While the storm clouds gather far across the sea,
Let us swear allegiance to a land that’s free.
Let us all be grateful for a land so fair,
As we raise our voices in a solemn prayer:
God bless America, land that I love,
Stand beside her and guide her
Through the night with a light from above.
From the mountains, to the prairies,
To the oceans white with foam,
God bless America,
My home sweet home.
Did you know that these words, made popular in our culture by Kate Smith’s distinctive voice, are actually a prayer? On the evening of Sept 11, 2001 after two towers had fallen, a plane had crashed, and with the death toll of American casualties still rising…Congress met and stood on the steps for an impromptu meeting. Republican stood shoulder to shoulder with Democrat… fierce enemies politically had now, for the moment, forgotten their animosity. Something bigger was at stake…our future as a nation. They broke into a spontaneous prayer that night as every eye in America was on them and someone began singing, “God Bless America… a song written in 1938 as war began to rage in Europe. And it was written first as a prayer, and only later was set to music.
Can we pray that today? Can we ask God to bless the things that are happening around us in our nation? Can we hope these continue into the lives of our children and grandchildren? Do we really want God to bless America as things are now? Are we now the nation we truly want our children and grandchildren to inherit?
We are no longer the “United” States of America. To say we are united is almost a mockery. We are more divided than we have been since the country broke into Civil War. Politically, ethically, morally, our views of how we see gender and sexuality, race, and the economy. Unity does not define our nation. While we tried to bring diversity to the forefront of our national consciousness, what we inadvertently brought was disunity.
But by the good grace of God, it may not be too late for Him to hear, one more time, the Christian family…the Body of Christ…praying again; pleading again; turning in repentance. No culture has risen to the heights we have known in America; no country has been lavished with more opportunities… no nation has been quicker to aid and assist those who are hurting.
Certainly, there is still greatness. But the days are turbulent, and the circumstances are growing darker, and the time is getting shorter. It’s time to pray. It’s time to ask God to forgive us. It’s time to recognize that politics, or a growing economy, or a unified Washington will not bring the change needed. Only God can do that.
And by His grace, we pray He will bless America!
Occasionally we need to be reminded of what we already know. We need to be reminded because it is vitally important that we not forget. Ever. And it is important because, if you’re a Christ-follower today, it is to be your priority-not just to bring us to salvation, but to bring everything in our life under this radical truth. The Gospel, lest we forget, says:
We were dead in our trespasses and sin.
Religion couldn’t help us.
New resolutions to change couldn’t help us.
Jesus, the baby born of a virgin in Bethlehem, was the Son of God.
He did what we couldn’t do.
He lived a righteous life that pleased God.
Still he got crucified on a cross under the curse of sin. He did that for us. He died in our place.
But Jesus was raised from the grave to offer new life in his Spirit. Jesus gives this new life to all who call upon him in faith.
The beauty of the Gospel is that those who trust in Jesus need never again fear alienation from God. In Christ you are secure. In Christ you are loved. In Christ you are whole. In Christ you are chosen. In Christ you are pure. “Therefore, there is now no condemnation for those in Christ Jesus.” (Rom. 8: 1)
Remind your heart often of this. Remind and tell those you love …and even those you don’t about this. Paul said, “I am not ashamed of the Gospel of Christ, for it is the power of God to salvation for everyone who believes…”
If you have been transformed by the Gospel, you have been commissioned by Jesus to share it with others.
It is, after all, the most important thing in your life!
When we begin to teach our children as they are very young our “lessons” tend to be very practical: “How to” tie your shoe. “When to” say please or thank you. “How to” spell hard words
As they grow older the lessons become more complex. “How to” drive. “How to” pick a major in college. “How to” know when we’re really in love
But much larger and more important questions must also be undertaken by parents who wish to see their children embrace the faith:
- WHERE did we come from?
- WHY are we here?
- WHERE are we going?
These questions loom large in our lives and we will seek and we will find answers, though not always the right ones
Don’t allow this present world to squeeze your children into its mold (Roman 12:1-2). Teach them. Answer these questions from the Bible’s perspective and you will set their lives on the right path.
A Christian worldview will inform almost every decision your child makes. Be certain they hear the truth from you first.
And then, when they are old, they will not leave the way they should go.
Start with the three questions above. You will never be sorry they heard it first from you!
Marriage is a mystery, according to Paul. A “mega” (great) mystery in fact! Many would agree with that assessment, whether you’re in a brand-new marriage, or a broken relationship, or if you’re ready to walk away from your spouse. It’s a profound mystery to us.
It’s a mystery how men and women manage to get together. And then, when they get together, they find themselves in a relationship with a person that is in many ways the opposite of who they are or who you may have thought they were.
It’s a mystery how to make this thing work. You may, again, be just starting out. The journey from where you stand today looks daunting. How are we going to make it “till death do us part” since the adjustments of the first few months have been brutal.
Or maybe you’ve just given up on your relationship altogether, deciding it’s way too mysterious to figure out how to go back to square one and start again, or how to choke out those words “I’m sorry” or “I forgive you” to the person to whom you are married.
Part of what makes marriage so mysterious is we don’t know how to read what the Creator of marriage said about it. He said things like:
- “It’s not about your happiness or fulfillment, but your sacrifice.”
- “It’s not about you always getting your way, but serving”
- “It’s not about you getting love, but about you giving love.”
- “It’s not about you winning, but you surrendering.”
Most of us turn to our peers, not the Bible, when it comes time to ask for advice or share our struggles with marriage. Our friends, steeped in the culture of the world, will advise you from the world’s vantage point to do just the opposite of what the Bible says.
The Bible’s counsel for marriage is summarized in Ephesians 5. There we see three “anchor” points or principles that help us navigate when the sea of matrimony gets stormy.
First, we are to exhibit a submissive spirit. Our primary submission is to “one another” in marriage… unto Christ. A submissive spirit, though assigned as the wife’s duty, is first of all to be given to the Lord.
Second, we are to exhibit a servant’s heart. This quality is to be exhibit from the husband to the wife. The husband is to serve his wife as he serves the Lord. His service to his wife is an act of worship to the Lord. We love our wife in the same way we want to love Jesus. No wife will ever resent being submissive to that kind of partner.
Third, we are to display sacrificial love. This is a love that, not only is willing to die for the beloved (as most husbands would claim they would), but that actually dies! Not the death of taking a bullet or throwing himself in front of a speeding automobile to save them, but daily dying to himself; his wants… his needs… for the sake of loving his wife.
This kind of marriage will truly glorify the Lord, mystify the world and please those involved in it. Don’t take your marching orders from the wrong source.
But the mystery extends to what our marriage shows. A Christian marriage demonstrates the love of Christ for His Bride, the church. Don’t give up on the picture. Your marriage is bigger than you, and more important than your momentary trials. The Gospel is seen as you live this out.
Live in the mystery. It is there that God shows His greatest power, and the world sees an astounding witness.
And one day, the mystery will become clear to us!
I will on occasion encounter an honest person who is in a troubled marriage who will ask, “Why should I stay? I’m miserable. She’s miserable. We fight all the time. She doesn’t like me anymore, and I really don’t think I like her.” Here is an answer.
We are stewards (managers) of a spiritual mystery. “The two shall become one” (though sometimes we fight over which one)! But marriage is “union without annihilation.” Both of us continue on individually, though spiritually, emotionally and in many other ways we are one. That is not an automatic, nor an easy transition to make. It takes time… and grace to see it happen.
We are one new creation in Christ. A caterpillar has to cease to exist to become a butterfly. There will be some things you must voluntarily “cease” being to be married. As a Christian your marriage is a way of showing the Gospel of Jesus Christ. There are people who see and understand God’s sacrificial love for us; His servant’s heart; His amazing gift… as they look at you working out your marriage… even though it may be in a season of trouble. So if your marriage prematurely ends, it distorts that picture… t closes that window. You are stewards of the GOSPEL when you marry. “I am speaking of Christ and the church,” Paul said. The Gospel says this: “We are more sinful and flawed in ourselves than we ever dared believe, yet at the very same moment we are more loved and accepted in Jesus Christ than we ever dared hope. “(Tim Keller). That is the only kind of relationship that will transform us. That is the only kind of love that will endure.
When Jesus looked down from the cross, he didn’t think, “I’m giving Myself to you because you are so attractive to me.” No, he was in agony, and he looked down at us—denying Him, betraying Him, abandoning Him—and in history’s greatest act of love, HE STAYED ON THE CROSS! He said, “Father forgive them, they don’t know what they are doing.” He loved us, not because we are lovely to him, but to make us lovely. “That is why I’m going to love my spouse.” Speak often to your heart like that… and then hold on to the promises you made on your wedding day.
While you may not be particularly happy in your relationship today, the reward comes as you endure… and wait for God’s renewing to come to your relationship. He started it; we can trust Him to fix what’s broken. “He who began a good work in us will be faithful to complete it.” Lean on Him fully in the storms that come to your marriage… He will see you through!
Kenneth Howard disappeared on the evening on Mother’s Day. Slipping away from his parent’s view, the 22-month -old walked into an adventure of almost unheard of dimensions.
He disappeared for 66 hours, escaping the frantic search of Kentucky State Police, volunteers, neighbors, and tearful and fearful relatives. They never lost hope.
The drama ended when the not-quite-2-year-old was found, cold and dehydrated but safe on a cliff overlooking Raccoon Road in the heavily wooded area of Floyd County, Kentucky. He repeated, “Here all night!” after they hoisted him to safety.
The rescuers, veterans of searches that had ended far more tragically, burst into tears of joy to find the little guy curled up on the cliff. They put him in a makeshift basket made from a backpack with two holes get out of the bottom for his legs and carried him to safety.
But did you see the Gospel in the rescue? Many called this a true “miracle,” and it was. But no more so and, in fact, not even as great as the miracle of a lost man, woman, boy or girl who find themselves “rescued” from a fate far worse than an unforgiving wilderness.
It is God who seeks. It is God who sent His only begotten Son to “seek and save (rescue) those who are lost.” The Gospel message was writ large in the headlines of this compelling story with a happy ending.
It is a reminder that, without Jesus, you are facing a far worse fate that lasts eternally. Hell is not a theory or fairy tale. But this account also serves as a reminder that there is hope; there is a Rescuer come from the Father to find the lost ones.
We thank God for Kenneth’s rescue. It is truly the grace of God that led them 1,755 feet from his parent’s yard to his perilous perch on a ragged cliff.
But how much more does Heaven rejoice when one lost sinner returns safely to His Father’s arms? Do you see the Gospel? Do you hear the Rescuer’s voice calling for you? And if you have been rescued by the Savior, have you joined the search party for those still to be found?
The cause has never been more compelling and the stakes never higher.
Jesus the Savior is still calling. Let’s join the rescue party! And if you are on the edge today, call out! He will hear.
And He will come.
Originally published on Saturday, May 18 by Dr. Maynard for KentuckyToday.com
as a guest columnist
I write these words on a very bumpy flight from the northeast. “Storm-tossed” has taken on a new meaning for me! A few hours ago, I finished leading a marriage enrichment event for about twenty-two couples engaged in planting churches in New York and New Jersey through the North American Mission Board.
A few things made it a unique event. It was, for one, the first time most of them (one couple married 42 years) had ever attended anything designed to help them “do’ marriage better. It was the first time I had ever led a cross-cultural marriage event though it reinforced to me once again that marriage is not the property of any one nationality or language group.
But it was also the first time I had led a marriage event without Pam. The thought of doing this, at first, gave me some internal flip-flops (much like the plane is doing to my stomach right now).
And the question I had wrestled with time after time popped up once again: How much do I share? Many of these planters, though I have spent thirty or forty hours with them since January, did not know I was widowed. It hadn’t come up. I hadn’t talked about it.
But how could I do a marriage retreat and avoid the conversation about her dying? Hence the flip-flops. And this retreat was focused on being married as a pastor. So I had to walk through the story again.
God was gracious. It went well I am told, though for the past few hours I have felt the need to reassemble and reassess myself in the Lord. I needed to regroup, since every time I tell the story I see another facet I had missed before.
And I realized once again how much I miss her. The timing may have had something to do with it. May 14, would have been our 42nd anniversary. Memories of her surgery, and rehab, and final days struggling with cancer have enfolded me over the past couple of weeks.
But it reminds me again of how marriage changes us. And, even though one of us is no longer there, we don’t revert back. I am told I am single now. And biblically that is true. Yet I don’t know how to feel single. I still “feel” married.
It has that kind of power, this covenant between a husband and wife. The words we speak on our wedding day, “for better or worse, until death do us part” bind us together on a much deeper level than anyone can see in that moment.
As Paul explains it, you can’t explain it. He calls marriage “a mystery.” In fact, he literally calls it a “mega-mystery.” It’s bigger than we can unpack or understand right now. We just know that somehow on an unseen and unexplainable level, we are different. We are changed. We experience, in the words of one theologian, “union without annihilation.” The two become one, but nobody disappears. And when one disappears, the other doesn’t change back.
Death may end the legal bond of matrimony. The vows are completed when death parts us. But something of the mystery still continues. Something of the beauty of it… the witness of it… the fragrance of it… remains with us.
And I hope, in some way I can’t now see…
I always will.
When I saw their fear, I rose and spoke to the nobles, the officials and the rest of the people: “Do not be afraid of them; remember the Lord who is great and awesome, and fight for your brothers, your sons, your daughters, your wives and your houses.”
NEHEMIAH 4:14 NASB
Nehemiah and his contemporaries were faced with a great challenge: Rebuilding the burned and broken down wall of Jerusalem. Not only was there the simple, physical challenge of doing this massive job with antiquated tools and untrained people, but it was complicated by the presence of enemies who mocked, threatened, discouraged and frightened the people.
So Nehemiah stood to encourage them. Their fear was palpable, and obviously even visible: “When I saw their fear….” And he told them three important things: first, “Do not be afraid.” Our families were never created to be led by fear. So many parents today spend their days in fear; some for their children’s safety, and others in fear their children will not succeed. The enemy is constantly planting seeds of fear.
Second, Nehemiah said, “remember the Lord who is great and awesome….” We should always seek to view our families through the lens of our Heavenly Father who loves us and who is “great and awesome.”
Third, Nehemiah said, “Fight….” There is a storm today. Our homes are fraught with enemies vying for the minds and souls of our children, and longing to tear apart our marriages. Family life is a battle that must be entered daily.
Pray for your family. Pray for your children. Recognize the greatness of your God, and the constant assault of your enemy. The battle does not end while we’re on this earth. We don’t get to vacation away from it. We must maintain vigilance, and be alert and fight for our families… our marriages and our children… our homes.
It is the Lord who brings us the victory. But it is we who must continue to fight; not in fear but in confidence knowing He will empower us to continue… and to have victory!
Family means a lot of things to different people; sometimes our definitions differ to a degree as to what makes family for us, but family is important in every culture. God has “put the lonely in families,” the Bible tells us. And God has given THE definition of family for us.
From the beginning, God saw the loneliness of Adam for “one like him,” and so He created Eve and the very first family was formed. “Male and female He created them,” Genesis tells us. From them, children were born and so the human race began on planet earth by God’s creative and powerful Word.
But the sin that Adam and Eve were guilty of committing was passed on to their offspring. The first family conflict in history was a domestic dispute between two brothers that ended with the murder of Abel. From there, well, enter “The Jerry Springer Show.”
Some of the most horrific crimes in history have been committed in the context of family. Families are broken by sin, just as individuals are. Yet, just as God was committed to redeeming individuals through the cross, He also desires to redeem this important institution called “the family.”
The family can be the place of greatest blessing, or a place of great wounding and injury. The brokenness brought by sin guarantees that. Yet God never gave up on family, as hard as it sometimes is to live with.
It is through the “seed of the promise,” the offspring of Abraham and son of David Jesus Christ that “every family on the earth will be blessed.” God’s desire is still to bless families… your home, your marriage, your children, your grandchildren and great-grandchildren.
It is God’s desire that you live in harmony with your siblings, with your parents, and with your marriage partner.
But we cannot create our own definition of family and then ask for and expect that blessing to come to OUR creation. We follow carefully the Word of God as we create a household. While the image of “perfect family” may not be how your family looks, as we live in covenant with a Holy God, we can expect His blessing to rain down on us.
You may be in a single-parent household today, or simply be a single adult, widow or widower… you may have children overwhelming you right now at home, or long to hear from your adult children through a phone call or text. You may be living with children at home and at the same time be caring for aging parents. You may be surrounded by biological children, or be blessed by adoptive or foster children.
The key question is: Are you living in a Biblical covenant with the God who made you?
Are you passing along the faith in your heart to the next generation, starting with those in your own household? Are you living, desiring that God is glorified through your family and home, no matter how imperfect it may be?
And do you have at the center of your family a cross… a cross that redeems, and heals, and helps you to live and do according to all that God commands? If so, you are on the right path: A path that leads to peace and blessings and grace overflowing from the family God has given you.
If not, then today is not too late for you to bring your family to the foot of Jesus’ cross…
And leave them there.
When you do, you will find the true blessing God always meant for your family to know.