Wednesday, November 12, 2014

A Challenge to Pray for America

I am setting this post to run at the top of the blog through most of November.

"Troublesome times are here, filling men's hearts with fear, freedoms we all hold dear, now is at stake."  So go the words of the old gospel song "Jesus is Coming Soon."

Recent days in the grand old U. S. of A. have brought fear to our hearts. 

Islamic Extremists

The threat of militant Islamic fundamentalists in the ISIS regime should trouble us.  They are a people who want to annihilate other peoples and cultures.  The city of London is on the alert as they believe members of ISIS are planted there to do harm.  The FBI has warned that policemen and family members of our country's military could be possible targets to ISIS assassinations. 

President Obama made it clear in his speech about his ISIS "strategy" that this is not about Islam and that no religion wants to kill people.  When people make such statements, they are either speaking out of ignorance or out of another agenda.  And I doubt the President is ignorant of such matters.  Even David Letterman recognized that the strategy was one of kicking the ball down the field to the next Chief. 

Yes, there are many good Muslims who would never murder another person.  However, radical Islamic fundamentalists are driven to murder others in the name of their Islamic religion.  In case you don't know or haven't been around since September 11, 2001, the concept of jihad is a religious war.  If they die while killing the "infidels," then they believe their god takes them straight to heaven. 

Todd Starnes wrote recently, "Last night on 60 Minutes President Obama reminded the nation that we are not at war with the Islamic State.  Not that it matters all that much – because they are at war with us."   That is simply a fact.

After a recent beheading in Oklahoma, Starnes of FOX News wrote, "In recent days it’s become clear that radical jihadists live in these United States. . . .  The authorities are calling what happened in Moore, Oklahoma a case of workplace violence.  Workplace violence, indeed. Just like the Fort Hood massacre.  The Obama Administration can call it whatever they want — but I’m afraid we’re about to see a lot more of it."

The ISIS threat could potentially have disastrous results.

Now Ebola is front and center in the news.  Again, here is a problem with catastrophic potential.

How should a godly person respond?  What does a man or woman who fears the Lord and trusts Him do in such times?  How should I, an ordinary husband and father, react to threats such as ISIS and Ebola?

A Person Like You or Me

A man named Elijah, one who feared the Lord, lived in troublesome times.  He had no confidence in the political leaders of his nation, a godless couple named Ahab and Jezebel.  The king and queen led the nation into all sorts of idolatry, eventually persecuting and killing many of the prophets of the one true God.  That God, Jehovah, spoke to this man Elijah, a Tishbite.

God told Elijah that as punishment for the sins of the nation, He was sending a drought.  It would not rain until God allowed it.  Elijah announced this punishment to king Ahab.  Then, God hid his prophet for three and a half years (1 Kings 17) during the drought.  Killing Elijah would not have stopped the drought, but godless people sometimes like to attack God's messengers.  (Houston, you can demand pastors to turn in their sermons, but you can't change their God nor what He has said, nor their constitutional rights.)

After three and a half years, the Lord and Elijah had a huge confrontation with the priests of Baal, priests under the domination of Queen Jezebel.  God showed up in a big way, confirming that he is God and Baal is false.

Then, God revealed to Elijah that it was about to rain.  Before rain came, Elijah began interceding - praying to God to send the rain.  Some people remark that the position he took in 1 Kings 18:42 was one of a Jewish woman in labor.  Elijah knew God was going to send rain, but the prophet assumed the position of a praying intercessor.  He became an agent through which God could birth a miracle and bring rain.

After seven times of prayer, Elijah's servant saw a small raincloud coming.  Soon, heavy rain poured.

Years later, the apostle James comments on this account: The effective, fervent prayer of a righteous man avails much. 17 Elijah was a man with a nature like ours, and he prayed earnestly that it would not rain; and it did not rain on the land for three years and six months. 18 And he prayed again, and the heaven gave rain, and the earth produced its fruit (James 5:16-18).

James reminds us of a few potent truths . . .

1.  Elijah's prayer life included the potential to stop rain and produce rain for 3 1/2 years as he partnered with God.

2.  Elijah was a man just like us - not any more or less.

3.  The prayers today of godly people full of faith, the Holy Spirit, and the fear of the Lord can accomplish much.

Wow.  The prayers of one man affected the course of the entire nation.

Again and again in Scripture, God worked through the prayers of one man or woman to bring real change.

Might God use the prayers of one righteous person today to affect the course of our nation?  Might God use the prayers of one family, church, or small group to alter our future?

Fasting and Prayer

In years past, some Presidents and political leaders understood that we are truly one nation under God.  During times of deep national crisis, leaders called our nation to a day or season of fasting and prayer.  They understood that some problems faced by the country were too grand for human ingenuity to solve.  They needed God.  They needed His help.

John Adams, second President of the United States, understood this truth.  When faced with the threat of a national crisis from a foreign power, he called for a day of fasting and prayer for May 9, 1798 . . .

As the safety and prosperity of nations ultimately and essentially depend on the protection and blessing of Almighty God; and the national acknowledgment of this truth is not only an indispensable duty which the people owe to Him, but a duty whose natural influence is favorable to the promotion of that morality and piety, without which social happiness cannot exist . . . .

See a long list here of days of fasting and prayer issued by our government leaders in times past.  You can also read the proclamations at the same site.

According to the Bible, when peoples and countries face deep crises, they should fast and pray.  They should turn aside from what they normally do, stop eating for a designated time, and cry out to God.  Fasting is one spiritual discipline through which we humble ourselves before Him and ask for His help.

Personally, I have little confidence in our current government leaders in the White House to handle our problems efficiently.  However, the Bible says that God hears the remnant.  He hears the few that still fear, love, and serve Him.  God promised Abraham that if He found ten righteous people in the cities of Sodom and Gomorrah, he would spare them from judgment.  Why?  Because God hears His remnant.  He acts on behalf of His remnant. 

The prayers of one man brought the rain after three and a half years of drought.  And he was a man just like you and me.

I challenge you, fellow Christians, to begin fasting and praying for America.  Begin setting aside some meals and spending that time in God's presence, praying to Him, on your knees, with an open Bible, pouring your heart out to God.

These battles cannot be fought with politics, military, or medical doctors alone.  We need God's help. We need God's help again.

Because, as the second President of the United States understood, "the safety and prosperity of nations ultimately and essentially depend on the protection and blessing of Almighty God."

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