Archive for September, 2011

The Bankrupt States of America

Posted in Uncategorized on September 9, 2011 by gospel2live

There is something about a tragedy in the making that is difficult to look away from. Much like the proverbial train wreck, we don’t really want to see what is happening, and yet feel strangely compelled not to avert our eyes.

Last night, our president gave a speech calling for $447 BILLION dollars in tax cuts and spending increases to try to create jobs and deal with what is becoming a serious and chronic unemployment problem. Apart from the fact that most of us cannot begin to even fathom the reality of a number like 447,000,000,000, this announcement comes within days of yet another debt cap increase of $500 Billion that pushes our national debt to over $15 TRILLION dollars. Not counting unfunded liabilities (things like Social security and interest on our debt), our debt now exceeds our national Gross Domestic Product.

Can we still save life as we know it in America? I think it is doubtful. Mathematically, it would require huge increases in taxes combined with severe spending cuts (austerity measures) carried out over about 20 years. Even if our current politicians could agree to such a plan, we the people would need to continue to elect politicians who would continue to tax us heavily and spend very little on helping us for about 20 election cycles. How likely do you think THAT is?

In fact, look at what our politicians of BOTH parties are doing. After the midterm elections in 2010, they needed to raise the debt limit to give themselves permission to borrow more money to pay the governments bills. Democrats refused to agree unless there were additional spending promises to extend unemployment benefits. Republicans refused to budge unless there were an extension of the Bush tax cuts. So how did they resolve it? They reached an agreement to raise the debt ceiling (and thereby borrow more money!) by agreeing to BOTH reduce revenue (extend the tax cuts) AND increase spending! The latest offer by the president is more of the same — increase our spending AND decrease taxes. Looks like the magic money fairy is going to have to print a bunch of new money to pay for this too, right?

To put this in perspective, what our government is doing would be like a couple facing bankruptcy who decide the solution to their problem is to quit their jobs and take a lavish vacation to Las Vegas and put the whole thing on their credit cards!

Already our government and financial leaders are printing money (they call it quantitative easing) to be able to finance our government spending. Throughout history, every government that resorts to printing money brings hyperinflation to its people. Just like the store clerk has no confidence in bills I might try to print out in my basement, eventually government printed money becomes “just paper” and people stop accepting its value. This is when you see the pictures of people pushing wheelbarrows full of bills to buy a loaf of bread and a couple of eggs! While timing these events is nearly impossible, it is hard to believe that the whole system collapse is far off.

So what does this have to do with the Gospel and living a life as a follower of Jesus?

1. We turn to the Lord for our security, not money, possessions or the government. The Psalmist writes, “Some trust in chariots and some in horses, but we trust in the name of the Lord our God. They collapse and fall, but we rise and stand upright.” (Ps. 20:7-8) We must never lose sight of the fact that God “steers the hearts of Kings.” He is absolutely in control — not wringing His hands in worry over how we are going to get out of this mess. We see throughout scripture that God works in and through the circumstances of life to the good of those who love Him and trust in Him and to the righteous judgment of those who reject Him. As American Christians, we tend to get caught up in finding our security in the prosperity of our nation. Being utterly dependent upon the Lord for our daily bread may be the best thing that ever happens to us.

2. We must at least consider the possibility that America is under God’s judgment.  While saying such things publicly will subject you to everything from ridicule to open rebuke, God DOES judge sin.  We, as a nation, have a lot to repent of.  We kill our unborn children. We openly endorse lifestyles such as homosexuality that are an offense to God.  We WALLOW in sexual sin and pornography — really a form of worshiping images made in the likeness of men and women.  We allow human trafficking right here under our noses.  We exploit the poor and the alien.  We worship the rich and famous and envy their often ill-gotten gains.  We pursue leisure and comfort rather than a right relationship to our Creator.  We pay lip service to God in socially appropriate services, but then worship and serve created things all the rest of the time.  Hebrews 12:5-6 states, “My son, do not regard lightly the discipline of the Lord, nor be weary when reproved by Him.  For the Lord disciplines the one he loves, and chastises every son whom he receives.”  If we fail to repent of our sin, God’s judgment is just, well, judgment!  But if we respond to the Lord with repentance, then tough times become a part of his loving discipline that enables us to share in his character — in particular, his holiness.  We need to call the church, and our nation, to repent of sin and to seek mercy from the Lord.

One of the ways that God judges nations is by sending spirits to kings and advisors that lie, confuse, and dull and dilute wisdom.  (See 1 Kings 22; Isaiah 19; Isaiah 29)  While we think of earthquakes, storms, fires and droughts as being the “typical” ways God judges, perhaps the constant stream of bickering, insanity, and propaganda out of our politicians and media is really the hand of God’s judgment.  After all, a people who would even allow most reality TV shows to air — let alone watch them and talk about them with all their friends — deserves to get the handed nothing more substantial than canned phrases and sound bites from their captors.  They may be lying and deceiving, but we tolerate it without thinking.  So who is really to blame?

3.  Prepare for tough times.  Most apocalyptic writers would at this point urge you to stock up on precious metals, canned goods and ammo.  The theory is that you have to take care of your own and be prepared to kill your starving neighbor if they come for your stuff.  Others will have plans for how you can become rich during hard times by taking advantage of the desperation of others.  However, the Gospel calls us to love our neighbors.  While it is certainly wise to have a supply of extra food on hand (especially facing a winter in northern Minnesota!), I think that the Gospel calls us to be prepared to feed our neighbors, not just fight them off or fleece them.  There are things that we can be doing right now that will enable us to help our entire neighborhoods to survive in extremely difficult times.  We need to be serving people right now.  Blowing snow, sharing produce, building relationships with the people in our neighborhoods allows us to have a foundation in place to talk if things get bad.  Besides, this is ALWAYS good Gospel work!  Think about who in your neighborhood is particularly vulnerable and prepare to take care of them if needed.  Bad times create good opportunities for us to share the love of Jesus by sacrificially and generously loving our neighbors.

4.  Draw near to God.  The Gospel gives the one who trusts in Jesus’ death and resurrection a sure hope that this life is as close to hell as we will ever get.  As we draw near to God and meditate on his great and precious promises, our earthly anxieties decrease and our great hope of being face to face in his presence increases.  Jesus told us not to fear the one who can kill the body, but rather to fear him who can cast both body and soul into hell!  If the world falls apart around us, we need to be able to give a reason for the hope that we have.  The nearer I draw to the Lord Jesus, the more likely that I will be able to face both adversity AND prosperity with grace.  Even is America were to cease to exist, the Kingdom of my primary citizenship cannot be shaken!  My King is Lord of all the universe and will never face an adversary who can threaten his rule and reign!  How can I fear anything when I am in HIS presence?

Let me close with Psalm 46:

God is our refuge and strength,

a very present help in trouble.

2 Therefore we will not fear though the earth gives way,

though the mountains be moved into the heart of the sea,

3 though its waters roar and foam,

though the mountains tremble at its swelling. Selah

4 There is a river whose streams make glad the city of God,

the holy habitation of the Most High.

5 God is in the midst of her; she shall not be moved;

God will help her when morning dawns.

6 The nations rage, the kingdoms totter;

he utters his voice, the earth melts.

7 The Lord of hosts is with us;

the God of Jacob is our fortress. Selah

8 Come, behold the works of the Lord,

how he has brought desolations on the earth.

9 He makes wars cease to the end of the earth;

he breaks the bow and shatters the spear;

he burns the chariots with fire.

10 “Be still, and know that I am God.

I will be exalted among the nations,

I will be exalted in the earth!”

11 The Lord of hosts is with us;

the God of Jacob is our fortress.

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