Calling the Armies of Compassion
by Scott MacLeod
On February 10, 2003 President Bush spoke a monumental message at the National Religious Broadcasters convention in Nashville, Tennessee.
God used President Bush to bring a prophetic message that could have impact of historic proportions to this nation...if the Church has ears to hear!
I feel deeply impelled by the Lord to write the following observations concerning President Bush's speech. The purpose of my writing is not to personally endorse the President's every political policy or moral move. Rather, I wish to highlight what I believe God is speaking to the Church through President Bush.
Bush is not perfect man. Like all of us, he is susceptible to deception, weakness, and sin. Having said this, however, I believe that he has shown exceptional leadership ability and has done a great job navigating the American people through some of the most turbulent and complicated times this nation has faced in recent decades. I have been greatly impressed by the fact that he certainly does not seem to be playing politics; he is actually leading this nation. True leaders are hard to find, and when one stands up, disregards the popular opinion polls, and really starts leading he/she ruffles a lot of feathers. But if the leader is just and Godly the end results will be justice and liberty established for multitudes of lives.
Unquestionably, this is a very critical hour for all nations. It is imperative that we understand that it is God who put George W. Bush into power as our 43rd American President. "For there is no authority except that which God has established. The authorities that exist have been established by God." (Romans 13:1) Bush has been placed into one of the most influential positions of governmental authority on earth "for such a time as this."
On February 10th, the Lord spoke to the Christian Church, through President Bush, one of the most vital messages ever delivered by an American President. I was amazed to hear this message coming from the political head of our nation! The essence of the President's speech must be heard and acted upon by those who profess to have faith in Jesus Christ. If not, America is destined for great and certain calamity. It is bound for the judgment and discipline of God.
There was a very specific reason this particular message was spoken in Nashville. This city is known worldwide as a center of music, publications, and communication. The media is a "voice" to the generation; many times, it is the principal voice to which people are listening, and it thus defines our character and culture. The President made an appeal to this voice, which has, for too long, been lacking in compassion-even when proceeding from the Christian community.
GOD'S HEART FOR THE POOR
President Bush represented the heart of God on behalf of those who are suffering and easily overlooked in our affluent nation. The things he said will have astoundingly positive consequences for the future of our nation if we, the Church of Jesus, choose to put his charge and challenge into action.
Surrounded by the largely "Christian" audience, President Bush seemed to be at ease and at home. He addressed the crowd in a very encouraging, yet straightforward, manner. After a few greetings and friendly gestures, he dove into a 24-minute exhortation (during a 36-minute speech) in which he called forth the Church's role in society regarding the poor. The audience was electrified in the President's presence, but only time will tell whether they simply experienced another good "buzz," or truly grasped the President's message.
President Bush took time to commend a few individuals and ministries whom he considers good soldiers in this army of compassion. He opened his message by praising, in a very personal way, the success and faith of four recovering drug addicts he met just prior to this speech. Bush was very optimistic, hopeful and encouraging as he pointed out many positive things that are happening, and praised the people and ministries of whom he has heard, who are doing the work of compassion.
He then articulated this profoundly prophetic word to the Church: "The poor and suffering are the responsibility of the whole church, even when they're not members of any church." Did you hear that? Can we hear that? Or should I say do we want to hear that? The poor and suffering are the "whole church's" responsibility.
This one statement alone is absolutely reformational! God has been trying to convey this message to the American church for a long time. The big question is whether we have the ears to hear it. Do we have the capacity to digest such a thing? The most pressing question of all is this: Do we have the heart to aggressively act upon it? Will we pick up the baton that is being passed to us and run with it? Will we run the race that the Lord has marked out for us?
Bush said that the government would continue to be "involved," but that it is the Church that has the unique ability to offer "hope" and "the capacity to change the heart." The President's objective is to move the government to support faith-based organizations as they lead the way into this crucial ministry to the poor and oppressed.
What a glorious day it will be for American citizens and the world when we realize that it is the "whole church's" job to care for the poor and suffering! Can you imagine the reformation that will sweep the Church when Christian leadership truly embraces this responsibility to the poor as the priority it should be?
When the Church rises to its high calling in serving "the least of these," it will regain its God-given place and authority in society. As its light shines it will begin to be seen as a legitimate solution to the ills of society, and will therefore have a platform from which it can effectively speak into society again. Do you wonder where Mother Teresa got her authority in the nations and with kings and presidents? In short, the answer is...compassion for the poor!
Currently, most members of secular society are not looking to the Christian Church for the answers to social injustice. Why aren't they? Aren't we supposed to be "the light of the world?" The sad reality is that, as a whole, we have not done what Jesus explicitly asked us to do. We presently look and act too much like the world. Or maybe a more accurate depiction of our current state is that we look too much like the Priest and the Levite in the Good Samaritan story who chose to walk on the other side of the road of the hurting man who was lying in the gutter. They were too busy "serving God" to stop and serve their needy neighbor. Why are the morals of our nation disintegrating at such an alarming rate? Why is there such poverty and misery in a nation of plenty? Where is the Church that is to be the salt and the light?
Astoundingly, President Bush sees beyond our weaknesses and sees the prophetic destiny of the "people of faith" as he calls us forth into our high calling of extending mercy.
OUR GOD-GIVEN MINISTRY TO THE POOR
Bush stated, "I understand that government must not and will not endorse a religious creed, or directly fund religious worship."
The Lord is saying primarily the same thing to the Church today-that He is not especially concerned with our theological dogma or our next great worship meeting. Meetings are imperative for vibrant Church life, but if great meetings alone could change America, they would have done so long ago.
Listen to the Lord as He addresses the nation of Israel: "I hate, I despise your religious feasts; I cannot stand your assemblies. Even though you bring Me burnt offerings and grain offerings, I will not accept them. Though you bring choice fellowship offerings, I will have no regard for them. Away with the noise of your songs! I will not listen to the music of your harps. But let justice roll on like a river, righteousness like a never-failing stream! (Amos 5:21-24) How shall we respond to a scripture like this?
Our endless meetings and religious songs aren't cutting it. Look at the condition of our inner cities...look at the condition of the young people in our nation...look at the prisons packed full...look at the broken families and the myriad of fatherless children...look at the multitudes of elderly people in our land who live a lonely and forgotten existence, tucked away in nursing homes. Our religious activities alone do not impress the Lord. They actually make Him sick and greatly agitated if there is not justice in the land. The Lord is saying to His church, "Let's roll! Let my justice roll throughout the land." God is looking for some self-sacrificing heroes who are willing to lay down their lives to stand up and fight for the poor and the lost.
God hasn't changed. He is still seeking out a pure religion that actually pans out into practical justice and mercy being extended to our hurting neighbors. God has a special concern for every helpless, hopeless member of our society, and we should, therefore, have this same concern!
God will not change his definition of religion to suit what we have created. We cannot successfully "do church" on our own terms. Consider what He deems pure: "Religion that God our Father accepts as pure and faultless is this: to look after orphans and widows in their distress and to keep oneself from being polluted by the world." (James 1:27) This is God's definition of pure and undefiled religion...may it be ours as well!
PREACH GOOD NEWS TO THE POOR
We can never forget that on the day Jesus launched His public ministry, He declared his mission statement. His opening line charged us to "preach good news to the poor." Ministry to the poor is the foundation of every authentic Jesus ministry.
Here it is ..."The Spirit of the Sovereign LORD is on me, because the LORD has anointed me to preach good news to the poor. He has sent me to bind up the brokenhearted, to proclaim freedom for the captives and release from darkness for the prisoners." (Isaiah 61:1) Jesus was an example to follow; therefore, all Christians should embrace the principle of Isaiah 61 as the foundational mission in their lives!
Although many in modern-day Christendom have acted somewhat superior or maybe oblivious to the call to the poor, we have never been exempt from preaching the good news to them. At the end of the age we will all be judged for all of eternity on this issue of whether we ministered to the least of these, brother or not. The Church is in fact anointed for this very purpose--just as Jesus was! If it was good enough for Jesus it must be good enough for us. "Whoever claims to live in him must walk as Jesus did." (1 John 2:6) The President recognizes this...the pressing question is...do we?
A MESSAGE FROM THE KING TO THE CHURCH
It's of minor consequence that the national media paid little attention to the President's speech, because this was a clear-cut message from the President to the Church. It had massive endorsement from Heaven, and should the Church rally to the call, it will have historic ramifications on earth.
President Bush declared an unambiguous message, challenging authentic Christianity to rise up in this nation. He made a grand plea to God's people to "do the work of compassion" and "to rid this nation of hopelessness and despair" by "serving their neighbors because they love their God." He was "calling up" the Church out of self-centered religion into true Jesus action...calling us all to the frontlines of the battle for the suffering souls of this nation.
The stark reality that few see is that the battle for the welfare and the future of this nation is not a matter of external elements. The real threat against America is not terrorism, Iraq, or in any other foreign nation. It is moral corrosion, from the inside out. Remember the root sin of Sodom: "Now this was the sin of your sister Sodom: She and her daughters were arrogant, overfed and unconcerned; they did not help the poor and needy." (Ezekiel 16:49) Notice that the root sin was not sexual sins as many people equate with Sodom and Gomorrah but rather arrogance that manifested as lack of concern for the poor. We know that God put up with the sins of Sodom for an allotted time before utterly destroying its people by fire and making an example and a stern warning out of them. Has God changed?
MERCY IS OUR DEFENSE
Jesus said, "Blessed are the merciful, for they will be shown mercy." (Matthew 5:7)
If we continue in our indifference towards those who are suffering and dying in our streets, and if the poor continue to be ignored and trampled upon, there will most certainly come a day when no mercy will be shown to America. We must remember that "there will be no mercy for you if you have not been merciful to others. But if you have been merciful, then God's mercy toward you will win out over His judgment against you." (James 2:13) This terrible day of judgment is fast approaching if something doesn't change within the soul of America. Whether we destroy ourselves from the inside or the Lord raises up terrorists or ruthless nations to punish us, I do not know, but the pattern of the Lord's judgment is spelled out clearly in Scripture. Only the righteous can turn this thing around and ultimately stop the impending judgment that hangs over our nation. If there had been just ten righteous men found in Sodom, the Lord would have spared it! What a responsibility the Church has!
The way to receive mercy is to give mercy! To grant mercy is our greatest defense. America's answer to maximum homeland security is for the Church to be merciful and compassionate toward its fellow men.
The bottom line is that when a nation goes to war, no matter how potent a "superpower" it is perceived to be, it is the mercy and the favor of God that is most needed, for no one can successfully come against a nation that is shielded by God's favor. "Victory comes from you, O Lord" (Psalm 3:8) To be in right standing with God Almighty is our only real national security. We also must understand the different roles of the Church and government. It is the government's God-given responsibility to wage war and defend the people from tyranny, terrorism, and injustice. As stated in Romans 13:4, "He (a governmental authority) does not bear the sword for nothing."
The Church, however, is primarily to do the work of compassion and to uncompromisingly speak the truth of the gospel of Jesus Christ. The Church is called to wage a different war than that of the government as it fights for the eternal destiny of souls and the welfare of our fellow man. It is the Church's job to be righteous!
A CLEAR TRUMPET CALL
"Again, if the trumpet does not sound a clear call, who will get ready for battle?" (1 Corinthians 14:8)
It is high time for the whole Church to get ready to move to the front lines to fight for the souls of the poor and lost. The President's message was a clear trumpet call from the head of our nation...an explicit call for love in action and for those of faith to take up our God-given responsibility of compassion for those who are needy and hurting.
For far too long, the Church has neglected its divine responsibility to the poor and has tried to push it onto the government. And, for a while, the government actually believed it was the savior of society. Government programs have failed, and the problems in the inner cities of America continue and deepen. The Church's negligence in serving the poor and lost is one of the chief reasons why America is in an enormous social and moral mess. The abandonment of compassion is also a primary reason why the Christian Church is rarely respected as a relevant or practical solution for the pains and problems of our society. When we ignore a fundamental command of the Lord such as "love your neighbor as yourself" there will always be severe consequences.
THE CHURCH HAS NOT BEEN THE SOLUTION
American society presently does not look to the Church as the solution for social injustice. And why is this? Clearly it is because we have not been the solution! Although a small number of people are laying their lives down for the poor and lost, the Church at large hasn't yet stepped into this role. Have we lost our saltiness? Is it too late? I think not!
Bush declared (as all true Christians should) "we do not accept as a fact of life that some Americans must endure permanent poverty or bigotry or childhood without love and guidance."
I believe that there is coming a day when God will turn our "religiosity" into generosity. And when that day comes, both this nation and the world will take note. We (God's people) will be a burning, shining light in our generation!
Amazingly, we have a President who understands that those who have faith in God are uniquely called and "anointed" to alleviate the suffering of the poor, the addicted, and the disadvantaged. Christians, above all, should lead the way in cherishing and nurturing the people that no one else wants. This is precisely the reason President Bush appealed to the Church to lead the way in compassionate action in our society. The Lord is using him to prophetically see and call forth the destiny of the Church to be the salt and light of our society. "Whoever claims to live in Him must walk as Jesus did." (1 John 2:6)
Listen to the President..."The role of government is limited, because government cannot put hope in people's hearts, or a sense of purpose in people's lives. That happens when someone puts an arm around a neighbor and says, God loves you, I love you, and you can count on us both." Obviously, Bush recognizes the limitations of the government as well as the fact that the Church's purpose, more so than any other institution, is to instill hope in its hurting neighbors.
CALLING FORTH THE ARMIES OF COMPASSION
Repeatedly, George Bush boldly called for the "armies of compassion" to rise up. He unflinchingly challenged and encouraged the Church to get over its "artificial divisions" and to serve the underprivileged in our communities. He spoke in particular of his great concern for the children of prisoners and those who are struggling for their lives against addiction to drugs.
Astonishingly, the President's message echoed the central message of the Word of God and in the heart of God. Though this message does not currently resemble either the vision or value system of much of western Christianity, there is a great reformation at hand that God is initiating!
THE SELFISH DIVERSION FROM THE REAL WAR FOR AMERICA
Have you ever wondered what prevents the "armies of compassion,"--the Church--from rising up in full strength in America, one of the wealthiest nations in the world? In one word, the answer is...selfishness. Let me explain:
For many, the essence of the President's message was, unfortunately, overshadowed by the last ten minutes of concluding remarks, during which the President addressed the potential war with Iraq. What many people in the Church fail to see is that there has been an internal and ongoing war within America for decades that is tearing this nation apart from the inside out. In fact, terrorism was occurring in America long before September 11th. We simply chose to look the other way for a real long time. However, when rich people die, we cry.
Day in and day out, drug dealers and gangs terrorize entire inner-city communities in the heart of every American city. These communities are packed full of teenage moms and babies. (The average age of the members of many of these communities is just 17 years-old.) A few extremely wounded young men hold these communities hostage. These men feel like "nobodies" because they grew up rejected, neglected, and fatherless. They are content to risk it all to get quick money (and, therefore, power) so they, too, will be considered a "somebody" in this materialistic nation.
This is the war the Church is called to fight every day. In times of war, we see many people in America protest and call out for "peace... peace." If we really value human life so much why do we not see this kind of energy and passion going into saving our hurting and dying neighbors? Many times we gravitate toward high-profile political platforms to boast of our great compassion and concern for humanity but we're not willing to serve the hurting and lonely in obscurity.
Our assignment as Christians (Christ-like ones) is to "love our neighbors as ourselves!" However, the disturbing reality is that for decades the devil has enjoyed almost unlimited victories in these underprivileged, inner city communities. An even greater travesty is that many times he is unchallenged by the very ones who are called to be the champions of this great war-the people of the Church. We are the only ones who can enforce the victory of the cross of Jesus Christ and who have been given the authority to "destroy the works of the devil." We who profess faith in Jesus are the very ones who have been anointed to gain this victory...but for too long we have been "missing-in-action."
WARS AND RUMORS OF WARS
Jesus said that in the end times there would be "wars and rumors of wars." He also said that the end of the end of the age is the Harvest. We are called to be harvesters of souls. Jesus said, "No one who puts his hand to the plow and looks back is fit for service in the kingdom of God." (Luke 9:62) Those who are true disciples of Jesus have all been recruited to be "fishers of men."
The Bible is clear that these "wars and rumors of wars" will only increase as the Day of the Lord approaches. Have you ever wondered why we as Christians so easily digest whatever the secular media feeds us? We devour the same media junk that they do and then we wonder why we look and act like them. We too often perceive and react to the worldly events in the same ways that non-believers do. We become consumed, terrorized and even paralyzed by the very same things that the world does. My friends this should not be! Followers of Jesus are called to be "strangers and aliens" in this world. We are to literally have the mindset that we are "just a pass'n through."
Our Supreme Commander has given us a great and noble mission to do. "Go into all the world and preach the good news to all creation." (Mark 16:15) Why is it that we are so easily knocked off our divine task every time there's a crisis in the world? Too often we are just lulled to sleep by the pleasures and luxuries of this world. We should not allow the winds of this world, be they financial, religious or political, to blow us off our God-given course. Even in the face of great opposition or great prosperity we are called to live a life "worthy of the high calling."
We must ask the Lord to show us that each crisis is actually another opportunity for our light to shine in the darkness of our times. We must not let worldly concerns, no matter how dramatic or cataclysmic they may be to snuff out our commitment to our divine mission. We must fight hard to not allow anything to eclipse our vision of the real war for souls, and of the great injustice and suffering that continues in these places which President Bush called "pockets of despair and loneliness and hopelessness in America." We don't have to be enrolled and trained in the U.S. military to fight this one... we just have to be in the Lord's army... which are "the armies of compassion."
Although the rumors of war are a legitimate concern, which should be faithfully covered with much prayer, the deception that has blinded much of the Christian community is that the conflict with Iraq (or whoever is next) is of more concern than the war that we are already in... the war that continuously rages in our inner cities.
Why is this? The reason for this perpetual blindness to the daily war that mercilessly ravages our neighbors--our fellow Americans-again is selfishness. We feel greatly concerned about the war with Iraq, or any other terrorist group or nation, because it may actually affect us... "us" meaning the wealthy middle- and upper class. War might affect our economy, touching us right where we live. It may mess with our sacred American lifestyles. This self-absorbed way of thinking causes us to overlook the endless pain and injustice ravaging our communities. The reality is most of us are more concerned about the price of gas going up at the pump than we are about our suffering neighbors in the center of our city. One might say you can't prove this! I would say our actions prove it. Our actions speak much louder than our words... no matter how religious they may be.
OUR SELFISH ROOT EXPOSED
This root of self-preservation in the religious community was greatly exposed in the Y2K phenomenon, as it caused great concern, fear and even panic--for many people within the Church. The truth was that the "Christian" community was a primary instigator and agitator of this social conundrum as it actually led the way in spreading fear and propagating self-centeredness. Many fearful Christians aggressively launched into fear and greed-driven, self-preservative measures over this looming "prophesy." The distressing indictment on the Church is that self-preservation was-and continues to be-our main concern. Though we are wrapped up in religion, we are too many times, found to be still seeking to save our own lives. Jesus said, "For whoever wants to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for me will find it." (Matthew 16:25)
Isn't it amazing that we will quickly mobilize and spend our money when it comes to saving ourselves, and yet we watch the inner cities of America decay for decades while, many times, the best we throw them is a handful of crumbs. It's much like giving a prisoner just enough food to keep him alive. This sporadic and "crumby" aid that we offer the helpless is not mercy. In fact, this kind of "benevolence" often prolongs and magnifies the misery. Are we willing to get our hands dirty by digging deep enough to get to the foundation of the problem?
President Bush made this prophetic statement: "You don't fix the crack on the wall until you first fix the foundation." Can we hear what the Lord is saying through him? The issue of the Church's responsibility to the poor is a basic and foundational issue that must be dealt with. If we don't get this one right even all of our religious efforts will prove to be eternally futile.
"They also will answer, 'Lord, when did we see you hungry or thirsty or a stranger or needing clothes or sick or in prison, and did not help you?' "He will reply, 'I tell you the truth, whatever you did not do for one of the least of these, you did not do for me.' "Then they will go away to eternal punishment, but the righteous to eternal life." (Matthew 25:44-46)
Our neighbors and fellow Americans suffer and die all around us, yet we are more concerned about the economy. How can this be? Too many times the sad reality within America and the American church is that we love "things" more than we love people. It's called materialism!
WHAT IS LOVE?
God used President Bush to call the Church to a selfless position that goes deeper than the giving of Christmas baskets and the occasional mission trip. Those of us who profess Jesus as Lord are expected to literally lay down our lives for brothers and sisters who are in need. How else can we interpret this Scripture: "This is how we know what love is: Jesus Christ laid down his life for us. And we ought to lay down our lives for our brothers. If anyone has material possessions and sees his brother in need but has no pity on him, how can the love of God be in him? Dear children, let us not love with words or tongue but with actions and in truth. This then is how we know that we belong to the truth, and how we set our hearts at rest in His presence." (1 John 3:16-20).
The tragedy that is within the Church, which is called "to seek and save the lost," there is rarely a sense of emergency over this generation of young people that are desensitized and lost. Youth today are literally killing themselves, and for far too long, the religious community has been content to leave this problem in the hands of the government and police. We are usually not alarmed until violence hits home...in our white, middle- or upper-class schools and communities.
"He who gives to the poor will lack nothing, but he who closes his eyes to them receives many curses." (Proverbs 28:27)
THE GOVERNMENT CAN'T DO IT
The Government has tried to respond by throwing millions of dollars at the problems. Multitudes of government programs have been launched but we are clearly not winning the war. We don't have to be brain surgeons to conclude that the way we're doing things is not working. The good news is, however, that President Bush recognizes this and is calling the Church back to its God-given place in society. "It is that spirit of love and compassion which makes healing lives work," he says. "There are some needs that prosperity can never meet." Bush recognizes that money, government programs, and reform "will not solve the deepest problems of the spirit."
The President appealed to the authority of God's Word to make his point: "In Scripture, God commands us to reach out to those who are different, to reconcile with each other, to lay down our lives in service to others. And He promises that the fruits of faith and fellowship, service and reconciliation will far surpass the struggles we go through to achieve them." He continues, "I welcome faith to help solve the nation's deepest problems."
SO WHOSE RESPONSIBILITY ARE THE POOR?
Do we believe what the President said? Do we believe what God says in His word? Some might say, "It's all too extreme. I'm a Christian, but I'm not called to the poor."
Ponder this..."The righteous care about justice for the poor, but the wicked have no such concern." (Proverbs 29:7) Or this..."Those who shut their ears to the cries of the poor will be ignored in their own time of need." (Proverbs 21:13)
There are almost 2000 scriptures in the Bible that deal directly with God's heart for, and our responsibility to, the poor, the widows, and the fatherless.
OUR OBLIGATION: JUST A SHORT DRIVE AWAY
President Bush stated that the frontlines of this war are usually just "a short drive away" and described our responsibility as an "obligation".
He affirmed, "I know by calling upon the compassionate hearts of our fellow citizens we can help save those lives..." God used President Bush to help open our eyes to the demonically-inspired war that inflicts vast amounts of misery, poverty, addiction, abuse, neglect, fatherlessness, loneliness, hopelessness, violence and injustice upon its victims. The suffering and casualties of this war are incalculable.
It is a conflict that daily ravages and claims the lives of multitudes of innocent victims all around us, especially women and children. It is inconceivably cruel and unjust, and there is not foreseeable relief or an end in sight until the Church of Jesus decides to step into its God-given anointing to extend God's mercy and fight for justice. We, as Christians, have been given the authority to win this war.
THE RICH SHOULD HELP THE POOR!
This concept is not rocket science...and the true followers of Jesus should understand it better than anyone. The "haves" helping the "have-nots"--the rich helping the poor--is the primary element of justice and mercy.
One way to implement the necessary changes which was suggested by the President was summed up this way by CNN: "BUSH URGES RICH CHURCHES TO HELP POORER ONES--President Bush urged Christian radio broadcasters Monday to work to bridge the racial divide by calling on wealthy suburban churches to help urban churches whose income is low but needs are great."
Bush said, "When a suburban church and an urban church become full partners, great things can happen. Both churches benefit." He encouraged us "to break down the barriers that have divided the children of God for too long." The essence of his exhortation was to call the Church to unite and fight for what is right. He encouraged us to come together and to get on with our divine duty "to lay down our lives in service to others."
THE FAITH-BASED INITIATIVE
Many know that President Bush has been pushing for government support to go to "faith-based" ministries and churches. He is convinced that faith-based ministries work most effectively with the impoverished, uneducated and underprivileged portions of society. This dramatic paradigm shift comes about after many years of the U.S. Government trying its best to obstruct the giving of federal monies, support and endorsements to ministries that are faith-based.
The President is now stepping out against the popular political current by working to turn the tide. And, like all good and noble causes, this is not happening without great resistance. With this shift of perspective, beginning with the President and filtering down, there's presently a door open through which God's people may step into their places within the culture. Now is a critical moment for the Church to step up and into this aching void in our society and to become the solution that we have been ordained by God to be. Do we really have anything better to do than this? Think about it.
The question of whether this federal money and government support actually gets into the hands of the Church and frontline support ministries is not the point of my writing this message. We are called to put our trust and dependence in God, not in the government. One way or another, God sustains His work of compassion, because for Him to fail to do so is to deny His very essence. He is a God who is "rich in mercy" and who "loves justice". He has declared himself to be "a father to the fatherless, a defender of widows, is God in His holy dwelling." God "sets the lonely in families, He leads forth the prisoners with singing..." (Psalm 68:5,6)
"Because of the oppression of the weak and the groaning of the needy, I will now arise," says the LORD. I will protect them..." (Psalm 12:5)
Here are what I believe to be some of the highlights of President Bush's message, in his own words:
"My call to our fellow Americans is, while one person can't do everything, one person can do something to make our society a more compassionate and decent place."
"People of faith and goodness and idealism also have the power to transform our neighborhoods and our nation. I've set a great goal for America. We must apply the great compassion of our people to the deepest problems of this country."
"This country is blessed with virtually millions of good-hearted volunteers who work daily miracles in the lives of their fellow citizens. And today I ask our religious broadcasters, those who reach into every corner of America, to rally the armies of compassion so that we can change America one heart, one soul at a time."
"And in America today, people of faith are doing the work of compassion. So many good people are serving their neighbors because they love their God. The spirit of service is vital because the need in America is great. There are pockets of despair and loneliness and hopelessness in America. We do not accept as a fact of life that some Americans must endure permanent poverty or bigotry or childhood without love and guidance. Our work as Americans is not complete until we build a single nation of justice and a nation of opportunity."
"We've arrested and we convict criminals; yet building more prisons will not substitute for responsibility and order in our souls. (Applause.) The role of government is limited, because government cannot put hope in people's hearts, or a sense of purpose in people's lives. That happens when someone puts an arm around a neighbor and says, God loves you, I love you, and you can count on us both."
"I believe government should welcome faith-based groups as allies in the great work of renewing America. I welcome faith. I welcome faith to help solve the nation's deepest problems." "But governments can and should support effective social services provided by religious people, so long as they work and as long as those services go to anyone in need, regardless of their faith. And when government gives that support, it is equally important that faith-based institutions should not be forced to change the character or compromise their prophetic role."
"What I'm saying is, the days of discriminating against religious groups just because they're religious are coming to an end."
"I went to Congress at my State of the Union and spoke about two needs I want to share with you today. I have concerns -- I know you do, as well -- about children whose mom or dad may be in prison. Imagine what life must be like for those children. Imagine how they wonder about their future, whether or not this great country holds out hope for them. I know by calling upon the compassionate hearts of our fellow citizens we can help save those lives by mentoring programs, by putting the child in touch with somebody like Sherry Jean Williams, who realizes somebody does care about them during these tough and difficult times."
"As well, I am concerned about those who are addicted to drugs, who fight for their very lives and survival against addiction. I believe that we can take an approach that focuses on the addict, give that person a voucher to be redeemed at any program that he or she chooses. Especially those programs that have got the capacity to change heart and, therefore, change habit."
"This nation has got a lot of wealthy and caring congregations, and we've got a lot of churches in low-income areas that need help, too. Your voices reach them all; you can communicate with them, rich and poor, alike; suburban church and urban church, alike. And you can help bring them together to serve those who hurt, so we can achieve a more just and generous society."
"It's been said that 11:00 a.m. on Sunday is the most segregated hour in America. We all have a responsibility to break down the barriers that divide us. In Scripture, God commands us to reach out to those who are different, to reconcile with each other, to lay down our lives in service to others. And He promises that the fruits of faith and fellowship, service and reconciliation will far surpass the struggles we go through to achieve them."
"Suburban churches are often just a short drive away from brothers and sisters who are facing great need, and doing God's work. There's an opportunity here to end artificial divisions and join together in fellowship and service. There's also an obligation. The poor and suffering are the responsibility of the whole church, even when they're not members of any church. (Applause.)"
"When a suburban church and an urban church become full partners, great things can happen. Both churches benefit."
"There is no question that we can rid this nation of hopelessness and despair, because the greatest of America is the character of the American people."
I have also included the full text for whoever desires to read it in its entirety, and in context. It is well worth reading!
Godly and Kingly justice looks like this: "He will defend the afflicted among the people and save the children of the needy; he will crush the oppressor." (Psalm 72:4) Therefore, it is time to "rally the armies of compassion so that we can change America one heart, one soul at a time." To march and fight as good soldiers of Christ Jesus in these armies of compassion is our God-given duty; it is also one of the greatest privileges we have been given as Christians! May God help us as we lead the nation in alleviating suffering and in "serving our neighbor because we love our God!"
Multitudes of Christians prayed for a Godly President to be in office. The Lord has answered this prayer. Now the question prevails: Will we listen to and obey the words of the Lord which were spoken through this President whom so many Christians desired to see in office? When he sounds the trumpet, will we come running?
This message isn't worth the paper it is printed on if the people of God do not act upon it. Faith without deeds is dead! May we be doers of the Word so that we will not deceive ourselves and so that we, the Church of Jesus, will become the greatest solution to the deepest problems of our society!
The Lord speaks this word to America..."Learn to do right! Seek justice, encourage the oppressed. Defend the cause of the fatherless, plead the case of the widow. Come now, let us reason together," says the LORD. "Though your sins are like scarlet, they shall be as white as snow; though they are red as crimson, they shall be like wool. If you are willing and obedient, you will eat the best from the land..." (Isaiah 1:17-19) The message hasn't changed. God's heart hasn't changed, and He will greatly reward us and bless this land if we are willing and obedient.
Jesus said, "If you love me, you will obey what I command." (John 14:15)
May we have ears to hear what the Spirit of the Lord is speaking through our President to the Church. MAY THE ARMIES OF COMPASSION HEAR THE CLEAR TRUMPET CALL AND MAY WE RISE UP IN THE NAME OF JESUS!
It is a volunteer army. The choice is ours. You decide!