God Bless America?

Listen to the podcast of this post by clicking on the player below, and you can also subscribe on AppleSpotify, or Audible. 

On this 4th of July weekend, is it right for us to pray for God’s blessing on America? I have blogged before about being careful with our terms that are biblical, unbiblical, or non-biblical. Clearly, the phrase “God bless America” is non-biblical—that is, this phrase doesn’t explicitly appear in the Scripture. But are there principles in the Bible that can make that phrase biblical? 

Yes, I believe so IF we recognize why we have been blessed by God. 

In God’s perfect timing, the next psalm in our series looking at the Selahs in the Psalms is one that addresses this topic. 

Notice the very first word in Psalm 87 is the personal pronoun “He.” There is an assumption the sons of Korah make that their readers will know that “He” is The Creator and Sustainer of the Universe. In fact, they see God as the Prime Mover in this psalm, putting His words at the very middle of the psalm (v. 4). 

Just before these quotation marks, we are invited to Selah—pause and carefully listen to God. He announces heavenly citizenship for age-old enemies of Israel: Rehab, Babylon, Philistia, Tyre, Cush. Peoples from all of these nations are identified as: “those who acknowledge Me” and three times He says they are “born in Zion” (vv. 4-6). 

God desires that none should perish. He wants people from every nation, tribe, and language to enjoy His presence forever in the eternal Zion. 

The sons of Korah remind us of just how blessed Zion truly is (vv. 1-3) and how God establishes all who have Zion citizenship (v. 5). God does this so that all people will see God’s blessing on those people who acknowledge Him as their Lord and King. 

So let’s return to my earlier question: Is it right and biblical for Christians to pray for God to bless America? 

Let me ask it another way: Has God blessed America? I believe He has and we should be eternally grateful. I believe this nation was founded on biblical principles, and recognized as a place where people could have the freedom to worship God.

Will God continue to bless America? Psalm 87 says the blessing will last only as long as we Americans acknowledge, “All my fountains are in You” (v. 7). This is a call for us to continually recognize God as our Foundation and Source. We also have to remember that the blessing is only to us so that it can flow through us to all peoples, languages, and tribes. 

The blessing stops when we dig our own wells, or we try to hoard the blessing. 

There are two phrases in this psalm that stand out to me as prophetic. 

  1. Selah (listen to this) and then “I will record” (vv. 3-4) 
  2. The Lord will write in the register” (stop to celebrate) Selah (v. 6)

God keeps perfect records of those who are citizens of Zion because they have acknowledged Jesus as the One who paid the price for their sins to be forgiven. So when John gives us a glimpse of the eternal Zion, he tells us about the rejoicing over those who are there “from every tribe and language and people and nation” (Revelation 5:9-10, 7:9-10, 21:22-27). 

Just as Revelation records spontaneous praise to God, the sons of Korah build in those Selah pauses to worship too:

  • Glorious things are said of God—praise Him! 
  • He has blessed us by His presence in our midst—praise Him! 
  • People from all tribes are entering Zion—praise Him! 

May God continue to bless America so that we can use those blessings to tell the world about His love as we invite them into a personal relationship with Jesus! 

If you’ve missed any of the messages in our Selah series, you can find the full list by clicking here.

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Links & Quotes

The seed your weakened hand is sowing
May ripen to a harvest broad,
Which yet may help, without your knowing,
To fill the granaries of God! —Margaret J. Prescott

My friend and podcast partner Greg Heeres talked about growing and learning through change. You can check out the rest of this episode of The Craig And Greg Show here.

Sometimes the prophetic language in the Bible can be a bit confusing. Like the phrase: “A time, times, and half a time.” Here is how Dr. Henry Halley unpacks this—

“It denotes the duration of the other horn of the fourth beast (Daniel 7:25). It denotes the period from Daniel to the time of the end (Daniel 12:6–7). It is used in Revelation 12:14 as identical to 42 months and to 1260 days (Revelation 11:2–3; 12:6, 14; 13:5), the period of time the Holy City was trampled, the two witnesses prophesied, the woman was in the wilderness, and the revived beast was on the throne. 

“The word ‘time,’ in the phrase ‘a time, times, and half a time’ is generally taken to mean year; the phrase thus means three and a half years, which is 42 months, or 1260 days. 

“By some, this is taken to refer to a literal three and a half years. Others, on the year-day interpretation (Numbers 14:34; Ezra 4:6), take it to be a period of 1260 years. Still others look upon the figures, not as defining time limits or periods, but as being symbolic: 7 Is the symbol of completeness, while three and a half, which is half of 7, represents incompleteness—that is, the reign of evil will be only temporary.” —Halley’s Study Bible (check out all of the biblical references in this quote by clicking here)

“Ambivalence toward the Law of God is troubling. Theologians discard the Law, and pastors either reject or neglect it. Jesus said that keeping and teaching the Law of God was a mark of Kingdom greatness (Matthew 5:17-19). Apparently that’s not a goal many of us aspire to. He also said that when the Law of God is neglected, love grows cold (Matthew 12:24). The ubiquitous lack of love in our world today is undoubtedly related to our failure to teach and live according to the Law of God. … 

“Pastors have three main resources for the work and business of ministry: The Word of God, prayer, and their personal example (Acts 6:4; 1 Peter 5:1-3). If any of these fails, their ministry will as well. Especially must pastors be seen to be men zealous for the Law of God, to obey all the counsel of the Lord in His Word and to resist the devil and overcome every temptation. Jesus did. Paul did. John said this is the way love flourishes (1 John 5:1-3). Throughout this generation, failures of obedience on the part of highly visible pastors have contributed to the Church’s becoming an object of scorn by many unbelievers, while believers have been largely silent about their failings. We must be diligent in obeying Christ if we would teach others to do so and thus fulfill our calling to the Kingdom and glory of God.” —T.M. Moore

New wide-angle X-ray scattering (WAXS) analysis dates the Shroud of Turin to the first century.

Not all viruses need to be eliminated. A study has discovered 5500 new RNA viruses on the ocean, finding “an entire phylum, the Taraviricota . . . found all over the oceans, which suggests they’re ecologically important.” The Creator knew what He was doing!

Our Blessed Hope

Listen to the podcast of this post by clicking on the player below, and you can also subscribe on AppleSpotify, or Audible. 

As we wrap up our series looking at our foundational belief statements, I want to combine the last four statements together, not only because they all cover the same theme of end-times events, but also because these statements should give every Christian hope! 

  • “Hope is the power of being cheerful in circumstances which we know to be desperate.” —G.K. Chesterton 
  • “One of the great enemies of hope is forgetting God’s promises.” —John Piper 
  • “Hope is not wishful thinking; it’s well-founded believing!” —Craig T. Owens 

Christians have a fantastic, unshakable, blessed hope on which we can stand not only secure but joyful! 

Foundational truth #13: “The resurrection of those who have fallen asleep in Christ and their translation together with those who are alive and remain unto the coming of the Lord is the imminent and blessed hope of the church.” 

This blessed hope in the future helps us live with joy today! Knowing that death has been defeated and Jesus will come back to take us home with Him should fuel us to say “no” to the temporary pleasures of sin, and live such godly lives that it turns others’ eyes to Jesus (Titus 2:11-14; 1 Corinthians 15:51-52; 1 Thessalonians 4:16-17). 

Foundational truth #14: “The second coming of Christ includes the rapture of the saints, which is our blessed hope, followed by the visible return of Christ with His saints to reign on earth for one thousand years.” 

Sometimes you will hear Christians talk about the “rapture” of the Church. Although this word itself isn’t in the Bible, the Greek word harpazo in 1 Thessalonians 4:17 means “catching up.” It also means “to eagerly claim for one’s self,” which reminds me that Jesus is thrilled to bring His Bride home to be with Him forever! After the Church has been caught up to Heaven, a period of tribulation will plague the earth, followed by Christ’s Second Coming and His millennial reign (Zechariah 14:4-5; Revelation 19:11-15; 20:1-10). 

Foundational truth #15: “There will be a final judgment in which the wicked dead will be raised and judged according to their works. Whosoever is not found written in the Book of Life, together with the devil and his angels, the beast and the false prophet, will be consigned to the everlasting punishment in the lake which burns with fire and brimstone, which is the second death.” 

Christians have no fear of the second (or final) death because our names are written in the Book of Life (Luke 12:4-6; Revelation 20:11-15). Not only is there judgment for the wicked, but there will be rewards for the righteous. 

Foundational truth #16: “In keeping with His promise we are looking forward to a new heaven and a new earth, where righteousness dwells” (2 Peter 3:13). Revelation 21-22 give us a small glimpse of our eternal home. 

In light of these truths, how should Christians live while still on earth? I think there are three ways we should live: 

  1. Live circumspectly
  2. Live on-mission
  3. Live unafraid

(see Ephesians 5:15; Matthew 28:18-20; Proverbs 24:11-12; Jude 1:20-25) 

With this blessed hope of the Second Coming of Jesus and our security in knowing we will remain with Him forever, let’s tell everyone we can how they too can know what it is to live with this hope in their heart. 

If you’ve missed any of the messages in our series exploring our foundational beliefs, you can access the full list by clicking here. 

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Be Ready

…430 years, to the very day… (Exodus 12:41). 

The end of all things is near. Therefore be alert and of a sober mind so that you may pray. (1 Peter 4:7)

The Old Testament picture of slavery in Egypt is a picture of slavery to sin, with the Passover being the moment of salvation. 

But it is also a picture of the times in which we now live—people rely on their gods, not listening to the Word of God; a time that people live pleasing themselves, “living in debauchery, lust, drunkenness, orgies, carousing and detestable idolatry”; a time that the Judge is approaching and people are ignorant or apathetic about His arrival (see 1 Peter 4:1-6). 

The application of the blood of the sacrificial Passover lamb is a one-time choice (salvation), but the remembrance and lifestyle application is a series of ongoing, daily, even moment-by-moment choices. 

People will think it strange that Christians don’t join them in their worldly-focused lifestyle, but we must be alert and sober and prayerful. The Day is coming when God will fulfill everything “to the very day”—and no one can buy or bargain another moment. 

When God’s clock strikes, we must be ready! 

If you, dear Christian, are ready for The Day of the Lord’s appearing, then I plead with you to also be actively telling others to be ready to meet their King as well. May they be able to meet the very day with rejoicing because their beloved Savior has arrived, not with quaking fear because the All-Righteous Judge has arrived.

Poetry Saturday—Every Fallen Soul

Every fallen soul, by sinning,
Merits everlasting pain;
But Thy love without beginning,
Has redeem’d the world again:
Countless millions
Shall in life, through Jesus reign.

Pause, my soul, adore and wonder:
Ask, “Oh, why such love to me?” 
Grace hath put me in the number
Of the Saviour’s family:
Hallelujah!
Thanks, eternal thanks to Thee!

Since that love had no beginning,
And shall never, never cease;
Keep, oh, keep me, Lord, from sinning;
Guide me in the way of peace:
Make me walk in
All the paths of holiness.

When I quit this feeble mansion,
And my soul returns to Thee,
Let the power of Thy ascension
Manifest itself in me;
Through Thy Spirit,
Give the final victory.

When the angel sounds the trumpet;
When my soul and body join;
When my Saviour comes to judgment,
Bright in majesty divine,
Let me triumph
In Thy righteousness as mine. —Anonymous

Jesus Prepares Us For The Path

In His final week of ministry leading up to the Cross, Jesus got the most out of every minute He had. 

After a busy Monday where He cleared the temple, Jesus went back to Bethany, where He spent the night, only to return to the same temple courts Tuesday morning to teach His disciples. 

Tuesday is a preparation day. This is His last day in public before His trial and crucifixion and He has many final words to impart to His followers. Much of His teaching comes in response to the increasing onslaught from the religious leadership, who are desperately trying to find a way to silence Him once and for all.

It’s important to note that Jesus doesn’t prepare the path for us, but He prepares us for the path. 

Jesus prepares us for… 

1. OPPOSITION

Not only did Jesus face opposition, but He told His followers that we would too (see Matthew 5:11; 10:17-22). Indeed as Jesus sat in the temple courts teaching on this Tuesday, group after group of religious leaders attacked Him (Matthew 21:23; 22:15, 23, 34-35). There are many lessons we can learn, but here are a few important takeaways: 

    • Answer entrapping questions with a question of your own. 
    • You don’t have to answer everything people ask you.  
    • Either-or questions probably need a both-and answer. 
    • The better we know the Scriptures, the better we can know those both-and answers.
    • Consider the source of the questioner. 
    • We shouldn’t have an unhealthy obsession with nonessential things. 
    • Love fulfills the law. 
    • When we teach in love, some people will finally get it.

2. DAILY LIVING

Between all of the entrapping questions, Jesus taught some valuable lessons. 

    • The power of faith-filled prayer
    • Obedience to God is valuable whenever it happens and in whomever it occurs 
    • We are only stewards of God’s resources 
    • The ugliness of hypocrisy

3. END TIMES EVENTS

Jesus doesn’t want us to be surprised, so He tells us upfront what is coming. Some of what He teaches here would have partial fulfillment in about 30 years when the Romans besieged Jerusalem, but the ultimate fulfillment is still to come—Matthew 24-25; Mark 13; Luke 21. 

Christ’s passionate journey was out of love for us. Which means everything He taught us was for our benefit. To honor Him, we need to know the Scriptures and God’s power (Matthew 22:29). 

So we study the Word of God to get to know the God of the Word. Keeping our eyes on Jesus will keep us prepared for the path ahead of us, no matter how rough it is. 

Thursdays With Oswald—Jeremiah 8

Oswald ChambersThis is a weekly series with things I’m reading and pondering from Oswald Chambers. You can read the original seed thought here, or type “Thursdays With Oswald” in the search box to read more entries.

Jeremiah 8

[These are notes from Oswald Chambers’ lecture on Jeremiah 8.] 

     Wherever I banish them, all the survivors of this evil nation will prefer death to life (Jeremiah 8:3). 

     Our Lord Jesus used these burning words, “The worms that eat them do not die, and the fire is not quenched,” [Mark 9:44, 46, 48] in reference to the condition of people who deprive themselves of right judgment by persistently going wrong (see also 2 Thessalonians 2:11). In the prophecies of Jeremiah we have the same great revelation, that eternal issues are involved in temporal living, but in a different connection. If we are going to remain true disciples of Jesus Christ, we will have to remain alien to the day we live in.

     Such terrible suggestions as these verses contain [verses 1-3] serve as a very wholesome awakening, and bring men to the understanding of the need of Redemption. …  

     The subject of the Second Coming is the one the average unholy Christian cannot stand, and the tendency is to listen, as the people did in Jeremiah’s day, to the false prophets (2 Peter 3:3-6). …  

     The modern scholar pretends to be expounding the Word of God, but in reality he is writing with a lying pen, he builds his wisdom out of his own rationalism, and takes out of the law of God only what agrees with it. …  

     Paul says the same to Timothy—“For the time will come when men will not put up with sound doctrine. Instead, to suit their own desires, they will gather around them a great number of teachers you say what their itching ears want to hear” (2 Timothy 4:3). 

     They dress the wound of My people as though it were not serious. “Peace, peace,” they say, when there is no peace (Jeremiah 8:11). That is the perpetual peril at all times, relieving present pain by a temporal fictitious cure, when what is needed for an effectual cure is a surgical operation. …  

     All Christians are not Christian workers, but those who are called to be workers need the courage of the Holy Ghost to face life from God’s standpoint. We have to keep our hearts and minds faced with the awful condition of human life apart from the Cross of Christ. We must get into our souls the iron of God which makes us strong enough to present Jesus Christ to men. …  

     The majority of us know nothing about shame and repentance, consequently we drift from the central point because we more easily get into sympathy with men than with God, and that is slander against God. To save the world cost Jesus Christ His life, and if we teach that the world can be saved in any other way we slander God.

From Notes On Jeremiah

Oh God, help us—all of us, but especially Your workers—to preach sound doctrine that would save lost people from an eternal Hell. 

12 Quotes From “Notes On Isaiah”

Oswald Chambers always has more insights than I can possibly share with others: he is a true treasure-trove of biblical illumination! Check out my review of his Notes On Isaiah by clicking here. Below are a few shorter quotes from this book. If you would like to read some longer passages, check out my weekly series called Thursdays With Oswald. 

“What we are apt to call interruptions are God’s way of introducing us to a new knowledge of Himself.” 

“The supernatural power of satan never reasons, it appeals to man’s superstition, not to his conscience.”

“I have no right to have anything less than the hope and the belief of Jesus Christ with regard to the worst and most hopeless of men.” 

“We have to keep the call of God alive, and continually recall to our minds what we are here for. … There is no danger of spiritual retrogression if we will keep in mind the times, one or more, when the Spirit of God has touched us.” 

“God’s dates are not man’s. God seems to pay no attention to our calendars; He has a calendar of His own in which He suddenly surprises a man in the midst of his days. Leave room for God. We expect God only on special days, in particular meetings; that is not God’s way. He comes suddenly, at midnight or at noonday.” 

“We are to be in the world while not of it, and to denounce by lip and life the things that are wrong.” 

“The mark of the beast is already here, and it will grow clearer before the man of sin is revealed (see 2 Thessalonians). It is slighting no one to say that prosperity in this order of things along with godliness is impossible, and growingly more impossible.” 

“Undisciplined imagination is the greatest disturber not only of growth in grace, but of spiritual sanity [Isaiah 26:3].” 

“Conscience does not shout in thunderclaps, you can easily drown its record, but it goes on, and if you do not heed it for a while because of sensational sinning, as soon as the sensation exhausts itself, back comes the monotonous tick, tick, that nearly drives a man mad. God will never make us listen to Him; we have to will to listen.” 

“Belief in God will always manifest itself in right principles, but if you put principles first you will end in disbelief in God.” 

“The only place of confidence is personal trust in God and patient waiting for Him. … To trust in the goodness of God is not enough, it is not eternal and abiding; we have to trust God Who is infinitely more than goodness.” 

“If in the face of all the appeals of common sense you remain true to God, that is the ‘proof of your faith’ which will be found to the glory of God.” 

Looking Ahead To The Second Advent

Celebrating Advent means both looking back at Christ’s First Advent in Bethlehem and looking ahead to His Second Advent at the end of time. Faith in the First Advent fuels hope in the Second Advent. Let’s take a look at the events leading up to and surrounding Christ’s Second Advent to help us appreciate what was begun at His First Advent.

Overarching all of the end times events is a Christian’s blessed hope: “The resurrection of those who have fallen asleep in Christ and their translation together with those who are alive and remain unto the coming of the Lord is the imminent and blessed hope of the church.”

The word “rapture” doesn’t appear in Scripture, but we get this word from the Latin word raptu, which comes from the Greek word harpazo. We first see it when Philip is “caught away” from the Ethiopian’s presence in the desert (Acts 8:39). This is the same word Paul uses when he says that Christians will be “caught up” to meet Christ in the air (see 1 Thessalonians 4:13-17).

Note that the rapture of the Church is not the Second Coming of Christ. His Second Coming takes place at the end of the period known as the Tribulation when Jesus returns to earth as a conquering King and establishes His Millennial Reign on earth (Revelation 19:11-16; 20:1-4).

During Christ’s Millennial Reign, the devil and his cohorts are locked up until the end of the 1000-year reign and are allowed to tempt people one final time. The devil will succeed in tempting quite a few people, as he will once again muster a sizable army to attack Christ and His followers. This decisive battle will culminate in the final judgment.

“There will be a final judgment in which the wicked dead will be raised and judged according to their works. Whosoever is not found written in the Book of Life, together with the devil and his angels, the beast and the false prophet, will be consigned to the everlasting punishment in the lake of fire” (Revelation 20:11-15).

After this will come the New Heavens and New Earth where Christians will commune with God for ever and ever (Revelation 21:1-5, 22-27; 22:1-5, 12-21).

In light of Christ’s First Advent in Bethlehem, and His soon return (His Second Advent), how are Christians to live? In a word: HOPEFUL!

In all of these passages discussing the end times, hope-filled words are used—

  • therefore encourage each other with these words
  • wait for the blessed hope—the glorious appearing of our great God and Savior 
  • stand firm … let nothing move you
  • Jesus says, I am coming soon! My reward is with Me

Jesus also pointed out that Heaven is a place “prepared for you since the creation of the world,” while Hell is “prepared for the devil and his angels.” GOD WANTS YOU WITH HIM IN HEAVEN!

As you rejoice in the First Advent, remember that Christ’s First Coming was to provide a way for you to have your sins forgiven and be able to spend eternity with Him. So as we look forward in hope to Christ’s Second Advent we say with the Apostle John, “Amen. Come, Lord Jesus!”

The Q Series—Parables, End Times, And Prayer

Our annual Q Series is where folks send their questions to me on a variety of subjects and we do our best to answer them. This week we tackled questions like:

  • What does Christ’s Parable of the Sower mean?
  • Can people lose their salvation?
  • Are micro-chips implanted in humans the start of “the mark of the beast”?
  • What does “666” stand for?
  • Why aren’t all of my prayers answered?

Here’s what we discussed, along with the time this discussion appears on the video:

  • The Parable of the Sower [1:27]
  • What is a parable? [2:19] **Be sure to check out What Was Jesus Teaching In The Parables? on Biblegateway
  • Who is the farmer in this parable? [4:30]
  • “The best commentary on Scripture is Scripture” [5:14]
  • Can someone lose their salvation? [7:42]
  • Keep sowing seed [11:51]
  • Eternal security? [13:50]
  • The Scripture has “a lot of faces” [17:20]
  • Are micro-chips “the mark of the beast”? [20:37]
  • What is gematria? How does this fit with 666? [22:58]
  • 666 falls short of God’s perfection [25:54]
  • The antichrist is a parody of Jesus Christ [26:08]
  • What is the significance of 666 on the right hand and forehead? [27:31]
  • To understand the future, look to an historic event [29:05]
  • A lesson from the socialism of the Nazis and Adolf Hitler [29:49]
  • A quote from Dr. Erwin Lutzer [31:15]
  • Why did Jesus talk about material possession so much? [32:48]
  • Why aren’t all my prayers answered? [36:36] **Be sure to check out Praying With Authority on Biblegateway.
  • How do we pray “in Jesus’ name”? [37:07]
  • How did Jesus speak to His Father in prayer? [39:10]
  • James on unanswered prayers [41:32]
  • Perseverance in prayer [43:30]

We will be answering your questions one more time next Sunday. Please click here to find all the ways you can submit your questions.

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