December is a busy time for many Americans- holidays and hard work. However, if you can take a moment or two, it is a good time to start thinking about recalibrating spiritual life. For us Christians, we can calibrate around Advent and think about the purpose of Christ’s coming. We can also think about how Christ in us can look in the coming new year.
In the weeks leading to Christmas, while we are busy trying to organize covid-safe family gatherings and events, we can also take a few minutes daily to think about why we have Christmas. We all know the Christmas story but we can get so over-it and jaded that we forget why Jesus actually came.
Let’s take a breath and a fresh look at John 3:16 which many of us learned in Sunday school or Awana: For God so loved the world that he gave his only begotten son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish but have eternal life.
Our goofy western culture has come to frame that eternal life that we are given as “going to heaven when we die”. Thus, it it something that happens in the future and has no relevance to our lives here on earth.
Therefore, it does not matter how we live and behave here on earth…although it does matter how others are living and behaving. Other folks, especially non-believers, need to be fixed in any way possible so that their lives do not cause us disequilibrium. And when others are not living lives we are comfortable with, we can behave in anyway we want to try to force them into behavioral compliance.
At least, that is how our culture looks to me. When I talk to health care workers and other professionals who have borne the brunt of this pandemic, they often tell me they have felt bullied by “Christians”. When I talk to folks who do not have a connection to the Christian faith and they are harassed about their lifestyle choices, they do not feel drawn to God’s love or our faith.
As a counselor, I often ask my clients, “Is that behavior getting you what you want?” So, for my angry fellow believers: Is bullying and judgementalism getting you want?
Where I’m going with this is: What if we believers take some time during Advent to check up on our Fruit of the Spirit:
Love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, meekness and self-control
What if we take a little time to ask God to calibrate our hearts to look like Christ: full of Fruit. That is an interesting Advent prayer.
BTW- If you would like to add a regular time to think about Advent and recalibrate towards God, have you ever practiced doing Advent wreath? There are lots of ways to add this tradition to your life. Here is one.
Recalibrating for the New Year
January is always a good time for a fresh start. It is a good time to build on the thoughts of Advent and set some intentions toward spiritual growth.
Why not set some simple spiritual intentions:
*Pray that God help you grow in the fruit of the Spirit (Gal. 5: 22-23)
I have young millennial friend on social media. Like many of his generation who were raised evangelical, he’s been asking a few questions about why (especially during the presidential election- and then the insurrection on January 6) so many Christians were behaving in such unChristlike ways. When he tries to discuss his feelings, the older generation becomes offended and says that everyone is fine except the trouble makers (radical/left-wing Democrats, Antifa, Black Lives Matter). So, when I expressed my appreciation on social media that BLM had been nominated for a Nobel Peace Prize, Jake asked me how I would explain being happy about “radicals taking charge”.
He was asking for a friend. So, here is what I shared. I decided to turn it into a post here so it is easier to read. Remember: as Christians, it is our #1 task to pray for our nation. However, our #2 task is to walk in love towards our neighbors.
Here is what I wrote for Jake:
Jake, could you pass this along to your friend.
Dear Jake’s Friend,
Thanks for your question. To answer it, please allow me to tell a little about me:
I have been a counselor for more than two decades now. I make my living trying to understand how and why people think and feel the way they do.
In fact, a lot of my life has taught me to look at life through “both sides now” (as an old Joni Mitchell song said, but I’m betraying my age…)
I was raised in the old South, so deeply understand and lived in the culture of mandated segregation. I was also the daughter of civil rights activists in those MLK days.
As an adult have lived through times of deep poverty (in fact, lived in Chester, which will tell local folk a bit about the poverty). And I have enjoyed many years of middle class White American financial comfort.
And I have spent years as part of the support system for an urban ministry and hear the stories of staff and students from the world of the difficult-to-escape inner city.
So when I tried to understand Black Lives Matter, I did my best, with my knowledge and experience to figure out what made and drove the movement.
Here are my thoughts:
Any adult, however focused and mature, will devolve into a 2 year old temper, anxiety or despair if they are Hungry, Angry, Afraid, Lonely or Tired for too long. (You have probably noticed that in yourself, right, Jake’s Friend? We all get cranky at times like that.)
(BTW- I’m not saying any BLM action was devolved behavior- just trying to explain a protest to White folks who have rarely been really uncomfortable- a point of common experience.)
Can you imagine being a person who grows up feeling one or more of those things every day?
When we lived in Chester for several years, there was not one single day that I did not feel afraid for our safety or that we would not have enough money to pay the bills or feed the kids. It was lonely knowing that most of the folks I knew had no idea what it was like to scrape together gas money to get the family to church. When we were finally able to move to better living situation, my anxiety and health improved, for sure. (But, I’m sure it had a lasting impact on my kids who were born during those days. Poverty is trauma.)
What if you were like many of my neighbors there? Because of the color of your skin, you could not live somewhere else. (This was not because of mandated segregation, but red-lining codes and traditions and credit requirements. Not only that, the rents or mortgage rates were SO high compared to what folks mostly White towns were paying, that it was impossible to get ahead with downpayment for a move.)
What if your kids attended the local school that was funded by property taxes from the neighborhood? In other words, schools had little funding to pay teachers, keep the building safe, buy curriculum and supplies. I watched this, right where I lived. While the White towns around us, with higher property taxes had decent schools- the local kids didn’t have a chance. The graduates of White town schools were able to get into college or vocational training that set them up for life. The graduates of our town, could not perform well on SATs or hold competitive transcripts, so had to accept minimum-wage jobs. (Let me tell you, you can never pay today’s bills with minimum wages- thus the need for federal supplemental programs.)
I learned that it could make you “suspect” if you have black or brown skin when I was attending the international conference for the American Association of Christian Counselors several years back. I attended a panel where several leaders in the Christian counseling profession shared about racial reconciliation. A couple of these leaders were Black psychiatrists, highly successful and revered in the psychological profession.
Both of these men shared that, if they stopped at at store and were not dressed in suit and tie, it was not unusual for them to be followed by store personnel.
Even if they were professionally dressed, they were sometimes subject to random traffic stops. (That was where I first heard about “the talk” that every Black parent has to give their teens when they start to drive: WHEN you are stopped, hands on the steering wheel…) I never knew until that time that driving while Black can be a life threatening situation.
Even in America today, if you have Black skin or a non-white-sounding name, it is more difficult to get job interviews and move up the corporate or professional ladder. My Black friends tell me that they have to be prepared to outperform their White colleagues by at least 10%.
Now this one is difficult for any White person who wasn’t raised in the old South, but I was, so I watched it: Slavery never died.
When slavery was officially outlawed, the need for free and forced labor did not go away. In the South, Jim Crow and situational norms were enacted that kept Black people in enslaved lifestyles. Sharecroppers were trapped in rigged systems where they could never get out of debt to big farmers who controlled seed and county legislatures that enacted tax laws making success difficult for non-Whites. If anyone stood up to those with money or power, there were lynchings or arrests:
And when a man was arrested, he would be rented out to local farms, groves, chain gangs.
Black people were kept in slavery in a system that is still alive and well today in for-profit prisons systems and a culture of power-by-terror. This culture migrated North and became embedded in our big cities as Black people fled north to TRY to escape the slavery of the South.
And when people tried to vote the systems out, they would face “reading tests” and “citizenship tests” that were impossible to pass. (White folk did not need to take these tests.) Or had to pay heavy “poll taxes”. When these were outlawed in the past few decades, politicians had creative but legal voter suppression ideas:
Randomly eliminate or move polling places
Purge voter rolls randomly
Add extra voting requirements that were difficult for poor people (drivers licenses- for folks who don’t drive, photo ids that come from a motor vehicle administration office so far away folks can’t get to it, requirement of a steady address for folks who may move from family location to family location due to finances).
I’ll stop with these, Jake’s Friend. I hope they help you understand, the way I have come to understand, that Black lives do matter but unfortunately they are not treated like they matter the same way that we White folks matter.
They’ve been working in the system since the Civil Rights Era when MLK and John Lewis and others were constantly being criticized for making trouble.
Folks don’t need to be making trouble if they are not Hungry, Angry/Afraid, Lonely or Tired. It is our job as Christians or American citizens, to listen, try to understand and then do something to help. (Not looking for ways to be offended is a good place to start.)
The Nobel Prize nomination is that organization’s way of saying: See, there’s a problem and at least SOMEONE is trying to make a change.
Many years ago, my parents took my young kids and me to a seaside park near their home in Florida.
The sandy-soil loving cedars near the shore were subject to constant sea breezes and often, hurricanes. The trunks of these spindly trees had been bent by the wind. The branches only grew on the leeward side.
Swayed by soil and circumstances, these trees were growing the best they could. But they were struggling and could not use their energy to grow tall and strong.
I think about those cedars often these days. We are surviving a time of constant turbulence. The resulting political, pandemic and societal winds seem to be forming some bent-ness in us Christians.
I keep asking myself: How will people know we are Christians?
I wonder what people from the “outside” are seeing in us these days? I wonder whether we are drawing people to the gospel with our current “Christian climate”? Not only that, I wonder if we Christians are driving away younger believers by some of our behaviors? (I’ve been reading Christian bloggers musing about why younger Christians seem to be leaving the church.)
Are we Christians, Christian? If so, how can people know we are Christian?
Jesus answered that question himself in John 13:35:
By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another. (NIV)
These days it can feel pretty hard to love some folks. Especially when the current events are mighty winds that are billowing anger, hatred and fear all around us. We Christians can get to looking like those poor old cedars on the shoreline: bent and half-bare.
I’m going to carry the metaphor a bit too far, but anyway, those cedars had no choice where they were planted. Their seeds simply landed there after some ancient storm and they had to grow there.
We Christians have a different choice. We can choose where we plant the seeds of our faith. We ourselves are the soil and we can choose to make ourselves poor soil, choking out the fruit of our faith. (Visit Luke 8 if you don’t know the story.)
OR we can make ourselves good soil. Those… with a good and noble heart, who hear the word and retain it, and by persevering produce a crop. Luke 8:15 NIV
The idea is, if we pay attention to the things in God’s word (Jesus himself being number one in who we should listen to) with good and honorable intentions, that word will grow in us. When it grows it will bear the fruit of the Spirit.
Galatians 5: 22-23 tells us that the fruit of the Spirit is:
So if we want others to know we are Christians, we need to be producing fruit of the Spirit. We make that possible when we are listening to God with good and honorable intentions. (In other words, we need to be careful what and who we are listening to.)
You may notice what Jesus did NOT say. He did NOT say:
They will know we are Christians because we stand up for our freedom to behave any way we want, even if it is impolite or endangers others (such as *ahem* refusing to wear a mask or follow social distancing regulations because our freedom is more important than other folks’ health).
They will know we are Christians by our political party, news provider, or social media platform. (Actually, unfortunately this IS how a number of people can spot “Christians”. Unfortunately these platforms are not known for showing them anything about love and are certainly not drawing folks to Christ.)
They will know you are Christians by how afraid and angry we are.
I have Christian friends who are riddled with fear and anger right now. They are firmly convinced that the end of the world is coming because of the election results (or at least, they are convinced that the Democrats and a bunch of foreigners, socialists and antifas are going to slaughter them on January 21). Their response is terror and anger at anyone not “one of them”. They look like Karens, not Christians.
We Christians have lost our fruit. Time to renew the soil by planting the good word of God in our hearts with goodness and honorableness. Time to make ourselves known as Christians by bearing the fruit of the Spirit, beginning as Jesus said, with love.
We don’t want to be bent Christians (btw- if you are a CS Lewis fan, remember the Space Trilogy and the bent people?…sorry, rabbit trail…)
We want to grow strong and bear fruit! Love one another.
Parting words, again from Jesus himself:
Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength and with all your mind; and love your neighbor as yourself. Luke 10:27NIV
Do you remember C.S. Lewis’ The Chronicles of Narnia? Do you remember the last book in the series: The Last Battle?
In the book an overly comfortable king is vacationing and is unaware that his kingdom has been invaded by an enemy disguised as businessmen. The “businessmen” confuse and bewilder the locals by telling them that they were sent by Aslan and in his name were wreaking havoc on land and beast.
The Narnians had also become so comfortable in their lives of security that they had lost their sharpness of discernment. They tried to stand up to their “businessmen” enslavers, quoting Aslan and what they could remember of goodness and common sense. But everything they pointed out that these disguised enemies were doing, the enemy turned it back on them, saying that the Narnian leadership was doing that, not them.
The enemies then went further and twisted Aslan’s sayings into tools to confuse and entrap the undiscerning Narnians. They specifically twisted the meanings of words and spoke half-truths. The Narnians, who had become lazy in their critical-thinking skills, became confused and disequilibreated.
Then these enemy “businessmen” went even further and began to proclaim boldface lies. This would startle the Narnians, but the lies were presented with such confidence and “sincerity” that the creatures were overwhelmed and resigned themselves to their unwanted fate of servitude and destruction.
Unfortunately, when the king finds out what is happening, his lack of preparation and self-control come back to haunt him. Because he has been lax in keeping up with studying to discern truth, he also falls into moments of disequilibrium. He acts rashly in trying to free some subjects rather than with self-control and determination. The enemy is able to then convince the king’s subjects that he is the enemy, not them. The king’s impulsive decision to stand up for his subjects simply led to losing the kingdom and the destruction of all.
Which leads me to where we are today, we see the same kind of tactics that the enemies of Narnia employed being used by the current occupant of the White House. For four years, I have felt like we Americans are slipping into an alternate reality. Like we are being drawn inexorably into a fiction that has become a reality (like the three children being drawn into the painting of the Narnian ship in The Voyage of the Dawn Treader). In our case, though, we Americans are being drawn further and further into scenes from The Last Battle:
Lives devalued through racism towards POC and immigrants
Public land sold off to industry
Environmental protections removed
Those who are from regulated industries running the regulatory agencies
So many others, but you know them
Over and over Americans stand up to some outrage that has been perpetrated by our president or his perfidious cronies, who retort that it is not THEM who are doing___ (fill in the blank), it is the Democrats (or Biden, or Harris, or Obama). Think about the things you have heard the president or his mouthpieces say:
Biden will eliminate health coverage for pre-existing conditions
Biden will eliminate health care
Biden will increase your taxes
Biden will pack the courts
Does make you feel crazy? Trump and his people accuse Democrats of doing the very things they themselves are doing.
They also invent an enemy and deflect attention from themselves by getting their base roiled up to fight that enemy.
Hillary Clinton’s emails (she’s not even running for office)
Obama and Russian interference (trying to deflect from himself the influence Russia had on 2016 election and what they are trying now)
Antifa is the problem (not bad cops, not white supremacists, not systemic racism)
Hunter Biden (not his kids who work in the White House with their business deals with China or Yemen)
The Last Battle by C.S. Lewis is a cautionary tale. Cautionary tales guide readers on things to work on so that they are not ensnared by the same fate as the characters in the story. Lewis would advise his readers to:
maintain knowledge of the truth
When evil doers try to get you disequilibreated with false accusations, deflections or lies, take a breath. Keep your composure, your self-control. Try not to argue with someone like that, it will turn into a small version of the first presidential debate. Look away from that person. It there are onlookers, look at them and tell them the truth (if there are not onlookers, remind yourself of the truth.)
To keep yourself from falling into confusion or disequilibrium, get prepared and stay that way:
Educate ourselves on the way our government works
Make a habit of contacting elected officials about anything you feel is important
Follow local and state politics
Pray for the nation, the elections, and yourself
Maintain your knowledge of the truth. When evil doers try to steal an election by chaos, intimidation or voter suppression, have a plan on what you can do:
Stay prayed up
Keep your composure
Read the US Constitution
Take a civics refresher course
When you spot intimidation or suppression, contact:
I read a post on 9/23/2020 from Dan Rather explaining that he felt our nation was in a crisis beyond any he has ever known. More than the Depression, World War 2 and the following wars, more than 911. He said, “There is no sugar coating the dangers and darkness we live in.”
Rather is referring, in that post, to the president’s announcement that he did not feel it was necessary to accept the peaceful transfer of power if he loses the election. He has instigated mob action to enforce his will and is activating a Republican-held Senate to install a new Supreme Court justice that will look out for his interests in staying in office if he looses the election.
If the political dirty-works was not enough, we are still:
in a pandemic that has killed over 215,000 Americans and left the economy in shambles, people without jobs and millions facing evictions, parents who have jobs trying to work from home while monitoring their kids’ digital education
constantly faced with racial injustice and systemic racism while those who raise their voices for justice are called and treated as criminals
living on a planet with the climate clock ticking
in the name of capitalism, large corporations and billionaires are swallowing up small businesses and enriching themselves at the expense of honest, hardworking Americans
It is time for those of us who call ourselves Christians to take our place in the protection of our nation. How do we do that? In prayer. This is not trite, it is desperation.
For decades (and especially since 2016) I have been praying for the nation according to II Timothy 2:1:
I exhort therefore, that first of all, supplications, prayers, intercession, and giving of thanks be made for all men; for kings, and for all that are in authority; that we may lead a quiet and peaceable life in all godliness and honesty. KJV
and II Chronicles 7:14:
If my people, which are called by my name, shall humble themselves, and pray, and seek my face, and turn from their wicked ways; then will I hear from heaven, and will forgive their sin, and heal their land. KJV
These prayers are daily prayers. Something that should be done (and if done by all Christians), we would see God’s hand and guidance more clearly. That would be “rolling our works on the so that he can make our thoughts agreeable to his” (Proverbs 16:3).
In times of national crisis, these daily prayers are vital but insufficient.
In times of crisis, more is needed for the people of faith who should be the grace-filled, fruit-filled, thought-influencers and guides for the nation. In order to fulfill our true roles we need to take our places in the workings of our nation. The most important place is prayer.
Here are some ways to truly pray for the nation in crisis:
1. Start where you are.
Many Christians do not actually have a practice of praying, let alone prayer for the nation. Okay. No shame. Start where you are. (BTW- Here is an interesting Pew study on Americans and prayer habits.)
One way to start where you are is to triage your time.
Fill wasted-spaces in time.
One of my friends is frequently in her car. She has begun to use stops at red lights to pray for the nation.
Do you find little spaces in your day that you can drop a quick plea to God on behalf of the nation?
Do not discount these small moments. These are not insignificant. Every moment counts in a crisis.
Stop the stress scroll
You know what it feels like. You go to quickly check your social media and at some point it becomes hypnotic and you find you have wasted 20 minutes scrolling. That is not funny! You HAVE been hypnotized.
In this national crisis, you do not have time to feed your soul to some corporate hypnotist who wants your presence on the tool so they can sell advertising to you.
Please set a timer for five minutes on social media then spend the rest of the about-to-be-wasted 20 minutes on prayer for the nation. Or even 3 minutes on prayer for the nation.
What can you pray during those 20 minutes?
Ask for God’s intervention in:
Christians to live II Chronicles 7: 14
That God’s people would:
seek God’s face
turn from our own wicked ways
so that God could hear from heaven, forgive our sins, and heal our land
Pray for God’s intervention in our hearts, minds and actions that we can truly fulfill His mission through us.
Pray for God’s intervention to turn the hearts of the nation’s Executive Branch leadership to him. To intervene in their thoughts and intentions that they think, decide and act out of humility, honesty and the fruit of the Spirit (love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness and self-control).
Pray for the Legislative Branch
US House of Representatives
Government Accountability Office
Office of Inspector General
Library of Congress
All of the staff
Pray for God’s intervention to turn the hearts of the nation’s Legislative Branch leadership to him. To intervene in their thoughts and intentions that they think, decide and act out of humility, honesty and the fruit of the Spirit (love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness and self-control).
Pray for the Judicial Branch
Federal court system
All their clerks
All their staff
Pray for God’s intervention to turn the hearts of the nation’s Judicial Branch leadership to him. To intervene in their thoughts and intentions that they think, decide and act out of humility, honesty and the fruit of the Spirit (love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness and self-control).
2. Okay, got your time-fillers? Now, add some old-school intercession for true times of crisis:
Intercession is what we call the act of praying for, or standing up for someone (and especially for the nation). Here are some powerful kinds of intercessory prayer:
Throughout the Old Testament, when the nation of Israel faced a genuine crisis, the nation would fast together. The fast could be called by the king, a priest, a prophet or simply the people spontaneously fasting as they recognize the desperate need for Divine intervention.
If you would like to read a little bit about fasting, check Jewish Virtual Library’s explanation or read Elmer Towns’ old classic: Fasting for Spiritual Breakthrough. You can read about national fasts in Judges 20, I Samuel 7 and 14, II Chronicles 20, Jeremiah 26, Esther 4, Nehemiah 9, Jonah 3.
A simple version of fasting is to pick something to stop doing in order to better align yourself with God. This can be:
An addictive food
An addictive behavior
An addictive thought pattern
One of the most important fasts you can do are the fasts of action that are listed in Isaiah 58: 6-7. God himself informs us:
Is this not fast that I have chosen? To loose the bands of wickedness, to let the oppressed go free, and that ye break every yoke?
Is it not to deal thy bread to the hungry, and that thou bring the poor that are cast out to thy house? when thou seest the naked, that thou cover him; and that thou hide not they self from thine own flesh? (KJV)
One way to carry out this kind of fasting is to vote.
If you vote on behalf of the oppressed, hungry, poor, homeless, then your vote is intercession. Representative John Lewis said, “Your vote is precious, almost sacred.”
One way to carry this out is to contact elected officials.
Keep and eye out for legislation or simply let them know what you think and have prayed about. They answer to their constituents. Your voice matters. It is intercession.
Sometimes God will direct you to take action on behalf of Isaiah 58 people.
I personally have found at times that God has directed me to be part of a peaceful march, to volunteer on political campaigns as canvasser, phone and textbanker, postcard writer.
What will He ask you to do?
Fasting is ordained by God as an intercessory prayer. It is a way to work with him to begin work on a nation. Choose a way to fast and think fasting weekly. It matters.
You have probably experienced this feeling during the current national crises: There are just no words, no fastings, no actions that can be done. You feel overwhelmed and grieved.
All we can do is just bring our nation before God and sit in silence (look up Romans 8:26). That is prayer for the nation: When all we can do is simply be with God in our grief and concern.
Fortunately, God does not need your words.
Sometimes when we are quiet long enough, we come to understand God’s thoughts and find that we feel moved to do something or pray some way.
Try, over time, sitting for 3 minutes, 5 minutes, 10 minutes then 20 minutes.
Any silent prayer you pray with God matters.
Some of us pray in tongues when we do not know how to pray. If you pray in tongues, this is a very good time to be praying this way. It matters.
Repentance is an action prayer for all Christians as part of a healthy lifestyle. (In my counseling practice I say, “Own your own garbage, so it can heal.”) When we are practicing repentance, we open our hearts fully to be available to God for doing things HIS way.
Repentance is part of II Chronicles 7:14.
Believers must turn from their own wicked ways.
One wicked way of many American Christians is grasping steadfastly to the “single issue” vote, meaning that we only vote Republican because only the Republicans say they will legislate out abortion.
What’s wicked about that?
Republicans have been telling us that since 1980. They have done nothing and do not intend to do anything!
If they did, we would not need to vote for a party that has shown itself proud to produce a president of such mocking, greedy, divisive, racist, lustful, traitorous behavior as the one they produced and now is driving our nation to the brink of autocracy.
The wickedness is facing our own denial and laziness. If we truly repented and humbled ourselves before God, we would find Him directing us to Isaiah 58.
IF we Christians lived those verses, there would be little need for abortion. People’s needs would be met, body and soul.
Instead, we Christians have practiced laziness as we elect Republicans then sit back, hoarding our good things and our comfortable lives, while we expect them to pass laws that will do what we have been instructed to do in Scripture. Those laws do not come.
These are a few ways to truly pray for our nation. I suggest we Christians get busy at it. Our democracy hangs in the balance. God will still be here on earth if we hand over our nation to disintegration…but what will we say to Him?
As I was a young mom with two tiny sons, I understood the value of human life and my heart wept for the millions of babies being eliminated by abortion since Roe v. Wade. I prayed about it daily.
Then one day, my church decided to join with other churches and picket across the street from the local abortion clinic in my hometown in Florida. As I was marching past the the clinic’s entrance, I felt the presence of God (really) instruct me: “You won’t convince any of these women by being against.”
It was the last protest-against anything I ever did.
But I was still praying for those babies. Then in the 1980s, the Republicans noticed how many pro-lifers there were…
Back in those days, if you were born in the South you were born a Democrat. (This was a vestige of the Civil War, when those darn Republicans under Abe Lincoln…well, you know…)
But somewhere in the early 1980s, the Republicans got gutsy and decided to recruit Southern pro-lifers. They started sending spokesmen to our churches. They made us pro-lifers a promise: “If you switch parties and vote Republican, we’ll do something about abortion. You simply need to commit to becoming ‘single-issue’ (abortion) voters.”
So, en masse, right in our church auditoriums, we filled out the “Change Party” forms and became Republicans. Then we sat back to wait and watch as the Republicans kept their promise to end abortion. It was a pretty good deal for us. We didn’t have to make all the ruckus or march anymore, we had the Republican legislators who promised head to DC and pass a law and end all the abortions. We could relax and let the Republicans keep their promise; all we had to do was maintain our commitment to being single-issue voters.
That was almost 40 years ago. Now tell me, what has changed?
Roe v. Wade is still in place.
For decades, I kept saying to myself, “But the Republicans have told us, ‘Keep being single-issue voters! We’ve got this.”
Then in 2016, I had another feel-the-presence-of-God-instructing-me-moment: I realized that I would never see anything done about abortion by the Republicans, because IF they did do something, they would loose their “single-issue” that kept us voting for them.
In fact, the only real thing they did about abortion is: right before elections, they would flood social media with pictures of aborted babies. That would get all us Evangelicals riled up and remind us that we are single-issue voters!
I also realized that the true reason that abortion was not being stopped is because Christians:
are sitting back and expecting the problem to be legislated away rather than living lives of prayer and repentance according to II Chronicles 7:14 If my people, which are called by my name, shall humble themselves, and pray, and seek my face, and turn from their wicked ways; then will I hear from heaven, and will forgive their sin, and heal their land. KJV
(and more importantly) are so busy being “against abortion” that they couldn’t do anything to fix the things in the culture that drove women to that option.
I then realized if I wanted to see the problem change, I had to be part of the change. That meant I am led by God to:
Work to help change the wicked and systemic entrapment of poverty and racial injustice and align myself with Scriptural teachings in James 2: 15-17
If a brother or sister be naked and destitute of daily food, And one of you say unto them, Depart in peace, be ye warmed and filled; notwithstanding ye give them not those things which are needful to the body; what doth it profit? Even so faith, if it hath not works, is dead, being alone.KJV
Work to make sure that every baby born has access to healthy food, medical care, clothing, good housing, good education, safety and support to align myself with Jesus’ clear teaching
“I was naked and you clothed me; I was sick and you visited me; I was in prison and you came to me…since you have done it unto the least of these my brethren, you have done it unto me…” Matthew 25 KJV
Work to change a culture that objectifies human bodies, whether it is women as sex objects or people of color as second-class citizens. To align myself with God who so loved the world and in whom there is neither male nor female nor race.
Galatians 3:28 There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free, there is neither male nor female; for you are all one in Christ Jesus.KJV
Work to influence people of faith to walk in the fruit of the Spirit, that people would know we are Christians by our love.
Beloved, let us love one another: for love is of God; and every one that loveth is born of God, and knoweth God. He that loveth not knoweth not God; for God is love. I John 4:7-8
The fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, long-suffering, gentleness, goodness, faith, meekness, and temperance. Galatians 5:22-23 KJV
(Recently when I was talking about walking by love and in the fruit of the Spirit, a friend tried to point out to me that Jesus himself was vocally and violently against some people. I responded, and rightly so, that the people that Jesus was against were the hypocrites in church leadership and business people conducting business in the church building, which was meant for prayer not selling.)
Praying daily according II Chronicles 7:14 and I Timothy 2.
II Chronicles 7:14 If my people, which are called by my name, shall humble themselves, and pray, and seek my face, and turn from their wicked ways; then will I hear from heaven, and will forgive their sin, and heal their land. KJV
Notice who is doing the work here: Christians! They are:
seeking God’s face
turning from THEIR OWN wicked ways (not telling folks who don’t know God about their wicked ways)
I will not judge (lest I be judged) if a person thinks differently than me, but I will work to make to world so good a place that all women and children, no matter their race, creed or color, have a life of love, safety, security, possibilities and respect.
I realized that NO political party was going to do the work for me. That was mine, and every Christian’s, to do.
However, as a US citizen, it is my duty to vote and to hold my government accountable. So I asked myself, which party appears to be working to fix the roots in our society which make abortions necessary. It is not the Republicans, who repeatedly show they have more interest in the security of big business than in helping babies once they are born.
Democrats created legislation to deal with poverty, spoke up about racial injustice, worked to shore up and expand medical care, food, housing, education and safety programs and at least had many women (of all colors) running for office.
So they are at least trying to fix the deep, societal problems that we Christians have largely ignored since the foundation of our nation.
So I switched parties. I will vote for people who are willing to change the cultural woes that feed the abortion issues.
I was discussing this with an Evangelical acquaintance recently. She said to me, “Don’t you realize that the Democrats and deep state are trying to snuff Christianity out? If Democrats lead the country they will turn us into communists and outlaw our faith!”
Do you know what I replied? I told her:
“Republicans have been telling us this same thing since the 1980s when they came into our churches and converted us all into Republicans. They threatened that if we didn’t keep to the single issue voting and let Democrats gain any power, they would: outlaw Christianity, they would lock us in jail, they would outlaw the Bible and religious broadcasting. It’s been 40 years and no one has managed any of that yet…because they have better things to do…”
And then I continued to tell her this:
“BESIDES, Jesus himself said, ‘Blessed are they which are persecuted for righteousness sake.’ (Matthew 5: 10-11) Want to be like Jesus? Want to be blessed? Be so righteous and loving that you get persecuted!”
So this is why I am now living with all I have to pray and work as Christ instructed me to work. I will do my part in works and prayer to make the world so good that abortion is simply forgotten and people are drawn to God by the goodness that they see.
I am pro-life. I am pro-unborn babies, I am pro-people who have experienced injustice because of their black or brown skin. I am pro-people who never had a chance to have a safe or decent life. I am pro-anyone who will walk in the fruit of the Spirit and love of God. I am pro-life.
Let your light shine among others, that they may see your good deeds and glorify your Father in heaven.
When I was young and I heard that verse, very often I was told that that verse was about evangelizing. But no, it is about us glorifying God by doing good deeds.
When we do good things among other people, when we make other people’s lives better, when people see us as creators of good in this broken world…they see it and glorify God.
In the end, isn’t that what we want?
When we stand before God at the end of time, do we want to hear him say:
“Well, you really kicked some butt down there on earth during that pandemic. You really showed ’em and told ’em about your Christian freedom! I bet those wussy American snowflakes won’t ever forget you!”
Is that even his character?
Or maybe would it be more in line with God’s character (and Scripture- particularly John 13:35) to want to hear him say:
“Well done. You have shown you are my disciples by loving one another.”
I am so thankful every time I read about:
Someone who has smiled and said thank you to a cashier at the grocery store or a delivery person.
Someone who gave extra to charities who are feeding the less fortunate.
The good-deed doers who secretly leave packages with supplies and treats on the porches of the elderly members of their congregation.
Someone who sent money to supply PPE to rural hospitals, Native American reservations and clinics.
People can see these good deeds and glorify our Father in heaven.
How much better to be known as a person who glorifies God than someone who glorifies what they want.
These are challenging times. We are surrounded by anxiety, and rightfully so. Never have we Americans seen the dangers of a pandemic or such related collapse of economy.
As a prayer person, and a licensed professional counselor, I feel compelled to deliver a warning: We Christians must, more than ever, be asking ourselves frequently, “What would Jesus do?”
I know that sounds like a, “Well, DUH!” statement. All those faithful in Christ want to do what Jesus would do.
But how do we do what Jesus would do in times of pandemic and economic disaster?
I wonder if Jesus would have acted like some Christians I am acquainted with? Christians are people too, and anxious people sometimes tend to handle high anxiety by becoming angry, selfish, accusatory or giving up their kingdom leadership responsibilities and latching onto vociferous leaders who may be wolves in sheep’s clothing.
We were born again into leadership, each of us who follow Christ are called into God’s kingdom as kings and priests (Revelation 1:6). We are also called to follow Christ’s leadership.
So, how would Jesus lead during pandemic and economic disaster? In his stressful times, he taught his disciples to be servers, givers, healers and hope inspirers for the broken world around them.
Can you imagine what it would be like, at the end of this pandemic, to be the people who inspired as much hope in the world around us as the healthcare workers, delivery people, and grocery store clerks have done?
How can we inspire and help others when we are quarantined and/ or struggling financially ourselves?
Little things count.
All through Scripture there are stories of small, unimportant people who did big things. (Look up folks like Joanna, Suzanna, and Jael, for instance.)
We may not be big, famous, important people in the practical sense, but I feel certain that God may be calling us to make a courageous, world-changing impact right where we are. We may be unimportant people, but we can make a difference!
We Christians can lead our nation and our communities by asking ourselves, “What would Jesus do during this pandemic and economic disaster?” Then we can model ourselves after Christ’s example. We can be a people who are:
For things rather than against things
When you are against things, you can “rile people” up quickly but you cannot get much godly stuff done with rile. Riled-up folks will follow anyone who gives them relief. If you watch carefully, bad players often step into these times of chaos. These are people who are seeking attention, power or riches. They are rarely seeking the good of those they are “leading”.They are simply opportunists who will give the illusion of leading but in truth they are manipulating an anxious public to get themselves ahead.
Beware of the bad players. Instead, try fulfilling your leadership responsibilities by giving anxious people a vision! Remind them: These are hard times but we can get through this by looking out for others as well as ourselves.
Share with your friends and family this visionary question: What would you like for your lives to be like during quarantine, during re-opening and while facing a new normal?What can you do to work toward that, for yourselves and your neighbors?
Keep asking yourself: What good news am I sharing, giving and living?
Whatever you read, whatever you listen to (for instance: social media and the news), whatever you say or however you act is leading you on a road to creating something in your future (and the future of other folks in your sphere of influence), whether you or they want that something or not.
Ask yourself, is what I am reading, listening to, saying or doing leading me to:
Faith, hope and love (1 Corinthians 12 and 13)
Fruit of the Spirit (love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness and self-control? (Galatians 5:22-23)
If not, do you want to be praying about what God would like to you be moving towards?
Would you pray that God would work in you to will and to do HIS good pleasure? (Philippians 2:13)
Would you pray that he help you to press onto the prize of HIS high calling for you in Christ? (Philippians 3:14)
Ask yourself: What good news am I sharing, giving and living?
Sometimes God does call us to take a stand. Ask yourself these questions,
“When I am standing up for something, is that something I am taking a stand on: MYSELF or someone who can’t stand up for themselves?”
“When I am standing up for something, am I able to represent Christ as I do so?”
“Is the fruit of the Spirit evident in my behavior and in the leadership I am standing with?”
“Are people drawn to the good news by what I am doing?”
(BTW- I’m talking about taking a stand in the world. In a personal relationship, assertiveness is a healthy kind of standing up for yourself.)
1 John 4:1 tells us to try the spirit, because not all spirits are of God. When life gets chaotic and scary, even Christians can listen to the wrong spirits. These are chaotic and scary times. We must pray and ask ourselves:
What would Jesus do with this information?
What would he do next?
Will people see Christ in me if I engage in…?”
What good fruit am I showing, sharing, giving and living?
God called us to justice, mercy and humility. (He has shown you, oh man, what is good: and what does the Lord require of you but to do justly, and to love mercy and to walk humbly with your God. Micah 6:8)
Be careful with the word “justice”. We Americans often feel that justice means “getting even”. However, the Hebrew word “Mishpat” carries the connotation of doing what is right, including looking out for those who do not not have a fair shake in life. Standing up for and looking our for the weak and marginalized. Doing good deeds, especially when you don’t expect a direct return.
If we look at the word “justice” through that lens, how would we:
Handle our own positions during this pandemic?
Handle the crises of safety, health, lack of resources of:
the families in your church that are struggling economically or who lost a loved one.
the small businesses in your community
poor in our inner cities
the Native Americans, the reservations of some which are harder hit with COVID-19, percentage-wise, than any other place in the nation
the immigrants who have no resources or connections
The word “mercy” means to show oneself kind. Can you ask yourself daily, “Did I show kindness today?
Walk Humbly with your God.
The word “humility” connotes teachableness. At this perilous time in history, we desperately need to be available and listening to Christ’s teachings and role modeling, to the leading of the Holy Spirit. We must be wary of the teachings of bad players. Humility keeps us calm and available to learn God’s ways to handle pandemics and economic disasters.
Humility is also the opposite of self-absorption. As C.S. Lewis aptly put it: Humility does not mean thinking less about yourself, it means thinking about yourself less. How have you walked humbly with God today?
What good news are you living in justice, mercy and humility?
Here’s a tough question: If Christ came back tomorrow, would He find you engaged in fruit, justice, service, discernment… in spreading the good news? Or would He find you using his name to engage in inflammatory, destructive politicking, power-grabbing or looking out for only you and yours. (As the apocryphal prayer goes: God, look out for me, my wife, my kids. Us four, no more.)
If Christ came back tomorrow, would he find you neglecting to lead like him, neglecting to look, think and act like him? How would He respond? How would you feel?
This doesn’t mean that you should not be involved in politics or in praying for your family. I personally am engaged in both. But I believe I have a primary mission, and I believe other Christians do, too:
To live the good news, that others see Christ in us and are drawn to that light of love.
Seek FIRST the kingdom of God.
Then all those things (in this case, His wisdom on what to do, when, how much, and what method) will be added to you.
So how do you handle the real, realities in this anxiety-provoking world?
Pray. As my friend, Kym, says, “Pray first, last and always.” Here’s a helpful formula:
We should spend as much time in prayer for our nation and world as we do on social media speaking out about things.
And when we take a public stand ask yourself: Is this stand a stand that is FOR someone and IN the fruit of the spirit?
One way to pray is silence. Go before the Lord and sit with Him, perhaps let the Holy Spirit pray through you in “groanings that cannot be uttered”. (Romans 8:26) God does not need words for your prayer to matter or be heard. He wants your presence and obedience.
Write your elected officials: State and National. Let them know what you are concerned about, especially keeping in mind those who are unimportant or marginalized and thus, and cannot speak for themselves. Write to them about it.
Give, serve and lead in whatever organizations and causes, impelled by the good news of Christ’s leading and fruit.
Do practical things aligned with God’s leading. Check what you are feeling against these ideas that we just discussed:
What are you for?
What fruit will you show?
What discernment are you receiving from God?
How is it leading you to service?
May we followers of Christ come out of this pandemic being and living more like Christ.
I prefer to have Scriptures as guides for prayer. When praying for the United States, I am guided by I Timothy 2: 1-2 and II Chronicles 7:14.
I Timothy 2: 1-2
I exhort, therefore, that, first of all, supplications, prayers, intercessions, and giving of thanks, be made for all men; For kings, and for all that are in authority; that we may lead a quiet and peaceable life in all godliness and honesty. (KJV)
II Chronicles 7:14
If my people, which are called by my name, shall humble themselves, and pray, and seek my face, and turn from their wicked ways; then will I hear from heaven, and forgive their sins, and heal their land.(KJV)
Using the Scriptures as Prayer Guides
When I have my daily prayer for the nation, I start with a moment of reflection based on II Chronicles 7:14. If you notice, when God is giving instruction on how He wants to go about healing a nation, He doesn’t start with fixing the godless. He starts with fixing His own people.
Got that? He starts with fixing His own people. Or rather, He starts with calling His people to be willing to get fixed!
Let’s take that in steps:
Step 1: God’s people shall humble themselves.
This is absolute key! How can pray like God wishes if I am not humble?
We know that pride goes before a fall, but one of the things I’ve noticed about myself and my fellow believers is that when we think we’ve got the necessary fixes for our nation (or church or friends or family) figured out we easily can fall into pride, stubbornness, and become judgmental.
Generally, when we are operating in pride, stubbornness and being judgmental, we have stepped aside from the place and manner in which God works. Remember: Who are the only people that Jesus called names (“White-washed sepulchers”)? The Pharisees, who knew their Scripture, who prayed and lived the “right way”…and condemned everyone who did did not do things their way.
One way “prayer’s pride” often looks is political partisanship. Please sit with that a moment. If we pray humbly, we can pray about what God is doing and wants done. It will usually look completely different than any particular political party.
Another way “prayer’s pride” often looks is angry accusations of the godless. We know that sin pains God, but may I point out that it tends to be the sin of the godly that pains Him the most. And if you say you have no sin, go read I John 1:8:
If we say that we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us.
Step 2: …and pray
Okay, so when I pray for the nation, I insert II Timothy 2:1-2 and do specific prayers for the nation. Let’s look a those:
giving of thanks,
be made for all men;
For kings, and
for all that are in authority
Supplications: These are requests. I work to keep my requests free from my (or my political party’s) agenda. So it looks like: Requests for wisdom, humility, fruit of the Spirit, honesty.
Prayers: These are Scriptures I specifically pray for the nation. Ask the Holy Spirit to show you some to pray. The passage I pray for the nation daily is Ephesians 3: 14-21. Basically, I simply read this passage to God and offer it to Him for the nation.
Intercessions: These are “petitions”, specific things I would like for God to handle. Again, I try to keep my own (and my political party’s) agenda out of it. I pray for people in need, cities or regions in need and ask for God’s help.
Giving of thanks: Gratitude is one of the most important prayers that God has given us. He tells us to “give thanks” more than 100 times in the Bible. There is always something going on in our nation, or about our nation, that we can be grateful for.
These 4 prayers need to be prayed for:
All men: Daily I choose a person or people group or organization to offer the 4 prayers for.
Kings: Well, we don’t have a king, but we have a president, so no matter how we feel about him, we have instructions to pray for him.
All who are in authority: I pray for US Congress, US Supreme Court, State Governors, State Legislatures, State Supreme Courts, Local governments, military, police, leaders in churches and organizations I am part of. I rotate, so only do one group daily.
Step 3: and seek my face
II Chronicles 7:14 next instructs us to seek God’s face. For me, that means to sit quietly with Him, with a heart and mind to know and understand His heart and mind. Try it. It usually is not an emotional experience, because this is not about me. It is about me looking towards God; it’s about Him.
Step 4: and turn from my wicked ways
In this part I ask God to help me avoid my flaws and develop the fruit of the Spirit (love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, meekness, and self-control). I never outgrow needing to do this.
This is how I pray for our nation. It is not THE way to pray for the nation, but if it helps you develop your way to pray, that’s good.
There are so many things to be concerned about, alarmed about and ashamed about in our nation. Trying to follow the news can be overwhelming, depressing, and discouraging. If I may offer you a word of encouragement:
There’s something your can (should) do!
God created humans to NEED to do something when something is wrong. We psychology-type people call this the *need to feel empowered*. Here is ONE simple thing you can do for the overwhelming troubles that you hear about in the news feed:
Don’t worry. Pray for the nation!
When I tell folks that praying for the nation one thing they can do about the greed, disasters, chaos, and corruption in our government, corporation and the world in general, I sometimes get eye-rolls. The idea that prayer for the country is actually efficacious sounds silly and trite.
But listen, if you believe there is a God in the universe, why not pray? If nothing else, it will open you to hearing what actions God has in mind for you regarding the conditions out there.
Could I offer an additional thought: I wonder, if followers of Christ actually took Scriptural instructions seriously and prayed for the nation, might God not say something like: About time they got off their butts and followed my instructions, now I’ll follow through…
Just like when our kids actually do what we tell them to do and they find out that we really do know what we are talking about…we know how things work. God knows how things work: They work on prayer.
So how do you stop worrying and pray for the nation?
Start with understanding we do have mandates to pray for our country. Here are 2 of them:
I Timothy 2:1-2 I exhort therefore, that first of all, supplications, prayers, intercession, and giving of thanks be made for all men; for kings, and for all that are in authority; that we may lead a quiet and peaceable life in all godliness and honesty. KJV
II Chronicles 7:14
If my people, which are called by my name, shall humble themselves, and pray, and seek my face, and turn from their wicked ways; then will I hear from heaven, and will forgive their sin, and heal their land. KJV
Got that? We should pray for:
*Kings and all in authority
While we pray, we should:
*Seek God’s face
*Turn from our own wicked ways
What should we pray?
There’s not a single right thing to pray for the nation. I personally prefer to pray 2 ways each day:
*A Scripture passage prayed as intercession for our leaders
*A specific prayer for a person or branch of our leadership
Here are some Scripture passages that I pray (I rotate through them one per day). You can create your own way. I challenge you to pray daily, even for those leaders who are despicable to you. Perhaps God will hear from heaven and heal our land. We sorely need it!
Psalm 72: 1-4 (Put into prayer form)
God, give the president (governor, other leader) an understanding of your justice and show your righteousness to his children.
Give him ability to act justly and righteously towards your people and the poor.
Give even the mountains and little hills peace by his righteousness.
Help him to bring justice to the poor of the people, save the children of the needy, and break in pieces the oppressor.
Ephesians 3: 14-21 (put into prayer form)
For my nation’s cause I bow my knees to the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ of whom the whole family in heaven and earth is named:
That God would grant us, according to the riches of his glory, to be strengthened with might by his Spirit in our inner person.
That Christ may dwell in our hearts by faith,
That we being rooted and grounded in love, may be able to comprehend with all the saints what is the breadth, and length, and depth and height; and to know the love of Christ, which passes knowledge, that we might be filled with all the fullness of God.
Now unto him that is able to do exceedingly abundantly above all that we ask or think, according to the power that works in us, unto him be glory in the church (and nation) by Christ Jesus throughout all ages, world without end, Amen.
Proverbs 11:14 (put to prayer)
God, please give our president (governor, other leader) wise advisors and ability to listen to them, for victory is won through these.
Proverbs 21:1 (put to prayer)
God, please turn the heart of the president (governor, other leader) towards you like a stream of water could be turned by your hand.
Psalm 33: 18 (put to prayer)
God, please work in the president (governor, other leader) to fear you and hope in your mercy, that your eyes may be upon him.