Thoughts on Praying for America

It’s a family tradition. Almost every Fourth of July, our family gathers together and I read Paul Harvey’s essay, Our Lives, Our Fortunes, Our Sacred Honor. It’s “the rest of the story” of the heroic, sacrificial lives of the fifty-six men who pledged their lives, their fortunes, and their sacred honor by affixing their signatures to the Declaration of Independence. For almost every one of those men, their pledge was prophetic. America’s tearing away from tyranny cost these signatories their fortunes, their reputations, and in some cases, their very lives.

Today in America it can often seem that the hopeful, blazing vision that burned so brightly in these patriots has been reduced to a few smoldering embers. It serems we’re drowning in a vast ocean of red ink. Little rogue despots flaunt their nuclear saber rattling, taunting and deriding us. And our culture seems hell-bent on change – away from biblical values into an abyss of secularism.

Yet today – at least for today – we remain free. While our nation may literally be living on borrowed time (we’ve borrowed everything else), we still have the privilege of proclaiming and propagating the Gospel of Jesus Christ. I, for one, intend to seize this day. At the same time I’m crying out to God for His intervention and heaven-sent revival for our nation.

Katherine Lee Bates’ magnificent words in “America the Beautiful” contain an often misunderstood phrase –

America, America, God shed His grace on thee.

When I sang those words as a boy I thought she was stating a fact, that God had indeed shed His grace on us as a nation. But if you look carefully at those words, you realize the writer is actually praying – petitioning God for His mercy on America. When the next phrase is added, its construct as a heart-felt prayer is clear:

America, America, God shed His grace on thee,
And crown thy good with brotherhood from sea to shining sea.

This is my prayer for America too. But Bates’ heavenward plea continues. How pertinent is her petition amidst the rabid corruption and greed wrecking havoc over our country:

America, America, God mend thine every flaw,
Confirm thy soul in self control, thy liberty in law.

America, America, may God thy gold refine,
Till all success be nobleness and every gain divine.

It’s a good thing to fire up the grill this Fourth of July. Take in a ball game. Watch the fireworks. Let’s enjoy our precious liberty that came at such a great price.

But let’s do more. Let’s pray for America. And let’s gather our families and pray for America. Another national hymn contains another powerful prayer:

Our fathers’ God, to Thee, Author of liberty,
To Thee we sing.
Long may our land be bright with freedom’s holy light;
Protect us by Thy might, great God, our King.

Article written by: David Shibley

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Shouldn’t We Reach America First?

Some actually pose this question to me aloud.  Many others I know are thinking it – “David, we’re not even evangelizing our own country.  We’re losing ground right here.  How can we possibly talk about evangelizing the world?”

It’s a good question – with a good answer.  Jesus Himself gives the answer: “You shall receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you; and you shall be witnesses to Me in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth” (Ac. 1:8).  These are concurrent assignments – one does not exclude the other.  In fact, we cannot be fully effective in evangelism here without a commitment to what God is doing globally.  At the same time, we cannot broad-jump to an unreached people group and carry no concern for our neighbors’ salvation.  We are to proclaim Christ where we live, beyond our own city, and because we are a covenant people, we’re also assigned to bless all the families of the earth (see Genesis 12:1-3; Gal. 3:13-14).

Jesus wants His disciples to thing and believe big.  He said, “Be My witnesses inJerusalem” – to your entire city!  Then He stretched the disciples’ vision even broader, commissioning them to reach the ends of the earth.  It’s as if the Lord were saying, “The very smallest terms in which I want you to think is taking whole cities.”

William Carey, the father of modern missions, caught this extravagant evangelistic spirit when he challenged the church, “Attempt great things for God; expect great things from God.”  Protectionism juxtaposed against globalization may be argued politically.  However, a protectionist mentality in spiritual matters is always unhealthy and counterproductive.  There are no merits to “spiritual protectionism;” it is always lethal.  The most patriotic thing I can do for my country is to love the world.  And the healthiest thing I can do for the American church is to point us beyond ourselves.

A great spiritual exercise would be to spend a day in prayer, fasting, and meditating on the phrase and not for us only.  If I were president of a Bible college or seminary, I would make it the school motto.  The gospel is not for us only.  The benefits the gospel brings are not for us only.  Jesus is not for us only! “He Himself is the sacrifice that atones for our sins – and not only for our sins but the sins of all the world” (1 Jn. 2:2, NLT).  As someone well said, “Jesus left us a Great Commission, not a limited contract with America.”

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The Aaron and Hur Society

In a speech in 1941 at Harrow School for Boys, Britain’s Prime Minister, Winston Churchill, exhorted the students, “Never give in – never, never, never!”

Such was the resolve of the great World War II leader. But across the world today there are thousands of battle-weary pastors – frontline shepherds – who are ready to throw in the towel. Assaults of the devil, sniping from critics, discouragement, and physical, emotional and spiritual depletion are the constant “thorns in the flesh” many pastors endure. These pressures plus the relentless economic challenges in developing nations have brought many of God’s servants to the end of their rope.

In Global Advance’s Frontline Shepherds Conferences over the last few years we’ve noted that between 10 and 20 percent of the pastors attending our training events arrive in a “crisis of calling.” Many have said in so many words, “If God doesn’t meet me at this Global Advance event, I’m leaving the ministry.”

In our recent outreaches in Africa over 100 pastors indicated they were going back to their churches with fresh fire and fresh resolve to stay in ministry and be more fruitful than ever – even though they had come to the conference planning to quit! Not only did they receive a vision in their hearts and tools in their hands – God met them and renewed their commitment to their call. Think of the exponential, positive impact of just one pastor’s ministry that is rescued!

In early America “Aaron and Hur Societies” sprung up across New England. These prayer bands resolved to pray fervently for pastors, lifting up their hands through prayer, just as Aaron and Hur strengthened Moses, causing God’s people to prevail (Ex. 17:10-13). It is no coincidence that soon after this concentrated prayer for pastors, God brought the Great Awakening.

Let’s form new Aaron and Hur Societies! Join with others to pray for your pastor. And through your prayers, lift up the weary hands of God’s servant-leaders on the frontlines of the Gospel’s advance around the world. Your prayers will make all the difference. God’s people and His purposes will prevail.

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Persecuted

Thoughts on Increased Hostility against Christians

With persecution of Christians growing worldwide it’s more important than ever that our persecuted brothers and sisters receive encouragement from believers in other nations. That’s why Global Advance continues to go onsite, often in volatile areas, to bring hope, help, and training to God’s servant-leaders on the frontlines of the Gospel’s advance.

In the last several weeks, we’ve witnessed severe attacks on Christians in Iraq, Egypt, Pakistan, Nigeria, and even in Britain. Recently there has been a widespread imprisonment targeting evangelical Christians in Iran (where the church is experiencing colossal growth). Persecution and even killing of Christians is spiking in many parts of the world. Paul Marshall of The Hudson Institute estimates that at least 600 million and maybe closer to 700 million Christians worldwide are experiencing some level of persecution. That means that roughly one in every three people who name the name of Christ is suffering for his or her devotion to Him. Yet interestingly this major story is glaringly underreported by most of America’s press and news outlets.

Many, but certainly not all, of these hostile acts against Christians are inflicted by radical Islamists. We should remember that hundreds of millions of Muslims are embarrassed and conflicted by these cowardly acts. However, there are millions of other Muslims, especially the young and disenfranchised, who are becoming radicalized.

Until recently, Christians in the United States have been insulated from assaults against them and their faith. That may be changing as America’s population becomes more diverse, as more misguided young zealots become radicalized, and as atheists become increasingly vocal and antagonistic.

Still, here in America it’s easy to turn and look the other way – away from the suffering of our persecuted brothers and sisters, but that’s really not an option for a true follower of Jesus. God’s Word is abundantly clear that we are to stand in solidarity with the church worldwide, especially those who are experiencing injustice. We are to plead their cause.“Deliver those who are drawn toward death, and hold back those stumbling to the slaughter” (Prov. 24:11).

Further, we cannot say that we were ignorant of their plight. “If you say, ‘Surely we did not know this,’ does not He who weighs the hearts consider it? He who keeps your soul, does He not know it? And will He not render to each man according to his deeds?” (Prov. 24:12).

The Bible teaches that persecution for devotion to Christ is to be expected. “Everyone who wants to live a godly life in Christ Jesus will be persecuted” (2 Tim. 3:2, NIV). Yet in most American pulpits this issue is never addressed. In a North African nation, responding righteously to persecution is taught as part of basic discipleship. It is assumed that as a believer in Jesus you will be persecuted. American Christians perceive persecution as an advanced course for super saints. However, in much of the world it’s just part of Discipleship 101.

We are to pray for and identify with our brothers and sisters who suffer. “Remember those who are in prison as if you were their fellow prisoners, and those who are mistreated as if you yourselves were suffering” (Heb. 13:3, NIV).

Paul taught that we are to lovingly but firmly stand our ground. We are to stand together,“contending as one man for the faith of the gospel without being frightened in any way by those who oppose you. This is a sign to them that they will be destroyed, but that you will be saved – and that by God” (Phil. 1:27-28, NIV).

By God’s grace and within the context of godly counsel Global Advance will keep going onsite in some of the most challenging parts of the world to bring encouragement to pastoral leaders and Christians in business who are being persecuted because of their commitment to Christ. I can’t tell you how many times pastors around the world have tearfully thanked us for coming to encourage them. As a persecuted Asian pastor recently told me, “You have made us know that we’re not forgotten and we’re not alone.”

Don’t be disheartened because the Gospel’s enemies have turned up the heat. Look at the present in the context both of history and biblical prophecy. From history we learn that the church is strengthened and grows when persecuted. As the early church father Tertullian observed, “The blood of the martyrs is the seed of the church.” From the prophetic promises of Scripture we’re assured that Jesus gets the final word. He will reign over all peoples and nations. He will subdue all things to Himself and He will make His enemies His footstool.

In his last letter, written from prison, Paul wrote triumphantly – even defiantly, “The word of God is not chained” (2 Tim. 2:9). The Gospel will prevail. Jesus shall reign.

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If You’ve Tried and Failed

Lessons from Roland Bingham by David Shibley

Roland Bingham was heard to say, “I will open Africa to the gospel or die trying.” He nearly died trying.

But amidst the pain of friends’ deaths and against seemingly insurmountable odds, he succeeded in establishing the Sudan Interior Mission (SIM) and bringing the Good News to the people of the Sudan.

As a young man he became friends with Walter Gowan. Walter had studied the special needs of the world and determined the people of the Sudan in central Africa were some of the world’s neediest. In 1893, while still in his early twenties, Roland sailed with a college friend, Thomas Kent, to join Walter on his journey to Sudan. Filled with excitement they were stopped short when they reached the shores of West Africa. “Young men, you will never see the Sudan,” the head of a mission agency there told them. You children will never see the Sudan, your grandchildren may.”

This dire warning seemed true when Bingham soon fell ill and had to stay in West Africa. His two companions attempted the 800 mile journey to the Sudan but within a year they both had died. Walter Gowan died soon after being released from being held by a hostile tribe. Thomas Kent died from the effects of malaria.

Grieving over the loss of his friends, Bingham returned to England heartbroken. He regained his strength, finished a medical course, pastored a church, and married Helen Blair. That year Roland Bingham also founded the Sudan Interior Mission. He launched a second attempt to reach the Sudan, only to be rebuffed again by missionaries in West Africa. Again he was struck down with malaria and had to return home. At this point, Bingham recalled, “I went through the darkest period of my life.” Still, he refused to give up.

Gathering four more recruits Bingham made a third attempt the next year. This time he succeeded. He established the first SIM mission station but converts were few. At the end of four years in Sudan, only one of his recruits remained. One had died and two others had to return home, too ill ever to return.

Through the difficulties Bingham learned to pray with power and the tide turned. Many came to faith in Christ and churches sprang up across the Sudan. The ministry of SIM International continues to be a powerful force for the Gospel to this day. When Bingham was 69 years old he looked back with amazement at how the Gospel had taken hold throughout the Sudan. Even though believers were often tortured or killed the church continued to grow. Bingham was completing a book relating the stories of his fifty years in Africa when he died of an apparent heart attack.

Today, many national pastors (frontline shepherds) in that region trace their spiritual roots to the ministry of Roland Bingham. His courage and tenacity continue to inspire us today. God had called him and he simply would not give up.

Learn more from the inspiring life of Roland Bingham and 22 other mission leaders in David Shibley’s new book, Great for God. This book is available through your local Christian bookstore and from several online retailers including www.amazon.com and www.christianbook.com.

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What I’m Learning from Developing World Leaders (Part 3)

Since 1990 Global Advance has brought desperately-needed training, resources, and encouragement to over 700,000 church and business leaders in 94 nations. I’ve been privileged to lead ministry teams to 62 of those nations. As I pour into the lives of these leaders on the frontlines of the gospel’s global advance, I’m also humbled by what I observe from their lives.

As Aaron and Hur lifted up the weary hands of Moses, it is such an honor to “lift up the hands” of these courageous hidden heroes of the Body of Christ. Here are four final observations from their lives that have profoundly impacted me.

Frontline leaders model tenacity.  Their ruthless pursuit of God and their willingness to fight for the vision challenge me.  These hidden heroes just keep pressing on until their faith is made sight.

Frontline leaders expect signs and wonders For them, Jesus Christ really is “the same yesterday, today and forever” (Hebrews 11:8).  They fully expect Him to show up in power and glory when they gather in His name.  They know the anointing of the Holy Spirit makes all the difference.

Frontline leaders exhibit a willingness to suffer for Christ and the gospel.  Martyrdom isn’t an ivory tower topic; it’s an ever-present potential.  They have heeded Paul’s admonition to endure hardship as good soldiers of Jesus Christ (2 Timothy 2:3).

Frontline leaders teach me a lot about lordship.  Leaders in many developing nations endured a history of colonialism.  They know what it means to live as a subject under a sovereign ruler.  If we’re not spiritually alert, our history of independence can impede our understanding of what it means to live under the absolute lordship of Christ.

Don’t get me wrong, I’m grateful to God for our freedom and independence.  Still, Paul had no problem calling himself a willing slave of Jesus Christ.  Nor do these hidden heroes, and neither should we.

The global church has much to learn from these servant-leaders in underserved nations.  My life has been forever changed by theirs.

 Learn more about the work of Global Advance by navigating to GlobalAdvance.org

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What I’m Learning from Developing World Leaders (Part 2)

For a quarter century Global Advance has gone to many of the underserved nations of the world, strengthening the hands of pastoral leaders and business leaders, equipping them to be catalysts for fulfilling the Great Commission. Beginning yesterday I shared some important lessons I’ve learned from them. Here are four more observations of what these hidden heroes have to teach us, the church in the Western World.

Frontline leaders exhibit great courage.  I’ve met men and women in developing nations whose stories of valor read like an addendum to Hebrews 11.  Most of their stories will only be told fully in heaven, and heaven is keeping a precise record of each of their courageous acts to advance the gospel.

Frontline leaders exercise great faithOur brothers and sisters in destitute nations have learned to live with undiluted faith in God’s promises.  Faith is one of the greatest criterions for spiritual leadership and church leaders in underserved nations have it in abundance.

Frontline leaders show humilityThe severity of their circumstances contributes to their brokenness and contriteness before the Lord.  They know, as Andrew Murray wrote, that humility is “the mother virtue and the perpetual safeguard of the soul.”

Frontline leaders are teachableThey are profoundly grateful for any training and resources they receive.  You never encounter an “I deserve this” attitude.  These servant-leaders are hungry to learn and they ingest the few resources they have.

 Learn more about the work of Global Advance by navigating to GlobalAdvance.org

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What I’m Learning from Developing World Leaders

Since 1990 I’ve helped equip church leaders throughout Latin America, Africa and Asia.  Tucked away in needy nations I’ve discovered some of the greatest servants of Jesus Christ to be found anywhere.

Their names are not familiar to most of us.  They don’t have high-profile, strongly-financed ministries.  These hidden heroes often live in countries ravaged by relentless poverty.  Most of them are poorly trained and poorly resourced.  Yet their dignity in Christ, their grace under trial and their perseverance in struggles place them among the church’s most outstanding servant-leaders.

I go to equip and encourage them, but I come away having received so much from them.  This was the same dynamic Paul expected as he anticipated ministering to the church at Rome.  He wrote, “I long to see you so that I may impart to you some spiritual gift to make you strong – that is, that you and I may be mutually encouraged by each other’s faith” (Romans 1:11-12, NIV).  By God’s grace, along with our Global Advance teams, we leave training, tools, encouragement, and a fresh touch of God’s Spirit.  But I am also greatly enriched by the lives of these frontline leaders.  They are so much like the early Christians who “went out for the sake of His name, taking nothing from unbelievers” (3 John 7).

In the next few posts I’ll share some crucial lessons I’m learning from God’s servant-leaders on the frontlines of the church’s global advance.

Frontline leaders remind me that evangelism should permeate all aspects of ministry.  One African pastor lamented to me, “I fear we’re becoming too Westernized; we’re losing our evangelistic edge.”  Developing nation pastors view any ministry that does not result in people coming to Christ as superfluous.  They are committed to the Great Commission.  Like the first Christian believers, “they went out.”

Frontline leaders model obedience.  They implicitly obey the Lord and quickly put into practice what they learn at our conferences.  Christian leaders in developing nations know that obedience to God’s Word and the Spirit’s directives is imperative for fruitfulness in life and ministry.

Frontline leaders show a great love for God.  They go with the gospel “for the sake of His name.”  These hidden heroes recalibrate us to a pure love for Jesus and a passion for His global glory.  Out of that love springs the motivation to serve Him and others joyfully.

Frontline shepherds teach me simplicity.  Like early Christians, they take nothing from unbelievers.  They rely on the support of fellow Jesus-followers for their sustenance and funding for ministry.  Although they have minimal finances, they are grateful, resourceful and fruitful.  They do so much with so little.

Tomorrow I’ll share more lessons from these frontline leaders.

 Learn more about the work of Global Advance by navigating to GlobalAdvance.org

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Unfailing Faithfulness

For the last several years, each spring Naomi and I head south from Dallas and drive the magnificent Bluebonnet Trail. The burst of color from this flower (a flower indigenous to this region) is truly relaxing and uplifting to the spirit.

The Originator of all art and beauty splashes His handiwork across the fields perennially, reminding us of His unfailing faithfulness. The world so often seems to be in a perpetual state of frenetic change. But there are some things we can always count on. Always. It goes back to the ironclad covenant God made with Noah and his descendents: “While the earth remains, seedtime and harvest, cold and heat, summer and winter, day and night, shall not cease” (Genesis 8:22).

As long as there is a Planet Earth there will always be seasons – “summer and winter.” You can know beyond doubt that each revolution of the earth will include “day and night.” You can rest assured there will always be “cold and heat.”  And here’s a promise you can literally go to the bank on – even in adverse conditions, seeds sown will culminate in harvest.

That’s not just talking about money – it’s just the way God “does life.” “Seedtime and harvest.” Yes, there is great power in seeds. But there is LIFEGIVING power in implanted seeds. This is God’s design; this is God’s decree. As the great preacher Charles Spurgeon noted, “Seedtime and harvest are tied together in a sure knot.”

Plant some good seeds today, remembering that more seeds sown will equal more harvest reaped. They WILL bear fruit because there is still a place called Earth. “While the earth remains, seedtime and harvest . . . shall not cease.” The God of all truth has promised it. And He is unfailingly faithful.

“Summer and winter, and springtime and harvest,
Sun, moon and stars in their courses above
Join with all nature in manifold witness
To Thy great faithfulness, mercy and love.”
Thomas Obediah Chisholm

 

 Learn more about the work of Global Advance by navigating to GlobalAdvance.org

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Two Dangerous Prayers

God is more than willing to give us a fresh baptism of compassion. He wants to perform “eye surgery” on us so that we can bring things back into proper focus. Are you willing for such a surgery?

If you’re willing, I challenge you to pray two prayers. First, Ask the Holy Spirit to pour out God’s love into your heart. “The love of God has been poured out in our hearts by the Holy Spirit who was given to us” (Romans 5:5).

Love is the most potent “weapon” in the Christian’s arsenal. You can counter words with words. You can counter rhetoric with rhetoric. You can counter bombs with bombs. But aggressive love – how do you counter that?

Second, ask God for the gift of tears. “Those who sow in tears will reap with songs of joy. He who goes out weeping, carrying seed to sow will return with songs of joy, carrying sheaves with him” (Psalm 126:5-6, NIV). I am not suggesting that we become emotional basket cases. But perhaps the truly emotionally imbalanced are not the sensitive but the insensitive.

God has given us precious seed, the seed of the gospel. May He grace us to water that seed with tears.  Daily I pray that I will not go through this momentous time in history in some kind of spiritual stupor, drugged by entertainment or indifference and thus unresponsive to humanity’s agonies. “Jesus wept” (John 11:35).
– From WHAT CHRISTIANS SHOULD KNOW ABOUT THE END-TIME HARVEST by David Shibley

 

Learn more about the work of Global Advance by navigating to GlobalAdvance.org

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