Prayer for World Leaders

It is hard to know what to say when the world enters a new crisis, even though a new crisis erupts fairly often. Some seem more significant than others. Russian President Putin’s invasion of Ukraine seems significant. For one thing, in our global village, many people have traveled to Ukraine and personally know brothers and sisters there. Missionaries have made their way to this land to bring the Gospel of Peace, and have been well received. Anyone with a sense of justice is concerned about the expansion of a philosophy such as communism that does its best to destroy Christian teaching and Christian teachers. I have no fear that Christianity will be destroyed, but many will likely suffer at the hands of those whom the Enemy is using to create fear and bring death. I think it is significant because Russian aggression represents the movement of a ‘super power’ against those who are unlikely able to defend themselves, which draws the United States and others into the conflict. There are several significant concerns – all matters for prayer.

-The Duty of Every Christian-

We sometimes forget that the New Testament was written under the rule of an occupying force, the Roman Empire. I do not see most of the slogans and sayings modern Americans employ against political and state enemies being brought against the ancient Emperors, most of whom were depraved idol worshipers. Whether we like that or not, it is instructive. I have no impetus to direct our Military, nor counsel the President on the right next course of action. I doubt they are listening to me, nor should they. As a citizen of the Kingdom of Heaven, my concern is to employ the strategy given to us by inspiration of the Holy Spirit. The familiar passage that most often comes to mind contains Paul’s instruction to young Timothy:

First of all, then, I urge that supplications, prayers, intercessions, and thanksgivings be made for all people, for kings and all who are in high positions, that we may lead a peaceful and quiet life, godly and dignified in every way. This is good, and it is pleasing in the sight of God our Savior, who desires all people to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth. 

1 Timothy 2:1-4

Through prayer we have the ability to pray to One who is directly present throughout the earth. I do not claim to understand all of His ways, they are above and beyond me. I do believe that He hears every prayer – and I hope He is hearing Christians around the world praying for intervention in this crisis moment.

I am writing this to direct our attention to our duty in these matters – the duty to pray for all world leaders and to pray for peace. I also encourage prayer for those serving in the military, who place their lives on the line – each one a beloved son or daughter or friend.

-The End of Time?-

I’ve seen speculation that this is the ‘book of Revelation unfolding before our eyes’ and that this may lead to the end of times. If God wants to use these actions to bring about the end, that is in His hands. So often, however, the very first sentence of Revelation is ignored:

The revelation of Jesus Christ, which God gave him to show to his servants the things that must soon take place.

Revelation 1:1

So, I am not looking for apocalyptic fulfillment in contemporary world events. John was told that there was a much nearer fulfillment. We can argue about the meaning of the book of Revelation until Jesus comes, but that’s a pretty plain statement.

Even so, it is the end of some people’s time on this earth. That sobering truth is already being talked about on the news as reports of the death toll have already begun. It is the innocent that pay the greatest price in war, and that is, again, a matter for our prayers. The truth is that all of life is brief.

What is your life? For you are a mist that appears for a little time and then vanishes.

James 4:14b

The tragedy and tears of the events unfolding before a global audience is the loss of innocent life. It reminds us to be right with the Lord today, in our own lives. This also reminds us to be grateful for the freedoms and blessings of each day. Next time we are tempted to complain about the mundane inconveniences of life, let us remember those who take cover in under ground bunkers or who leave all belongings to flee toward borders of neighboring countries. And their children.

I wanted to share a prayer by my friend Bobby Valentine, posted to his Facebook account on February 26, 2022. I appreciate the beauty and sincerity of his words. I usually do.

-A Prayer By Bobby Valentine-

Dear Yahweh, God of all nations. Hear our prayer. We lift President Putin to you. God free his mind from its commitment to this dangerous course of action. Set him free from commitment to war. God we wish no harm to the Russian people whom you created and love, may they also be set free from this man’s quest for domination. May the tanks cease to roll and the helicopters cease to fly. Be with the Ukrainian people whom you also created and dearly love. Blow your Spirit of Peace on that land. Save us from our own folly dear Yahweh.

Bobby Valentine blogs at https://stonedcampbelldisciple.com/

Thanks for reading my thoughts in this crucial hour.

Want to help? A few resources:

Eastern European Ministries

Christian Chronicle has some suggestions.

Healing Hands International

International Disaster Emergency Services

Program For Humanitarian Aid

Review: Searching For Grace

Searching for Grace: A Weary Leader, a Wise Mentor, and Seven Healing Conversations for a Parched SoulSearching for Grace: A Weary Leader, a Wise Mentor, and Seven Healing Conversations for a Parched Soul by Scotty Smith
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

This book touched my heart in a special way. Reading the ‘healing conversations’ between Scotty Smith and Russ Masterson feels like sitting at their table, fresh coffee, distractions fading away into the background, and one heart speaking to another.

These conversations are about the things that really matter, the motives and inner broken places that need the healing touch of grace. I found myself even being a little envious of the relationship that Scotty and Russ share, the beauty of knowing and being known by another. The willingness to share with one another in vulnerable moments the struggles of ministry was refreshing.

There were some tears along the way as I listened in to these conversations, revealing how vital and deeply rooted these themes are. I never felt like they were telling me how to think or what to do, just demonstrating the power of friendship, mentoring, and honesty.

I would encourage every minister to read this book. I believe any Christian could gain a lot of insight from it as well. I have a feeling I’ll revisit this book and sit at their table again sometime in the future. More, I’ll be more intentional about finding my own heart-felt conversations at the table with friends.

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14

Fourteen is a significant number for me, not because of the date of this post. It’s not because it is the last day that my favorite grandson is 14, although that is true. This is not the 14th of a series of posts with 13 previous ones. Fourteen is a significant number because it is the number of years I have served Forsythe church as their preaching minister. Yes, February is my preaching anniversary at Forsythe. That means I am “in” my 15th year of ministry here, but that number seems a bit presumptuous at this point.

It feels special to me because so often preachers are nomads, serving a church for two or three years before moving on to the next church. Some of them are concerned with upward mobility and as soon as they can land a larger ministry they break loose from the smaller one. Some just can’t get along with people more than a couple of years and wear out their welcome. I don’t judge them because ministry is kind of like your family – there are multiple layers of factors that are sometimes hard to sort out.

Of the Shepherds that were guiding this flock when I arrived, one is with the Lord. The other three have been serving for many years, loved and respected by the church (and me). Four newer Shepherds have joined them. Just the way a new baby born into a family changes all the family dynamics, new Shepherds change the approaches and dynamics of leadership as well. So, now we have seven Shepherds, each one loved and respected by this church (and me). I’m grateful.

I’ve been blessed to work alongside four different partners in my time here. It is a blessing that a church our size can have two full time ministers on staff. Working with Daniel is a joy. We are from different generations. He is about to turn 40, I’ll be 60 next year. In what is an improbable turn of events, I have known him his entire life. Even so, it is not hard to regard him as a peer. He has a winsome spirit that God is using to influence many.

A retiring minister told me many many years ago, “I’m tired of this church, and they’re tired of me.” That struck me as a sad epitaph for a long ministry. Though I’ve not been at Forsythe nearly as long as that minister had been at that church, I don’t want to end up with that being the summary of my years of work. I can’t imagine that it would be. The church I serve is a loving and caring church. Not a perfect church (there aren’t any of those). They don’t have a perfect preacher, either.

If I count my ministry years as beginning when I drove weekly to Oak Ridge Church of Christ in rural Attala County, Mississippi, I’ve been working with churches for 39 years. I don’t really know how to do anything else. I’m sure there are some who would say I don’t know how to do this either.

The last three years have been especially difficult. We spent much of 2019 in research and discussions with an area congregation talking about merging. We spent some time with brothers and sisters, which we enjoyed. We ultimately decided not to merge. It was hard to plan ahead when the future was uncertain, so after the merger discussions ended we took a deep breath and started to refocus on a future at Forsythe. In mere weeks that followed we began to hear news of a spreading unknown virus. I don’t have to tell you how that year and the following went. The polarization and politics of it all, those who mourned the loss of loved ones, and the personal struggles people had as they tried to live life with an airborne virus coming at us in waves made life erratic for all of us.

In May of 2020, I wrote a blog post that took on a life of it’s own called The Coming Pastoral Crash. Though some took issue with what I wrote, it has aged well. There is a wellspring of documentation that after two years of ministry in a covid world, many ministers are quitting. It just took so much out of us and required so much of us for which we were not equipped. (Please do not read into this that I think ministers had it worse than other professions, but I can only really speak from my own point of view here.)

So I think we have looked over the horizon a few times over the past year and feel we are beginning to emerge into a new post-covid world. Or at least a world where we will co-habitate with covid. The lost still need the Gospel. The church still needs to be a united family. The Word still needs to be studied and preached. On the widest outlook, nothing much has changed. However, everything feels like it has changed. So what challenges lie ahead in my 15th year at Forsythe? I don’t know. Really. I continue with the most basic and crucial perspectives that I have grown into over the years of being a preacher:

*God is my strength. My ministry cannot be stronger than my own connection to the Lord. Prayer and Scripture feed the soul of ministry.

*God is love. Love must always be the motive, the action, and the foundation of ministry because God is love.

*God reaches out to the world. I pursue growth and understanding of ministry as it evolves, learning what I can and using that to serve the community of faith and the community in which I live.

*God knows who we are. I never forget that I am a human being, faulty, grace-dependent, failing at times, doing some things well and flailing in other areas. Humility drives me to see the truth about myself and continue to rely on God’s power and strength through His Spirit.

If you read this far, thanks. I just wanted to reflect a bit about my first 14 years at Forsythe – a beautiful family of faith.

John

Review: Furious Longing of God

The Furious Longing of God by Brennan Manning

My rating: 5 of 5 stars


Among books written by men, I doubt that The Ragamuffin Gospel can be surpassed in it’s influence and meaning for me. The Furious Longing of God revisits several themes from Ragamuffin, and does so in a beautiful way. This book was written from a broken heart being held together by the love of Christ.

I was affected by several messages contained in this book, and I was so sorry to see it come to conclusion.

Everyone understands that Brennan Manning was far from a saint. I think he shares his worst moments with us so we can know that the power of God’s grace is strong enough and deep enough to save even someone such as ourselves.

“This, my friends, is what it really means to be a Christian. Our religion never begins with what we do for God. It always starts with what God has done for us, the great and wondrous things that God dreamed of and achieved for us in Christ Jesus.”

In The Furious Longing of God, Manning keeps pointing us back to the cross, back to Jesus, and the divine love that He demonstrates in his teachings, life, death, and resurrection. I highly recommend this book and the spirit that one finds while reading its contents.





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Your Assignment

Photo by Andres Ayrton from Pexels

A recovery meeting happens on the other side of my office wall every day. Every day the beat up and defeated and strugglers gather together to help each other find a way forward. I’m sure there are tears and sharing of hardships, but that’s not what I hear.

What I hear is applause and sometimes a rousing cheer. I know (from visiting that meeting) that someone has expressed a victory, or even a desire for a victory, and the ragamuffin crowd cheers on their own as if they were olympic athletes crossing the finishing line.

They come every day. Sometimes after a defeat, sometimes after one more day of sobriety. And they cheer one another on. I’m not even in the room and I feel encouraged.

I wonder how many people we encounter who are weary, worn out, whipped by the everyday demons that push our buttons and lead us wayward … and they just need someone … anyone … to cheer them on and believe for them that they can make it just one more day.

You have your assignment.