[July 04]--Prayer During A Sojourn

Jeremiah 29:4-7

Today I decided to take a one-day break from Luke in order to present some thoughts pertinent to our celebration of the 4th. I’m going to do my best to keep my personal politics out of the blog, since that’s not its purpose. As such, I’m going to be pretty generic here and stick to what I think is reasonable for any Bible-believing Christian.

First, I think it’s pretty ironic that a country that was so heavily influenced by Christianity and the Bible (which it was) would start out the way it did. What’s the official name for today? Independence Day. We began this nation by telling Mother England “You can’t tell us what to do!” The first official document we produced in doing this was entitled a “Declaration of Independence.”

For any believer, this should strike you as odd or at least ironic. The entire Bible is a Declaration of Dependence. We’re going to depend on God and on each other. The Founding Fathers who were Christians (and there were a lot of them) saw absolutely no contradiction here. They were declaring independence from a government they considered tyrannical, but they fully intended to immediately set up another government in its place. They weren’t anarchists or radical individualists. The last sentence in the Declaration denies this notion: “And for the support of this Declaration, with a firm reliance on the protection of divine Providence, we mutually pledge to each other our Lives, our Fortunes and our sacred Honor.” When they were declaring in-dependence from Great Britain, they were at the same time declaring dependence on their Creator and on each other.

Now please don’t misunderstand me here. I love this country. I’m extremely grateful for the way the Lord has used it to bless me and my family and the entire world. Yes, I think this nation has done far more good to the world than harm overall. I love the freedoms we enjoy, such as the freedom of religion, freedom of speech, freedom of the press, freedom to have a voice in how we’re governed, etc. I know that those freedoms did not come for free: They were bought and paid for by the blood of quite a few men (and some women). And this country has more opportunities for material wealth and prosperity than any other in the history of mankind. We're incredibly wealthy here. Our poor have obesity problems.

Of course none of this means it’s perfect. We still have problems with racism, but we certainly don’t have the monopoly on that in the world. There’s still a lot of poverty here, and we need to deal with it in a biblical way. And our entertainment culture, to put it as mildly as I can, is a cesspool. And of course our culture is moving from 1) Full acceptance of homosexual behavior (which is bad enough) to 2) Complete intolerance of those who even disagree with the homosexual lifestyle. But I’d like to address a problem which is ingrained in this nation which is almost unique and was woven into the very fabric of its origins.

I think the churches in every nation and in every society are in danger of picking up too much from the surrounding culture. If we were in another country, I’d be sounding the alarm on some other way in which the church has picked up the atmosphere surrounding it. In this setting I think the church has imbibed way too much of the spirit of independence. Again, our very nation started out by saying to the Mother Country “You can’t tell me what to do!” and I think that’s carried over into how we “do church.” It’s gone way over the line from a healthy skepticism regarding human government into an unhealthy radical individualism in the church. It’s a religion of “Jesus and me.” It’s a religion of “Jesus is my best buddy.” It’s a religion of “I don’t care what the Bible says, I’m doing this my way.” To the degree that this thinking has infected our church, it has to be fought tooth and nail.

That’s a major problem I see. Maybe you see others. All of us tend to see our country through the prism of our own political biases. Some think we’re relying too much on military solutions to our international problems. Others see us relying too little. Some think taxes are way too high, others see them as too low because the “rich” aren’t paying their fair share. Some think the government interferes way too much in our personal lives, while others favor a lot more regulation and oversight.

But can we agree on a few basics here? This is our country. No, it’s not our ultimate home. But it’s where our Father's placed us for the time being, and I think we need to be grateful for the way he’s blessed us here. I think one word provides a good balance here: sojourn. It’s a short trip on our way to a final destination. In a way, we should look at it like the prophet Jeremiah told his people to view Babylon. I know we're in this country by choice, and America is a lot better than Babylon. But the point still stands: “Seek the peace and prosperity of the city to which I have carried you into exile. Pray to the Lord for it, because if it prospers, you too will prosper.”

I firmly believe that all the other problems we have: racism, sexual immorality, political corruption, etc., are symptoms of a much deadlier disease. That disease is a church which doesn't spread the Message of Jesus as far as it can, and which doesn't live out the Message of Jesus in our daily lives. And it also stems from a neglect of prayer for our nation's leaders (which is commanded of us, btw).

Pray for your nation today. In between the fireworks and hotdogs. Pray for it. Pray that God will prosper it and bless it. But also pray that she will come back to her God. Pray that the believers within her will be revived out of their slumber, and a lot more of the lost within her will come to a saving knowledge of Jesus Christ. Will you join me in that today?

Father God, thank you so much for the multiple and incredible ways in which you’ve blessed this land, and blessed us through it. Please guide her back onto your path. Please wake up the church within her. Whatever I need to do to help that, by your grace I’ll do it.

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