Publication: Pastoral Letter, August 2004
Dear Friend in Christ:
Greetings in the name of our Lord Jesus! I pray that this letter finds you and yours doing well and enjoying the summertime. My father, Charles Simpson, has graciously allowed me to share something with you this month that is strongly on my heart, and I trust it will encourage you in the Lord.
Last month, as the United States celebrated Independence Day, I stood with family and friends – and thousands of others – along the eastern shore of Mobile Bay, awaiting sunset. When the last of the orange glow had disappeared over the horizon, and all that could be seen was the twinkling lights of sailboats scattered across the water…when a local band and choir were singing a stirring rendition of “The Battle Hymn of the Republic”…when the anticipation of the crowd had reached its zenith…suddenly, the sky exploded with color and sound, as a mighty display of fireworks thrilled and amazed all onlookers.
In the midst of great joy and beauty, however, I could not help but think of the great challenges – even crises – that face the United States, here in 2004. I thought of the very real and looming threat of terrorism, of the continuing national tragedy of abortion, of simmering racial tensions, of militant homosexual and feminist agendas, and an activist judicial system that continues to erode the U.S. Constitution and the nation’s godly heritage. I thought, too, of the upcoming national elections, and their profound significance for the future. Frustratingly, I also thought of the Church in America…so often conflicted, divided, and confused about its mission and call, or worse, apathetic.
If you are reading this letter, my guess is that you at one time or another have thought about many of these same issues recently. But I have to tell you about another thought I had on that night by the bay…a thought that brought me comfort and hope, and one that I want to share with you this month.
Again, if you are reading this letter, you have probably often sought comfort and guidance from this beautiful passage of Scripture:
“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).
Is it too late for the United States? Is it too late for Canada? Is it too late for the United Kingdom or Australia or Ireland or South Africa or China or wherever you happen to be as you read this? Recently, a praying friend of mine, Guy Binegar, reminded me afresh of the power and significance of this precious promise from God, and of the hope that we can take from it. Is it too late? Not if God is speaking to our hearts, and we are listening, ready to obey.
I find it interesting that the Lord doesn’t say, “If Madonna will humble herself and repent” or “If Eminem could only turn from his wicked ways,” or “If only Michael Moore would behave himself, then I could do something for America.” I’ll bet that you are already ahead of me here, aren’t you? You’re saying, “Uh-oh!” No, the Lord doesn’t give this admonition to “the lost” or to “the heathen”. He speaks directly to His people.
You may say, “Yes, I understand that God’s people need to pray, but what’s all this about our wicked ways? I’m a pretty good person. I’m not in favor of gay marriage. I don’t support abortion. I vote for godly people. I volunteer at my local food pantry. I’m a deacon in my church. Why, I even tithe! What do you mean, wicked ways?”
God, in His wisdom, begins His promise with these words: “humble themselves.” Oftentimes, our pride blinds us to our own sins and weaknesses. Our pride magnifies the sin in others while minimizing our own wickedness.
Some polls indicate that more than 75% of citizens in the United States claim to be Christians. No wonder the world – especially the Muslim world – is confused about both Christianity and the United States. They watch the Super Bowl halftime show and say, “Yes, look at those Christians there on stage.” But before we get too smug and say, “Well, thank God I am not like Janet Jackson,” perhaps we need to examine our hearts and attitudes and actions in the light of God’s Holy Word, rather than in comparison to others.
It would seem, then, that humility, prayer, passionate seeking of God, and repentance ought to be the order of the day among believers. Such a response among God’s people – who are called to be salt and light in any culture – might touch the heart of the Father to have mercy on our land.
As I mentioned earlier, the United States is facing one of its most difficult hours in all of its history. The stakes could not be any higher. If this is true, then what should be the posture of the Church? Should we just shut ourselves up behind a wall, as some in our society suggest – and as some Christians seemingly are willing to do?
I am deeply concerned, because in many quarters, the Church is largely oblivious, apathetic, lethargic, and uniformed about our past, present, or future. And Christians get more angry and upset about being told that than they do about the rapidly deteriorating actual circumstances around them.
The average American church is so desperate to attract a crowd and “stroke” them that they are more worried about how cushy the pews are, how hot the coffee is, how slick the lighting is, how good looking the preacher is, or how rockin’ the band is, than they are about sounding the prophetic trumpet blast that just might offend somebody or stir somebody to actually get up off of their backsides and do something for the Kingdom.
The Gospel of Jesus Christ is being watered down and biblical standards are tossed out in favor of something more amenable to our post-modern, post-moral sensibilities. Don’t get me wrong, I’m in favor of cushy pews, hot coffee, slick lighting, great music, and, of course, I think all preachers ought to be good looking! And, I am definitely in favor of innovative methods that meet needs and reach this present generation. But not at the expense of the message or the call.
Where are the voices calling out for classical Christianity…for world-changing, world-shaking prayer, devotion to Christ, loving commitment and sacrifice, discipleship and accountability, giving, faithfulness, steadfastness, selflessness, fidelity … in short, uncomfortable, unpopular, politically-incorrect issues? And I’m not just saying, “Where are the voices in the pulpits?” I am asking, “Where are the voices among God’s people?”
Thank God for groups such as Intercessors for America, Focus on the Family, and other prophetic voices who courageously call us to prayer and righteous action. Let me say, with all that is within me, this is the hour…this is the time. If ever there was a moment in history when God’s people must leave lethargy or timidity behind, it is now.
HAPPY THE PEOPLE…
It makes a difference who governs a nation. The apostle Paul told Timothy:
“I exhort first of all that supplications, prayers, intercessions, and giving of thanks be made for all men, for kings, and all who are in authority, that we may lead a quiet and peaceable life in all godliness and reverence. For this is good and acceptable in the sight of God our Savior, who desires all men to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth” (1 Timothy 2:1-4).
Our desire for righteous government and peaceable living is not merely for selfish gain; it is so that the opportunity for outreach in the name of Jesus Christ might increase and that everyone might hear the Good News. It is so that the wise and powerful principles found in Scripture might continue to take root, bear fruit, and transform our society.
The theology of a people will determine their culture (for an excellent resource on this subject, check out Charles Simpson’s CD, “Theology and Culture”). The United States was founded and established by people who held firmly to Judeo-Christian ethics – many of whom were guided strongly by Reformation Theology. Where Islam dominates, a certain culture is produced. Where Hinduism dominates, a different culture is produced. Where atheism, secularism, and humanism dominate, other cultures result. You do the math.
I like this verse very much: “Happy the people whose God is the Lord!” (Psalm 144:15). I don’t know about you, but “happy” sounds good to me! Another word for “happy” is “blessed.” Given a choice between being blessed or cursed, I’ll choose blessed, thank you very much.
RIGHTEOUSNESS EXALTS A NATION
The founders of the United States believed that our unique constitution could only function with a Judeo-Christian ethic functioning in society. For example, President John Adams noted:
“We have no government armed in power capable of contending in human passions unbridled by morality and religion. Our constitution was made only for a moral and religious people. It is wholly inadequate for the government of any other.”
This fundamental truth is inescapable: “Righteousness exalts a nation, but sin is a reproach to any people” (Proverbs 14:34). Whether you live in the United States or in one of the more than 70 nations reached by CSM, I trust that you will be renewed in your call and commitment to pray for the land where God has placed you. May godly compassion and zeal stir in the hearts of God’s people everywhere, that we might see His mercy and power poured out across the globe.
I want to ask you to also pray for CSM, with intentionality and with intensity. We are in great need of God’s provision and strength. Our small staff and our financial resources have been stretched as never before. We have taken on exciting new projects including the Marketplace Exchange (promoting Kingdom economic principles) and the CSM Institute, to reach, teach, train, equip, and release the emerging generation of Christian leadership into the great world harvest.
Please continue to remember us in your budget; your support is vital to the ongoing mission of this ministry and our ability to move forward. And, if you would like to receive two timely messages (“Righteousness Exalts a Nation” & ”If My People”) on one specially-priced CD, please see the enclosed card. May the blessings of the Lord be upon you and yours, now and always. And may the mercy of God come and heal our land.
Scripture References: 2 Chronicles 7:14; 1 Timothy 2:1-4; Psalm 144:15; Proverbs 14:34