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by Phil Ware
Love must be sincere. Hate what is evil; cling to what is good. Be devoted to one another in brotherly love. Honor one another above yourselves. Never be lacking in zeal, but keep your spiritual fervor, serving the Lord. Be joyful in hope, patient in affliction, faithful in prayer. Share with Gods people who are in need. Practice hospitality.
How many tears can you cry? After having experienced it over and over again, how can it grip so tightly in its clutches again? Yet it does! It moves us. It humbles us. It has driven many of us to our knees, and finding ourselves in the rubble of our own invincibility, we seek answers, and finding none, we seek God.
Is this a genuine holy hope, or is it merely a hood ornament that we will place at the front of our parade until we move on to something else?
Yes, I know the question sounds cynical, but its not. Its hopeful. Its expectant. Its prayerful. Let me explain.
Not knowing any deeper national sorrow than what we lived through on September 11, and the days that followed with their vivid reminders and horrible realizations, I was shocked when the Friday night news clutched my heart and squeezed out all life. Decked in red white and blue, opposing teams bowed with hands joined, bands from different schools playing together, and against the recent ruling of the Supreme Court, people prayed and sang to God and about God. In that moment of reverent and mournful unity, a deeper sadness struck my soul; our kids didnt know how to sing God Bless America. On Sunday, as we finished our time of worship, we too sang this prayer hymn to God, asking for his protection and blessing in this time of national and world distress. Many of our church children and teens didnt know the song.
How powerfully poignant and sad! But shouldnt it be expected? Our children are not allowed to sing that song in school. This is based on a twisted reading of the Constitution that reigns supreme in the courts. Please, Im not a wild-eyed gung-ho advocate of mandatory prayer in schools. (I am an ardent advocate of voluntary prayer groups in school!) I lived when we were forced to pray prayers that I dont feel comfortable praying. At the same time, to excise the music and the motivation for so much of our countrys history and culture is absurd and historically inaccurate. Many school systems in Russia are now openly courting a theistic based understanding of ethics and morals because they have seen the horrors of atheism and anti-theism destroy the moral and ethical fiber of their families, government institutions, and law enforcement. How ironic!
First, rather than making a public spectacle of our faith, lets get on our knees and pray. Im not talking figuratively. Lets designate a place in our houses or apartments or nearby parks, and regularly go to our Heavenly Father in prayer every day, on our knees. We have several plans to help you do just that if you would like some help in doing this. In addition, wed like to invite you to join our church family in a 40 day effort called A Time for Prayer. This includes a day of fasting every 8 days and uses Ecclesiastes to help us in our prayer focus.
Second, as we pray, lets specifically ask God to bring about a Holy Spirit led revival in our hearts, our families, our churches, and in our land. America is not Gods country the way that Israel is described in the Old Testament. But America, or any nation, can be a powerful tool for good if Gods people come alive with a holy passion for godly character, forgiveness, grace, mercy, virtue, and justice in our daily lives.
Third, lets practice what we preach in our own lives and worry less about trying to force others to adopt the virtues we preach, but often dont achieve. Our culture, our country, and our enemies need to see our integrity before they hear our voices. A life of character is much harder to dismiss than a sermon delivered by an eloquent demagogue.
Fourth, lets be good citizens. That means prayerfully voting. That means serving in volunteer organizations in our communities and not just in our churches. That means getting involved in social action to bless the disenfranchised, the forgotten, and the helpless. Lets encourage our children to be leaders in our culture in every arena, including politics, media, and entertainment. But as they venture into those areas, lets also hold them in our heart and keep them in our prayers and help them find support by others who share their faith and their vocation.
We have an incredible opportunity for good things, for God's things, that usually only rolls around once in a lifetime. By Gods grace, we could possibly see genuine, widespread, Spirit-led revival that can bless and redeem our land. Lets not let our holy hope be relegated to a hood ornament on the 21st Century! Lets keep our spiritual passion!
Author: Phil Ware
Publication Date: October 1, 2001
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