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.
I was talking to a precious friend the other day. She was stressed about her job. She was the only evangelical Christian she knew in her position. She was surrounded by coworkers who were not religious and considerably more politically liberal than her.
My friend told me, “I feel persecuted because I have to keep my opinions about gender roles and taking God’s name in vain to myself.”
I asked her if anyone had been unkind to her and she said, “No, not yet.”
Then I asked her how Jesus treated the people who lived sinfully in his day (tax collectors, women caught in adultery).
She quickly responded, “He loved them.”
I asked her, “Who did Jesus call names like ‘white-washed sepulchers’?”
She thought just a few seconds then answered (because she is well-read in Scripture), “The Pharisees.”
“So,” I followed up, “Jesus fussed at the religious leaders, not the sinners?”
“Right, he treated the sinners with love.”
“Then, how might you look at your coworkers who don’t know God and live lifestyles you don’t feel comfortable with?”
“I could love them and treat them kindly. I could let Jesus love them through me!”
“Awesome!” I was happy for her, but followed up with, “What if you get persecuted when someone finds out you are a Christian?”
“Well, I won’t like it, but Jesus said, “blessed are they when they are persecuted for righteousness sake.”
Blessed are those who are persecuted because of righteousness, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
11 “Blessed are you when people insult you, persecute you and falsely say all kinds of evil against you because of me.12 Rejoice and be glad, because great is your reward in heaven, for in the same way they persecuted the prophets who were before you.
My friend was feeling more empowered. Then she paused, looking perplexed. “But the epistles tell us to straighten up when we behave sinfully.”
“And who were the Epistles written to?” I inquired.
We looked: to the church.
Perhaps we Christians can relax a little. Sometimes it is fun to feel like everyone is out to get us. It helps us draw together against a common enemy, but the world is not our enemy. God so LOVED the world.
We need to look at who is the author of that *it’s bad to be persecuted* mentality. If we get angry and upset because people are insulted by our faith, then hooray!
The older one gets, the more one must work to grow (as in continuous growth is a necessity…and it’s hard work). That’s what I am finding.
It applies across the board:
If I quit working at physical health, my body will deteriorate.
If I quit learning, my mind will deteriorate.
If I quit hungering and thirsting after righteousness, my spirit will deteriorate.
Thus, spiritual growth is a mandate. I imagine that spiritual growth will last eternally, not just for my time on earth. I have long wanted to be a mature (or as Paul said it: perfect) Christian. Hopefully I arrive someday.
Here are the ways I am working on my spiritual growth. The easy ones first, then the tough one: Contemplation in the face of the real world…
I seek God’s face.
Where is He showing himself to me today? I look for his handiwork in the world around me. I look for his movement in the people around me. I look for his guidance in my own spirit. Psalm 27:8 says: When thou saidst, Seek ye my face; my heart said unto thee, Thy face, Lord, shall I seek.
I humble myself.
I have a friend remind me once that God is God and I am not. A great fallacy of my job as a counselor is believing that everyone must be healed and whole, that the world must be just and right…and that God needs to follow my plan for making it so. I Peter 5:6 Humble yourselves under the mighty hand of God…
I read God’s word.
Really. God bothered to share his wisdom in the Bible. When I keep myself current in my knowledge of his word, I am less likely to fall for the nonsense that sometimes passes as religious teaching but has nothing to do with what God said. Matthew 4:4…Man shall not live by bread alone but by every word that proceeds out of the mouth of God.
Often I pray a formal prayer, like the Lord’s Prayer. Mostly I pray in intercession for my nation, all those in authority, all people- especially those I care about and those who have made themselves my *enemies* (all the more important since I can’t run the universe). II Chronicles 7:14 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 will I hear from heaven and heal their land.
I listen (wait).
It’s easy to be too busy to listen, but I’ve learned he speaks in a still, small voice…even when I’m not listening. The minute I slow down and listen, he is waiting to share his love, wisdom, peace and courage. Psalm 27:14 Wait on the Lord: be of good courage, and he shall strengthen thine heart. Wait, I say, on the Lord.
I hunger and thirst for righteousness.
When I’m hungry and thirsty for food, I engage in behaviors that will satisfy that need.When I pay attention to my spirit, there is hunger and thirst for righteousness. Jesus said that I am blessed when I hunger and thirst for righteousness and that I shall be filled (Matthew 5:6).
The behaviors that are just and right for me are: to act justly, love mercy, and walk humbly with my God (Micah 6:8). In other words, righteousness for me is doing what is right and merciful towards others (especially those who are weaker or in need) and remembering that God alone gives me the power to do so.
Currently, the most important way to care for my spirit is contemplation. There are many definitions of contemplation, so I have digested them into: Contemplation is holy noticing. Where ever I am, God is there and is. In him I live and move and have my being. Acts 17:28
When I live contemplatively, I am awake to him and notice what he is doing and being.
That’s huge. Of course it is. It is overwhelming to contemplate an infinite God.
On my latest silent retreat, I found a book that summarized some practices that is helping me grow in contemplative health.
The practices I am working on are from The Rule of Benedict and says that the contemplative life has 4 dimensions:
Recognizing the presence of God in my life. I’m not any better than the prophet Jonah at running from God and I sure don’t want to be ignoring God. I simply need to graciously notice his presence. To do this, I need to ask him daily, “O God, come to my assistance…”.
Accepting the gifts of others. This is easy when the gifts are lovely. However, some *gifts* are the opposite. I am learning to ask God’s assistance in accepting the fact that some others are blind, misguided or hateful. This is a gift to me when I am able to graciously notice those distasteful gifts and without joining the blindness, misguidedness or hatred, then hand it to God. Then I wait for his assistance to handle in mercy and truth the guidance he gives me. (Accepting the gift is important to me in these days, in the real world there is rudeness, greed and hatefulness that are accepted, taught and even glorified. I don’t need to be drawn into the brokenness but can speak the truth in love as God leads, then allow God to tend my heart while hoping for his healing of this broken nation.)
Let go of false expectations in daily life. Step 1 on this is recognizing what a *false expectation in daily life is*! Ugh. But letting go opens me up to the submission to his will, which is the point of it all, anyway.
Receive others kindly. Knowing my limitations, I can accept them. That does not mean to agree with them or kowtow to them. It does mean in the power that grace gives, I can treat them kindly.
Someday, I long to hear: Well done, good and faithful servant.
When we think of New Year’s Eve, we often think of:
Preparation for a party with friends and family or Watch Night Service at church
Creating your new New Year’s Resolutions
That’s good stuff. Here’s another thought that might be personally life-changing. What if you dedicate a few minutes of reflection about the outgoing year and the important things you have experienced or learned?
Spending time in reflection might sound airy-headed, but it I think it is simply a practice of wisdom. How can you truly learn about yourself if you don’t slow down and think about what has happened in life, what is good and not-so-good in yourself (and in life) AND what God is doing?
If we all spend a few minutes thoughtfully reviewing the past year, we might learn something that will help us in the New Year.
Here’s how to take time on New Year’s Eve for reflection:
Choose a block of time that is realistic to you (5 minutes, 15 minutes, 2 hours, whatever is realistic for you).
Grab a journal or open a document.
Create some heading on things that would be valuable for your reflection:
Things you are grateful for this year (large and small)
Significant events from this year (wonderful, weird or tragic)
Important people in your life this year
Challenges you overcame, survived or made progress on this year
Successes you experienced this year
Good things you have done for others this year (large or small)
Ways you have seen God’s hand, support, intervention (or felt His silence, which is also valuable- He means many things by His silence)
Questions you have for God and for yourself in the upcoming year
When you are done, you will know yourself and God’s work in and through you better. It might even help you set your New Year’s Resolutions.