Actor Matthew McConaughey spoke from the podium in the White House press briefing room this week, encouraging lawmakers to take action on gun violence and citing stories of young victims of the mass shooting in his hometown of Uvalde, Texas.
In his speech, he told the story of ten-year-old Ellie Garcia, who attended a Baptist church with her uncle. According to McConaughey, Ellie had prepared to read a Bible verse at the following Wednesday evening service: “The verse was from Deuteronomy 6:5. “And you shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength. That’s what Ellie was becoming. But she never got to read it.
I invite you to read this verse for Ellie today, slowly.
Now let’s see why this is so vital to the future of our broken culture.
An “age-appropriate” drag show for kids?
From the firebombing of a pro-life pregnancy center, to a man who told police he wanted to kill Supreme Court Justice Brett Kavanaugh, to divorce parties, to the so-called Smithsonian American Art Museum’s “age-appropriate” drag queen show for kids ages three and up, today’s news reinforces that we desperately need God to “heal our country” (2 Chronicles 7:14).
We discussed this week the path to such healing:Whether my people who are called by my name humble themselves, pray and seek my face and turn from their evil ways, so I will be hear from the sky and will be forgive their sin and heal their country” (my accents).
Whether we do what God calls us to do, he will be do what he promises to do.
We focused on the humility that admits we need what only God can do and the prayer that continually intercedes for our nation. Now let’s move on to God’s third imperative: “Seek my face.” Look for means “to seek diligently”. Gods Face is his personal presence.
So, to experience His healing for our lives and our land, we must do what Ellie Garcia did: we must devote ourselves personally and passionately to seeking intimacy with the Almighty.
Back from the Holy Land with a heavy heart
I returned yesterday after leading my last study trip to Israel. Every time I travel to the Holy Land, I feel like I fall deeper in love with the Jewish people. Their courage as they live surrounded by enemies who want to destroy them is coupled with a passion for life that is truly inspiring.
However, as I returned home, my heart was also heavy for the Jewish people. Paul’s testimony is mine: “My heart’s desire and prayer to God for them is that they should be saved” (Romans 10:1).
I saw dozens of ultra-Orthodox Jews gathering at the Western Wall in their black and white clothes, their long beards and prayer shawls, their phylacteries on their foreheads and hands, rocking back and forth for they were praying. I attended a bar mitzvah when a young man was formally introduced to the Jewish faith. I was again impressed with how the nation observes Shabbat (the Sabbath) – everything closes from sundown Friday to sundown Saturday.
And yet, what Paul said of his Jewish people is still true today: “I bear them witness that they have a zeal for God, but not according to knowledge” (v. 2). Knowledge could be translated as “full understanding”. This is what the apostle meant: “For ignoring the righteousness of God, and seeking to establish their own, they have not submitted themselves to the righteousness of God” (v. 3). They were trying to “establish” (“put in place”) “their own” righteousness rather than submit to “God’s righteousness.”
What they had to do is what everyone else has to do: “For Christ is the end of the law, righteousness unto everyone who believes” (v. 4).
“It’s not your fault”
All religions, including Judaism, are the human attempt to worship and serve whatever religion holds to be the ultimate reality. Muslims adhere to the “five pillars”; Buddhists try to follow the “four noble truths” and walk the “noble eightfold path”; Hindus engage in ascetic rituals and disciplines.
Christianity is different: our faith does not offer a religion but a personal relationship with God. It recognizes that sinful humans cannot, by their own efforts, “establish” their own “righteousness” with a holy God. Because we couldn’t come up to him, he came down to us in Christ. Therefore, “By grace you have been saved by faith. And it’s not your own doing; it is a gift of God, not the result of works, so that no one should boast” (Ephesians 2:8-9).
Does this mean that God does not expect any response from us? On the contrary: “We are his workmanship, having been created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should do them” (v. 10). We pray, read our scriptures, give and serve as Jews and followers of other religions do, not to find God, but because he has found us. Not so that he accepts us, but because he accepted us. Not so that he loves us, but because he already loves us.
John Calvin was right: works do not save, but the saved work.
Do you have all of God that you want?
God promises his people, “You will seek me and find me if you seek me with all your heart” (Jeremiah 29:13). Are you seeking the “face” of God today through his word, worship and service? Do you like it with everything your heart, your soul and your power? Do you respond to the gift of his Son with the gift of your life in gratitude for such grace?
Or do you settle for less than personal intimacy with the Almighty? Have you made your relationship with God a religion around him? Have you segmented your life into “religion” and “real world” and relegated God to your religious activities?
Different question: Do you have all of God want toor any God you need?
REMARK: For more, please see my latest blog where I reflect on a new insight into my latest trip to the Holy Land.