Monday, January 23, 2017

Hope - Part 1

Monday, January 23, 2017
But in spite of this there is still hope for Israel.  Ezra 10:2b(NLT)
I couldn’t begin to estimate the number of times I’ve watched a TV episode where a person on a gurney in a hospital, or at an accident scene, ceased to breathe, and the doctor or the heroic EMS calls for the paddles, yells Charging, bellows Clear, then takes the paddle-like electrodes, places them on the patient's chest, pulls the trigger, and POW! – the body lifts off the table like a space shuttle.  In a moment you hear:  got a heartbeat.  A life is restored; death is cheated; they call it revival!
Revival is only needed when death is detected.  It is so in the spiritual world, as the natural world – deadness is the opposite of life.  Ezra detected the spiritual deadness of God's people.  Years before Jeremiah and Ezekiel had pleaded with God's people to get right with the Lord.  All the pleading was to no avail.  The people fell in deadness spiritually; they were carried away physically into Babylon (Iraq).  Later it happened again with the Persians (Iran). 
In every case it was a matter of spiritual deadness.  The people of God paid only cursory attention to serving their God.  They kept the rituals going, but the sap of vital worship had long ago dried up in God's vineyard.  Later Jesus encountered the same conditions and remembered the prophet Ezekiel when he mourned a wayward people:
These people honor me with their lips, but their hearts are far from me.  Matthew 15:8(NLT)
The captivities had the desired effect.  With the loosening of political ties, the reform of Nehemiah made it easier for some of the Jews to return to Jerusalem and rebuild the walls of the city, and the temple of God. 
Under Nehemiah's leadership the people responded with enthusiasm in the rebuilding of Zion’s walls.  However, the work stopped; they could go no further because spiritual deadness had (once again) set-in. 
Ezra was of the priestly line of Aaron. When he arrived on the scene, he surveyed what had happened during the reclaiming of the land.  As an expediency, the men had taken wives of the pagan cultures.  It was easier to get the land back when you were married into the family.  In their desire to hasten along the project of reclamation, the people of God had adopted the world's ways.  In their hope of returning to greatness as the people of God, they had sinned greatly against the very One they were supposed to serve.
There is a parallel today in the land of one nation under God.  Having been birthed in the cradle of Christian righteousness, our beloved America has become Godless.  We've gone from one nation under the blessing of God, to the politically correct, atheist-acknowledging nation under the judgment of God.  We are no better than ancient Israel.  They married women to gain back the lands they thought was their spiritual heritage.  We've sold our spiritual heritage to be at one with the world.  They (at least) thought they were doing right – we know, and don’t seem to care, that what we're doing is wrong! 
The church in America is becoming little more than a collection of social clubs where people can gather in support groups, where our lack of responsibility for sin can be affirmed, and we can all claim victim status.  Lost is the weeping, genuine mourning and confessing of sin.  And as a result of our sin, we are reaping an incredible whirlwind of death. 
Like the patient who died on the gurney there is a resuscitation needed in America's churches – a revival from the deadness of religion that comes no closer to the hem of God's garment than a child with a crayon competes with a computer.
How shall we be revived from the spiritual deadness?  Look to the revival of Ezra:
But in spite of this there is still hope for Israel.  Ezra 10:2b(NLT)
The hope for America starts with the church, AND the repentance God calls for in any age.  What is repentance?  It is more than just the weeping of Ezra and the people.  It is in turning from our sins (2 Chronicles 7.14).  Donald Grey Barnhouse tells of the Sunday School teacher who asked her class what was meant by the word repentance.  A little boy put up his hand and said, It is being sorry for your sins.  A little girl also raised her hand and said, It is being sorry enough to quit.
In our understanding, repentance is simply taking responsibility for your own actions.  Repentance is like the two electrodes of the defibrillator machine the doctor uses to shock the heart back to life.  One paddle is your Godly sorrow for sin; the other paddle is your promise to God to quit those sins with His help.

Is it too late for America? 

Have we gone too far?  Is there hope?  Yes, there is definitely hope, and that hope has a name - Jesus
While there is life and breath there is hope.  A visitor at a fishing dock asked an old fisherman who was sitting there:  If I were to fall into this water, would I drown?  The old salt sighed a bit then replied: 
Nope – fallin' in the water don't drown nobody; it's stayin' there what drowns ya.

For You Today

Over the next week or so we will look at using the resuscitation paddles on what’s left of the corpse of America’s churches.  Now that may be a graphic and not-too-pretty thought this morning, but it’s better than the alternative of what comes after a few nights in the hospital morgue! 
There is yet hope for America, and it lies within the churches’ response to her Lord to bring that hope to the surface.
You chew on that as you hit the Rocky Road…have a blessed day!

[i] Title image: Russell Brownworth (own work)

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