Turning from our Wicked Ways to Heal our Land

nopeContinued from here.

The final step needed to heal our land is to turn from our wicked ways – to repent. The Church has become so worldly that it is nearly indistinguishable from the culture around it in many ways. Sadly, many Christians only spend one hour a week with God as they attend worship services. What they learn in that one hour has little impact on their daily lives as they go about their week. Many are “closet Christians” whose daily behavior blends so well into the culture than their coworkers and associates would be surprised to learn that they are even Christian!

Jesus did not call us to receive just enough of his blood to avoid going to hell but to otherwise go live our lives however we see fit. He said that if we want to be his followers, we must stop living for ourselves and, instead, live for God:

Whoever wants to be my disciple must deny themselves and take up their cross and follow me.” ~ Mark 8:34

Denying yourself brings us right back to where we started: the first requirement for God healing our land is humbling ourselves. Humbling ourselves involves turning from our wicked ways and, instead, living our lives as God tells us to live, which is all spelled out for us in the Bible. For example, as a Christian, you don’t get to stand around the water cooler judging Nikolas Cruz or Dimitrios Pagourtzis for shooting up schools. You need to be praying for both of them because the Bible tells us to do so. You don’t get to hate those in your own personal life who wrong you: you must forgive them. This is tough stuff, but that’s what it means to be a Christian. Either you are a disciple of Christ, or you are not. If you are, then you will turn from your wicked ways and live your life in the ways that God tells you to live. Only when the Body of Christ does this will God heal our land.

If we, as the Body of Christ, want to see these school shootings stop, we need to get serious about our faith. We need to do what God tells us to do: humble ourselves, pray, seek God’s face, and turn from our wicked ways. If God’s children will get serious about doing what He has told us to do, we can bring healing to our land and shine God’s light into this darkness that is permeating our schools.

[Graphic: Cartoon of of Grace running while saying, “Nope. Nope. Nope.” Courtesy Bitmoji.]

 

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Seeking God’s Face to Heal our Land

where_are_youContinued from here.

Sadly, many Christians regularly pray without seeking God’s face. How is this possible? Their prayer lives involve all talking and no listening. They bring their requests to God, like children bringing their toy requests to Santa Claus, but never take the next step of actually listening for a response from God. Despite the Bible being filled with stories of God talking to people, many Christians do not believe God will actually “talk back,” so they never take the time to listen for His still, small voice.

In one of her Bible studies, Priscilla Shirer asked a great question: “Why would Jesus die for you but then refuse to talk to you?” If you think about it, the Bible is one continuous story about man’s separation from God and God’s initiative in restoring that relationship. First, God communicated from afar, such as through a burning bush. Next, He lived among his people in a tent and later in a temple. Then, he came and lived among people through Jesus, and then after Jesus’ death and resurrection, He came to live inside us through the Holy Spirit. After all of that trouble, is He really going to refuse to talk to us?

God promises us that we will find Him when we seek Him with our whole heart. That’s the level of seeking that will heal our land. We must continue pursuing God until we find Him, refusing to settle for anything less. We seek Him through his Word and through our quiet time with Him. We tell Him that we will not stop seeking Him until we find Him, and we do this day after day, week after week, and month after month until God shows up. As someone who has been through this process, I assure you that God will show up, and when He does, it will profoundly change your life. If everyone in the Body of Christ would do this, it would also profoundly heal our land.

To be continued…

[Graphic: Cartoon of Grace looking through a telescope and asking, “Where are you?” Courtesy Bitmoji.]

 

Praying for God to Heal our Land

prayerContinued from here.

I hope that every Christian hearing the news about the latest school shooting is praying for God to intervene. This cannot be a one-time request, though. As the Body of Christ, we need to be persistent in our prayers like the persistent widow. We need to saturate our country in prayer, inviting God into every area of our country and culture.

I have been leading a statewide Christian prison ministry since October, and one of my primary focuses is saturating this ministry in prayer at every level. I pray earnestly for this ministry every morning in my quiet time, as is true of the leaders and many of the volunteers as well. In addition, the ministry has dedicated prayer warriors to cover the ministry as a whole in prayer as well as specific aspects of the ministry that need special attention. This is not a one-time request – we go before God again and again and again, seeking His wisdom, guidance, and provision.

This is the level of prayer that is needed if we want God to heal our land of these school shootings. As the Body of Christ, each of us individually needs to be praying for our country daily. In additional, we need to be covering specific schools in prayer, including their students and former students. We need to pray for all schools – private and public, those in different districts, and those in different states. We need to take this initiative seriously, saturating every aspect of our school system in prayer.

What might happen to our land if every local church selected one school to saturate with prayer daily? What impact might it have if every single school in the country was covered in prayer by one local church? How might your praying for a particular school day after day, month after month, and year after year affect your love for that school? Might you feel drawn to do more for that school? Might you feel drawn to mentor a student there – perhaps a quiet student who nobody notices? Might you carry the light of Christ into that school out of the love that grows in your heart by praying for that school daily? If the Body of Christ committed to covering every single school in America in prayer, this would go a long way toward healing our land.

To be continued…

[Graphic: Cartoon of Grace praying behind emoticon hands that are held in prayer. Courtesy Bitmoji.]

 

Humbling Ourselves to Heal our Land

mvpContinued from here.

If we want God to heal our land from all that plagues it, including school shootings, we need to humble ourselves before Him. That’s not easy to do, but it’s a necessary part of being a disciple of Christ. When you became a Christian, your life stopped being about you – it’s now about God. You are “dead” to your old ways of life. You live a new life in Christ, and that’s the life of a servant.

While most Christians know this at the head level, few put it into practice at the heart level. If we did, then there wouldn’t be so much infighting within individual churches over the color of the carpet, the style of music, etc. And then at the global level, the church wouldn’t be fragmented into so many denominations over various theological debates. We would value unity over “being right,” just as Paul told us to do.

C.S. Lewis really helped me with understanding what humility is. He said,

Humility is not thinking less of yourself, it’s thinking of yourself less.”

In other words, get yourself off your mind and replace it with thinking about how you can best serve someone else. What can you do to make someone else’s day a little brighter? How can you be a blessing to someone else?

If every Christian would stop being so self-focused and would start looking for one tangible way to bless another person every day, this would radically transform society. Christians would lose their reputation of being judgmental hypocrites and would instead be viewed as love in action. This would be a huge step toward God healing our land.

What might happen to society if every Christian began actually living 1 Cor. 13? How might society be impacted by thousands of Christians being patient and kind when confronted with rudeness? How might a potential school shooter react to a Christian noticing him in his pain and caring enough to extend kindness to him, no matter how that kindness is received? How might our land change as Christians stop thinking about their own desires and, instead, actually see the walking wounded around them and do something about it? If the Body of Christ truly humbled itself and took intentional steps toward blessing others, this would go a long way toward healing our land.

To be continued…

[Graphic: Cartoon of Grace in a boxing ring holding up a sign that says, “You da real MVP.” Courtesy Bitmoji.]

 

Calling upon God to Heal our Land

whyLike the rest of the country, I am heartsick over yet another school shooting taking place on American soil. I have been praying for Nickolas Cruz daily since the Parkland school shooting, and now I’ll be praying for Dimitrios Pagourtzis as well. I hope that investigators will be able to gain some insight into why shooting fellow classmates continues to appeal to some teenagers in our society. However, I know the problem is much larger than violent video games or access to guns.

For over 200 years, American teenagers had access to guns but weren’t using them to kill their classmates. That was back when God was in our schools. Only since God was removed from our schools did this violence start taking place. What’s most disturbing is how regularly this is happening – it’s become so commonplace that local schools even have lockdown drills, just like fire or tornado drills, to prepare students for what to do.

Understandably, everyone is looking for a remedy, but few are talking about the remedy that the Bible offers. It’s found in 2 Chron. 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 I will hear from heaven, and I will forgive their sin and will heal their land.”

We, the Body of Christ, are the solution, but we must do what God has called us to do. We need to humble ourselves. We need to pray. We need to seek God’s face. And we need to turn from our wicked ways. Those are the four prerequisites for God healing our land. Rather than participate in the fragmentation of society as different factions fight with one another over gun control, etc., we can be a unified Body of Christ and follow God’s prescription for healing our land. I’ll discuss each of these four aspects in turn.

To be continued…

[Graphic: Cartoon of Grace shrugging her shoulders and asking, “Why?” Courtesy Bitmoji.]

 

Celebrating the Milestones

wootContinued from here.

When God calls me to run a marathon, I find it helpful to celebrate the milestones as I go, such as whenever I complete a block of classes. I just wrapped up classes 9 and 10 and will start classes 11 and 12 on Monday. I need to take some time to celebrate being 83.3% finished with my classes before diving in to complete the last two.

God is all about a party. He is also all about joy. One way to finish the race well is to celebrate how far you have come along the way. No, I am not where I need to be yet, but I am also a long way from where I started, and that’s worth celebrating!

I also don’t need to be putting energy into mulling over what’s next. God will show me when He wants me to know, just as He led me to enroll in school a year ago. If I knew what was coming next, it might steal my focus from finishing this race first. I also might become overwhelmed by seeing both what needs to be completed to finish this race on top of whatever will be required for the next race that God is calling me to run.

One final point worth noting – God often calls us to run races that we are not equipped to run in our natural state. God-sized callings require total dependence upon God to complete. As people see you succeeding in running a race that is way out of your league, God is glorified because He is the only explanation for your successful run. Always remember that other people are watching you when you follow God – whether or not you finish well affects many more lives than just your own.

If God is calling you to run a race, I encourage you to dive in and follow Him. Whatever He is calling you to do will likely require much time and effort, but the journey will be worth it. Not only will you accomplish much for the Kingdom of God, but you will deepen your relationship with God as He provides all you need to finish the race … and to finish it well.

[Graphic: Cartoon of Grace cheering over the word, “Woot!” Courtesy Bitmoji.]

 

To Finish Well, You Must Run with a Good Attitude

im_into_itContinued from here.

Paul did not only finish his race: He did so with a good attitude. Even though he had suffered much as he ran his race, his eye was on the prize until the very end:

For I am already being poured out like a drink offering, and the time for my departure is near. I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith. Now there is in store for me the crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous Judge, will award to me on that day—and not only to me, but also to all who have longed for his appearing.” ~ 2 Tim. 4:6-8

Paul did not feel sorry for himself for all he had to suffer to finish the race. His focus remained on the goal – loving God enough to finish all he was assigned to do. He was joyful about what awaited him when he spent eternity with God. His focus was on spiritual matters, not temporal ones.

This one is the hardest part of finishing well for me – running with a good attitude that is focused on the eternal rather than the temporal. The temporal voices are so loud – my family and friends wanting more of my time … my body wanting more rest … my extroverted nature wanting more “fun time” and less “work time” … Unless I remain mindful of focusing on why I am putting myself through this season of sacrifice, I am vulnerable to finishing the race as a grumbler, which does not honor God.

It was an honor for God to choose Paul to run the race that he was called to. It is also an honor for God to choose me to run the race that He has given me, and it’s an honor for God to have called you for your race. We need to remember what a blessing and honor it is to be called by God and serve Him wholeheartedly and without grumbling. That’s the only way to finish the race well.

To be continued…

[Graphic: Cartoon of Grace smiling and pointing to herself above the words, “I’m into it!” Courtesy Bitmoji.]