First Things @ First
It was in the early morning hours a few days ago while reflecting on the number of changes that have come upon our lives since January 1st, 2020 that I became a little anxious about the changes that are no doubt still ahead. I realize that is not the best testimony for a pastor but if you finish this, you will discover things changed before the sun came up.
2020 will be forever etched in my mind as a year when the fear of what might happen overruled the opportunity well within our reach. A year filled with a desire to 'get back to the normal' patterns of the past because they felt better, if not safer than what we were often forced to process in the present or consider about the future. I continue to pray that our response of faith in the Person and promises of God will overwhelm the fear of what might be lost. I pray also that we who have been blessed so faithfully by God do not forfeit what has been provided through much sacrifice and selfless service by those who boldly oppose God.
I don't know what the remaining two months of this year will reveal but if it's anything like what I've experienced in the preceding ten months, it won't be without confusion and conflict. In a word, chaos. The Devil loves chaos and conflict.
And still we are faced with decisions that will determine the path forward for our country and our communities. What an opportunity we have before us to turn toward God in this important time for our nation and return to the principle practices that bring His abundant blessing on our lives! I realize that everyone doesn't see it that way and that is not new. But we must remember that God has always worked through a minority who are willing to humble themselves before Him and choose His ways over their own will. My hope is that there remain enough people from within the ranks of the redeemed who will answer this latest challenge of our adversary, the Devil. First, by aligning our lives to His Word and rising up with courage and boldness to confront the wrong that is consistently being paraded before the public as right.
Similar circumstances have happened before, although in another time and place with a different group of people. Seven-hundred and fifty years before the birth of Christ, Israel responded to God as many are today in our nation. God sent a prophet named Amos to warn God's people of the practices of preferring what was profitable to a particular cause instead of what was proper.
In his fifth message to God's people (chapter 6) the prophet Amos confronts the complacent attitude that determined how many in Israel were living. While this warning was directed primarily at the prominent and powerful of the day, (the leadership) the message did not exclude anyone. God said to the people of Israel, "Woe to you who are at ease in Zion and to those who feel secure on the mountain of Samaria...you who put far away the day of disaster and bring near the seat of violence...woe to those who lie on beds of ivory and stretch themselves out on their couches, who eat lambs from the flock and calves from the stall, who sing idle songs to the sound of the harp and like David invent for themselves instruments of music, who drink wine in bowls and anoint themselves with the finest oils but are not grieved over the ruin of Joseph" (Amos 6:1-6).
The response of not being grieved over the ruin of Joseph speaks to their lack of concern for the destruction of the nation of Israel that would certainly come unless they repented.
Donald Sunukjian shares the following--'The leaders of Samaria considered themselves the notable men of the foremost nation. Their nation was militarily and economically dominant, and they were its most distinguished citizens. All the people of Israel looked to them for guidance and for handling the nation’s affairs. Their sole concern was for their own luxurious lifestyle. They had no concern over Israel's impending destruction."
The 'party' was about to come to an abrupt end for Israel as the next chapter in their lives began under the domination of a foreign nation that God would permit to rule over them, that being Assyria. This next chapter of chastening would prove to be less pleasurable and more uncomfortable. Life for those among the ten tribes of Israel would never get back to normal. Their oppressor would make certain of it. Their lives would forever change around them because they refused to repent and let God change them within.
Amos 6:8 reveals that God made a promise to Himself, which is as binding as it can possibly be that He would destroy the land and send the leaders into exile first because in their pride they had taken credit for their own fortunes and believed their prosperity was produced in their own strength. Consequently, God would deliver them into the hand of a foreigner and everything they held dear would collapse around them. Just as consequential, the people who followed their leadership would suffer too. That should be a reminder for us on the cusp of an important election that choosing leaders is an extremely important task. Reason being, as the leaders go so go the people who chose them.
As one nation under God, (a term that is increasingly difficult for some to say in this country) we have been abundantly blessed by God who establishes nations and also permits their destruction when they disregard His will. We would do well in this year of adjustments to not overlook the daily adjustment of aligning of our lives to the direction of God's Word under the counsel of the Holy Spirit. If we, as God's people refuse, resist, or reject that important daily assignment, we will forfeit our future and the future of our children to those who neither know nor care for God in a similar way as Israel did before us. However, there is a way forward that will prove worthwhile because God is faithful to His Word. The blessing comes as we faithfully follow His Word by first repenting of sin, releasing ourselves fully to His will, asking that His power be revealed to accomplish His will!
In those hours before dawn in quiet reflection I was reminded of God's promise that in our anxious moments the abiding presence of God remains sufficient to secure. He knows. He cares. He controls in precise detail what is going on around me and in me. He sees what I cannot. He sees what would likely overwhelm my mind in the present were I permitted to see the future. I don't have to see it all or know it all because God does. That reminder helps me to resist the urge to control or even contain it all.
That kind of response to God is no guarantee that greater hardship will not soon come. It just reinforces that throughout the challenges of the present and the changes that follow, I must let go of the past of wishing things would get back to normal and permit God to transform my soul daily in renewing my mind that He is present, He is faithful, and He is worthy of our praise! From that secure foundation, I take one day at a time in learning to lean on His everlasting arms!
May the Lord bless you abundantly and may He cause the radiance of His resurrecting power to shine on you continuously.