Don’t Skip Thanksgiving

The world wants to skip from Halloween to Christmas bouncing from horror themed self-indulgence to tinsel tossed materialism. The church can empathize with the sentiment. The social unrest, contentious elections, and COVID19 pandemic have cast a long, misty shadow of anxiety over most every part of the globe. The idea of stopping at grandma’s for Thanksgiving turkey seems to be an ironic exercise in American cultural futility. Why give thanks for such a world?

Though the world despairs, the people of God have every reason to give thanks in such a world. They understand the sovereign love of God. The church knows that all of today’s troubles are bound together by a golden thread of grace that culminates in the book of life. For the Christian, spiritual reality remains far more real than presidential elections, infection numbers, and GDP growth. What do those who see beyond the empirical world know?

Why Christians Give Thanks

They know that God will rescue his people and that Jesus will come again. To borrow the words of Micah 7:8b and 9b Christians are confident that, “when I fall, I shall rise…[and] in that day the boundary shall be far extended.” Though the believer may watch his political candidate go down in flames, get a pink slip, or receive a terminal diagnosis, he knows God will not let him be crushed. God will vindicate his people. Admittedly, God may not vindicate his people’s political candidates, business plans, or medical strategies. Our causes may flounder, but our faith will remain unmoved. We will prove to be more than conquers because God has pleaded our cause and has executed “justice (Micah 7:10).” Jesus died that we might be freed from the curse. Death, sin, and sorrow have no right to dominate our soul for Jesus has swaddled us in his righteous love. Even if our day is filled with adversity, mistakes, and sinful failures, we know the darkness will not last because “the Lord will be a light to me (Micah 7:9.).” Even on the worst day, the believer can confidently boast, “that neither death nor life, nor angels nor rulers, nor things present nor things to come, nor powers, nor height nor depth, nor anything else in all of creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord (Rom. 8:38-39).” Those whose names have been written in the book of life have every reason to be thankful. God will rescue from today’s trial.

God also promises to come again. The Christian’s future hope is not tied to suburban homes and white fences, large family gatherings, or exotic vacations. All these things can come and go and utterly disappoint our souls. Homes can flood, gatherings can descend into feuds, and vacations can prove to be a waste of time. The Christian hopes in something yet unseen but something far more secure, the new heavens and the new earth. When Christ returns the boundary of his kingdom shall be extended to cover all of humanity. All sin, disease, sorrow, anxiety, hurt, and injustices will be forced outside the walls of God’s kingdom and crushed. Inside the walls, Jesus will shepherd his people placing them under the shade of his blessed comfort and filling their hearts with the abundance of his riches. Because the believer knows her destination is secure, she has every reason to be thankful today. The new heavens and the new earth are coming.

Give Thanks!

Though the world maybe ready to skip from Halloween to Christmas, the church should embrace the cultural moment and give thanks. God promises to see us through today and to come again. The two things that fuel our anxiety, today’s problems and tomorrow’s possibilities, have been solved by Jesus on the cross. The baby born in Bethlehem on Christmas morn has conquered this world of goblins and vampires. Nothing can separate us from him. Give Thanks!

Happy Thanksgiving!

Bedtime: A Window into the Soul

The human heart often seems to hide in a cloud of ambiguity. Jeremiah 17:9 famously declares that the heart “is deceitful above all things and desperate sick.” It appears to be beyond human comprehension, and yet Christians must still try to understand it. Proverbs 4:23 reminds believers to

Keep your heart with all vigilance, for from it flow the springs of life.

The heart determines the destination of your soul. As your heart goes, you go.

The complexities of the heart can only be untangled with divine help. One of those divine helps are our bedtime thoughts. The Psalmist reports that the sinner “plots trouble while on his bed; he sets himself in a way that is not good; he does not reject evil (Ps 36:4).” Those with sick hearts spend their night dreaming of revenge, theft, and murder (Ps 104:21-22). The have to toss and turn all night because they do not trust the ruler of heaven and earth. The Reformer and pastor, John Calvin, noted,

So long as we fail to acknowledge the One who sustains us, we will always fear that the earth will fail us.

On the other hand, those who trust the Lord smile for joy as they break into their REM sleep cycle for they know that God loves them and has redeemed them (Ps. 149:1-6). Instead of trying to root out all the ‘inadequacies,” in their life through cunning schemes, they entrust themselves to loving, kind, and merciful hands of God’s providence. As the eyes the faithful close for the night, the enter “into peace; they rest in their beds (Is 57:2).” Nighttime thoughts reveal the health of the Christian’s soul. The healthy soul sleeps in peace.

Night time thoughts not only reveal the heart, they also predict the future. The dreams of yesterday inform the actions of today (Micah 2:1). The mind that spends the night plotting revenge against an old boyfriend, a disagreeable boss, or an unkind church member will produce slanderous phone calls, Facebook rants, and slashed tires. Conversely, the heart that spends the night reflecting on the salvation of the Lord gives birth to charitable donations, notes of encouragement, and focused work. The meditations of the night turn the believers life either to harm or good.

The ancient world understood this reality. The night watchmen of old used to cite Scriptures and prayers when crying the time. One old northern England chant proclaimed:

Ho, watchman, ho!
Twelve is the clock!
God keep our town
From fire and brand
And hostile hand,
Twelve is the clock!”

When Christians stop trusting the Lord, evil enters in. Even in the middle of the night, the believers should keep their hearts with vigilance, remembering the God who saved them.

To determine state if their heart, Christians do not have to run a million experiments. They need to examine this divine control group, their bedtime thoughts.

Thoughts filled with bitterness, anger, and vengeance reveal a fallen and desperately sick and in need of repentance. Pillow thoughts of brotherly love, salvific praise, and godly contentment reveal a heart resting in the arms of the Lord.

How is your heart? What will you be thinking about tonight?

Micah, America, and the Importance of Taking Sin Seriously

American Christians should not approach the sins of their nation with a disinterested or cavalier disposition. Even if things like racism, abortion, and government corruption never touch our souls or never reach our block, we should still take an interest in the issues that have corrupted our churches, communities, and governments. We should actively mourn sin and call for repentance on a national scale.

Though patient, God never overlooks a nation’s sin. He never writes off evil as being inconsequential. According to Micah 1:12, disaster, judgement, will “come down from the Lord to the gate of Jerusalem.” God will deal with the sins of the nations.

Even ancient Judah which could make the case for Christian exceptionalism without having to perform any hermeneutical gymnastics was at risk. God had promised to bless this nation. David’s heir sat upon their throne. The temple resided in their capital city. To reach the citadel of Jewish culture, opposing armies had to crash through an ancient line of fortresses set upon the mountains and had to defeat Israel large chariot force. By all accounts, Judah was God’s favorite nation, the city set upon the hill – a hill fortified by wealth and military ingenuity.

And yet the nation was not immune from judgement. Because they turned their back on God and worshipped idols, abused the poor, and bribed prophets, God erased their kingdom from the geopolitical landscape.

Like Micah’s original audience, some Americans pivot and discount these predictions of national doom because they don’t believe they could ever apply to the United States. They know this country was founded upon Christian principles. After all, the Declaration of Independence appeals to both “the Laws of Nature and of Nature’s God.” While the depth of the Christian influence remains debated, its presence in the original thirteen colonies and our nation’s government cannot be credibly denied. For all of their faults, America’s founding fathers bequeathed their nation a host of well-crafted documents which had been shaped by the biblical view of humanity. But such successes or “smiles of divine providence” will not save the United States from its sin. It did not save Judah.

Judah’s possessed the right heritage, a god ordained government, healthy financial institutions, and an advance military. Still, they could not stop God’s justice. God melted the nation’s wealth into nakedness (1:1). He rode roughshod over nation’s chariots and its network of forts (1:13). All that had been Judah’s confidence become the dowry of its conquerors (1:14). God dealt with Judah’s sin.

Even the divinely established throne of David failed to stay God’s hand. God declares, “the glory of Israel shall come to Adullam (1:15).” David hide from Saul in the caves of Adullam (1 Sam. 22:1). The rulers of Judah would flee the throne room for the safety of the caves. Like Adam, the heirs of David would go to the dust from which they had ascended (Gen 3:19). The destruction of Israel would be complete and final. Even the nation’s children would be marched off into captivity. All that would be left in Judah was bald men, mourning the grandeur of the past.

If the nation with the best pedigree failed to sidestep the crushing blow of God’s judgement, can the United States hope to do any better? America’s Christian heritage will not stay God’s hand, its founding documents will not stay God’s hand, and its military technology will not stay God’s hand. The nation that does not repent of it’s sins will be crushed in time.

Instead of trying a blind eye to the sins of this world, Christians need to wrestle with their own sins and with the sins that dominate their nation’s political and social landscape. Like Micah, they need to weep and wail because lawlessness ends in either repentance or death. The nation that refuses to repent of its sexual immorality, covetousness, hate, or murder will be destroyed by God. He is just.

And when the nation does fall, believers and unbelievers will both be taken captive. When wickedness goes unchecked, the righteous will suffer.

Christians cannot excuse America’s faults because the nation has known success in years gone by. Though God is patient, he is not blind nor uncaring. He will deal with sin; nations will fall because of the evil that its citizens have carried out within its borders. Only the holiness found at the foot of the cross will save us and our nation from the pending the judgement.

Let’s champion the call for repentance, trusting in saving power of Jesus. Nothing else will save. Chariots, forts, wealth, technology, wealth, and influence will fail us. Repent.

What is your confidence in?