How My Bible Reading Went from Sporadic to My Most Important Daily Activity

How My Bible Reading Went from Sporadic to My Most Important Daily Activity

First, let me say that I’m a big sinner.  I struggle with sin.  My daily battles are not engaging with some jihadi terrorists half-way around the world.  But the battles I face are as real, and in some regards even more consequential.  Without a doubt, our troops are engaged in many physical life and death encounters, with some really bad guys.  But if you’re alive and breathing, you’ll acknowledge that you, like me, are engaged in very real spiritual battles every day… oftentimes many, many times each day.  And the consequences of these battles are eternal in nature.  Think about that for a minute.  

The struggles you face today, tomorrow and next week, and how you respond to them, will have eternal consequences!  As in forever!

When I thought about writing this article, I struggled to do so, lest anyone believe I am holding myself out as some kind of spiritual guru or example.  The truth is, I’m the exact opposite. If you could spend a day or two in my shoes, you’d see why I completely identify with the Apostle Paul when he exclaimed that he was “the chief of sinners.”  If you doubt me, just ask my wife. 

It’s because of the reality that I struggle with sin, that in 2016 I took up the challenge to read through the Bible in a year.  I have read the Bible off and on since I was a kid.  Sometimes that meant reading through the Bible in a year.  But typically it meant reading a few verses or chapters here and there, for a few days or weeks.  But it was seldom structured or consistent, and never permanent.   

But when I took up the challenge to read through the Bible in 2016, I did it with others in our church.  I completed the “Bible in a Year” Plan on schedule and decided to do it again in 2017.  But as I began, now two years ago, I recalled the example of my grandfather.   

🔹My Grandfather’s Example

When Oscar Werner turned 50, he set a goal of reading through the Bible four times a year so that when he was 75 he would finish reading the Bible 100 times.  He met his goal and continued that same schedule until he died in his 80’s.  I wrote an article about his story which you can read on my blog.  It’s entitled The Wisdom of the Ages: The Example of My Grandfather“.

So as I began reading through the Bible again in 2017, I began to double or triple up my readings each day.  I realized that doing so was actually quite easy.  I enjoyed it and was also challenged by the increased amount of time in God’s Word.  

Four and a half months into 2017, I completed reading the entire Bible.  And it was such a joy to do so.  With this renewed love for God’s Word, I felt I needed more.  So I found a reading program via my Bible app that would take me through the Bible in 90 days.  I set out to do that.  In essence this was the same schedule that my grandfather had embarked on 75 years earlier.   

But 44 days later, I completed reading through the Bible again.  I was impacted, and inspired.  When the Bible says that it is “alive and sharper than any two edged sword” I could testify to this truth.  I was being convicted and challenged over and over, day after day, in such a meaningful manner. At the same time, my thoughts and philosophy on a host of matters were being changed, dramatically, as I sought to conform them to God’s Word!  (That’s a whole separate story.) 

So I continued on my reading program, starting on my third time through the Bible in June 2017.  As the weeks ticked by, I continued to ingest God’s Word at an ever increasing rate.  18 days. 21 days. 27 days… and on and on.  By the end of 2017, I completed reading through the Bible ten times, and nine of those times were in a little over seven months. 

Truthfully, I was addicted… in a good way.  I started 2018 with a continued fervor to devour the Word.  It had become the single most important activity in my life each day and something I eagerly anticipated.   

Walking.  Waiting in line.  Traveling on a plane.  Riding in a car (using the audio option).  Hiking in Nepal under the shadows of the Himalayas.  Whenever I had time where I was not engaged with someone or something else, I found myself continuously opening my Bible app and getting some more “time in the Word.”  It replaced my love for music and talk radio.   

So as I write this, a few days before Christmas 2018, I just completed my 17th time through God’s Word in 2018 — 27 times in 2 years. 

Perhaps the most exciting thing for me though has been to see my wife become consumed with this same passion, as she also completed reading both the entire Bible as well as the New Testament multiple times in 2018, and has now started the 90 Day Plan. 

🔹My Challenge to You

Again, I want to reiterate that I don’t share this to bring any focus to me.  The fact is I’ve had this article written for months and have hesitated to share it lest it be misunderstood.  

Truthfully, I share this for one reason.  It’s the same reason I believe that my grandfather allowed his family to know about the goal he had set:  to inspire and challenge others to do the same… to get into God’s Word.  Oscar Werner knew that if his family would follow his example, we would find the answers to life’s deepest questions, and most difficult struggles. 

So like my grandfather inspired me, I want to inspire you to get into the Bible.  

No, I’m not suggesting that you read 2-3 hours a day, although some day I hope you will.  Rather, I want to challenge you to simply begin reading consistently through the Bible, every day, in a structured manner.   Never miss it.  Set a reminder if you must.   

Every significant habit, begins with a simple decision.  

When a person is suffering from a debilitating disease, oftentimes the only cure might be a blood transfusion.  Their own diseased blood must be replaced with new, fresh, pure blood.  Likewise, we as humans are diseased.  Our nature is sinful.  Our thoughts are impure.  And our hearts are unrighteous.  And only through a daily transfusion of God’s Word, can we ever hope to live a life of humility, repentance and victory through Christ’s strength.   

So I challenge you to get into the Word.  Start today.  And if you do, or are already doing so, I’d love to know that you do.  In fact, let’s do it together! 

Finally, as a result of my time in the Word over the last couple years, the following verse summarizes this season in my life: 

💡 “Let all my words sink deep into your own heart first.  Listen to them carefully…”  Ezekiel 3:10

I hope you will allow God’s Words to sink deep into your own heart as well. 

Let’s make 2019 the Year of the Bible.  Will you do so? 

💡 “When I discovered your words, I devoured them. They are my joy and my heart’s delight, for I bear your name, O Lord God of Heaven’s Armies.”  Jeremiah 15:16  

🔹Reading Suggestions

Here are my reading suggestions, but they are simply what work for me: 

  • Download the YouVersion Bible App on your phone.  (With the Brown Holy Bible icon).
  • Go to “Plans” and click on “Find Plans”
  • Go to “Through the Bible”
  • Click on “Whole”
  • Find “Read Through the Bible” Plan (It’s a one year plan)
  • Click “Start Plan”
  • My favorite version is the New Living Translation (NLT).  Not only is it in modern vocabulary, but it has a great Audio option.
  • I both read (with eyes) and listen (with my ears) via the Bible App.  Even when I’m reading with my eyes, I have the audio playing, so I can see and hear simultaneously.  It helps me to better understand and retain what I’m reading. 
  • Regarding the “Audio” option, it’s pretty much all I listen to anymore when I’m driving, walking/exercising, etc. It connects well with any Bluetooth device.  Also, the NLT audio is by far the most pleasant to listen to, in my opinion.  It also includes dramatization where various voices are used to “act out” the stories in the Gospels and Acts.
  • I recommend you Register with “You Version” so you can track your Bible reading, interact with friends and so much more.  If you do, please send me a friend request so we can encourage each other via the app.
  • If you start on this journey, and have any questions whatsoever, please reach out to me. There’s nothing more important to me than encouraging others to read the Bible. So if I can help in any way, including questions or problems with the Bible app, please let me know. 
The Wisdom of the Ages: My Grandfather’s Example

The Wisdom of the Ages: My Grandfather’s Example

It was early 1943.  The war in Europe and Asia waged on.  The nations of the world were embroiled in an epic battle of good versus evil.  Tens of millions of lives were being lost and hundreds of millions more were grieving those losses.  Hell had unleashed its fury in a manner that had never previously been experienced.  The utter depravity of man was center stage and no human soul remained untouched.

As the victory by allied forces at Guadalcanal against Japan had just been realized, half way around the world, General Dwight D. Eisenhower was selected to command the Allied armies in Europe.  

At the same time in March 1943, thousands of miles from both Guadalcanal and Germany, a German immigrant was marking his 50th birthday in Chicago.  As a teen, Oscar Werner, son of German parents, had immigrated to America from Ukraine.  In the years since he immigrated, my grandfather had established himself as a professional musician, a concert flutist and a member of several area orchestras.  He was also a successful entrepreneur, owning a music store in Chicago.

On this day though, as Oscar was reaching a half-century, he recognized the utter turmoil the world was enduring.  But rather than despair, he looked upward for help and within the pages of a Book that had become his regular companion.

In keeping with his custom, Oscar boarded the Chicago El, the elevated train that he rode to work each morning.  His routine was to move to his favorite seat, pull out his worn and tattered Bible, and continue reading through his favorite book.  This day was different though.  Halfway to 100, Oscar began to consider what the next 25 years of his life might hold.  He had accomplished a lot since he first set foot on Ellis Island.  But he knew that there would be more challenges in the years to follow. More battles to wage.  And he would need God’s wisdom and counsel to prevail.

He opened his Bible, and began to read from the very first words of the book he so loved.  

“In the beginning God created the heaven and the earth.  And the earth was without form and void; and darkness was upon the face of the deep.   And the Spirit of God moved upon the face of the waters.  And God said, ‘Let there be light’ and there was light…”

As he read that last word, the jolt of the El train startled him.  He looked up as the train rounded the bend.  The brilliant rays of the rising sun flashed in his eyes.  

Light…  

Spirit of God…

Oscar stopped.  He had read that verse so many times before.  But all of a sudden those words brought another verse to his memory:

“Thy word is a lamp unto my feet and a light unto my path.”

Oh, how he desired the wisdom of the ages to light his path and give him the understanding he would need to navigate the next 25 years.  And then, the idea that would come to dominate the remainder of Oscar’s life surfaced within his mind, as if the Spirit of God planted it there. 

He would read through the Bible on average four times per year over the next 25 years so that in 1968, on his 75th birthday, he would complete reading through God’s Word a total of 100 times.  His pulse quickened.  He knew that this would be an immense commitment to God.  He realized that he would have to sacrifice so many other “good” things in his life.  But he also believed that the wisdom and direction he longed for in his life would be forthcoming.  Saturating his mind with the counsel of God could only mean that. 

And so on that day in 1943, as the rest of the world was in an epic battle for its very existence, Oscar experienced the peace that can only come from God.  He knew that no matter what happened in the years to come, he would always have his Bible with him.  The words he would read over and over again would permeate his life in such a way that they would transform him.  And by doing so, they would direct him on a path that would honor God and bring blessing to Oscar and the rest of his family.

The El train came to a stop.  Oscar disembarked and made his way to his business.  But there was a confidence in his step that he had not known the day before.  

Oscar Werner reading his Bible

Twenty five years later, Oscar sat on his sofa, where he had positioned himself every evening.  As he did so, he read these final verses in Revelation 22, the last book of the Bible:

“And if any man shall take away from the words of the book of this prophecy, God shall take away his part out of the book of life, and out of the holy city, and from the things which are written in this book.  He which testifieth these things saith, Surely I come quickly. Amen. Even so, come, Lord Jesus.  The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with you all. Amen.”

Oscar clasped the tattered and worn Bible to his chest.  He smiled as he remembered he had purchased several copies of the Bible over the last twenty-five years.  His constant use of the Book took its toll on each of the previous copies.

Oscar had done it.  His one hundredth time reading through the Bible.  Of course there was great satisfaction in having completed the goal he had set twenty-five years earlier.  But greater than any feeling of success, he was reminiscing over the many times in his life when a verse he had read jumped off the pages and offered him the answer he needed to the challenge, struggle or battle at hand.  He remembered Isaiah 55:11 at that moment:

“So shall My word be that goes forth from my mouth; it shall not return to Me void. But it shall accomplish what I please. And it will prosper in the thing for which I sent it.”

Oscar Werner’s Bible Tallying His Readings

That verse had been proven true so many times over the last twenty-five years.  As Oscar had committed God’s Word to his heart, he realized that it had not been for naught.  It had not returned void.  Rather, there had been exponential return for the time he had invested in reading his dearest treasure. 

As I think back to the years my grandfather was with us, one of the memories I have is of him sitting on his favorite sofa with his Bible on his lap.  And while he read his Bible over 130 times in his life, he did have other past times.  In front of his sofa was his black and white TV where he would watch his favorite baseball team, the Chicago Cubs.  (While I’m no great baseball fan, I had to watch this year’s World Series in honor of my grandpa, knowing that he would be ecstatic to see his Cubs finally win!)

Grandpa Werner was an incredible example to me and so many others — of the commitment to a goal, the power of discipline, and the priority of God’s Word.  The Bible was Oscar’s constant companion.  It was his most powerful ally in every battle; his wisest counselor when facing difficult decisions; his most understanding comforter in times of sorrow. And my grandpa’s commitment to reading it has been an encouragement to me to do the same.  

I share all of this not to simply highlight Oscar Werner, although he is a great man who I will meet again someday.  But more importantly, my goal is to challenge you and me to consider, who are our counselors?  Does your list include God’s Word?  Are you regularly ingesting the Wisdom of the Ages into your life?

Whether you are a Christian, atheist, agnostic, Muslim, or unsure, I encourage to commit to reading through the Book that has traversed thousands of years and offers hope and peace to anyone who is willing to seek them. 

In this era of technology I would encourage you to select an app to begin reading the Bible or even listening to it audibly.  My app of choice is at bible.com where you can find several Plans that enable you to read through the Bible in a year.  Last year I completed the “As it Happened” Plan which daily takes you through the Bible over the course of a year, in the chronological order in which the Bible was written.  My preferred version for reading or listening is the New Living Translation (NLT) as it is in modern, easy to understand English.  

I trust you will join me in reading through the Bible in 2017.  If you will, I’m confident that your investment will not return void and you will find it to illuminate your path in this new year.

Footnote:  While the specifics of the train ride, what Oscar was thinking and and how he came to his decision, stem from my own creativity, the decision to read through the Bible 100 times in 25 years is not.  As reflected in the photos above, my grandfather kept meticulous records of when he completed each reading.  He daily read the Bible, both on the El train on the ride to work as well as on his favorite sofa.  When Oscar passed away at age 84, he was working his way through his favorite Book for the 132nd time, with his wife Esther reading it to him in those final days.

The Blessings of Family, Friends & Future

The Blessings of Family, Friends & Future

With Christmas just over and New Year around the corner, it’s a week when so many of us enjoy time reminiscing with family and friends, while planning for the year ahead.  Christmas, the day that begins the week, is all about family when you consider the reason for the day.

Two thousand years ago, a divinely chosen couple in Bethlehem became a family when the Creator Himself chose to enter this world as an innocent child.  The purpose of that child, Jesus, was to regather His spiritual family that had been lost because of the choice of the very first family thousands of years earlier in the Garden of Eden.

So I thank Jesus for the family He has given me.  From my wife and two sons and daughter-in-law, to my father, mother, brother, sister and all of their extended families, I am truly blessed.  But there is another family that dwarfs my physical family in size.  It is my spiritual one, that extends from Tennessee to the four corners of this world, from the present to the past and into the future.  This spiritual family is one that includes so many brothers and sisters that it will take an eternity to get to know them all.  And so this, yet unmet family, is also someone I am deeply grateful for.

But along our journey during our “three score and ten” years on earth, we all have the opportunity to make so many friends along the way.  Some we enjoy for years.  Others for a few moments.  But the blessings and words of truth we experience through these friends can deeply impact our lives in a way that often changes its trajectory.  And for this I am deeply grateful.  

But with a New Year just moments away, we must consider the future.  2017 is full of the unknown and will undoubtedly include many joys but heartaches as well.  Our future is largely like a lump of clay, without form but able to be shaped into whatever object we desire.  Will the object it becomes be one resulting from little thought and simply coincidence?  Or will 2017 be a year in which its outcome is one of deliberate planning, choices and consideration of God’s purposes for our lives and His plans?  

I trust your New Year is one that is thoughtful, deliberate and includes the blessings of God in all that you do as you seek to honor Him.  

The Tyranny of the Dot

The Tyranny of the Dot

the-tyranny-of-the-dot

There’s a quote that is attributed to President Eisenhower that asserts, “What is important is seldom urgent and what is urgent is seldom important.”  His quote mirrors this more popular saying: “the urgent is enemy of the important.”  Both quotes speak to the fact that too often many of us focus our resources and time on matters of an urgent nature, which invariably leads to ignoring or devaluing the important.

dot-arrowTo illustrate the concept graphically, I have diagrammed a dot and an arrow.  The dot represents the urgent, and the arrow signifies the important.  Consider that a dot is short term and finite while an arrow is long-term, and even infinite in some instances, which we’ll explore further below.  

This dot and arrow issue is a problem that is seen in human nature across time. Yet, as much as we struggle with this, it’s very difficult to elevate the priority of the important.  There’s one story in ancient Jewish history that illustrates this point as well as any.  

You may recall the story of Esau and Jacob, twin brothers who were polar opposites, and frequently seemed to be at odds with each other.  One day, after Esau had been out hunting for an extended period of time, he returned home famished.  In fact, he was so hungry that he was willing to sell his birthright to Jacob for a bowl of stew.  In Jewish tradition, the birthright was reserved for the eldest son and offered significant prestige, the carrying on of the family name, the largest portion of the family inheritance and much more.  But Esau, living in the dot of the here and now, devalued his birthright, the arrow, and bartered it to his brother Jacob, for a fleeting meal.  While he eventually regretted his decision, there was no reversing the course on which he had set his life. His urgent choice permanently sacrificed the important.

As I’ve thought about the tyranny of the dot versus the arrow, I’ve contemplated how often the urgent trumps the important, as reflected in the following examples.

Daily Routines

How often have you set out to complete a number of tasks in a given day when all of a sudden an “urgent” matter appears, out of left field?  As quickly as the urgent new priority presents itself, the important tasks that you had committed to completing take a back seat.  All of a sudden the important is displaced by the urgent, the end of the day comes, and few, if any, of the important goals are realized.  The tyranny of the dot, the urgent, replaces the arrow of the important. 

Business

Have you ever been tempted to shortcut quality in favor of quantity in your business or job?  This is one of those choices we often face in our business or careers, where the urgent can crowd out the important.  The demand to meet a quota, or the need to achieve certain quarterly goals can put us in the predicament of choosing the dot versus the arrow.  Will we sacrifice the long-term results to realize some short term gains?  If so, we will succumb to the tyranny of the dot.

Politics

If ever there was a profession that was known for its short-sightedness, it is politics and politicians. It seems that short term wins are all that a politician cares about, at least the vast majority of them.  

How will the next vote benefit me?  Can this constituent contribute to my campaign?  What position can I take on an issue that will most benefit me?  But in asking all of these questions, the professional politician reveals he has very few laudable values or principles that guide him.  His dot is the urgency of self-promotion, always seeking the most advantageous path to further his position.  Sadly though, whenever this occurs, the arrow, which could be campaign promises or resolute principles, can so quickly be sacrificed.

Eternity

While all the aforementioned examples are significant, they do not begin to rival the importance and priority of eternity.  Perhaps the graphic of the dot and arrow best illustrates this when we compare the dot of our “three score and ten” years on earth with the unending arrow of eternity.  Too often, for most of us, we are so easily distracted with the urgency of living in the dot during our short years here on earth, that we tragically short-sell the importance of living for the arrow of eternity, an era when 70 years will seem as a few short seconds and a thousand years will be like a few hours.  

There is a verse that warns, “What will it profit a man if he gains the whole world and loses his own soul?”  Yet the sad reality is that too many will do exactly that.  We will live for the here and now, for the dot of our earthly existence but in so doing, we sacrifice the arrow, the opportunity to experience an eternity with our Creator, who wills that all mankind join Him.  

The Christmas season is a time when many of us take some moments to review the past year, our failures and successes, regrets and achievements.  And with the New Year just around the corner, it is also a time when we set new goals, and establish plans to achieve them.  As we spend this time of reflection and goal setting, I pray that we will resist the tyranny of the dot and commit ourselves to living for the arrow.  In our daily routines, resist the temptation to fall prey to those urgent demands.  In our businesses or careers, I trust we will never lose focus on the long-term and excellence.  If you’re a politician, recommit yourself to your guiding principles and resist the temptation to self-promote, truly seeking the good of others.  

But most importantly, regardless of whether you are a millennial, a baby boomer, or somewhere in between, I trust that you will live your life for the arrow of eternity. If you’re uncertain how to do this, I would encourage you to check out this website:  Are You a Good Person?

The dot will soon be over for each of us.  Will we be prepared for the arrow?  I pray we will.  Merry Christmas!

Mark

Time: Best Friend or Worst Enemy?

Time: Best Friend or Worst Enemy?

time-best-friend-worst-enemy

1… 24… 168… 8,760

You might be wondering what the above numbers have in common?  Or perhaps what they even have to do with you?  Of course, you may have also already figured them out.

The truth is, the above numbers apply to all of us equally.  Over the next 60 minutes, 1 hour will tick away.  This time tomorrow, 24 hours will have passed.  One week from now, 168 hours will have come and gone.  And this time next year, 8,760 hours will be in the books.  

So big deal, right?  The same has held true since the beginning of Time.  

Some might say time is neutral.  That it is neither good or bad.  Neither friend or foe.  

I say differently.

Time is either your best friend or worst enemy.  

And you get to decide which it is.  If a friend, you are using it.  If an enemy, it is using you.

Let me illustrate.

Have you ever slept in, and when you finally got up the gumption to get up, you just kind of rolled out of bed, spent your morning meandering around the house, and never really got around to doing much?  You were just kind of lazy but you justified it by saying you deserved it.  Before you knew it, it was mid-afternoon and you really hadn’t accomplished much of anything.  By then though, you felt you needed a nap, because you were just tired from not doing much.  So you snoozed a little more, and it was soon supper time.  The day was nearly spent, and if you even bothered to think back, you’d have to admit you did absolutely nothing.  Nada!  Zip!

Now that may be an extreme example, and if you’re like me, you cannot think back to a time when you had a day that went like that.  But you, like I, might be willing to admit instances in your life where an hour here or an hour there was “spent” on meaningless or non-productive activities.  Sure, they may not have been “lazy” things, but they accomplished nothing of substance nonetheless.  Can someone say Facebook?  Or the 2nd or 3rd football game in a day?  Or the fourth episode of your favorite sitcom?  Watching Dancing with Stars?  Or surfing eBay on the web?  Or…

Of course, in and of themselves, none of the activities described above, or similar ones that might come to your mind, are evil, bad or hurtful.  Well, maybe not…  But here’s the point.  Each time I’m engaged in one of them, an hour or two will pass.  And the question is:  Did I use time, or did it use me?  Were you in control of that four letter word?  

That is the key.  Are you controlling time or is it just happening to you?  When you find yourself in a scenario where stuff happens, things just seem to occur with no proactive control or input into what is happening, especially as it relates to your schedule, then time is controlling you.  But when you and I are deliberate, scheduled, and focused on a definitive timetable for our day and week, then we are in control of time.  And rather than time being our worst enemy, it becomes our best friend, our ally.

Time is what enables us to complete tasks, goals and projects.  Time enables you to build your dream home, deploy a detailed business plan, raise a loving family, deepen relationships with loved ones, redevelop a failed inner city, restore a failing nation to its once admired status and more.  It matters not the size of the task.  Time can and will be your friend and ally if you harness it to bend to your plans versus allowing it to choke us as we remain mired in mediocrity, laziness or simply poor planning and stewardship.  

Time is neutral.  So you will decide how it plays out in your life.  Friend or Foe?  Asset or Liability?  

You decide.  Don’t delay.  1, 24, 168 or 8,760 hours from now, will tell the story.

Mark

Photo Copyright: <a href=’http://www.123rf.com/profile_flynt’>flynt / 123RF Stock Photo</a>
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