Friday, January 30, 2009

Needed: A Spiritual Stimulus Package

For months we have heard the call for a strong economic stimulus package to “get our economy moving again.” A proposal to supposedly do just that is making its way through Congress. Partisan debate is questioning or praising the merits of this legislation, as government efforts so far have clearly been ineffective.

We are being bombarded with reports that the present economic malaise is unprecedented, at least since the Great Depression. Unemployment is worsening every week, it seems, as big-name corporations, and the business down the street, reduce their payrolls to deal with the recession and declining worldwide demand.

These tumultuous economic times should drive individuals, and the nation, to recognize that there are issues in life of greater consequence than the Dow Jones Industrial Average or the Gross National Product.

How serious are we about repenting of our sin before God? Do we regard the worship of God of greater importance than watching the Super Bowl? Do we take seriously God’s directives in Scripture concerning marriage, family, the Sabbath, and preparing for eternity?

The Bible declares, “Blessed is the nation whose God is the LORD.” America is in trouble because we serve many gods. The present economic crisis is a symptom of a deeper, spiritual crisis. The ultimate answer will not be found in job creation and tax cuts but in humility and repentance.

Americans’ greatest need is for a paradigm shift produced by spiritual conversion. Rather than serving the god of economic prosperity our chief purpose should be to glorify our Creator. The deficit of greatest consequence these days is not government overspending but the lack of spiritual vitality. With the right God in focus, the economy will take care of itself.

When our churches are full of people seeking the Lord Jesus Christ we will have turned a corner. Until then, we can expect the consequences of the spirituality deficit to compound. Stimulating the soul of America is our greatest need.

Friday, January 23, 2009

A La Carte Faith

A survey of Americans conducted in August of last year by The Barna Group points to an alarming trend. The survey found that, by an overwhelming margin, 74% to 23%, adults agreed that their faith was becoming more important than it used to be as a source for reliable moral guidance. That’s the good news.

The same survey revealed, more ominously, that feelings, emotions, and self-reflection—rather than an information-based exercise like studying the Bible increasingly determine people’s faith. Americans are thus using an a la carte approach that threatens the integrity of the Christian faith.

Americans have always prided themselves on their independent spirits. This perspective is now influencing the nature of their faith. People are, in effect, becoming their own “theologians-in-residence.” Their likes, dislikes, and personal proclivities are the standards by which the content of their faith is determined.

The effect of this trend is often a hodgepodge of contradictory and inconsistent beliefs, drawn from a variety of religious sources, both from historic Christianity as well as other world religions.

If one were dealing with diet and cooking styles, perhaps there would be merit in such an approach. But with the welfare of one’s eternal soul hanging in the balance, truth must trump personal preference. The authority of God the Creator’s revelation, consistently interpreted and applied, must be the standard by which faith is judged.

Faith alone does not save. It is the content of faith that is critical to its efficacy. If you pray to the moon for forgiveness of sin and eternal life, such faith will only lead to despair. Despite the freewheeling nature of religious life in the 21st century, discerning individuals will look to the authority of Scripture, to the faith tried and tested by the historic Christian church for two millenniums. The Creator who revealed Himself in the Bible has guided His followers to discover and protect the truth that leads to eternal life.

Thursday, January 8, 2009

Anxious About 2009?

My dictionary defines anxiety as “the state of being uneasy, apprehensive, or worried about what may happen; concern about a possible future event.” Perhaps that summarizes your attitude toward 2009.

Numerous Americans have expressed their delight that 2008, with all of its trauma and economic chaos, is now history. The advent of a new year inclines many to hope that things will get better. For some, the election of a new President portends positive change; for others, the Obama victory is cause for alarm.

Politics aside, we all understand that there is the potential for greater chaos. Some observers predict total economic collapse. We have been warned that another terrorist strike is not unlikely, as a means of testing the meddle of the new administration. The looming threat of an EMP attack is considered by strategic experts to be a likely means by which our enemies may try to bring America to her knees. Such a threat involves the relatively low-tech procedure of exploding a nuclear device in the atmosphere, thereby disabling the nation’s electronic grid and the computer-controlled systems that keep the infrastructure functioning. Thereafter, long-term chaos would ensue.

In reality, there is no end of things to worry about. But for one who takes the Bible seriously, there is a better way. At least thirteen times in the New Testament we are instructed to trust the Lord in all circumstances, rather than give in to anxiety or fear. A person is overwhelmed by worry when he distrusts God or is unwilling to be content with His providence. Either response is sinful because it dishonors God and His character.

Prudence certainly demands taking precautions to deal with potential adversities. Meanwhile, our souls should be filled with a peace that comes from an implicit trust in God’s control. The Bible urges us, “Be anxious for nothing.” Instead, “[Cast] all your anxieties on Him, for He cares for you.”