Land That I Love

img_2408Operation Desert Shield began when I was a pre-teen. We had just moved back to the States the year before, and I was happy to be living in the U.S. again. One product of the Gulf War was a surge in patriotism, similar to the patriotism expressed in the aftermath of 9/11. I remember I had several American flag t-shirts and an American flag pin. Yellow ribbons were popping up all over the place and you could not escape the song, “God Bless the U.S.A.” (It was so overplayed that, to this day, I can’t stand that song! – Cue the haters! :-))

But it was that period of my life that I realized, as the song says, that I’m proud to be an American. And ever since then, I’ve considered myself to be a patriotic person. Independence Day is one of my favorite holidays. I miss singing in patriotic productions – the Salute to the Armed Forces was one of my favorites! I got goose bumps during President Whitmore’s speech in the film, Independence Day, I tear up in movies like The Patriot, and I felt inspired walking through the Reagan Presidential Library. Since the early 90’s, there have been two July 4th’s where I was out of the country, and it felt bizarre to not celebrate with a BBQ and fireworks.

All this to say, I love my country! And the divide I see in it right now – amplified by this election season – breaks my heart. Even Christians are divided over what’s right, who’s wrong, and how we should respond regarding various issues. The thing is, this is nothing new. Americans were divided over the Vietnam War. Racial tensions erupted in the 60’s in both violent and non-violent protest. During the Cold War, Americans were fearful of nuclear attack, and of each other: McCarthyism fostered distrust, false accusations, and persecution. The Bible says, “What has been will be again, what has been done will be done again; there is nothing new under the sun.” (Ecclesiastes 1:9, NLT.) Even a cursory study of history will show you how true that statement is.

As much as I love this country, for years I have thought that, in the End Times, the United States of America would be no more. My thinking has been that there is no mention of a nation standing against a one-world government or against a leader (anti-Christ) who would rule us all, and I’m certain that the United States I know and love would not willingly hand over our power to another. My pastor has preached several sermons on the End Times and floated another theory that the U.S. will be the new Babylon. Either way, the United States of America as we know it will change – radically. And with the way things are going, this could very well happen in my lifetime.

When I’m feeling overwhelmed by all of this, my initial, extreme response is fear, sorrow, hopelessness, anger, and a desire to resist ANY change because of what it might signify. But I have to remind myself that, as much as I love the U.S., my TRUE allegiance is to Christ, to the Kingdom of Heaven.

The verse that keeps coming to mind is Psalm 20:7, “Some trust in chariots and some in horses, but we trust in the name of the Lord our God.” Horses and chariots signified wealth, power, and military might, which we have had in the U.S. for as long as I’ve been alive. So, you could even say, “Some trust in the United States of America, but I trust in the Lord my God.”

The next President is not going to save us; neither Republicans, nor Democrats can save us; less federal debt, or a stronger military, or renewable energy will not save us. The only one who can and will save us is Jesus Christ!

The other extreme I lean towards is “why bother?” Why vote if I legit can’t get behind ANY of the candidates?! Why dig my heels in over morality issues when the pendulum has swung so far to the side of moral relativism – “You do you.” (As long as “you” doesn’t interfere with “me do me,” do whatever you think is right, or whatever our current culture decides is right.)

And I know that “why bother” is not a good attitude to have. In spite of all our problems, there is a lot of good. It truly is a privilege to live in this great country and, as citizens, it is our responsibility to participate, to give back. (Citizenship Rights and Responsibilities)

So what can we do when we’re feeling overwhelmed by political and social turbulence?

  1. Pray, pray, and pray some more!
    • …Pray this way for kings and all who are in authority… (I Tim. 2:1-3);
    • Then if my people…will humble themselves and pray… (2 Chron. 7:14);
    • …Pray for those who persecute you!… (Matt. 5:43-48).
  2. Speak the truth in love – LOVE being the operative word.
    • Your love for one another will prove…you are my disciples. (John 13:35);
    • …Instead, we will speak the truth in love… (Eph. 4:14-16);
    • …forgive anyone who offends you… (Col. 3:13);
    • …Be careful to live properly among your unbelieving neighbors… (I Peter 2:11-12). 
  3. Remember that we are “temporary residents and foreigners.”
    • But we are citizens of heaven, where the Lord Jesus Christ lives… (Phil. 3:20);
    • Don’t store up treasures here on earth…Store your treasures in heaven… (Matt. 6:19-21);
    • …And the world hates them because they do not belong to the world… (John 17:13-19);
    • …For you died to this life, and your real life is hidden with Christ… (Col. 3:1-4).
  4. Remember that our hope is in Christ alone.
    • …having destroyed every ruler and authority and power. For Christ must reign until he humbles all his enemies beneath his feet… (I Cor. 15:24-28);
    • …So we don’t look at the troubles we can see now; rather, we fix our gaze on things that cannot be seen… (2 Cor. 4:16-18);
    • I pray that God, the source of hope, will fill you completely with joy and peace… (Rom. 15:13);
    • …But take heart, because I have overcome the world. (John 16:33).

These are things I need to remember when I’m feeling especially distressed over the deluge of “bad news.” What about you? How do you navigate the choppy waters of this world? How do you keep your focus on our eternal future without neglecting your earthly responsibilities?

The Hunt

I watched as my three-year-old nephew gathered Easter eggs. He knew there was chocolate in those brightly-colored, plastic eggs, so after he had filled his bucket about a quarter of the way, he was ready to go inside and devour the spoils of the hunt.

What he didn’t realize was that he had only found a small portion of timg_2288he eggs, and if he would just keep searching, he would be able to fill his bucket to overflowing!

But he had given up. Content with the chocolate in the meager portion of eggs “hidden” in plain sight, he wasn’t prepared for the hard work of searching for the more expertly hidden eggs, thereby missing out on an even greater portion of chocolate.

How often do we adults do the same with God? Matthew 7:7 tells us to keep asking, to keep seeking, and to keep knocking. Matthew 13:45-46 likens the Kingdom of Heaven to a costly pearl. And the Apostle Paul tells us in Philippians 3:8 that everything is worthless compared to the infinite value of knowing Christ.

Yet how often do we content ourselves with what we know about God – unprepared to put in the effort of continually seeking him. Unwilling to give up what we do have in order to obtain that pearl of great price. Uneasy about counting everything as loss when compared to knowing Christ.

We often don’t even realize the great reward that awaits us if we would but keep searching – greater wisdom, increased favor, a more intimate relationship with God, et cetera, et cetera, et cetera.

When it comes to my faith, I do not ever want to become content with where I am. I want to keep hunting so I do not miss out on the fullness of God!

 

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