A Prayer for My Country

As I pray, Lord, for my country
Drifting farther away from You;
Wake us from our moral slumber;
Show us what we each can do
Help us learn from every error;
Lead us to correct our flaws;
Guide our leaders to the Bible
As the basis for our laws.

Bless us as we face elections;
Teach us who will trust in You;
Bless each voter, granting wisdom,
Granting courage to stand true.
Keep our soldiers safe in danger,
Civil servants everywhere,
All who in crisis are responding,
Bless them in your loving care.

Help us, Lord, to represent You;
Bless the witness of our lives.
In our work and in our leisure,
Fathers, children, husbands, wives.
May our walk reflect commitment
To behave as You desire.
For America’s recovery
Fill us with your holy fire.

I Would Be True

I would be true, for there are
those who trust me;

I would be pure, for there
are those who care;

I would be strong, for there
is much to suffer;

I would be brave, for there
is much to dare.

The well–known hymn quoted above was written by Howard Arnold Walter, a Harvard–educated American who ministered not only in his native land but also in Japan and India. Although it was written more than a century ago, it contains a timeless message for those who have dedicated their lives to the service of Jesus Christ. It sets out four characteristics that mark the life and character of true Christians.

I would be true. To be true means being genuine, as opposed to being false or counterfeit. It means conforming to a standard, in the way a musician must stay on pitch, or the way a bricklayer must conform to a plumb line so that the wall he is constructing will be straight.

There are many reasons for being true—true to one’s self and to God.

I should be true because it is expected of me as a Christian. I should be true because truth in my life refl ects the character of God. I should be true because I feel better about myself when I am genuine and loyal and straight than when I am false and disloyal and crooked.

The Prophet Amos reminds us that God sets a plumb line among His people, a standard against which we are measured.

Howard Walter said, “I would be true, for there are those who trust me.” That’s not the only reason, nor even the most important reason, for living a life that’s true. But it is a valid reason.

I would be true because, as a Salvationist, I belong to an organization to which the community–at–large entrusts fi nancial resources large and small. Because Joan Kroc trusted The Salvation Army, she bequeathed to us more than a billion dollars to be used for the construction of community centers across the country.

It’s because people trust individual Salvationists that the manager of a hotel in Costa Rica would give me $500 in cash to deliver to the Army’s Blind School in Jamaica.

We’re not only trusted with money, we’re trusted with people. Many years ago a Chicago judge gave a young man the choice of going to prison or to a Salvation Army Adult Rehabilitation Center. He chose the latter, and as a result he found new life in Christ, became a Salvation Army offi cer and spent a lifetime leading others to salvation.

I would be pure. In addition to expressing a desire to be true, Howard Walter wrote, “I would be pure, for there are those who care.” Again, there are many more reasons, and undoubtedly better reasons, to be pure in heart and mind and word and action than the fact that somebody else cares.

We should be pure because God commands it: “Be ye holy, for I am holy.” We serve as role models for our children and our peers and our fellow Christians. Just because others follow our example, we should be pure. We should live lives that are pleasing to God just because it’s the right thing to do.

But the fact that others care is a compelling reason for purity of life. I have a loving wife and three Christian children plus two daughters–in–law and a son–in law, to say nothing of grandchildren and great–grandchildren. How could I possibly betray them by living a secret life of impurity? And there are scores of neighbors and friends and fellow Christians who would be extremely embarrassed and hurt and spiritually wounded if I were to be exposed as living a life of deceit.

I would be strong. The third desire expressed by Howard Walter is, “I would be strong, for there is much to suffer.” Every Christian, and perhaps more especially every Salvationist is called upon to suffer. Certainly our uniforms are not the targets for eggs and rotten fruit, as was the case in the early days of the Army. But there are sufferings which come to us when family and friends fail to understand our motives, when they believe, unfairly, that we have put self–interest above the interests of the Kingdom.

In such cases we must be strong—strong in the faith and in the grace and knowledge of Him who suffered for us, remembering that the servant is not greater than his Lord.

I would be brave. Finally, “I would be brave, for there is much to dare.” The 21st century is no day in which timid, passive, safe discipleship is satisfactory. There is much to dare for the Kingdom that calls for dedication and bravery, for innovation and risk–taking.

Every Christian has a responsibility to bravely face the foe. We are the people of God. We are the salt in a world of wickedness and spiritual, as well as moral, decay and rebellion. We dare not waver in our commitment to God nor to the people who look to us as an example of Christian living.

We need to be forward looking, but we need to be fi rmly anchored to the Rock, Christ Jesus. We need to accommodate change, but we need also to avoid any diminution of devotion, dedication or desire to serve Christ supremely and bravely.

True. Pure. Strong. Brave. Those are the standards for today.

Our Prince of Peace

Many of our brothers and sisters live, work and worship under the constant threat of governments who would rather see the light of Christ snuffed out than to hear His message of life and love. In a land where we are at least tolerated for our beliefs, it can be difficult for us to imagine how believers in the enclaves of the early Church risked death every time they engaged in prayer, every time of sacred worship, every time of fellowship. But in today’s world we are surrounded by a culture enticed by violence and death. Gang violence, random shootings and wars in our streets place a thick veil over our eyes and blind us to a peace that surpasses all understanding.

The Greek word for faith, pistis, is the same word used to describe loyalty to Caesar, the emperor of Rome. Complete trust, unquestioned loyalty, confident allegiance, this is faith. Caesar was called the Lord of lords, the King above all kings, Most High, God Incarnate, even Prince of Peace. That is why Roman authority was threatened by a rag–tag group of troublemakers proclaiming that the Jewish son of a carpenter was God above all, Lord of lords and Prince of Peace. Caesar had a challenger to his throne.

In fact, early Christians were often labeled by authorities as “the faithless” for their rejection of the empire’s authority, their lack of pistis. The “peace” of Caesar’s blade was being threatened by the true peace of Jesus’ sacrifice. Caesar, charged with keeping the peace, engaged this issue as he best knew how: he killed its adherents.

Looking back on the stories of the martyrs, we quickly sympathize with them and their struggles against an ungodly empire. However, the question arises, who would ever surrender so willingly to such death? Why didn’t they fight back? God would understand killing in self–defense, right? But this leads us to ask, “Would Jesus kill, even in self–defense?”

As difficult as it may be to accept, our Gospel says no. No He would not. Jesus says there’s a higher way, a better way. It’s a way of peace that surpasses the understanding of this world. Jesus sets the example of holiness and peace in many of His statements, including these recorded in Matthew’s gospel account.

Eberhard Arnold put it this way: “In the name of Jesus Christ we can die, but not kill. This is where the Gospel leads us. If we really want to follow Christ, we must live as He lived and died.”

You see, our perfect example, our Christ, stayed the course of peace all the way through mockery, beatings and ultimately death on a humiliating cross. But in and through this death, we find the ultimate victory in Christ. Though the world killed this Man who threatened the peace of an empire, praise our God that His only begotten Son was risen from hell and the grave! He shattered the law of sin and death by defeating both.

If the world kills us, what victory is in their hands? What battlefield can they claim? None, I tell you! For you will be rallied by the blast of the trumpet behind our glorious Savior as He leads the battle charge back into the world at the end of this age! We have a champion, a warrior and protector whose art of war is not that of missiles, tanks, guns and death, but of love. In love is the victory of Christ! Our Savior, our Prince of Peace, our Jesus, throws a wrench into the machine of war, and out of the twisted shrapnel rises a new creation, a new world, cleansed by His precious blood. The old world will pass, Eden will be renewed and we shall dwell forever in peace with our Prince of Peace, our Christ Jesus. Amen.

____________________________________________
By Cadet Jeremiah Eisley

Light the Way

Shipping fragile objects means using bubble wrap comprised of those little plastic bubbles that some people compulsively squeeze to hear the snapping sound. While bubble wrap was first used for this purpose by IBM when it shipped its computers, its original function was something quite different: to be three dimensional wall paper. It is hard to match the original intention with what resulted.

A similar drift occurred in the nation of Israel. Originally, Israel was intended to bring light to a darkened world by the purity of its own living and the proclamation of God’s truth. Such a purpose can be found in Solomon’s prayer at the dedication of the first Temple. “As for the foreigner who does not belong to your people Israel but has come from a distant land because of your name—for they will hear of your great name and your mighty hand and your outstretched arm—when they come and pray toward this temple, then hear from heaven, your dwelling place. Do whatever the foreigner asks of you, so that all the peoples of the earth may know your name and fear you” (1 Kings 8:41-43). And later as Jesus was addressing a Jewish crowd, He said, “You are the light of the world. A town built on a hill cannot be hidden” (Matthew 5:14).

Psalm 67 represents a moment when the nation of Israel owned its mission. Beginning with a high note of praise, the psalmist immediately recognized that Israel’s blessing could never be restricted to a single people or nation. “May God be gracious to us and bless us and make His face shine on us—so that your ways may be known on earth, your salvation among all nations. May the peoples praise you, God; may all the peoples praise you” (vs. 1-3). Imagine the moment when the psalmist stepped out on a spectacular morning, the sun gloriously shining on a blossoming landscape. With a heart brimming with joy, the psalmist sings his praise to the only One who could have created such a world. The sun reminded him of the near presence of God Himself, warming him while lighting the way. In that setting is the reminder that we are lit up by the Lord to light the way for the world to find Him.

Inuit and Daribi Too
Our English language fails to convey the exact concept of the psalm. When “peoples” are mentioned, the word is variously translated in the Bible as nations, peoples or inhabitants, but it more accurately means people groups. This reach is multi-ethnic, seeking all the people groups of the world to know Christ, whether the Inuit of Alaska, the Machala of India, Paiaku of Brazil or the Daribi of Papua New Guinea. The psalmist calls on all the redeemed people in the world’s people groups to sing anthems glorifying our common Creator. Salvation was never meant to be monopolized by any one people, but freely poured out upon all.

The psalm continues, “May the nations be glad and sing for joy, for you rule the peoples with equity and guide the nations of the earth. May the peoples praise you, God; may all the peoples praise you” (Psalm 67:4,5). One of the reasons the people can praise God is because He rules fairly. This conjures up a courtroom scene, not that unusual a depiction in the Old Testament. As modern believers, we tend to see ourselves standing as the accused, hoping for acquittal for our crimes. But the Jews of Old Testament time saw this more as a civil court where they had a rightful claim that they wished to have enforced. The peoples of the world, children of God, have a rightful claim on the Kingdom of God. This is a privilege the Great Judge of the Earth will uphold and protect. Injustice is plowed aside as the Kingdom of God advances across the world.

Another reason for praising the Lord is that He doesn’t lead the world’s peoples like a prisoner in a chain gang, but as a shepherd who tenderly leads his flock. The Psalmist speaks of protection and benefit, not servile labor. Jesus spoke of His gentle leading even while employing the believer’s efforts: “Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light” (Matthew 11:29, 30).

Agriculture was the main industry when the psalmist penned his words. What happened with the harvest not only was make–or–break for individual families but for nations as a whole. So the psalmist wrote, “The land yields its harvest; God, our God, blesses us. May God bless us still, so that all the ends of the earth will fear Him” (vs. 6-7). To eat well was to be well. And to be well meant to be able to meet victoriously the challenges that came.

Think of a sick room where many lay weakened and dying from disease. Who is to help them? Not another sick person, but the ones in the best health. The well nourished and healthy are in a position to make a difference. It is the same spiritually. If you would make a difference in the world where you live, make sure you are well nourished spiritually. If you are not what you should be, you are scarcely in a position to either criticize or instruct another.

The psalmist sought God’s blessing so that all the earth would fear, or reverence, the Lord. Our desire cannot be for only those within the geographical bounds of our nation or among the people of our own race. We must have a panoramic view that takes in all the world that God dearly loves, that does not count the souls among the impoverished and marginalized one whit less than the most powerful government leaders or the ones who fill our TV screens. It is His world and He has chosen to love it. And He has invites us to enter into the harvest, to light the way home.