Backing Down or Stepping Up?

It’s Wednesday and I’ve decided to include an excerpt from a book I’m reading. This week it’s Counter Culture by David Platt.

Elizabeth Rundle Charles, commenting on Martin Luther’s confrontation of key issues in his day, says:

It is the truth which is assailed in any age which tests our fidelity. . . . If I profess with the loudest voice and clearest exposition every portion of the truth of God except precisely that point which the world and the devil are at that moment attacking, I am not confessing Christ, however boldly I may be professing Christianity. Where the battle rages, there the loyalty of the soldier is proven, and to be steady on all the battle fronts besides is mere flight and disgrace if he flinches at that point.

Here’s the question to ponder: where are you backing down when you should be stepping up?

A Prayer for America

pray-for-AmericaPrayer prayed for the National Day of Prayer by Pastor Greg Laurie, honorary chairman for the NDOP in Washington, DC, May 2nd, 2013:

Father, we come to You to pray for our nation, the United States of America.

How You have blessed us through the years, Lord! We rightly sing, “America, America, God shed His grace on thee.” Yet we see trouble in our culture today. We see the breakdown of the family, crippling addictions, and random acts of horrific violence.

Lord, we need Your help in America. In recent days, we have done our best to remove Your Word and Your counsel from our courtrooms, classrooms, and culture. It seems, as President Lincoln once said, that we have “forgotten God.” But Lord, You have not forgotten us! You can bless and help and revive our country again.

Scripture tells us that “Righteousness exalts a nation, but sin is a reproach to any people” (Proverbs 14:34). Lord, in Your mercy, we ask that You would exalt our country again. We have had a number of great awakenings in America. We have experienced times of refreshing, and revivals that changed not only the spiritual but also the moral landscape. As the psalmist said, “Will You not revive us again, so that Your people may rejoice in You?” (Psalm 85:6).

That is our prayer for America today, Lord. Send a mighty spiritual awakening that will turn the hearts of men and women, boys and girls, back to you. You have told us if we will humble ourselves and pray, and seek Your face and turn from our wicked ways, that You will forgive our sins and heal our land (2 Chronicles7:14).

Forgive us today, Lord, and heal this troubled land that we love so much.

We ask all of this in the name of Jesus Christ.


God Will Have His Way

Eli, Israel’s priest was aged and his two sons, Hophni and Phinehas were worthless rebels. Rather than assist in the temple worship they gorged themselves on the sacrifices. They mocked worship and blasphemed God. Eli, who knew better, only helped them. Israel’s future depended on a gluttonous priest and his two spoiled brat sons. And the word of the LORD was rare in those days; there was no frequent vision. (1 Samuel 3:1 ESV) Even God had gone quiet.

But God will have his way.

What Israel didn’t know was who God had waiting in the wings. He wasn’t a decorated general or a celebrated politician. He didn’t run a Fortune 500 company or lead a major non-profit organization. He was a boy–his name Samuel. Born from the former barren womb of the anguished Hannah, she gave him to God. Little did she know that her boy would step up to the plate in the bottom of the ninth with two outs. God called little Samuel to a big task.  And the LORD came and stood, calling as at other times, “Samuel! Samuel!” And Samuel said, “Speak, for your servant hears.” (1 Samuel 3:10 ESV)

God will have his way.

Within a short time of Samuel’s call, Israel fell to the Philistines. In a day 30,000 Israelites died, including Hophni and Phinehas. When Eli heard the news, he collapsed and died of a broken neck. Why did God judge Israel? Because Eli refused to discipline his sons. Why? Because he refused to heed God’s warnings. Phinehas’s wife was pregnant. When she heard the news of the defeat of the Israelites and the death of her husband, she went into labor. She aptly (and sadly) named her baby boy Ichabod saying, “The glory has departed from Israel!”

But God will have his way.

God called Samuel. Samuel answered God’s call. Though God’s glory had departed from Israel, his love for Israel had not waned.

And Samuel grew, and the LORD was with him and let none of his words fall to the ground. And all Israel from Dan to Beersheba knew that Samuel was established as a prophet of the LORD. And the LORD appeared again at Shiloh, for the LORD revealed himself to Samuel at Shiloh by the word of the LORD. (1 Samuel 3:19-21 ESV)

I am convinced that the answer for our country’s woes will not come from a politician. It definitely won’t come from media moguls or executives.  Somewhere in the shadows is a Samuel.

Because God will always have his way.

How Now Shall We Think?

With Friday’s news of the Supreme Court’s decision regarding gay marriage, questions abound.  What is marriage? Why is marriage so important?  How can a court of nine people make such a weighty decision for 320 million people? What will this mean for Christians (and other religious people) who disagree, not on the basis of prejudice but conviction? As I write this blog, the color bar at the top of my WordPress screen is the color of a rainbow. Google’s home page has this statement, “YouTube and Google are proud to celebrate marriage equality. #ProudtoLove.” Today, the White House’s Facebook page colored the White House with the colors of a rainbow.

With so many loud voices, how now shall we think?

What is marriage? Friday the high court weighed in on something that predated the existence of this country and the existence of American culture and all other cultures. As Christians we believe that God created the world, then he created marriage. God created man and woman and determined early that marriage should be between a man and a woman. For this reason marriage is called sacred. As such it is the pillar of civilization, the cornerstone of societies. Jesus affirmed the centrality of marriage (Mark 10, Matthew 19) and even considers the church to be his bride. In his earthly role he assumes the position of the bridegroom wooing us to himself. When the foundational fiber of civilizations is redefined by a court of nine people for a nation of 320 million, what happens to the course of that nation?

How can a court of nine people make such a weighty decision for 320 million Americans? I turn to Ravi Zacharias for help. Zacharias, referring to Paul Tillich’s philosophy of cultures, says we must determine which culture we are. We have three choices.

  • Theonomous culture (theos:God; nomos:law) The law of God is so embedded in our hearts that we all think in the same categories. The culture of India (with Hinduism) approaches this.  We don’t believe in theonymous culture in the west.
  • Heteronymous culture (heteros:another; nomos:law)  The mainstream of the culture is dictated to by the leadership at the top. If you look at Marxism in secular terms it is a heteronymous culture. The handful controls the masses. Islam (Saudi Arabia, Iran)–the people at the top tell the masses what they will do.
  • Autonomous culture (autos:self; nomos:law)  Each person dictates their own moral prerogatives. Zacharias talks about a conversation with someone who disagreed with his opinion: “If we are an autonomous culture and I answer your question are you going to give me the privilege of my autonomy too, or as soon as I give you my answer you will switch to a heteronymous mode and dictate for me what I must believe as well?” That is the sociological dilemma. If A disagrees with B, B wants to enforce his/her principles upon A.

The court’s decision on Friday was a heteronymous expression of power. The leadership at the top dictated how 320 million people must think. Rather than allow states to hold referendums and the people’s voices be heard, nine people attempted to redefine a building block of civilization. As an autonomous culture, this should greatly concern us.

How Now Shall We Think? 

I appreciate the words of George Wood, General Superintendent of the Assemblies of God:

Politics reflects culture, and culture reflects religion. If you are concerned with the political drift of American culture, preach the gospel! As it sends out roots in the lives of believers, the seed of the gospel will change hearts and minds.

You are privileged citizens of a blessed nation. Use your citizenship well! Seek the common good. Advocate for the last, the lost, and the least. Speak the truth in love. And vote for candidates and issues that reflect a biblical perspective on issues. The difference in so many conflicts in American politics and culture turns on who turns out to vote.

If you are troubled with the Supreme Court’s decision, keep perspective! In this and every other matter, always remember the words of our Lord Jesus Christ:

In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world (John 16:33).

Why the Hope of America is Graduating This Weekend (Part Two)

Assaults. Bank robberies. Profanity. Women fearing for their safety. Who would have thought that the late 1700’s looked like this in the very young United States. Change was on the horizon and its source was as surprising as the moral demise of the young nation. J. Edwin Orr continues:


Then, suddenly, at the turn of the century, the nation made a spiritual about-face that affected every level of society–from the frontiers to the college campuses. The beginning of this dramatic change can be traced to Hampden Sydney College in Virginia. In 1787, with the moral climate there deteriorating rapidly, five non-Christian students decided to hold a prayer meeting to ask for God’s help. They locked themselves in a room, for fear of the other students, and kept their voices down so they would not be caught. However, the other students discovered them and tried to break down the door.

The president rebuked them saying, “You don’t mind cheating, you, don’t mind stealing from rooms, you don’t mind the lying and the profanity you get on this campus, but you object to a prayer meeting. Well, I do not!” He then knocked on the door and said authoritatively, “This is the president of the college speaking. Will you please come out?” The students unlocked the door and came out not knowing what to expect. President Smith said, “Gentlemen, come to my study, we’ll pray there together.” This prayer meeting marked the beginning of American campus revivals during the Second Great Awakening of the 1790s and early 1800s. Not only did half the students at Hampden Sydney College turn to Christ as a result, but the revival also spread to local churches and to other schools, having similar effects.

Who would shave thought that a much needed revival for a nation faltering early in its history would have come from college students? What about James Madison or Thomas Jefferson? God used unknown college students to bring a wave of revival that affected an entire nation.

Orr continues:

In college after college, students formed similar Christian fellowships. At Harvard, Bowdoin, Brown, Dartmouth, Middlebury, Williams, and Andover, students began to meet and pray. The students at Brown formed the College Praying Society which met in a private room “for fear of disturbance from the impenitent.” In December 1802, at Harvard, seven students formed the Saturday Evening Religious Society, which also met secretly. At Yale, president Timothv Dwight regularly preached apologetical messages in chapel, hitting the relativistic philosophy of the day head-on with such talks as “Are the New Testament Documents Reliable?” As a result of the Christians’ prayer and Dwight’s powerful presentations, one third of Yale’s student body accepted Christ in 1802.

I am convinced that America’s hope will walk across the stage this weekend…not across the political stage next fall. Yes, we need a godly president. We need God’s man or woman to lead this country. However, both Great Awakenings in the United States have found their roots in revival among college students.

Will you be that student? What will happen on your campus this fall?

5 Reasons What Is Happening Around the World Should Concern You

We see and hear a lot of news–and become numb to it.  Some news simply fills space but other news is important.  We must determine which news matters and which doesn’t.  I am convinced that what’s happening around the world right now really matters.  Here’s why:

  1. History often repeats itself.  During the Civil War Abraham Lincoln said, “Human nature will not change. In any future great national trial, compared with the men of this, we shall have as weak and as strong, as silly and as wise, as bad and as good.”  Since human beings do not change, history doesn’t necessarily reveal new events, but new human beings acting in the same old ways.  Putin’s antics in Russia should greatly concern any onlooker.  His disregard for human life should disturb us.
  2. Many people are losing their lives for a few peoples’ agendas.  Innocent civilians are dying.  298 people died when the plane was shot down over Ukraine.  Hundreds have died in the conflict between Israel and Hamas.  Most of those who have died have no inherent interest in what is happening–they’re caught in the crossfire of egos and agendas.  Christianity is based on one dying for many, not many dying for one.
  3. There is a growing anti-Christian sentiment around the world.  Kim Jung Un, the current leader of North Korea, has imprisoned 30,000 Christians including entire families, even children.  Just 3 days ago in Mosul (northern Iraq) Christians were forced to either convert to Islam, pay a large sum of money or die.  “We offer [Christians] three choices: Islam; the dhimma contract – involving payment… if they refuse this they will have nothing but the sword,” the announcement read.  On Saturday morning, Mosul residents left by the hundreds–walking in Iraq’s summer heat–old and young, able and disabled alike.
  4. You can pray.  No matter where you are, you can be with persecuted Christians through prayer.  You can join families who have lost loved ones by praying for them as they mourn.  We are instructed to weep with those who weep and rejoice with those who rejoice.
  5. Jesus is coming back.  Scripture is clear that an escalation of events like the ones we have recently seen indicate a reality that most of the world chooses to ignore:  Jesus is coming back.  Though history repeats itself, it isn’t cyclical–it’s linear.  History is moving toward a grand climax.  History is His Story–the Gospel is still the centerpiece of all of history.

So what should you do.  Pray.  And one more thing.  I don’t usually do things like this but I recently signed a confessional letter sent to Kim Jung Un of North Korea.  If you want to do the same, here’s the link:

A Different Kind of Fast

“Is not this the fast that I choose:
to loose the bonds of wickedness,
to undo the straps of the yoke,
to let the oppressed go free,
and to break every yoke?
Is it not to share your bread with the hungry
and bring the homeless poor into your house;
when you see the naked, to cover him,
and not to hide yourself from your own flesh?  Isaiah 58:6-7

Israel was steeped in sin.  God, through his prophet Isaiah, is calling them out.  He surprises them (and us) by his prescription for revival.  It isn’t a series of sermons.  It isn’t a prayer meeting.  It isn’t old fashioned fasting.  As a matter of fact in verse 4 of this same chapter they point out their fasting to God, and bemoan the fact that he hasn’t noticed it.

So he prescribes a new fast to them.  It’s found in verses 6-10 above.  Is not this the fast that I choose…to share your bread with the hungry?  Israel complained because God didn’t see their fast.  God wanted them to give up food…but for someone else.  He instructs them to bring the homeless into their own homes, to cover the naked (with their own clothes)–in other words he says, “don’t hide yourself from your own flesh (other people).”

What is God saying?  Give up food…for someone else.  Give up a bedroom…for someone else.  Give up clothes…for someone else.

And what will happen when they do what God says?

Then shall your light break forth like the dawn,
and your healing shall spring up speedily;
your righteousness shall go before you;
the glory of the Lord shall be your rear guard.
Then you shall call, and the Lord will answer;
you shall cry, and he will say, ‘Here I am.’
If you take away the yoke from your midst,
the pointing of the finger, and speaking wickedness,
if you pour yourself out for the hungry
and satisfy the desire of the afflicted,
then shall your light rise in the darkness
and your gloom be as the noonday.  Isaiah 6:8-10

What is God saying?  Worship me, not only with your words, but with your deeds.  Worship me, not only with your deeds, but with your heart.  Then…(read verses 8-10 again!)

For our First Wednesday fast look for opportunities to feed the hungry, house the homeless and clothe the naked.  Tell us about them.  Without breaking anyone’s confidence whom you help, share them on this blog.  We’ll have a time in the service to share brief stories, to brag on God and the opportunities He has given us.

He Has Told Us What to Do

This summer Daniel Tripp interned at Grace.  A significant part of his internship was to examine the problem of hunger in McDowell County and North Carolina.  Food insecurity is the most broadly-used measure of food deprivation in the United States. The USDA defines food insecurity as meaning “consistent access to adequate food is limited by a lack of money and other resources at times during the year.”

So let’s talk about food insecurity in North Carolina…and McDowell County.  This is what Daniel discovered.

  • North Carolina ranks 7th in the country in the national food insecurity rate
  • North Carolina and Louisiana lead the nation with the highest percentage of children under 5 years of age who are food insecure on a regular basis:  1 in 4.
  • Approximately 170,200 different people in NC receive emergency food assistance in any given week.

This is equivalent to the entire current undergraduate enrollment of all 16 colleges and universities that make up the overall University of North Carolina system.

  • McDowell County is the 8th worst county in NC in food insecurity
  • 8,120 people in McDowell County are food insecure
  • Senior adults are also among the most vulnerable…

In the United States, there has been a 32% increase in the number of food insecure older adults since 2007 and a 79% increase since 2001.

We can quote stats until we are blue in the face.

Some of these people live beside you.

A grandmother of two in your neighborhood most likely chose between food and medicine this week.

A 3-year-old girl who loves dolls, lollipops and hugs cried herself to sleep in hunger last night.

A fourth-grader walked into the cafeteria today…and ate the only food he had eaten since he was in that cafeteria yesterday.

Hunger is real.  And it’s real close.

Here’s what we’re doing at Grace.  We’re putting together a task force to figure out what we’re gonna do.  Lunch Bunch is great…but not enough.  Our food pantry is invaluable…but isn’t designed to address the source of the problem.

If you want to serve on this working task force (and it will be work), please email

He has told you, O man, what is good; and what does the LORD require of you but to do justice, and to love mercy, and to walk humbly with your God.  Micah 6:8

He has told us what to do.

It’s time to do it.