Wednesday, June 11, 2008

Is God Blessing America?

Lovers of freedom are calling for Americans to rise up and declare “Enough!” to those misguided bureaucrats bent on relieving us of our liberties bit-by-bit. The effort on the left coast to ban bonfires on beaches in Washington State in the name of global warming is simply the most recent example.

Now I value my civil freedom as much as anyone, and I share in the disdain leveled at these wrong-headed efforts to “protect” the environment. But there are more ominous signs of trouble ahead for America that transcend merely the loss of civil liberties. I’m referring to evidence that God’s hand of blessing has been removed from our land.

Patriotic Americans love to sing, “God Bless America.” But is God doing so? What factors indicate His treatment of our nation? Tracing the history of God’s dealings with people in Scripture reveal an unmistakable pattern: when He chooses to respond with favor and blessing, nations revel in spiritual and material prosperity on many levels. The synopsis of 1 Kings 4:25 is representative: “And Judah and Israel dwelt safely, each man under his vine and his fig tree.” Ezra expresses a basic spiritual axiom, “The hand of our God is upon all those for good who seek Him, but His power and His wrath are against all those who forsake Him” (Ezra 8:22).

Now, I’m not suggesting that God never ordains times of adversity and trial to demonstrate the vitality of those who trust Him. Indeed, Scripture declares such times are to be expected, both as a witness to the world and as a means of steeling our resolve to endure. Job is the classic example of such reality. However, such faith-testing circumstances do not void God’s promises to His people. Over the long haul, God’s hand of blessing will be seen—just as it was earlier in our nation’s history. America’s Providential History chronicles some of these evidences.

Today our nation faces a myriad of troubles that cumulatively threaten our very existence. The daily news is filled with reports on the declining dollar, the housing slump, the return of inflationary pressures, sky-rocketing fuel prices, the abusive tactics of an ever-lengthening arm of government power, and a pervasive secularization that seeks to divorce life from the reality of God and His absolutes.

Such factors seem to be part of a pattern that I have observed for years. Frequently, when I read the latest news, the thought crosses my mind: here is further evidence of God’s judgment upon America. I cannot remember the last time a news story impressed me as evidence of God’s blessing upon our land.

Scripture reveals how God deals with nations that defy Him. He utilizes negative developments as occasions to further pour forth His judgment in greater measure, creating a downward spiral into oblivion. He used Rehoboam’s foolish actions as a means of permanently dividing the kingdom of Israel, in fulfillment of His promise of judgment for Solomon’s apostasy (1 Kings 11-12). He utilized Amaziah’s ill-conceived challenge to Joash as an occasion to punish the nation for her idolatry (2 Chronicles 25). And, more famously, the Lord chose the occasion of David’s decision to number the people as a reason for moving against the sin of the nation (2 Samuel 24).

Today, numerous developments in our land are crying out for God’s judgment: the unchecked abortion holocaust, rampant divorce, the increasing acceptance of homosexuality, and a general disregard for the merits of God’s claims upon human life. Witness the national ignoring of the Sabbath Day, once culturally observed by nearly everyone, even the non-religious; now even many Christians treat the day as little different than the other six.

The bottom line is that God has more than enough bases for pouring forth His unbridled fury upon the American nation. How should Christians respond? The precepts of 2 Chronicles 7 provide the answer. God declared to Solomon that when His blessing is withheld due to the sin of the people (verse 13) they should respond in humble confession, repentance, and seek the face of God (verse 14).

The Christian church in America has been so influenced by the world that she is largely marginalized in the battle for the soul of the nation. We have become so consumed with our own comforts, described by Francis Schaeffer as “personal peace and affluence” to the degree that we have failed to respond in the spirit of 2 Chronicles 7. We are overwhelmed by a spiritual lethargy that cries out for the chastening of the Lord.

May God revive His church in this land, restoring to believers the fiery resolve of our pilgrim forefathers who risked everything for the opportunity to live and worship in freedom. I exhort you to pray to that end.

Tuesday, June 10, 2008

Hallowing the Name

On the morning of January 8, 1697, a young Scotsman named Thomas Aikenhead took the long walk from Tolbooth prison to the gallows where he was hanged, having been tried and convicted under two different statues of Scottish Law. His crime? Blasphemy.

Aikenhead was the last man sentenced to death for blasphemy in Scotland. In the U.S. today, his actions would be championed as an exercise in free speech. The ACLU would likely defend his right to express blasphemy publicly and freely. Things do change in 300 years!

Familiar to many readers, the first petition in the Lord’s Prayer is that God’s name would be treated with due reverence: “Hallowed be your name.” The third of the Ten Commandments states, “You shall not take the name of the Lord your God in vain, for the Lord will not hold him guiltless who takes His name in vain.”

God notes those who dishonor and defame His name in a careless, flippant, or vulgar manner. Such will not be left unpunished. The blasphemous use of the names of God and Jesus Christ is commonplace in our society. The speech of too many, even of some professing Christians, is punctuated with euphemisms such as “gosh,” “jeez,” and “gee.” The mindless use of such terminology is an irreverent slap in the face of Almighty God.

Instead of being a verbal means of expressing surprise, irritation, or anger, the name of God should be treated with the highest respect. Psalm 29:2 declares, “Give unto the Lord the glory due to His name; worship the Lord in the beauty of holiness.”

When God’s name and reputation are treated in a demeaning, trivializing way, it is a grave offense. And with that offense come definite consequences. As long as our nation tolerates open blasphemy we can expect to be under the hand of the judgment of God.