Thursday, June 24, 2010

Reflections for June 23, 2010

"Unbridled Freedom"

Here are three quotes Americans should heed.

"History fails to record a single precedent in which nations subject to moral decay have not passed into political and economic decline. There has been either a spiritual awakening to overcome the moral lapse, or a progressive deterioration leading to ultimate national disaster."

"I believe this blessed land was set apart in a very special way, a country created by men and women who came here not in the search of gold, but in search of God. They would be free people, living under the law with faith in their Maker and their future."

"I believe with all my heart that standing up for America means standing up for the God who has so blessed our land. We need God's help to guide our nation through stormy seas. But we can't expect Him to protect America in a crisis if we just leave Him over on the shelf in our day-to-day living."

At first glance one might surmise these quotes were made in the context of a sermon delivered by a fiery eyed fundamentalist preacher, who was whining about the moral condition of our nation. To the contrary, the first was attributed to General Douglas MacArthur and the last two to President Ronald Reagan. It appeared to me that both these men understood a truth that many have forgotten over the past half century. The truth is that unbridled freedom or freedom minus a sense of responsibility leads down a slippery slope until those who seek it find themselves enslaved to the very things they have sought.

This search for unbridled freedom intensified during the sixties and has continued unabated to the present. Our society is now harvesting the fruit of such a self-centered philosophy. We see it in society’s attitude toward abortion. We see it in a multi-billion dollar per year pornography business. We see it in the shrinking list of things considered to be abnormal behavior. Rather than abnormal, things are referred to as alternative lifestyles. We see it every day on our televisions. Programming today, deals with topics during prime time that would not have been mentioned at any hour years ago. We see it in the unrelenting strive to legalize a variety of drugs. These are a few of the areas where the fruit of unbridled freedom can be seen. Space does not allow me to continue.

Those who support this road toward unbridled freedom say these things are evidence of progress that has been made. They claim these things represent a new openness and liberty. They see them as victories of the soul from the repression of religion. Others see them as a road toward disaster. They believe that this land has been blessed by God and that His blessing will not continue forever if we continue to seek unbridled freedom that forgets the basic laws He has given to us.

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

Reflections for June 16, 2010


Life is all about choices. Each day we are faced with circumstances that require us to make choices about whom or what we will serve. We sometimes act as if we can avoid these choices but we can’t. In most cases we are spared from verbally expressing our choices. The absence of verbalization, does not excuse us from choices, because our actions speak more loudly than our words. The question each one of us should ponder is does my actions reflect my allegiance to God or do they reflect an allegiance to the gods of this world?

In his book, Who Are You When No One Is Looking, Bill Hybels explains our choices this way: “Every single day we make choices that show whether we are courageous or cowardly. We choose between the right thing and the convenient thing, sticking to a conviction or caving in for the sake of comfort, greed or approval. We choose either to take a carefully thought-out risk or to crawl into a shrinking shell of safety, security and inactivity. We choose either to believe in God and trust him, even when we do not always understand his ways, or to second-guess him and cower in the corners of doubt and fear.”

Before making our choice, it would be wise to examine our choices. In other words, we need to ask the question, “If not God; who or what?” There are hundreds of things from which we can choose, but most of them would fall into one of four categories. First, we can choose the god of pleasure. It causes us to become caught up in our own comfort and enjoyment. It does not leave room for concern for others. It offers much but in the end brings disillusionment, because no matter how much of it we obtain, it does not fulfill our deepest needs. Second, we can choose the god of popularity. When we worship this god, we forget about principle and do anything to be accepted into the group we think is most important. Popularity never brings the self-confidence we seek because we can never please everyone. This quest leaves us constantly seeking to obtain the approval of someone. Third, we can worship the god of power. It is a cruel taskmaster. It requires us to step on anyone who gets in our way as we push ourselves to the top. The problem is when we get to the top we find it to be a lonely place to live. Fourth, we can worship the god of philosophy and worship whatever the current popular trend is. Presently, it is the spirit of secularism. While it does not always deny the existence of God, it does say that He is irrelevant and that man can fix all of his own problems. All of these gods share a common flaw. Not one of them can fill the empty space within man. It is a space that cries out for fellowship with his creator.

The alternative to these choices offered to us by the world is the gift of life offered to us by our Heavenly Father. The Apostle John wrote: “Truly, truly, I say to you, he who hears My word and believes Him who sent Me, has eternal life and does not come into judgment, but has passed out of death into life” (John 5:24 NASB). The eternal life Jesus makes possible means more than length of life. It also means a quality of life that can be found nowhere else. The life He offers promises abundance, peace and joy. These blessings are available to all who follow Him but are realized only when we walk in obedience to Him.

Each day we are given the opportunity to choose between the world’s way or our Lord’s way. One brings at best temporary satisfaction, but it ultimately leaves us empty and unfulfilled. The other gives us the opportunity to follow Jesus Christ and results in a life characterized by joy, peace and abundance in the things that truly matter. Who will you choose to follow today?

Friday, June 4, 2010

Reflections for June 4, 2010

If things were the answer to happiness, the people of the United States would be among the happiest people in the world. Instead, the opposite appears to be true. As a nation we lead the world in most of the statistics that are not complimentary of a nation. Divorce, addictions of all kinds, incarceration per capita, mental illness, and abuse of prescription drugs are just a few of the unflattering categories that we either lead or are near the top. None of these things reflect a happy image. The obvious question is, “Why in a country that has so much is there so much unhappiness?”

The mental health professionals and sociologist have written volumes addressing the problem. Apparently, their efforts are not getting us any closer to the answer. At the risk of being simplistic, I would like to submit one important factor that is often ignored. It can be described in three words, lack of gratitude. We have become a nation of people who expect much and appreciate little. Our want list seems to always exceed our thanksgiving list. We give lip service to gratitude but our actions show that we are not really as grateful for what we have as we are covetous toward the things we see others have and we want. A simple test of our attitude of gratitude would be to time the moments we spend giving God thanks and the time we spend asking God to give us something.

It appears to me that a new word has taken the place of gratitude in our vocabulary. The word is entitlement. A sense of entitlement can be seen in every level of our society. The problem with entitlement is that it leaves no room for gratitude. Why be grateful for something that is rightly yours to begin with?

The point is that we have little for which to be grateful when we assume we are entitled to everything we have. If we are not grateful for what we have, our chances are extremely high that we will not be happy. I am not sure where the following statement originated but it expresses the problem of unhappiness in America: “There is a secret to happiness and it is gratitude. All happy people are grateful, and ungrateful people cannot be happy. We tend to think that it is being unhappy that leads people to complain, but it is truer to say that it is complaining that leads to people becoming unhappy. Become grateful and you will become a much happier person.”

Paul understood this concept when he wrote, “Rejoice always; pray without ceasing; in everything give thanks; for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus” (I Thessalonians 5:6-18 NASB). Paul’s point was that we should always look for the things we can be thankful for in whatever situation we find ourselves. I do not know where you are today. It may be a really difficult time for you. Whatever your situation take a moment and go to God and ask Him to show you all that you have to be grateful for. It will help to replace a frown with a smile.