Wednesday, March 26, 2014

Lent Day 19: Focused on God's glory

A repost from 2 years ago. I'm thinking about power and glory, in light of the Cross:

My dissertation reader remarked on a missionary's pleasure at seeing an American flag waving overhead: "The flag wasn't a sign that she thought her country was better but a reminder of her country, of what she had left behind for the gospel's sake."

We all love our own people. Those of us who live in "foreign" settings love the touch or taste of home. However, when "home" is a world power, it can be difficult to be objective. The person in the literature definitely felt the superiority of her birthplace in comparison to where she served.

Listening to the story of David this morning (in the book of Samuel), I pondered the rise and fall of strong nations. Blessings come to people whose government or rulers serve God and follow his ways. Sadly, when nations become strong, they forget Moses' warning to his own people:

When you have eaten and are satisfied, praise the LORD your God for the good land he has given you. Be careful that you do not forget the LORD your God, failing to observe his commands, his laws and his decrees that I am giving you this day. Otherwise, when you eat and are satisfied, when you build fine houses and settle down, and when your herds and flocks grow large and your silver and gold increase and all you have is multiplied, then your heart will become proud and you will forget the LORD your God, who brought you out of Egypt, out of the land of slavery. ...

You may say to yourself, “My power and the strength of my hands have produced this wealth for me.” But remember the LORD your God, for it is he who gives you the ability to produce wealth, and so confirms his covenant, which he swore to your ancestors, as it is today.

If you ever forget the LORD your God and follow other gods and worship and bow down to them, I testify against you today that you will surely be destroyed. Like the nations the LORD destroyed before you, so you will be destroyed for not obeying the LORD your God."(Deut. 8:10-20)

Reading the history of the early C20, I am astonished at how many Christians––including the American presidents of World Wars I and II––prayed for military victory. Believers in Europe and America fervently sought God, and God granted success to the military partnerships to end the wars. But did the God of Gideon need the added troops and weaponry of the USA? Of course not.

The danger of self-reliance - guised as proud patriotism - comes not only during times of battle but perhaps more severely afterwards, when victory is assured and we are tempted to say, "Our strong arm and our superior might has won the day!"

The writer of Acts tells of the downfall of King Herod, who accepted the worship due only to God:

How many people have helped us succeed?
Herod had been quarreling with the people of Tyre and Sidon; they now joined together and sought an audience with him. After securing the support of Blastus, a trusted personal servant of the king, they asked for peace, because they depended on the king’s country for their food supply.

On the appointed day Herod, wearing his royal robes, sat on his throne and delivered a public address to the people. They shouted, “This is the voice of a god, not of a man.” Immediately, because Herod did not give praise to God, an angel of the Lord struck him down, and he was eaten by worms and died. But the word of God continued to spread and flourish. (Acts 12:20-23)

The consequence of arrogance is a decline in morality and societal values; death and financial ruin are on the horizon. It's always been that way ... because God will share his glory with no other person or system.

With all he accomplished, Jesus always glorified his heavenly Father, rather than pointing to himself. Whatever we achieve, let's remember that blessings come from God. Honor, wealth, and prosperity are in his hands not ours, even when he lends them to us as his stewards. Have we been successful or singled out for acclaim? If so, have we acknowledged God as the origin or are we depending on our own wisdom and savvy?

Read more:
*So Moses and Aaron went to Pharaoh, and said to him, "Thus says the Lord, 'Let my people go, so that they may worship me.'" Exodus 10:3 ESV

*Be still in the presence of the LORD,   and wait patiently for him to act. Don't worry about evil people who prosper or fret about their wicked schemes.

Stop being angry! Turn from your rage! Do not lose your temper—it only leads to harm. For the wicked will be destroyed, but those who trust in the LORD will possess the land. Soon the wicked will disappear. Though you look for them, they will be gone. The lowly will possess the land and will live in peace and prosperity." Psalm 37:7-11 ESV

*Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light. Matthew 11:28-30 NIV

*God opposes the proud, but gives grace to the humble. 1 Peter 5:5 ESV

Moravian Prayer: Gracious God, give us the courage and the strength today to stand up to the powers of evil in our lives. These can walk all over the powerless and sometimes close their ears and eyes to cries for help. Pour your power into us to act. Amen.

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