Friday, July 13, 2012

My Spirit is Overwhelmed

Therefore my spirit is overwhelmed within me; My heart is appalled within me. PS 143:4 NASB

As I read this scripture this morning for whatever reason it struck a nerve within me concerning our nation. Many times we are asked by Christian leaders to pray for our nation, but how seriously do we take that request? As I attempted to pray for our nation this morning, this scripture perfectly captured the feelings and emotions that were going on within me. I was overwhelmed and appalled by the wickedness that has fallen upon a country that began because persecuted Christians sought out, fought for and died seeking religious freedoms. Where has that determination gone America? Why aren't we willing to fight for the salvation of our nation and the Christian values it was built on? Every day we watch as our nation continues to slide down the slippery slope of wickedness that can only be compared to that of Sodom and Gomorrah. Every day we are surrounded by and being asked to accept the same types of moral decay as Lot witnessed in Sodom. How is it affecting us? Have we become deaf, dumb and blind to the sin and filth? Will we too have to suffer the consequences of Lot before we are awakened? It would appear that after spending so many years amongst the sin of Sodom, Lot himself had been affected. As the wickedness of Sodom threatened to break down the doors of his "comfortable" home, fear struck him - so much so that he was willing to throw his virgin daughters to the sex craved wolves standing outside his door. This same type of behavior is happening today right under our noses.

 But before they retired for the night, all the men of Sodom, young and old, came from all over the city and surrounded the house. They shouted to Lot, “Where are the men who came to spend the night with you? Bring them out to us so we can have sex with them!” So Lot stepped outside to talk to them, shutting the door behind him. “Please, my brothers,” he begged, “don’t do such a wicked thing. Look, I have two virgin daughters. Let me bring them out to you, and you can do with them as you wish. But please, leave these men alone, for they are my guests and are under my protection. Gen 19:4-8 NLT

What was he thinking? Where was his faith? Why was he not willing to lay down his life for the sake of his family? Instead he was willing to bargain, comply, compromise, whatever word you want to use, with the world at the cost of his children. Thank goodness for his "guests", the angels sent by God to get him out of all that mess. And why exactly had they been sent there anyway? The answer would be found in Genesis 18 with Abraham, Lot's uncle. Upon hearing that the Lord was intending to destroy Sodom, Abraham's heart was filled with compassion and an urgency to pray, even though he did not approve of the wickedness that was going on there. He decided to "come near" to God to pray and plead for the righteous in Sodom. And Abraham came near and said, “Would You also destroy the righteous with the wicked? Suppose there were fifty righteous within the city; would You also destroy the place and not spare it for the fifty righteous that were in it? (Gen 18:23-24 NKJ) As Abraham pleads his case to the Lord, God assures him that he will NOT destroy the righteous with the wicked. Once Abraham is assured of their safety, he approaches the Lord again in humbleness and begins to "negotiate" for the number of righteous people it will require to save this wicked nation. "Then Abraham spoke up again: “Now that I have been so bold as to speak to the Lord, though I am nothing but dust and ashes what if the number of the righteous is five less than fifty? Will you destroy the whole city for lack of five people?” Their conversation goes on for several verses as Abraham's prayer begins to get more and more specific. Each time he is approaches the Lord with more confidence and boldness, yet staying humble. Abraham continues “negotiating” with the Lord, each time lowering the number of the righteous that may be required. Abraham held onto hope. He believed there was still some good even in the worst of places. This is the kind of heart God wants to see in us, one that is so touched by the needs and state of others that we are willing to pray and intercede for them - even the ones that deserve judgment. After all, didn't we deserve judgment? Weren't we saved by grace? Surely there was someone along the way that was interceding to the Lord on our behalf. Abraham's prayer ends by asking the Lord if He will spare Sodom even if there are only ten righteous people there to which God agrees that He will. But why did Abraham stop at ten? I mean so far God had been granting his every request. Would the Lord have been willing to spare Sodom even if there was only one righteous man in the city? Only God knows the answer to that. 

But God also rescued Lot out of Sodom because he was a righteous man who was sick of the shameful immorality of the wicked people around him. Yes, Lot was a righteous man who was tormented in his soul by the wickedness he saw and heard day after day. So you see, the Lord knows how to rescue godly people from their trials, even while keeping the wicked under punishment until the day of final judgment. (2Pet 2:7-9 NLT)

The story of Sodom and Gomorrah paints a picture of the patient and merciful heart of our Father. God does not delight in handing down judgment, but rather in issuing mercy. The Lord was willing to save this entire city for the sake of only ten righteous people living among the thousands of wicked ones, the problem was there weren't ten righteous people living in Sodom - there was only one - Lot - and the Lord made a way of escape for him and all of the family members he was able to pull out. What this story tells me is that it only takes a few people with a heart for God to make a difference in whether a nation is saved or destroyed – God would have saved Sodom and Gomorrah for the sake of only ten. Are there enough “righteous” people living in America to withhold the judgment of God? Are there enough people in America willing to intercede on her behalf and hold onto to the hope that our nation can be saved?

Then if my people who are called by my name will humble themselves and pray and seek my face and turn from their wicked ways, I will hear from heaven and will forgive their sins and restore their land. (2Chron 7:14 NLT)

Here are just a few of the lessons I pulled out of this story:

1) God’s definition of righteous and mine are not even close (which is one of the many reasons why I am not God) I mean would you have ever put Lot on your “righteous men” list?

2) A man’s leadership in his home is vital. Come on men it is really time to “man up”! You are the center pole of your home – its stabilizing force. You were chosen by God to be the priest, the head, the leader, the covering, etc. of your family. Your wives look to you to lead them, love them, and unite with them. Your children need you to be the “Christ” example of your home; to provide discipline, along with affirmation. Your family needs you to be strong and unafraid to be set apart from the standards of this world – unwilling to compromise. It bothers me to hear parents excuse wrong behavior by justifying “that it’s just what kids are doing at this age”. It doesn’t have to be – that’s compromise! Following the standard of Christ is not going to make you your child’s best friend and it definitely will not make you the coolest parent on the block. Training a child up in the way they should go will not win you any popularity contests – but do it anyway!

3) Lot’s lack of leadership and poor decisions cost him his family. Although Lot was able to drag two of his daughters and his wife out of Sodom with him, his married daughters remained in Sodom with their worldly husbands and were destroyed in the city. His wife had become so accustomed to her worldly lifestyle that she couldn’t bear to let it go. So alas, she did what the angel of God warned her not to do – she looked back – missing her old life, maybe missing her children that had stayed behind either way she was not looking forward, she was holding onto the past and didn't listen to the warning of God and as a result died.

4) Women will still be held accountable despite the actions of our husbands. Lot’s wife was warned not to look back, but she didn’t listen and she was taken out. Ladies, Lot lived and the surviving girls were left motherless and alone to be raised by their father (which didn’t turn out to be the greatest thing for them; Sodom had gotten into their system as well. Read Gen 20:30-38). I can just hear Lot’s wife as she is being drug out of Sodom kicking and screaming, blaming him for everything. “You’re the one who decided where we were going to live”, “You always let the girls do whatever they wanted”, “You are the reason why we are in this situation” and “You are the reason I am so emotional”! Never the less God held her accountable for her own actions and took her out. We are responsible for our relationship with the Lord – no one else. We cannot blame a complacent or lazy husband for our own complacency or laziness – that’s on us! We also share the responsibility in building the foundation that is being placed underneath our children. Chances are they spend more time with us than dad, so what are they seeing in us?

5) One man really can make a difference. In Genesis 18, we are told that all the other men turned away and headed toward Sodom and it was Abraham who stood alone before God. It was Abraham’s courage to approach God, the humility he showed when asking, the boldness he showed in his negotiating, and most importantly the heart of compassion and faith that he exhibited that grabbed the heart of the Father. Abraham held onto the hope that surely there must be some righteous people left in that despicable city and God I’m praying it’s my nephew Lot and his family. Abraham was the only one appealing to God to spare the good from the evil. The earnest prayer of a righteous person has great power and produces wonderful results. (James 5:16 NLT)

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