Thursday, March 29, 2007

God responds when his people pray.

The book of Judges describes a repeating cycle where Israel becomes disobedient to God resulting in terrible consequences for their nation. When they realized the consequences of their sin, they cried out to God for salvation. God would raise up a champion who delivers God’s justice to Israel’s oppressors and brought revival to the nation. This cycle is repeated seven times in Judges.

This lesson can be applied to our own spiritual lives. The Bible teaches that “If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins, and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.” (1 John 1:9 KJV)

Can we wear out God’s patience? When Peter asked if we should forgive a person who has wronged us seven times (Peter believed he was being generous), Jesus said that the number was seventy times seven (Matthew 18:22).

This lesson is also seen repeated in history. By the 1500’s the church is being led by corrupt leaders. Worship is dead and the people are superstitious and fearful. Martin Luther and other preachers lead a great revival of Bible teaching. The Bible was put in the hands of the people and the church was reformed.

In England, John Wesley preaches in the streets and starts small groups in response to the Anglican Church’s lack of concern for the soul’s of the poor in England. Revival spreads across England and prevents a bloody revolution like the one in France.

In 18th Century America, it was said that worship waned and immorality flourished. Thomas Jefferson and other influential thinkers believed that rationalism left no room for orthodox Christianity. Supreme Court Chief Justice John Marshall stated, "The church is too far gone ever to be redeemed." In 1794 churches set aside the first Monday of every month to pray for revival. By 1803, the Methodist church grew from 2700 to 12,000 and 10,000 people joined the Baptist Church. The American Bible Society and the American Sunday School Union were organized in the decade to follow.

God has also raised up champions such as John Wycliffe, who translated the Bible into English in the 1300’s, William Wilberforce, who labored to abolish slavery in England, and William Carey, who started the modern missionary movement. He continues to raise champions in our time. There is Martin Luther King, Jr., who led the civil rights movement, and Mother Teresa, who ministered to dying outcasts in India.

Disobedience is the natural tendency of humanity and results in defeat and judgment by God, however, God is patient and faithful His people and responds when we call upon Him in repentance.

“If my people, which are called by my name, shall humble themselves, and pray, and seek my face, and turn from their wicked ways; then will I hear from heaven, and will forgive their sin, and will heal their land.” (2 Chronicles 7:14 KJV)

Friday, March 16, 2007

No Soldier’s life is wasted.

It is painful for a soldier or the families of any person in military service to hear that a life lost in service to our country was wasted. People enter military service for many reasons including patriotism, economics and adventure but, once that uniform is put on, you serve for personal honor, your comrades and the long line of those who have served with honor in the past.

Senator Barack Obama said in a speech in Iowa last month, "We now have spent $400 billion and have seen over 3,000 lives of the bravest young Americans wasted."

He later apologized. Perhaps he can be excused for his lapse. He has never served in the military and cannot know what goes through the minds of our young service members. He does not know the fear, loneliness and deprivation that are part of the sacrifice we are often called upon to endure. He does not understand the level of fortitude shown by a soldier who enters a room first or goes to investigate a suspicious bag lying by the road.

Senator John McCain, a veteran of Viet Nam who was a POW for over five years, has a long family history of military service, and has two sons who are currently serving, said pretty much the same thing on David Letterman.

"We've wasted a lot of our most precious treasure, which is American lives,” said McCain.

What was he thinking? Were his years in a POW camp wasted? Did he forget the way the military was scorned back then? Has he forgotten how the courage he displayed is an inspiration to others who face the possibility of capture?

In all branches of the military and in our veteran’s groups we honor our dead long after their families are gone and their names have been forgotten. I have been in military service since 1976. I have seen the tide of public opinion rise and fall. I do what I do because it is a part of me. I believe it is the same for most in the military. People speak of fighting for freedom, for causes, for whatever… In the end we fight for each other. In the end each other is all we have.

Early in my career my squadron lost three Marines in three separate training accidents. These were not war losses. These deaths were not wasted and were no less honorable than a combat casualty. Everyone in uniform understands that we are in a dangerous profession that may have cost us our life.

I am in the National Guard now and have already deployed once. I am ready to go again if called upon. I don’t make these decisions. I swore an oath and I live by it. I will go where I am sent and fight at home if it comes to that. I don’t crave parades or special honors but they are touching when I experience them. It’s what I do and will probably do for a few more years.

You talk o' better food for us, an' schools, an' fires, an' all:
We'll wait for extry rations if you treat us rational.
Don't mess about the cook-room slops, but prove it to our face
The Widow's Uniform is not the soldier-man's disgrace.
For it's Tommy this, an' Tommy that, an' "Chuck him out, the brute!"
But it's "Saviour of 'is country" when the guns begin to shoot;
An' it's Tommy this, an' Tommy that, an' anything you please;
An' Tommy ain't a bloomin' fool -- you bet that Tommy sees!
From “Tommy” - Rudyard Kipling

To everything there is a season,
A time for every purpose under heaven:
A time to love, And a time to hate;

A time of war, And a time of peace. Ecclesiastes 3:1,8 (New King James Version)

Thursday, March 01, 2007

Joshua is conned by the Gibeonites (Joshua 9)

Gibeon was one of the Canaanite cities that God commanded to be destroyed. They feared Israel and devised a plan to ensure their survival. They knew that Israel was allowed to make treaties with cities outside of the Promised Land.

The Gibeonites put together a group of men and disguised them to look like ambassadors from a distant city. They were equipped with worn clothing and shoes and carried moldy bread and cracked wine skins to give the impression that they had been on a long journey from a far-off land. Joshua and the nation of Israel were tricked into a treaty that was in violation of God’s commands.

Joshua and the leaders of Israel did not sin deliberately. They carefully inspected the evidence presented by the Gibeonites and found it to support the story. The Bible tells us that their failure was in neglecting to consult God before making a decision.

When Joshua discovered that he had been deceived, he declared that the Gibeonites would be tasked to chop wood and carry water in support of the Tabernacle worship. The Gibeonites never gave Israel any trouble and came to be called the Nethinim (given ones) and labored as servants in the temple (1 Chron. 9:2; Ezra 2:43, 58; Neh. 3:26).

When the other five Canaanite cities in the region heard of Gibeon’s plan to allay with Israel, they gathered to destroy Gibeon. The five armies, now out in the open, were easy prey to Israel.

We can learn some important lessons from this story. First, Satan sometimes comes as a devouring lion (1 Peter 5:8) and sometimes as a deceiving serpent (2 Cor. 11:3). Our senses can be deceived so we must seek God as we make decisions.

Second, we should make the best of our circumstances. The Gibeonites served the Tabernacle and, later the Temple until the Babylonian captivity.

Third, God can use our mistakes to fulfill his plans. They five kings that gathered to destroy Gibeon were marked by God for destruction. Their gathering in one place, out in the open made it easier for Israel to defeat them.

“And we know that all things work together for good to those who love God, to those who are the called according to His purpose.” Romans 8:28 (NKJV)