We have a very mixed up culture that is doing two things at the same time. We are becoming shallower, coarser, more interested in acquiring things and more ethically and morally confused as we distance ourselves from our past traditions. But at the same time, we are crying out for meaning. We want to be touched at the deepest point in our lives, but nothing in our secular culture is capable of doing that. The late German theologian Karl Barth was once asked, “Why do people go to church?” He answered “People go to church asking the question: ‘Is it true? I have heard that there is a loving God who presides over this universe and who knows when even the tiniest sparrow falls from the sky. I have heard that he so loved the world that he sent his own Son to become its Savior and give us eternal life. Can I really trust my life to His care? Is it true? Can I count on it?”
I consider these times to be among the most challenging times in all of history to be alive. It is true that many of us within the church are fearful and cynical of these times, pointing in horror to abominable philosophies and practices that recall some of the worst days of Old Testament paganism,. It reminds me of the old story of two shoe salesmen who went to East Africa to explore business opportunities. The one contacted his company immediately saying “Forget it.” No one here wears shoes!” The other excitedly phoned his company and exclaimed “Send me as many shoes in all sizes possible. Opportunities are unlimited!”
We may be living during a wonderful moment in history, as those old frauds, the world, the flesh and the devil, are discredited by the very culture they have nearly destroyed. As the dust settles and the air clears, we see a
widespread readiness to respond to something deeper. People have had it with the way their lives are going and they have the good sense to realize that improved goods and services are not going to help. That brings us back to Karl Barth’s question “Is it true?” And right here lies our greatest opportunity. We have said Christ can change even the worst of sinners. He can bring direction where there was previously only confusion. It that is so, then let us prove it. If we can’t show the world people with changed hearts, radically altered values and genuine love and forgiveness then we have no right to be in business and we will only be part of the problem instead of part of the solution. Christian, get your house in order. The direction your pagan neighbor turns next may well depend upon what he sees in you.
It is difficult to understand how, in such a very short period of time, a relative handful of citizens could completely overthrow thousands of years of established laws, long-standing customs and viewpoints. Who would have thought that the traditional and biblical views of marriage would be set aside in favor of “something new.” And not just in our secular culture but in our churches as well. We are witnessing leaders, who used to be committed to speaking the “words of the Lord,” now give themselves over to the promotion of things the Lord has called an “abomination.’’
That’s why I spend so much time reading the Old Testament Prophets. Things got so bad in their culture that God had to send special messengers with “the Word of the Lord” on their lips, since no one seemed to be paying attention to what He had already told them. Listen to these words from 2 Kings 17:38-41: “(the Lord said) ‘Do not forget the covenant I have made with you, and do not worship other gods. Rather, worship the Lord your God; it is he who will deliver you from the hand of all your enemies.’ They would not listen, however, but persisted in their former practices. Even while these people were worshiping the Lord, they were serving their idols. To this day their children and grandchildren continue to do as their fathers did.” Now I can gripe and complain and become disgusted at what is happening in our general culture, but that isn’t really who my primary audience is. What was angering the Lord was that His own people, who were in a covenant relationship with Him, weren’t listening to what He was telling them. Instead of concerning themselves with what was ”right” and “wrong” they preferred to let the world tell them what was “cool” or “un-cool.” But we can’t afford to live that way. In our own day, many Christians are taking their cues from the culture instead of being an influence upon their culture. Make no mistake, we are in a culture war. That war began when God first laid down His law to Adam and Eve and won’t let up until the Enemy is finally and eternally dealt with. But in the meantime Christian are on the front lines and must begin to act like soldiers instead of observers. “God has spoken” is our rallying cry and we must not be seduced by the siren songs of a people who no longer car what God says. To paraphrase Forrest Gump, “a Christian is as a Christian does.” We have no right to call ourselves children of God unless we are truly committed to thinking, speaking and acting like children of God. The only
alternative is to become traitors to the cause we claim to support. Jesus said: “My sheep listen to my voice; I know them, and they follow me” (John 10:27). It’s time we started listening to the only voice that really speaks with authority.
Not long ago someone said: “These are difficult financial times right now. Maybe I should pull back a little on my church giving to prepare for hard times.” That may sound like a wise thing to do, but there is one problem
with that: we give by faith, not by sight. And God needs all of His followers to respond to the needs He brings before us. He has not stopped bringing us challenges to respond to projects He wants to see accomplished. And He has not stopped blessing us with the funds to meet those challenges. Let me share with you how your faithfulness becomes a blessing to others. A few years ago American Indian Christian Mission in Show Low, AZ (which we support) experienced a disastrous financial blow with the embezzlement of many thousands of dollars by a trusted employee who fled the state. With no money for salaries, food and care for the Indian children and other necessary expenses, they were in a desperate situation. We were immediately able to respond to this crisis by sending them $3,000 because we had it available through your gifts. We also learned that finances had gotten so low in the church in Puerto Penasco(the one we help through New Birth Mexican Mission) that our missionary
was supporting the Pastor of this church with his own meager funds. So we responded immediately with a $1,500 cash gift to the mission for this purpose. How were we able to do this? Through your faithfulness in giving to CCF.
When the Apostle Paul was writing to the Church at Corinth he was reminding them of a desperate need the Jerusalem Church was experiencing and the need they had for funds, which the Corinthian Church had promised to provide. So he encouraged the Corinthians by saying: “Because of the service by which you have proved yourselves, men will praise God for the obedience that accompanies your confession of the gospel
of Christ, and for your generosity in sharing with them and with everyone else. And in their prayers for you their hearts will go out to you, because of the surpassing grace God has given you.” (I Cor. 9:13-14). Generous giving is grace on our part by which we are able to help and influence people for Christ. And generous provision is grace on Gods part to enable us so that we can continue to meet those needs He has called us to address. Your faithful giving in difficult times is a demonstration of the grace of God at work in you and a demonstration of the reality of the gospel as a witness to others.
Everyone who is old enough to remember a bygone era has noticed it. Respect has been so terribly eroded in our social relationships that some of our citizens no longer speak to strangers and many even fear for their lives when they go out in public. Young children curse you to your face when you drive through their neighborhoods momentarily disrupting their street play. Adults no longer scowl or shake fists when you display a mental lapse while driving. They now pull guns and shoot you down as if you were their worst enemy. These and many more examples of disrespect are sweeping our land and dividing our people.
Let me cut to the heart of the issue. Jesus, in response to a question about the greatest commandment, said that the heart of the law is to love God with every facility you possess and “the second is like unto it: you shall love your neighbor as yourself.” All of life, he said, hangs on these two commandments. The order was significant. Without great respect for God we will be powerless to express it toward others. But we are a nation that has forgotten God. His words and ways are no longer studied. His thoughts and values are becoming foreign to us. So what can we as Christian citizens do as we watch the social disintegration of our nation?
Let’s first cut the problem into bite-sized chunks. I am not responsible to turn the whole world around but I am responsible to turn around my own small world. Parents are the primary teachers of love and respect (the
two virtues are inseparable). We must always be careful how we treat each other in the home. If you want your children to be respectful, then you had better be certain you are modeling it so they will know what it looks like. Parents, it works in the way you treat each other, the way you treat your children and the way you allow them to treat you. There will always be counterproductive examples surrounding your children wherever they go, but we must never underestimate the power of a consistent dedicated home life to overcome the worst examples from the outside, Remember, we take back our nation for God one family at a time.
Senior Pastor of Cactus Christian Fellowship