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!
Retiring in April 2022, Mark R. Elliott served as a Director of Missions (Associational Mission Strategist) in Western Iowa and Eastern Nebraska for almost three decades. He is a strong advocate for obedience and Biblically based disciple making. As such, he knows that making healthy disciples requires Christian leaders to be constantly pursuing spiritual maturity—be lifelong learners. Because of the time constraints of ministry, most pastors focus their reading list on resources that assist them in teaching and preaching the Word of God. As such, books focusing on church health, leadership development, and church growth tend to find their way to the bottom of the stack. With that reality in mind, Mark has written discussion summaries on several books that have helped him to personally grow in Christ and that tend to find themselves on the bottom of most pastor’s stack. Many pastors have found them helpful as they are able to more quickly process great insights from other pastors and authors.