Many observe the first day of April as an occasion for practical jokes and deceptive news releases. I remember when I was a teenager in University of Tennessee sports-crazed East Tennessee that a Knoxville newspaper published a report that the university basketball team had recruited and signed an eight-foot tall player who surely would lead the schools program to greatness. It was an April Fools Day hoax. There was no such signing. When a psalmist wrote in Psalm 14:1, ‘The fool says in his heart, “There is no God,” he did not refer to humorous hoaxes. He did not focus on atheists, either. He concentrated on people who profess belief in God, yet act as if he does not exist. They do “abominable deeds” (verse 1), they have become corrupt (verse 3), and they do not call upon the Lord (verse 4). Because they have turned away from God, they “are in great terror, for God is with the generation of the righteous” (verse 5). They have neglected what they knew; they have spurned their source of hope. As they pursue their godless course of action, they scorn those who remain faithful to the Lord who is their only true refuge.
We pursue the course of the godless when we neglect biblical values by compartmentalizing our lives, living by one ethical code at work and another when at worship. We pursue the course of the godless when we minimize the value of life by approving of mistreatment of the vulnerable in our society, whether they are unborn babies, the aged, the poor, or the mentally ill. We pursue the course of the godless when we laugh at those who value faithfulness to God and give our allegiance instead to political agendas or cultural trends.
As we reflect on Psalm 14, let’s resolve to act with integrity in our dealings with other people. Let’s remember that God values highly the helpless and calls us to treat others as we would wish to be treated. And let’s pray for an end to the worship of slander and corruption in our world. But first, let’s look within ourselves and evaluate our own relationships with God. Let’s return to the one who truly protects in time of terror.
O God who was, who is, and who is to come, May we humble ourselves before you as each of us becomes accountable to you in our speech and our actions. Deliver us from acting like fools. Give us courage to treat others as people who have your image within them. Give us the spiritual and moral strength to defend those who cannot defend themselves. Ignite our faith and forgive our moments of doubt as we recognize your reality and return to claim refuge with you. In Jesus’ name, Amen.
Three eventful years have passed since I began writing “Call for Fire Seminar.” Exciting events have occurred: Travel overseas and to several states for ministry, a new preaching ministry, and a promotion in my chaplaincy work. Moments of sorrow have also left their scars; my mother and my older son passed away a year apart. In the turmoil of grief, moving, ministry, and welcoming a new grandchild, I still haven’t published the book “Call for Fire Seminar.” All these experiences have underscored the need to keep calling for fire (praying) to the Lord. Praying, teaching, and writing have strengthened my resilience. Even so, it has been difficult to press on. Friends and readers of my blog have reached out and encouraged me. I have appreciated your support so much. This past weekend, I attended a Christian youth leadership training event in Kansas City. While there, I met with John Theobald, a reader of this blog and its sister Facebook page. John’s military experience with calling for fire has helped me apply the concept to prayer. He also has “been there” with notes of encouragement in those times of grief. So, I pause to say “Thank you!” to him and the rest of you who have helped me persevere in service. May the Lord bless you richly with peace, with hope, and with love.
“May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace in believing, so that by the power of the Holy Spirit you may abound in hope” (Romans 15:13).
Dread and fear must have filled their hearts as they fled into the darkness. One had his clothes torn away from him as those who had arrested Jesus tried to seize him as well. Jesus had warned, “Pray that you may not enter into temptation” (Luke 22:40). Temptation surrounded them now. Hide in the darkness while the teacher who brought light into their lives suffered. Lie about whether they were his disciples, or even knew him. Abandon the dream that he was the One who would liberate God’s people. Their desperation and depression engulf us when we forget the ending of their story. We forget when we too fail to pray. We forget when we too allow fear to dictate our response to the world around us, when we strike out in anger or fail to do the right thing because we are afraid. They had dined with Jesus that evening, and even as he tried to alert them to the dangers and remind them of his priorities, they had argued about which of them was most important. Now each of them wanted to be least, to be the one forgotten by the authorities. While they forgot, and hoped to be forgotten, they needed to remember that it was necessary for the Messiah to suffer, and to pray that they would not enter into temptation.
We too experience dread. We fear. Enemies of truth and love rejoice when their acts of terror cause their targets to surrender their freedom, to renounce their faith (“How could a good God allow such to happen?”), to silence their confession. May we remember the warning and pray that we may not enter into temptation. May we, when confronted with fear and dread, respond with wisdom and courage. May we remember to love when to hate seems the logical choice. May we remember that we are disciples of Jesus.
O God our Father, Darkness engulfs. Headlines of horror describe episodes of terror that have found their target – our hearts. Revive our courage; help us to remember what and who we believe. Strengthen our resolve to do your will. Protect us from temptation. Open our eyes to how we may heal others who are crippled by their fear and hate. Thank you for your love. In Jesus’ name, Amen.