A Message to Our Newly (Re)Elected Officials:  You Won! Now What?

A Message to Our Newly (Re)Elected Officials: You Won! Now What?

The election season is over. For some voters, going to the polls was merely a civic duty. For others voting was a matter of stewardship, understanding that God gives us this American privilege, and we will be held accountable for every vote we cast. 

But my real focus of this article is not on voters, but rather it’s a message to the newly elected (or re-elected) officials.  

God has given me the opportunity (and sobering responsibility) to meet and get to know dozens of politicians, from councilmen to several Presidential candidates. While I’m no longer active in political endeavors, many of these friends or acquaintances were elected to office this last cycle. These offices range from school board members to US Senators, and many offices in between. 

So with this as a backdrop, the following verse jumped out at me this week from the book of Daniel: 

“For this has been decreed by the messengers; it is commanded by the holy ones, so that everyone may know that the Most High rules over the kingdoms of the world. He gives them to anyone he chooses— even to the lowliest of people.” Daniel 4:17 

The Instruction Manual 

The book of Daniel is the instruction manual on how Christians in government should behave. Daniel also illustrates to believers how we should respond to government, particularly adversarial ones.   

As we read this manual, for guidance both in civics and governance, it’s important to understand that the government officials we are introduced to in Daniel are both followers of (the one true) God, as well as pagans (followers of someone or something other than the one true God).  In addition to Daniel, there are many other books and passages in the Bible that offer insights into God’s view of government officials, and their role in serving Him. 

God Elevates Both Believers and Unbelievers to Government 

This is the first principle that each recently elected government official should understand.  Regardless of whether you believe in and follow God, or not, it is God that has given you the victory you are celebrating.  It’s not the voters.  It’s Him.  Sure, the voters all cast a vote, some for you and some against you.   

But ascribing your victory to voters is akin to thanking a courier who hands you the keys to your new car, that your rich uncle just bought for you.  Your uncle deserves the acknowledgement and thanks, not the courier.  

God “gives them (kingdoms) to anyone he chooses — even to the lowliest of people” affirms this principle. So whether you were elected the county dog catcher, or the President of the United States, God has lent you the office to test your stewardship.  That’s not only an awesome opportunity, but it’s more importantly a sobering responsibility.  You will be held accountable, not merely by the voters, but more importantly by God Almighty. 

God is Testing Your Humility (or Pride) 

In Daniel, we read about the story of Nebuchadnezzar, the king of Babylon and a powerful ruler of his day.  But with that power, we also see a man who grew very proud.  We read in Daniel 4:30 these words: 

“As he looked out across the city, he said, ‘Look at this great city of Babylon! By my own mighty power, I have built this beautiful city as my royal residence to display my majestic splendor.’”  (Daniel 4:30) 

If ever there was a man who embodied the spirit of the “self-made” man, King Nebuchadnezzar was that man.  Note how his power led to pride. (And we’ll find out in our next principle, what the king’s pride led to.) 

It’s a very difficult task to resist the temptation of pride.  Power and pride seem to go hand and hand.  So as someone is elevated to a position of power, who was a “no one” or perhaps a “lesser one” before his election, it’s so easy to become prideful in that new found position.  A politician can easily look at himself as important.  As special.  As above others.  As privileged. As deserving.  

But all those attitudes are not only false, they are Pride whispering lies to us. It’s incumbent on you as an elected official to resist such temptations, and rebuke those attitudes.  But if you fail this test, you will soon experience the warning from Proverbs 16:18 where we’re told: 

“Pride goes before destruction, and haughtiness before a fall.”

How many politicians do you know that seem to struggle with pride?  If we’re all honest though, this is a sin many of us have succumbed to in our own lives.  So Mr/Ms Politician, resist this huge temptation that comes to all of us, but particularly those with power.  If you don’t, you may find yourself experiencing the next principle. 

Pride Leads to Bad Stuff 

I suppose I could have been more “sophisticated” in describing this principle, but “bad stuff” really is the result of Pride in the life of an elected official.  The prophet Daniel, who was also a high government official in King Nebuchadnezzar’s kingdom, warned the King of what would occur if he took credit for “his” achievements versus ascribing any success to God.  Note Daniel’s warning: 

“You will be driven from human society, and you will live in the fields with the wild animals. You will eat grass like a cow, and you will be drenched with the dew of heaven. Seven periods of time will pass while you live this way, until you learn that the Most High rules over the kingdoms of the world and gives them to anyone he chooses… King Nebuchadnezzar, please accept my advice. Stop sinning and do what is right. Break from your wicked past and be merciful to the poor. Perhaps then you will continue to prosper.”  (Daniel 4:25, 27) 

Sadly though, this is what occurred when Nebuchadnezzar refused to heed God’s warning, spoken through Daniel: 

“…A voice called down from heaven, ‘O King Nebuchadnezzar, this message is for you! You are no longer ruler of this kingdom. You will be driven from human society. You will live in the fields with the wild animals, and you will eat grass like a cow. Seven periods of time will pass while you live this way, until you learn that the Most High rules over the kingdoms of the world and gives them to anyone he chooses.’”  (Daniel 4:31-32) 

What a great fall King Nebuchadnezzar experienced!  From the height of world power, to the lowliness of an animal — simply because he allowed the spirit of pride to rule in his life. 

It’s uncanny, but should not be surprising, that 600 years later, Jesus, the Son of the Voice from heaven who spoke to Nebuchadnezzar, reminded us again of the repercussions of pride in our lives: 

“For those who exalt themselves will be humbled, and those who humble themselves will be exalted.”  (Luke 14:11) 

So be sure of this elected official.  Pride will tempt you, but you can resist it in your live, and as you do, and take the less travelled path of humility, God will exalt you, according to Jesus, God’s Son. 

Nebuchadnezzar’s own life is a reflection of this reality for when the king finally humbled himself and acknowledged the One who had exalted him to begin with, this is what the king had to say: 

“After this time had passed, I, Nebuchadnezzar, looked up to heaven. My sanity returned, and I praised and worshiped the Most High and honored the one who lives forever. His rule is everlasting, and his kingdom is eternal. When my sanity returned to me, so did my honor and glory and kingdom. My advisers and nobles sought me out, and I was restored as head of my kingdom, with even greater honor than before. “Now I, Nebuchadnezzar, praise and glorify and honor the King of heaven. All his acts are just and true, and he is able to humble the proud.” (Daniel 4:34, 36-37) 

Servant Leadership 

We’ve all heard of the “servant leadership” principle.  It’s a teaching that’s hip these days, and often promoted in corporate entities.  But long before motivational coaches latched onto this truth, Jesus had this to say about the role servant leadership should play in all of our lives, including elected officials: 

“But Jesus called them together and said, “You know that the rulers in this world lord it over their people, and officials flaunt their authority over those under them. But among you it will be different. Whoever wants to be a leader among you must be your servant, and whoever wants to be first among you must become your slave.”  (Matthew 20:25-27) 

Having been around elected officials for many, many years now, I have seen a spirit that is often anything but “servant leadership.”  The head tables, the honored seats, and the best of everything is always reserved for politicians.  And yet, the elite status most politicians enjoy is entirely at odds with their self-assigned title of “servants of the people.” 

So if you were just elected and want to be different and break the political mold, what if you were to truly embrace the idea of “servant leadership” in your elected role?  Perhaps one antidote against the pride that will lead to destruction and fall, is to simply commit oneself to truly being a servant in practice versus simply in words. 

There are at least two reasons to do so.  The first is because Jesus modeled such leadership and what better person to pattern our lives after than the Son of God?  But there is another reason, and it has to do with future rewards: 

“So those who are last now will be first then, and those who are first will be last.”  (Matthew 20:16) 

God’s Elevating of An Individual Does NOT Suggest He Endorses That Individual 

We often misunderstand God’s actions and choices, assuming that because He places certain individuals in positions of authority, that God must then endorse such an individual.  This fallacy has been a huge stumbling block for Christians, particularly over the last couple years. But this could not be further from the truth, as taught throughout Scripture.  

God elevates individuals to positions of authority for several reasons including 1) to achieve God’s greater Plan, 2) to test that individual, 3) to punish, test, or refine those who are under the ruler’s authority, or some other purposes. We cannot always be certain of God’s reasons, but we can know this: 

“For just as the heavens are higher than the earth, so my ways are higher than your ways and my thoughts higher than your thoughts.” (Isaiah 55:9) 

We also know that at times God will even elevate evil or immoral rulers to achieve His greater Plan. But when that Plan is achieved, God will discard the ruler, when he does not turn to God and acknowledge His sovereignty.  The examples of the numerous kings of Judah and Israel in the Old Testament are an affirmation of this principle, as God used both good and evil kings to continue to advance His objectives.  But as soon as God finished with an immoral ruler, God always discarded him. 

So the lesson any elected official should learn from this truth, is that God’s selection of you for the office you now hold, is not necessarily an endorsement of you, your political solutions, ambitions, or even your character.  Rather, He has placed you there for His purposes.  So it’s incumbent on every elected official to ask these questions:   

“Why did God elevate me?  What does He want to achieve through me?  How can I best serve God in this capacity? Am I ready to give account to Him for my actions in my current position?”  

All these questions require one particular attitude which we referenced earlier:  Humility. 

Conclusion 

In closing, I trust as you assume the new office or term, which you have been given for a brief moment, that you will ponder these truths from God’s Word. I trust you will acknowledge Whom it is that elevated you, that you will remain humble, that you will truly model servant leadership, and that you will never assume that God endorses all you do, simply because He has granted you this position of authority.  

Remember what Jesus said to Pilate when He, as the Son of God, stood before the government official who had been lent the power of life or death: 

“Then Jesus said, “You would have no power over me at all unless it were given to you from above.” (John 19:11) 

So if your authority is given to you by God Himself, then this should be your response: 

“What do you have that God hasn’t given you? And if everything you have is from God, why boast as though it were not a gift?” (1 Corinthians 4:7) 

Blessings to you as you move into what has often been portrayed as “The Swamp.”  But in reality, it may be your greatest opportunity and responsibility to: 

“Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works and glorify your Father in heaven.”  (Matthew 5:16) 

(If you know an elected official, and agree with this message, would you forward this to him/her?) 

Bill O’Reilly, the Fall & Proverbs 16:18

Bill O’Reilly, the Fall & Proverbs 16:18

The O’Reilly Factor and FoxNews.  Over the last two decades, these two entities became household names for literally millions of Americans. Holding the top spot in the prime time cable ratings is something most TV personalities would aspire for and, if achieved, would no doubt boast of. Bill O’Reilly was no exception. The fact is, Bill was never shy to remind his viewers of his unparalleled success.

Over the years I have watched my share of the O’Reilly Factor. And while I have agreed more often than not with many of the positions Bill would take, I found myself regularly perturbed with the man.  There is something about watching someone spout off braggadociously, night after night, that can turn a person from a follower to a critic.

More than once during the last decade I’ve thought of Proverbs 16:18 when listening to O’Reilly pontificate about his infallible views on nearly any subject under the sun.  That verse asserts:

“Pride goes before destruction, and a haughty spirit before a fall.”

It’s likely that we all struggle with that five letter word:  Pride.  And perhaps the more successful one becomes, and the more he or she is in the public eye, the greater the temptation is to think highly of oneself.  

I’ve often heard the expression “a self-made man” used of those who achieve some level of success.  But I’ve always been deeply troubled by such a view.  If one affirms God and His sovereign role in our world and lives, then I would suggest it is pride-gone-wild to assert one is a self-made anything.  True, we play a part in our future, with every choice we make.  But I believe it is dangerously wrong to buy into the notion that we are the reason for our success.

The truth is there is a greater Power at work.  I liken it to a farmer who sows his fields.  Sure, he planted the seed, but God gives the rains, sun and the ultimate increase.  And even further, God gives the farmer the resources, health and strength to even plant the seed.  

Likewise, in our lives, we can plant seeds of success by the choices we make.  But it is ultimately God who honors those choices.  Only God can bless us with successes beyond our wildest dreams.  But when those dreams come to fruition, here are some questions that, depending on our answer, will determine whether pride has entered into our lives.  

What do we think? How do we act? What do we say to others? Whom do we thank? Is it ourselves or God?  

Deuteronomy 8:18 answers the last question with this affirmation:

“Remember the Lord your God. He is the one who gives you power to be successful…”

So as I think about Bill O’Reilly’s fall from the pinnacle of success to the depths of shame, I am saddened to see such a loss. Whether Bill is guilty or not of the charges leveled against him is beyond the scope of this article. But Bill’s arrogance and pompous attitude loom large for anyone willing to see them.  And sadly, I believe they drove the reason for his fall.

More important than Bill’s fall though, is this.  His failures force me to look in the mirror and test my motives, my attitudes, and my beliefs.  

Is there Pride in my life?  Do I possess a haughty spirit?  If so, then there is a fall and destruction in my future.  

What about you?  Have you considered these questions?  If not, I would challenge you to do that same.

At the end of the day, all that is good in our lives and all that we might accomplish or accumulate is only by God’s abundant blessings. Any explanation beyond that should cause us to seriously consider Proverbs 16:18… before it’s too late.

Epilogue:

One final thought.  As Bill O’Reilly falls, Tucker Carlson rises, being offered Bill’s former prime-time slot at 8pm.  It’s noteworthy to mention that Tucker Carlson is moving from his short stint at 9pm, after replacing Megyn Kelly, to the 8pm hour, the top slot in prime-time.  Will Tucker though, learn from Bill O’Reilly’s mistakes and resist the temptation to credit himself for his sudden success?  Time will tell.  And let’s hope humility reigns.  

Thanksgiving in Nepal

Thanksgiving in Nepal

Earlier this week I returned from a two week trip to Nepal with a team of five guys.  Our adventure flew us from Atlanta to Doha, Qatar and on to Kathmandu, Nepal.  I’ve been to quite a few countries over the years, and oftentimes my travels have taken me to a number of places with very low standards of living.  But as soon as we ventured from Tribuhaven International Airport into the streets of Kathmandu, I knew that I was in for an experience like none other.  

While cell phones were everywhere, basic standards of living, like flushing toilets, potable water, dependable electricity, paved roads, and even something as ordinary as hot water in hotels were rare in Kathmandu, even more so in the mountains, where we were headed the following day.

The next morning, we boarded a short flight from Kathmandu to Tumlingtar, a very small town sitting alongside the Arun River.  Out the left side of the plane, as we flew east, rose the Himalayan Mountain Range, with its crown jewel, Mount Everest, the tallest mountain in the world at 29,029 feet.  In fact, eight of the ten tallest mountains in the world reside in Nepal.  

The following days would test our bodies and psyche as we departed Tumlingtar.  With backpacks on our shoulders, we headed for a canoe ride across the Arun River, a jeep ride we’ll never forget over some of the dustiest, deeply rutted roads imaginable, and many miles of hiking up mountains and through tiny little villages in some of the remotest parts of Nepal.  Everywhere we went over the next several days we were met with continuous stares, acknowledging the fact that in some of these little villages, no American had ever been seen.

As we traveled throughout Nepal over the near two weeks we were there, the word “thanksgiving” came to mind over and over.  As I compared my life back in the United States with that of the Nepalis, I couldn’t help but thank God for His providential blessings.  Whether it was our standard of living, the liberties our Constitution affirms to us, or the spiritual truths that were a part of our nation’s DNA, the American experiment is something we all too often take for granted.  

Americans like to acknowledge our many blessings annually on the 3rd Thursday of November with turkey, dressing, pumpkin pie and football.  But truthfully, as we look around the world, we should celebrate Thanksgiving this very day, for our blessings are too numerous to count.  Whether one lives in a penthouse overlooking Manhattan, in a suburban middle class neighborhood, or subsidized housing in an inner city, each one of us is part of an elite body of citizens, even with our diverse socioeconomic levels.  As “Americans” we are all afforded unlimited opportunities and the freedoms to pursue them.  But lest we become puffed up, we should remember that the status we enjoy has been bestowed on us by a merciful and loving God, and that there is nothing inherent in us that would merit such blessings.

As we think of the many nations of the world, we should remember that God established the times and boundaries of each nation (Acts 17:26), and He also blesses those nations who affirm Him as their God (Psalm 33:12).  But as I was abroad these last couple of weeks, I came across this verse in Psalm 9:17“The wicked shall be turned into hell, and all the nations that forget God.”  There is no doubt in my mind that America is rapidly forgetting God, and the division, turmoil, instability, and even violence we are seeing across our land suggests that we are beginning to reap the consequences of such forgetfulness.  

There is really only one solution to restoring our Republic.  And it begins with thanksgiving and humility.  I pray that we will all begin to reassess our relationship to Almighty God, and as we do, also count our many blessings.  And let’s make everyday a day of thanksgiving.

Footnote:

I recently purchased a DJI Mavic Pro drone, a state-of-the-art technological wonder.  It’s a unique compact drone, designed so that the arms can be folded down and transported with ease, but still possessing some of the most highly sophisticated features available.  I was able to take the drone on the trip to Nepal and captured many incredible aerial views.  Below are just a few of the videos that will give you just a little sampling of our team’s experience.  I trust you enjoy them.

 

 

 

Do Your Failures Haunt You? Two Strategies to Overcome Them

Do Your Failures Haunt You? Two Strategies to Overcome Them

Do Your Failures Haunt You

If you’re alive, then you’ve failed.  And if you’re honest, you’ve failed a lot.  I know I have.  In fact, I’m confident that my failures outnumber my successes by a multiple of many.  

But the truth is that you and I are not alone.  In fact, we are in great company.  The greatest athletes, entrepreneurs, and even religious leaders will all admit, if they’re honest, that their failures are numerous.

Of course, there are many types of failures.  There are athletic failures, such as missing the winning shot in the NBA finals.  And there are business failures, such as filing bankruptcy when the entrepreneur can no longer satisfy his creditors.  There are parental failures, where we may find we have dropped the ball in the raising of our children.  And there are personal defeats, where we fail to live up to a standard we set for ourselves.  There are moral failures, where one may violate a professional or personal relationship.  And there are spiritual failures, where our behavior or choices fall short of the standard established by God Himself.

The first step in overcoming a failure is to acknowledge it, seek forgiveness from those you have wronged, and then put the mechanisms in place to avoid repeating those same failures again, and again, and again.

But when you’ve done this, it’s possible and perhaps even likely that the failures in your life occasionally or even frequently raise their ugly heads to remind you of your shortcomings.  It’s human nature for us to replay them over and over in our minds.

It hurts to fail just as it hurts to get thrown from a horse.  But if you are going to learn to ride that bucking bronco, there’s only one way to do so and that is to climb back on and try again.

In Psalm 40:12 we read this from King David, “For troubles surround me, too many to count! My sins pile up so high I can’t see my way out. They outnumber the hairs on my head. I have lost all courage.” That’s a lot of failures, and we see what happened when David was focused on his sins.  He couldn’t see his way out and he lost all courage.

Bottom line, he was remembering and rehearsing his failures and the more he did, the weaker and more discouraged he became.

We also see there were those who were more than willing to remind David of his failures in the following verse, “May those who try to destroy me be humiliated and put to shame.  May those who take delight in my trouble be turned back in disgrace.  Let them be horrified by their shame, for they said, ‘Aha! We’ve got him now!’”

Note that if we’re not reminding ourselves of our failures, there is usually someone in our life who is more than willing to do so.  And their intent is generally malicious and destructive.

But thankfully, we also read that David found his strength in God when he said, “Please Lord, rescue me!  Come quickly, Lord, and help me.

Like David, we must recognize that when our failures seem to overwhelm us, whether business, personal, moral or spiritual, there is One to whom we can turn.  Doing so requires humility, dependence, and repentance, particularly if the failure is a violation of God’s law.  But when we humble ourselves, and seek God’s forgiveness, strength and deliverance, it is then that we can regain the courage that was lost by focusing on our failures.  

There is another step to be taken in overcoming your failures which we learn from another great historical figure, the Apostle Paul, when he shares, “I focus on this one thing: Forgetting the past and looking forward to what lies ahead…

We must bury the past and turn our focus to the future, knowing that what is done is done.  The only chapter of our lives that you and I can still affect is the one yet unwritten.  So forget those past failures and turn your focus to the future.

So if your failures have haunted you and your courage has been waning, practice the strategies that David and Paul both used: seek God’s deliverance and strength, and forget the past while focusing on the future.  Doing so will unleash a new sense of optimism and hope as you fulfill the purpose that God has for your life.

Mark

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#MakeAmericaGoodAgain

#MakeAmericaGoodAgain

Make America Good Again

“No people can be great, who have ceased to be virtuous.”  Samuel Johnson (1709 – 1784)

This week I am witnessing first hand the 2016 Republican National Convention in Cleveland, Ohio. As I’ve been observing the happenings within the Quicken Arena, the one theme that continues to pop up again and again, is Make America Great Again.  Of course, that being the Trump campaign motto, it should come as no surprise.  From t-shirts to ball caps, street vendors to banners, the motto is everywhere I look, here in Cleveland.  

The brilliantly conceived message is one that plays well with disillusioned and disgusted voters, who have experienced the last seven years of an Obama Presidency and grown increasingly skeptical and angry with Washington DC.  But to add to that anger, Republican voters have had to endure a party establishment who cares more about power and reelections than they do about upholding the Constitution, and fighting back against Obama’s all out assault on our freedoms, national security and economic revitalization.  So Trump stepped into a perfect storm and has been a master at tapping into the base emotions of voters, with a message that sells to the disgruntled masses.

While the overriding theme of the Convention this week is Make America Great Again, the Trump campaign has played brilliantly off that theme to devise a relevant emphasis each day as follows:

Monday:  Make America Safe Again

Tuesday:  Make America Work Again

Wednesday:  Make America First Again

Thursday:  Make America One Again

I wouldn’t deny that these are all worthy topics and aspirations, but as I’ve considered Trump’s Make America Great Again theme, I believe the New York billionaire is attempting to place the cart before the horse. It’s as if Trump’s seeking to build one of his skyscrapers before digging the foundation.  Sadly, many of the American people have eagerly embraced Donald’s message, believing they can simply don a baseball cap, elect a businessman, and the nation’s course will be reversed, with Great days ahead, absent any personal sacrifice or change.

In order for a business to achieve greatness, it requires a superior product or service, with a comprehensive approach and attention to the way it treats its employees, suppliers, investors and even its community.  Similarly, a person will only be truly great, if that person possesses the inner qualities that lead to greatness: humility, service, wisdom, courage, forgiveness, trustworthiness, and more.  In years gone by, the word that was often used to describe these qualities was virtue:  “behavior showing high moral standards.

So can a nation be Great, as in “superior in character or quality” without being Good or virtuous?  Clearly Trump’s message suggests, by the use of the word “Again,” that America is no longer Great.  And if that is accurate, which I believe it is, then what was it that led to America’s greatness in the past?  Was it merely the desire or goal of being great, by those before us, that led to America becoming great?  Or was it based on some other qualities our forefathers and grandfathers possessed, that led to our nation becoming the greatest nation this world has ever known?

I would suggest that to be great, America cannot simply seek to be great, anymore than wishing to be a great company can cause a business to excel.  Greatness results from small, daily routines when others are not watching that flow from conscious decisions that ultimately develop into one’s character.  Greatness is not the end goal but rather it is a by-product of other disciplines. 

If America is to become great again, it will not be as a result of a mere focus on greatness but it will rather flow from a commitment to the individual attributes that lead to greatness.  Those attributes must be developed in our lives, and consciously taught and passed on to the lives of our children.  There is a famous quote that we have all heard before: “Sow a thought, reap an action; sow an action, reap a habit; sow a habit, reap a character; sow a character, reap a destiny.”  

Sadly, the current destiny of our nation has resulted from the thoughts, actions, habits and character that we have developed individually and collectively as a people.  Our fall from greatness will not be restored with mere political victories and cheap cliches that induce warm and fuzzy emotions.  Rather, it will require each of us to take serious inventory of our own character to determine how and where we have contributed to the current course of our nation.  And as we identify our own flaws and weaknesses, we must then be willing to make the hard changes in our own lives and thus begin the more difficult but absolutely crucial changes to right the course of our nation.  Only when we do so can we #MakeAmericaGoodAgain.

Bad men cannot make good citizens. It is when a people forget God that tyrants forge their chains. A vitiated state of morals, a corrupted public conscience, is incompatible with freedom. No free government, or the blessings of liberty, can be preserved to any people but by a firm adherence to justice, moderation, temperance, frugality, and virtue; and by a frequent recurrence to fundamental principles.”   Patrick Henry

Mark

 

There is a God in Heaven… And Here’s why that Matters

There is a God in Heaven… And Here’s why that Matters

There is a God in Heaven

Chaos.  Crime.  Corruption.  Shootings.  Terrorism.  Political upheaval.  Racial strife.  Economic catastrophe.  Family breakdown.  Societal unrest.  Moral disintegration.

Does it feel like our communities, culture, nation and world are coming apart at the seams?  Does it seem like everyday we wake up to another crisis that threatens you, your family or our nation?  If you are a business owner or an employee, does it feel like even your livelihood is at risk?

Are there any solutions to the seemingly insurmountable and existential problems facing us?

Is there anyone who can really bring the dissension, turmoil, chaos, and violence to an end via some new solutions that have yet to be revealed?

Has this kind of scenario ever been experienced by our nation in the past?  If so, when and how did our countrymen respond?

Truthfully, our nation has faced similar challenges in the past, including what seemed like overwhelming cultural degradation and moral depravity, with men and women showing little care or respect for others or God. 

Specifically, in the early 1700’s Americans were living in darkness.  Political leaders were corrupt. The King was oppressive. The culture was coarse.  Morals were exceedingly low.  The Church was weak and anemic with those Christians who did attend church having little impact on those around them, preferring to keep their beliefs to themselves and within the four walls of the church. 

The outlook for the colonies was bleak.  

And yet, a group of men and women, seeing the moral and spiritual condition around them, began to earnestly pray for revival in the colonies over the course of years.  They understood the truth that there is no political or economic solution for a heart problem.  There’s so much more to the story of the First Great Awakening, led by men like Jonathan Edwards, George Whitfield, and John & Charles Wesley.  But the truth is the entire course of our nation was changed because people prayed, God moved and individuals responded.  In fact, millions of individuals and families were transformed because of the restoration of their hearts back to God.

But it was less than 100 years later, and once again Americans fell back into their old ways.  Quoting from Joel Rosenberg’s book Implosion we see this:

“Following the Revolutionary War, America experienced a period of moral decline.  Spiritual devotion waned and social problems proliferated.  From the late 1770’s until the late 1820’s, per capita consumption of alcohol in America rose dramatically, to about four or five times what it is today… The social consequences were predictable.  Illegitimate births were rampant. Thomas Paine was proclaiming Christianity was dead — and certainly the body of faith appeared to be in a coma.  Yet even as church rolls were shrinking and greed, sensuality and family breakdown were becoming widespread, America was about to experience a great spiritual revival.

“Slowly at first, then building over the next several decades, one wave of spiritual renewal and religious rededication after another swept the country, in what historians now call America’s ‘Second Great Awakening.’  In one community after another, people began to wake up from their moral and spiritual slumber as though saying, ‘If we’re going to have a self-governing nation, it must be occupied by self-governing people.’  Within one generation, alcohol consumption fell by two-thirds.”

It’s worthwhile to note that the common thread between both the First and Second Great Awakenings was prayer.  Men and women, recognizing that there is a God in heaven who cares infinitely about the affairs of men, began to call out to Him in prayer with great diligence, urgency and consistency.  And as they prayed and followed God’s leading, He answered their prayers in a glorious and supernatural manner, and the hearts of Americans were turned back to God.

As we fast forward to 2016, we see a nation whose future is becoming more and more bleak.  Just as in our past, greed, sensuality, family breakdown, racial strife and violence characterize our nation.  Political leaders, whether democrats, republicans or independents, all profess to hold the magic ointment to heal all of our woes.  And yet, as we continue to place our hopes in a political figure or party, we see how consistent they are in failing us. 

Following this week’s shootings of eleven Dallas police officers, with five of them dying, the video interview below of Kellon Nixon, a witness of the shootings, is particularly relevant to this discussion.  I would encourage you to listen to the entire video but here are a few highlights of Kellon’s thoughts:

When asked by the MSNBC reporter, “How are you today?” Kellon responded:

“Today I am recovering spiritually.  Last night, when you start to see the shooting… you start to think, ‘It’s me against the world.’ But with that type of mentality we’ll implode as a people, not as ethnicity, but as a people, period.  We’re all one race at the end of the day… We have to be a Christian nation. We have to be governed by a higher authority. We can see what governing ourselves has proved… The best thing we can do is to value lives over the economy. I think that is one of our biggest problems in America.  The economy is stronger than our moral fiber.  Our desire for prosperity is so much greater than our desire to be moral, to be humane, to love, to care, that we’ll risk our children or the sanctity of marriage, just for money, just to stay on top as a nation. When we lose our hearts, when we lose our souls, we’re really at the bottom.  We’re the worst of people, no matter how materially rich we are.”

Did you catch that?  Losing our hearts and souls?  I believe Mr. Nixon has hit on the crux of the challenge we face.  We as a people have lost our heart and soul, and consequently we have seen the crumbling of a once great nation.  

But just as our countrymen of prior centuries realized, there is a path back to God.  And it begins in Prayer and a change of my heart and yours.  

Our political leaders have no answers to the unsolvable problems of our day.  Given that the root of the problem is the heart and spiritual in nature, we will remain disillusioned if we simply look horizontally for fixes.

The only solution to the vexing problems of our day is to bow our heads while directing our hearts upward towards heaven.  

Psalm 20:7 instructs us of this truth:  “Some trust in chariots, and some in horses; but we will remember the name of the Lord our God.”  

What is your chariot?  In what are you trusting?  Who are you looking to for the solutions to your problems?  If it’s someone other than God, then you will remain disappointed and unfulfilled, with no hope.  

As the famous revivalist Gypsy Smith would say, “Do you really want to see a revival begin?  Draw a circle around you on the floor. Then get down on your knees in the middle of the circle and ask God to convert everybody inside that circle.  When you do that, and God answers, you are experiencing the start of a revival.”

So how about it?  Must we wait for more lives lost?  For more economic collapse?  For more violence?  For more dissension?  For more political corruption and disappointments?  For more moral decline?  

Or can you and I, individually, persistently and urgently call out to the God in heaven with this prayer:

“God, forgive me.  Change me.  Revive me.  Show me.  Strengthen me.”  

And then get up, go out and begin to share our commitment with others, encouraging them to join us in their own personal restoration with God. 

And when we do this, we will know this truth from Daniel 2:28:  “There is a God in heaven… and He holds the answers to our deepest problems and struggles.

Mark