National Recovery, Part 5
As we hit the economic and financial aspect of national recovery in this message, let’s remind ourselves of what we discovered in week one—that America doesn’t have a resource problem. We have an abuse of resource problem that has manifested itself in messed-up finances.
Because of national debt and individual debt, we can’t have everything we want. We want a great military, 50 cent a gallon gas, cheap health care, free college for everyone, and help for those who need it. We can’t achieve that. At some point, the nation’s going to have to do what you and I do when we’ve overspent and are paying off credit cards—dig out, live on a budget, cut out things, and quit spending. The problem is that our leaders haven’t figured out what to stop spending on, so the deficit just keeps growing, and we just keep on borrowing or printing money to cover it. Oh, this will get fixed, either by elected officials willing to take on some pain at the risk of not being re-elected, or by the system itself, which will even more painfully self-correct. I was in Nicaragua when inflation was running about 13,000%—that’s right. Thirteen thousand percent. They were taking 100 cordoba notes and reprinting 1,00,000 over the top of the 100. That’s an economy self-correcting. You’ve seen what’s going on in Venezuela today, right? Not fun.
What is interesting is that God, when He rescued a people from slavery in Egypt, the Israelites, and prepared them to settle in a new land, laid out how He wanted them to operate financially. And He laid out a fairly straightforward overview. He told them that He planned to bless them, and the way they could tell He was blessing them was that they would be a nation that lent money to other nations and borrowed from no one. Wealth was defined as having the surplus to loan money to others and to be in debt to no one.
That used to be the definition of wealth in America, but no more. Your grandparents didn’t have credit cards. They paid for things in cash. When they didn’t have the cash, they didn’t buy things. Debt used to be a sign of poverty, that you’ve not handled your finances well. Even the poor knew you didn’t borrow because it just makes things worse trying to pay the interest. Stats now show that the more money you have in the US, the more you owe. The thinking has turned completely upside down. Now, you’re considered “wealthy” if you have enough money that you can use it as collateral to get more debt.
And we’ve done a great job in America of getting pretty much everyone in the debt game. A good bit of our economy is fueled by getting people to pay interest. When we ran out of people to get in hock, we thought up the great idea of the subprime mortgages—which actually was a way of charging young and poor people even higher interest rates because they were too poor to afford prime rates. And then the housing market blew up in 2008. And who got hurt? Yep, the young and the poor. We should be proud of ourselves.
Here’s what God knows about debt that we have forgotten. Proverbs. 22:7 says that the rich rule over the poor, and the borrower is slave to the lender. You get that? The borrower is slave to the lender. We did a wonderful thing emancipating blacks in this country in the 1800s. But through debt, we’ve essentially turned everyone in America into slaves. And you know that’s true, don’t you? How do you feel about the credit card company when the bill arrives? You hate it. Sure, you do, because slaves tend to have a bad attitude toward their owners.
But I do believe there is hope. Even as I write this, I am facilitating a class on personal finance with 12 people who want to handle money God’s way and are digging out of debt. And this is happening in pockets all across the land. People getting back to God’s thinking on money and how to handle it.
So, how do we do that as a nation? Well, we need national leaders who will decide it’s time to stop sacrificing the next generation and challenge us to do what’s necessary now. They’ve got to be people who don’t care who gets credit as much as they care about solving the financial mess before it becomes a disaster. We probably need to vote for those people who will require something of us, not just promise stuff to us. Because if you’ve dug out of debt, you know it’s hard, and it’s painful. But you know it’s possible, and you know at the end, you are free. So, vote for the person who promises you a tough time for a season, with a rainbow of peace at the end.
For the full message, check out the video on www.thesurge.cc or grab the podcast.
National Recovery, part 4 - Declaration of Dependence
We’re talking in this series about the steps we can take, as Christians, to move our nation to recovery. And recovery is a funny thing. If you’ve ever known someone trying to recover from surgery, from an addiction, from a tragedy of some kind, you’ve noticed that many times they reach the point where they realize they can’t do it all by themselves, that they need help. Maybe it’s in the form of a nurse, or a sponsor, or a friend, or a higher power. And often, the key to recovery is acknowledging that we can’t and that we need help.
Well, surprise. We’re a church. We happen to think that maybe God is a good chap to reach out to for that help. But here is the problem with that in America today. At the national level in this election, for example, serious talk of God is pretty much absent. It seems we find it difficult to declare our dependence on God, our need for Him. I mean, we made a good run at getting prayer out of schools. You know the old joke, though, right? As long as teachers continue to give tests, there will be prayer in schools. But we seem uncomfortable talking about God and our need for Him. We’re at a place where we are willing to offend God rather than the 8 percent of Americans who think He doesn’t exist.
It wasn’t always like this. Take our nation’s motto, In God We Trust, for example. You know when that became our national motto? No, it wasn’t in the 1700’s. It wasn’t in the 1800s. It was in 1956—just 60 years ago in a joint session of Congress. How things have changed in 60 years. But wait! While our leaders may be skittish about talking about or to God, maybe the general population is less so. Remember the weekend after 9/11? The church and synagogues were absolutely packed out. It’s like we realized that no matter how powerful America is, how rich we are, how awesome we are, we were aware that there are some things beyond our control, and we sought out God. That was just 15 years ago, when masses of Americans thought perhaps it would be a good thing if God involved Himself in the affairs of this country.
Now, let’s look quickly at an Old Testament account of what, in my opinion, could be and should be the posture of our national leaders. You decide for yourself, of course. And it’s something that leaders of America understood not all that long ago. The account is in the 10th Century BC in Israel. Israel at this time is a world power. It has secured its borders, and there is peace all around. Israel is wealthy, and it’s led by Solomon, an extraordinary man, so wise that leaders from around the known world would travel to Jerusalem just to sit at his feet and ask him questions. And in the middle of all this, Solomon completes one of the ancient wonders of the world—the temple. And when he gathers all Israel to join him for its dedication, it gets interesting. He built a raised platform in the middle of the temple so everyone could see and hear him. He gets upon that platform, and instead of a speech drawing attention to himself and what he had accomplished, Solomon does the unthinkable. He kneels and raises his hands to heaven. You can read this for yourself in 2 Chronicles, chapters 6 and 7. And he prays a prayer that went something like this:
“God, please inhabit this temple. And God, please bless your people. And God, when your people are disobedient we want you to discipline us, but when you discipline us and we cry out for help, we want you to hear our prayers. Please don’t abandon us when we sin; please don’t abandon us when we walk away from your law. And God, when we walk away from your law, and we notice the pestilence, and we notice plagues, and we notice that there are enemies that are about to attack us, in those moments move us to repentance. And God, when we repent, hear our prayers from this sacred place and deliver your people and keep your covenant promise with the nation of Israel.”
He declares his dependence on God when everything was just hunky-dory in Israel. Israel really needed nothing specific from God at that point, but Solomon realizes that he is as dependent on God at that moment as he would ever be. And then Solomon prays for you and me.
As for foreigners who do not belong to your people Israel when they come and pray toward this temple, then hear from heaven, your dwelling place. Do whatever the foreigner asks of you so that all the peoples of the earth may know your name and fear you, as do your own people Israel.
After this and probably a lot of celebrating, Solomon heads to bed. And it appears that in the middle of the night, God wakes him up. And God has a response to the prayer Solomon prayed. It’s pretty cool.
I have heard your prayer and have chosen this place for myself as a temple for sacrifices. When I shut up the heavens so that there is no rain, or command locusts to devour the land, or send a plague among my people, 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 I will forgive their sin and will heal their land.
So, when Israel goes off the reservation, and God brings about discipline, just like Solomon asked Him to do, the way out is to have the people humble themselves, declare their dependence on God, and turn from their wicked ways. God promises here that He will hear, forgive them, and heal their land. And we find out that what is true of individuals, and is true of communities, is also true of nations. There is a relationship between a nation’s well-being, a nation being blessed by God, and that nation’s willingness to hear and obey God in its affairs.
Now, this all sounds very strange to us, doesn’t it? But it hasn’t always been strange. In the middle of the Civil War, when no one knew for sure who was going to win that conflict, a Senator from the North, from the state of Iowa, proposed a bill to have a national day of prayer. The Senate passed that resolution, and Abraham Lincoln signed it into law. That resolution is full of the concept of the need for dependence on God:
Whereas, the Senate of the United States, devoutly recognizing the Supreme Authority and just Government of Almighty God, in all the affairs of men and of nations, has, by a resolution, requested the President to designate and set apart a day for National prayer and humiliation.
And whereas it is the duty of nations as well as of men, to own their dependence upon the overruling power of God, to confess their sins and transgressions, in humble sorrow, yet with assured hope that repentance will lead to mercy and pardon and to recognize the sublime truth, announced in the Holy Scriptures and proven by all history that those nations only are blessed whose God is the Lord.
That last little phrase is actually borrowed from Psalm 33. And even though the North was convinced it was in the right regarding the Civil War, it recognized that the need to humbly repent from the sins of the North was necessary to have God bless that nation. That’s a stark contrast to our culture now, which is to believe that we can solve all of America’s problems through education, or legislation, or man’s efforts. We surely don’t need God for anything.
So, I wonder if, when the book of James in the New Testament, says this: God resists the proud, but gives grace to the humble,” whether God also resists the proud nation, the nation that thinks it doesn’t need Him. I wonder if the same grace available to a person who is willing to declare his dependence on God is available to a nation that does the same. Maybe, despite the billions spent on defense, America is bereft of defenses as we’re left to deal with the discipline God allows to fall on those foolish enough to conclude we don’t need Him. Maybe we need to get back to declaring our dependence on Him. Because as 9/11 confirmed, when the rubber hits the road, most of us would really like God to be engaged on our behalf.
At The Surge we love doing things together... that includes writing a blog! Here are a few of our main contributing authors:
Our fearless leader, Dwaine is the lead pastor at The Surge. His experience in counter terrorism with the CIA prepared him for ministry and he likes dogs and babies even more than E does.
E (short for Eric Reiss) is the Wingman at The Surge and likes dogs, music, Mexican food, his wife Karen and his little girl Evangeline... not necessarily in that order.