Is America on the Road to Damascus?

In case you didn’t know, the capital of Syria is Damascus—the same place Saul was headed in Acts 9 when he had a life-changing encounter with the risen Jesus. And in case you haven’t been watching any news lately, Syria is the place President Obama is apparently headed too.

Saul was on his way to Damascus to kill or persecute Christians. In contrast, President Obama seems poised to send cruise missiles into Syria as “a shot across the bow” to punish Syria’s president for allegedly using chemical weapons.

On his way to Damascus, Saul was convinced he was on a mission from God. But then his story took an unexpected turn: “When he got to the outskirts of Damascus, he was suddenly dazed by a blinding flash of light. As he fell to the ground, he heard a voice: ‘Saul, Saul, why are you out to get me?’”  (vs. 3-4 MSG)

After setting out on his mission full of pride and his own self-importance, Saul was knocked to the ground and struck blind by the intense searchlight of heaven. Someone had to take him by the hand and lead him the rest of way.

We’ll soon see whether America is on a similar collision course. The good news is that Saul’s story had a happy ending. God not only restored his sight, but Saul—the self-righteous Pharisee and persecutor—was transformed into Paul, the apostle of grace.

I love our country. But could it be that we, like Saul, are in need of a Damascus Road experience? Could it be that we’re on the wrong path, desperately in need of an encounter with the King of Kings and Lord of Lords?

Time will tell whether the current events in Syria have any major prophetic significance. But 2 Chronicles 7:14 is true regardless: It’s always  time for God’s people to humble ourselves and pray…to seek His face to turn from our wicked ways. If we do this, He has promised to hear from heaven, forgive our sins, and heal our land.

And who could doubt that our land needs to be healed today?

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Keeping It Real?

Why all the fascination with “Duck Dynasty” these days? Is it just another example of mindless cultural fluff, or is a profound spiritual message somehow involved?

       The A&E Network’s unlikely hit series is the second most watched original series on a cable channel. As you probably know by now, the show chronicles the Robertson clan, the rags-to-riches family that has turned making duck calls into a lucrative company called Duck Commander.

On a recent media blitz in New York City, the bearded stars were asked by Matt Lauer on “The Today Show” whether “Duck Dynasty” episodes were “real” or scripted. Family patriarch Phil Robertson replied, “Most of the time we ad-lib. Think about it: Some TV producer out of L.A. is fixin’ to put words into our mouth? Gimme a break.”

Jase, one of the Robertson sons, described the culture shock between the TV producers and the fiercely independent Louisianans: “They come up with ideas, and we just get to be ourselves in the situation.”

Is that the secret to the amazing success of the Robertsons, after all—the fact that they “just get to be themselves”?

In various other interviews, the Robertsons have discussed how crucial it is for them to “keep it real,” even in the face of constant pressure to compromise their faith and values. Success has its own temptations, but it would be deadly to the show’s success if the family tried to fit into some mold set by TV gurus.

But I’ve admitted to some friends lately that I don’t always like “reality.” Yes, the truth will set us free (John 8:32), but first it often brings pain and dismay. I can see why some people prefer to live their whole life in a fantasy world.

And have you ever wondered what people would see if YOUR life was a TV reality show? Would it be the most boring program ever, because you never do anything heroic or adventurous? Would you be embarrassed if hidden cameras caught a behind-the-scenes look at what’s really going on in your family or career?

Perhaps the reality show cameras would reveal that your public persona is far different from who you truly are. As Jesus described the Pharisees, maybe you’re a hypocrite…a play actor…wearing a religious mask or “happy face” to hide your inner reality.

Jesus once told a Samaritan woman who had bounced from one immoral relationship to another, “God is Spirit, and those who worship Him must worship in spirit and truth  (John 4:24). There’s an important message here about whether we’re living lives that are authentic or phony.

The Greek word translated “truth” is alētheia.  In addition to meaning “truth” in terms of what is right and wrong (e.g., the truth of Scripture), alētheia  has a much broader meaning. It can be translated as “reality,” and one Bible dictionary defines it as “candor of mind which is free from pretense, simulation, falsehood, or deceit.”

Many people today are yearning for reality. Perhaps they’ve never classified themselves as a “seeker of truth,” but they’re tired of the phony, the fabricated, and the hyped.

Yet, sadly, not everyone is ready to face the truth. Jack Nicholson’s character in “A Few Good Men” may have been right when he famously said, “You can’t HANDLE the truth!”

Let’s be honest: At the same time as we applaud the “reality” of a program like “Duck Dynasty,” millions are also watching the un-reality  of “Keeping Up with the Kardashians.”

Do we even have a clue as to what is “real” anymore? Do we even care?

As you’ve probably guessed, my concern isn’t whether the Robertsons or the Kardashians are living in reality or phoniness. My concern is for you and me.

I pray you have some true friends who are helping you “keep it real”—people who refuse to allow you to drift into unreality and self-deception. Even though it’s unlikely you’ll ever be offered your own TV program, may the reality of Christ  be evident in your life. Although people will be impacted little by what you PROFESS, they can be impacted greatly by the reality of what you POSSESS.

While the Robertson clan has made a mark on the world through manufacturing duck calls, you probably won’t be attracting any ducks through your sincere walk with Jesus. But I predict you surely will  succeed as a fisher of men (Matthew 4:19).

 

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