The verdict is in. The tired and empty promises of a generation of liberalism have left us with a vacuum of moral direction. They have killed their offspring in the abortion mills and are now left with nobody to assume their legacy and promote their humanistic message. All along, the conservative evangelical has waged a cultural war that at times appeared un-winnable. We were ridiculed, mocked, called names, and vilified for daring to take our religious convictions into the public forum for debate and consideration. I am convinced the parameters surrounding the economic boom of the 90's was a mirage. The dot-com bubble burst and the economic downturn was and still is vicious. I attribute a significant part of this as a divine judgment against a society (Christians included) who cared less about the moral character of our leaders than they did their pocketbooks. Did we really believe God would wink at this?
Then 9/11 happened and the cultural war took on a series of new questions. Do we really believe all religions are equally true? Has our theological pluralism netted us a more virtuous society? Is there more to life than the pursuit of our portfolio? Was 9/11 a divinely imposed wake-up call?
If ever there was a time when the people of America and especially in our communities need to hear a word of hope, joy, and peace it is now. In the wake of 9/11 many congregations, including our own, had standing room only crowds. For the first time since Pearl Harbor and act of war hit on American soil. As the twin towers fell a heartbroken nation sat glued to our television sets hoping someone could explain the "why" of such a senseless act. Perhaps, in the light of such carnage, we might find an answer in our faith. Was it an act of God's judgment on a nation steeped in materialism and self-absorption? Maybe the preachers could explain why the extreme Muslim world hates us so much?
In the aftermath of that horrific and infamous day, as the memory of falling buildings faded into the cleanup, the masses once again disappeared from their search for an intimate God and reverted back to mowing their lawns and taking the Sunday trip to their favorite respite spots. To their thinking the crisis had passed and God was no longer needed. Perhaps even the church failed to provide the answers they so craved. Across America the truth of the Gospel of Christ gave way to an eclectic form of a new religion, a religion where gleanings of truth from all of the world's great religions could be married into one of tolerance, love, and acceptance of others. The claims Christ made to be the God of all creation mattered little. To some religionists He was a great prophet while to others he was an example of love or simply a mere man. The sad part is that he is none of these things if he is not who he said he was – the eternal God of all creation.
As people once again come to us with furrowed brows stained with the crust of fear and worry they must see in us hope and love. Our God is a Sovereign God and He can be trusted. He is the One Who holds in His hand the governments of the world. Once again we stand in the jaws of war; a just war where a tyrant and a religious extremist bent on the destruction of anything remotely resembling the Judeo-Christian worldview is referred to as the western infidel.
What should our response be to the threat of "shock and awe" against a nation the size of California? I would be hard pressed to find justification to support those who march in the streets in protest of our nation's war against this tyrant given the massive well-documented reports of torture and murder ordered by him against those who dare to criticize his politico-religious rule. Many newscasts reported, albeit as almost an afterthought, that some who dared to criticize or demonstrate against Saddam were publicly beaten, tied to a tree, their tongues cut out, and left there to bleed to death as an example to others who were thinking about doing the same.
The men and women in our American extended family serving to liberate the oppressed people of Iraq are also fighting to preserve the rights of that vocal minority who choose to take to the streets in protest against a war they believe is immoral and unnecessary. They are wrong in what they protest but we should all be willing to fight for their right to do so. But perhaps they would be well served to pause for a moment and ask what their fate might be if they were Iraqi citizens protesting in the streets of Baghdad against the policies of Saddam Hussein. Sobering isn't it?
I believe we must fight this war. I support our president. This cruel dictator must be stopped and the people of Iraq set free. We must pray for our soldiers who fight in our stead. As a nation we cannot bow in fear to what might be. Evil men will always be with us. Terrorism in America has merely opened a window that exposes to the light what many around the world have lived with for generations. There are over 500,000 Christians who are martyred every year around the world by extremists who in the name of their gods mutilate, crucify, beat, and torture those who refuse to recant their Christian faith. And you thought this all ended during the post-Nero era.
Once again the church is called upon to show forth the light of what we believe. People will flock to our churches looking for answers to the painful questions this war raises. We must become agents of mercy, grace, and healing. My desire is that those who come here will see people of hope and peace. I pray that they will see it on your faces and hear it in your singing, praying and service to them.
Although we support the war, our president, and especially our troops our loyalties extend much higher. We are first of all Christians who love our God and believe He sent His Son to die on a cross for the sins of His people. We must pray for our enemies not hate them. We must pray for the Muslim world that they would see the glorious light of the resurrection of Jesus. We must convince them that our marching orders given to us by Christ are not to start a crusade of hate and death but of mercy and grace.
That is why today I begin this series on the life of Elisha the prophet. In every one his miracles he entered into the lives of those to whom he ministered at a point of great misery. In love he touched them with self-sacrifice and the power of God and led them into ministry to others. In other words Elisha lived a life marked by a journey from Misery to Mercy to Ministry.
My preaching focus in this new series is designed to prepare our "bed and breakfast" for the hundreds and thousands of visitors who will come to us via this church or our media outreach, MARK INC Ministries asking for hope. I want them to see people who are not afraid of the future, who worship God as Father, and who boldly claim the promise of Jeremiah 33:3, "Call to me and I will answer you and tell you great and unsearchable things you do not know." We are to call in faith believing He will answer above and beyond all that we ask or think. It seems as though the Body of Christ is being prepared for an outpouring of the Holy Spirit unprecedented in modern times.
Our world demands from us no less. It is time for us to enter into the misery of suffering and oppression of others. The world is white for this harvest. The miserable failure of many of the "isms" has ripened the soil for a new kind of hope and grace. I hear the voice of one crying. I hear the voice of one crying. "Prepare ye the way of the Lord. Make His light shine. Make His light shine in the wilderness."
From Misery to Mercy to Ministry by Dr. Chuck Betters is used by permission of MARK INC MINISTRIES
Dr. Chuck Betters is pastor/teacher of MARK INC Ministries (www.MARKINC.org). This article is adapted from his book, Treasures of Faith, Living Boldly in View of God’s Promises. It is a Bible study of Hebrews 11. For ordering information, visit (www.MARKINC.org).