This weekend we celebrated the anniversary of our nation’s birth. It falls in the midst of a historic time when all things are being called into question. Many are questioning the spiritual moorings of our history—can a nation claim manifest destiny that legalized slavery for the first seventy-five years of its existence, and that treated the Native Americans so poorly? Historic monuments are being vandalized and removed in an effort to correct or re-write our history.
As my reflections are being sent out, I am actually enjoying a few days of vacation with my grandsons in the Black Hills where I was born and raised. One of the sites we saw was Mount Rushmore during a time when it was drawing significant national attention as President Trump visited it on July 4th. Not only is the area the place where I was born, but it is also the place where I was born again. As a citizen of the great state of Wyoming—the Equality State where women were first granted the right to vote—and of the United States of America—a nation unique in history in many ways—I also became a citizen of the Kingdom of God!
Now, as a seventy-year-old grandpa, I returned to my roots with a different perspective. I have been greatly enriched and unbelievably challenged by my life experiences. But maybe, more importantly, I have been encouraged and edified by spiritual insights gleaned from God’s Holy Word. Some of those passages that speak to the issue of being a patriotic American are:
"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 live peaceful and quiet lives in all godliness and holiness."
Part of my heritage is what we called the Mountain West mentality as I was growing up. I have described it as rugged American individualism on steroids. God’s word has both tempered and informed me to realize that I cannot live my life in isolation, but neither can I deny my personal responsibility and accountability to God for all that He has given me. Living out that tension is not easy. There are moments when I want to buy a little cabin in the woods and run from the chaos of society. But my responsibility to God and my fellow man tells me I am to be part of the solution, not part of the problem. In times like these, I am CONSTANTLY reminded by God of the simple, yet profound, prescription He gave us for times when Christian Patriotism is hard:
"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 I will forgive their sin and will heal their land."
On this 4th of July week, like none other in your life, join me in humbling ourselves before God, praying and seeking His presence (knowing everything depends upon Him), and turning from our self-serving individualism. God has promised that if we will do this with pure hearts, then He will hear our prayers, forgive our sins, and HEAL OUR LAND!
Mark is in his twenty-seventh year of serving as an Associational Missions Strategist. He served in western Iowa for almost eight years, and is in his nineteenth year with HCN. He has a passion to see pastors and church leaders grow in their abilities to lead their churches. He continues to have a heart and desire to see new churches planted and God continues to use his strategic thinking skills in this area. Mark also has a wealth of experience in helping churches clarify who God has created them to be, and what they can do best to reach their community. He has had ample opportunities to help churches in times of conflict, and has seen God do exciting things to restore a spirit of harmony, returning churches to a time of fruitfulness. He also helps churches in transition by working with search committees. Mark and Phyllis who were married in November of 2018 have four children and three grandchildren. They will enjoy their combined 87th anniversary in just a few days.