Last week we talked about the fact that since September 11th, Americans have been pleading with God to bless our nation. Signs saying, "God bless America" are everywhere. Americans want God to protect them from the terrorists, to keep them safe and secure. America wants God's blessing. But as we saw in our study last week America, because of her sin, deserves God's judgement, not blessing. It is absolutely hypocritical to live in sin and ask God to bless us.
We talked last week about America's sin of homosexuality. Let me give you another example of this; Last week Senator Hillary Clinton was the keynote speaker at the annual dinner of the Human Rights Campaign, the largest gay and lesbian political advocacy group in the country claiming some 250,000 members. She said, "The surviving partners of gay and lesbian victims of the September 11 terrorist attacks should get the same assistance and benefits that the families of other victims get."
Addressing this audience of gay and lesbian activists, she said that in the aftermath of the attacks, "We have to make clear that what we're fighting for is our values. And that includes ending discrimination against gays and lesbians once and for all." What I would like to know is where is she getting her values from? She wants to protect and promote what God calls an abomination!
Leviticus 18:22 (NKJV) 'You shall not lie with a male as with a woman. It is an abomination.
Leviticus 20:13 (NKJV) 'If a man lies with a male as he lies with a woman, both of them have committed an abomination. They shall surely be put to death. Their blood shall be upon them.
Jude 1:7 (NKJV) as Sodom and Gomorrah, and the cities around them in a similar manner to these, having given themselves over to sexual immorality and gone after strange flesh, are set forth as an example, suffering the vengeance of eternal fire.
Surely the scourge of sodomy would be enough to warrant the unleashing of the wrath of God, but there is so much more! We are a nation on a crusade - a crusade to wipe from our history books every vestige of our former religious past. The religion of scientism, with its chief idol in the person of Darwin, has become enshrined in our very governmental policies. There is no creator, we are told, to express His law for us in the first place. We want to banish God and His law from our courtrooms, our schools, our every public institution.
If God says it is wrong, we celebrate it. Every form of sexual debauchery is found in the land. The airwaves are filled with programs that exalt fornication and adultery. Major film stars are lauded for the most sinful lifestyles. Homosexuality is not only turned into an acceptable "lifestyle," it is made a political right, a political force, a test-case for being properly "tolerant." The list goes on and on and on. And then we cry out in times of trouble, "God bless America."
As Christians, instead of joining the popular fad of posting signs calling on God to bless America, we should be calling on America to bless God. When you reverse the words on the sign, it becomes a lot more apropos; America Bless God!
Usually when we think of blessing, we think of God blessing us. We think of the rewards we will receive from Him. But David says we are to bless God:
Psalms 103:1-2 (NKJV) Bless the LORD, O my soul; And all that is within me, bless His holy name! 2 Bless the LORD, O my soul, And forget not all His benefits:
David is talking to himself, he is prodding himself and urging himself and stirring himself up to bless the Lord. It might seem odd to you and I that we can bless God, but according to the Bible, we can. We bless God by speaking well of him, by calling attention to all the things God has done to enrich our lives. To bless means: "To say good things about the Lord in a spirit of admiration and gratitude and wonder." So David prods himself: Bless the Lord, soul; remember his benefits, speak of his wonders, tell of his greatness. This is a call to worship God.
David is not alone in this call to bless God. Moses called upon the children of Israel to bless Him also:
Deuteronomy 8:10 (NKJV) "When you have eaten and are full, then you shall bless the LORD your God for the good land which He has given you.
Have we done this? Have we blessed the Lord for all he has given us in this country?
David says in Psalm 103:2, "Forget not all His benefits". Then in verses 3-19 he lists the "benefits" of God, things about God that he cherishes and that make his soul bless the Lord.
Let me share with you several ways in which we can bless God:
Understanding and Acknowledging Who He Is.
11 times in the Psalms David says "O Lord, my God." Notice what David says in:
Psalms 145:1-3 (NKJV) I will extol You, my God, O King; And I will bless Your name forever and ever. 2 Every day I will bless You, And I will praise Your name forever and ever. 3 Great is the LORD, and greatly to be praised; And His greatness is unsearchable.
Understanding and acknowledging who God is one why we bless God. So the question that arises is, How do we come to understand God?" You know the answer, what is it?
Proverbs 2:1-5 (NKJV) My son, if you receive my words, And treasure my commands within you, 2 So that you incline your ear to wisdom, And apply your heart to understanding; 3 Yes, if you cry out for discernment, And lift up your voice for understanding, 4 If you seek her as silver, And search for her as for hidden treasures; 5 Then you will understand the fear of the LORD, And find the knowledge of God.
Jesus said that the Word was truth:
John 17:17 (NKJV) "Sanctify them by Your truth. Your word is truth.
The only way we will learn about Jesus Christ our Lord is as we spend time in His word. There was a time when this nation was very familiar with the word of God and walked in His way, but not anymore. We are raising a generation that does not know the Lord.
Judges 2:8-13 (NKJV) Now Joshua the son of Nun, the servant of the LORD, died when he was one hundred and ten years old. 9 And they buried him within the border of his inheritance at Timnath Heres, in the mountains of Ephraim, on the north side of Mount Gaash. 10 When all that generation had been gathered to their fathers, another generation arose after them who did not know the LORD nor the work which He had done for Israel. 11 Then the children of Israel did evil in the sight of the LORD, and served the Baals; 12 and they forsook the LORD God of their fathers, who had brought them out of the land of Egypt; and they followed other gods from among the gods of the people who were all around them, and they bowed down to them; and they provoked the LORD to anger. 13 They forsook the LORD and served Baal and the Ashtoreths.
After Joshua and his generation went to their graves, the Bible tells us, "....another generation arose after them who did not know the LORD nor the work which He had done for Israel. 11 Then the children of Israel did evil in the sight of the LORD, and served the Baals; 12 and they forsook the LORD God of their fathers" What we can gather from this verse is that Joshua and his generation took the knowledge of God with them to the grave. There was a famine in the land of the Word of God, of knowledge of the Lord's mighty power, and of reverence for their Holy and Righteous God. Just this past week, Chuck Colson wrote about the famine in our own land in his Breakpoint commentary. Mr. Colson writes:
June 1940: Hitler's armies are poised to destroy the cornered British Army, stranded on the beaches at Dunkirk. As the British people anxiously await word of their fate, a three-word message is transmitted from the besieged army: 'And if not . . .' The British public instantly recognizes the message: It's a reference to the biblical story of Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego standing before King Nebuchadnezzer's fiery furnace. 'Our God is able to save us . . . and if not, we will remain faithful to him anyway.' The message galvanized the British people, and thousands crossed the English Channel in small boats to rescue their army. Fast forward sixty-one years to January 22, 2001: President Bush delivers his Inaugural Address. Afterward, Dick Meyer of CBS News confesses 'There were a few phrases in the speech I just didn't get. One was, 'When we see that wounded traveler on the road to Jericho, we will not pass to the other side.' 'I hope there's not a quiz,' Meyer concludes. What a difference a generation makes. For centuries, biblical references were the common coinage of Western speech. As Dunkirk demonstrates, people were so steeped in the Scriptures they immediately recognized a cryptic biblical allusion. But today that memory has been erased. This kind of spiritual illiteracy represents a sobering predicament for the Church: How do we evangelize neighbors who no longer recognize, let alone think, in Christian terms? (Chuck Colson, Breakpoint Commentary, October 8, 2001 Vol. 158 No. 16)
It's not just America that is Biblically illiterate, the Body of Christ is greatly lacking in its knowledge of God. If you will listen to Christian radio, read preacher's sermons, and listen to the musings of those who are trying to offer a biblical explanation of the September 11 events, you will quickly come to the conclusion that "Body of Christ" is sounding more like Sybil, the multi personality prophet, than reflecting the heart of God, who is the same "yesterday, today, and forever."
Some mouthpieces in clerical collars are saying that God had nothing to do with the events of September 11th. One preacher said, "God was shocked to find 6,000 bodies present with Him in Heaven on the morning of September 11th." Another religious leader, Bishop John Shelby Spong, says that the God of the Heavens, who is both all-powerful and all loving, has died. Another preacher says that the events of September 11th were caused by certain groups of sinners in our land. What is it? Make up your mind! Is God really in a state of shock by what has happened? Have we finally found out that God is limited in His power or evil in His intent? If you think that preachers are confused, then you ought to listen to the people on the streets as they try and make sense of what has taken place.
Why is the Body of Christ so fragmented at a time like this? Why is the mouthpiece of God, the Body of Christ, so muffled with such mixed messages during such desperate times when all of the land is looking to us? Those are great questions! I think I have the answer. The Body of Christ is confused, because we have taken the Bible out of the Church. We have substituted nonessentials for what is foundational for our gatherings on Sunday mornings and throughout the week - the study of God's Word.
We have become infatuated with trying to appeal to the world, and we have forgotten about pleasing God. We have become obsessed with sound systems and lighting and forgotten about sacrifice and love. We have taken classes in showmanship, but we can't even spell sanctification. We have broken our necks to become pleasing to everyone, and in doing so we have become antagonistic towards our God. We have erected glorious, glamorous cathedrals, but in the midst of our construction we have lost the Cross. We have designed our programs to attract the prominent and big shots of our communities, but we have left the poor, the weak, and the broken out in the cold. We have exchanged the teachings of God's Word for lessons in financial success, marital bliss, and maximizing relationships, but we have left the one relationship that escapes us in our sanctuaries of success and self-righteousness. We have forsaken the study of the Word of God.
For us to understand the events that are unfolding before our very eyes we don't need to listen to Dan Rather, Peter Jennings, or the White House - we need to look to God as He speaks to us through His Word. We don't need to tune in to CNN, the Fox News Network, CBS - we need to tune in to God as He speaks to us from His Word. We don't need to read Newsweek, Time, or The Virginian Pilot - we need to read God's Word. There is so much confusion in our land today regarding God's role in this tragedy, because the Body of Christ has long neglected the Word of God:
Psalms 103:19 (NKJV) The LORD has established His throne in heaven, And His kingdom rules over all.
We have taught those in our society how to be successful, but we have not taught them about the Savior. We have taught them how to be happy, but we have not taught them how to be holy. We have taught them that God is a giant Santa Claus, but we have not taught them that He is the Sovereign of the Universe.
Believers, it starts with us. We must spend time in the Word that we may know our God, and that we may be able to teach those around us.
How do we bless God? It starts by understanding and acknowledging Who He Is. And as we come to understand God, there are two attitudes that will truly bless Him; trust and gratitude.
Psalms 26:12 (NKJV) My foot stands in an even place; In the congregations I will bless the LORD. 27:1 The LORD is my light and my salvation; Whom shall I fear? The LORD is the strength of my life; Of whom shall I be afraid?
Here the psalmist is blessing the Lord by his faith. Faith and fear are opposites. If you are fearful, you are not trusting. God is glorified, he is blessed when we trust Him:
Psalms 56:11 (NKJV) In God I have put my trust; I will not be afraid. What can man do to me?
Since the terrorism of 9/11/01 many things have happened to increase the fear of the American people.
Several weeks ago a Greyhound bus crashed in central Tennessee. At least six people were killed after a passenger slit the throat of the driver.
On October 7, a passenger tried to enter the cockpit of an American Airlines plane. A young man, described later by his father as having history of mental illness, was subdued by passengers (I love that!) aboard the flight from Los Angeles to Chicago after trying to get into the cockpit.
And there is the Anthrax scare. As the number of anthrax exposure cases grows across the country, so too do the hoaxes and the instances where harmless white powder has terrorized people.
Planes have made emergency landings and been quarantined. Stores, schools, government buildings and restaurants have been evacuated. Most of the culprits have been innocuous substances - from flour and Old Bay seasoning to talcum powder and even confetti. It's a strange new world for Americans, and so far we don't seem to be coping very well.
"Because bio-terrorism has never hit America before, people are afraid," said Health and Human Services Secretary Tommy Thompson. The headlines of Friday's The Virginian-Pilot read, "Fear is spreading faster than anthrax."
The calls for gas masks and American flags picked up again at the Ax-Man surplus store in St. Paul, Minn. Although the store stresses the gas masks they sell are novelty items and not intended for legitimate use, manager, Kim Mourning, said the place has a waiting list. "Everyone from mothers to older people have called," she said. "Some don't even want to be on a list - they want it now."
"Right now we resemble the world's largest chicken farm with all of our heads decapitated at the same time," Fumento said. "If you were to paint a portrait of the American people right now, it wouldn't be George Washington crossing the Delaware. It would be Edward Munch's The Scream."
Joseph D. McNamara is a research person at Stanford University's Hoover Institution. He is something of an expert when it comes to terrorism and how to deal with it. McNamara concedes there is a threat to be dealt with at home.
He said, "First, you have to realize there is no absolute protection against terrorists," he says. "You cannot prevent them. I doubt you can, even if you have the National Guard search every truck in the country."
In the aftermath of the terrorism of September 11, 2001, many people are scared to death. What about us? Is fear normal for Christian people? No! We must trust the Lord for safety and security. And we must point people to the only true safety there is - Jesus Christ. Our source of safety and security will never be in the physical or material things of this world.
Last week as the Nightly News was ending, Tow Brokaw was talking about the anthrax that his office had received in the mail, and in his closing words he held up a bottle of Cipro and said, "In Cipro we trust." How sad is that? David said:
Psalms 118:8 (NKJV) It is better to trust in the LORD Than to put confidence in man.
When young David stood before the giant, Goliath, who was over 9 feet tall, he said to Goliath as recorded in I Sam. 17:45, "You come against me with sword and spear and javelin, but I come against you in the name of the Lord Almighty...."
David was saying, "My safety and security is in the Lord. He is my shield and defender. He is my Savior and deliverer." And he is ours as well! We must learn to:
Proverbs 3:5 (NKJV) Trust in the LORD with all your heart, And lean not on your own understanding;
In spite of death, devastation, and destruction; In spite of terrorism and trouble, we must trust in the Lord, and we must point people to the only true security there is.
Believers, we bless God when we understand and acknowledge who He is, we bless Him by trusting Him, and by:
Expressing Gratitude For What He Has Done.
Knowing what God has done is just the beginning. Saying, "Thank you" for what He has done is a must:
Deuteronomy 8:10 (NKJV) "When you have eaten and are full, then you shall bless the LORD your God for the good land which He has given you.
Chapter eight of Deuteronomy is really one of my favorite chapters of the Old Testament. It speaks so well of what we all know somewhere in our hearts but often seem to forget in our actions and our attitudes. It speaks of how everything we have is a gift from God. God gives us ALL that we have. Would that I would remember this at all times - it would make my life so much easier, and it would bless God.
Believer, God is blessed by an attitude of gratitude. Are you a grateful person? How much time do you spend thanking God for all he has done for you? As Christians living in America, we should constantly be blessing God with our thanksgiving.
One day a woman was rushing home from a doctor's appointment. The doctor had been somewhat delayed at the hospital, and the lab work took a little longer than usual, so by the time she left the clinic she was running quite a bit behind schedule. She still had to pick up her prescription, pick up the children from the baby-sitter, and get home and make supper, all in time to make it to the prayer meeting at her church that evening. As she began to circle the busy Wal-Mart parking lot, looking for a space, the windows of heaven were opened, as it says in Genesis, and a downpour began. While she wasn't usually the type to bother God with small problems, she began to pray as she turned down the row closest to the front door. "Lord, you know what kind of a day I've had, and there's still an awful lot to do. Could you please grant me a parking space right away, oh, and close to the building so I don't get soaked." The words weren't even completely out of her mouth when she saw the backup lights of a car come on at the end of the row. It was the best space in the whole parking lot, right next to the handicap spots and straight out from the front door. She headed straight for it and as she pulled in, she said, "Never mind, God, something just opened up."
It's kind of an amusing anecdote, but how many times do we ask God for something, and then when we receive it, we behave as though it were quite an unusual coincidence, and we fail to give credit where credit is due?
God notices our lack of gratitude. This has never been more prevalent to me than recently. I've seen all the signs saying, "God Bless America", and I wonder, why should He? What have we done to deserve His blessings? We've kicked Him out of our schools. We kicked Him out of our Government buildings. Our society's morals continue to wallow in drugs, pornography, killings, greed, self-servitude. In one episode of the TV cartoon show, "The Simpson's," the boy, Bart, is asked to say grace. He prays, "Dear God, we paid for all this stuff ourselves, so thanks for nothing." Who says TV doesn't reflect our culture? Why should "God Bless America" if we refuse to bless him? We forget, too often, what He has done for us. He gave his only son to die for OUR sins, to take OUR blame, OUR punishment upon His shoulders. And what do we do in return? We ask for His blessing! No gratitude. No thanks, God. I really appreciate what you've done for me. THANKS!!! You know "thanks" is a HUGE word.
Rudyard Kipling's words not only made him famous but also brought him a fortune. A newspaper reporter came up to him once and said, "Mr. Kipling, I just read that somebody calculated that the money you make from your writings amounts to over one hundred dollars a word."
The reporter reached into his pocket and pulled out a one hundred-dollar bill and gave it to Kipling and said, "Here's a one hundred dollar bill, Mr. Kipling. Now you give me one of your hundred dollar words." Rudyard Kipling looked at the money, put it in his pocket and said, "Thanks!"
The word "thanks" is certainly a one hundred dollar word. In fact, I would say it is more like a million-dollar word. It's a small word, but it has a powerful meaning. It might only have 6 letters, but it gets across a message that few other words are capable of achieving.
Do you realize that, as Christians, we are commanded to be thankful:
Colossians 3:15 (NKJV) And let the peace of God rule in your hearts, to which also you were called in one body; and be thankful.
I want you to notice something very important in this verse - an important element in allowing the peace of Christ to rule is found in the closing words of the verse: "....and be thankful." The present tense of the Greek text suggests the translation: "keep on becoming thankful." There is a connection. A constant spirit of thankfulness is an essential part to letting the peace of Christ rule in one's heart.
As we enjoy all the blessings of this great nation, do we thank God? Are we aware that all that we enjoy in this great country comes from His gracious hand? Note the relationship in Psalm 100 between the command to bless God and the reason:
Psalms 100 (NKJV) Make a joyful shout to the LORD, all you lands! 2 Serve the LORD with gladness; Come before His presence with singing. 3 Know that the LORD, He is God; It is He who has made us, and not we ourselves; We are His people and the sheep of His pasture. 4 Enter into His gates with thanksgiving, And into His courts with praise. Be thankful to Him, and bless His name. 5 For the LORD is good; His mercy is everlasting, And His truth endures to all generations.
We are to bless God with thanksgiving, because "God is good." Thanksgiving is a matter of response to facts of revelation. Everything that we have comes from the gracious hand of God.
Believer, Jesus Christ died for our sin, he gave us His righteousness, he delivered us from an eternity in Hell. Not only has God redeemed us but he allowed us to be born and live in America, the most prosperous, healthiest nation on the planet. For an American Christian to be ungrateful is to spit in God's face.
Christian, instead of calling upon God to bless our nation, let's call our nation to bless God. Remembering that they can only do this as they come to understand and acknowledge who He is. How is this going to happen? Where are they going to hear about who God is? Only from us, His people. Let's be busy proclaiming the gospel of Jesus Christ to all who will listen. God can't bless America until America blesses God.
This morning let's make the commitment that the psalmist made:
Psalms 115:18 (NKJV) But we will bless the LORD - From this time forth and forevermore. Praise the LORD!