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How to be Christians in the Midst of National Chaos

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Episode Synopsis

Jani invites Ray to share biblical ways to respond to the confusion and chaos engulfing us in the United States today. Ray answers two questions: “How can God help us?” and “What can we do?”

Audio Transcript

Jani: Welcome, everyone. We’re so glad you’re listening in today. I am not here with Heidi today. I am here with my wonderful husband, Ray. We’re sitting around our kitchen table. Thank you, Ray, for joining us.

Ray: It’s a privilege. I’m so glad to be with you.

Jani: Wow, here we are, the first week of July 2020. Crazy, isn’t it? I’ve decided to take a bit of a break from our 10 Commandments study. We just concluded talking about living and giving the sixth commandment to your children and those in your family—which, of course, says, “You shall not murder”—and we’re obviously going to go to the seventh commandment next, which is about establishing faithful marriages (“You shall not commit adultery”). In between these two commandments, we want to talk about some very important things that are going on in our nation today (and really around the world) as well as talking about marriage in some future podcasts before we get into that seventh commandment. So I thank you so much for joining me, Ray.

Ray: It’s a privilege, honey.

Our National Crisis – “How should we respond?”

Jani: What I would like to pick your brain about today is, “How should I respond as a Christian? Here I am living in the midst of this national chaos. It’s confusing to me. It’s alarming to me at times. I’m looking to the Lord and I want to live as a Christian in the midst of this.” I would be really pleased if you’d be willing to share with me and our listeners some of the wisdom God has given you and some advice and guidance from Scripture, from friends, on how we can live today.

Ray: Oh, honey, yes, we need guidance from God. We need to know how to live as God would have us live even as we are under tremendous pressures surrounding us right now, and even within us.

Well, let me start with this insight from a friend, David French, who is a neighbor and a dear, very wise man. In a recent column, David wrote this:

Earlier this week I was listening to the excellent New York Times podcast called The Argument when one of the co-hosts, Michelle Goldberg, said something that put the first five months of this year into stark perspective.

And I would add, “Is 2020 going to go on forever?”

Jani: We all feel that way, darling. We understand.

Ray: Anyway, in this podcast David was listening to,

She said that 2020 started off like 1974 (an impeachment crisis), quickly became 1918 (a pandemic), turned into 1929 (economic crash), and is now 1968 (massive urban unrest).

David French, May 31, 2020 The Center Is Not Holding

Jani: Oh my goodness.

Ray: Yes. So we’re being buffeted by these national body blows at various levels simultaneously. And I haven’t seen this level of national intensity since the late 1960s.

Jani: Yes, we lived through those didn’t we, darling?

Ray: Yes, we saw God work powerfully.

Jani: Yes.

Through the Lense of Scripture

Ray: So, what I’d like to do is just offer two scriptures to our listeners that helped me and I commend them to every listener to ponder. They’re sort of like really, mouth-wateringly tasty and helpful lozenges you drop in your mouth and you don’t swallow it down you, you hold it in your mouth and roll it around with your tongue and just savor the flavor. So two verses that will help: one at the macro level, and a second verse at the micro level. One verse about what only God can do and another verse about what we can do.

Verse #1: Isaiah 64:1

So the first verse at the macro level (what only God can do) is Isaiah 64:1 “Oh that you would render the heavens and come down, that the mountains might quake at your presence.”

So “rend” means to tear apart. Earlier, Isaiah said that the heavens (the starry sky) is like a curtain that God has hung in space. And here in chapter 64 he’s saying to God, “Would you take that canopy—that nighttime starry sky where you’re on the other side and we’re on this side—would you take it in your mighty hands, tear it open and step down into our world right now that the mountains might quake at your presence?” Everything in our world that seems so immovable, so formidable, so unchangeable, make it quake in your presence, Oh, God. “Oh that you would render the heavens and come down, that the mountains might quake at your presence.”

So, sweetheart, we saw in the late 1960s in the midst of national emergency, we saw God rend the heavens and come down with revival.

Jani: Yes…

Ray: And two powerful things were happening simultaneously in our nation during those days. We were going through cultural upheaval, and we were going through spiritual renewal. The cultural upheaval was so unsettling and distressing, we were turning to God with new openness and radical need, and God met us in our need. I just love the largeness and magnitude, I love this daring, courageous, bold prayer, “Oh that you would render the heavens and come down, that the mountains might quake at your presence.”

Friends, there is not perspiration breaking out on God’s brow and he’s not biting his fingernails and wondering ,”What do I do now?” God is not intimidated by the United States of America, and God can help us in ways we have never seen before.

Our 1st Response: “Pray BIG”

So the first Christian response to national chaos is, “Pray big.” Pray big. Let’s stop praying little maintenance prayers and let’s pray big, history redirecting prayers, like Isaiah 64:1.

Jani: I love that, Ray. I needed that challenge. I tend to pray small these days, and yet I’m scared big.

Ray: That’s good, yeah, aren’t we all? We have a Father in heaven who is able to enter in to our national moment with grace, mercy, redemption, and liberation such as we have never seen before.

Jani: I wonder if I might say even more than “able” to enter in, I believe he’s eager to enter in for all of his children here, whom he loves so much and cares about and in his kingdom purposes which he’s working through this all.

Ray: Yes, and he has made tremendous investments in our nation and in each one of us in our churches and our families. So he has an investment to protect his glory to display and his heart is totally on our side. We have every right to pray big. That’s thinking about this at the at the macro level.

VERSE #2: Mark 14:8

Now let’s think about this moment we’re walking through at the micro level. At the macro level, we’re thinking what only God can do at the micro level, what we can do, each of us individually. Now I’m thinking of Mark 14:8. I love this verse. Jesus said of this godly woman…

Jani: …wait before you tell it, set the stage for our listeners who don’t know Mark 14.

Ray: Well, a lady has just anointed the Lord with some very expensive, aromatic ointment, and she’s criticized for it, you know, “Why this waste? This money could have been given to the poor…” blah, blah, blah. Jesus says “She’s done a beautiful thing for me,” and then he says this about her, and this is for us. In verse eight, he says, “She has done what she could.” She didn’t change the course of history. She did not grab the starry skies in her hands and rip it apart and open it up and pull God down. What she did was: she did what she could.

Jani: And doesn’t Jesus say that what she has done is beautiful?

Ray: Yeah, that’s exactly what he says, “She has done a beautiful thing to me.”

OUR 2nd RESPONSE: “Act Small”

So what matters for each one of us is not that we have legislative power, police powers, educational powers, literary powers, we might or might not have world-changing powers in all those ways. But what we do have is what you have, listener, and what I have and what Jani has. Each of us has his or her own life, his or her own God-given reality. Each of us has been invested in and prepared for years, all our lives, for this moment right now. We’re walking into the present, fully invested in, fully authorized by God, fully cared for, fully prepared. We might feel unprepared, but that feeling is false. We are wonderfully prepared, we have Christ. And all he is asking us to do is what we can do. He’s not asking for the impossible. He’s saying

“Take this day, whether it appears to be impressive in your own eyes or not, and go do what you can with it.”

And then Jesus say’s that what she has done, will be told in memory of her wherever the gospel is proclaimed in the whole world.

Jani: Wow.

Ray: So the she did what she could and the Lord said, “Alright, I’m going to make this last forever with worldwide impact.” Now that, in fact, Jani, is your life, it’s my life, it’s every listener’s life. If we will take our little, daily “all,” whatever that might be, however modest in our own eyes, give it to the Lord and do what we can, he will take it up in his hands, and it will matter forever.

So we pray big and we act small. That’s the second thing from Mark 14:8. We act small, there’s nothing wrong with small as long as it is for Christ. Small is really big. It’s just packaged in a way that’s surprising.

A Prayer for us All

Jani: Oh, darling, thank you so much for helping us understand these things today and for giving us these two verses. I found it really helpful. I know our listeners will as well. And as you’ve encouraged us to pray, would you be willing to pray for all of us right now?

Ray: I’d be happy to. Okay, let’s pray. “Father in heaven, we are grateful that you are there, that you are eager to listen and answer our prayers. So here’s what we’re praying for: 1. Would you read the heavens and come down and visit our suffering nation with renewing power in Christ, such as we have never seen before? We need a historic cleansing and renewing. So we pray that you will do for us what only you can do. We long to see that. 2. And then also, Lord, would you help each one of us as we face what might seem like the small tasks of today that are immediately before us? Help us, Lord, to do each thing that we can do for you. And would you make it beautiful? Would you make it memorable? Would you give it an impact and a significance that is not in us but is in you? So we offer you, Lord, what we can do. And we’re not strengthening your hand. We’re not impressing you. We’re not making you pay attention to us because of what we bring to the table. We bring to you our smallness, and we ask you to make it great for your glory on this day. Bless every one of us we pray in this way, in Jesus’ name, Amen.”

Thank You

Thank you for joining us today. This podcast is generously funded through Renewal Ministries. If you would like to discover more about Jani and Ray’s ministry or make a donation, visit their website at renewalministries.com. If you have a question for Jani or would like to learn more about this podcast, please visit our website at herestoresmysoul.org.

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He Restores My Soul with Jani Ortlund seeks to encourage women with God’s renewing power for their busy lives. Episodes include relevant biblical teaching, stimulating gospel conversations with other Christians, and “Ask Jani” sessions where we talk about what’s on our listeners’ hearts.

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