I remember a time when it seemed quite obvious to me that God was what I wanted. I understood what Pascal meant by the God-shaped vacuum in my heart. And I knew Saint Augustine's words to be true: our hearts are restless until they find their rest in Him. But what I had grasped cognitively, I had not grasped practically; the hole seemed only partially filled and my heart was not at rest. I wanted to want God. I knew it was God that I ultimately wanted, and yet I was sickened with the suspicion that I had not found Him fully because I didn't want Him enough. And so I wrestled: Do I really believe? Do I fully trust in Christ's atonement? Am I truly sorry for my sins? Am I seeking with all my heart? How can I make myself want God more?
"It is, in a way, an odd thing to honor those who died in defense of our country, in defense of us, in wars afar away. The imagination plays a trick. We see these soldiers in our mind as old and wise. We see them as something like the Founding Fathers, grave and gray-haired. But most of them were boys when they died, and they gave up two lives, the one they were living and the one they would have lived. When they died, they gave up their chance to be husbands and fathers and grandfathers. They gave up their chance to be revered old men. They gave up everything for our country, for us. And all we can do is remember." - Ronald Reagan
This Saturday is Veterans Day. Formerly known as Armistice Day, it was originally instituted to commemorate the 1918 cease fire agreement that ended World War I. In November of 1919, President Woodrow Wilson issued the following proclamation:
"...To us in America, the reflections of Armistice Day will be filled with solemn pride in the heroism of those who died in the country's service and with gratitude for the victory, both because of the thing from which it has freed us and because of the opportunity it has given America to show her sympathy with peace and justice in the councils of the nation."
President Calvin Coolidge dedicated Armistice Day "to the cause of world peace." However after World War II the significance of this day changed. On May 24, 1954 congress officially renamed the holiday Veterans Day. Today, Veterans Day is set aside to honor United States military personnel who have fought gallantly in all wars, not just World War I. It is a day dedicated to the 25 million Americans who wear the proud title of veteran.
On Veterans Day we remember the men and women of our Armed Forces through the centuries who have come together to fight for a common cause. They’ve defended America when our borders, our people and our way of life have been threatened. They are ordinary people who have been placed in extraordinary circumstances. Veterans are people who know the true meaning of courage. From the battles of Lexington and Concord – where the blood of the first American patriots was spilt – to the trenches of Europe and the desert sands of Iraq, our soldiers have put their lives on the line for liberty.
Now, more than ever, our troops need your support and encouragement. Gone are the days of the ticker-tape parades that welcomed our troops home from battle. Media coverage of the war in Iraq focuses more on the death toll than the heroic accomplishments of our men and women in uniform. To make matters worse, highly publicized incidents like the abuse at Abu Ghraib prison have cast a shadow of disparagement over our military. This Veterans Day remember to say thank you to those who have served our nation in the armed forces. Also, please remember to pray for the brave men and women who are still deployed in Iraq, Afghanistan and elsewhere.
By many reckonings, it appears to be the best of times in America: We enjoy a robust economy, reinforced by continually advancing technologies. At least one computer in every home, and a personal telephone on almost everyone’s belt. People are buying their 3rd and 4th cars. Our military is the most feared throughout the world. Indeed, in many ways, it seems like the best of times.
Judgment on the Horizon?
However, let’s assess the State of the Union in the mirror of God’s Word. Homosexuality is accepted as simply “an alternative lifestyle.” We murder babies that are socially inconvenient. We change marriage partners like a fashion statement. We have abandoned the sanctity of commitments in our families and in our businesses. Immorality and deceit have come to characterize the highest offices in our land; our politics have condoned and covered up more murders than we dare list. Our public enterprises have been prostituted to the convenience of the elite. Our mainline media takes pride in forming public opinion rather than informing it, which had been its sacred role in a representative republic. Our culture has disconnected character from destiny. Our entertainments celebrate adultery, fornication, violence, aberrant sexual practices and every imaginable form of evil. We have become the primary exporters of everything that God abhors.
One of the major theological mysteries is why hasn’t God judged America? The parallels in Bible (Cf. Hosea 4-14; Isaiah 5; et al) would suggest that it is long overdue. The only ostensible answer is God’s commitment in Genesis 12:2-3, in which He promises Abraham that He “will bless them that bless thee, and curse them that curseth thee.” It may well be that America has been spared-so far-due to its support of the nation of Israel. But that, too, may be short lived...
Conspicuous by Its Absence?
One of the mysteries in the Biblical prophetic scenario, is where does America appear?
The final battle-the Battle of Armageddon-is a four-power conflict: triggered by the “Kings of the South” (Egypt?), responded to by the “Kings of the North” (Syria? Russia? ...various opinions), and dominated by a Western Confederacy (The Antichrist, et al) until the “Kings of the East” are drawn in.
Where is the United States? There are many conjectures among scholars. Some assume that we will ultimately be somehow associated with the Western Confederacy. The continuing erosion of our constitutional republic, plus the increasing move toward a police state to “fight terrorism,” seems consistent with the growing tide toward a global government.
Others assume that America simply will not be a major player at that time. As variations of this second view, some suggest that America will have become economically and militarily less relevant by then. Others (disturbed by the hint in Ezekiel 39:6), fear that we may have been the subject of a major nuclear exchange over the growing tensions in the Middle East.
Life Cycle of Nations
As we study the rise and fall of nations, there is a disturbing sequence throughout history. The sequence of nations, as observed by Alexander Tyler, 1750, follows a predictable pattern “from bondage to spiritual faith; from spiritual faith to great courage; from courage to liberty; from liberty to abundance; from abundance to complacency; from complacency to apathy; from apathy to dependency; from dependence back again into bondage." It is hard to deny that we may well be at the zenith of that sequence. If you ask the average American what is the biggest problem facing our nation, Is it ignorance or apathy? He will likely answer, “I don’t know and I don’t care!”
It remains to be seen whether the wake-up call of September 11, 2001, will prove to be more effective than simply a brief spasm of patriotism, or whether it may lead to a more serious revival and return to our heritage. In any case, we each need to prepare and to rise to the opportunities that present themselves for a spiritual revival and we must begin with ourselves. God has declared an immutable principle:
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 will I hear from heaven, forgive their sin, and heal their land. 2 Chronicles 7:14
Notice that this isn’t addressed to the Congress, or the Administration, or to the pagan left. It is addressed to His people, who are called by His name. It is the members of the Body of Christ that are standing in the way of what God would prefer to do in our land. A revival needs to begin with us.