Pray for Our World: United States of America

USA is the world’s third-largest nation in area and population. It is the only industrialized nation with large projected population increases, largely due to immigration. There is an estimated 11.2 million undocumented immigrants and 1 million legally naturalized annually.  It is a nation of immigrants, a place of refuge and a place of freedom.  It has the greatest ethnic-origin diversity of any nation in history.  58% are caucasian, 15% latin-caribbean, 12% african-american, 6% eurasian, 1.8% jewish, 1.6% east asian, 1.4% arab, and less than 1% each are Filipino, South Asian and North American Indigenous.

USA holds 25% of the world’s GDP and 50% of the world’s military spending. It is the world’s most entrepreneurial economy and society.  Freedom of religion, which is written in the constitution, is principled on the separation of church and state, and intended to protect both. There is no doubt that a strong Christian history shaped the new country over 200 years ago. The country’s principals are the epitome of Christianity – freedom, charity, love, grace and equality.  Today, about 77% claim to be Christian and about 17% non-religious. Protestant and Catholic make up the majority of Christian denominations.

21st century America is changing, the world is changing, and the world’s perception of America is changing. History has shown us this before as we cycle through eras and empires. Yet I hope America has not missed its opportunity and greater purpose. We have an opportunity to show the world, many who cross our borders every day, of who Christ is. To show a world, many who have only known of hate and war, what is love and charity, the very reason people come here to begin with. Our freedoms are for all and should remain that way, but we should also be a nation for God.

History shows us this very well. The Israelites in the Old Testament stood out among all of their neighboring pagan nations. They were they only people who worshiped the one true God, and did not sacrifice their children to the gods and perform many other terrible pagan practices. They were set apart to be different, and to carry the story of God to the rest of the world. Foreigners were allowed to live among them, and were treated remarkably well, but they also had to respect the Israelite’s laws and rituals. They did not allow pagan religions within their nation, as it would diminish the meaning of God for future generations to come.  When the Israelites obeyed God’s commands, they were blessed beyond measure. No enemy could infiltrate them. King Solomon built a glorious temple of gold like none other. But when they strayed and started worshiping the other gods, the people were reduced to poverty and exiled from their land. The evidence and statistics of a nation that follows God is very strong. I pray that the United States does not repeat this history.

For the Lord gives wisdom,
from His mouth come knowledge and understanding.
He stores up success for the upright,
He is a shield for those who live with integrity
so that He may guard the paths of justice.
Proverbs 2:6-8

Pray for Our World – The Americas

As I continue around the globe in prayer, starting with the African continent, I now come to the Americas. These are two continents made up of three main areas of North America, Caribbean, and Latin America. They have a lot in common between the 53 countries that make up this region, but there is also great diversity – from the indigenous Intuit people of the Arctic to the Fuegians of South America. There are blessings and challenges to this region, which is sometimes referred to as the New World.

The United States has the majority of the population, and then Canada. North America is the wealthiest continent with 99% literacy rate, 77% Christian and 18% non-religious. The past has been plagued with ill-treatment of indigenous peoples and slavery. The present is plagued with drug-trafficking primarily coming from the south. The balance of world power is changing in the United States, as the world perceptions and roles are changing.

The Caribbean is largely Hispanic and African-Caribbean, with 82% literacy and 83% Christian. Their main economy is tourism. Latin America is largely Hispanic and Brazilian, with 90% literacy and 92% Christian, which is mostly Catholic. Their main economy is export of natural resources.

Overall these statistics look pretty good, and many answered prayers have been a part of it. In the Caribbean and Latin America, there has been a shift toward more democracy and away from military regimes, and a new vitality in the Catholic Church based on new reading of the scriptures and evangelical teaching. There have been many great evangelists, missionaries, writers, speakers, pastors, and trainers that have come out of North America, and North Americans are most generous with missions and good causes. In the area where I live (Southeast United States), I am fortunate to see this played out every day in my church, friends and co-workers.

But there are also a few large areas of prayer needed for this region of the world. Drugs, poverty and crime are certainly on the list, but the one that really stuck out to me when studying this region is the Church. The past brought many solid leaders and teachers from the church but today’s American church is changing.

  • There is a decline in influence. Pray for moral purity and spiritual development of our churches.
  • Consumeristic attitudes have led to shallow thinking and teaching.
  • There is a lack of Biblical understanding as many churches move away from teaching the Word of God to more self-help sermons.
  • False teachings are on the rise, with pluralism (more than one truth), secularism, new age trends, and spiritism (such as voodoo).

Pray for our youth and university students, those who face these obstacles constantly. Just the statistics alone on our youth are staggering. Pray for the immigrant communities, who come from every major world culture to this area of the world – seeking hope. And pray for our poor and oppressed – sex trafficking, drugs, and those who go without in an area of plenty and over-abundance. And don’t just pray – God wants us to help, to get involved! As an American, I pray, “May God have mercy on us and help us return to God, so that we don’t waste what God has blessed and purposed us with.”

In Jesus’ Words: God and Money (Matthew 22:17-21)

“Tell us, what do You think.  Is it lawful to pay taxes to Caesar or not?”  Perceiving their malice, Jesus said, “Why are you testing Me, hypocrites?  Show Me the coin used for the tax.”

So they brought Him a denarius. “Whose image and inscription is this?” He asked them.  “Caesar’s,” they said to Him.

Then He said to them, “Therefore, give back to Caesar the things that are Caesar’s, and to God the things that are God’s.”  (Matthew 22:17-21)

Jesus seems to get a little sassy here.  After all, he had just spent a lot of time with the Pharisees telling them parables about themselves and they still didn’t get it.  Instead they were spending their time plotting how to trap and kill him.  I’m sure Jesus knew their true intentions when they asked this question, but again, Jesus’ answers could not be defeated.

Jesus challenged the things of the day, but he was not political and he did not seek to change world structures, only the hearts of mankind.

When he spoke of giving to God the things that are God’s, I was reminded of these words from Dr. K.P. Johannan, missionary and author of “Revolution in World Missions”, written in 1986.  K.P. confirms in today’s world what Jesus was saying to us.  Jesus’ words were not only to the Pharisees but to us as well.  I hope we do not miss the point.

“Americans are more than just unaware of their affluence – they almost seem to despise it at times.  When I came to America, I stared in amazement at how they treated their beautiful clothes and shoes.  This nation routinely takes its astonishing wealth for granted.

How can two so different economies coexist simultaneously on the earth?  I was alarmed at how misplaced are the spiritual values of most western believers.  It appeared to me that for the most part they had absorbed the same humanistic and materialistic values that dominated the secular culture.  Through their abundance, it was as if they were trying to escape from a guilt they had not yet defined.

They were simply incapable of understanding the enormous needs overseas.  I sometimes cannot freely order food when traveling in the U.S. – I look at the costs and carelessness and realize how far that amount of money would go in India or Philippines.  Suddenly I am not quite as hungry as before.

Is it God’s fault people are going hungry?  No, God has provided enough money in the highly developed nations to feed the rest.  Here are people of privilege and great affluence and more free to act on the Great Commission than any other nation in history.  Yet, they didn’t comprehend this.”

Our greatest fear should not be of failure but of succeeding at things in life that don’t really matter. – Francis Chan

In Jesus’ Words: Let’s eat! (Matthew 15:32-37)

firstthanksgiving

Now Jesus summoned His disciples and said, “I have compassion on the crowd, because they’ve already stayed with Me three days and have nothing to eat. I don’t want to send them away hungry; otherwise they might collapse on the way.” – Matthew 15:32

Jesus had compassion.  He loved being with people.  He encouraged them.  He fed them.  The miraculous feeding of thousands of people is the only miracle recorded in all four gospels, except for the Resurrection.  It wasn’t the raising of the dead or healing the blind that captured the attention of so many people.  It was feeding them.

This event would be equivalent today of filling an entire stadium with people, who have come to hear and see Jesus, and Jesus feeds them all from nothing.  It was recorded four different times by four different men, and witnessed by thousands.  Matthew even tells of it happening twice.  If this event were not true, they would have easily been discredited.  But they weren’t.  Jesus can make something out of nothing.  He can fill your needs.

As we begin this wonderful holiday season of Thanksgiving and Christmas, share your food, be compassionate, and help others.  You will be blessed.

~ Matthew 15:32-37  Feeding of 4,000 ~

The disciples said to Him, “Where could we get enough bread in this desolate place to fill such a crowd?”

“How many loaves do you have?” Jesus asked them.

“Seven,” they said, “and a few small fish.”

After commanding the crowd to sit down on the ground, Jesus took the seven loaves and the fish, and He gave thanks, broke them, and kept on giving them to the disciples, and the disciples gave them to the crowds. They all ate and were filled.

feet with waves cropped

A Halloween observation from an outsider

The question comes up every year this time – should Christians celebrate Halloween?
Clearly, a person’s salvation is not determined by this holiday, so it then becomes a secondary matter for Christians.  It is more a matter of impact and image.

I am not talking about the American tradition of handing out candy to cute little neighborhood kids.  This is part of what makes America unique and great – the fact that we can still have our neighbor’s kids come by our house with anticipation that we will greet them with candy and smiles.

But what about the rest?  What about the decorating of ghosts and witches and tombstones in our yards?  Or the barrage of horror and evil associated with the holiday?  My co-worker from India, who was traveling to the United States for the first time, told me a sobering observation.

He arrived in the U.S. in late October.  Just like anyone visiting a new country for the first time, he was excited to see what it was like.  After settling in for a few days, I took him out to lunch.  As we drove down the streets of Atlanta, looking for a place to eat, my friend became quiet.  He hesitated a little, and said, “I thought America was a Christian country.  Why does everyone put out decorations of evil spirits and magic?”

I felt embarrassed.  I tried to explain as best as I could to an outsider looking in, about our Halloween traditions.

He still seemed disappointed.  “In my country,” he said, “there are people who worship evil spirits, so you do not put those things around your house if you do not want to welcome evil spirits.”

All I could say to him in return is that I was a Christian and I did not celebrate Halloween.  “Ah, ok,” he said.

Impact and image are important.  Does Jesus look welcome in this home?  What would you think if your church pastor decorated his home like this?  It would seem kind of weird.  Why should it be any different for other Christians?

halloween-decorating