Wednesday, July 6, 2016

If God's people . . .

We are taking a break from our "ladies" this week, and we are focusing on a familiar passage to many of us:
When I shut up the heavens so that there is no rain, or command locusts to devour the land or send a plague among my people, 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. 15 Now my eyes will be open and my ears attentive to the prayers offered in this place. (II Chronicles 7:13-15)

God is talking to Solomon here. Solomon has just finished leading the people of his nation in worship; they have offered sacrifices and prayed. God is telling him that when the people (or their leader) sin, they will receive discipline -- He mentions drought, locusts, or plague. He indicates that if the people will do three things, they will be heard, and He will forgive and heal their land. And He promises that He is paying attention!

We talked yesterday about how far down the path of sin our countries have gone. It doesn't matter if we are talking about America or any other country -- the problems are still there. There is heartbreak in almost every family, caused by the sins of alcohol, drugs, pornography, abortion, and rebellion against God. But is it any wonder?
Our nation, as an example, has walked away from God. Our churches have become quite comfortable in the freedom we have, and instead of being a "peculiar" people, many of us can't be identified as Christians. We blend in with the crowd. We are not being the salt and light that Jesus tells us we need to be:
"You are the salt of the earth. But if the salt loses its saltiness, how can it be made salty again? It is no longer good for anything, except to be thrown out and trampled underfoot."14 “You are the light of the world. A town built on a hill cannot be hidden.15 Neither do people light a lamp and put it under a bowl. Instead they put it on its stand, and it gives light to everyone in the house. 16 In the same way, let your light shine before others, that they may see your good deeds and glorify your Father in heaven." (Matthew 5:13-16)

Have we lost our "saltiness"? Have we lost our identity? Then we have lost our witness . . .
The greatest institution for change in a country is not the building where the law makers meet. It's not the building where the leader lives or does his/her business. It isn't the building where the economic policy is crafted.
It's the church. And not the beautiful buildings where people assemble to worship. The hearts of the people of God. That is where the strength of a nation resides, and there are vital keys to influencing our countries for Jesus.

The first key is prayer. The church (whether we are considering the buildings for assembly or the hearts of God's followers) needs to be a place of prayer. No matter what else happens inside the walls of the churches, they need to first and foremost be places of prayer.
“It is written,” he said to them, “‘My house will be called a house of prayer, but you are making it ‘a den of robbers.’” (Matthew 21:13)
No matter what else goes on in our hearts as Christians, no matter what the distractions are, we need to be fired up for God, and be a people of prayer. Remember our focus passage?
if my people, who are called by my name, will humble themselves and pray (II Chronicles 7:14a)
There are our instructions! Some of us who study here are quilters. We begin with a lovely pile of fabrics that we pet and talk to (yes, we really do) and then we grab our instructions. We wouldn't think of beginning a project without at least reading through the pattern and understanding what it will take to make the quilt turn out right. In the same way, Christians need to follow their instructions. God says here that we need to humble ourselves and pray. We can't expect God's blessings if we don't seek His face in humble prayer.
He has shown you, O mortal, what is good.And what does the Lord require of you?To act justly and to love mercyand to walk humbly with your God. (Micah 6:8)
Walking humbly with Him . . . let that stay in your mind's eye for a moment. Now let's first pray for ourselves; let's ask for forgiveness of our sins and for His presence to be real to us.
Then you will call on me and come and pray to me, and I will listen to you. 13 You will seek me and find me when you seek me with all your heart. (Jeremiah 29:12-13)
Then, let's pray for others:
And pray in the Spirit on all occasions with all kinds of prayers and requests. With this in mind, be alert and always keep on praying for all the Lord’s people.  (Ephesians 6:18)
Pray for those in places of leadership -- political, too.
I urge, then, first of all, that petitions, prayers, intercession and thanksgiving be made for all people— for kings and all those in authority, that we may live peaceful and quiet lives in all godliness and holiness. (I Timothy 2:1-2)
Then, let's pray for revival. That our nations will turn back to God.
Will you not revive us again,    that your people may rejoice in you? (Psalm 85:6)
Prayer is the vital link to bringing our countries back from the brink. Yes, perilous times are coming, but the people of God need to be about the business of prayer, and of influencing as many as we can to turn to Him. Our work is important, as the tiny book of Jude says:
 save others by snatching them from the fire; to others show mercy, mixed with fear—hating even the clothing stained by corrupted flesh. (Jude 23)
I'll close today with a quotation from an important man in the history of the United States. Today's historians prefer to gloss over or even deny the faith of the founders of America, but in their writings, the truth is obvious:

             It is the duty of all Nations to acknowledge the providence of Almighty
             God, to obey His will, to be grateful for His benefits, and humbly implore
             His protection and favors. (George Washington)

Let's covenant with God today to be a people of prayer.

1 comment:

Cathy said...

Michael sings this portion of scripture as a wonderful prayer and puts into song .