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Shining As Lights In the World

I Thessalonians 5:16-18 “Rejoice evermore.  Pray without ceasing.  In every thing give thanks: for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus concerning you.”

Romans 16:19 “For your obedience is come abroad unto all men.  I am glad therefore on your behalf: but yet I would have you wise unto that which is good, and simple concerning evil.”

Numbers 11:1 “And when the people complained, it displeased the LORD: and the LORD heard it; and his anger was kindled; and the fire of the LORD burnt among them, and consumed them that were in the uttermost parts of the camp.”

Philippians 2:14-15 “Do all things without murmurings and disputings: That ye may be blameless and harmless, the sons of God, without rebuke, in the midst of a crooked and perverse nation, among whom ye shine as lights in the world.”

Sometimes Christians are master complainers.  From our precious perch on the top of our ivory tower, we complain about the sinfulness of the world around us.  We complain about our fragile society; we complain about our flagging nation; we complain about our fallible leaders.  Often these leaders are the recipients of our strongest condemnation.  While our words of harsh critique may be accurate, our spirit, our priorities, and our hearts are definitely not.

Instead, we must pray for our society, our nation, and our leaders.  It should be the principle and defining characteristic of our interaction with these institutions and individuals.  How can we pray without ceasing if we never cease to complain?  How can we be wise unto the good when we constantly lament the evil?  How can we properly tackle our Christian responsibilities for impact as God-placed and ordained individuals if we only complain, and murmur, and dispute?  How can we shine as lights in a dark world if our witness to a crooked and perverse nation is shrouded in negativity and pessimism?  How can we preach about society’s shortcomings if we don’t pray for its strength and its salvation?  How can we expect successful leadership in the state house, the court house and the school house if we don’t support them through prayer from our church house and from our own homes?

PLEASE PRAY FOR OUR LEADERS AND OUR INSTITUTIONS FAR MORE THAN YOU MURMUR AND COMPLAIN ABOUT THEM.  Though our prayer closets, we can shine as lights in the world far more than we can flaming about the darkness around us.

All Over This Land We Love

Acts 2:46-47 “And they, continuing daily with one accord in the temple, and breaking bread from house to house, did eat their meat with gladness and singleness of heart.  Praising God, and having favor with all the people.  And the Lord added to the church daily such as should be saved.”

Hebrews 12:1 “Wherefore seeing we also are compassed about with so great a cloud of witnesses, let us lay aside every weight, and the sin which doth so easily beset us, and let us run with patience the race that is set before us.”

As a part of my 2022 devotions, I am reading through a 1942 daily devotional entitled “Strength for Service To God and Country”.  It was written by pastors throughout the country during World War II to distribute to American military members fighting for freedom around the world.  Its introductory section shares the following about the purpose and content of this devotion:

“This is your book.  It is for you alone.  Its purpose is to strengthen and sustain you in those troubled hours when you feel a Need that cannot be well put into words.

All over this land you love – in the great cities, in smaller communities, in schools and colleges, and in houses of business – men have put aside the duties of the day to talk in type with you.  They have done this gladly, eagerly – because they want to help – and because their hearts are filled with gratitude to America’s soldiers, sailors, and marines.

They are simple things, these messages.  But then freedom, and righteousness, and love are simple terms, easy to grasp and comforting to cling to in troubled times.  There is no need for fine writing, for big words and labored sentences when hearts talk with one another.”

This devotional book had particular power in its day because of the distributed nature of the message, for both the authors and the readers.  The authors, as mentioned above, published their devotional from all over the land in order to express appreciation and encouragement, and pour themselves into the lives of their readers while uplifting the cause of Christ.  Those words were given to readers who were deployed to face conflict in foreign lands that encircled the globe.  Their dispersed readership provided an amplified message that spoke in personal and profound ways during times of great need.  As a result, the network of authors and readers created a powerful bond of service that knitted the broader community together into one accord that supported, strengthened, and sustained while encouraging likeminded believers everywhere.

There is great power in the nature of the Christian movement in 2022, especially with the tools at our disposal.  Through prayers, posts, and publications, spiritual leaders can pour themselves from across our land into the lives of others around the globe.  As a result, the network can create a powerful bond of service that can knit the community together into one accord that uplifts the cause of Christ, and that supports, strengthens and sustains. 

We should all be encouraged by the faithfulness of likeminded Christians today from all over this land we love – in the great cities, in smaller communities, in schools and colleges, and in houses of business.  If this distributed mass of believers prays as we should, preaches as we should, and participates in our society as we should, then we can have an impact for the cause of Christ that the world has never seen.

PLEASE PRAY FOR AMERICAN CHRISTIANS FROM ACROSS THE NATION TO FAITHFULLY SERVE OUR LORD IN THIS LAND.  Today more than ever, it is critical to support, strengthen, and sustain from all over this land we love.

So Great Faith

Matthew 8:5-10 “And when Jesus was entered into Capernaum, there came unto him a centurion, beseeching him, And saying, Lord, my servant lieth at home sick of the palsy, grievously tormented.  And Jesus saith unto him, I will come and heal him.  The centurion answered and said, Lord, I am not worthy that thou shouldest come under my roof: but speak the word only, and my servant shall be healed.  For I am a man under authority, having soldiers under me: and I say to this man, Go, and he goeth; and to another, Come, and he cometh; and to my servant, Do this, and he doeth it.  When Jesus heard it, he marvelled, and said to them that followed, Verily I say unto you, I have not found so great faith, no, not in Israel.”

Luke 12:48b “For unto whomever much is given, of him shall be much required: and to whom men have committed much, of him they will ask the more.”

God has blessed our land in a miraculous way throughout our history.  We continue to stand as John Winthrop’s city on hill, attracting the eyes of all people.  At his farewell speech on January 11, 1989, President Reagan shared the following:

“I’ve spoken of the shining city all my political life, but I don’t know if I ever quite communicated what I saw when I said it.  But in my mind it was a tall, proud city built on rocks stronger than oceans, wind-swept, God-blessed, and teeming with people of all kinds living in harmony and peace; a city with free ports that hummed with commerce and creativity.  And if there had to be city walls, the walls had doors and the doors were open to anyone with the will and the heart to get here.  That’s how I saw it, and see it still.”

God’s Word reminds us that much is required of those who have been given much.  Thus, the Lord expects much from America and from American Christians.  Yet, at the same time we have an exciting opportunity to demonstrate great faith that uniquely pleases Him.  After all, Jesus singled out the faith of the centurion in Capernaum as a man who had been given much and still humbly yielded to the Saviour.  The Lord marvelled at him because of his faith in the midst of his success, his prosperity and his power.  From his position, overflowing with faith, this centurion leader could be a powerful shining city on a hill. 

PLEASE PRAY FOR AMERICAN CHRISTIANS TO HUMBLY YIELD TO THE LORD IN THE MIDST OF OUR SUCCESS, PROSPERITY, AND POWER.  In doing so, may the Lord see us and say – I have not found so great faith.

Let Your Light Shine

Matthew 5:13-16 “Ye are the salt of the earth: but if the salt have lost his savour, wherewith shall it be salted? It is thenceforth good for nothing, but to be cast out, and to be trodden under foot of men.  Ye are the light of the world.  A city that is set on an hill cannot be hid.  Neither do men light a candle, and put it under a bushel, but on a candlestick; and it giveth light unto all that are in the house.  Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father which is in heaven.”

I Peter 2:9 “But ye are a chosen generation, a royal priesthood, an holy nation, a peculiar people; that ye should shew forth the praises of him who hath called you out of darkness into his marvelous light”

Hebrews 13:8 “Jesus Christ, the same yesterday, and to day, and for ever.”

The military’s tactical leaders are expected to be Humble, Approachable, and Credible (see https://prayatlunch.us/decided-edge/ for related thoughts).  Christians are expected to embody these same values.  Unfortunately, society often questions these characteristics and actively seeks to undermine them.  As a military commander recently said: “There’s nothing humble about a selfie; there’s nothing approachable about anonymity; And, there’s nothing credible about a network that allows the loudest and most eccentric voices to drown out those of expertise and professionalism.”

While Christian values may be counter-cultural in our society and in a world dominated by social media, we must not conform to the environment around us.  Instead, we are to cling to characteristics that are timeless and true from God’s Word.  While sticking to such values may make us seem like peculiar people, our stand in this way can shew forth the praises of Him who has called us out of darkness into His marvelous light. 

PLEASE PRAY FOR THE LIGHT OF CHRIST TO PIERCE THE DARKNESS IN 2022!  Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father which is in heaven.  

The Sanction of Our Example

Psalm 33:10-12 “The LORD bringeth the counsel of the heathen to nought: he maketh the devices of the people of none effect.  The counsel of the LORD standeth for ever, the thoughts of his heart to all generations.  Blessed is the nation whose God is the LORD; and the people whom he hath chosen for his own inheritance.”

January 1, 1802 is the date that President Jefferson wrote his letter of response to the Danbury Baptists, creating the popularly known and misunderstood phrase “separation of church and state.”  Over time, his words have been taken far out of context, distantly deviating and drastically diverging from the constitutional direction that “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof.”  President Jefferson and the Founding Fathers never intended for religious influence to be absent from governmental endeavors nor excluded from it.  In fact, just the opposite.

Maybe the strongest proof of Jefferson’s intent comes from what he did two days after writing that oft-twisted phrase.  He went to church … at the U.S. Capitol.  Shortly after the Capitol opened its doors in 1800, the House of Representatives Chamber was used as the venue for Christian worship services every Sunday, and Jefferson was a regular parishioner.  This Founding Father had no problem with the People’s House being used as a House of Worship.  In fact, when asked about his church attendance at the Capitol, Jefferson responded with the following:

“No nation has ever yet existed or been governed without religion – nor can be.  The Christian religion is the best religion that has been given to man and I, as Chief Magistrate of this nation, am bound to give it the sanction of my example.” 

As American Christian citizens in the New Year, may we be undeterred by our national deviation from a godly heritage.  Instead, may we give faithful church attendance the sanction of our example.  May we give godliness the sanction of our example.  May we give participation in the governmental process the sanction of our example.  May we give the spreading of the gospel of Christ the sanction of our example. 

And in this pivotal year, may we give daily prayer for our nation and our leaders the sanction of our example. 

PLEASE PRAY FAITHFULLY FOR WIDESPREAD AMERICAN REVIVAL IN 2022!

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