Sunday, August 22, 2010

Decline of a Nation

A few days back I heard a neat podcast from Ravi Zacharias a Christian apologist of par excellence. His source of analysis, knowledge with the ability to express deep theological concepts & ideas keeping the aroma and richness of the Gospel message intact have always left me spell bound. We are in a time when we need more  Christian leaders like Ravi who emulate from their personal life as good examples & have the ability to articulate the word of God in clear, concise and accurate ways that will pierce the hearts of people in the deep places.

The talk was about the decline of a nation and I summarize the things that I have learnt for everybody's enrichment and hoping that this helps us all in our personal journeys.  Ravi  relates the current state of affairs in America today to the day of Jeremiah when the final curtain comes down on the nation of Israel with the tender-hearted prophet lamenting on what has happened. The Assyrian army has come ravaged and razed down the city of Jerusalem. This event culminates exactly 1000 years after their Exodus from Egypt a nation that was shaped by God himself has now allowed judgment to come upon it.  In Jeremiah chapter 2 God is reminding about Israel's mistakes, I will lump some of the love verses of God's heart over Israel from this chapter:

1 The word of the LORD came to me: 2 "Go and proclaim in the hearing of Jerusalem:

       " 'I remember the devotion of your youth, 
       how as a bride you loved me 
       and followed me through the desert, 
       through a land not sown.
 3 Israel was holy to the LORD, 
       the firstfruits of his harvest; 
       all who devoured her were held guilty, 
       and disaster overtook them,' " 
       declares the LORD.
 5 This is what the LORD says: 
       "What fault did your fathers find in me, 
       that they strayed so far from me? 
       They followed worthless idols 
       and became worthless themselves.
 6 They did not ask, 'Where is the LORD, 
       who brought us up out of Egypt 
       and led us through the barren wilderness, 
       through a land of deserts and rifts, 
       a land of drought and darkness, [a] 
       a land where no one travels and no one lives?'
 8 The priests did not ask, 
       'Where is the LORD ?' 
       Those who deal with the law did not know me; 
       the leaders rebelled against me. 
       The prophets prophesied by Baal, 
       following worthless idols.
 9 "Therefore I bring charges against you again," 
       declares the LORD. 
       "And I will bring charges against your children's children.
 11 Has a nation ever changed its gods? 
       (Yet they are not gods at all.) 
       But my people have exchanged their [d] Glory 
       for worthless idols.
 15 Lions have roared; 
       they have growled at him. 
       They have laid waste his land; 
       his towns are burned and deserted.
 16 Also, the men of Memphis [e] and Tahpanhes 
       have shaved the crown of your head. [f]
 17 Have you not brought this on yourselves 
       by forsaking the LORD your God 
       when he led you in the way?

God is bringing a charge against Israel, He reminds them that He had redeemed them from Egypt, (He has redeemed us from sin), brought them out into a land of spaciousness and made them righteous and He was to be the center of their worship. Instead they had forgotten who He was, What He did for them and forsaken worship of Him. As a result the nation has collapsed,  invading kingdoms are here taking the land and its people back into slavery. Ravi points out four reasons and reminds us that it started way back in the beginning. The four chief reasons he gives for the decline of the nation are:
  1. Ancestral Disappointments
  2. Prophetic Duplicity
  3. National Desertion
  4. Personal Disavow
I add a fifth one to the list and that would be male prostitution in the land.

Let us explore them one by one and see how a nation's decline begins and the curtain of is glorious history, heritage and prosperity ends. Ancestral disappointments started in Israel's history just after three days of their miraculous journey through the parting of the seas. They complained why God had brought them out of Egypt, they showed unbelief and lack of trust in spite of the Lord's miraculous provisions. It is interesting that in Jeremiah Chapter 2 the Lord pin points not on national leaders but brings back the charge  Fathers who have betrayed, doubted and followed after worthless idols.

Secondly "prophetic duplicity" in the land meant a mixed message was coming across to people from the spiritual leadership that God need not be in the first place. The priests and the prophets were in the business of asking "What's in it for me?". Everyone struggles with this one; especially men who are wired to work and lead. I have longed told the Lord that if I were in full time ministry I wouldn't want to see how my wages or provisions came through.  Today's ministers trained out of seminaries, the first question they ask is "What will be my salary or benefits?" - Now I am not saying this is bad or judging anyone because times have changes and governance/structure and important components of ministries and every minister is due the laborers wages but it is the heart & mind attitude that counts. It is not about self-seeking, self-promoting or just wage-based support for surviving in contrast Ravi reveals about men like Henry Martin & C.T Studd.

Henry Martin left the girl he loved and travelled as a missionary to Burma, India and Iran, dragged into the desert and died a martyr's death at the young age of 31 but not before translating the Bible into Arabic, Hindustani and Persian all without a computer. C.T Studd a man who was the captain of the Cambridge cricket team left his illustrious career and wealth to be a missionary in Africa. In the 11 years that he lived apart from his wife who was raising support for him they saw each other for two weeks. Tremendous sacrifices have been made by men who gave it all and completely surrendered it for Christ. When men like this disappear a nation's collapse is assured.

Thirdly  "National Desertion"  meant the nation had given up on God completely and gone after false gods and worshipped idols . Today's leaders boldly proclaim that America is and was never a Christian nation.  It was only a 180 years ago when President Lincoln said I quote:

"We have been the recipients of the choicest bounties of Heaven. We have been preserved, these many years, in peace and prosperity. We have grown in numbers, wealth and power, as no other nation has ever grown. But we have forgotten God. We have forgotten the gracious hand which preserved us in peace, and multiplied and enriched and strengthened us; and we have vainly imagined, in the deceitfulness of our hearts, that all these blessings were produced by some superior wisdom and virtue of our own. Intoxicated with unbroken success, we have become too self-sufficient to feel the necessity of redeeming and preserving grace, too proud to pray to the God that made us!" -    Lincoln, Abraham

God's mercy has been great but we have quickly as a nation forgotten.We have taken the true God of heaven and earth out of America,  out of our schools systems and political arenas in the name of political correctness and fairness. In his advocacy of thankfulness to God, Lincoln left a stern warning to the people of his day and they remain relevant to our times as well. Today's leaders are ashamed to repent or pray, or take a strong stance on anything but mix their words to be fair. They set a poor precedence for the nation and the core unit of the nation "the family".

I ended the third point on family on purpose because individuals make up the family and at the individual level the last point is of  "personal disavow" with God. We tend to become complacent saying "I used to believe in Him and now I don't" and this may stem from our personal experiences, feelings and discouragements (the battle for the heart).  A couple of years ago there was a segment on 60 minutes on the "The Lost Boys of Sudan" a documentary that studied war torn abandoned children who made this trek from Sudan to Kenya. Thousands of children without food, water made and exodus through war afflicted nations and genocide survived with the hope in their eyes and faith in the living God of the Bible. The documentary then focused also on a segment of teenage children in a affluent neighborhood in Georgia where sex, booze and drugs were freely flowing. A church revival spurred them to come back to the Lord but as soon as a discouraging event or a something that a kid wished or asked of God did not happen they went back to their old ways primarily disappointed in God and a personal disavow.  You get the picture.

Finally the decline of nation gets sealed when men prostitute themselves in the land. The point here is not just physical prostitution but men who exchange their hearts to self seeking idols and lead others to that kind of harlotry and idolatry. The consequences then are severe and its a wake up call at an individual, corporate and national levels  that we see this condone & condemn it, repent, fall flat on our faces and seek the face of God. The message is grim but my hope and prayer is for men and make a stand against idolatry and harlotry both at physical and heart level. Let us guard our hearts and ask the Holy Spirit of God to bring revival in the land. Hope is beautiful when we enter into worship and surrender our strength and hearts to the one who can rescue, redeem and bring us into the relationship that we are made for.

Blessings & Shalom,

Sam Kurien

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