This song, another by Andrae Crouch, was popular when I became a Christian 38 years ago this month. As I was going through hard times and trying to figure out how to live this life called Christian, it was a comfort to me. And it reminds me of my dear friends from that era — Chris, Beth, and Marti — who have all graduated to glory. I miss them. But through it all, Jesus has been faithful.
War in Israel. Christian genocide in Iraq. Children flooding our borders. A flaccid economy. Ebola in Africa. Every day our senses are assaulted with trauma in our world. It’s terrible, and yet I confess that all too often I find myself wondering if things will hold together for another 30 years? Another 20 years? I read this week that the Medicare trust fund is calculated to survive until 2030 – 15 years. I found myself calculating my age and wondering if I’d still be alive.
I have to fight this tendency to look out for myself. I have to deliberately force myself to stop and pray for my kids and grandkids. I call this the Hezekiah Syndrome, from 2 Kings 20. The dying Hezekiah had just been granted a stay of execution from the Lord. Another 15 years. But in his excitement, he showed the Babylonian emissaries all the treasures of his storehouses, boasting of his great wealth.
This didn’t please the prophet Isaiah, who then issued this dire sentence: “Hear the word of the LORD: Days are coming when all that is in your house, and that which your ancestors have stored up until this day, shall be carried to Babylon; nothing shall be left, says the LORD. Some of your own sons who are born to you shall be taken away; they shall be eunuchs in the palace of the king of Babylon.” (2 Kings 20:16-18)
Think about it! Hezekiah had just been told that not only his wealth, but also his own sons, would be taken into captivity! And what was his response? “Then Hezekiah said to Isaiah, ‘The word of the LORD that you have spoken is good.’ For he thought, ‘Why not, if there will be peace and security in my days?’” (2Kings 20:19)
Seriously? He had just seen the Lord answer a pretty serious prayer for healing, but now he’s willing to allow his sons—who, by the way, were innocent in his sin—bear the brunt of this punishment! I’m appalled, but hey, I do almost the same thing when I wonder (and even whisper a prayer) that the world will hold together through my lifetime. Then I need to repent and pray all the more diligently for my kids, my grandkids, and the world that I am at least a little bit complicit in messing up.
Folks, we are the matriarchal/patriarchal generation. The responsibility is ours. We must pray and never, ever, give in to the temptation of short-term gain with the risk of long-term loss. Will you join me in praying for the world we are leaving to our kids?
Two hundred and thirty eight years ago in Philadelphia, a small band of statesmen drafted and signed a document outlining a list of grievances against the British crown and declaring the independence of the colonies from the tyrannical government of Great Britain. In doing so, they pledged to one another and the new nation their lives, their fortunes, and their sacred honor. And for many, it cost them everything. But the result was the freest, most prosperous nation on earth. Of course, that result didn’t come without years of war, hardship, and pain. But led by principle, integrity and Divine Providence, these men led the new nation to freedom.
Eleven years later, on September 17, 1787, the United States Constitution was adopted in its original form by the Constitutional Convention in Philadelphia, PA, and later ratified by the people in conventions in each state as the supreme law of the land—the United States of America.
Over the past 238 years, we’ve had many occasions to defend our freedom. Today we are in another such battle—a battle against terrorists from the outside and America haters on the inside, all of whom wish to eradicate our way of life. Different in nature, but similar in purpose. We must highly resolve to understand our freedom and be willing to defend it. We need to pray for statesmen who will do the right thing rather than the politically expedient thing.
On this Independence Day, I encourage you to take a few minutes and read the Declaration of Independence, the document that established the underlying principles of our government. And to thank God for our freedom.
Anne Graham Lotz, daughter of Billy Graham, has invited American Christians to join in seven days of prayer and repentance for the nation, starting today. You can see her invitation here and sign up to receive prayer alerts every day. On the 7th day, we will fast and pray for breakthrough. I invite you to join the chorus as we humble ourselves before our Lord.
The first prayer alert is posted here. Be sure to sign up to receive the next six in your inbox. And will you pray? Despite all the good things happening in the world, and we rejoice for those, our nation is at a crossroads. It’s time for the Church to be the Church, to humble ourselves, turn from our own wicked ways, and seek God’s mercy. (2 Chron. 7:14).
When I was with my family last month, including my newest granddaughter, I found myself in constant intercession for them and the world they are inheriting. I prayed that they would enjoy the freedoms we have enjoyed, especially the freedom of belief and thought. I prayed that they would not face national poverty and persecution, that their nation would not become a third world has-been. I prayed that they would be able to live well for Jesus, advancing His kingdom here on earth. And frankly, in the midst of the joy, my heart was breaking for them. And I repented for how my generation has squandered that which we inherited. It’s not too late, friends. Our God is a God of mercy as well as justice. I’m crying out for His mercy and examining my life. Will you join me?
I’m a big fan of deliberately developing an attitude of gratitude–being thankful in all things. Yet we seem to be bombarded on every front with all the negatives happening all over the world. Lately my head has been spinning as I try to keep up with the many negative stories in both national and international affairs. I may be ordinary, but I do try to keep up. Really. But with a new crisis surfacing with almost every news cycle, it’s easy to become overwhelmed and even depressed. It’s easy to feel that life is crashing in on every side.
That’s why I was excited when I talked to my friend Stephanie Shoquist. She mentioned a talk she heard by Johnny Enlow, who pointed out ten trends in society that are improving over time–things like reduced world poverty, reduced abortion rates, and reduced child mortality. She blogged about the list earlier this month. I was surprised by some items on the list, but can definitely add these to my list of things I can thank God for.
I’m sure this is only the tip of the iceberg. There are many trends that are improving. Can you add to this list?
Heb. 12:1 Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses,…
Where are you when the Olympics begin? If you’re like most people, you pull up a comfortable chair and watch the highlights on TV. Even if you aren’t usually a sports fan, there’s something about the Olympics that compels attention. Here are the best of the best, competing for the gold. And all of us at home cheer for our favorites.
During the early games in Athens, as now, the athletes were surrounded by fans in the stadium that encircled the track. The enthusiasm was strong as spectators cheered for their local or national favorites.
The writer to the Hebrews uses the image of the Athens games, a familiar contemporary event, to encourage the Hebrew Christians to persevere. These early believers were facing persecution and many were questioning how to live under such pressure. Although circumstances have changed, the principles still stand as each of us faces the challenges of conquering the strongholds in our lives.
The implication of the Greek word for “witnesses” is not just any critical spectator who isn’t good enough to play the game. Rather, these witnesses are experts, those who have already successfully run this race and won the prize. In the TV coverage of the Olympics, the commentators are usually former medal winners in the particular event. Experts. They understand every nuance of excellence in that event and inform the rest of us whether an athlete really did a good job or not. Their opinion shapes ours, and their opinion is far more important to the athlete than yours or mine might be. This cloud of witnesses is not just enthusiasts, but those who have gone before and have earned the right to comment on our game.
I want to perform at my best every day. Even as an ordinary woman, I’m going for the gold. You never know who’s watching…
Have you been watching the Olympics? I’m not a sports fan by any stretch of the imagination, but I always enjoy watching the Olympics, both summer and winter. I’m always uber-impressed with the excellence the competitors exhibit. And I’m always struck by the stories of personal dedication and perseverance.
Yesterday a friend questioned the sacrifice these athletes and their families make, wondering if it’s worth it or even wise. There is always incredible expense, sacrifice by their families, and childhoods spent in practice settings. As a sports cynic, I have to agree with her. I certainly wouldn’t want to have a child of mine spend their childhood like that.
But let’s look at it from a different perspective. Isn’t this fierce determination how we’re called to live our Christian lives? To become extraordinary rather than settling for the ordinary? The writer to the Hebrews tells us to “lay aside every weight and the sin that clings so closely, and let us run with perseverance the race that is set before us” (Heb. 12:1). Each of us is called to a different race, a different “event.” And each of us faces different challenges, obstacles, and opportunities. As I’m writing this, I’m watching the snowboarding finals. The halfpipe course is softer and bumpier than ideal, causing many excellent athletes to fall. U.S. favorite Shaun White didn’t even metal.
The same is true in our lives. Sometimes we don’t get an ideal course. Sometimes we get entangled by burdens or sin. Sometimes we fall. But like the Olympic athletes, we need to get up, brush ourselves off, and persevere.
What does that mean? Am I willing to get up early in the morning to spend time with Jesus? Am I willing to sacrifice recreation, time with friends, or even professional pursuits to pursue relationship with Him? Am I willing to spend money on expensive “equipment” — classes, conferences, or opportunities — to pursue splendor? What am I willing to sacrifice to obtain the pearl of great price? We need pursue splendor as godly men and women as if the gold metal depended upon it.