Only One King

It remains true, “Righteousness exalts a nation, but sin is a reproach to any people” (Proverbs 14:34).

It is suggested by many that Thomas Jefferson would feel right at home in today’s secular America.  Yet it was Jefferson who asked, “Can the liberties of a nation be thought secure, when we have removed their only firm basis, a conviction in the minds of the people that these liberties are a gift from God?  That they are not to be violated but by His wrath?  Indeed, I tremble for my country when I reflect that God is just; and that His justice cannot sleep forever.”

Thankfully, it is also still true that when believing people meet God’s prescribed conditions – when we humble ourselves, seek His face, pray, and turn from our sins – then He goes to work and lavishes mercy on their nation.  Listen to God’s iron-clad promise of hope and restoration when His people meet the conditions: “If my people who are called by My name will humble themselves, and pray and seek My face, and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven, and will forgive their sin and heal their land” (2 Chronicles 7:14). The responsibility for national renewal does not lie with the government, and certainly not with the courts. It lies with God’s people.

For the believer who holds to the faith of our fathers there is a sure hope for a better future.  We can marinate the difficulties and disappointments of the present in the warm juices of biblical hope. The Bible confidently promises a coming day when “they shall beat their swords into plowshares . . . Nation shall not lift up sword against nation, neither shall they learn war anymore” (Isaiah 2:4). Let’s not forget that when we sing Handel’s great Hallelujah Chorus, we are not just belting out magnificent music, we are pronouncing a magnificent promise from Revelation 11:15, “The kingdoms of this world have become the kingdoms of our Lord and of His Christ, and He shall reign forever and ever.”

Let’s get it straight. The founders of the United States made sure there would be no human monarchy. Congress is not king, the president is not king, the courts are not king. Even though we enjoy great liberties, the people are not king. In the founding of this nation there was to be only one King –

“Our fathers’ God, to Thee, Author of Liberty,

To Thee we sing.

Long may our land be bright

With freedom’s holy light,

Protect us by Thy might,

Great God, our King”

– Samuel F. Smith

 

On this Independence Day weekend, David encourages you to join him in earnest prayer for America. David blogs Monday through Thursday. He invites you to join him Friday through Sunday in enjoying an extended Internet-free weekend.

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Not Free to Choose Consequences

Our culture and courts have willfully cut loose from biblical moorings that historically provided stability and an agreed-upon reference point. Now we are adrift in a vast sea of nihilism where “everyone does what is right in his own eyes” (Judges 17:6). For our nation there is no longer a solid rock where we anchor. There is very little sense of any moral compass.

Please note these prophetic words of Elisabeth Elliot, written in 1982: “Where there is no ‘moral gravity’ – that is, no force that draws us to the center – there is spiritual weightlessness. We float on feelings that will carry us where we never meant to go; we bubble with emotional experiences that we often take for spiritual ones; and we are puffed up with pride. Instead of seriousness, there is foolishness. Instead of gravity, flippancy. Sentimentality takes the place of theology.” (From Discipline: The Glad Surrender).

I would only add these 33 years later that not only has sentimentality taken the place of theology, sentimentality has also taken the place of jurisprudence and the historical precedent of law.

So where does such lawless drifting take a nation? Here is the tragic destination: “Because they hated knowledge and did not choose the fear of the Lord, they would have none of my counsel and despised my every rebuke. Therefore they shall eat the fruit of their own way, and be filled to the full with their own fancies” (Proverbs 1:29-31).

The apostle Paul echoed the same verdict on cultures that defy God’s ways. “Just as they did not see fit to acknowledge God any longer, God gave them over to a depraved mind, to do those things which are not proper” (Romans 1:28, NASB). The God who protects, provides, and blesses simply backs away, leaving people to their “freedom.” As a young libertine proudly told me, “I’m free live any way I choose.” I replied, “You’re right. You are free to live any way you choose, but you are not free to choose the consequences.”

Yet in the midst of this drifting, decomposing culture there remains a sure anchor and reference point for those who would honor God and His ways. “But whoever listens to me will dwell safely, and will be secure, without fear of evil” (Proverbs 1:33). Thank God, there remains a Rock of safety for those who align with Jesus Christ and His eternal kingdom.

“When darkness seems to hide His face

I rest on His unchanging grace;

In every high and stormy gale

My anchor holds within the veil.

On Christ, the solid Rock I stand,

All other ground is sinking sand,

All other ground is sinking sand.”

– Edward Mote

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International Christian Retail Show

Yesterday I attended the International Christian Retail Show in Orlando, formerly known as the Christian Booksellers Association (CBA) Convention. I confess I’m somewhat like a kid in a candy store at this event. Everything that could potentially be in a Christian store – books and magazines, music, Christian movies, Christian art, etc. – is on display from the companies that produce them.

My primary reason for going was to discuss potential books with publishers. It was also a chance to see a lot of long-standing friends all in one day. I’m encouraged by the connections I made and the potential opportunities that emerged. I felt God’s favor and I’m grateful. Would you now join me in praying that these discussions will become fruitful reality for the glory of God?

On a much more somber note I’m deeply concerned for the safety of our nation. I sincerely hope I’m wrong in feeling that the protective hedge is now down. It’s conflicting to ask God to bless our country when we’re in an unblessable condition. However, I do beseech our gracious God to grant us repentance, forgive us, and in His sheer mercy protect us.

The chaos caused by disasters is not a productive climate for kingdom work. Peoples’ interests then turn from their spiritual condition to self-preservation. This is why Paul instructs, “I urge then, first of all, that petitions, prayers, intercession, and thanksgiving be made for all people – for kings and all those in authority, that we may lead peaceful and quiet lives in all godliness and holiness. This is good, and pleases God our Savior, who wants all people to be saved and to come to a knowledge of the truth” (1 Timothy 2:1-4, NIV). Notice that Paul says a peaceable climate is conducive for evangelism.

We can and should pray against the prevailing of wrong and sometimes evil ideologies. But the Bible is clear that we are to pray for – not against – all those in authority. God desires all people to be saved and embrace truth.

 

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Walking in the Light

These are dark days for America. We are called to walk in the light. Light shining in darkness serves as a beacon of hope for some and as an unwanted exposure for others. To walk in the light means we desire to walk in both truth and love. This is not an easy task. It always requires courage. We must draw upon the love of God shed abroad in our hearts by the Holy Spirit (Romans 5:5).

All people are to be treated with dignity and respect because all people are made in the image of God. But how we treat people is an issue completely apart from rejecting the redefining of the most basic of human institutions. This new, contorted definition is a defiance of the Scriptures. Not all ideologies have their source in God and that is how their merit (or lack of merit) is to be weighed. We accept or reject ideologies based on whether they agree with God’s character and His will. The final word on any subject does not rest with man, even courts, but with God. As theologian G. K. Chesterton observed, “Fallacies do not cease to become fallacies because they become fashions.”

The 240 year reprieve in the United States to worship and propagate one’s faith without fear of reprisal seems to be coming to a rapid end. Each generation of Christians must live out what it means to be faithful to the gospel in their time. Throughout most of history those who walk in the light have experienced both personal peace and pronounced persecution. Let’s remember Luther’s wise words when he refused to recant his position because he was convinced it was consistent with Scripture: “I consider myself convicted by the testimony of Holy Scripture, which is my basis; my conscience is captive to the Word of God. Thus I cannot and will not recant, because acting against conscience is neither safe nor sound. God help me.” God help us all.

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Knocked to Our Knees

This week yet another high profile pastor confessed a moral failure and resigned his pastorate. I echo David’s lament, “How the mighty have fallen in the midst of battle!” (2 Samuel 1:25). I’m meeting today with around 15 pastors. I’m sure we will discuss this. I hope that we will also “weep between the porch and the altar,” and fervently petition, “Spare Your people, O Lord, and do not give Your heritage to reproach” (Joel 2:17).

All of us feel the reverberations when a high profile leader falls. I grieve for the tarnishing of the name of Christ. As I said years ago in response to the fall of another leader, God help us if we do not learn from this. God help us if we do not change from this.

The wise, long-time pastor, Alexander Whyte, in his address to the Free Church Assembly of Scotland in 1898 thundered, “Fathers and Brethren, did not Augustine and Calvin speak to the point when they said, ‘First, second, and third – humility’? And especially in you and me?” The godly Andrew Murray believed humility to be “the mother virtue and the perpetual safeguard of the soul.”

For those who have eyes to see, it’s clear that the church in America (for the most part) has been knocked to its knees by mounting opposition, dwindling attendance, derelict clergy, apathetic members, and onslaughts from principalities and powers. Knocked to our knees – what a good place to be. Now let’s fall on our face and “seek the Lord while He may be found” and “call upon Him while He is near” (Isaiah 55:6).

I make no claim of moral or spiritual superiority over my brothers in ministry who have fallen. How well I know what evil can brew in me apart from the new creation life of Christ. At the same time I know, whatever the circumstances or temptations, God “is able to keep you from stumbling, and . . . present you faultless before the presence of His glory with exceeding joy” (Jude 24). His mighty power – that restrains from sin and releases to godliness – is accessible to all who call upon Him. Even preachers.

David Shibley writes devotional thoughts Mondays through Thursdays at www.davidshibley.com. He invites you to join him Friday through Sunday in enjoying an extended unplugged weekend.

 

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The Glad Surrender

In my tribute last week to Elisabeth Elliot I mentioned that she is one of my favorite contemporary Christian writers. However, I had never read one of her best-loved books,

Discipline: The Glad Surrender. I’ve begun to read it this week. My only regret is that I didn’t read it when I was much younger.

As another tribute to Elisabeth Elliot, I’m quoting from this book today:

“The closer one comes to the center of things, the better able he is to observe the connections. Everything created is connected, for everything is produced by the same mind, the same love, and is dependent on the same Creator. He who masterminded the universe, the Lord God Omnipotent, is the One who called the stars into being, commanded light, spoke the Word that brought about the existence of time and space and every form of matter: salt and stone, rose and redwood, feather and fur and fin and flesh. The titmouse and the turkey answer to Him. The sheep, the pig, and the finch are His, at His disposal, possessed and known by Him.

“We too are created, owned, possessed, known. We are dependent as the javelin is dependent. As I look at the ewe, peaceful, dependent, finding her food provided by the Lord, I think of how He provides for me as well. . . .

“God calls me. In a deeper sense than any other species of earthbound creature. I am called. And in a deeper sense I am free, for I can ignore the call. . . . God created me with the power to disobey; for the freedom to obey would be nothing at all without the corresponding freedom to disobey. I can answer no, of I can answer yes. My fulfillment as a human being depends on my answer, for it is a loving Lord who calls me through the world’s fog to His island of peace. If I trust Him, I will obey Him gladly.”

– From Discipline: The Glad Surrender by Elisabeth Elliot

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Time

I’m spending the better part of today in one of Dallas-Fort Worth’s several theological libraries. Our Metroplex is blessed to have several great theological research centers including Dallas Seminary, Southwestern Baptist Seminary, and Dallas Baptist University.

My primary purpose today will be writing, but I will also have all the resources I need at hand. Also, it’s just a good, quiet space. One wonders how many ministry visions have been spawned in seminary libraries. I’m expecting the Father to speak to me today.

When I was a young pastor fresh out of college the great evangelist, the late Dr. Angel Martinez, urged me to devote four hours daily (or twenty hours weekly) to being with God plus reading and study. I sorely wish I would have heeded his wise admonition.

No doubt all of us regret poor usage of time. However, I’ve never regretted one hour invested with God or one hour given to reading (provided the material was worthy and not frivolous). For those called to minister to others we need to always be sharpening our tools. I try to block out three to four days annually to spend a ten hour day in a seminary library, just reading, praying, thinking, and dreaming. I encourage every preacher reading this to do the same.

Remember the old adage: “The person who does not read is no better advantaged than the person who cannot read.”

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Charleston

Our nation has witnessed a powerful living out of the gospel in the wake of one of the most heinous crimes in our history. The statements from families of the victims of the senseless slaughter at the Emmanuel A.M.E. Church in Charleston were a stunning display of the power of Jesus Christ. Only Jesus could enable these dear families to forgive and make such honest, painful, yet hope-filled statements that testified to the power of the living Christ over evil.

Let us not forget that no matter how much this shooter may have been influenced by drugs and moronic ideology, he is at the core a sinner who defied God’s law, detested God’s people, and desecrated God’s house. He will receive a trial because he is an American. He should not to be hurt himself (outside the judgment of law) because as a human he is created in God’s image, which he has defiled. At the same time the judicial system should seek justice and enact the strongest of sentences.

This criminal has insulted his own humanity. His conscience has been seared (1 Timothy 4:2). He is a ruthless mass murderer who additionally wounded others physically and wounded our whole nation emotionally. His only hope – and our only hope – is “repentance toward God and faith toward our Lord Jesus Christ” (Acts 20:21).

There have been calls for dialogs that lead to more understanding. I agree such dialogs should take place. It is my hope that root causes will be addressed. The root cause of this disaster is a pandemic human malady called sin. And sin’s only cure is in the atonement of Jesus Christ. Tighter gun controls may or may not curb such mass killings. Counseling and medication may or may not keep in check the hate in tortured souls. But only Jesus, the power of His blood, and the mighty power of the gospel can bring forgiveness, cleansing, and a change of heart.

Although it will take time for these open wounds to heal into scars (which will forever be etched into the history of this noble body of believers), already the glory of the gospel is on display. How beautiful and strong was the prayer offered yesterday in the worship service of this church in mourning: “For those of us who know Jesus, we can look through windows of our faith, and we see hope and we see light and we can hear Your voice saying, ‘I am with you.’”

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As we approach Father’s Day I recall Peter Marshall’s maxim, “The measure of life is not in its duration, but in its donation.” My dad’s short life framed a vast donation that continues to enrich the cause of Christ today.  Warren Shibley died July 17, 1965, when I was fifteen.  He was only forty-four, but he left a great legacy.

Here are just a few of Dad’s donations that keep benefiting me:

Love for Jesus and a heart for missions.  My dad wanted people everywhere to know the Christ he loved.  More than once growing up I would wake in the night and hear him praying for missionaries by name, for nations, and for the needed funds for missions projects.  Although my father’s only international travel was when he served in World War II, his heart and thinking were global.  He was a Great Commission Christian, often referred to as “the man with a missionary heart.”

Love for family.  My dad and mother were a solid ministry team and loving, affirming parents.  Our upbringing was strict but my folks also shaped a climate of grace laced with laughter.  So their strictness didn’t come across to me as legalism, it came across as love.  I always remember my dad as busy in the Lord’s work – but not too busy for us kids.

Love for God’s Word. Although his formal education ended with high school, he had an insatiable thirst for learning.  This All-State football player’s college aspirations were interrupted by war, but he remained a life-long student.  His Bible was a close companion.  He learned to do Greek word studies and was an avid reader.  The large portions of Scripture he memorized made his preaching richer than the sermons of many who had much more formal training.

Friend to pastors.  Like most other homes in the 1950s, ours had just one wall-connected telephone.  I got a valuable education just hearing my dad talk to fellow pastors.  He was always an encourager, but I also remember overhearing him take a pastor-friend to task for failing to be a godly example.  Years after his death a pastor told me with tears, “If I ever had a real friend, it was your dad.”

Unselfish.  Another pastor told me, “Your father was the most unselfish man I ever met.”  He lived for Jesus and for others.  He took to heart Paul’s admonition, “Let each of you look out not only for his own interests, but also for the interests of others” (Phil. 2:4).  Like so many in his generation (those Tom Brokaw aptly calls America’s “greatest generation”), my dad was humble.  He didn’t like to talk about the kamikaze planes that bore down on his ship in the South Pacific.  Although he suffered severe frostbite that rendered his feet largely disabled, he would not take any government compensation.  When asked why he simply said, “My country doesn’t owe me anything.”

Kind.  Children especially loved to be around Warren Shibley.  Even during his final illness, children sought him out to talk with them.  A little girl in our neighborhood dubbed him “the sunshine man.”  One could literally hear the compassion in his voice.  I’ve heard only two other preachers who carried compassion in their voices in the same way:  Charles E. Fuller and W. A. Criswell.

Consistent.  My dad “walked the walk.”  Like all of us, he wasn’t perfect.  But he lived what he preached.  He “pressed toward the mark” (Phil. 3:14).  There was no duplicity in him.  Even though his death left me a broken-hearted teenager, I would rather have Warren Shibley as my dad for fifteen years than any other man as my father for all my life.

Generous.  More than once I watched him empty his pockets for missionaries.  He led the church he pastored in giving fifty per cent of every offering directly to missions – and that was from the very first offering ever received at the church.  This small church’s impact was completely disproportionate to its size – because they were led by example to give liberally from whatever they had for the gospel’s global advance.

In retrospect, I now realize that our family probably would have been classified economically as “lower middle class.”  But it never occurred to me that we were financially limited – because my dad was so consistently generous.  Although we got around in a used car and lived in a small, wooden house, I felt somehow we were wealthy.  And, in fact, we were.

Thirty-eight years after his death, some 100 people gathered at the church where Dad served as founding pastor to remember and celebrate Warren Shibley’s life.  That night I heard story after story of how his life continued to affect people decades later.  My father exulted in the grace of God, and he demonstrated that grace toward others.  At the same time he had a healthy reverence for God.  He left his children (and many others) a profound legacy.  “In the fear of the Lord is great confidence, and his children will have a place of refuge” (Proverbs 14:26).

Have you noticed that the stock of the truly great tends only to grow over time?  Warren Shibley’s investments are now bearing compounded interest.  Thank you, Dad, for your donations.  I’m looking forward to our family reunion.

*     *     *

Find out more about Warren Shibley’s life and profiles of 22 other notable missions leaders in David Shibley’s book, Great for God.  This book is a valuable tool used by thousands in family and personal devotions and as a supplemental history textbook in Christian schools and home schools.  Available at www.christianbook.com and www.amazon.com.

 

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A Prayer Request

I have a prayer request for my Facebook friends.

This fall promises to be a very busy, very exciting time. Several special events are scheduled as Global Advance celebrates 25 years of God’s faithfulness. As part of the celebration we will host 50 of our closest partners from around the world at an International Summit in Dallas. I’ll be equipping frontline shepherds at training events in Europe and Asia. I’ll also be significantly involved in fund raising for the ministry.

To prepare for all this, I need to finish two very important writing projects this summer. This is in addition to the ongoing responsibilities of ministry. My specific request is that God will give me a special anointing to finish these two writing projects. Please pray for focus and mental, spiritual, and physical stamina. Also, please pray that these projects will be the very best they can be for His global glory. I really want these two projects to bring high honor to Jesus Christ.

Your concerted prayers for this throughout the summer would mean so much. Thank you – and would you shoot a prayer heavenward right now? God bless you.

 

Learn more about Global Advance at globaladvance.org

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