Monday, March 9, 2009

Peace and Prosperity. Really?

As I begin writing today, grim headlines top the early morning news. The stock market is still tumbling, unemployment is reaching record numbers, mega-companies are filing for bankruptcy protection, and America's largest automakers are seeking government assistance to avoid collapse. All of this is in the wake of the largest bank and financial institution bailouts in the history of our nation. These news stories do not make for light-hearted breakfast conversation, nor do they prompt optimism or a sense of security.

I'll repeat what I said yesterday. I am so thankful for a God who has recorded his promises to preserve and protect those whose hearts belong to him. And I'll mention here that his means of preservation and protection usually bears little resemblance to Hollywood's fabricated versions or our culture's romanticized notions--and yet we know it remains definite and assured.

Joshua chapters 11 through 15 provide details of the continued struggles of Israel to take the land they were promised by God while facing serious and forceful opposition from the inhabitants of the Promised Land. In these accounts we read that God reminded Joshua to stay strong and courageous, all the while inviting him to be an active participant in the process of conquering Israel's enemies.

In every case, when the children of Israel upheld their end of the bargain, God was faithful to deliver them. But when they deviated, a sharp contrast results. They were unable to defeat their foes whenever they were fighting "in the flesh".

Joshua 16:10 reveals one instance of their disobedience:

They did not drive the Canaanites out of Gezer, however, so the people of Gezer live as slaves among the people of Ephraim to this day.

Disregarding God's command to completely drive the Canaanites out of the land because they wanted to utilize slave labor, the Ephraimites demonstrated disobedience to God's orders. Scholars surmise that if they had the power to make these people forced laborers, they were obviously strong enough to defeat them as God had commanded, especially given that Joshua had already conquered the city of Gezer.

Little compromises, especially those that we mentally rationalize as harmless or better than the alternative, have a way of backfiring if they are in conflict with God's prescribed methods or means of accomplishing his will. As a result of their disobedience, idolatry and immoral worship entered Israel's camp.

Historians and Biblical scholars agree that Israel did not fully conquer these enemies for two possible reasons. First, they wanted wealth and second, they wanted peace at any cost.

I started today's entry with a recap of this morning's headlines. When economic news is grim or peaceful existence is threatened, sometimes even reasonable people resort to unreasonable (or ungodly) methods out of fear and panic. We are a money driven culture. We want to protect and preserve our wealth at all costs--no pun intended.

We've also become a people who are afraid to fight--even for things that matter greatly to God. We have become weak and watered down, anemic and afraid. We'll take the appearance of peace over it's reality if it means we can ignore the need to be proactive.

Right now, there are terrorists who have no greater desire than to destroy The United States. They hate us and everything that America represents with every fiber of their beings and will stop at nothing (including suicide) to see that they are successful. Sadly, in the face of their threat, we have leaders who believe we can "reason" with these people and "rationalize" with them so that they will suddenly see us as allies rather than enemies. But that will never be the case with those who so radically, viciously hate us. All the good will and great intentions in the world will never end their hatred because it is a loathing of Biblical proportions and can only be quelled by spiritual means through God's intervention.

Today, I fear, but not as one who has no hope. I do not fear for my future or for the future of any believer in Jesus Christ, but I fear for our society if we remain willing to compromise integrity and ignore danger in order to protect our wealth and preserve the semblance of peace. After all, wealth without God's blessing is poverty. And peace without God's preservation is peril. We may not see it now, but one day, all that is cloudy will be clear and His truth will be revealed--and on that day every knee will bow and every tongue will confess that Jesus Christ is Lord.

The good news for Christians is this: It is not too late to forsake the things of this world and turn to God for our real and true deliverance. He is still able to keep those who are His--to preserve and protect, to lead and direct--and I am so grateful to be sheltered from these storms by the One who is able to do exceedingly, abundantly above and beyond all that our minds can fathom.

Lord, when the news is bad, you are still good. When we mess up, your mercies are made new upon our humble confession and repentance. I plead Jesus' blood will cover the sins I've committed as well as the sins of our nation so that my little loves can sleep each night in heavenly peace until the day you return. Amen.

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