Sunday, February 1, 2009

February 2- God as a refuge in trouble

February 2

Psalm 46:1,2 God is our refuge and strength, and ever present help in trouble. Therefore we will not fear , though the earth give way and the mountains fall into the heart of the sea, Though its waters roar and foam and the mountains quake with their surging…the Lord Almighty is with us; the God of Jacob is our fortress.

Calvin: “The faithful have no reason to be afraid, since God is always ready to deliver them, nay, is also armed with invincible power. He shows in this that the true and proper proof of our hope consists in this, that, when things are so confused, that the heavens seem as it were to fall with great violence, the earth to remove out of its place, and the mountains to be torn up from their very foundations, we nevertheless continue to preserve and maintain calmness and tranquillity of heart. It is an easy matter to manifest the appearance of great confidence, so long as we are not placed in imminent danger: but if, in the midst of a general crash of the whole world, our minds continue undisturbed and free of trouble, this is an evident proof that we attribute to the power of God the honor which belongs to him. When, however, the sacred poet says, We will not fear, he is not to be understood as meaning that the minds of the godly are exempt from all solicitude or fear, as if they were destitute of feeling, for there is a great difference between insensibility and the confidence of faith. He only
shows that whatever may happen they are never overwhelmed with terror, but rather gather strength and courage sufficient to allay all fear.” (Commentaries)

There is a lot of anxiety in America today. The anxiety centers around our economic downturn. But I believe there is more to this despair. Part of the anxiety comes from knowing deep down we have left God out of our lives as a nation. The number of people who are active members of churches has been going down for fifty years now. For example the Presbyterian Church U.S.A. has decreased from 6.1 million in 1962 to 2.1 million today- this though the population of the country has grown from 180 to 306 million. The same could be said of the Episcopalian (2.2 million), United Church of Christ (declined 14.8% from 1990-2000), United Methodists, and to a smaller scale we have seen decreases in the number of Lutherans and southern Baptists. Today mainline churches together account for 8% of the population (21 million- you could add 16 million Baptists and 67 million Catholics to the total Christian count) whereas in 1962 the number was about 22%. The average age of mainline Protestants is 55. For centuries the number of people who said they believed in God hovered between 92-98% of Americans. In the last ten years that number has decreased ten percent. This is the first real decrease in American history. Before, if we lacked faith, we were hesitant to admit it.
Most who have left church and God out of their lives, know that they have strayed away from the faith of their ancestors. They had traded their true faith for the idolatry of things and the pride of thinking they are just fine without the hassles of church and giving themselves to God.
My point is this, we have strayed away, and there is an anxiety about us that we have strayed too far for God to hear our voice or to welcome us back. But that is not the case. God welcomes us as the father welcomed the prodigal son. God would have those of us with faith to find him their refuge and strength during this time. For those who have left, believers need to extend a welcome back to the refuge.

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