The Beauty of a Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day

God Is Always Working His Plan

Synopsis: Good news! If there is a test in your life that is stressing you to the point of cracking, even if you have to “faith it,” just know this: God is at work! God never allows a test that is not without a purpose and a plan. The purpose is to show you that you cannot do life apart from him—and knowing that is the highest knowledge a human being will ever attain. The plan is to bring you to a place of humble dependence on his immutable goodness and constant provision—and there is no better place to be. So thank God for tests!

The Journey // Focus: Deuteronomy 8:2-5

Remember how the Lord your God led you through the wilderness for these forty years, humbling you and testing you to prove your character, and to find out whether or not you would obey his commands. Yes, he humbled you by letting you go hungry and then feeding you with manna, a food previously unknown to you and your ancestors. He did it to teach you that people do not live by bread alone; rather, we live by every word that comes from the mouth of the Lord. For all these forty years your clothes didn’t wear out, and your feet didn’t blister or swell. Think about it: Just as a parent disciplines a child, the Lord your God disciplines you for your own good.

Like Alexander the Horrible, have you just come through a really terrible, horrible, no good, very bad day? Maybe it’s not just the day, it’s the season you are in that makes you feel like you are on a losing streak—with no end in sight. Perhaps the weight of an unwanted burden is straining your capacity—and if one more thing is added, you will break. It might be that personal failures and shortcomings are constant reminders of your incompetence—you just don’t measure up. Maybe it’s not just your day that is really terrible, horrible, no good, and very bad—it is you! Or so you think.

Good news! If there is a test in your life that is stressing you to the point of cracking, even if you have to “faith it,” just know this: God is at work! Moses reminds you that God never allows a test that is not without a purpose and a plan. The purpose is to show you that you cannot do life apart from him, and knowing that is the highest knowledge a human being will ever attain. The plan is to bring you to a place of humble dependence on his immutable goodness and constant provision, and there is no better place to be. So thank God for tests!

Slowly read and absorb these verses again from the Message translation:

Remember every road that God led you on for those forty years in the wilderness, pushing you to your limits, testing you so that he would know what you were made of, whether you would keep his commandments or not. He put you through hard times. He made you go hungry. Then he fed you with manna, something neither you nor your parents knew anything about, so you would learn that men and women don’t live by bread only; we live by every word that comes from God’s mouth. Your clothes didn’t wear out and your feet didn’t blister those forty years. You learned deep in your heart that God disciplines you in the same ways a father disciplines his child.

Whatever the test you are enduring, stop what you are doing, set aside your raw emotions, fears, frustrations, disappointment and anger to reframe your thinking so that you are focusing on God’s purpose and plan for you. Realize how privileged you are that God’s has allowed, or caused, and always uses what you are going through for your gain and his glory. Think of these wise words from Hebrews 12:7-11,

Endure hardship as discipline. Remember that God is treating you as his own children. Who ever heard of a child who is never disciplined by its father? If God doesn’t discipline you as he does all of his children, it means that you are illegitimate and are not really his children at all. Since we respected our earthly fathers who disciplined us, shouldn’t we submit even more to the discipline of the Father of our spirits, and live forever? For our earthly fathers disciplined us for a few years, doing the best they knew how. But God’s discipline is always good for us, so that we might share in his holiness. No discipline is enjoyable while it is happening—it’s painful! But afterward there will be a peaceful harvest of right living for those who are trained in this way.

So you see, a really terrible, horrible, no good, very bad day is really not so terrible, horrible, no good or very bad after all. Reframe your hardship or your test as the discipline of your loving Father, because “God disciplines those he loves, as a father the child he delights in.” (Proverbs 3:12)

Got a test? Congratulations, it means you are incredibly loved.

Going Deeper: What is your current hardship? Embrace it as God’s discipline, which you are to embrace as love. And the best way I know to do that is simply to say “God thanks!”

Direct Access

New House Rules for Coming To God

SYNOPSIS: Jesus is our access card to the very throne room of the Father, where we can boldly and confidently use the authority of his name to let God know our needs. And when we ask in his name, Jesus promises both answers to our requests and a complete sense of satisfaction in gaining the Father’s provision (“and your joy will be complete”). But asking in his name implies two interconnected things: First, it implies that we are living under his authority. By that I mean we are giving his rule first place in our lives. Second, it implies we are asking in his authority. That is, we are under his rule, we are serving his cause, and we are acting as agents of his Kingdom interests. Asking in that sense is both the believer’s highest privilege and most powerful resource. With that in mind, let’s start asking!

Project 52 – Weekly Scripture Memory // John 16:24

Until now you have not asked for anything in my name. Ask and you will receive, and your joy will be complete.

What Jesus revealed to his disciples about prayer was a completely new thing in Israel. Under the old “house rules,” people had to go through a priest to contact the Almighty. They had to bring a sacrifice—depending on the need, there were a variety of sacrifices required—which had to be offered in a proscribed way. There was no direct contact between God and people.

But a new day had dawned, and by Jesus’ once-for-all sacrificial death on the cross, complete, free, unlimited, direct and easy access had been opened up between people and God.  The writer of Hebrews so beautifully described it this way:

Therefore, brothers and sisters, since we have confidence to enter the Most Holy Place by the blood of Jesus, by a new and living way opened for us through the curtain, that is, his body, and since we have a great priest over the house of God, let us draw near to God with a sincere heart and with the full assurance that faith brings, having our hearts sprinkled to cleanse us from a guilty conscience and having our bodies washed with pure water. (Hebrews 10:19-22)

Jesus is our access card to the very throne room of the Father, where we can boldly and confidently use the authority of Jesus’ name to let God know our needs.  And when we ask in his name, Jesus promises both answers to our requests (“ask and you will receive”) and a complete sense of satisfaction in gaining the Father’s provision (“your joy will be complete”).

Now asking in his name implies two interconnected things.  First, it implies that we are living under his authority. By that I mean we are giving his rule first place in our lives, we are learning to look at things through his perspective and we are considering our needs and wants in the light of their relationship to the Kingdom life. Truly living under his authority is the best guard against the selfish asking some would take this verse to legitimize.

Second, it implies we are asking in his authority. That is, we are under his rule, we are serving his cause and we are acting as agents of his Kingdom’s interests. We know who we are and who he is, which leads to a bold and unabashed confidence in coming before the Father to request the release of Divine resources to fulfill the needs of his ever-expanding Kingdom.

No wonder Jesus assured us that this kind of praying works, for in essence, as C.S. Lewis so cleverly wrote,

“Our prayers are really His prayers;
He speaks to himself through us.”

Asking in that sense is both the believer’s highest privilege and most powerful resource.  With that in mind, let’s start asking!

Reflect & Apply:  If you are like me, understanding prayer this way calls me to evaluate my life to see if I am living under his authority—and all that implies, and asking in his authority—that is, acting as an agent of his Kingdom’s interests. And, if you are like me, there is usually some realigning needed to bring my life—my thoughts, attitudes and practices—back into Kingdom alignment.

Life’s Greatest Lesson

Fight The Drift Of Self-Centeredness At All Cost

SYNOPSIS: Simply put, you didn’t choose God; he chose you. In reality, you were the last kid who would have been chosen when the team captains were picking sides, but God took you first. By His grace, you went from last to first. Never forget that, and you will be on your way to humility. When you understand the origin of humility—God’s unconditional, unmerited love in choosing you—and as you stay focused on the outcome of humility—the current and future favor of God—you will be ready and able to fight the drift of your self-focussed sin nature.

The Journey // Focus: Deuteronomy 7:6-7, 12

Of all the people on earth, the Lord your God has chosen you to be his own special treasure. The Lord did not set his heart on you and choose you because you were more numerous than other nations, for you were the smallest of all nations! Rather, it was simply that the Lord loves you….If you listen to these regulations and faithfully obey them, the Lord your God will keep his covenant of unfailing love with you.

As Moses wraps up his decades-long ministry of leading God’s people out of Egypt to the edge of their Promised Land, he gives them one of the most important lessons of all in Deuteronomy 7. It was a lesson that if learned, would guarantee divine blessings upon Israel for generations. It is a lesson that is still valid today, keying God’s continual favor upon us, too. What was the lesson? Humility.

St Augustine rightly noted that “Humility is the foundation of all the other virtues. Hence, in the soul in which this virtue does not exist there cannot be any other virtue except in mere appearance.” Humility is the foundation for ever other Christian virtue. A mindset and lifestyle of authentic humility is God’s clear calling and unquestionable expectation for his people. The Apostle Paul taught in Colossians 3:12-14,

“Your attitude should be the same as that of Christ Jesus, who, being in very nature God, did not consider equality with God something to be grasped, but made himself nothing, taking the very nature of a servant, being made in human likeness. And being found in appearance as a man, he humbled himself and became obedient to death…”

Did you catch that? The founder of our faith, Jesus, made himself nothing when he came to earth. 2 Corinthians 8:9 uses the same word to describe Jesus becoming poor. The root word in Greek is kenosis, which refers to Jesus emptying himself of his God-prerogatives in order to completely identify with us and lift us out of our spiritual poverty. Grammatically, the Greek language makes it clear that Jesus didn’t empty himself in spite of being God—that’s usually how we read this passage. Rather than reading it, “even though he was God, he made himself nothing” it should be read, “He made himself nothing precisely because he was God.” In other words, this expression of humility is the very nature of God.

This very attitude of humility is the same mindset that Paul calls us to take on. That is the same attitude that God himself, through Moses, called the Israelites to clothe themselves with as well. Of course, pulling off humility will be the hardest thing we will ever do because it rubs against the fur of our fallen, selfish nature. Moses, however, gives us the motive for doggedly pursuing humility, and our motivation is to be found in both the origin and the outcome of humility.

First the origin of humility is found in the unmerited, unconditional love that God has for us. Moses describes that in Deuteronomy 7:6-11,

For you are a holy people, who belong to the Lord your God. Of all the people on earth, the Lord your God has chosen you to be his own special treasure. The Lord did not set his heart on you and choose you because you were more numerous than other nations, for you were the smallest of all nations! Rather, it was simply that the Lord loves you, and he was keeping the oath he had sworn to your ancestors. That is why the Lord rescued you with such a strong hand from your slavery and from the oppressive hand of Pharaoh, king of Egypt. Understand, therefore, that the Lord your God is indeed God. He is the faithful God who keeps his covenant for a thousand generations and lavishes his unfailing love on those who love him and obey his commands. But he does not hesitate to punish and destroy those who reject him. Therefore, you must obey all these commands, decrees, and regulations I am giving you today.

Simply put, you didn’t choose God; he chose you. In reality, you were the last kid who would have been chosen when the team captains were choosing up sides, but God took you first. By God’s grace, you went from last to first. Never forget that, and you will be on your way to humility. Never forget that and you will never loose your humility.

Second, humility will survive in your life when you keep the outcome of true humility in your view-finder. Simply put, God blesses the humble with grace. (1 Peter 5:5-6, James 4:6, Proverbs 3:34). And Moses describes that grace outcome in terms of current and future favor in Deuteronomy 7:12-15,

If you listen to these regulations and faithfully obey them, the Lord your God will keep his covenant of unfailing love with you, as he promised with an oath to your ancestors. He will love you and bless you, and he will give you many children. He will give fertility to your land and your animals. When you arrive in the land he swore to give your ancestors, you will have large harvests of grain, new wine, and olive oil, and great herds of cattle, sheep, and goats. You will be blessed above all the nations of the earth. None of your men or women will be childless, and all your livestock will bear young. And the Lord will protect you from all sickness. He will not let you suffer from the terrible diseases you knew in Egypt, but he will inflict them on all your enemies!

If you and I never forget God’s sovereignly selecting love, then live the rest of our lives as a thanks offering for that love, our daily offering of worship will be to present him lives wrapped in the holy humility of Jesus Christ. And there is no better way to live.

The founder of our faith, Jesus, made himself nothing when he came to earth. By emptying himself, he revealed his organic humility. As his followers, our calling is to clothe ourselves with that same humility. And when we understand the origin of humility—God’s unconditional, unmerited love in choosing us, and as we stay focused on the outcome of humility—the current and future favor of God upon our lives, fighting the drift of our selfish sin nature will be the most worthy and rewarding effort we will ever make.

Going Deeper: Take this moment to reflect on God’s sovereign choice of you. You didn’t deserve it; you were not a likely choice. But God loves you, chose you, accepted you and adopted you as his prized possession anyway. Now, how about thanking God for that!

Reclaim Your Kids From Culture

God-Time With Them Is The Key

SYNOPSIS: God-time with your kids is the most important investment you can make, so don’t surrender your ordained influence to your children’s culture. God has provided an amazing template for Christian parents to accomplish this most important task: early and often, talk to your kids about your wonderful, powerful, loving God! Like the people of old, write the law of God on the doorpost of your home, so to speak. That means when they come in, when they go out, and when they are in the home, God is to be the center of attention, the core of your family values, and the continual topic of conversation.

The Journey // Focus: Deuteronomy 6:6-8

You must commit yourselves wholeheartedly to these commands that I am giving you today. Repeat them again and again to your children. Talk about them when you are at home and when you are on the road, when you are going to bed and when you are getting up. Tie them to your hands and wear them on your forehead as reminders. Write them on the doorposts of your house and on your gates.

As a Christian parent, grandparent, caregiver or mentor, who or what is training your kids? As an observer of current culture, my sense is that those whom God has charged with the primary training and discipling of children—the child’s parents—have abdicated their roles to others. Parents have passively left it up to the children’s director, the youth pastor, the coach, mentor, daycare workers, or school instructor, or worse, the TV (or whatever form of media is used these days) to do their job for them.

Of course, that is not something parents consciously do. It is just that they have gotten busy, or lazy, and have uncritically surrendered the most important role in the universe to others. Now the role others play is very important. But make no mistake: those “others” are only to be supportive of what the parent is responsible for—the training of the child in the ways of the Lord. Likewise, and make no mistake about this, some of those “others” are more harmful than helpful to the moral, spiritual and social development of the children. I think we are now at the stage where TV and other media are aggressive and intentionally fostering a godless agenda with our children. Pay close attention to public education these days: vain and empty philosophies directed at forming the child abound. Sit up and pay close attention Christian parents: there is an all out war for the hearts and minds of your children.

Now instead of bemoaning the reality that our culture has drifted from God and from the Judeo-Christian values that shaped our American culture, let’s simply realize that we are living in a time that Christians throughout history and around the rest of the world have always and currently face. And they were ruthlessly intentional about protecting their children from the influences of evil of that godless culture. They took responsibility for being the primary disciplers of their kids. They took seriously the call to inculcate their kids with the things of God. They told God-stories at bedtime, they prayed God-protection in the morning over their kids as they left the house and they taught God-values whenever they had a moment throughout the day. Early and often, God was the topic of conversation.

Throughout the history of God’s people—in the Old Testament, in the New Testament, and for two thousand years of Christian history, believers have written the law of God on the doorpost of their homes, so to speak. That means when they came in, when they went out, and when they were in the home, God was the center of attention, the core of the family’s values and the continual topic of conversation.

It’s about time we reclaim our kids from culture, by any and all means necessary. And God has provided those means for Christian parents to accomplish this most important task: early and often, talk to them about our wonderful, powerful, loving God!

Do that and you will rescue your kids from an evil world, and leave a legacy that will be replicated in godly generations to come!

Going Deeper: Today—don’t wait—calendarize God-time with your children, grandchildren or students. And stick to it! It’s the most important investment you can make.

The Entire Bible In One Word: Love

Just Love — And Everything Else Will Fall Into Place

SYNOPSIS: It has been called “The Great Commandment.” Within it you will discover the bottom line to what God wants from his people. It is a job description, if you will, that succinctly describes what must occupy the attitudes, thoughts and actions of every true disciple. It is the gold standard of a growing spirituality, the truest measurement of a salvation that has taken root, the surest sign of transformation into Christ-likeness. It is also a brilliant one-word summation of the entire Bible.  In a word, here is what Jesus said: LOVE! Love—not the noun, but the verb. Love—that’s it. Just love, and everything else will take care of itself.

Project 52 – Weekly Scripture Memory // Matthew 22:37-40

“Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.” This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.” All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments.

Jesus’ response to a question asking him to identify the most important law in Scripture has been called, “The Great Commandment”, and truly, it is a great one!

Within it you will discover the bottom line to what God wants from his people. It is a job description, if you will, that succinctly describes what must occupy the attitudes, thoughts and actions of every true disciple.  It is the gold standard of a growing spirituality, the truest measurement of a salvation that has taken root, the surest sign of transformation into Christ-likeness.

It is also a brilliant one-word summation of the entire Bible.  In a word, here is what Jesus said:

LOVE!

Love—not the noun, but the verb. Love—that’s it. Do that, and everything else will take care of itself. Simply love God with every fiber of your being, and your religion will be pure, your faith will be authentic and your Christianity will be true to plumb. For when you love God wholeheartedly, then you will love his Word, obey his commands, testify of his greatness, steward his resources, serve his purposes, worship his name, care for his creation—and you will store up treasure in heaven, to boot! Just love God, and everything will be alright with you!

And if you really are loving God with your whole heart, then you will also love your neighbor as yourself. If you are not loving people in that manner, then you have a love problem; your love for God is anemic. The truest sign that God’s love is transforming your own heart is a demonstrable love for the people around you.  Likewise, the most effective love for the people around you is rooted in and issues from your love for God. Love for God and love for people are inseparable; you can’t have one without the other.

That’s right: Love is the thing. All else pales in comparison; nothing else matters!

So the burning question is, how do you love God like he wants to be loved?  How do you fulfill this first and greatest commandment?

To begin with, let me encourage you not to limit your understanding of love to the feelings and emotions of love that we have come to expect.  Just as you don’t always “feel” love for another person, you won’t always feel the warm sensation of love for God.  At times you will—and that’s wonderful—but don’t depend just on your feelings.  They are way overrated!

Rather, look at love for God this way:  Start with a decision to love—purpose in your heart that you will love God. Then make a commitment to love—make loving God the highest and most fiercely guarded priority of your life.  Follow that with the action of love—do the things that demonstrate your love for God: Spend time with him, talk to him—and listen, tangibly care for the things he cares for, align your life around the things that matter to him. Finally, never take your love for God, or his love for you, for granted. One of the best ways to keep love fresh is by expressing gratitude for what his love has done for you.

Though it seems crazy and is actually quite impossible, make it your life’s ambition to outdo the love God has for you by your love for him.  It’ll never work, but you’ll be amazed at the kind of life that results from trying.  Henry Martyn, an Anglican mission from the early nineteenth century wrote,

“With thee, O my God, there is no disappointment; I shall never have to regret that I loved thee too well.”

Make love the thing—love for God, love for people—and you will never, ever regret it!

Reflect & Apply:  If you are worried that your love for God is waning, I would recommend that you pray what I once heard someone offer as a heartfelt cry to God: “Lord, I want to love you.  Help me to want to want to love you more!” That may sound a little strange, but I somehow sense that your Father would be moved by that kind of request.

Get Rid Of Your Gods—There Is Only One!

Honor The First Commandment—The Other Nine Will Fall Into Place

SYNOPSIS: It is true that if the Israelites, and by extension, you and I, honored this first commandment—worship only God—then we would need none of the other nine commandments. We would never lie, never hurt our neighbor, always be faithful to our spouse, never lust, cuss, gripe or sin in any other way. Get this one right and you will be righteous.

The Journey// Focus: Deuteronomy 5:6-7

I am the Lord your God, who rescued you from the land of Egypt, the place of your slavery., You must not have any other god but me.

Deuteronomy is Moses’ leadership swan song. He is about to go the way of all the earth; his impossible mission is accomplished and God is going to take him to his final reward. He has left a leadership legacy that has not been matched in human history up to this moment. I doubt anyone will ever surpass the feat of spiritual, military, social and organizational leadership that Moses pulled off.

What Moses accomplished, however, as incredible as it might have been, was nothing compared to what God pulled off. Think about it: The Lord rescued two million Israelites out of slavery in Egypt through the ten plagues and the Red Sea crossing—in the Top Ten of All Time Great Miracles, you would agree. He guided his people through forty years in the barren wasteland of the Sinai Desert, keeping them fed, watered, clothed, protected and loved. He formed a rebellious, complaining, sin-prone, dull and disorganized people into his own holy nation—the only people still a nation from that ancient time until this very day. So if you think Moses was impressive, wait til you get a load of God! He outdid himself with Israel!

Now as Moses, in his final act, recounts those mighty acts of God along with God’s requirements for his people to remain his chosen, holy nation, he reminds them of God’s top ten laws—what we call the Ten Commandments. This is the second time Moses has publically preached them, and right at the top of the top ten, not only literally but strategically, is rule number one:

I am God! You exist only because of my mighty acts. Now you must worship, serve and obey none other than me.

It is true that if the Israelites, and by extension, you and I, honored this first commandment that we would need none of the others. We would never lie, never hurt our neighbor, always be faithful to our spouse, never lust, gripe, swear or sin in any other way. Get this one right and you will be righteous. But we don’t. We violate this one early and often.

How so? Whenever we put what we want ahead of what God demands, we sin. And by that we are worshipping ourselves rather than only him. And the big three violations of that throughout history, including today, including your history and mine, is our push for indefatigable quest for money, our insatiable lust for sexual pleasure and our unquenchable thirst for power. Yep, independence from our dependence on his daily provision (money), satisfying our desire for pleasure outside of his game rules (sex outside of marriage) and desire for power, control and recognition (the desire for fame, even fifteen minutes of it) are clearly violations of the basic rule: thou shalt have no other gods before me.

If we were truly intelligent beings, we would stop and ask ourselves how our unstoppable thirst for money, sex and power are working out for us. We would look at the wreckage of those who have crashed and burned in the ditch of wealth, or more accurately, the insatiable love of it. We would see the ruined lives of those who have lost everything for the momentary pleasure of an illicit sexual encounter. We would stop, drop and roll when we look at too many cautionary tales of the self-immolation of those who couldn’t handle flame of fame—pastors, politicians, athletes, celebrities who lost it all, or took their own lives—because they were not built to handle worship. No one is.

Whenever we give ourselves in word, thought or deed to something other than God, we have broken all the rules by breaking the first one. And it won’t work out very well. It never does.

That’s the dark side, but there is a bright side incomparably brighter than the false light of sin when we put and keep God first in our lives: provision, pleasure and power in the purest form imaginable. God fully satisfies, his blessings never fades and our worship of him alone produces eternal fruit that is always in season.

Now when Moses delivered the Ten Commandments, the people responded the way all people who have been rescued by God should. They said to Moses, “come and tell us everything he tells you, and we will listen and obey.” (Deuteronomy 5:27) Then Moses, literally speaking for God, responded to them

The Lord heard the request you made to me. And he said, “I have heard what the people said to you, and they are right. Oh, that they would always have hearts like this, that they might fear me and obey all my commands! If they did, they and their descendants would prosper forever.” (Deuteronomy 5:28-29)

Sin calls us to put other gods before the One who alone is God and worthy of our worship. Those gods—money, sex and power—promise pleasure but only and always deliver untold pain. The Living God promises unlimited provision, holy pleasure and eternal significance—prosperity forever! And this God never breaks a promise.

Your God says to you, “I am God, your God, who brought you out of bondage, bought you out of sin. So no other gods, only me!”

Going Deeper: Money, sex and power…by pursuing these are you putting you before God? That is worshiping other gods. So repent and return to the God who alone deserves your worship.

Prayer For A Once Mighty Nation

An Impassioned Intercession

SYNOPSIS: God is very clear that consequences follow sin; the law of sowing and reaping is unmistakable in Scripture. Yet the psalmist, Asaph, along with other Biblical writers, often placed their hope in God’s mercy—then prayed like crazy for a crop failure. I think it’s okay to pray for a crop failure. In fact, I would even say it’s wise to pray that way. Why? God may just substitute his mercy for his discipline. Micah 7:18 tells us, “Mercy is your specialty.” Since mercy and grace are what makes God, God, why not tap into them and pray for the restoration of a once mighty nation—or perhaps, a once blessed life!

An Impassioned Intercession // Psalm 80:19

Restore us, O LORD God Almighty; make your face shine upon us, that we may be saved.

How do you pray for a once-godly nation that is now suffering the just punishment for rebellion? You do what the psalmist did: Boldly, persistently and unashamedly pray for restoration![/callout]

Restore us, O LORD God Almighty; make your face shine upon us, that we may be saved.

Three times the psalmist made the exact same appeal for the restoration of Israel—Psalm 80:3,7,19. Each appeal is more intense than the previous, building to this crescendo of importunity in the final verse. He even sneaks in another plea for revival in the penultimate verse: “Revive us so we can call on your name once more.” (Ps. 80:18) This guy is bent on national renewal in Israel through a spiritual awakening!

What is interesting about Psalm 80—which you would agree is especially applicable for America right now—is that this desperate cry for restoration came during a time when the Almighty had removed his blessing because of the nation’s persistent rebellion. It was most likely written at the tail end of the Northern Kingdom’s rebellious run as a nation, and they were suffering the harsh reality of life without the protective hand of God—deservedly so!

How like America! We, too, have strayed from our once declared dependence upon the Almighty’s protective hand. We have abandoned the collective sense of our national raison d’être: To serve God’s purposes in the earth. We have bowed at the idol of political ideology, conflating our politics with Kingdom value’s. And let me be clear, the Christian nationalism that is growing in America is nothing less than idolatrous! Christ’s kingdom is not of this world. (John 18:36)

We have traveled so far down the road of spiritual rebellion—both sinner AND saint—that God will have to apologize to Sodom and Gomorrah if he withholds punishment on this nation much longer. That is really what we deserve. But in reality, isn’t what was true of Israel, and what is true of America, true of you and me, too? At the end of the day, aren’t we all undeserving of anything but God’s judgment?

Yet what is even more interesting about Psalm 80 is that the appeal for restoration is not based on the worthiness of Israel, it is rather rooted in the immutable character of God—who is gracious, compassionate, slow to anger, abounding in love and delights to show mercy rather than send calamity! (Psalm 103:8-14, Joel 2:13, Micah 7:18)

God has been very clear that consequences will follow sin; the law of sowing and reaping is unmistakably clear in Scripture. Yet the psalmist, along with other Biblical writers, often placed their hope in the mercy of God—and prayed like crazy for a crop failure.

I think it’s okay to pray for a crop failure. In fact, I would even say it’s wise to pray that way. Why? God may just substitute his mercy for discipline. The Message translation says of God in Micah 7:18,

Mercy is your specialty.

Since mercy and grace are what makes God, God, why not tap into them and pray for the restoration of a once mighty nation—and perhaps, a once blessed life!