By: Kevin Jackson
When most of the world thinks about prayer, they think about people gathered at church or families praying before a meal. In general, we think of a short, polite list of requests that ends with an “amen.” But prayer is far more than this. I invite you to think of prayer as the ultimate form of protest. While many people associate prayer with faithful conservatives and Sunday School, I believe prayer provides an opportunity for every person to lay aside their differences and come together.
If we are being honest with ourselves, secularism and forces against Christianity and God are very prevalent in our everyday lives. If you listen to the news, music, movies and most people on traditional media, this world is going downhill and only WE have the ability to fix it. Global warming, racism, crime, school shootings, war, etc. are all over our news and in our society. Instead of going to God for help, we are encouraged to elect new government officials, stand up to injustice, take a knee, make your voice heard ..... PROTEST.
But isn’t the most effective way to protest against this world's current issues is to ask God for help? Let’s protest against satan by telling God how wrong these things are and asking HIM for help.
Although you may have never thought of it like this before, here are some reasons why prayer is the ultimate protest:
Prayer admits that we have caused the problem.
Every protest begins with a problem. When we pray, we’re acknowledging that God designed the world for order, but we have messed it up. When we see disorder in the world, it’s time for us to pray.
Prayer admits we don’t have the answers.
What if, for just one day, we were humble enough to admit we don’t have all the answers? For all our disagreements, we would begin to see one simple fact: we’re on the same team. Our universal goal is a flourishing and civil society.
Prayer goes to the only one who can solve the problem.
When you want to protest a city’s policies, you typically march in its streets. When you want to protest disorder in the world, you knock on heaven’s door. Unlike most of your government officials, you’ll never find God unavailable for a meeting or out playing golf. He’s available 24/7 to you and me, and He wants to listen.
Prayer is about being heard.
When my children ask me for a snack, I don’t give him a rock. Sounds silly and that I really wasn’t listening doesn’t it? Yet when we complain or protest, we often feel the frustration of not being heard. Scripture tells us God is not an unrighteous judge. He hears us and He desires to answer us.
Prayer doesn’t require you to be an expert.
Whether you’re a pastor or unsure of how things really work, God welcomes your voice, your problems and your concerns. Prayer works not because we’re perfect but because we’re calling out to someone who is.
Prayer leads to action.
Prayer is not passive. On the contrary, prayer is an active way to relieve our burden and gives us a renewed vision of a world worth fighting for—a world filled with self-giving love.
Prayer is about letting go.
When we pray, we’re handing the weight of our burdens over to God because we realize only He can bring the change this world so desperately needs.
Prayer can change you.
Prayer has a way of showing us our own heart. When we pray, we realize our greatest need isn’t changed policies but changed hearts.
Prayer can change the world.
I believe prayer can change the world. Flip through the pages of history and you’ll see prayer as the fuel for culture-shaping movements. From Civil Rights to historical examples of revival, the evidence is clear. When we pray, God moves.
The United States Congress recognized 65 years ago when they established the National Day of Prayer, that prayer is a uniting force for the citizens of our great nation, not something exclusive to one segment of the population. So, why are we now running away from prayer in our schools, in our work place, in our government? Well, I believe satan is becoming more and more powerful. He has found a weakness in our society and has continued to exploit it to his benefit. It has always been there since the fall of Adam and Eve, but it seems lately our society is moving away from having a counter balance to him.
We need God back in our government. We need God back in our schools. We need God back in our businesses. We need God back in our families. We need to pray hard, pray every day and pray everywhere. That is the most powerful way to protest what satan and evil are doing in our world.
Can you join me right now in praying for your heart and the heart of others? Together, Christians are a powerful force in this world. If we band together in prayer “protest”, this world and satan is no match for us.
By: Julie Hildebrand
A few of years ago, I had a conversation that is seared in my mind as a reminder of all the work Jesus has done in my life. This conversation took place early one morning just as I’d finished an exercise class. One of my classmates and I were chatting in the parking lot about our families. She started to ask how I met my husband and then she said, “Oh, I guess you met while you were at Baylor together.”
I told her that I didn’t go to Baylor and that my husband, Brody, and I met after college. Then, I added (because I often add), “It’s a good thing we didn’t go to the same school. He wouldn’t have dated me when we were in college.”
Her eyes got bigger and she leaned in and asked, “Why? Was Brody wild when he was in college?” I giggled and then I could see that she was serious.
I answered, “No, he was a straight arrow and wouldn’t have dated ME. I didn’t even apply to Baylor because they had dorm curfews and curfews weren’t in my college plan.”
She laughed and said she could not even imagine me in that context. In a probably unexpected reaction, my eyes welled up and I said, “Praise God that you can’t recognize that person as me. Praise God for what He has done in my life.”
I had a similar conversation just a few weeks ago while I was working on a ministry project with a new friend. She was asking about my walk with the Lord and specifically asked about my college years. I said, “Oh, in my early college years I thought Christians were weak-minded people who needed a crutch to get by in life. I saw no reason to give credit to God because anything I had I got for myself.”
She tilted her head, furrowed her brow and said, “I can’t even imagine that person you just described was you.” But it was me. And again, I was so thankful that she could not reconcile who I was then and who she was sitting next to at that moment.
Those exchanges might not seem like any big deal to most people, but they are treasured gifts from the Lord, just for me. They were just what my heart needed to hear, needed to receive. It was as though in those moments Jesus was saying, “It’s gone. You have received a new heart, a new life and a new identity in Me. They don’t see who you were, they see ME.”
For years after college I struggled with “going out there” with my faith because I knew where I’d been. I knew what my heart was before Christ. And while I read scripture and understood the truth of redemption, and allowed it for other people, I struggled to believe it was also for me. Instead, I felt like a fraud (I wasn’t a fraud, I just have an accuser who uses the same tired tricks because he sure doesn’t want me “going out there” with my faith, either). These seemingly small conversations confirmed what Jesus wants me to know – He’s redeemed me and I am a new creation in Him. The old is gone and the new has come (2 Corinthians 5:17).
So how did I get here from there?
I prayed to receive Christ as my Savior when I was eight years old and I meant every word of the sinner’s prayer. However, I was not discipled and by the time high school rolled around, I filled my time, heart and mind with things of this world. I was prideful (still being sanctified in that area), foolish, self-reliant and had no need for God (or His annoying people).
But by my junior year in college, I found myself incredibly lonely – even with people around me. It was then that I prayed, “Lord, I haven’t prayed in so long that I think I’ve forgotten how. I don’t even know if I’m doing this right, but I remember enough about You to know You hear even choppy, inarticulate prayers. Please come change my life. It’s been years, but I want to come back to You. Take anything out of my life that is a stumbling block to You. If You need to take every single friend out of my life to get to me, take them.”
And He did just that. From that Saturday morning prayer in my bedroom in an apartment near SMU, He took a mustard seed prayer and moved mountains in my life. He did take away a lot of friends, but He faithfully replaced them with people who are still in my life today. He gave me a voracious appetite for His Word and a desire to talk to Him and hear His voice.
He even had the most handsome straight-arrow man look my way – and never look away. The Lord has grown me in ways I could have never dreamed, taken me to places in His name that I would have never gone, built a family and showed me a capacity to love that I didn’t know was possible. And since I’m still breathing, I know He’s not finished with me yet.
Before posting this, I struggled to know if this is what the Lord wanted me to write and whether it will be received in the way it is intended. Part of me wanted to delete it because it could be construed to be “all about me.” But some people may read my posts and have the impression that I grew up following Jesus and never wavered in my walk with Him. That is not the case, and this is not about me, but about what He’s done in me.
I think that’s why I have struggled so mightily this month with the word, “receive.” I have no shortage of things to say about what I’ve received even above and beyond the blessed assurance of everlasting life, but it is all so incredibly personal. The new life and new identity that I’ve been given was tailor made by God, just for me.
And I receive it.
“Yet to all who received Him, to those who believed in His name, He gave the right to become children of God.” (John 1:12)
This post originally appeared on JulieHildebrand.com and was republished with permission.
By: Julie Hildebrand
A few Sundays ago my husband and I found our usual seats in church, greeted the familiar faces around us and stood for the beautiful praise and worship music that was just starting. I warmed my hands on my sleeved disposable cup that held hot herbal tea and I sang between sips. Beautiful music, comfy seats and a hot beverage for the bitterly cold morning. Ahhhhh. Cozy. Easy like Sunday morning.
As we sang the last song and got ready for the sermon, a man came to sit in the row in front of us. But before he could sit, he had to peel off layer upon layer of winter clothing. He removed his gloves, discarded his knitted hat, unwrapped his long scarf, and took off several layers of coats, jackets and fleeces. After he’d pared down all his extra layers, we finally recognized him as our friend, Ryan.
As it turns out, Ryan was joining the church service late because several years ago he committed to be on the church’s parking team. He committed to stand outside, regardless of the weather, and help church-goers navigate the potential chaos of parking at a multi-acre church campus with several thousand other cars. As I continued to sip my hot tea, I was in awe of Ryan’s commitment. I gotta be honest, I would have likely called in a sub that particular morning. I’m sure Ryan didn’t feel like being out in the bitter cold, either. Yet there he was, honoring his commitment to his fellow church-goers, his church, and ultimately God.
Since I’m prone to wonder, I imagined Ryan probably committed to be on the parking team on a day that was calm and beautiful. Maybe it was spring and there were birds chirping. The sun was shining, and only big fluffy white clouds in the sky. There was probably even a gentle, refreshing breeze. But with his sunny day pledge, he was also committing to days that would include heavy rain, freezing temperatures, hold-your-ground winds, and since it’s Texas, scorching heat (even on easy Sunday mornings).
That is what commitment is – it’s making a promise of future action even when things get rough. And if it requires a commitment, you can bank on things getting rough. That’s the reason a commitment is even needed, because at some point, you are going to want to go back on what you said you’d do (me, too). Whether it’s your marriage, paying a credit card bill, finishing the year as room mom, taking your kid to soccer practice, or following the Lord you said you’d never forsake (see also Peter, see also me) – sooner or later you are not going to feel like following through with your commitment.
Our feelings tell us to stay comfortable, avoid the struggle and pain. A commitment often requires us to move out of our comfort zone, struggle more than we think is necessary, and endure more pain than we thought possible. You can see why feelings often win the day over commitments.
Unfortunately, our culture has embraced the feelings-trump-commitment mentality. It’s evident in our divorce rate, the number of people who opt to live together instead of committing to marriage, our debt (both nationally and individually), the number of fatherless families, and just about anywhere else you look in our society. We’ve (I’ve) got to be diligent to honor commitments, not just honoring our feelings in our “all-the-feels” culture.
The Bible gives us so many examples of people who kept their commitments in agonizing circumstances. None was without risk or hardship in keeping their commitments, but God used each for His purposes and good (Romans 8:28). In each of their stories, feelings could have easily derailed their commitments:
Jesus committed to us then. He’s committed to us now. And He’s committed to coming back soon (John 14:1-3; Revelation 1:7; Revelation 22:12-13). And while we fail at keeping our commitments and others fail to keep their commitments to us, He never has and never will fail to keep His promises. Thank you, Jesus.
Counter to our culture, feelings are not paramount. When we allow our feelings to reign over our commitments, not only do we break a promise, but we miss out on all the blessings that were on the other side of that kept commitment. At some point, keeping a commitment gets hard and our feelings don’t like hard. But that’s why commitments are needed.
Here are a few questions about commitments in your own life (not going to lie, the last question was a hard one for me to confront):
This post originally appeared on JulieHildebrand.com and was republished with permission.
By: Kevin Jackson
As I look around at this world, we have a serious God problem. Our society loves to dip their toe in faith, but when it comes down to it, we would rather make our own decisions and carve our own path in this world. We are a society of hypocrisy. In the United States our money says “In God we trust”, but our government has done everything in its power to take God out of our country. We like to call it “separation of church and state” but in reality it is just making sure we have a secular society. This country was founded by faithful people and yet we are trying to change history and our country as to not offend people who are not faithful or believe in God.
Let me be the first to say it, we need to get serious about God.
You may be reading this and wondering why it matters what society thinks, it only matters what you think. Well, society is made up of individuals and the sum of the parts is what I am talking about. It is the same reason you may go to church. Yes, church is about worshipping God and learning the Word, but you can do most of that from home. Church is also about surrounding yourself with fellow Christians. It is basic sociology. People tend to follow the masses and if the masses are learning about God, it makes it easier to do so. If the masses you follow are full of sin and are not faithful, it is easy to get sucked into that as well.
When I say it is time to get serious about God, I mean both as a society and as individuals. So, let’s start with us. As I mentioned above, if everyone changes individually, then the masses and society would then be comprised of all faithful and God-serious people. In order to get serious about God, we need to identify all of the ways we aren’t serious about God. Think about how you go about your day. Ask yourself this “Do I make EVERY decision based on glorifying God and in-line with His plan in my life?” Most likely the answer is no. We try. We think we are good Christians. But is that good enough?
So, how do you get serious about God? Well, the first step is to recognize that Jesus Christ is coming back and you don’t know exactly when. Let’s say you are throwing a baby shower and the invite says 6:00PM. You get your house all ready, decorations out, food prepared, and then you suddenly realize it’s already 5 o’clock and you haven’t gotten yourself ready yet. You are standing there in sweats and a t-shirt and the doorbell rings. “Are you kidding me” you scream. Well, guess what, Jesus isn’t going to wait to come back when it is convenient for us, He is coming back when HIS time is right. So, you better get your house in order in case your guest of honor shows up early!
For the Son of Man is going to come in his Father's glory with his angels, and then he will reward each person according to what he has done. (Matthew 16:27)
So again, think about your day and how you tackle it. Do you start and end it with God? Come on, let’s get serious now. How often do you sin freely and think it is ok because Jesus forgave you already and you will try harder next time? A lot I am sure. Me too! Let’s get serious.
Truth bomb here….. The world you live in, the people around you, the possessions you own, mean nothing compared to God and your salvation. If you are being honest with yourself, you are listening to me now, but do you hear me?? NOTHING means as much as the Lord. So, to get serious about God means you have to give it all away to Him. These things you own, the job you have, the money you have earned, those are all from Him! God has blessed you in so many ways and how do you repay Him? Pray every once in a while and go to church most Sundays? That is not enough. Get serious and give it ALL to Him. God deserves it and more.
Take stock of your life this week. Look around at your family, your friends, your house, where you live, your job, everything. Once you have done that, be honest with yourself and figure out what you have put God in the middle of. Stop the lying, stop the cussing, stop the drinking, stop the sexual temptation, stop the hate, stop the jealousy, stop it all. Be serious and deliberate about your love of God and the path to Heaven. That is the most important thing you can do.
So, now that I have forced you to look in the mirror and get serious about God in your life, let’s move on to the next part…. our world and society.
This world is a broken, secular world full of sex, violence, temptation and distractions. Yes, you can find churches on many corners, but is God in the center of our world? Everything you read, watch and listen to is trying to pull you away from God. Buy this, try that, vacation here, watch this, watch that. Distractions are everywhere and they meant to drive you in certain directions, mainly to spend your money. Some of these are intentional and deliberate ways to pull people from their faith. But honestly, some of these things are just worldly things not focused on God.
I have taken some time the last week or so and paid attention to what is going out in our society. If you really pay attention, it is frightening. It starts early with our children and their use of technology. It goes all the way up to the nightly news. NOTHING about God. If there is mention about faith or God, it is usually negative. We have run God out of town, I am afraid. We think we can do everything ourselves. “Don’t worry about it God, we got this.” We are going to fix climate change and the weather, we can fix our economy, we can feed the hungry, we got this. We are obsessed with ourselves and idols we have created instead of God.
Below are modern-day idols we're in danger of letting take over our lives instead of God:
Truth is, we have created a mess here. If we don’t watch it, God is going to clean it up for us. He has done it before and it isn’t pretty my friends.
This world needs to get serious about God. We need to allow Him in our lives individually and in the center of our society. I am not talking about religion; I am talking about God and Jesus. God is the creator of this beautiful world and all we are doing is messing it up.
But there is hope. It lives in each one of us. Our society can change because we can change. Remember as I mentioned before, society is just a sum of its parts. Well, you are a part, an important part. So, start today and spread the love of God and Jesus. Tell someone you love them; tell them that Jesus loves them. Yes, it will be uncomfortable. Yes, it will be strange. Jesus walked this earth alone at first and before you know it, He is known everywhere on this planet. Start small, but start. This is not a joking matter; it’s time to get serious. That doesn’t mean you can’t have fun. Spreading God’s love for me always brings me immense joy. Even more important, it brings God joy.
Think about how many friends you have on social media and how many friends you have in “real life”. You can be an influencer. You can spread God’s love. Post a Bible verse, use one of our Facebook profile image frames, write a blog, anything that you can spread the Word with. Let’s start a movement, a God movement. It is beyond time to get SERIOUS ABOUT GOD!
By: Kevin Jackson
Being a native Texan and watching what is happening across my great state this past weekend is heartbreaking. Hurricane Harvey sure has given us a hard punch and continues to do so. But what it also has given us is a wake-up call of sorts. When the world stops turning, real emotions and feelings tend to come out. The truth comes out.
Hurricane Harvey has taken the lives of several people and thousands more are suffering losses, whether it is their homes, possessions, pets or friends. It has caused immeasurable harm and billions on dollars in damages. There is no telling how long it will take for some of the communities like Rockport, TX to come back, if they ever do. I go every summer to Rockport and Port Aransas; it is almost like a second home to me. Seeing the images of the places I love simply destroyed is almost more than I can take. However, as an eternal optimist who has a strong Christian faith, I am looking for what I can learn from this, what lessons God will teach us.
God often works through his followers and his children here on earth. At times of tragedy, you typically see churches and other faith-based organizations provide comfort, aid, a place to stay and a hot meal to those in need. Many non-believers tend to ask “Where is your God now?” or “If there is a God, why does he allow something like this to happen?” Frankly I don’t have an exact answer to that. I don’t know whether God allows things like Hurricane Harvey to happen or they happen in spite of Him. I know there are evil forces in this world and the only answer to them is God and our faith in Him. Regardless, what I do know is that in times like these, you see God’s people provide those in need the most support. What that tells me is that God is working through them. I can see God in their actions. It is God who is our refuge and relief in times of tragedy.
Psalm 9:9: The LORD is a refuge for the oppressed, a stronghold in times of trouble.
All that being said, churches and faith-based organizations are made up of people helping people, but they are not the only ones helping others this week. Let’s start with the first responders. Police officers, fireman, paramedics, the National Guard and more have all shown up in droves to help their fellow man. They are true heroes but they are not alone. There are neighbors helping neighbors out. When I say “neighbors”, I don’t mean they even know each other. There are people coming from all over the state and country to help out. There are people with boats going house to house rescuing people in Houston. There are those organizing donation accounts and clothes drives, knowing that so many people will need help one day soon. These are children in Christ (even if they don’t know it) helping out their brothers and sisters in times of need.
What we are also seeing is that all of the things that make us different, that the media tells us we don’t like about each other, don’t really matter at all. We are all the same. I have seen ALL Texans regardless of race, gender, religion or economic status all come together as one. If you follow the events in the last few weeks, you would think this country is as divided as ever and maybe it is a little. But that is because all we ever hear about is how different we are and how we need to stand up for “us” alone. But we are not alone, are we? We are all in this together. Texas is showing the world that right now. We are showing the world that we all love each other and help each other out, regardless of the differences we might have.
In this world, we are truly one big family, God’s family. Just like all families, we tend to disagree, argue and get a little too self-centered. When push comes to shove though, we watch out for each other. God is watching us. He is watching His children ban together and help each other out, just like families do.
So, hug your own friends and family tonight and tell them that you love them. You never know when tragedy will strike. Tomorrow look around and realize that we are all brothers and sisters in Christ. We need to make sure we treat each other as such, not just in times of natural disasters, terrorist attacks and other tragedies, but every – single – day.
If you feel the desire to help out, please donate to any of these great organizations that are helping with Hurricane Harvey relief.