It is uncanny how the Lord connects the life stories of people like Abram (later renamed Abraham by God himself) with today’s American Christian. In hearing today’s Sunday morning sermon at Christ Church, the parallels between the story of Abraham and the history of our nation became clear to me. Admittedly, in working with Prayer1, my focus may be skewed in that direction more than the average person, yet the undeniable message for me as a citizen came bursting through.
Make no mistake, I am not equating the Church with America, only pointing out that as American Christians, the lessons taught through scripture are applicable to us as a people as well as individuals. The signature purpose of this web site is to call today’s Americans back to prayer, and to emphasize the importance of staying grounded in the word of God. This particular story and sermon from Genesis came calling on me today. I hope it resonates with you.
— Genesis 12:1-3 (ESV)
God gave Abram direction and a firm promise for his destiny in Genesis 12:1-3, and the surprising parallels of original settlers — and later immigrants from myriad nations — having “gone from their countries and kindred and their fathers’ native home to the land that they were called to” is an unmistakable parallel. Further, the “making of a great nation” — which, (in my eyes at least) describes America as a beacon of freedom and hope to the world — is, on the face of it, a way that “all the families of the earth could be blessed.”
Call me an old-fashioned, patriotic American Christian if you like. I’ll wear that label without hesitation and, in the meantime, take a look at the lessons of Abram and what they may bring to enlighten today’s Americans about the blessings, pitfalls and continuing grace given to the first Patriarch.
The sermon which prompted this article was delivered on September 13, 2009, two days after the eighth anniversary of 9/11 and one day after the 9-12 Project’s march on Washington by tens of thousands of Americans concerned with the political and economic direction of the nation. It was the largest gathering of everyday Americans I have ever seen in one place. The aerial photographs of the crowds showed an unbroken mass all the way from the Capitol steps, down both sides of the boulevard all the way to the Lincoln Memorial, and far beyond. The television images were profound, but what was more profound was the civil tenor of the crowd. Sure, there were political agendas expressed, mostly on the “expected” side of the political aisle, but at the front of it all, prominently displayed in front of the crowd was a simple sign, held high and strong by a single person proclaiming a single scripture reference, Ephesians 6:12. No more need be said than that single line pointing to the utter truth we all as Christians must remember before we engage anyone we regard as an opponent, enemy or rival, because no human is truly the enemy. As it says in the verse, if we read it slowly and carefully, the opening words being, “For we do not wrestle against flesh and blood.” Therefore it is NOT saying that we are wrestling against the people who make up the “rulers” or “authorities,” but against the “cosmic powers” and “spiritual forces of evil.”
Such is the social and political context in which I write today. And, because of this profound scriptural truth, prayer is our only real weapon or hope, as we call on our Creator to intercede in the battle on our behalf.
— Genesis 12:10-12 (ESV)
The crowd on the steps of the Capitol is encouraging. It demonstrates a growing awareness within the citizenry that we are being called to account for failing to uphold the Christian ideals of our founding fathers — and our complacency is beginning to hit us hard with the potential loss of freedoms, values and rich traditions we hold so dear. Much like Abram traded his cowardly lie that Sarai was his sister instead of his wife for a measure of safety, we have traded the assurances of our Creator for the frail guarantees of men to provide our own “daily bread” and safety. We have, as a Christian body, abdicated our responsibilities to take the lead in shaping our social and political direction. But, by the grace of God, we’re still here, nearly two and a half centuries past the day George Washington knelt in prayer on the banks of the Potomac on a snowy winter day.
“We look for the provision and act accordingly, rather than listening to the God to whom we belong, so that we might know what He wants, in order to act accordingly.”
“When we fear people and things that are around us, we talk differently than if we’re trusting in God, don’t we? … He (Abram) speaks out of the fear of man instead which is not compatible with trusting God to do what he said he would do.”
— Pastor Dan Schiel
September 13, 2009 Sermon
The pitfall of Abram’s convenient lie is easy to repeat with the coming of political promises for a “better, more reliable, more democratic, or more … whatever” way to achieve the issue of the day — no matter what that issue happens to be. It is easier to succumb to to the smooth rhetoric of a savvy politician than to face the reality that the Christian life is not always easy, especially, in today’s America. And political activism on any side of any issue must, for the believer at least, be prefaced by seeking the will of God in our lives, even as George Washington did in the war torn revolutionary political activism of his day that led to our independence.
— Pastor Dan Schiel
September 13, 2009 Sermon
One of my grade school teachers frequently reminded us to “think before you speak.” That’s especially important advice for anyone speaking about matters of consequence. But thinking should not be the first item on our agenda when we deal as Christians with the important matters of the day. It is easier to recognize and accept grace when we speak regularly with the Master, so here at Prayer1 we’ll modify my teacher’s advice and admonish us to “pray before we think on important matters” so that our subsequent words carry the mark of Jesus, no matter which side we take in the political fray.
The Ephesians 6:12 hand-made sign on the steps of the nation’s Capitol building is indicative of a spiritual resurgence of a remnant of believers. The grace of God brought Abram back out of Egypt, back to the place where he had started — in spite of his faithless acts. And so we pray today that the same unlimited grace will extend to us as a nation — to return us to our knees beside George Washington and the company of founding fathers to the place of promise and blessing … the place of still continuing grace.
To hear the sermon which inspired this article, please use the player below. Keep in mind that the sermon is approximately 55 minutes long, but it is 55 minutes full of insight and blessing. Enjoy!