When the Curtain Is Pulled Back

wizard

One of my all-time favorite movie scenes is in The Wizard of Oz. “The great and powerful Oz” was trying to intimidate Dorothy and her friends, and his scare tactics appeared to be working.

But right when all hope seemed lost, something quite providential happened. Dorothy’s dog, Toto, pulled back the curtain Oz was hiding behind. It turned out that despite all the smoke, sounds effects, and bombast, the mighty Oz was actually just a feeble old man.

Shockingly at times, God has been “pulling back the curtain” lately. He’s exposing things for what they really are—and the reality behind the curtain is alarming.

When the Wizard was exposed, he famously said, “Pay no attention to that man behind the curtain!”

In the same way, today’s embarrassed politicians try to persuade us to “pay no attention” to the video clips, emails, and other evidence we can plainly see with our own eyes. But it’s too late. Once the curtain is pulled back, how can we not pay attention?

Yet for months it seemed that most Americans were paying no attention to the foibles of the candidates they were supporting. As long as a candidate was from their own party, all sins could be forgiven. But now that God is pulling back the curtain, the corruption is simply too blatant to ignore.

When the curtain is pulled back, we see things as they really  are, not just as they appear. The “spin” is gone, the hype looks foolish, and our heroes as seen as mere mortals once again. It’s as if the Piped Piper’s spell is broken, and we wonder how we ever could have been so gullible.

It’s interesting to see how someone responds when their deception is exposed. When Dorothy and her friends discovered that the Wizard was a fraud, he initially reacted in great rage. “Do you presume to criticize the Great Oz, you ungrateful creatures?” he asked indignantly.

Doesn’t this sound like how many politicians act when the curtain is pulled back? They blame their accusers, castigate the news media, and act as if they should be immune from criticism.

When the curtain has been pulled back this year, corruption has been exposed in both political parties and even in revered institutions like the FBI and Department of Justice. And while the news media is sometimes unfairly criticized, it turns out that much of the criticism is deserved.

As God has mercifully pulled back the curtain, the unseen realm has been exposed, and the apostle Paul’s warning in Ephesians 6:10-13 has rung true. Our real battle is more than a clash between Democrats and Republicans, liberals and conservatives. A demonic spiritual element has been working “behind the curtain” to pull strings of influence in our political affairs.

Thankfully, some of this wizardry is finally being exposed for what it is. I’ve heard that if anyone catches a glimpse at how sausage is made, they will never eat sausage again. Hopefully the same wisdom will apply when the curtain is pulled back on the corruption of our political candidates—how can we ever vote for such a person again?

One of the other great scenes in The Wizard of Oz occurs when Dorothy accidentally pours water on the Wicked Witch of the West, causing her sudden demise. “I’m melting!” she says pathetically as she dissolves on the ground. Dorothy is astonished, not just that the Wicked Witch is dead, but that the Witch’s followers rejoice  when they realize her power has been broken.

I rejoice that the Lord is pulling back the curtain today, because I know that repentance is always a precursor to revival and national restoration.

However, I’m also aware of the sobering fact that the curtain will one day be pulled back on each of us. Today our political candidates are being exposed, but tomorrow it may be you and me. How would you fare if all your conversations were recorded and your emails were leaked to the press? What if the whole world saw what your marriage is like behind closed doors? What would the IRS find if they audited your taxes?

It’s such a great time to search our own hearts and ask the Lord to deal with any sins we’ve tolerated “behind the curtain.”

“Cleanse me from secret faults,” King David prayed (Psalm 19:12). “See if there is any wicked way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting” (Psalm 139:23-24).

That’s a great prayer for us as well.

 

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The Exorcism Before the Election

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Whether you’re a Democrat, Republican, Independent, or simply a member of the Apathetic Party, I feel an urgency to bring something to your attention. In the fog of the election season and all its political ads and pundits, it’s easy to overlook root issues that must be addressed before Election Day.

Although I don’t usually write much about the devil and demons, the current situation demands an exception. Whether you are for Hillary, Trump, or someone else, there’s an important matter not mentioned in any of the party platforms…

Before the final votes, we need a National Exorcism.

Yes, you heard me right. Our central problem isn’t the Democrats or Republicans, but rather the demons and strongholds.

I don’t really need to provide specifics at this point, but the evidence is clear to anyone willing to face the facts and look beneath the surface…

Hillary has her demons. Trump has his demons. And let’s face it: American has its demons, and this has led to our crazy match-up of candidates.

The apostle Paul told the Ephesians that their real battles were not a matter of flesh and blood. Likewise, I’m sure he would remind us today that our struggle isn’t primarily between political ideologies:

We are not fighting against flesh-and-blood enemies, but against evil rulers and authorities of the unseen world, against mighty powers in this dark world, and against evil spirits in the heavenly places (Ephesians 6:12 NLT).

Thankfully, Paul also wrote that Jesus is positioned higher than any of these unseen enemies:

He is far above any ruler or authority or power or leader or anything else—not only in this world but also in the world to come. God has put all things under the authority of Christ and has made him head over all things for the benefit of the church (Ephesians 1:21-21 NLT).

You see, our prayers have spiritual authority to lift the demonic fog that’s blinding so many people’s eyes to the real issues facing our nation. Romans 11:8 calls this fog “a spirit of stupor,” and it’s extremely dangerous to have an election unless that spell is broken.

Before it’s too late, will you join me in praying for our country? Will you join me in humbling ourselves before the Lord and repenting of our national sins and narcissism?

Frankly, I don’t want the Democrats in power. But I don’t want the Republicans in power either. Nor the Libertarians or Green Party.

I’m not particularly excited about having the first woman President or the first billionaire President. The governing establishment has become too demonic to be remedied by any mortal person, whether male or female. And the strongholds are too deeply entrenched for any single election to fully change.

It gets down to this: Instead of just having the right outcome in the election, we need right hearts and a spiritual revival. Rather than just choosing the best person to be President, we need to look to King Jesus for “the wisdom that comes from heaven” (James 3:17).

When we submit ourselves to God, the Bible says we can resist the devil, and he will flee from us (James 4:7). That’s really good news, isn’t it?

May our nation submit to God once again, starting with those of us who profess to follow Jesus as our Lord (1 Peter 4:17).

Then let the national exorcism begin!

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New Births & New Beginnings

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On January 25, 1969, I experienced the miracle of the new birth when I asked Jesus to be the Lord of my life.

If you’ve never been born again, the experience Jesus described to the religious leader Nicodemus in John 3:1-8, you’re really missing out—not just in this life, but in eternity as well. There’s no other way to become a “new creation,” where “old things have passed away; behold, all things have become new” (2 Corinthians 5:17).

However, lately I’ve been meeting lots of people who’ve already experienced the new birth, yet now they need something else: a new beginning.

You’ve probably met these folks too. They tell you something like, “I got saved back in 1995, and everything changed.” However, the more you get to know these well-meaning believers, the more apparent it becomes that something’s drastically missing. Maybe Jesus forgave their sins and stamped their ticket to heaven many years ago, but now they seem stuck in a dreary, unappealing religiosity.

Other religious folks eagerly tell you about the day they got “filled with the Holy Ghost.” But although that may have been a glorious day, now you can’t help but wonder if their filling with the Holy Ghost somehow leaked over the years. The love, joy, peace, and other fruit that’s evidence of being filled with the Spirit is nowhere to be found in their life anymore (see Galatians 5:22-23). Perhaps it’s time for a Holy Spirit “refill.”

I’m not trying to be mean. But these observations are unmistakable and troubling.

The reality is that we all need new beginnings at various points in our lives. The Bible is filled with stories of mighty heroes of the faith who needed a fresh start at one point or another:

  • Abraham was 100 and Sarah 90 when everything changed for them at the birth of their child Isaac (Genesis 21:5, 17:17).
  • Jacob experienced a new beginning when he saw a ladder reaching to an open heaven (Genesis 28:10-22), and then his life was transformed even more when he wrestled all night with God (Genesis 32:24-32).
  • Joseph suddenly went from the prison to the palace and became the Prime Minister over all of Egypt (Genesis 41:14).
  • Moses’ life was radically changed at age 80 when God spoke to him from the burning bush in the backside of the desert (Exodus 3:1-22).
  • Gideon was living in fear and self-preservation right before the Angel of the Lord appeared and commissioned him as a “mighty man of valor” to defeat the Midianites (Judges 6:11:24).
  • David desperately needed a new beginning after his adultery and murder were exposed (2 Samuel 12, Psalm 51).
  • Elijah was weary, depressed, and practically suicidal before God gave him a new purpose in life: mentoring the next generation (1 Kings 19:1-21).
  • Paul’s experience on the Damascus Road would surely be considered a new birth. But he later experienced several new beginnings too: when Barnabas got him involved in the church at Antioch (Acts 11:25-26) and when the Holy Spirit commissioned him and Barnabas to plant churches across the Roman Empire (Acts 13:1-4).

This is just a small sampling of the Bible’s stories about people who experienced a new beginning. If the Lord was willing to give these people a fresh start, don’t you think He’s able to give YOU one as well?

In the Gospels, Jesus triggered new beginnings everywhere He went. The list includes the woman at the well (John 4:1-30), the woman caught in the act of adultery (John 8:3-11), Lazarus raised from the dead (John 11:1-44), Jesus’ discouraged disciples receiving new hope after cowering behind locked doors in the wake of His cross (John 20:19-23)—and many more.

Do you see the message here? Even though I’m thrilled if you’ve experienced the new birth, it may be time for a new beginning as well. The good news is that God gladly offers to provide one when we ask Him (Isaiah 42:9, 43:19).

That means you don’t need to live a purposeless life or remain stuck in quicksand. Nor do you have to flounder in a sea of frustration and hopelessness.

But let me be clear: New beginnings aren’t always easy and pain-free. You could be required to make a geographical relocation and leave friends and loved ones behind (Genesis 12:1-4). You may need to wrestle with God until your hip is out of joint, or He could totally reroute your life by speaking to you from a burning bush.

You shouldn’t t be surprised if you have to strip off some graveclothes, as happened with Lazarus (John 11:44). And don’t forget about Elijah if your new beginning starts in a cloud of depression while you’re having a “personal retreat” in a dark, damp cave.

Finally, let me ask: Has God already given you some instructions for launching your new beginning? If so, this is no time to procrastinate or be bound by fear.

You see… the best way to get a fresh start is to get started!  Even if you don’t know where the path will lead, today you could take a step of faith that dramatically impacts your future.

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Elijah’s Unanswered Prayer

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Although the prophet Elijah is famous for his mighty prayers, I’ve always been more intrigued by the prayer God ignored.

James 5:17-18 recounts Elijah’s amazing feat in praying for Israel’s rain to stop for three and a half years, then praying for the rain to suddenly be restored. In-between those two monumental events, Elijah found time to supernaturally multiply a widow’s food, raise her son from the dead, and call down fire from the sky on Mount Carmel (1 Kings 17 & 18).

Pretty impressive stuff. The Bible says nothing is impossible for God, and it seemed as if nothing was impossible for Elijah either.

But there was one prayer that didn’t get answered. Elijah prayed this just as earnestly as any of his other prayers, if not more so. Yet the Lord ignored him.

The surprising scene occurred when Queen Jezebel threatened his life and Elijah escaped into the wilderness: “He prayed that he might die, and said, ‘It is enough! Now, Lord, take my life’” (1 Kings 19:4).

The prophet prayed that he would die.

Perhaps you’ve never prayed a prayer like this—or won’t admit that you have. But at times some of the rest of us have prayed this, and we can learn some important lessons from Elijah’s story.

Based on Elijah’s track record of answered prayer, we might have assumed God would simply say okay and grant his request. If his other requests were so easily granted, why wouldn’t the Lord give him what he wanted this time?

The answer is this: As we see later in the chapter, God still had plans for Elijah. Yet those plans were hard to see while Elijah was hiding out in the cave and feeling sorry for himself.

It’s interesting that before giving the prophet his new commission, the Lord made sure he got some rest and nourishment (1 Kings 19:5-8). The story shows how our state of mind can be negatively influenced not just by difficult circumstances, but also by things like fatigue and poor nutrition.

Next, God whispered to Elijah with a “still small voice,” cutting through all the noise and hoopla that had been surrounding him (1 Kings 19:11-12). If you’re feeling depressed and hopeless today, nothing will help you more than to tune out the noisy distractions and hear God speak to you again.

One of the other causes of Elijah’s hopelessness was his sense of loneliness, feeling that there was no one left but him to follow in the ways of the Lord. Twice he told God about his woeful aloneness:

I have been very zealous for the Lord God of hosts; because the children of Israel have forsaken Your covenant, torn down Your altars, and killed Your prophets with the sword. I alone am left; and they seek to take my life (1 Kings 19:10, 19:14).

Have you ever felt disconnected from family, friends, or the community of believers? Or perhaps you’ve felt all alone in some of the battles you’ve been facing. This is a depressing place to be.

But God pointed out that Elijah’s perspective was all wrong! While the prophet felt like he was the only one left to stand for righteousness, the Lord told him, I have reserved seven thousand in Israel, all whose knees have not bowed to Baal” (1 Kings 19:18).

How could Elijah feel so alone at a time when the Lord still had 7,000 faithful followers? Maybe you’ve felt this way in a megachurch or at a conference or concert. Sometimes the loneliest feeling of all is to be surrounded by thousands, yet not truly connected to anyone.

Elijah clearly tended to be a loner in his personality type, but even loners need to be connected. God took care of this with the final step in the prophet’s restoration, giving him a new relationship that was central to his new commission and purpose.

When the prophet felt as if his life’s purpose was over, the Lord gave him a new mission and vision. Elijah first was told to anoint some new kings, but then the pivotal moment came when God said he must anoint Elisha “as prophet in your place” (1 Kings 19:16).

The prophet’s new commission was to train his replacement! How would you respond to a mandate like that?

Elijah didn’t initially seem too happy about training someone to replace him. But isn’t this what true ministry is all about? Isn’t the primary task of every leader to equip others for their role in God’s kingdom? (See Ephesians 4:11-12.)

To sum up this story, God ignored Elijah’s request to die. Instead, He showed him a new purpose—one that ultimately had more significance than anything he had done before.

Fortunately, Elijah’s story didn’t end until a “double portion” of his spirit rested upon his successor, Elisha (2 Kings 2:1-15).

Think about that for a moment. What if the Lord said to you, “I don’t want your life to end until there’s a double portion of blessings resting upon your kids and those you mentor in the next generation”? Nothing is as important as that.

So it’s okay if you take some time to rest and get nourished, even if you have to hang out in a cave for a while. But then listen for God’s voice and His new commission in your life. And don’t be surprised if it has something to do with training your replacement and equipping the next generation.

As long as you still have breath, God still has plans.

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When Your Life Grows Stale

potato-chips

I wasn’t prepared for what God spoke to me as I prayed with a friend recently. It was just a single word, with no explanation given or needed.

“STALE.”

I wish I could tell you that this word from God was meant for my friend. But I knew it was an arrow pointed directly at me.

Everyone knows what staleness is like. The cracker or potato chip that once was crisp and tasty is now bland and tasteless, somewhat like eating cardboard.

Ordinarily people simply throw things away that have become stale. “This product is past the expiration date,” they say, “so I’m just going to toss it.”

Dictionaries give lots of interesting descriptions of staleness: dry, hardened, flat, musty, stagnant, boring, tedious, or having lost novelty, interest, or freshness.

Have you ever become stale in some area of your life? Perhaps stale in your relationship with the Lord, your marriage, your career, or your ministry?

Unless the proper precautions are taken, things that once were tasty and appealing can become unpalatable and disgusting as time goes by.

Surely I’m not the only one this has ever happened to.

Thanks to The Message paraphrase, I have a Biblical reference on the subject of staleness. Jesus told the Christians in Laodicea:

“I know you inside and out…You’re not cold, you’re not hot—far better to be either cold or hot! You’re stale. You’re stagnant (Revelation 3:15-16).

What a sad condition these believers found themselves in. Jesus said they were lukewarm, neither cold nor hot. They were existing at room temperature—pretty much like a corpse!

And when we become lukewarm, we inevitably end up stale and stagnant as well. Life loses its zest, and everything begins to taste like a stale potato chip.

Sometimes stale potato chips, crackers, or nuts can regain freshness when you put them in the oven for a while. In the same way, God has ways to make stale things fresh again. He can bring revival to your spiritual life and new vitality to your marriage, your job, or your dreams.

One day every bit of our staleness will be remedied by the one who says, “Behold, I make all things new” (Revelation 21:5). But the good news is that we don’t need to wait until Jesus returns to experience “newness of life” (Romans 6:4, 7:6).

Don’t give up. You haven’t reached your expiration date yet. Today can be the day when your life starts becoming crisp and tasty once again.

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My Own Hot-Mic Moment

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In case you haven’t heard, Donald Trump lost a lot of votes recently when a 2005 video surfaced of his vulgar comments about women. Trump’s campaign wasn’t going so well anyway, but he seemed to have a chance. Barring a miracle, his hot-mic moment has now made victory extremely unlikely.

I once had my own hot-mic moment, so I’m pretty sensitive to this sort of thing. I don’t make lewd comments about women, so my personal hot-mic episode had nothing to do with anything like that. It happened more than 20 years ago when I was a pastor going through a nasty church split.

If you’ve never gone through a church split, you are very fortunate. All I can say is that Christians seldom act like Christians when a massive split is underway.

One of the disgruntled members of our church had once been a very good friend of mine. I’ll call him Ralph to protect is identity, because I don’t think he would want me writing a blog about him.

One day Ralph came, unannounced, to my office at the church and said he wanted to talk.

“Jim, I know the source of the problem that’s been causing the church’s disunity,” he told me quite earnestly. “You’ve been operating under a Jezebel spirit, and the disunity has been coming from you.”

If I had been having a better day and was full of the Holy Spirit, I may have reacted with more grace and humility. Or perhaps I may have even chuckled a little that he would make such an unfounded accusation.

But I was weary that day…frustrated…and irritated that this once-upon-a-time friend would now be one of my greatest adversaries.

“Ralph, you may be right about that Jezebel thing,” I shot back at him. “But I’m not the one it’s coming from.”

The conversation quickly degenerated as I listed three or four people who seemed to me to be operating in a divisive spirit. Defending myself as a man of peace and integrity, I slammed those I saw as troublemakers.

As you can imagine, Ralph left even more agitated than he came in. He was convinced I had stubbornly rejected the heaven-sent message he had brought me in the name of the Lord.

Within 24 hours, I learned that Ralph had secretly recorded our unseemly conversation with a hidden recorder. He played back the recording for his disgruntled friends as clear evidence that I was slandering members of the church.

Although more than 20 years have passed since my hot-mic moment, the memories still hurt. I’ve long since forgiven Ralph, and hopefully he has forgiven me as well. But I was disappointed at him, and even more disappointed in myself.

What a painful lesson. And what a reminder that we probably should treat every conversation as if it was being recorded for public consumption.

In fact, everything we speak is being recorded, as Jesus warned: “On the day of judgment people will give account for every careless word they speak” (Matthew 12:36 ESV).

Have you ever had a hot-mic moment? Have you said something that did great damage to other people or to your own reputation?

Ironically, Hillary Clinton has had her own problems with unwise words. While she seemed to take great delight in Trump’s problems with the hot mic, WikiLeaks is now releasing hacked transcripts of her Wall Street speeches and confidential email communications of her staff. Some of her top staffers have written derogatory things about Catholics, evangelicals, Hispanics, Bernie Sanders’ supporters, and just about everyone else you can imagine.

The leaked emails from Hillary’s campaign make it clearer than ever that she is a very dishonest person, taking completely different positions in private than in public. And the emails demonstrate that the Clinton Foundation undoubtedly was involved in pay-for-play access to Hillary’s connections while at the State Department.

It’s a bit troubling that privacy is apparently now a thing of the past for any of us. Yet this wouldn’t be such a problem if we were heeding Jesus’ warning: “There is nothing hidden which will not be revealed, nor has anything been kept secret but that it should come to light” (Mark 4:22).

So very true. And at times so very painful.

The apostle Paul said it this way: “Don’t use foul or abusive language. Let everything you say be good and helpful, so that your words will be an encouragement to those who hear them” (Ephesians 4:29 NLT). Let’s never forget that our words are incredibly powerful, able to impart either life or death to others (Proverbs 18:21).

If anything good can come out of this election, perhaps it will be a reminder to each of us to be careful of what we say or write. You never know when someone may be watching, listening, or even recording.

And even if no one on earth hears our words, we can be sure the tape recorder in heaven is running 24/7.

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Spotting True & False Contrition

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I’m writing this on the Jewish Day of Atonement (Yom Kippur), and I can’t help thinking about a Biblical word that’s been in the news a lot lately: contrition. While this isn’t meant to be a political blog post, I think it’s important to read today’s headlines with an understanding of the nature of true repentance and contrition.

I recognize that dealing with this issue can easily lead to Phariseeism, as if others have been guilty of false contrition, while I’ve managed to escape such foibles. And even though the Bible provides many telltale signs of false contrition, I admit that it’s always dangerous to judge another person’s heart.

Contrition never comes easily. None of us enjoys humbling ourself and contritely acknowledging our sins and shortcomings. And, as Jesus pointed out, it’s all too easy to notice the speck in our neighbor’s eye, while excusing the plank in our own eye (Matthew 7:3).

The story of true and false contrition begins in the Garden of Eden, so it’s no wonder these are such deeply ingrained tendencies, not easily shaken. Yet if we don’t deal with the blind spots in our own lives, there is certainly no hope for repentance on a national or international level.

Although an entire book could be written on the nature of true contrition, here are some highlights of what we can learn from the Scriptures:

  1. True contrition does not include finger-pointing and blame-shifting. When God came to Adam and confronted him about his disobedience, Adam gave the classic response, “The woman whom You gaveto be with me, she gave me of the tree, and I ate” (Genesis 3:12). In essence, Adam said it was all the woman’s fault. And since the Lord was the one who had given him the woman, it ultimately was God’s fault as well. And of course, Eve had a great line too, basically saying, “The devil made me do it” (Genesis 3:13).

King Saul was a master at this kind of blame-shifting. When rebuked by the prophet Samuel for impatiently offering a burnt offering, Saul claimed it was Samuel’s fault for not arriving on time (1 Samuel 13:1-14). False contrition always finds some lame explanation or pins the blame on someone else.

In light of this, it’s interesting that when Donald Trump apologized for his inappropriate sexual banter 11 years ago, he couldn’t resist adding that Bill Clinton’s sins were certainly much worse than his.

And who could forget Hillary Clinton blaming “the vast rightwing conspiracy” in the 1990s when the news media asked about her husband’s infidelities?

Seems like not much has changed since the Garden of Eden.

  1. True contrition doesn’t minimize our offense. Hey, I used to be an attorney, so I know all about how to plea bargain, only admitting guilt to lesser charges. Notice that Donald Trump explained his lewdness as mere “locker room talk,” as if that somehow made it better.

Meanwhile, Hillary Clinton says it was just a “mistake” to do State Department business on a private email server in her home—even though the mistake potentially exposed the nation and its covert operatives to great danger if her emails were hacked.

Once again, Saul was a prime example of how not to show true contrition. He consistently minimized or explained away his offenses. After he disobeyed God’s instructions in 1 Samuel 15:1-29, he offered the “religious” explanation that he was merely keeping back the best of the sheep to sacrifice to the Lord. When he realized Samuel wouldn’t buy that spiritual-sounding argument, he essentially said, “Okay, I have sinned. But now let me get on with what I was doing.”

With Saul oblivious to the seriousness of his actions, Samuel told him the shocking news, “The Lord has rejected you from being king” (vs. 24-26). False contrition typically expects to suffer no consequences from our sins, but there will be consequences nevertheless.

  1. True contrition doesn’t quibble about words and definitions. In the course of his impeachment testimony, Bill Clinton famously argued that his statement “there’s nothing going on between us” had been truthful. His rationale was that he didn’t have any ongoing relationship with Monica Lewinsky at the time he was being questioned. Clinton said, “It depends upon what the meaning of the word ‘is’ is…If it means there is none, that was a completely true statement.” Wow. Spoken like a true lawyer.
  1. Although rare, true contrition happens best when it’s not just because we got caught. Waving his finger at the press, Bill Clinton adamantly claimed, “I did not have sex with that woman, Miss Lewinsky.” His story only changed when it came to light that his semen was still on the blue dress she had saved.

Likewise, Hillary persistently claimed she never sent or received classified government information on her email service—until the FBI found otherwise.

But this certainly isn’t an issue confined to politicians of just one party. Remember Nixon’s attempted cover-ups during Watergate? And do you think Donald Trump would ever confess offenses that weren’t caught on video?

Even King David seemed prone to denial and cover-up. Somehow he avoided remorse over his adultery with Bathsheba and murder of her husband until he was confronted by Nathan the prophet (2 Samuel 12).

Yet once his sin was exposed, David responded quite differently than Saul. His repentance was both deep and complete (Psalm 51). No minimizing. No rationalizing. No blaming of others. No plea bargaining.

In stark contrast to Saul, David recognized the severity of his sins and his desperate need for the mercy and forgiveness of God. And rather than just showing contrition in order to rehabilitate his imagine or gain respectability in the eyes of people, David sought something much deeper: a clean heart and right standing again with the Lord.

Isn’t it stunning how easily we can excuse and explain away the sins of the politicians we like—those of our own party or political philosophy—while harshly judging those we think should be defeated. Morality and righteousness have been put on a sliding scale, depending on the outcome we desire, rather than on God’s unchanging truth.

We should all be thankful we’re not running for President, because it would be brutal to have our own sins and dirty laundry exposed in the glaring light of the media. As the psalmist correctly noted, “If You, Lord, should mark iniquities, O Lord, who could stand? But there is forgiveness with You, that You may be feared” (Psalm 130:3-4).

You see, contrition is not just something our nation needs—it must start with you and me. And thank God, we have every reason to be honest about our sins rather than try to hide them (Proverbs 28:13, 1 John 1:9). Because of the atoning sacrifice of Jesus, we have a Defense Attorney who can truly forgive and erase our misdeeds (1 John 2:1-2).

Before we decide who to vote for, let’s ask God to search our own hearts and expose our wicked ways (Psalm 139:23-24). He promises to dwell with those who have “a contrite and humble spirit” (Isaiah 57:15), and we still seem a long way from that now.

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The Only Thing That Will REALLY Make America Great Again

Abraham-Lincoln

It is abundantly clear that no political candidate can “make America great again.” But that doesn’t mean all is lost.

As every student of history knows, America was in crisis in 1863. Despite Abraham Lincoln’s Emancipation Proclamation to free the slaves in January of that year, the Civil War raged on, with no end in sight.

Today America is in crisis again. The symptoms aren’t yet as obvious as in Lincoln’s day, and some people are in denial that anything is wrong. We will never correct our course unless we are willing to acknowledge that our course has been faulty.

While presidential candidates may promise to make America great again, they offer solutions that fail to recognize what made America great in the first place. Their faulty premise is that greatness will return if we have better trade deals, more jobs, a more equitable tax structure, or a stronger military.

We can argue about whether such things are an improvement. But none of them will make America great again.

In stark contrast to what is being promised today, on March 30, 1863, Abraham Lincoln issued a presidential proclamation “Appointing a Day of National Humiliation, Fasting, and Prayer.” Calling the nation to repentance and a spiritual awakening, he pointed to our need for God’s grace and favor. In support of this, he paraphrased Psalm 33:12, saying, “Those nations only are blessed whose God is the Lord”:

Whereas it is the duty of nations as well as of men, to own their dependence upon the overruling power of God, to confess their sins and transgressions, in humble sorrow, yet with assured hope that genuine repentance will lead to mercy and pardon; and to recognize the sublime truth, announced in the Holy Scriptures and proven by all history, that those nations only are blessed whose God is the Lord…

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!

It behooves us then, to humble ourselves before the offended Power, to confess our national sins, and to pray for clemency and forgiveness…

All this being done, in sincerity and truth, let us then rest humbly in the hope authorized by the Divine teachings, that the united cry of the Nation will be heard on high, and answered with blessings, no less than the pardon of our national sins, and the restoration of our now divided and suffering Country, to its former happy condition of unity and peace.

Whether you’re a Republican, Democrat, Libertarian, or follower of some other political philosophy, I hope you will grasp the power of Lincoln’s message. We need more than better politicians or better policies. We need a spiritual awakening that begins with you and me.

In addition to Abraham Lincoln’s diagnosis of our need for national repentance and revival, the words of nineteenth-century historian Alexis de Tocqueville are amazingly prophetic today: “America is great because she is good. If America ceases to be good, America will cease to be great.”

Forgive us, Lord. We need more than a good President. We need to once again acknowledge You as our King.

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