Because the presidential nominees are still in doubt we Texans get a rare “treat” this primary season. We get political commercials from now until March 4th. Whoopee.
And we get political rallies as a part of our new status as a key state in the delegate process. This week a packed arena in Dallas hosted Barak Obama. The atmosphere was more like a revival than a rally. A lot of people are into the Obama “Hope and Change” tour. I always hesitate when I write about politics because nothing brings out the thin-skinned loonies quicker than a perceived slight of their man or woman. So please understand that this post is not about critiquing a candidate. These thoughts are about our culture in America and, in particular, the Christian demographic.
The electric atmosphere at the Dallas Barak Obama rally and hearing his recurrent message got me to thinking and that is always a dangerous thing. I was thinking that God must have a real sense of déjà vu as He watches the people clamor for a human leader to give them hope and change. Then I got sidetracked as I wondered if an omnipotent God can even experience déjà vu? That gave me tired head so I decided to move on.
Would God look at that rally and think of another group who had hope at their disposal but then chose to reject it? God wanted to bless His nation Israel. But they wanted a king who they believed would give them everything they wanted. Remember the story in Samuel?
Finally, all the elders of Israel met at Ramah to discuss the matter with Samuel. “Look,” they told him, “you are now old, and your sons are not like you. Give us a king to judge us like all the other nations have.”
Samuel was displeased with their request and went to the Lord for guidance. “Do everything they say to you,” the Lord replied, “for it is me they are rejecting, not you. They don’t want me to be their king any longer. Ever since I brought them from Egypt they have continually abandoned me and followed other gods. And now they are giving you the same treatment. Do as they ask, but solemnly warn them about the way a king will reign over them.” (I Samuel 8, NLT)
God gave Samuel a warning to give to His people that this might not be the best idea. God warned them that the king would take a tenth of their crops and flocks. Actually I would think about clamoring for a leader that would only take a tenth. But I digress. God warned them about other consequences of putting their faith in an earthly king. Their response was typical.
But the people refused to listen to Samuel’s warning. “Even so, we still want a king,” they said. “We want to be like the nations around us. Our king will judge us and lead us into battle.”
I see so many parallels in our culture to that story. We know that it did not work out like the nation of Israel dreamed that it would. I see many Christians in America falling into the same trap that Samuel warned about so long ago.
We think that hope lies in a leader or a political party. We believe that change will come because of kindred politicians or better laws or lawsuits that establish justice as we see it. We think that the right leader will help educate every child no matter their circumstance. We hope that this political savior will provide healthcare for every person at no cost to them. This leader will help the poor find jobs and realize their every dream. And I picture God looking at His millions of followers with a broken heart. Because He has blessed this country with so much in money and resources. So much of what we now demand our government to do could be accomplished if God’s people read, trusted and followed His Word.
Here is some research from a very annoying and convicting organization called empty tomb, inc. They are also a very important ministry that God has raised up to be a Nathan to our comfortable and consumer Christianity. Here is how America spends some of it’s resources.
In 2003 American consumers spent $53.6 billion buying jewelry and watches, a 5.1% increase over previous year.
U.S. Consumers spent more than $24.3 billion on candy (2002) and, on average, consumers made $84.34 worth of candy purchases.
We spent $64 billion on soft drinks in 2003. In 2000 Americans spent $13 billion a year on chocolate in all its forms (I know…it just got personal for many of you).
In 2000 American toy sales reached $23 billion.
How about $38 billion spent on state lotteries?
Americans spend 600 million on teeth whitening each year.
We spend over 300 million on Botox to reduce the appearance of wrinkles.
God help us to see the needs of our society with His heart. The good news? We can make a real difference. And the time to start is now. Again, according to empty tomb, inc we have the potential to literally change the world in the name of Jesus. Here is the analysis of the empty tomb organization.
As described in our research, church member giving is declining as a portion of income, and is currently around 2.59%. That, my brothers and sisters, is pathetic. Most of us have so much compared to the rest of the world and we choose to spend it on cars, houses and junk that will rust and be thrown away. Or we may get all excited because we recover five cents on the dollar at a garage sale.
If Americans who identify with the historically Christian church increased their giving to an average of 10% of income, there could be an additional $156 billion given to the church. If 60% of this amount were made available to expand overseas missions activity, that number would mean an additional $94 billion available for overseas missions.
One source estimates that $70-$80 billion would impact the worst of world poverty and $5 billion could end most of the 11 million global, annual deaths of children under the age of five. Also, $7 billion would be sufficient for global primary education for all children.
You should be aware, that there could also be $31.22 billion more a year for domestic outreach. And this all on top of our current church activities.
I can’t help but think that God has given us, the church, just about everything we need to make a huge difference in meeting the needs that we expect Washington to address. And that would give hope and change to people that obviously are looking for those elusive words in odd places.
What makes me most sad is that so many people really seem to be placing their hope for happiness on a political candidate. I do believe that leaders make a difference. I care deeply about making an informed and prayerful choice. But I never place my hope or desire for change on a politician. The word hope is used about 80 times in the New Testament. The first appearance of the word in the NIV translation pretty much lays out my belief.
“In his name (Jesus) the nations will put their hope." (Matthew 12, NIV)
Paul wrote about the hope that I have in his letter to the Romans.
I pray that God, the source of hope, will fill you completely with joy and peace because you trust in him. Then you will overflow with confident hope through the power of the Holy Spirit.
In Colossians we read this praise from Paul as he relates how hope based on the eternal God should make a difference.
For we have heard of your faith in Christ Jesus and your love for all of God’s people, which come from your confident hope of what God has reserved for you in heaven. You have had this expectation ever since you first heard the truth of the Good News. This same Good News that came to you is going out all over the world. It is bearing fruit everywhere by changing lives, just as it changed your lives from the day you first heard and understood the truth about God’s wonderful grace.
That is a hope that I know will not disappoint. As for change, I would be pleasantly surprised if our leaders in Washington would work together for us. But I will not be surprised if they do not. The important change for me has already happened.
When I placed my trust in Jesus a change happened in me. I wrote this a few days ago but it fits well here.
I was a sinner saved by grace and faith alone. But what I am now beginning to understand is who I am in Christ. That is transforming my life. I have referenced the book TrueFaced as an incredible volume of practical theology.
God is not interested in changing the Christian. He has already changed us when we believed in Jesus for salvation. At that point our spiritual DNA was rewritten and we became a new person in Christ. God wants us to believe that He has already changed us so that He can get on with the process of maturing us.
Grace changes our life focus from struggling with sin issues to trusting who God says I already am. I am a saint who occasionally sins, not a sinner who is striving to become a saint.
I have hope that is real. I am changed because of Christ. Because of those two facts I can deal with the rest of life. I believe that no matter what happens in March and in November I know the following statement is true.
God is in control.
Dave Burchett is an Emmy Award winning television sports director, author, and Christian speaker. He is the author of When Bad Christians Happen to Good People and Bring'em Back Alive: A Healing Plan for those Wounded by the Church. You can reply by linking through daveburchett.com.