You never know when I might play a wild card on you!
Today's Wild Card author is:
and the book:
Whitaker House (March 1, 2012)***Special thanks to Cathy Hickling of Whitaker House for sending me a review copy.***
ABOUT THE AUTHOR:
Visit the author's website.
SHORT BOOK DESCRIPTION:
Bishop Henry Fernandez addresses America’s economic crisis, breakdown of the family unit, and general moral malaise, consequences, he writes, of a shift away from faith in God to the pursuit of material gain and worldly pursuits. Bishop Fernandez believes it’s not too late to turn things around with God’s help and hard work. He offers biblically-based, practical solutions for restoring one’s faith in God, then building on a foundation of renewed faith, proceeds to teach readers steps for restoring family relations and rejuvenating their personal finances.
List Price: $14.99
- Paperback: 224 pages
- Publisher: Whitaker House (March 1, 2012)
- Language: English
- ISBN-10: 1603742808
- ISBN-13: 978-1603742801
AND NOW...THE FIRST CHAPTER:
I am inwardly fashioned for faith, not for fear. Fear is not my native land; faith is. I am so made that worry and anxiety are sand in the machinery of life; faith is the oil. I live better by faith and confidence than by fear, doubt, and anxiety. In anxiety and worry, my being is gasping for breath—these are not my native air. But in faith and confidence, I breathe freely—these are my native air.
—Dr. E. Stanley Jones
In Whom Do You Trust?
“In God We Trust.” That is a powerful declaration, isn’t it? Although we seldom notice it, that solemn and weighty phrase graces every unit of American currency, from the lowly penny to the $100 bill. It’s not merely a slogan or a nice sentiment that we intone on holidays or in times of national crisis. There is meaning and intent behind those words. “In God We Trust” is based on the conviction, held by generations of Americans since the nation’s founding, that a country and its citizens are only as strong as their faith in, and faithfulness to, almighty God.
That, of course, is God’s opinion on the matter, as well. Throughout the annals of history, He has promised to bless those nations and people who put their trust in Him, corporately and individually, and who behave in ways that honor Him and His character. By contrast, He has clearly warned that those who do not reverence and put their trust in Him can expect to suffer physically, financially, emotionally, and politically—in every way imaginable!
Blessed is the nation whose God is the Lord, the people He has chosen as His own inheritance. (Psalm 33:12)
A Look to the Past
Look at America’s past and you will see that, for the majority of our history, we have been the nation to which other nations have looked for guidance, help, defense, and a model of a successful, prosperous society. There is good reason for this. For most of the past two centuries, we have been the most prosperous and successful nation on earth. Consider the following:
- The lion’s share of technological advances that occurred during the twentieth century—from automobiles to electric lights to television and radio to the computer and space travel—had their start in America.
- During this same time, America’s industrial machine was second to none, pumping out volumes of manufactured goods for markets all over the world.
- For most of that time, America was also blessed with remarkable agricultural production, an abundance that has been used to feed not only our own sizeable and ever-growing population but also many other nations of the world.
- Our educational institutions were world renowned, raising generations of young people who were trained not only with life skills to succeed in business, industry, and elsewhere, but also with the precepts of righteousness and morality that are the foundation of any successful society.
Without a doubt, the greatest asset of America’s blessedness has been its people. In America, God has brought together individuals, families, and communities from a wide variety of foreign countries, cultures, ethnicities, and races, forming a veritable “melting pot” of hardworking, moral, and God-honoring people who asked for nothing more in return than the opportunity to be an integral part of this “land of the free and home of the brave.”
Committed to a solid faith in God, to strong families, and to earnest stewardship of all that God had blessed them with, this broad range of individuals built strong communities “from sea to shining sea” so that, for generations to come, our country could declare that America was “one nation under God.”
Throughout the years, as long as Americans have trusted in God, they have maintained that same strength and unity, enabling them to achieve just about anything they set their minds and hearts to do.
The secret of my success? It is simple. It is found in the Bible: “In all thy ways acknowledge Him and He shall direct thy paths.”
—George Washington Carver
A Change of Heart
Today, however, many people are wondering what has happened to our strong, free nation that once put its trust in God. The cultural landscape around us, and the personal circumstances millions of Americans are facing, seem far different from the prosperity, security, and hope that so many of us grew up with. The list of challenges is daunting.
- The nation’s job picture is bleak. As of August 2011, unemployment was 9.1 percent, with nearly fourteen million Americans out of work. How different from the nation in which previous generations raised their families and planned for the future.
- Over the last thirty years, more and more Americans have gone into debt for nonessential luxury items. As of January 2010, Americans held more than 609 billion credit cards—or two cards for every American. In June 2011, U.S. consumer credit card debt reached $793 billion, with an average credit card debt per household of $15,799.1 What a difference from the practice of thrift that previous generations of Americans have displayed.
- With so many Americans in so much debt, it’s little surprise that in 2010, filings for personal bankruptcy exploded to more than 1.5 million people.2
- On the housing front, where home ownership was once a carefully considered decision for previous generations, over the last several years, it has become an entitlement. Untold millions of Americans have gone into debt for homes whose mortgages far exceeded their incomes. As of July 2011, the national foreclosure rate had come down significantly since the financial crisis, down to 1 in every 111 homes. In my own state of Florida, however, the rate was even worse, with 14 percent of all homes actively in foreclosure.3
- As the economy has faltered and families have lost their homes, homelessness has become a national epidemic. According to a 2007 study by the National Law Center on Homelessness and Poverty, approximately 3.5 million individuals in America are now homeless—1.35 million of them children.4
- Just as the economy in crisis has impacted individuals, families, and communities, it has also devastated businesses and financial institutions. Long-established, respected banks, investment companies, and lending institutions—many considered “too big to fail”—have collapsed, while others survived only through the direct intervention of a government that is being increasingly stressed in its ability to provide the answers.
Family and Morality: A Changing Landscape
Destroy the family, and you destroy the country.
—Vladimir Ilyich Lenin
The essential building block of any society is the family, and American society is no exception. From its beginning, strong families living morally upright lives have been an important ingredient to a strong America. We may snicker or roll our eyes at the straight-laced values from thirty, forty, or fifty years ago, but the truth is that life certainly seemed simpler and more wholesome back then.
Families, whatever the faults and foibles of their members, were stronger and more stable. Marriage was considered to be a scared institution. There were stricter standards that governed relationships between the sexes, children were more respectful of their elders, and the values that defined behavior in society tended to keep people on the straight and narrow.
That seems to be far from the case today:
- In many sectors of our society, marriage has become an option rather than a sacred trust. A study by the National Marriage Project found that cohabitation—couples living together outside the bond of marriage—has become so accepted in our society that an increasing number of Americans view it as a perfectly functional alternative to marriage. Their study quoted U.S. Census figures, which claimed that in 1997, there were more than four million unmarried couples sharing a household, up from less than a half million in 1960.5 A study conducted by the Institute for Social Research at the University of Michigan found that nearly two in five children will spend at least some time living with a parent and an unmarried partner.6
- With such a casual approach to lifelong relationships, it is no wonder that the institution of marriage seems to be in absolute crisis throughout America. A recent study by the Barna Group found that one out of three Americans who has been married has also been divorced. As George Barna noted in the study, “There no longer seems to be much of a stigma attached to divorce; it is now seen as an unavoidable rite of passage.”7
- Along with a drastic increase in divorce has come a wholesale redefinition of what marriage means in America. Several states have ruled that marriage can no longer be defined as only between a man and a woman. In some states, unions between two men or two women have been declared legally acceptable. One wonders if there will be any end to the redefinition of God’s most foundational building block for humanity.
- Over the last thirty-five-plus years, children have become increasingly vulnerable and, in many cases, an inconvenience to people’s freewheeling lifestyles. The fact that, since 1973, over forty million precious babies have met their deaths through abortion represents a serious blight on our nation.
What Has Happened to Our Faith?
In April 2009, during a trip to Turkey, President Barack Obama held a press conference in which he said, “One of the great strengths of the United States is—although as I mentioned, we have a very large Christian population, we do not consider ourselves a Christian nation or a Jewish nation or a Muslim nation; we consider ourselves a nation of citizens who are bound by ideals and a set of values.”8 If that statement by the leader of our nation does not seem alarming, recall that in June 2006, Mr. Obama delivered a speech to the Call for Renewal Conference, sponsored by the progressive Christian magazine Sojourners, in which his prepared remarks stated, “Whatever we once were, we are no longer just a Christian nation; we are also a Jewish nation, a Muslim nation, a Buddhist nation, a Hindu nation, and a nation of nonbelievers.”9
Now, in one sense, President Obama is right. America was never intended to be a nation where individuals were compelled to become Christians. One of the great values of our nation is that everyone has the freedom to worship God after the dictates of his or her own heart.
Nevertheless, whatever the president meant by his statements, the undeniable truth of the matter is that America was established upon Christian precepts, and it seems that, as a nation and a people, we have drifted away from those foundations. As a consequence, we are now paying a price that only repentance and turning back to God will cure.
More than two hundred years ago, another president made a very different declaration. At his first inauguration, George Washington reminded his fellow citizens:
No people can be bound to acknowledge and adore the invisible hand, which conducts the Affairs of men more than the People of the United States. Every step, by which they have advanced to the character of an independent nation, seems to have been distinguished by some token of providential agency.…We ought to be no less persuaded that the propitious smiles of Heaven, can never be expected on a nation that disregards the eternal rules of order and right, which Heaven itself has ordained.
God Himself reminds us in the Bible that upright, godly Christian living will make and keep a nation and a people great. By contrast, sin, rebellion, selfishness, greed, and turning away from God and His Word will bring reproach and, ultimately, destruction.
Righteousness exalts a nation, but sin is a reproach to any people. (Proverbs 14:34)
The Foundation for Success
Now, I realize that the America of today is far different from the one President Washington addressed so many years ago. In fact, many individuals living in the United States may not even be American citizens, and they may have difficulty identifying with the values and culture that have defined our country over many generations. The fact remains, however, that the beliefs, behaviors, attitudes, and actions of a specific group of people inhabiting a place—whether it is two people or more than 250 million people—will largely determine whether those people will in live in peace, health, abundance, security, and plenty, or in constant turmoil, danger, poverty, disease, and lack.
Now it shall come to pass, if you diligently obey the voice of the Lord your God, to observe carefully all His commandments which I command you today, that the Lord your God will set you high above all nations of the earth. And all these blessings shall come upon you and overtake you, because you obey the voice of the Lord your God: Blessed shall you be in the city, and blessed shall you be in the country. Blessed shall be the fruit of your body, the produce of your ground and the increase of your herds, the increase of your cattle and the offspring of your flocks. Blessed shall be your basket and your kneading bowl. Blessed shall you be when you come in, and blessed shall you be when you go out. The Lord will cause your enemies who rise against you to be defeated before your face; they shall come out against you one way and flee before you seven ways. The Lord will command the blessing on you in your storehouses and in all to which you set your hand, and He will bless you in the land which the Lord your God is giving you. The Lord will establish you as a holy people to Himself, just as He has sworn to you, if you keep the commandments of the Lord your God and walk in His ways. Then all peoples of the earth shall see that you are called by the name of the Lord, and they shall be afraid of you. And the Lord will grant you plenty of goods, in the fruit of your body, in the increase of your livestock, and in the produce of your ground, in the land of which the Lord swore to your fathers to give you. The Lord will open to you His good treasure, the heavens, to give the rain to your land in its season, and to bless all the work of your hand. You shall lend to many nations, but you shall not borrow. And the Lord will make you the head and not the tail; you shall be above only, and not be beneath, if you heed the commandments of the Lord your God, which I command you today, and are careful to observe them. (Deuteronomy 28:1–13)
When God called the nation of Israel to be His own special people, He promised to be with them, to guide them, and to bless them with perfect health, overwhelming abundance for their every need, the favor of the people and nations around them, and with success in whatever they set their hands to do. He told them that His blessings would overtake them and that they would not be able to stop the favor of God upon their lives. All they had to do was trust Him, put Him first over everything else, and follow the directions He gave them for life.
Unfortunately, God’s people often ended up doing the exact opposite, and they paid a painful price. Their disobedience—their lack of trust in God’s mercy and goodness, and their insistence on looking to their own faulty wisdom and planning rather than to God’s perfect blueprint for their lives—led them, throughout their long history, to be in bondage to other nations. Throughout all of their ordeals, God continued to call His people back to His perfect path, where blessings and abundance awaited them.
That story may sound familiar. It is much like the situations and circumstances that we face today. We say a little prayer, hoping for God’s blessing, and then we forge ahead with our own plans and agendas rather than waiting for His perfect timing. Although we are well aware of God’s counsel, too many of us end up following the opposite course of action. Of course, gentleman that He is, God allows us to go our own way, patiently waiting for us to come to the end of ourselves, where we finally say, “Father, I was wrong; You were right. Take control.”
That is what God is waiting for: a decision by each one of us to turn from our own ways—with all the heartache and turmoil attached to them—and return to His perfect way. He promises in His Word that He will wait until we are ready to receive His mercy, when we have come to the end of ourselves and our own resources, our own ideas and strategies, so that we can rest instead rest in His care, receive His salvation, and feast at His table of plenty.
For thus says the Lord God, the Holy One of Israel: “In returning and rest you shall be saved; in quietness and confidence shall be your strength.” But you would not,…Therefore the Lord will wait, that He may be gracious to you; and therefore He will be exalted, that He may have mercy on you. For the Lord is a God of justice; blessed are all those who wait for Him. (Isaiah 30:15, 18)
Returning to the God of Our Salvation
It certainly seems that a dramatic shift is taking place within our own nation and, indeed, throughout the world. The prosperity, abundance, plenty, and peace that have been assumed as our right and privilege for so long now appear to be drifting away. In their place has come an abundance of uncertainty, even fear, about the future.
Jobs that once seemed plentiful and secure are rare and disappearing. Financial resources that seemed so abundant a few years ago now are scarce or nonexistent. The peace, order, and beauty of many of our neighborhoods and communities are being replaced by violence, abuse, corruption, decay, crime, and chaos. Many of our homes, once sanctuaries of peace against the slings and arrows of the cold workaday world, have become disordered, abusive, and discordant. The laughter and happiness of many of our children, once secure and well-adjusted, have been replaced, in many cases, by rebellion, anger, pride, and disobedience. Many loving couples, once committed to each other “till death us do part,” have been replaced by “partners,” devoted more to self and the pursuit of pleasure than to the welfare of the other, with discord and divorce as the fruit of their unions.
Is there hope for a nation and a people who once declared unashamedly “In God We Trust” but who are now mired in sin and selfish living, and who are drifting and confused? The answer is an emphatic and unequivocal “Yes!” God has a promise for each individual—and every collective people—who will turn to Him in humility and absolute trust. Just as He told His people, Israel, He still says to you and me, “Only in returning to me and resting in me will you be saved. In quietness and confidence is your strength” (Isaiah 30:15 nlt).
To many of us, that may sound like a tall order, an impossible feat to accomplish. When everything within us is screaming, in our need and anxiety, Don’t just stand there and trust God! Do something; anything!, to choose to be still and trust God seems almost ridiculous. But believe me, God is right there to help you, to enable you to stand and wait for Him through the power of His Holy Spirit. He is not far away but near to each of us in our need.
Anything less than God will let you down.
—E. Stanley Jones
Are You That Individual?
Whatever your need today, God is waiting to meet it, out of His mercy. He is looking for individuals who will make faith and a relationship with Him a lifestyle. He’s looking for people who will be part of a worldwide community of believers who turn their families, neighborhoods, communities, and nation back to God. He is searching for those who will stand in the gap, committed to a strong and vital faith; for those who will build strong families who trust God together; and for those who will practice financial stewardship based on godly, scriptural principles.
The turnaround for a nation and a people on the brink begins with one person saying “Yes!” to God. Are you just such an individual? In the following chapters, I will show how you can find a doorway to the kind of faith that can move mountains in your life—mountains and obstacles you may have long thought would block God’s blessings forever. I will also show you God’s counsel on building strong families that can weather any storm life throws at them. Finally, I will show you God’s perfect counsel on sound finances—something all of us need in these days of uncertainty.
Be assured, God’s provision—and all His best for you—is not dependent upon the economy, the whims of the stock market, how much money you have in the bank, or if you have a job tomorrow. God’s provision for you and your family is dependent upon one thing alone: God’s faithfulness to His Word. He is the Creator of everything—all the wealth of the world is at His command—and He has promised to supply all your needs according to all the riches of His glorious and unending kingdom. (See Philippians 4:19.)
All you have to do is believe and receive.