repentance

I originally wrote this post a year ago reflecting on hurricanes and earthquakes, but its lessons are pertinent today.

As I post today, August 30, 2021, we are facing new catastrophes. Hurricane Ida has devastated the Louisiana coast. Our world is facing an international crisis in Afghanistan with the disintegration of the Afghan government, the takeover of the Taliban, and terrorist attacks. Our nation remains politically divided, and we are experiencing the Covid delta variant.

Some of you reading this are facing exhaustion and and frustration at your situation and the circumstances around us.

Questions arise: “Are we experiencing the judgment of God? Are we living in the last days? What might take place next? How should we respond?”

Let me offer some answers that I hope are biblical, theological, and practical.

Question: Are we experiencing the judgment of God? Answer: Yes. For millennia God has judged wickedness and depravity through supernatural, natural, and geopolitical means. God sent supernatural plagues on Egypt as judgment for their enslavement of his people. God sent a storm and a great fish after Jonah when the prophet ran from God’s command to preach in Nineveh. God send a locust plague on Israel as prophesied by the prophet Joel. And God used kings and armies all throughout biblical history to bring judgment upon his people and even the wicked nations around his people as a means of judgment. I believe we are experiencing the judgment of God for our wickedness. But we need to remember something about God’s judgments. They are mean to be restorative and redemptive before they are meant to be permanent. The reason God sent the prophets to Israel and Judah in the OT to warn them of coming judgment was to encourage his people to repent. Our experiences over the last couple of years may or may not be direct judgments of God on specific people for specific things. But most certainly they represent the general judgment of God on a world full of wickedness and rebellion. The bigger question we should ask ourselves is this: “Does God have our attention?”

Question: Are we living in the last days? Answer: Yes. Jesus taught in Matthew 24 that false messiahs, earthquakes, famines, wars, tribulation, and persecution are signs of the last days. We are seeing many of these things take place around us. There is a caveat. The first disciples experienced some of these things during their days on earth as well. Every generation since the ascension of Christ has believed that Christ might return during their lifetime. Many theologians over the 2000 year history of Christianity have identified different individuals as the Antichrist (from medieval popes to Adolf Hitler). The last days are the days of the church. Does this mean Jesus will return soon? In our generation? He certainly could. We should be ready. But he might not. There might be hundreds of years before he returns. Yet we must remember we are living in the last days. God’s judgments and chastisements are meant to turn our eyes to him. They are meant to shake us from our apathy and motivate us to preach the gospel and live the love of Christ to a hurting and sinful world.

Question: What might take place next? Answer: It would be foolish to speculate on details, but we can expect more judgments, trials, difficulties, tribulations, and persecutions. Many Christians over the ages have experienced persecution for their faith. For the most part, Christians in America have been spared persecution. That might be changing. With gubernatorial overreaches that have banned churches from meeting as well as the cancel culture, Christianity is being marginalized. We now live in a culture that celebrates depravity and idolizes immorality. All this is taking place in a nation whose foundations were built on the Judeo-Christian worldview. Our national rejection of God will most certainly spurn further judgments. Writing on this subject more than forty years ago, Francis Schaeffer articulated the judgment of God:

“Unlike Zeus whom men imagined hurling down great thunderbolts, God has turned away in judgment as our generation turned away from him, and he is allowing cause and effect to take its course in history.”

Francis Schaeffer, Death in the City.

Question: How should we respond? Answer: Repent, Pray, Preach the Gospel. It is fascinating sometimes how enamored we as God’s people are with the end times, tribulation, and judgment of God. Yet what should convict us deeply is the fact that the majority of God’s judgments and chastisements in the Bible are aimed not at the depraved nations, but at his rebellious people. Church, judgment begins with the house of God (1 Peter 4:17). Our circumstances should drive us to self-examination, confession, and repentance. We must reject any idols we discover and turn to Christ fully and completely. We must also pray. Our hope can only be found in the sovereign and living Lord. We connect with God through prayer. If we are not doing so already, we must pray for revival, awakening, and the salvation of sinners. Finally, we must be unashamed to preach and share the gospel. If nothing else, natural disasters, diseases, wars, and conflicts remind us how fragile and temporary life on this earth is. The only hope for people around us (family, neighbors, co-workers, friends, the nations) is the gospel. Church, it is time to wake up, hear the messages God is shouting to us, and proclaim the good news of Jesus Christ.

Photo by Zoltan Tasi on Unsplash.

As an American, Memorial Day reflects on the sacrifice of so many who won and kept our freedom. The roots of the celebration came after the American Civil War when it was first called “Decoration Day.” Memorial Day was celebrated for nearly 100 years after the Civil War, but it was not until in 1971 that day was standardized as the last Monday in May. As the unofficial beginning of summer, Memorial Day brings trips, travel, and family celebrations.

But as a special holiday in the life of our country, Memorial Day can teach us about more than just taking some time to relax. Here are some lessons we can apply from Memorial Day.

Allegiance. My friend and former teacher, Dr. Cameron Cloud wrote a piece last week entitled, Christians, Patriotism, and Idolatry. Cloud articulated, “Being a good citizen is part of being a good Christian, and being a good Christian makes me a better citizen.” He’s right. While some on the right and left make an idol of politics, politicians, and parties, Christians should be different. Christians should be good citizens who submit to the government because their primary allegiance to Jesus leads them to live out a healthy allegiance to family, church, and nation (see Romans 13:1-7 and 1 Peter 2:13-17).

Honor. In 1 Peter 2:17, the apostle wrote, “Honor everyone. Love the brotherhood. Fear God. Honor the emperor.” To honor is to value and give others proper respect. Honor is all too rare these days. Our founders pledged their life, liberty, wealth, and honor in the War for Independence and to the fledgling country. Many military heroes (past and present) have served their country with honor and valor. For an astounding picture of honor, read the stories of Charlie Brown and Franz Stiegler in Adam Makos’ book A Higher Call. Brown was a B-27 bomber pilot whose mission over Germany in WWII resulted in the near destruction of his plane. Some of his crew were killed, two engines were out, his machine guns had frozen, and his rear stabilizing wing was gone. Brown’s B-27 was damaged and defenseless. When Franz Stiegler, a German fighter ace, flew behind the limping B-27, he acted with honor. Instead of finishing the bomber off, Steigler tried to get the bomber to land or fly to neutral Sweden. Eventually, because Stiegler flew in formation next to the bomber, he escorted the bomber over German flack fields and out over the Atlantic where they parted ways. The book details the stories of both men and the honor that permeated the act of chivalry. The ending of the book is fascinating. As followers of Jesus, honoring others is a command and should be part of our character.

Remembrance. This is the primary reason for Memorial Day. When we memorialize something/someone, we remember. Since the days of the War for Independence, those serving in the armed forces have bled and died for the freedoms we experience. Brave men and women have given everything to bring the freedoms we appreciate to other lands. It is right and appropriate that we remember their sacrifices. So as you grill out, enjoy friends, take a day off, or celebrate your freedoms, don’t forget that your freedoms weren’t free. Remember those who pledged their honor, valor, and lives to the cause of freedom.

Repentance. I’ve observed the political and national tensions of the past year. It appears that there are competing and irreconcilable visions for the United States. The political divisions coupled with the racial tensions have been especially difficult to watch. Accusations of anarchy and idolatrous nationalism have been made by members of various sides of the political spectrum. As citizens of a great country with enormous freedoms, the animosity and division is troubling. As citizens of a heavenly kingdom, we must realize that the solutions to our national problems do not ultimately reside in parties or politicians. These tensions (the pandemic, racial divisions, political animosities, international uncertainties, etc.) are all warnings. God is shouting loudly to his people through these events. He’s inviting us to repent. For repentance to precipitate a move of God, it must start with God’s people. Let this Memorial Day remind you to look yourself in the mirror, acknowledge your guilt, and repent of your sins.

I believe that God wants our everyday experiences (even our celebrations) to bring us to Him. Would you give God your attention this Memorial Day and apply these lessons to your life?

Photo by Tanner Ross on Unsplash