I Will Hope In Him!

Lamentation 3:22-24
Lamentations 3:20-28 (NLT)

Given the events of the past 24 hours, I wanted to take a moment to offer some encouragement and Lamentations 3:22-24 provides it.

I have heard many people say over the past day that this is a time when we should all be on our knees in prayer, and they are correct…to a point. We should really be on our knees in prayer all the time, in good times and bad. And, many people who are saying this are implying that we need to pray that America “turn back to God” and that the “right” political leaders be in power. However, we are commanded in Romans 13 to obey the governing authorities and are told that ALL authorities are in power because God alone put them there for His purposes. If Paul was telling first century Christians this as they were living under one of the most oppressive, non-Jewish, non-Christian governments in history (the Roman Empire) I can’t imagine we would be told otherwise today. We have the privilege to live in a society where each of us has a say in who will be in power, but ultimately it is God who grants governments power at all. God even lets powers that are not supportive of Him be in power to accomplish His purposes as He did when He allowed Assyria and Babylon to conquer and take into exile those who really were His chosen nation (read Isaiah and Jeremiah for confirmation of this). Here is what we should be praying for:

  1. That both individually and collectively Christians would recognize that America is NOT God’s country or chosen nation. God’s “nation” (Kingdom) is not an earthly one (John 18:36). The Republican Party is not God’s political party. In all His time on earth, Jesus said only one thing about the government and that is that we should all pay our taxes. He did not instruct us to support certain political factions or leaders. He did not instruct us to incite a revolution in the earthly government (though I believe there are circumstances that warrant revolution, I don’t believe we are currently in one of them in the United States). In fact, at His trial and sentencing under Pilate, the mob of Jesus’s day was so disappointed in the fact that He wasn’t there to revolt against the government that they demanded Pilate release to them Barabbas, who was a revolutionary against the Roman government, and kill the True King instead. We need to make sure we are not unwittingly doing the same by taking our focus off of following what Christ did command (that we love God and love people) and putting it on human “revolutionaries”.
  2. That idolatry would be exposed. There are many Christians who have gotten so caught up in politics they have unknowingly made it into an idol, believing that the right “king” in power is what God wants. We need to pray that those for whom this is true would recognize their error, confess their sin, and return to correct focus on the rightful King. God wants to be king of our lives and has from the beginning. He allowed Israel to have a king only because the people demanded it and we have seen the tragedy that has ensued for millennia where people have placed their hope in governments rather than God.
  3. That the Holy Spirit would shine a light on each individual’s heart so we can know if we are among the people in #2 and that we will respond correctly to His personal revelation to each individual about our part in this.
  4. That each of us would know the peace of God in our hearts no matter what is going on in the world around us.
  5. That each Christian would be a beacon of light to those around them. That we indeed would look and behave different than everyone around us and in doing so help win non-believers to Christ for their eternal benefit.

Making 2021 The Year of 21 Miles

The photo on our Christmas card for 2020 did not turn out the way I envisioned it in my head. Things rarely do. Almost nothing in 2020 turned out the way any of us envisioned it in our heads either. We all expected normal—graduations, weddings, fairs, vacations—and what we got was a pandemic with a side of partisan politics—complete with catch-phrase cliches we’d all rather forget. Anyone else sick of hearing, “We’re all in this together?” It has been a year of mourning—mourning the loss of loves ones, the loss of beloved events and groups that can’t happen, the loss of “normal.” And, let’s be honest, it is wearing us all quite thin as we head into the holiday season.

The bright spot of Christmas is that Hope is among us. In 2021, let’s take hold of the Hope that can override sickness, poverty, politics, race, and division. Back in January I declared 2020 The Year of the Completed Project at our house. Now I’m encouraging everyone to make 2021 The Year of 21 Miles. Plot a circle with a radius of 10½  miles from your home and ask yourself what you can do to make your 21-mile “bubble” a better place. Buy a bag of groceries for the local food shelf each week. Mow the lawn of the neighbor who is having a hard time getting things done. Pay for the gas of the car next to you at the pump. Give a mom who’s at the end of her rope a couple kid-free hours and babysit her children for an afternoon. Don’t judge who deserves your help, just give. Maybe the guy driving the BMW doesn’t NEED you to pay for his coffee but doing it anyway will send a message to him that might fix something he does need. Not all needs are visible, and it’s not our job to determine who is deserving of assistance; we should just make a practice of thinking at any given moment, “What is the maximum amount of good I can do right now?” The more overlapping “bubbles” we have of people doing their maximum amount of good at each moment the greater the results. So for 2021, just worry about your 21 miles and the rest of your state, country, and world will likely “magically” sort itself out.

Okay, This Just Needs to Be Said

I am calling on my fellow Christians to WAKE UP! 2000 years ago the religious establishment was looking for Jesus to be a political savior and that is not nor was it ever God’s intention. It is not God’s intention for us to have a political savior today either. America is NOT and never has been God’s chosen nation. How have so many of us forgotten this and effectively become no better than the population of Jesus’ day, who expected Him to be their political savior, by throwing our blind support behind political candidates who say the things our itching ears want to hear? There was no major-party “Christian” candidate in last week’s election. And I don’t believe either of them has the best interests of any American, except themselves, at heart. They are concerned with power and getting/remaining in power. Therefore they will say and do whatever they need to and court whatever group it seems will help get them that power. We (as in all Americans) are being used. What disturbs me most is that as many of my fellow Christians who were so sold out for Donald Trump watched the election results come in, and it was clear that things were not going the way they had hoped, they started saying/posting things like, “God’s going to do great things!” and “We need to rely on God,” as if this was Gideon’s midnight battle with the Midianites. Now in the aftermath, they are raising the battle cry that leaving the “biased” social media with its “fake news” is the answer that will somehow accomplish something. Here’s the truth:

  1. God has already done His great thing for us in Jesus Christ and the sooner those of us who believe that disentangle ourselves from politics and get to following His command to care for the poor, disenfranchised, voiceless, and marginalized (the modern version of widows and orphans) the better as the marriage with politics is seriously hurting our witness to those in desperate need of what God has to offer.
  2. As for fleeing to “better” social media and news platforms, any other social media site you would join would have just as much “fake news” and questionable fact checking as the current ones. These days everyone (“left” AND “right”) reports only the “facts” that suit their agenda. Just because something is saying what you agree with or want to hear doesn’t mean it’s true. “For a time is coming when people will no longer listen to sound and wholesome teaching. They will follow their own desires and will look for teachers who will tell them whatever their itching ears want to hear. They will reject the truth and chase after myths.” (2 Timothy 4:3-5, NLT) Notice that Paul doesn’t say only non-believers will do this. In fact, I’m pretty sure he was primarily concerned with fellow believers falling victim to false teachers, not what the non-believing masses were doing.
  3. God is at work today just as He is everyday and He is using all things for His glory—even the politicians we don’t like. It is also possible that He has brought into place powers we don’t like, who do evil things, and who may treat us badly to accomplish His purposes. And in this case, that purpose may be that He Himself is sending us a wake up call that we need to cut the political crap, give ourselves a good heart check, and focus on what He told us to do. I don’t know for sure. I am not a prophet. But a good reading of the book of Isaiah shows that He has done such things in the past (think Babylon and Assyria); I wouldn’t be surprised if He chose to do similar things now.

It’s time we stopped looking for a political savior (something we were never told to do) and quit using social media as a way to get our “news” and “facts” and shout our opinions to the masses.

As Christians we were told to love God and love people. Get out there and make relationships with people—even people who may not look like or believe the same things you do. You don’t have to bend your convictions to be a descent human being to someone who doesn’t share your socioeconomic status, religious beliefs, or skin color. Don’t have an ulterior motive to try to win them to Christ. Just be a genuine friend and let God take care of what He wants to do with that friendship. I believe that our current circumstances, both political and COVID, should be a big wake up call to us that politics is not where effective witness is at. Making Christian laws are not going to win people over. God wants relationships. Christians need to get about the business God has commanded in Scripture we do, “‘You must love the Lord your God with all your heart, all your soul, and all your mind.’ This is the first and greatest commandment. A second is equally important: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’” (Matthew 22:37-38, NLT). Those words are in red, by the way.