is Christ the Lord. (Luke 2:10-11)
As we prepare for Christmas, we need to see the glorious, awesome, stupendous, eternal good news in light of the enormity of the bad news. The more we understand the depth of sin, the more wonderful is the good news of God sending a Savior.
People need to know about the bad news before they know they need good news. They need to know they are sinners subject to the wrath of God before they know they need a Savior.
That is why God sent John the Baptist to make ready the way of the LORD (Matthew 3:3). Repent! John the Baptist said “Repent!” And he didn’t hold back, calling the Pharisees and Sadducees “you brood of vipers.” (Matthew 3:7)
For those of us who are believers (praise God!), we also need the good news of the power of the Savior, the good news of our indwelling Holy Spirit. We see the sin in ourselves and have both the desire and the ability, through our Lord, increasingly to walk in a manner worthy of Him. That is good news indeed!
A very fit marathoner died of a heart attack. A newly-wed man died in his sleep. A parking control officer was shot in his head from behind. And many more suddenly died.
Wham! And each woke up in eternity, some to eternal life, some to a resurrection of condemnation. Some to glorious good news, some to eternal disaster.
It is given to us to die once and then the judgment. (Hebrews 9:27)
We do not know when we’ll have our last day, so be ready.
If you have not recognized your sins against your Creator, have not turned to God in repentance, and have not placed your belief and trust in Jesus Christ, please deal with that now, while you have time. Be ready. Don’t die in unbelief.
If you are in Christ, hallelujah!
For believers, there is still a call to be ready. For however much time we have left, let’s seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness. Let’s pursue increasing godliness. Let’s whole-heartedly serve Him.
This season is a great time to proclaim Him. “Merry Christmas” can be the start of a conversation about the Lord. Asking the question: “Are you ready for Christmas” can lead into explaining why Jesus Christ was born.
A football announcer asked: “What is happening in the world?” The question followed the photo of a player’s cleats recognizing a recent tragedy. Then back to football, of course, with the question asked but not answered.
Secular fingers point at all the usual suspects.
Scripture gives us truth regarding God’s historical dealings with nations in judgment, information about today, and clarity concerning the future.
God firmly dealt with unrighteous nations and individuals. Since God is the same yesterday, today, and tomorrow, we have every reason to believe He is currently dealing with nations and individuals who reject Him.
We are also shown that there is a point at which God gives up on sinful people who reject Him, and leaves them to the consequences of their own actions. “Leave them alone.” “God gave them over.” Or God kills them, like Herod, Ananias, and Sapphira.
We are told that things will get worse and worse.
But! Of course, Scripture also tells us of the glorious victory of Christ Jesus. We definitely can and should look forward to that in hope and belief.
In the meantime, we are to pray for individuals and nations. We are to mourn the abominations we see. We are to talk with one another, encouraging each other to stand firm.
The Sunday before Thanksgiving I told you that I was going to list why we are able to do as God commands: Give thanks in everything. Sometimes, of course, it is easy to give Him thanks. Other times, though, the situation is so horrible, we can’t imagine doing so.
For Christians, here is what we absolutely must remember in order to give thanks in everything:
Our God is totally sovereign over everything and everybody all the time,
God is in control of what we experience (even though we are responsible),
God loves us with an everlasting love,
God promises to work all things for good, making us into the image of His Son,
God has a loving purpose for everything we experience,
God promises to make us more and more holy during our time on earth and to bring us to glory later, and
God is with us (and for us) always, giving us what we need to act righteously in every situation.
There are a lot of underlying details, of course. We continually need to develop our understanding of:
Who God is,
Who we are to God,
What God does for us, His children, and
What we “get” out of whatever God allows/brings into our lives.
THANK DON’T RESIST
Pray, of course, about whether the Lord wants you to do something to change the situation and He wants you to think, say, and do.
Remind yourself of the four points above and determine to believe He has a loving purpose for what is happening.
Our most common question: “Why?” Certainly, that is often, often, asked by young children as any parent can confirm.
I’d heard, and even thought, that God doesn’t answer our “why?” questions. But He does.
God answers “why?” with Himself
In more than 125 verses, God tells Job that He is God and Job is not! God tells Job He is Creator, He knows everything, He is in control of war and battle, gives wisdom, deals with the wicked, and on and on. And on. Whatever is under the whole heaven is Mine. (Job 41:11)
Job was satisfied and repented, I know that You can do all things, and that no purpose of Yours can be thwarted … I repent in dust and ashes. (Job 42:2,6)
God answers “why?” by telling us how it benefits us
Our suffering and trials benefit us.
Trials, the testing of our faith, produces endurance, And let endurance have its perfect result, so that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing. (James 1:4)
We also exult in our tribulations, knowing that tribulation brings about perseverance; and perseverance, proven character; and proven character, hope; and hope does not disappoint, because the love of God has been poured out within our hearts through the Holy Spirit who was given to us. (Romans 5:3-5)
And we know that God causes all things to work together for good to those who love God, to those who are called according to His purpose. (Romans 8:28)
We ask God; Why do I (or a friend or family) have cancer? Why did I lose my job?
I doubt many ask: Why God, WHY, did I win the $2+ billion lottery?
We tend to think we don’t deserve the bad stuff, but do deserve the good stuff.
Of course, we all are sinners. We all deserve God’s wrath. If we got what we deserve, we’d be heading to hell. But God, in His great mercy, provided a savior, and if we believe in Jesus Christ, we’re saved and headed to heaven. Hallelujah!
Rejoice! Pray! Give Thanks in Everything!
We are commanded to rejoice aways, pray without ceasing and give thanks in everything (1 Thessalonians 5:26-18). That includes our trials, which are controlled by our loving sovereign God, and which are for our benefit. Praise Him!
Father, thank You for Your great wisdom and love, allowing or bringing into our lives what makes us grow in Christ, and what makes us more in His image. Help us accept what comes from your loving hand.
P.S. Our trials often benefit others as well. That’s a topic for another time.
A few years ago, I was so upset about the events in my country that I had trouble sleeping. I prayed a lot about it, increasingly troubled by what was happening, and asked God that my country be more like my childhood, that we would repent and seek Him, and that my country be one He could bless.
“Do you love your country more than Me?”
That question made me examine myself, and the answer wasn’t as quick and good as I wished. God had to work on me.
Put them in fear, O LORD; Let the nations know that they are but men. (Psalm 9:20)
For the kingdom is the LORD’s and He rules over the nations. (Psalm 22:28)
God reigns over the nations, God sits on His holy throne. (Psalm 47:8)
Arise, O God, judge the earth! For it is You who possesses all the nations. (Psalm 82:8)
I don’t know for sure about your country, but many countries are under God’s judgment for rejecting Him, for their evil ways. Nations pay consequences for their peoples’ choices.
For the day of the LORD draws near on all the nations. As you have done, it will be done to you. Your dealings will return on your own head. (Obadiah 15)
And, according to Romans 1:18-32, God has given us over to our own, self-centered, anti-God choices. This is called God’s wrath of abandonment. Alas!
God, help! We want to love you with all our hearts, souls, minds, and strength (Mark 12:30). We want to have no other gods before You, including our countries. (Exodus 20:3)
Let’s resolve to praise Him, our righteous judge, for both His blessings and His judgments. He always does right.
Father, forgive me for putting my country, for putting anything, ahead of You. Help me love You with everything I am. Help me praise You. Help me glorify You with my entire life.