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Life

In America, We Need You Now

At the beginning of September, I went to the LifeLight music festival in Sioux Falls, South Dakota. On Saturday night, the band Leeland was playing and during their set, the sang the song “Agnus Dei.” Toward the end of the song, Leeland Mooring, the lead singer, started singing these lyrics to the same tune:

Lord, we need you.
Lord, we need you.
Lord, in America, we need you right now.
Lord, we need you.

Right now, right now.
In America, we need you know.
Lord we need you now.
Lord, we need you now.
Right now, right now.

In America, we need you now.
Our schools need you now.
Our teachers need you now.
Our families need you now.
Our children need you now.

In America, we need you now.

As I listened and began to sing along, I started to get goosebumps. My heart was resonated with the extemporaneous lyrics. My soul was crying out to God for my country as I was thinking about how opposed we are, as a whole, to Jesus Christ. Truly, truly, America needs Jesus now. There are no revivals going on in America. We are dead spiritually. Don’t get me wrong–this is a great country. We are free. We have liberty. We can go to church and pray in our homes. Still, there are so many things that go on in this country that make me cringe, cry, and sing, “In America, Lord we need you right now.”

  • We kill over one million babies per year.
  • We allow gay marriages or unions in seven states.
  • We teach middle school students how to have sex and to use condoms.
  • We deny health care to the poor, helpless, and homeless.
  • We have school teachers who buy and sell and use methamphetamines.
  • We do not allow prayer in public schools and then wonder why our students have problems.
  • We have a 51% divorce rate.
  • We have outlawed “One nation under God” during the pledge of allegiance in some schools.

Do I need to go on? There are so many things that come to mind when I think of what’s wrong with America. Thinking about the direction of this country makes me extremely sad. Looking at a list this small, I hope, would make us all ask the Lord for mercy and grace. He is being very patient with us. We are on a thin thread of grace from the hand of the Most High. Pray for our country. In America, have we never needed more of Jesus. In America, have we never been more deviant, selfish, proud, and wicked.

So many American Christians think we need to “go overseas” and share the gospel with the world. That is so glorious, beautiful, and important. Yet, we ignore the problems in our homes, our schools, our businesses, our own churches. We ignore those facts from above and continue to invest in foreign lands. We should do that–because God commands it and it is a worthy thing. But, we also need to pray for and help change America.

O, Jesus, we need you now. In America, we need you now.

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Life

Walking in the Cemetery

I like to take times with the Lord by walking through a cemetery. For me, I seem to meet God better there than anywhere else. The air is still, the sun is warm, the birds are lively, and the distant traffic is drowned out by the quiet whisper of the Lord.

Today, I found myself back at the cemetery on ‘O’ Street here in Lincoln. I was walking among the dead, more so, those whose souls have never been more alive than today. I love cemeteries because of the perspective that is laid deep in my mind and heart as I walk through the dew-filled grass and ponder what a life meant. Today, as I walked, I prayed aloud to the Lord. This was different, however. As I prayed, I sang. I sang my prayers to the tune of “Angus Dei.” I prayed for America. I prayed for lost people. I prayed for future believers. I prayed for my family. I prayed for myself. I praised God. I thanked him for who he was.

As I walked, a thought passed through my mind. What if you are faking it? What if you don’t mean what you are praying? What if you are a praying because it makes you feel good?

Now, for those who know me, I am not a man who believes in looking for signs and stuff like that. But what happened next was a sheer moment of Sovereign brilliance. I turned to my left to look at a grave with the name “Butler” on it. Below the names, the dates of birth and death, was a verse from Psalm 19:14. Without hesitation, I looked it up in the Bible I was carrying.

Let the words of my mouth and the meditations of my heart be accepted in your sight, O LORD, my rock and my redeemer.

After I read this verse, the Lord comforted me in my soul, reassuring me that my heart was in the right place and with my mouth, it was pleasing him. How precious are those words from David! O, Lord, let all I do be acceptable in your sight!

A normal part of my time with the Lord in a cemetery is singing the hymn, “Grace Greater Than Our Sin.” As I move in between the tombstones and sing this song as loud as I can, I cannot help but wonder how many of these people experienced grace greater than their sin. I cannot help but wonder what it is like to walk through life without knowing God’s grace. I cannot help but tremble, knowing that I, too, was once a dead man and now my eyes have been opened to the grace of God through faith. So, I leave you with the words of Julia H. Johnston. May they be as comforting to you this day as they were for me this morning.

Marvelous grace of our loving Lord,
grace that exceeds our sin and our guilt!
Yonder on Calvary’s mount outpoured,
there where the blood of the Lamb was spilt.

Grace, grace, God’s grace,
grace that will pardon and cleanse within;
grace, grace, God’s grace,
grace that is greater than all our sin!

Sin and despair, like the sea waves cold,
threaten the soul with infinite loss;
grace that is greater, yes, grace untold,
points to the refuge, the mighty cross.

Dark is the stain that we cannot hide.
What can avail to wash it away?
Look! There is flowing a crimson tide,
brighter than snow you may be today.

Marvelous, infinite, matchless grace,
freely bestowed on all who believe!
You that are longing to see his face,
will you this moment his grace receive?

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Life

There is a River

“You give them drink from the river of your delights.”
– Psalm 36:8b

God’s river is raging. It is not a dead sea of stillness and dullness and boredom. God’s river flows hard and fast throughout my mind, heart, and soul. It is thrilling and exhilarating

God’s river is beautiful. It’s majestic and glorious. It’s crystal clear in the calm spots; I can see the smooth, round rocks at the bottom. Around the tight curves and sharp dips, however, the foams gather against the rocks and sizzle until it pierces my ears.

God’s river is splendid and stern. He called me out of the darkness to drink deep of its goodness. He is the fountain that sets it in motion. He is source from which the raging begins. Yet, his river requires much of me–perfection, and that I cannot keep. Still, his love atones for my sins.

God’s river is more dangerous and frightening than anything my mind can conjure. Some days, like today, I’m scared to death to jump into the river. I know that I’m in the raft with God. He has me buckled in, but following him, drinking from his river, and going all the way back to the fountain when I’m dry is very, very dangerous.

Traveling this dangerous river it’s the most delightful, satisfying, treasure-filled experience I can imagine. The duty of delighting in Jesus as my obsession is difficult. Today, I need to drink deep of his delightful river. I need to stand beneath the fountain and let his rushing, cleansing water flow over my soul and soak me in his grace. I need to rest in those calm, tender spots of mercy where I can see right to the bottom.

“For with you is the fountain of life; in your light do we see light.”
– Psalm 36:9

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Life

Boy Burned By Masked Men: Is Hell Too Good for Them?

I just read a story on CNN.com about an Iraqi boy who was doused with gasoline and burned by masked men in Baghdad.

The story just crushes my heart. If you look at the article, the boy was smiling–very cute and joyful. Now, he has a crushed face, no lips, no friends, and no hope of ever overcoming this trial unless he comes to know Jesus. All I could do when I stared at his picture was say, “Oh no, oh no, oh no.” It sickens me that human beings can do something like this to other human beings. The harsh reality of life is that some people love sin more than doing good (John 3:19), so things like this happen all over the world, every minute of the day.

On WordPress, a blogging site, there was a post yesterday about this news story entitled, “Hell is Too Good for People Like This.” The post read:

“A happy intelligent 5-year old boy in Iraq is playing in the park, then is randomly seized by fellow Iraqis, doused in gasoline, and set ablaze while his attackers flee. He survives, but what kind of life can he lead? What kind of twisted, evil people do this to a child?”

Though I understand the point the author tried to make (mainly by the blog title), I realize that this man is not a follower of Christ who can look at the sin of the world from a biblical lens. If I had a conversation with this blogger and he said to me, “Hell is too good for people like this.” I would respond:

“We all deserve to go to hell. Hell is perfectly fit for people like this. People like you and me are perfectly fit for hell.”

That is a hard statement to swallow, isn’t it? “People like you and me are perfectly fit for hell.” Most people, even Christians, wouldn’t like to hear that. Hell wasn’t mean for us, but we are fit for hell. We think that at our core, we are essentially good. Romans 3:10 says, “None is righteous, no not one.” J.I. Packer said it best, “Modern men and women are convinced that, despite all their little peccadilloes–drinking, gambling, reckless driving, sexual laxity, black and white lies, sharp practice in trading, dirty reading, and what have you–they are at heart thoroughly good folks” (Knowing God, 130). You see, people think that what they do in their gross, infected, sinful lives is generally okay as long as they are fine with it. God doesn’t see it that way, however.

I hate when people compartmentalize their sin. They say that burning a child is worse than sleeping with your girlfriend. One has greater earthly consequences than the other, yes. But to God, who is infinitely and completely perfect and holy, all sin looks disgusting. His standard is perfection and we have all fallen short (Rom. 3:23). I’ve never met a person who has said they have never sinned. But, almost everyone I have ever met thinks their sins are not bad enough to send them to hell. If you aren’t perfect, then you are defiled. We all aren’t perfect, so we are all defiled.

“What kind of evil, twisted people do this to a child?” The answer is potentially anyone who is not born of the Spirit of God.

So, pray for Youssif, the young boy, in Iraq, that the Holy Spirit would draw him to God and his anger and irritability caused by these men would be exchanged for delight of the Lord. But also pray for Nitsav, the WordPress blogger, that he would be convicted of his own wretchedness and depravity and be turned to Jesus for forgiveness, redemption, salvation, and freedom. Pray that Nitsav would know that hell wasn’t meant for you and me, but we all deserve to go there. And we all will, unless we trust in the Lord Jesus by faith and confess to him our sinfulness.

Categories
Life

Courage and the Gospel

Acts 23:11 says,

The following night the Lord stood by him [Paul] and said, “Take courage, for as you have testified to the facts about me in Jerusalem, so you must testify also in Rome.”

As I was reflecting on this passage in prayer and even now, I notice a few things about this statement that God spoke to Paul after he appeared before the Jerusalem Council.

1) Take courage. God told Paul not to be afraid. That’s fairly explicit in the verse. The reason Paul can write, “For I am not ashamed of the gospel, for it is the power of salvation to everyone who believes” (Rom. 1:16) is because the Lord Jesus himself appeared to him and said, “Take courage”. Also, Paul could say to Timothy, “For God gave us a spirit not of fear but of power and love and self-control” (2 Tim. 1:7) because Jesus said to him, “Take courage”.

2) You have testified to the facts about me. Paul did not believe in some random set of mystical opinions about Jesus. These were cold, hard facts. The reason Paul could write, “For if the dead are not raised, not even Christ has been raised. And if Christ has not been raised, your faith is futile and you are still in your sins…If in this life only we have hoped in Christ, we are of all people most to be pitied” (1 Cor. 15:16-17, 19). Paul was so confident in the resurrection of Jesus that he risked being wrong and pitied by men. Because of the facts, however, Paul can say, “But in fact Christ has been raised from the dead” (1 Cor. 15:21).

3) You must testify also in Rome. Paul wasn’t just commanded to go to Jerusalem, he was called to Rome–the New Yorks, the Tokyos, the L.A.s, the Londons of the world. Rome was the center of religion, government, trade, and social interaction. Because the Lord said, “Take courage” and because Paul knew facts about Jesus’ life, death, and resurrection, Paul could go to Rome.

As I begin to apply this to my own life, I think of times I lack courage. I think of situations when I don’t know the facts about Jesus. I think of chances I’ve had to “go to Rome” for Jesus and didn’t do it. May we be encouraged that Jesus gives us courage, shows us the facts, and leads us to where he wants us to be.

“How beautiful are the feet of those who bring good news of good things” (Rom. 10:15). Is there any greater duty to be done for the kingdom? How beautiful it is. We must share the gospel. Without it, there is no forgiveness, no redemption, no salvation, no everlasting life. If God is truly for us, how can the world be against us? He gives us comfort in the face of affliction. His yoke is easy and burden is light when sufferings bear us down.

Take courage. Go share the gospel with the world.