When Integrity Made a Nation Great

“Oh, say, does that star-spangled banner yet wave o’er the land of the free and the home of the brave?”

-Francis Scott Key

“All these died in faith, without receiving the promises, but having seen them and having welcomed them from a distance, and having confessed that they were strangers and exiles on the earth.

-Hebrews 11:13 (NASB)

One day recently, I awakened to discover that my father’s America had died.

Thankfully, he had already left this earth behind and was not here to mourn her passing. Thankfully, he left when she was alive, if not well. Thankfully, he would never know that the color of his skin marked him as inherently evil and a man of privilege in the brave new world that creates reality out of perception. In his America, it was possible for a man to overcome the circumstances of his birth.

As my dad grew up in the Midwest in the 1930’s, he had been repeatedly and systematically abused by a sadistic father. But instead of using the violence perpetrated against him as an excuse to victimize others, Dad understood the injustice of hurting the innocent because he had suffered. He knew that no matter how he had been treated, it was never right to be cruel to others. His own father’s failures challenged him to grow up to be a better man, a kinder human being, the antithesis of his dad. He taught us to treat all men as we would want to be treated. 

My dad came to manhood in the shadow of a name smothered in the shame of his father. He always believed that it was hard work and the grace of God that delivered him from a childhood of poverty and abuse. He worked hard to give us a name we would be proud to wear. In my father’s America, hard work and the grace of God were honored concepts, and it was integrity that made a nation great.

In my father’s America, it was possible to transcend injustice. Reaching heavenward was encouraged and godly values were treasured. Age and experience were respected, and the flag was never allowed to touch the ground.

My father proudly served in the United States Navy. When he married and had a family, he worked hard to give us the life he never had. He loved this country and all it stood for. If he were here today to witness the burning of our history, our culture, and our future as a nation, he would weep.

Then he would remind me that this place is not our home, that we are just passing through to a greater land. He would tell me that this life is the preparation for the one to come. He would assure me that this, too, shall pass.

Whether or not America survives her current challenges is anyone’s guess. I am grateful to have lived in such a wonderful country.

But today I grieve for this nation, and I am glad that I am just passing through.

 

“But as it is, they desire a better country, that is, a heavenly one. Therefore God is not ashamed to be called their God; for He has prepared a city for them.”
-Hebrews 11:16 (NASB)

 

 

When a Father Grieves

And Jesus said, “A man had two sons. The younger of them said to his father, ‘Father, give me the share of the estate that falls to me.’ So he divided his wealth between them. And not many days later, the younger son gathered everything together and went on a journey into a distant country, and there he squandered his estate with loose living.”

-Luke 15:11-13

 

Father’s Day is set aside each year to celebrate the dads in our lives. But for many, this is a hard day. Some men are not able to have children. For others, this is the day they grieve the loss of a child. And for many, this day will pass with the knowledge that they will not hear from their son. In this context, the story of the prodigal son is an ancient one that still pulls on the souls of fathers everywhere.

The prodigal was a young man who became restless and decided to leave home for the big city. He took his inheritance, spent it all on loose living, and was reduced to feeding pigs in order to survive. As he starved in the pig pen, he came to his senses and realized that his father’s servants ate better than he did. He swallowed his pride and returned home.

In the Bible account, the first thing the prodigal son saw when he arrived home in humiliation was the sight of his father running down the road to meet him with joy. There they embraced, both the fears of the son and the heartache of the father dispelled in a moment of sweet reconciliation.

The son suffered much for his choice to walk away and squander his inheritance, and it was his desperation that drove him home. It must have been a long walk home that day. But the things that he never saw would have helped him to understand what it meant to be loved without condition. Had he known, he would have run all the way home.

He never saw the agony of an old man broken. He never saw the lines in his father’s face from the many nights without sleep. He never saw how his father struggled to hold on to his integrity when the questions drowned him in the night.

He never saw the tears or the drooped shoulders from carrying a sorrow too great. He never saw the way his father fought to hold up his head around others, as if to dare the shame to approach him.

If he could have seen his father’s heart, he would have known how many times he was remembered, prayed over, grieved, forgiven, remembered, prayed over, and grieved again. If he could have only seen the pain he inflicted by disrespecting and discarding his family’s love so easily, he would have never left.

If only he could have seen how much precious time he had lost, how much happiness he had squandered on sin. 

A godly father’s heart is larger than our failures. If we realized how much the story of the prodigal reveals of our Father in heaven, who grieves silently and intensely, how much more we would understand God. It is this Father who weeps for us, who watches the road for our return, and who runs to meet us with great joy when we make that long walk home.

 

“’This son of mine was dead and has come to life again;

he was lost and has been found.’”

-Luke 15:24

 

 

when the world seems out of control

        “This I recall to my mind,

        Therefore I have hope.

        The LORD’S lovingkindnesses indeed never cease,

        For His compassions never fail.

        They are new every morning;

        Great is Your faithfulness.

        ‘The LORD is my portion,’ says my soul, ‘Therefore I have hope in Him.’”

        -Lamentations 3:21-24 (NASB)

The year of 2020 is only half over, and it’s already been one for the books. Nationally, internationally, and personally, it’s been a year of unprecedented challenges.

I broke my back just three days after the new year dawned, the same month that news of a virulent new coronavirus was hitting China. Soon, that news became more real as a pandemic rapidly swept across the nations. For our household, COVID-19 meant drastic measures to protect our high-risk family members and a constant search for the necessary medical supplies.

Since May, protests, riots, and looting have shaken the core of our country. Our daughter and her family faced the threat of imminent danger and saw devastating property damage in their neighborhood in Minneapolis. They had to evacuate during the worst of it and returned to the sobering sight of a burned-out city. For them, this was more than a national debate. This is their home and their friends. The emotional toil has been enormous.

No one knows what the rest of the year will bring. But one thing is certain: God is in control.

He is bringing together the harvest of the ages, both the good and the evil. In the furnace of trial, many people have experienced spiritual regeneration and renewal. Many have reconsidered their priorities and made important changes in their lives. Both bad and good fruit of many hearts have been revealed. And some beautiful stories of compassion and faith have emerged from the ashes of the last months.

It is when we lift our eyes above the storms buffeting us that we see the One who conquers the waves. It is when we fix our eyes on Him and Him alone that we walk upon the waters. And when we sink, it is He who will reach down every time and lift us up to safety.

God is working out a plan for this earth that He formed before its very creation. We must only endure and trust in His power to bring that plan to fruition. Jesus gave us two great commandments:

Love our God with everything in us; love our neighbors as much as we love ourselves. God has everything else. We can arise each day in hope.

 

I would have despaired unless I had believed that I would see the goodness of the Lord
In the land of the living.

 Wait for the Lord;
Be strong and let your heart take courage;
Yes, wait for the Lord.

Psalm 27:13-14

 

 

Have You been living on the faith of others?

 

“Test yourselves to see if you are in the faith; examine yourselves! Or do you not recognize this about yourselves, that Jesus Christ is in you—unless indeed you fail the test?”                                                                                                      -2 Corinthians 13:5 (NASB)

Recently the front man for a well-known Christian band confessed publicly that he doesn’t believe in God anymore. By his own admission, he was raised in a Christian home and did all the things that would be attached to following Jesus. But now he’s announced to the world that he’s not a believer.

His declaration follows a string of such renunciations to hit the news. Among the questions we ask ourselves in the wake are these: Did he lose his salvation? Was he ever saved? Or is he simply going through a time of questioning?

Clearly, only God knows the answer to that.

It does highlight an urgent clarion call to everyone who claims to be a Christian:

Be sure you know what you believe.

In the Gospels of the New Testament, the Lord Jesus described the types of people upon whom the seed of the Good News would fall. One was the person upon whose heart the seed fell as upon a roadside. This heart was hard and beaten down, and the seed could not take root. The second person was the one who had little depth of soil, and the plant sprung up but couldn’t take root. The third was the person whose life was so full of the weeds of sin and worry that the seed was choked out and died. One person, however, had the depth and receptive heart in which the seed of life could take hold and flourish.  

“The one on whom seed was sown on the rocky places, this is the man who hears the word and immediately receives it with joy; yet he has no firm root in himself, but is only temporary, and when affliction or persecution arises because of the word, immediately he falls away.”                                                                                                                          -Matthew 13:20-21 (NASB)

A couple of months ago, I read about how to grow new celery from the base of an old bunch. I followed the directions, placing the stump in a shallow dish of water. Sure enough, I soon saw a new bunch of tender green growth. I planted the base in soil and watched with satisfaction as the new growth continued. I couldn’t wait for the harvest.

Then one day, the new growth began to wilt. I checked the soil, and it wasn’t dry. It continued to wilt until it completely died. I pulled it up out of the soil and discovered that it had no roots. It had only lived as long as the original stump was there. But as the stump died, the new plant had no way to survive.

A plant with no roots looks just like a rooted plant for a while. It takes the elements of time and testing to reveal whether it will wither or grow to produce fruit. The Lord uses these elements to test and reveal the validity of our beliefs.

As we negotiate a strange and uncertain world, it is crucial that we make sure the confession of our faith. We are gifted with this day, and this day only, to make things right with God. Tomorrow we may be victims of a pandemic or other earth-shaking event. Tomorrow, any of us could be standing before God. 

Today is the day to check out your root system. Do you know what you believe? Is your faith one that is rooted in Jesus Christ, or have you been living on the faith of others? If the world should fall, will you stand?

 

“For this reason I bow my knees to the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, from whom the whole family in heaven and earth is named,  that He would grant you, according to the riches of His glory, to be strengthened with might through His Spirit in the inner man,  that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith; that you, being rooted and grounded in love,  may be able to comprehend with all the saints what is the width and length and depth and height— to know the love of Christ which passes knowledge; that you may be filled with all the fullness of God.”

-Ephesians 3:14-19 (NKJV)

What Will You Do When the Earth Shakes?

 

“Let them praise His name with dancing; Let them sing praises to Him with timbrel and lyre.
For the LORD takes pleasure in His people; He will beautify the afflicted ones with salvation.”
-Psalm 149:3-4 (NASB)

 

It had been a quiet afternoon on the last day of March. I was working in the house when I heard a loud grinding, rumbling sound. I thought maybe a heavy truck or a train was passing by below our house. Then my son and my husband simultaneously asked, “Did you feel that? Is that an earthquake?”

I felt nothing, but I looked up and saw the ceiling light sway back and forth. We discovered that, indeed, a 6.5 earthquake had struck in the Challis National Forest near Boise, Idaho, the largest seismic event in Idaho since 1983. We felt it on the other side of the state.

Excitedly, we called our eldest son, who lives nearby. He had neither heard nor felt the quake. The reason? He and his wife had turned on some music and were dancing around the house with their young children.

He was disappointed to have missed the event. But later, it occurred to me that dancing through an earth-shaking event was not a bad way to spend an afternoon. In fact, it’s very scriptural. The Apostle Paul, from the depths of a Roman prison, encouraged God’s people to do that very thing. We may not be able to literally dance around every situation we encounter, but our hearts can.

Rejoice in the Lord always; again I will say, rejoice! -Philippians 4:4 (NASB)

God has not promised that our world would never shake. He never promised us a smooth life without heartache and difficulties. In fact, He warned us to expect hardship in this world. He did, however, promise that He has already overcome anything this world can throw at us.

Has your home been shaken? Sing that your spiritual house still stands upon the Rock.

Have you suffered for your faith? Rejoice that you share in the sufferings of Christ.

Does the immediate future look frightening? Remember who holds your future and smile.

The world will get darker. We can spend our time wringing our hands over the deception and disarray of the nations. We can live in fear.

Or we can dance the night away.

 

“Therefore we will not be afraid, though the earth trembles and the mountains topple into the depths of the seas….”

-Psalm 46:2 (CSB)

 

 

How Would You Spend Today If you Knew Jesus was Coming?

 

Since all these things are to be destroyed in this way, what sort of people ought you to be in holy conduct and godliness, looking for and hastening the coming of the day of God, because of which the heavens will be destroyed by burning, and the elements will melt with intense heat! But according to His promise we are looking for new heavens and a new earth, in which righteousness dwells.” -2 Peter 3:11-13 (NASB)

 

The Lord Jesus might return today to take us home.

His imminent return should have us thinking about what kind of Church He will find upon the earth. Will He find us serving Him with joy? Will He come to a Church living in holiness and purity? Or will He surprise us while we are engaged in overt sin?

God knows a believer’s every thought and act because He lives inside us. His grace covers a multitude of sins while His Spirit convicts us of wrongdoing and leads us into righteousness. But at His coming, we will be ashamed of our behavior should He come at a time we don’t expect Him.

We might think that the moment of our resurrection ushers us into a trance-like existence in which the consciousness of what we were is gone. But although we will indeed be suddenly changed, we will still be us.

1 John 2:28 indicates that we will be cognizant of what we are doing the moment He appears to take us to heaven, as if we are moving from one room to the next. Imagine our embarrassment if a visitor suddenly shows up on our doorstep when we are in the middle of an argument with a family member. Even more, we will be ashamed if He comes back and finds us in sin.

Yes, our sins are forgiven. But who wants to miss the joy of being found doing what’s right when He appears?

Martin Luther is supposed to have famously said that even if he knew that tomorrow the world would go to pieces, he would still plant an apple tree. Knowing, as we do, that this world will soon be destroyed by fire in judgment, how should we spend the gift of this day? Should we invest in a dying world or prepare our hearts for the new one?

Spend the gift of time preparing for eternity. Remember that we are only passing through this land on our way to our real home. Live as if He could arrive at any moment. Bring someone new into the kingdom. Even if He doesn’t come in our lifetimes, we have purified our hearts and lived as the righteous servants Our Lord deserves.

 

“Now, little children, abide in Him,

so that when He appears,

we may have confidence and not shrink

away from Him in shame at His coming.”

-1 John 2:28

 

 

VolcanoDiscovery.com is reporting many active volcanoes around the world in April 2020.

Currently erupting volcanoes are in Japan; Halmahera; Paramushir Island; Antarctica; Ethiopia; Italy; Guatemala; Indonesia; Kamchatka; Ryukyu Islands; Nicaragua; DRCongo; Central Mexico; Ecuador; Peru; and Tanna Island. Volcanic activity ranges from steam plume and sulfur emissions to explosive ash plumes and lava flows.

Volcanic activity appears to be on the rise along with earthquakes, although experts argue about the interpretation of the reports. About seventy-five percent of the earth’s volcanoes occur in the area of seismic restlessness that rims the Pacific plate and is known as the Ring of Fire.

Mount Etna in Italy is one of the most active volcanoes in the world, ranking only behind Kilauea in Hawaii. In Indonesia, Krakatoa is currently erupting along with three other volcanoes. There are more than 300 volcanoes on the Russian peninsula of Kamchatka; twenty-nine of them are considered active.

Eruption warnings and minor activity have also been reported in Barren Island in the Indian Ocean, Sumatra, Colombia, Chile, and Costa Rica, as well as in several countries now also experiencing actively erupting volcanoes.

 

“He who testifies to these things says, ‘Yes, I am coming quickly.’ Amen. Come, Lord Jesus.”

-Revelation 22:20

Nothing is by chance in God’s redemptive plan. It was not an accident that Jesus is described in Scripture as the Bridegroom and the Church as His Bride. These are not just poetic pictures. In His Word, God has told us that Christ and the relationship to His people would be symbolized by the Jewish wedding. The similarities to the marriage traditions of Jesus’ day to His plan for the Church are breathtakingly similar:

  • The groom’s father sent his son to the bride’s house to pay her dowry and arrange the betrothal.

 

*Father God sent His son Jesus to earth to pay the redemption cost to make her His Bride. In doing so, He entered a new covenant with His people.

 

“And in the same way He took the cup after they had eaten, saying, ‘This cup which is poured out for you is the new covenant in My blood.’” -Luke 22:20

 

“Be on guard for yourselves and for all the flock, among which the Holy Spirit has made you overseers, to shepherd the church of God which He purchased with His own blood.”

-Acts 20:28

 

  • After the betrothal, the son returned to his father’s house to prepare a home for the couple.

 

*Jesus returned to heaven after His resurrection.

 

“In My Father’s house are many dwelling places; if it were not so, I would have told you; for I go to prepare a place for you. If I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again and receive you to Myself, that where I am, there you may be also.” -John 14:2-3

  • While the bride awaited the groom’s return at an unknown hour, she cleansed herself in a ritual bath to be presented as a pure bride.

 

*God’s people remain in our earthly home, purified by the blood of the Son of God, and await His return for us. We don’t know the day or hour of His return, only that He has promised to come for us.

 

 “But of that day and hour no one knows, not even the angels of heaven, nor the Son, but the Father alone.” – Matthew 24:36

 

“ ‘Come now, and let us reason together,’
Says the Lord,
‘Though your sins are as scarlet,
They will be as white as snow;
Though they are red like crimson,
They will be like wool.’”

Isaiah 1:18

 

  • The groom’s return was preceded by a shout to alert the bride.

 

*Jesus will come for us with a shout of victory.

 

“For the Lord Himself will descend from heaven with a shout, with the voice of the archangel and with the trumpet of God, and the dead in Christ will rise first. Then we who are alive and remain will be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air, and so we shall always be with the Lord.” 1 Thess. 4:16-17

 

This sudden appearance of the Christ for His Church is known in the Bible as “harpazo,” which means to snatch, seize, or pluck up. In the Latin, this word is “rapturo,” from where we get the term Rapture.

The Rapture of the Church is not an outdated myth or outrageous escape plan. It is the consummation of a love story written by God Himself. Be on the lookout, for the Bridegroom is coming.

Even so, come Lord Jesus.

 

Sources

https://www.biblestudytools.com/commentaries/revelation/related-topics/the-jewish-wedding-analogy.html

https://www.bibletools.org/index.cfm/fuseaction/Lexicon.show/ID/G726/harpazo.htm