America, Where Are You? Part 1

A Sobering Assessment

I respect the courts, but the Supreme Court is only that—the supreme of the courts. It is not the supreme being. It cannot overrule God, when it comes to prayer, when it comes to life, and when it comes to the sanctity of marriage, the court cannot change what God has created.
Mike Huckabee


Key point: Three landmark Supreme Court decisions have helped chart America’s direction and helped define who and where we now are as a country. To help America recover her moral footing, we first need to understand just how far off the stable path these decisions have propelled our country.


For summaries of all the articles in this series, go here.

In Genesis 3:9 (go here for the context), God asked Adam a powerful question: He “called to Adam and said to him, ‘Where are you?’” This question came on the heels of Adam’s and Eve’s disobeying God by eating the forbidden fruit in the Garden of Eden. It came for Adam’s benefit—not because God was looking for either Adam or Eve. Adam needed to assess where he now was in terms of his relationship with God, and, as it would turn out, in his relationships with everything else.

God Judging Adam by William Blake, 1795

The beginning of a new year gives us a unique opportunity to reflect on where we are in terms of our relationship with God—not just individually, but also as churches, nationally, and culturally. We need to take advantage of this opportunity. Accordingly, this will be the theme of this series of articles.

Steve, a friend and coworker of mine, reads my posts regularly and encourages me a great deal. A few months ago, he told me he would like to write a piece reflecting his own thoughts about where America is right now and what can be done about it. On November 11 of last year, he emailed me an article consisting of 338 words. Steve not as “long-winded” as I am.

President Trump and his wife Melania visit a Las Vegas shooting victim

My friend began by citing the recent mass killings at the First Baptist Church of Southern Springs, Texas on November 5 and at a Las Vegas concert on October 1. These incidents left 84 people dead and 566 injured. To what can we attribute these horrific events? Are some people just that mean? Do we need stricter gun laws?1 Steve indicated that if we go down these paths, we totally miss the main message of the larger picture. He wrote,

Three events in the USA’s past are keystone moments in the history of our great nation.

The Authority of Law Statue at the Supreme Court Building in Washington, DC

First, in 1962, the Supreme Court ruled unfavorably regarding prayer in schools.

Second, in 1973, the Supreme Court made murder of our most helpless citizens legal.

Finally, in 2015, our nation, again through the Supreme Court, declared that people of the same sex could marry.

These three events present a drastic change from the attitudes expressed by the Founding Fathers during the last half of the 1700s.


The Declaration of Independence acknowledges, affirms, and upholds “the Laws of Nature and of Nature’s God,” yet on numerous occasions, the Supreme Court of the United States has thoroughly rebuffed them.


To murder, to not be allowed to pray, and blaspheme the institution of marriage by making legal an act that God calls an abomination is a dangerous set of events. Historically, in the Bible when people take these paths, destruction follows.

In the book of Romans, the last 15 verses of chapter 1 describe the current state of the culture of the United States. Our nation has been given over to itself in its wickedness.

Then my friend essentially said this:

America has a chance to make a change for righteousness and to be saved from destruction, but needed changes will occur, not primarily through the legislative, executive, or judicial branches of our government, as important as the decisions made in all of these institutions are. The changes that must occur to make America truly great again will come when people of faith turn to God.


The changes that must occur to make America truly great again will come when people of faith turn to God.


The church has to be concerned about reaching people—I get that. And it must reach younger generations if it is to survive in the long term. Yet in its well-intentioned efforts to reach the young, it has become a place of entertainment rather than a place where the truth is upheld, a place where people can find a large gym to maintain physical fitness but not discover the gutsy challenges of the gospel, and a place that all too often seeks to be “relevant” over being authentically truthful.

Upholding the Truth in Love

Is there hope for this country? Yes! But to be the lighthouse this nation needs, the church must repent of its entertainment mentality and once again uphold the truth of Scripture, all the while demonstrating genuine love.


To be the lighthouse America needs, the church must repent of its entertainment mentality and once again uphold the truth of Scripture, all the while demonstrating genuine love.


Concluding, Steve cited two verses of Scripture—one from the Old Testament, and one from the New.

In 2 Chronicles 7:14, the Lord declared, “If my people who are called by My name will humble themselves, and pray and seek my face, and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven, and will forgive their sin and heal their land.”

In Matthew 6:33, Jesus said, “But seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness, and all these things shall be added to you.”

While we must remember that God’s promise in 2 Chronicles 7:14 was extended to His people—those making up the nation of Israel—and that we cannot assume it applies to America in exactly the same way it applied Israel, the principle behind it does have a measure of application for the church in America in the 21st century. Similarly, in the context of Matthew 6:33, Jesus was challenging His followers not to worry about their material needs but to put God’s kingdom first. Even so, the principle of putting God’s kingdom first and of God’s taking care of everything else still is valid and has points of application for the church and the culture today.

Is Steve right in his assessment? I believe he is, and in future posts, I’ll explain why. We’ll look at each of the Supreme Court cases he cites, and then at the state of the church.

Be sure to return next time.

 

top image: www.lightstock.com

Copyright © 2018 by B. Nathaniel Sullivan. All rights reserved.

Unless otherwise indicated, Scripture has been taken from the New King James Version®. Copyright © 1982 by Thomas Nelson, Inc. Used by permission. All rights reserved.

Note:

1While this isn’t a post on the effects of gun-control laws, this article offers some important insights on that subject.

 

Reality: A Friend or an Adversary? The Decision Is Yours

My hope is built on nothing less than Jesus’ blood and righteousness;
I dare not trust the sweetest frame, but wholly lean on Jesus’ name.

On Christ, the solid rock, I stand;
all other ground is sinking sand,
all other ground is sinking sand.

—Edward Mote1

In session two of the DVD series The Truth Project from Focus on the Family, instructor and host Del Tackett presents a clip featuring apologist Ravi Zacharias. Zacharias related this experience.

iu

Some years ago I was speaking at Ohio State University. And I was taken to see the Wexner Center of the Arts. They wanted me to see it, and I wondered why. And when I walked into that building I said, “What is this building all about?” There are staircases that go nowhere. There are pillars that serve no purposes.

And the man [showing me around] said, “This is America’s first postmodern building, and the architect said, ‘If life has no purpose, why should our buildings have any design or any purpose?'” So he built it at random, without any purpose, as it were.

I said, “I have one question for you.…Did he do that with the foundation as well?”2

Reality is our friend if and only if we cooperate with it and conform our perspectives and actions to it. We have many problems in our world today, but one of the most serious and consequential is that many and perhaps most people are building their lives on foundations that do not align with reality or with the truth. Yet there is hope. If an individual has started building in a bad place, he or she does not have to continue. Relocation is possible! Furthermore, anyone intending to build his or her life on bedrock truth can reassess current progress and make appropriate adjustments.

At the end of what we now know as Jesus’ Sermon on the Mount, Jesus gave a powerful illustration of the practical results of obeying Him versus the disastrous consequences of ignoring Him.

24 “Therefore, everyone who hears these words of Mine and acts on them will be like a sensible man who built his house on the rock. 25 The rain fell, the rivers rose, and the winds blew and pounded that house. Yet it didn’t collapse, because its foundation was on the rock. 26 But everyone who hears these words of Mine and doesn’t act on them will be like a foolish man who built his house on the sand. 27 The rain fell, the rivers rose, the winds blew and pounded that house, and it collapsed. And its collapse was great!” (Matt. 7:24-27)

This translation is adequate. However, in verse 25, the word foundation is very interesting. While the translators of the Holman Christian Standard Bible rendered this word as a noun, it actually is a verb in the original Greek. In this instance the translators of the King James Version rendered it in English as a verb as well.

And the rain descended, and the floods came, and the winds blew, and beat upon that house; and it fell not: for it was founded upon a rock.

We find this verb five additional times in the New Testament.3 Here are the verses in which it appears. In each instance we present it in the King James Version, and we have underlined the English word or words representing the Greek term.

  • He is like a man which built an house, and digged deep, and laid the foundation on a rock: and when the flood arose, the stream beat vehemently upon that house, and could not shake it: for it was founded upon a rock (Luke 6:48).
  • That Christ may dwell in your hearts by faith; that ye, being rooted and grounded in love (Eph. 3:17).
  • If ye continue in the faith grounded and settled, and be not moved away from the hope of the gospel, which ye have heard, and which was preached to every creature which is under heaven; whereof I Paul am made a minister (Col. 1:23).
  • And, Thou, Lord, in the beginning hast laid the foundation of the earth; and the heavens are the works of thine hands (Heb. 1:10).
  • But the God of all grace, who hath called us unto his eternal glory by Christ Jesus, after that ye have suffered a while, make you perfect, stablish, strengthen, settle you (1 Pet. 5:10).

In considering Matthew 7:25, we do well to keep in mind that the original word was a verb. When we understand it to be a verb, we see it pointing to actions taken on the part of the one listening and heeding Jesus’ teachings. Foundations, you see, don’t just show up arbitrarily. They’re chosen, and the choice brings forth either benefits or severe consequences, just as Jesus said.

Foundations don’t just show up arbitrarily. They’re chosen, and the choice brings forth either benefits or severe consequences, just as Jesus said.

This is an important lesson for us as we stand on the cusp of 2016—a new year that is sure to present a great many challenges for us as Christians. With the challenges, however, will come unprecedented opportunities to demonstrate Christ’s love and to uphold His truth. There’s no better time than now to make sure you are building your life on Christ and His teachings.

Copyright © 2015 by B. Nathaniel Sullivan. All Rights Reserved.

Unless otherwise noted, all Scripture quotations in this article are taken from the Holman Christian Standard Bible®, Copyright © 1999, 2000, 2002, 2003, 2009 by Holman Bible Publishers. Used by permission. Holman Christian Standard Bible®, Holman CSB®, and HCSB® are federally registered trademarks of Holman Bible Publishers.

Notes:

1http://www.hymnary.org/text/my_hope_is_built_on_nothing_less

2Focus on the Family, The Truth Project (Colorado Springs: CO), session 2: “Philosophy & Ethics: Says Who?” (The Truth Project website can be accessed here.) Also see http://blogs.thegospelcoalition.org/justintaylor/2014/01/13/ravi-zacharias-on-postmodern-architecture-at-ohio-state/

3http://www.blueletterbible.org/lang/lexicon/lexicon.cfm?Strongs=G2311&t=KJV