After the horrendous events on September 11th several years ago, I have seen flags proudly displayed on homes, businesses, and automobiles. I've observed patriotic apparel selling out in department stores. Pins, hats, socks, bumper stickers, music ... all strike a solemn, but proud note in hearts of Americans as they ring up their purchases. More encouraging than these patriotic overtures are all the professions of faith in God. Billboards sport verses quoted from the Bible and my heart says, "Yes!" Magazine and newspaper articles reveal a dynamic resurgence in faith across our country. No economic, social, or educational quarter in the United States remains untouched by these many and frequent declarations of belief.

Yet, there is a dark side to all this overt "religious coat-hanging." One evening, I drove past a men's adult night club whose florescent sign sported the words boldly and without shame, "In God We Trust." I could not believe my eyes. My stomach turned at the thought. Then righteous indignation took turns with outright anger in my heart. My thoughts screamed, "How dare such an establishment claim a trust in a Holy God? Their very existence relies on the opposite being true. From morning until evening, any number of the Ten Commandants is broken within the walls of their building. It is amazing that such arrogant disregard for obedience to God's Word can be so freely flaunted so casually!"

Do those who don't truly understand the sacrifice made by Jesus Christ on the Cross understand the price He paid on our behalf? Are we so naive as to think that becoming a disciple of Christ will require nothing on our parts?

I wonder how many Americans are overtly embracing the comfort of religion without the vaguest clue as to what God expects of those who call upon His name. Our Holy God demands just that — holiness. We are standing on shaky ground when we presume God's hand of blessing without first seeking His forgiveness.

Just as Christ died for us, we are likewise commanded to lay down our lives for others. In the same way that Jesus denied Himself, we are commanded to always consider our brother with higher esteem than ourselves. It seems that far too often, even we Christians — who supposedly understand and embrace Christ's forgiveness within our hearts — live only overtly claiming His protection and power without sacrificing our desires, wants, and needs at His feet.

I confess that many times every day I ask God to bless our nation. I come before the Throne of Grace, begging God to forgive our nation for our many and flagrant sins against Him. For truly, when we envy, fight, kill, horde, turn a deaf ear, or simply become complacent ... we Christians are no better than the owners of the men's night club who claim an inside track with God via a cheap fluorescent sign.

The Bible says that our sins will find us out. I pray that each of us — from our local communities, our states, our nation, and our world — turns toward God in humility and contrition. Our hope is in God. Our trust should be in Him alone. But, let us not be content with a mere outward show of faith. My prayer is that the Holy Spirit finds a home within each of our hearts for eternity and that Christians become the hands and feet that will draw those without faith into the family. After all, we owe God everything.

Are we Christians no better?

If my people who are called by my name will humble themselves and pray and seek my face and turn from their wicked ways, I will hear from heaven and will forgive their sins and heal their land. (2 Chronicles 7:14 NLT)