I find it very difficult to ever compare myself in any way to the great men and women of our Faith who have gone before us. It is even more disconcerting to begin to claim that one may have even the slightest understanding of the heart expressed by the powerful Apostle Paul. With that said, however, I do feel that I have a small appreciation for what he meant when he said these words to the Philippian Believers…
Philippians 1:3-5 VOICE - Whenever you cross my mind, I thank my God for you and for the gift of knowing you. 4 My spirit is lightened with joy whenever I pray for you (and I do constantly) 5 because you have partnered with me to spread the gospel since the first day I preached to you.
As a pastor, I am very grateful for the privilege of serving this congregation; and in this way I am somewhat like the Apostle Paul because I am thankful for you, and my prayers are filled with joy (at least for the most part). :-)
In circumstances that have been difficult and filled with despair, to moments of celebration and hope, you have been a source of strength and support. You have demonstrated not only your love for the ministry and the history of this great Work, but you have also given of your time, energy, and resources to bless my family and I. Truly, you have gone above and beyond the notion of a Church Member to that of a Family of Faith. You are a blessing to my life and I am deeply grateful.
The birthday celebration last week was amazing: my office was decorated, the barbecue was astounding, the generous gifts were humbling, the fellowship was uplifting, the cake was delicious, the Hawaiian shirts were beautiful, the cards and kind wishes were encouraging, and in everything…I was blessed. Yes, I know a little of what the Apostle Paul meant, “I thank my God for you.”
As a nation, July is our birthday month and it is accompanied by much celebration and hopefully, prayer. This is a very momentous and difficult hour for the Body of Christ and for the United States of America. Nevertheless, it is to this hour and to this nation that the Lord chose for you to live and speak. Either by birth or by migration, you are here by the Sovereign Hand of Almighty God. The Apostle Paul said…
Acts 17:26 NIV84 – From one man he made every nation of men, that they should inhabit the whole earth; and he determined the times set for them and the exact places where they should live.
You are here in this hour, for this season, in this nation to announce the Good News of Jesus and to live your life as citizens of the Kingdom of God! Please consider the words of Pastor Matt Chandler or The Village Church…
“The Kingdom of God wasn’t born on the Fourth of July.” --Matt Chandler
The Supreme Court decision regarding Same-Sex Marriage will certainly NOT be the cause of any decline within our nation…it is, however, a SYMPTOM of it. The United States is not, and never has been, a Theocratic Nation. At best, we were a culturally Christian nation, but not one truly ruled by the Lord Jesus Christ. Now we are no longer even that…but it has been this way for a long time. We have chronicled quite extensively on Sunday Mornings and in SALT, the profound and rapid loss of influence the Church has had in America.
We can be assured that the Biblical definition of Marriage is not dependent upon the winds of politics, the deliberations of Justices, or the revisions of suspect modern scholarship that seeks to accommodate the culture rather than the plain text of Scripture. If our Lord Jesus wanted to change the definition of marriage, He certainly could have, but instead He affirmed it:
Matthew 19:4-5 NIV84 – “Haven’t you read,” he replied, “that at the beginning the Creator ‘made them male and female,’ 5 and said, ‘For this reason a man will leave his father and mother and be united to his wife, and the two will become one flesh’?”
Please make no mistake, I believe in freedom. So much so, that I believe in a God that has granted to Humanity the Right to be Wrong if they so choose. Furthermore my friends, the Gay Lifestyle is certainly not the only brokenness within our culture. Beloved, our entire culture is BROKEN and in need of God! Frankly, in far too many ways the Church is quite broken too.
Sin enslaves. Regardless of whether it is homosexual, heterosexual, lying, stealing, murder, gossip, racism, maligning…all sin enslaves. Therefore, when one Human Being is enslaved, all of Humanity suffers; When one Soul is Lost, all of Creation groans. Rather than anger then, our response should be HUMILITY and brokenness. As I said, we are the ones who have lost our influence within the Culture.
Matthew 10:7 NIV78 - As you go, preach this message: ‘The kingdom of heaven is near.’
Matthew 10:7 NIV78 - …Preach this message: ‘The kingdom of heaven is near.’
As a nation, July is our birthday month and it is accompanied by much celebration and hopefully, prayer. There are many things, both good and bad, that have made the United States unique, and at times contradictorily so. The cry for freedom was central to the founding of this nation, yet many of its people were under the brutal heel of slavery. The Founders claimed at least a respect for the Judeo-Christian God and His Scriptures, and yet behaved in ways both personally and politically that causes one to properly suspect the depth of that commitment. We have often cried out for justice, when in reality our hearts craved vengeance. We speak of equality, but at best we struggle in recognizing the God-given dignity and worth of a Human Soul.
Proverbs 14:34 NIV - Righteousness exalts a nation, but sin condemns any people.
The child upon the streets or in the womb, the poor living in blight and the aged living in obscurity, the broken and the outcast all of whom are souls for which Jesus has died. Our Nation often forgets these: the most vulnerable of SOULS, and even more dishearteningly, so does the Church that bears the Name of Christ.
Furthermore, our Society (both Secular and Religious) has forgotten the sacrifices of our forebears and we are suffering from a curious lack of curiosity and a despairing absence of seriousness. Realizing that I now run the risk of sounding like the “old guy” telling the neighborhood kids to get off of his lawn (although with our drought-imposed restrictions, I no longer worry about my lawn). Nevertheless, indulge me for a moment (especially my children’s generation): :-) Life is not a Bumper Sticker and theology is not limited to 140 characters in a text or a Social Media “post” or “hash-tag.” To celebrate “freedom,” “choice,” “equality,” and “love” is far costlier, profoundly deeper, and significantly more complex than the current national conversation tolerates.
The issues we face and what type of nation we shall leave to our children and our grandchildren are very serious and should not be diminished by a personal need to win an argument or to offer a clever thought backed up by a symbol of one’s “team.” It is as though politics has become its own religion and issues are now scored as though we were watching a sporting contest. We decide by whether a person has a “D” or an “R” after their name, if we will listen to them at all; and all the while the public dialogue becomes more coarse and our nation is being cynically divided and Balkanized by those in pursuit of raw power.
The Body of Christ MUST resist this assault to divide us, for we have a PRIESTLY RESPONSIBILITY to represent the LORD GOD to HUMANITY, and to PLEAD in SACRIFICIAL INTERCESSION before God on behalf of our families, our church, our community, and yes…our nation! This anointing is either released or hindered by our capacity to love and live in the UNITY of the Spirit within His Body.
Psalm 133:1-2 NKJV – Behold, how good and how pleasant it is For brethren to dwell together in unity! 2 It is like the precious oil upon the head, Running down on the beard, The beard of Aaron, Running down on the edge of his garments.
Yesterday, our nation celebrated 239 years of independence from the British Empire. I am so grateful to live in a city whose citizens take such great personal pride in bringing to life the words of Francis Scott Key: “The rockets red glare, the bombs bursting in air!” :-)
The cry for freedom was central to the founding of this nation. When one Human Being is enslaved, all of Humanity suffers; When one Soul is Lost, all of Creation groans. All Human Systems of Governance: political or ecclesiastical are flawed; however, they should represent an attempt to recognize and celebrate the Creator in His Creation.
The greatness of the United States is not that it has fulfilled its ideals, it has not; and on more than a few occasions, it has failed miserably. Nevertheless, the greatness of the United States is that is HAS ideals…and those ideals presuppose a Creator and are founded upon the Scripture. It is this understanding that has allowed our nation to attempt to right its wrongs; and address its failings. The Abolitionist Movement, the Civil Rights Movement, and other Cries for Freedom appealed to our founding ideals and began in the Pulpits of America.
But what happens when the nation drifts from those Scriptural moorings? Even worse, what do we do when our Leaders in Business, Education, Government, and Entertainment demonstrate an open disdain for any religious perspective that does not support their worldview? What do we do when the “Tolerant” of the World are the most intolerant of The Scripture and of the Ways of God?
Psalm 12:8 NIV78 - The wicked freely strut about when what is vile is honored among men.
What do we do when our Nation, our Society, and our People begin to drift from the ways of the Lord? What do we do when righteousness is mocked and “what is vile is honored,” and celebrated? What do we do when violence fills our Land and Secularism has become a Religion of its own making? Our nation is truly at a time of crisis, the tipping point of which may have already begun.
Indeed, there is much to be done, but it all starts with the People of God getting serious about their God and calling on His Great Name. Revival begins with Repentance, and Repentance begins in Prayer.
2 Chronicles 7:13-14 AMP - If I shut up heaven so no rain falls, or if I command locusts to devour the land, or if I send pestilence among My people, 14 If My people, who are called by My name, shall humble themselves, pray, seek, crave, and require of necessity My face and turn from their wicked ways, then will I hear from heaven, forgive their sin, and heal their land.
Dr. Tobey Montgomery