Prayer for Ukraine

Prayer inspired by Psalms 82-83

Oh Father, do not be silent, do not be still. Enemies are astir, raising their wicked hands against the people of Ukraine. With cunning, they conspire against the people you cherish. They say, let us destroy them as a free nation.

Defend the cause of the weak. Maintain the rights of the people. Deliver them from the hands of the wicked.

May the enemy be tossed like tumbleweed, like chaff before the wind. As fire consumes a forest, pursue the wicked with your tempest and terrify them with your storm.

Father, let Putin know that you alone are the Most High over all the earth.

Amen

Calling Out False Teaching

David Jeremiah’s book, Where Do We Go From Here, promises to reveal what the Word of God says about the times in which we live. The first chapter (A Cultural Philosophy – Socialism) aims to explain the dangers of socialism and how socialism differs from the way Jesus wants us to live.

The selected scripture for this chapter is a quote from Jesus about the times of Noah. The Bible tells us that in the days of Noah, people were so wicked and the human heart was so inclined towards evil that God wiped out most of the human race with a great flood.

As it was in the days of Noah, so it will be at the coming of the Son of Man.

Matthew 24:37 (NIV)

Jeremiah also shared the first verse of 2 Timothy 3 about the terrible times of the end days. Apparently, in Jeremiah’s mind, difficult times can only mean one thing – socialism. He says, “socialism creates great stress and trouble, difficult days that are hard to bear.” In verses 2-5, Paul describes the way people will be in these terrible times – self-loving, greedy, proud, disobedient, hedonistic, etc.

It’s illogical to conclude that Jesus or Paul were speaking about socialism.

1But mark this: There will be terrible times in the last days. People will be lovers of themselves, lovers of money, boastful, proud, abusive, disobedient to their parents, ungrateful, unholy, without love, unforgiving, slanderous, without self-control, brutal, not lovers of the good, treacherous, rash, conceited, lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God— having a form of godliness but denying its power. Have nothing to do with such people.

2 Timothy 3:1-5 (NIV)

I am not an advocate of socialism; I am merely a defender of fairness and truth. I take issue with the truthfulness and fairness of Jeremiah’s teaching because his comments about socialism are not supported by scripture, he presents only one side of a complex economic issue, and makes unsupported, disparaging claims about people who want government to play a more active role in society.

Jeremiah does not directly define socialism but in discussing wealth redistribution, he says, “[t]his ideology teaches that all human assets should be claimed by the government and redistributed to the masses by a more equitable formula.”

Socialism is defined as an economic and political philosophy that advocates for collective or government ownership of the means of production and distribution of goods (not all human assets). This contrasts with capitalism, in which trade and industry are owned privately for profit.

The U. S. system of capitalism mixed with government ownership of some assets is all I have ever known. The government owns roads and bridges, some utilities, the US Postal Service, law enforcement agecies and the national defense industry. To the consternation of conservatives, the government provides a safety net for the poor and disabled. Under the Obama administration, the government made health insurance more affordable for people like me who are not covered by employer plans.

Jeremiah claims that socialism demands a “one-world system.” I had never heard this claim. Is Jeremiah peddling conspiracy theories? Well perhaps. He does sell a video, The Coming of the Economic Armageddon/The New World Order.

After discussing socialism, Jeremiah said that America has made a “seismic shift toward a Marxist agenda.” He then listed the reasons Marxism is bad.

1. Marxism is totatalitarian. Since Jeremiah didn’t define the word totalitarian, I will. A totalitarian government does not tolerate different opinions or opposing political parties. It exercises dictatorial control over many aspects of life. It can also be described as authoritarian. Hmm. Where have I seen authoritarian tendencies and attempts to suppress opposition?

2. Marxism causes division by setting up classes of people based on race and gender. “Whenever a socialist or Marxist can’t figure out how to respond to an issue, they call it racist.” Examples, please. If David Jeremiah is opposed to people who cause division, then why did he serve on the evangelical advisory board of an authoritarian who caused division by demeaning half the country?

3. Marxism is deadly.  Yes, but the same can be said of other totalitarian systems.

The evidence of America’s supposed turn towards Marxism are:

1. Destruction of monuments. In taking down monuments, Jeremiah says that people are trying to erase the past. No, people are saying America should not honor people who fought for the right to own black people. And isn’t trying to prevent schools from teaching about institutional racism an attempt to erase the past?

2. Cancel culture. Jeremiah says that there is no room for dissenting opinions today. The left isn’t alone in silencing dissenting voices. Look what happened to Liz Cheney and Adam Kinzinger for investigating and speaking out against an attempt to overturn a democratic election. Look at all the books that are being banned because someone finds them offensive.

3. Dismantling of the nuclear family. “Socialists know that as long as the family remains strong, socialism cannot flourish. So there is an ongoing attempt to subjugate the home to the government.” This is an astonishing claim with no proof.

4. Redistribution of wealth. Jeremiah says that when the government redistributes wealth, the poor get poorer and “the few elitists who have been assigned to redistribute the wealth have themselves become filthy rich.” Who are these elitists in charge of wealth redistribution? Graduated tax rates are the method used to redistribute wealth in the U.S. Is Jeremiah saying that IRS officials become filthy rich enforcing the tax codes?

There has always been wealth inequality but the gap between rich and poor is growing. The Pew Research Center reports that “[t]he wealth divide among upper-income families and middle- and lower-income families is sharp and rising.”

As a result, the wealth gap between America’s richest and poorer families more than doubled from 1989 to 2016. In 1989, the richest 5% of families had 114 times as much wealth as families in the second quintile, $2.3 million compared with $20,300. By 2016, this ratio had increased to 248, a much sharper rise than the widening gap in income.

Pew Research Center

5. Defunding the police. Jeremiah says that cutting police budgets will result in “gangs ruling the streets…while progressive politicians go to and from work in their limousines.” It’s rich (pun intended) for a millionaire like Jeremiah to attempt to stir up class resentment against democrats. No one wants gangs to rule the streets but the truth is police are increasingly being called to respond in situations that may be better served by mental health professionals.

Where do we go from here?

Jeremiah concluded the chapter on the dangers of socialism by advising readers to review what the Bible says but he was selective in the verses he shared. He then quoted Dr. Albert Mohler (President of the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary) who listed several valid biblical principles and claimed that socialism contradicts and subverts these principles. In using these scriptures, he implied that socialists do not respect the dignity of work and refuse to work. He implied that socialists are guilty of theft and covetousness. Even in a socialist system, people have to work!

Jeremiah made no mention of the economic principles of Jesus – about how the love of money is the root of evil, about how difficult it is for a rich person to enter the kingdom of God, how Christ’s followers should take care of the least among us. No mention was made of Jesus’s challenge to the rich man to sell everything he owned and to give it to the poor.

Since the Obama administration, I have learned that the right loves to use the threat of socialism as a fear tactic. If you disagree with the government providing affordable health insurance, then you call Obama a socialist. If you disagree with the idea of government providing free community college education, then you call its proponents socialists.

Of racism, Jeremiah said, “[i]f everything is racist, nothing is racist ” Well then, if everyone is a socialist, then no one is a socialist. And whenever a Republican can’t figure out how to respond to an issue, they call it socialism.

I had second thoughts about calling out David Jeremiah as a false teacher. It seems audacious. I completed his Bible study on the book of Acts and it was not the least bit political. But in this study, David Jeremiah uses political propaganda and selective scripture to mislead his audience.

Jeremiah’s second piece of advice is to refuse to live by lies. He says that so much of what we hear today “has no connection to common sense” and it’s easier to ignore the lies. As he rightly says, ignoring lies allows falsehoods to continue and even thrive.

Bible Study Dropout

This week I decided to drop out of my Bible study group, at least for the next few months. I came to this decision after reading one page of the guide for the group’s upcoming 10-week study of Dr. David Jeremiah’s book, Where Do We Go From Here? The woman who recommended this book to our small group warned us that it was political. Even so, I was surprised to find the first page of the introduction laced with Republican buzz words.

“A future pandemic could lead to emerging globalism.”

“The world is full of people who are ready to…cancel anyone who disagrees with them.” This leads “to eroding religious liberty at home.”

“Many professed Christians are abandoning their faith, creating a vacuum for the rising tide of Marxism.”

I have always been independent politically and otherwise. I have no allegiance to a political party. In these troubling times, politics is especially divisive. Meeting with a group of women who are likely to embrace Dr. Jeremiah’s biased teaching will upset me too much.

Globalism. Religious liberty. Marxism. Socialism. Cancel culture. Critical race theory. I believe these words are used to instill fear in the minds of the Republican base. Sadly, this tactic works too often with believers.

I bought the study guide so I am going to read and study it critically. How well does Dr. Jeremiah support his assertions with facts? Does he have a political agenda?

Beauty school dropout. Go back to high school.

Bible study dropout. Go back to the word.

Lord, I pray for wisdom and discernment as I read the study guide to Where Do We Go From Here? Show me your ways, teach me your paths. Give me the courage to share your truth.

Watch out for false prophets. They come to you in sheep’s clothing, but inwardly they are ferocious wolves.

Matthew 7:15

Photo by Kelly Sikkema on Unsplash

Wisdom walk through Proverbs

Today is the last day of preparation for the 50-state prayer project, If We Will – Then He Will. In December, participants read through the book of Proverbs in search of wisdom. Today, the first day of the New Year, we seek God’s guidance for the next 50 days of prayer.

Lord, if I’m going to be a prayer warrior, make me a wise prayer warrior. I seek your wisdom and guidance as I pray for my country.

Knowledge and wisdom

Father, you are the source of wisdom and understanding. Write your word on my heart. I want to hear your voice. I want to follow you. Teach me your ways. Show me your paths.

I confess that I get distressed about the state of this world and I worry about the future. Help me to not be anxious about anything but to put my trust in you. No matter what happens in the coming days and years, I take refuge in you. May your will be done here on earth as it is in heaven.

The fear of the Lord is the beginning of knowledge,
    but fools despise wisdom and instruction. (1:7)

For the Lord gives wisdom;
    from his mouth come knowledge and understanding. (2:6)

Trust in the Lord with all your heart
    and lean not on your own understanding;
in all your ways submit to him,
    and he will make your paths straight (3:5-6)

Many are the plans in a person’s heart,
    but it is the Lord’s purpose that prevails. (19:21)

Every word of God is flawless;
    he is a shield to those who take refuge in him. (30:5)

Fearing the Lord and hating evil

Lord, I hate arrogance, corruption, deception, meanness and greed. Lead me away from the snares of the wicked and deliver me from evil.

Do not set foot on the path of the wicked
    or walk in the way of evildoers. (4:14)

To fear the Lord is to hate evil;
    I hate pride and arrogance,
    evil behavior and perverse speech. (8:13)

The wise fear the Lord and shun evil,
    but a fool is hotheaded and yet feels secure. (14:16)

In the paths of the wicked are snares and pitfalls,
    but those who would preserve their life stay far from them. (22:5)

Envy of the wicked

Father, sometimes I fret when people seem to get away with evil. I know that they will not escape your justice. They have no hope. When I am tempted to envy them, remind me that my treasure is in heaven.

Do not let your heart envy sinners,
    but always be zealous for the fear of the Lord. (23:17)

Do not envy the wicked,
    do not desire their company;
for their hearts plot violence,
    and their lips talk about making trouble. (24:1-2)

Do not fret because of evildoers
    or be envious of the wicked,
for the evildoer has no future hope,
    and the lamp of the wicked will be snuffed out. (24:19-20)

Evildoers do not understand what is right,
    but those who seek the Lord understand it fully. (28:5)

Testing the heart

Lord, test my heart and show me the offensive ways you find in me. Father, I am your child and I submit myself to your discipline. Help me to be honest about my own sins and to have pure motives, to focus on the log in my own eye and not on the speck in my brother’s eye.

Whoever loves discipline loves knowledge,
    but whoever hates correction is stupid. (12:1)

All a person’s ways seem pure to them,
    but motives are weighed by the Lord. (16:2)

A rebuke impresses a discerning person
    more than a hundred lashes a fool. (17:10)

The crucible for silver and the furnace for gold,
    but the Lord tests the heart. (17:3)

Lying lips and foolish tongues

Lord, help me to be trustworthy and to testify to your truth. The tongue is small but it can do so much damage, as I know too well. Help me to watch my tongue. May the words of my mouth be pleasing to you.

The Lord detests lying lips,
    but he delights in people who are trustworthy. (12:22)

Sin is not ended by multiplying words,
    but the prudent hold their tongues. (10:19)

A fool’s mouth lashes out with pride,
    but the lips of the wise protect them. (14:3)

Humility

Lord, I fall so short of your glory. Too often, I fail to be the loving person you want me to be. There is so much that I do not know. Help me to be humble.

When pride comes, then comes disgrace,
    but with humility comes wisdom. (11:2)

Pride goes before destruction, a haughty spirit before a fall. (16:18)

Humility is the fear of the Lord; its wages are riches and honor and life. (22:4)

Justice and mercy

Lord, I know what it is to be poor and I am thankful for those who had mercy on me. Whatever I do for the poor, I do for you, our Maker. Help me to act justly and to love mercy.

Whoever is kind to the poor lends to the Lord,
    and he will reward them for what they have done. (19:17)

Whoever shuts their ears to the cry of the poor
    will also cry out and not be answered. (21:13)

The righteous care about justice for the poor,
    but the wicked have no such concern. (29:7)

Watch your temper

Father, forgive me for the times I have lost my temper. I know there is danger in anger. Help me to be calm, forgiving, and patient with others. Where there is discord, may I sow peace

Do not make friends with a hot-tempered person,
    do not associate with one easily angered,
or you may learn their ways
    and get yourself ensnared. (22:24-24)

Fools give full vent to their rage,
    but the wise bring calm in the end. (29:11)

An angry person stirs up conflict,
    and a hot-tempered person commits many sins. (29:22)

Lord Jesus, my heart belongs to you. Guard my heart and help me to love others as you love me. As water reflects the face, may my life reflect your heart. May I reflect your love in all I say and do.

Above all else, guard your heart,
    for everything you do flows from it. (4:23)

As water reflects the face,
    so one’s life reflects the heart. (27:19)

The 50 State Prayer Project

Like millions of other Americans, I have been praying for my country as its citizens become more and more divided. This month, a member of my small group told the rest of us about a call for intercessory prayer. She handed out several copies of the accompanying booklet, If We Will…Then He Will: A 50 State Prayer Project. The project began on the first of December with a 31-day preparation period including daily readings from the book of Proverbs. January 1, 2022 will be a day of prayer and fasting, followed by 50 days of prayer and readings from the book of Psalms.

The inspiration for the project is II Chronicles 7:14. After Solomon dedicated the temple, God appeared to him and made a conditional promise.

[I]f 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.

II Chronicles 7:14 (NIV)

The people behind the 50-state prayer project have taken God’s promise to Solomon as God’s promise to Christians. God’s plans for the people of the United States may be quite different than God’s plans for the people of Israel. Nevertheless, God promised to hear His people and followers of Christ are His people.

God’s promise to Solomon lists the conditions required to fulfill this promise: humility, prayer, seeking the Lord, repentance. As we prepare our hearts to pray for our country, we must humble ourselves, seek Him, search our own hearts and repent from the sins that separate us from Him.

In addition to II Chronicles 7:14, several days of preparation were spent reflecting on Ephesians 6:10-17:

10 Finally, be strong in the Lord and in his mighty power. 11 Put on the full armor of God, so that you can take your stand against the devil’s schemes. 12 For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms. 13 Therefore put on the full armor of God, so that when the day of evil comes, you may be able to stand your ground, and after you have done everything, to stand. 14 Stand firm then, with the belt of truth buckled around your waist, with the breastplate of righteousness in place, 15 and with your feet fitted with the readiness that comes from the gospel of peace. 16 In addition to all this, take up the shield of faith, with which you can extinguish all the flaming arrows of the evil one. 17 Take the helmet of salvation and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God.

As Christians come to the Lord to pray for the souls of America, we should prepare for a spiritual battle with the full armor of God: the belt of truth, the breastplate of righteousness, shoes fitted with the gospel of peace, the shield of faith, and the helmet of salvation.

When I think about the struggles of our country, it is easy to focus my ire on people who stir up trouble, people who spread lies, people who defame others. But Paul reminds me that the real battle isn’t against flesh and blood; it is against the spiritual forces of evil. Satan wants people to be divided. He is the father of lies.

I have been praying for my country since deep divisions became evident during the Obama administration. I don’t pray as consistently and fervently as I should. Praying with others across the country will add some needed discipline to my prayers.

Therefore confess your sins to each other and pray for each other so that you may be healed. The prayer of a righteous person is powerful and effective.

James 5:16 (NIV)

Lord, thank you for the wonderful gift of Jesus Christ, my savior. Thank you for the body of believers who have been called to pray. I pray that you will heal this land, a country that desperately needs You. As I prepare to pray with other believers, I pray that You will search my heart and reveal my sins. Help me to stay humble and to keep my eyes on You. I pray for wisdom and discernment. Help me to see others with grace-filled eyes.

If we will… then He will