Tuesday, January 28, 2014

The "REAL" State Of The Union

Tonight our President will give his annual State of the Union address.  He'll give us his perspective on how we, as a country are doing.  No doubt he'll speak about the economy, health care, jobs, environment, foreign affairs, etc.  After he's done, there is a line-up from the right set to rebuttal his remarks.  We the people will be left with the task of who we believe.

I myself will be opting out of the whole experience as I have come to the realization in recent years that this event is tainted with political ideologies and therefore falls short of a correct perspective as to how things really are.  I am not blind.  If something is blue, it is futile for anyone to try and convince me its red.  There are things I see and regardless of what my political slant is, neither side can convince me that what I see is not what I see.  With that in mind, I offer you my perspective on the state of our Union.

Around 1 million babies are murdered in the womb here in the U.S. every year.  Compare that with the nearly 4 million births and we're left with the reality that 1/4th of this generation is wiped out prior to breathing their first breath.  So, when you go to school plays, concerts, sporting events, or graduations just think a fourth of their classmates never made it to their first day of school. While there a some who are outraged by this holocaust, most either justify the madness or just remain indifferent toward it all.  How did we get here?  How did we get to a place where murdering the unborn is something that we simply sweep under the rug?  How did we get to a place where this conversation has two sides?  Can any of us truly sit back and think this is not a country with a major issue here?  A hundred years ago, there was no debate regarding this topic.  In 1973 the debate was whether or not a woman had a right to choose to kill her baby or not.  Over the years we went from debating is it okay to murder a baby in the 1st trimester, then the 2nd trimester, and today in 2014 that debate has digressed to whether or not a woman has the right to kill her baby as it is being born. We throw around words like abortion and fetus to dupe us into thinking we aren't doing what we are really doing.  Are we a nation with a serious case of blindness or are we a nation that knows full well what we are doing and chooses to spit in the face of the Giver of life?  How did this mass murdering genocide ever become a political issue?  From where I stand, the state of our Union is not at all healthy in regards to securing life for the least among us.

The spirit of greed permeates nearly every area of our society.  The "haves" want more than they have and the "have-nots" want what the "haves" have.  Contentment is a forgotten value and proof of that is seen every "Black Friday" when people risk life and limb to obtain more stuff that none of us really need.  Never mind if we don't have the money to buy it, we're a nation that is completely okay with pulling out the plastic and paying later for something we crave and are convinced we must have today.  We rarely take thought, if ever, of those who live in lands where running water and electricity are not even on the radar for generations to come.  If we do think about it, we are seldom moved to do anything about it.  After all my "need" for a bigger TV trumps a foreign child's need for clean water.  God forgive us!  I'm thinking the state of our Union is in need of some tweaking.

We have a growing spirit of entitlement while at the same time a decreasing sense of responsibility. We have plummeted into a society of self-consumed consumers who seldom have any motivation to produce in order to benefit others.  While we boast of being the Land of the Free, and the Home of the Brave, it could also be said we have become the Nation of Me, Myself, and I.  While our "Lady of Liberty" stands proudly in the east, perhaps we need a "Gentleman of Responsibility" built to remind us that true freedom can't exist without personal responsibility. Please tell me what society can ever remain when those who are responsible are forced to support those who "refuse" to be?  There is a huge difference between being "in need" and choosing to stay "in need."  Any culture that facilitates one's desire to stay "in need" has determined to cripple them not help them.  Ours is a nation that needs to reevaluate how we are "helping" those in need.

The spirit of anti-christ has masked itself in the form of political correctness, attempting to suppress any hint of the truth.  Having a differing opinion than the accepted norm is no longer okay, but is often promoted as "hate speech." God forbid we call sin, sin and hurt somebody's feelings. So, while we determine to coddle this generation and those to come by suppressing the truth, we have paved the way for their self-destruction.  We have laid the ground work for a culture where homosexuality becomes more and more common.  A culture that sees a rise in unrighteousness, sexual immorality, wickedness, covetousness, and maliciousness.  A culture full of envy, murder, strife, deceit, and evil-mindedness.  A culture full of whisperers, backbiters, and haters of God.  A culture full of those who are violent, prideful, boasters, inventors of evil things, disobedient to parents, undiscerning, untrustworthy, unloving, unforgiving, and unmerciful.  I didn't write that by the way, that's what God describes happens to a society that insists on suppressing the truth (Romans 1).  From where I stand, it seems we are headed that direction.

We are a nation whose leaders look like us.  While we sit back and criticize those who lead us, the truth is Washington is simply a mirror image of a society that is pulling away from God.  Lack of integrity, manipulation, power-plays, lack of courage, lack of morals, selfish agendas, and apathy are not unique to D.C. Those "qualities" are found in every fiber of our society.  An election alone will never change the quality of our leadership.  To change the quality of leadership, a society must change from the ground level.  To have "spiritually awakened leaders" a society must welcome a "spiritual awakening" across the entire culture.  As a nation, as a whole, the truth is we will always have what we are willing to accept in our leadership.  From my perspective this nation could use a bit of a spiritual awakening from the north to the south and from the east to the west.

Regardless of where we find ourselves, we are a nation with hope. No, that's not an empty campaign promise.  There is hope for us as a nation.  But it isn't in business owners producing jobs.  It's not in a powerful military (although I honor and respect all those who serve and have served).  Our hope is not in our form of government or those who lead us.  It's not in our economy, a balanced budget, socialized health care, or either political party.  Our hope isn't in a renewed spirit of patriotism, the elimination of social classes, or insisting on political correctness. The hope for our country rests on the shoulders of a God who loves us.  That's it, plain and simple.  I know some will disagree, but that doesn't change the truth.  A nation that accepts Him as Lord and submits to His authority has hope.  Those who don't, have accepted for themselves a future without hope. The future state of our Union, rests on our shoulders as a people to either reject God or receive Him. I know where I stand on that matter, and I'm just hoping others join me.

May God bless each and every one of you, and may God bless the United States of America!

Friday, January 24, 2014

Happy Are Those Who Are Poor In Spirit...

I thought I was pretty good.  At least compared to others.  I mean I had my little list and I did a really good job keeping that list.  I didn't drink, I didn't smoke, I didn't curse, I didn't sleep around, and I didn't listen to that secular music.  I went to church, I prayed (a little), I read my Bible (sometimes), and I loved others (or at least pretended to).  As far as "my" list went, I was doing great.

Now, I look back at that foolishness and think how utterly ridiculous.  I realize now that when it comes to keeping "our" lists, its really nothing more than self-righteousness.  And as far as God's concerned, it measures up to about as much worth as "filthy rags."  Sure, it may make us feel good about ourselves when compared to others who fail miserably at keeping our lists, but this pride offers us a false sense of security and spits in the face of Christ and the price He paid to redeem us.  Our position in the family of God as sons and daughters, isn't earned or maintained by how well we fulfill "our lists."

Grace is the key to our salvation.  Its a gift that we cannot earn.  Salvation is beyond our own ability to obtain on our own and in the same way its beyond our own ability to maintain.  Self-righteousness leads to pride, but it is humility that leads to salvation.  Jesus declared in His famous Beatitudes, "blessed or happy are those who are poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven."  The kingdom of heaven is only obtained when we recognize our pathetic condition apart from God.  It is only when we realize that we are spiritually bankrupt and cannot fix our situation on our own, that salvation is a possibility.  This concept of "poor in spirit" is like having a (spiritual) debt we could never pay and crying out for mercy in hopes that someone hears us and pays our debt.  That someone of course is Jesus, who willingly paid our debt and offers us salvation based on the price He paid.

My list, however, was developed after salvation.  I remember well that moment I reached out to Jesus with humility and received His gift of salvation.  But somewhere along the way, I got off track.  I became puffed up and prideful.  I knew it was Jesus who saved me, but I had fallen in to the trap of believing that it was the keeping of my list that kept me good with God.  While our initial coming to Christ must be through the door of humility, this "poor in spirit" is an attitude we need to maintain once we've been saved by His gift of grace.  We do that by never forgetting where we came from.  No, we don't live in the past, but its important to constantly remember that apart from Him, I am nothing.  It's important to keep in mind that any good that is in me, is only because of Him.  Rather than patting ourselves on the back for our ability to abstain from sin or for doing good, we need to recognize that it is not our ability, but His ability working in us.

Back to "our lists."  What we do or don't do is important.  I don't want to belittle righteous living.  The key is "why" we do what we do.  If we are doing good because we think we are gaining or maintaining favor with God, we are missing it.  If we are trying to become righteous by living righteously, we are missing it.  Living righteously comes from being righteous not the other way around.  Being righteous isn't something we can obtain on our own.  It comes from humbling ourselves, and allowing Christ to do that work for us.  Years ago I thought I was "all that" because of what "I" did.  Today I understand that I am "all that" because of what "He's" done.  Years ago, I boasted in me.  Today I boast in Him and what's He's done.

It's important for those who have been walking this Christian life for a while to never lose sight of who He is and who we are apart from Him.  There's a great picture of this in the first chapter of Revelation when one of Jesus' best friends saw Jesus in all His glory.  This buddy of His, John, was so overwhelmed by the sight of Jesus that he fell down like a dead man.  He passed out at the sight of  this Jesus, who he knew better than most anybody.  It takes only a quick glance of Him to remind us of how far we all have left to go on this journey. It is that recognition that leads us to living the happy life.  Happy are those who are poor in spirit...