A Lasting, Inward Change
For any change to be lasting and meaningful, it must come from an inward change. The nation and the Church need a revival of character. We need leaders who love the people they are called to serve more than they love being served. An external change made only for show will not help the Church or the nation, but an internal change that carries over to the Church’s external dealings will positively impact America for generations. We are in need of an awakening in the Church if we are to see a revival in our nation. We must be careful to guard against superficial change. Reform must be internal in order for it to bring lasting external transformation.
During the reign of Josiah, King of Judah, what became known as the Reform of Josiah took place (around 622 B.C.). During Judah’s history, reforms came from time to time⎯politically, religiously, and spiritually. The prophetic ministries of Zephaniah and Jeremiah may have been factors in the reforms that took place during King Josiah’s reign. Yet Zephaniah reminds us that a revival that produces outward change without fully removing the heart’s inward corruption will not be lasting. Though the people of Judah outwardly turned to God, their hearts were not changed. They quickly turned back to their pagan idols after King Josiah’s rule. How similar this situation is to the one in the Church and in our nation today!
In order to see lasting change in our nation, we must first be intimately aware of the state of the Church and its people. A.W. Tozer was right when he observed in “The Gift of Prophetic Insight” that “what God says to the Church at any given time period depends altogether upon her moral and spiritual condition, and upon the spiritual need of the hour.” For national reform that will make a lasting impact spiritually and politically, we as Christians must return to our foundations and our first love, and become lovers of truth.
Years ago while in Washington D.C. for the Presidential Prayer Breakfast, I was asked by Dr. Bill Bright to be part of a taping with Max Lucado and Chuck Colson on the Soul of America. When asked my thoughts, I simply stated that we all would agree that there is a battle for the soul of America and of our generation. But, I also believe that the heart of any city, community or nation should be the Church. If the heart is weak or sick, then how can we bring healing to the soul of the city, community or nation? I believe it’s crucial that the Church return to its first love if we are to bring healing.
A House Divided
However, the Church often can’t agree on the best course of action to take, so its missions aren’t as effective as they could or should be. Jesus spoke rightly when He said, “Every kingdom divided against itself is brought to desolation, and every city or house divided against itself will not stand.” (Matthew 12:25, NKJV). The Church’s influence in America is waning in part because it is divided in heart and purpose.
Many of the problems plaguing the Church stem from Christians putting our personal agendas and preferences above God’s plans. Rather than building on the foundations of His Kingdom, we have placed our faith and hope in the institutions of men. Not surprisingly, the results are disastrous and far-reaching. History has already shown us the devastating effects that a divided house has on its nation.
In the Old Testament, Manasseh was the largest tribe of Israel. Later, half the tribe joined with the tribes of Reuben and Gad to settle on the Transjordan side of the river, rather than join the other tribes to settle the Promised Land. Although Manasseh did help the other tribes settle the land west of the Jordan as commanded by Moses and Joshua, they ultimately settled with Reuben and Gad on the eastern side. A split like this was no small thing in the eyes of the Israelites, and it had significant effects on the rest of the tribes. It affected tribal identity. They were divided by a physical boundary⎯the Jordan River⎯so they naturally created separate cultural and religious identities. Some scholars believe this was the precursor to the divided kingdom. I wonder if Manasseh had remained undivided, making them the largest of the tribes, would it have helped strengthen Israel?
I also wonder this: if the Church, which should be the largest “tribe” in our nation, were undivided in heart and voice, would we be the very conduit of moral strength, healing and hope in the nation? Yes, there is a battle for the soul of America, but when the Church, the heart of the nation is strong, all others, even those who oppose us, would benefit from our strength. To keep such a divisive and irreparable split from happening in the Church, we must consent to move past our differences⎯be they denominational, racial, generational, or political⎯and become part of something bigger than ourselves.
His Presence Brings Unity
In the last chapter of Matthew the disciples went to the mountain Jesus had appointed for them. When they saw Him, they worshiped Him. In His Presence there were no personal agendas or preferences. In His Presence His authority and commission were given to them. We also see that in 2 Chronicles 5:11-14, the priests came out of the Most Holy Place sanctified and without division. They were as one, praising and thanking the Lord, and the glory of the Lord filled the house of God. If we are to see the foundations of our nation restored, then we must be willing to cross our barriers and dividing walls and meet at the Cross of Christ.
Unity in Diversity
As an American of Asian descent, married to a Texas-born Latina of Mexican descent, I recognize that there may be unique differences, experiences and challenges every one of us of various ethnic backgrounds may have. Too often we create walls by virtue of the categories we place ourselves and one another in. God loves the beauty of all His creation, whether black, white, brown, red or yellow, which I mention in my books, Hope For A Fatherless Generation and Who’s Your Daddy Now? Together we are His Coat of Many Colors. Unity is not uniformity; we can have unity in our diversity. Although I am blessed by my Japanese and Asian roots, I am not Japanese first, or Japanese American, or Asian American, or Euro-Asian. Jesus taught that His brother, sister, and mother are those who hear the word of God and follow it.
As Americans, there are real and genuine issues and concerns that we must be willing to honestly address. As Christians, we should do so in Christ’s example of love and civility.
Focusing on God’s Agenda
I believe the Church, united in biblical foundation and ideology, should have the greatest voice in our nation. We should not be owned by or influenced by any particular political party, but rather we should be the plumb line of truth in love, righteousness and justice, and healing and hope in the nation. If the Church would willingly release its worldly agenda and focus on God’s agenda, we could bring lasting change to every sphere of society.
We are at a critical juncture in our nation. In order for serious change to happen, we, the Church, the largest potential “tribe,” must get back to our moorings, back to our first love, and back to the unshakable foundations of the Lord.