I stared the pictures of the faces of sweet children from Uvalde, TX and the tears welled up in my eyes at the senselessness of their deaths. In the days since the talking heads on the news channels have left me full of fury, the only remedy being to turn it off. How we love the ‘blame game.’ It happened because … and then depending on your politics … fill in the blanks. The ‘debate’ is predictable with some for and some against more gun laws, stiffer background checks, increased funding for mental health, and strengthened community outreach. There is merit in discussing all of those solutions.
However, mostly what is left unspoken is mention of the spiritual vacuum that exists in these United States today. We need a day *(perhaps a week?) of silence, a time to listen to our heart, to pray as best we can. My prayer these last few days has been, “Lord, show ME what needs to change in my life and what I can do to make my world a better place.”
Christians are fond of quoting a passage from the Bible that says: “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 will heal their land. ” (2 Chronicles 7:14, KJV) God spoke this promise to Solomon for the Jewish nation but the principle and promise remain for the Church today.
My friend, the problem is not out there somewhere; it is among us, in you and me. Healing of these United States will not arrive via the Congress, the President, the Supreme Court, or the state legislature. It will come when and if Christians follow the pattern for renewal.
Humility is where it begins.
“Lord, change my heart. Lord, teach me to love. Lord, deal with my attitudes, my prejudice, my selfishness, my pride. Break my heart for my sins and failures.” I know the temptation that exists to point at other causes, which are very real, and think that new leaders or laws will change the course of the nation. It is quite natural to look outward and condemn someone else. But, true renewal begins inside out, not outside in.
Prayer is required. We love to give lip service to prayer, but so many Christians pray only in the most superficial or perfunctory way. “Lord bless my kids, my friends, my church. Keep me safe. Give me comfort.”
Prayer that changes us is that which ‘seeks God’s face.’ How and where you pray are secondary to the act of prayer itself. You may pray in a church or in your car, alone or with others, using prepared words or your own, silently or aloud … just pray. True prayer is hard work requiring both discipline and self-denial. When we take Jesus’ words seriously and find ourselves a ‘prayer closet’ (Matthew 6.6) where we get alone with God, keeping our mind focused and our heart open to listen for His voice, we will begin to change. As we grow to know His Presence we will likely become acutely aware of our own sins which He will forgive as we confess them and hunger to know Him.
Let me boldly suggest that America’s greater issues are not with society’s ills or the ‘sins’ that preachers love to rail on. The real problem is a sick and impotent Church, filled with people who think that Jesus saves them from sin so that they can go to Heaven, forgetting that they are to be people of the Kingdom who are agents of salvation, healing, and transformation here and now. We catch a glimpse of that in Jesus’ prayer where taught us to ask the Father for the Kingdom to come and His will to be done on earth as it is in Heaven.
Our noble and high calling is to be an ambassador of the Kingdom of God! “Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; the old has gone, the new has come! … God was reconciling the world to himself in Christ, not counting men’s sins against them. And he has committed to us the message of reconciliation. We are therefore Christ’s ambassadors, as though God were making his appeal through us.” (2 Corinthians 5:17-20, NIV)
Please take note of the message we are commissioned to bring. It is not “you are a terrible sinner, Hell-bound!” We are given a message of reconciliation, one that says that life to the full can be found in a restored relationship with God Himself, Who gives peace today and hope for tomorrow. What a glorious privilege we can know as agents of the Father, but we must know His love ourselves in order to share that love with others.
Be a friend of Jesus, a true disciple. The Spirit will live in you, a source of ‘living water’ that flows from within refreshing others, bringing renewal. It will not be instantaneous, nor will it happen without sacrifice. But, what richness and satisfaction is found when we walk with God and invite others to walk with Him, too. Ancient Christians changed their world, ministering God’s grace to one person at time, not with great and grand programs. We can do it, too.
Ponder this word from the Word. May the passage be both comfort and challenge. Jesus says, “My sheep recognize my voice; I know them, and they follow me. I give them eternal life, and they will never perish. No one will snatch them away from me, for my Father has given them to me, and he is more powerful than anyone else. So no one can take them from me. The Father and I are one.”” (John 10:27-30, NLT)
(a beautiful and unadorned rendition of this great hymn)
When peace like a river
Attendeth my way
When sorrows like sea billows roll
Whatever my lot
Thou hast taught me to say
It is well
It is well with my soul
It is well with my soul
It is well
It is well with my soul
Tho’ Satan should buffet
Tho’ trials should come
Let this blest assurance control
That Christ hath regarded
My helpless estate
And hath shed His own blood
For my soul
My sin O the bliss
Of this glorious tho’t
My sin not in part but the whole
Is nailed to the cross
And I bear it no more
Praise the Lord
Praise the Lord O my soul
And Lord haste the day
When the faith shall be sight
The clouds be rolled back as a scroll
The trump shall resound
And the Lord shall descend
Even so it is well
With my soul
Horatio Gates Spafford | Philip Paul Bliss
© Words: Public Domain