Pray for Our Nation

First of all, then, I urge that petitions, prayers, intercessions, and thanksgivings be made for everyone, for kings and all those who are in authority, so that we may lead a tranquil and quiet life in all godliness and dignity. This is good, and it pleases God our Savior, who wants everyone to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth.

-1 Timothy 2:1-4

We need to pray for our nation. We always need to pray for our nation, but in an election cycle our need for prayer is more obvious—especially in the year 2020. We are facing the outbreak of COVID-19 and a highly contentious response at both the State and Federal levels, riots due to social injustice and ethnic division, massive polarization over political views and court appointments, and the normal stuff like taxes, the job market, international trade, etc. Governing well has never been easy, but in 2020 it’s virtually impossible.

Despite those obvious needs for prayer, the apostle Paul gives us two fundamental and spiritual reasons for praying for our government/ culture. These reasons remind us what’s best about a functional society, and why it’s in our best interest to live in one. 

1.  Pray for our nation so that we may live out God’s calling in peace.  In 1 Timothy 2:1-2 Paul calls us to pray for our leaders ““…so that we may lead a tranquil and quiet life in all godliness and dignity.” Good government facilitates a peaceful environment in which we can live out God’s calling for us—loving him with all that we are and loving others as much as ourselves.  

2. Pray for our nation so that we may work at disciple-making.  In 1 Timothy 2:3-4 Paul emphasizes that a peaceful society is good also because living out God’s calling will result in the making of disciples of Jesus. He reminds us that God “wants everyone to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth.” A peaceful, well-ordered society allows for the gospel to spread through the freedom of Christians to live for God’s glory.

3. This doesn’t mean God doesn’t use turbulent times for our benefit.  A peaceful society is the ideal for faith-driven living and disciple making. That doesn’t mean that trials and upheaval are bad for the church. In many other passages in the Bible God makes it clear that trials are good for spiritual health of Christians. Even so, it is good for us to live in peaceful communities and therefore it is good for us to pray for our government.

I invite you to join us in praying for our nation over the next four weeks. Let’s humble ourselves before the throne of God and beg him to intercede for his glory and our greater good.

Not Made with Hands

 “We heard him say, ‘I will destroy this temple made with human hands, and in three days I will build another not made by hands.’”

-Mark 14:58

When Jesus was on trial before the Sanhedrin, he was accused of saying he would destroy the physical temple in Jerusalem and build another temple “not made by hands.”  This was a distortion of what Jesus actually said.  He did prophesy of the temple’s destruction, which happened in AD 70.  He also prophesied that when he was killed he would rebuild “this temple” in three days, referring to his resurrection (John 2:19-21).

What the false accuser actually got right was the second part—that he said he would build another kind of temple, a temple “not made by hands.”  That verbiage refers to a spiritual work in contrast to merely a wood and stone building. 

The phrase “not made by hands” here means “not made by human hands.”  Jesus’s death and resurrection was the building of a spiritual work that no human could do.  This is confirmed for us in Hebrews 8: 2 were Jesus is described as:

“…a minister of the sanctuary and the true tabernacle that was set up by the Lord and not man.”

Jesus’s work is not an earthly work done by men.  It is a heavenly work with earthly effects.  We need this reminder because we are easily distracted by earthly work.  The construction of buildings and making of companies and the pursuit of popularity and the amassing of riches are temporary pursuits.  They are not the end all, be all of our existence.  They cannot satisfy and will not last, because they are made by human hands.

But Jesus’ work is not made by hands.  His work stands forever.  His permanent, heavenly work impacts how we go about our earthly pursuits.  Because his work is not made with hands…

  1. We can focus on Jesus’s purposes when we’re tempted to be consumed by earthly concerns.
  2. We can be assured of our forgiveness when we fail.
  3. We can move forward ministering the gospel with confidence despite hostility in our culture.
  4. We can endure massive changes in society without fear that Jesus’s work will fail.
  5. We can rely on Jesus in faith when we face personal trials.
  6. We can risk faith-driven obedience when we’re not confident in ourselves.
  7. We can rest with his peace even in the darkest of times.

Why?  Because his temple isn’t made with human hands.  It’s built to last, and it’s built to be shared with us.  So we’re freed from fear that we may confidently focus on Jesus’s purpose for us. This is why the apostle Paul says,

“For we know that if our earthly tent we live in is destroyed, we have a building from God, an eternal dwelling in the heavens, not made with hands.”

-2 Cor. 5:1

Election Cycle Spiritual Prep Kit

This is so that the living will know that the Most High is ruler over human kingdoms. He gives them to anyone he wants and sets the lowliest of people over them.

-Daniel 4:17

It’s time for our quad-annual dose of democratic frenzy. I’m just going to go out on a limb and guess that one of your local church elders is not running for president. In that case, we know that the names on our ballots (however we end up voting!) will not be elder-qualified. Tempered with that caveat, we must endure the next three months of politicking. But what spiritual principles can help us maintain our faith and avoid despair as we walk this gauntlet?

God is sovereign over all nations.

In Daniel 4 Nebudchadnezzar’s pride as ruler of Babylon is answered by God humbling him with a fit of insanity. The purpose of this humbling is “so that the living will know that the Most High is ruler over human kingdoms” (Daniel 4:17).

This means that whatever happens with the election, we can take comfort knowing who’s driving the bus of history and our nation. God’s sovereignty humbles us when we overestimate our greatness, even as a nation, and points us to faith in him.

God appoints all rulers.

We also learn in Daniel 4 that God appoints rulers over the nations, “He gives them to anyone he wants and sets the lowliest of people over them” (Daniel 4:17). The apostle Paul affirms this truth in Romans 13:1, “ Let everyone submit to the governing authorities, since there is no authority except from God, and the authorities that exist are instituted by God.”

This means we can wake up the morning after the election with faith in God ready to submit to whoever won the day. We especially need this truth if our preferred party/candidate loses the election.

Democracy is a blessing, not a right. Use it wisely.

Technically democracy is a right in our nation, but historically speaking most of the world’s population has not had a direct say in their government. The gospel has thrived under such conditions without interruption. In a world broken by sin, democracy may be the best form of government as it provides so many checks and balances on its rulers.

This means we shouldn’t take democracy for granted. It is a blessing to be used with discernment. We should seek wisdom from God as we vote, knowing that he graciously gives it to those who ask in faith (James 1:5).

Honoring God with our speech is not optional.

In Ephesians 4:29 the apostle Paul calls Christians to God-glorifying speech: “No foul language should come from your mouth, but only what is good for building up someone in need, so that it gives grace to those who hear.”

As we speak and interact with others about the election, political issues, and candidates, let us do so in ways that build up rather than tear down. It is possible to speak intelligently about an issue without it devolving into an argument, but it requires much grace and maturity. This is especially difficult on social media, so let us be vigilant to give grace if/as we post.

We need to pray for our government.

Finally, in 1 Timothy 2:1-2 we are called to pray for our leaders, “ First of all, then, I urge that petitions, prayers, intercessions, and thanksgivings be made for everyone, for kings and all those who are in authority, so that we may lead a tranquil and quiet life in all godliness and dignity.”

Our governments—federal, state, and local—are facing immense challenges due to the coronavirus and its fallout. Pray for wisdom for our leaders. Pray for humility and repentance over sin. Pray for clarity and compassion as they make decisions. Most of all, pray that their governing would result in a peaceful nation where the gospel thrives as we lead tranquil lives in all godliness and dignity.

It’s Time to Gather Again

“Let us hold on to the confession of our hope without wavering, since he who promised is faithful.  And let us watch out for one another to provoke love and good works, not neglecting to gather together, as some are in the habit of doing, but encouraging each other, and all the more as you see the day approaching.”  

-Hebrews 10:23-25

It’s time.  

My brothers and sisters at Green Pond Bible Chapel, I want to gently encourage you to consider resuming gathering with the church.  While watching our services via livestream has been a blessing in the midst of lockdown, it is not sufficient to sustain our spiritual health in the long run.  

Let me walk through five spiritual reasons to resume gathering, and then I’ll mention two practical considerations and one caution.

1. Being with our church family encourages us.  When I see the gathered church I am reminded of the work God is doing in us, to us, and through us.  Prolonged absence from the church body dampens that encouragement, and therefore can cause discouragement.  It’s not hard to see why John wrote, “I hope to see you soon, and we will talk face to face” (3 John 14; Paul says the same in Romans 15:24 & 1 Corinthians 16:7).

2. Hearing the live singing of praise to God with our church family inspires us.  The single act of the church singing together helps us to mature as disciples of Jesus.  Consider Colossians 3:16, “Let the word of Christ dwell richly among you, in all wisdom teaching and admonishing one another through psalms, hymns, and spiritual songs, singing to God with gratitude in your hearts.”  Singing praise to Jesus is a two way street—we praise God and encourage each other.  I miss hearing your voices!

3. Seeing the church reminds us to serve and pray.  When I see the individuals who make up our church family I am reminded of their needs and how I can bear their burdens and intercede for them.  The old proverb “Out of sight, out of mind” is legit.  It’s much easier to be mindful of the needs in our body when we are regularly seeing each other.

4. When I hear live preaching I am more engaged in the Scripture.  This may not be true for everyone, but it is for me and I would guess it’s true for most people.  There’s no experience like hearing the Word as someone is preaching live and growing in knowledge and love of Jesus.

5.  When we are isolated from the church, we are more easily drawn into temptation.  The fact is the physical gathering of the church gives a shot in the arm to our battle against sin.  All week we face challenging circumstances walking as a minority in an unbelieving culture, but on Sunday we are the majority.  We walk together.  

In addition to those spiritual reasons to gather, let me offer a few practical reasons.

1.  We have the right kind of space for you.  We have been blessed with facilities that allow us to offer corporate worship space for those who prefer to be in a strict mask only environment, as well as space for those who feel wearing a mask inhibits their ability to participate in corporate worship.  We are taking advantage of great weather and worshipping outside as much as possible.  We ‘ve made improvements to our fellowship hall to facilitate seating limits and social distancing, including moving in sanctuary chairs and installing air conditioning.

2.  Kingdom Kids is up and running.  If you need child care for children under the age of 5 we have you covered.  We’ve adapted our program to account for the recommendations from the state of New Jersey.  As we have more volunteers available, we’ll expand our Kingdom Kids programs.

Finally, let me offer one word of caution.  If you are in an at risk group, please be wise.  Saints who are at risk should stay home until they are comfortable resuming corporate worship.  There’s no magic bullet for that.  We love and miss you, but we can wait a little longer until we see you again.  

We’ve made adjustments.  We’ve got tons of hand sanitizer.  We’re social distancing.  We’ve got masks.  Let’s watch out for each other, and let’s not neglect meeting together.  It’s time to gather again.  Lord willing, I’ll see you Sunday at 10:10 AM.

Lloyd-Jones Quote

Many of you have asked for the Martin Lloyd-Jones quote from our sermon July 26 on Hebrews 4:14-16. It’s from his classic “Spiritual Depression” and refers to Psalm 42.

“The main art in the matter of spiritual living is to know how to handle yourself. You have to take yourself in hand, you have to address yourself, preach to yourself, question yourself…

You must turn on yourself, and say to yourself “Hope in God”… and then you must go on to remind yourself of God, who God is, and what God is and what God has done, and what God has pledged himself to do.

Then having done that, end on this great note: defy yourself, and defy other people, and defy the devil and the whole world, and say with this man, “I shall yet praise him for the help of his countenance, who is the health of my countenance and my God.”

-Martin Lloyd-Jones

Lloyd-Jones was a gifted preacher and was the pastor of Westminster Chapel in London for 30 years.