Wednesday, July 9, 2014

Not Ashamed of the Gospel

Dear Friends,

Independence Day! No other nation celebrates their birthday like we do ours. It seems like all of America unfurls their flag and proudly sticks it in the rusty flag holder on the porch. Throughout our own valley, Realtors stick little flags in the lawns of  houses until everywhere you look you see “Old Glory.” The day is filled with parades, marching bands, patriotic music, family gatherings, hot dogs, watermelon and ice cream. Fireworks light up the sky and our heart swells with pride when we think of our wonderful Country. America the Beautiful! The greatest nation on the Earth today!

Or maybe that's just you and me. A recent Pew poll revealed the jaw-dropping statistics that 44% of the people in our country are not proud to be Americans. And only 28% of our nation's citizens believe that America is the greatest nation in the world! Predictably, the poll showed that we are divided by our ideology. 60% of progressive liberals are embarrassed to be an American. They are ashamed of their country and believe that other countries are better places to live than in America. On the other side of the political divide, 80% of steadfast conservatives said they often feel proud to be American. Perhaps our new national motto should be “Disunited We Stand.” 

A psychiatrist believes this is not just a political problem but psychologically a “public health calamity.” I believe that there is a strong spiritual component as well. Ronald Reagan said, “If we ever forget that we are One Nation Under God, then we will be gone under.” Is the current political effort to drive a wedge between faith and our daily life in part to blame for this new disunited America? Does the growing political movement to eliminate God and religion from our national conscience explain the rapid disintegration of morals and values in our nation’s culture?

If it's disturbing that almost half of all our nation's citizens are not proud to be an American, it's even more disturbing that among our nation’s Christians, there is an increasing number who are no longer proud to be known as a follower of Jesus Christ. Why does it seem like we’ve collectively become ashamed of the Gospel and embarrassed about our faith? When I was in school, it was cool to be a Christian. Today it’s cool to self-identify as an atheist, transgender, pagan vampire!

We love the unabashed boldness of the Apostle Paul. Preaching the Gospel message guaranteed persecution, torture and death as it still does in many parts of the Mid-East today. Just identifying as a Christian invited persecution. Paul was cruelly whipped a total of 195 times. He was beaten three times with sticks and was nearly killed after being stoned with large rocks. He’d been shipwrecked three times and physically suffered many times on his journeys to spread the Gospel message to the Gentiles. For Paul’s boldness as a passionate follower of Jesus Christ he was punished with many years in prison. (2 Corinthians 11:24-28) And after all of that, Paul declares, “I am not ashamed of the Gospel!” (Romans 1:16)

While Christians are not beaten or killed in America for their faith, they are often mocked or ridiculed. That’s why I was recently so proud of one of our church family, John B. His unbelieving peers in the Millennial Generation are among those who can be the most intensely cruel toward Christians. John recently was graduated from CSUN and got a job with one of the world’s largest video game companies. That’s a segment of the highly secularized entertainment industry known for being contemptuous to people of faith. Being a Christian in the entertainment industry is definitely not cool and understandably many believers go to extremes to hide their faith – particularly those starting out who are anxious to be accepted and do well. But like the Apostle Paul, John B. is not ashamed of the Gospel and has decided that he will wear a visible cross that will clearly announce his faith, values and beliefs to his new co-workers. 

Please join me in prayer for John that his unashamed boldness for Christ will be rewarded with opportunities for him to share his faith and be a light in the darkness. Amen?

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