An argument arose among them as to which of them was the greatest. But Jesus, knowing the reasoning of their hearts, took a child and put him by his side and said to them, “Whoever receives this child in my name receives me, and whoever receives me receives him who sent me. For he who is least among you all is the one who is great.”
John answered, “Master, we saw someone casting out demons in your name, and we tried to stop him, because he does not follow with us.” But Jesus said to him, “Do not stop him, for the one who is not against you is for you.”
– Luke 9: 46-50
I guess we just can’t help it because it’s human nature, but competition often breaks out in the least appropriate situations. Hard to believe that those who literally walked with Jesus in person–kept company with God Himself in the flesh–still found a reason to bicker about which of should be closer to the Almighty! Unbelievable. Then again, maybe it’s not so incredible.
During my more than three decades in full-time Christian ministry, I’ve seen more than my share of rivalry in God’s work. If I’m honest with myself, I’ve also been a perpetrator of it. There have certainly been times when I’ve wondered why others seemed more favored than me, or more popular, or better provided for, or better known. When I first arrived in Washington, DC, and took on a type of pioneer evangelism I can say little about for reasons of confidentiality, I thought, “Man, everybody else talks about the ministry they’re doing, and they talk about it on television, and people get all excited, and it’s easy to raise the money they need, but I can’t say anything or tell anybody what’s going on!” Our fundraisers still feel that way when they tell me, “Just let us say a little bit about what just happened and we’ll raise you a million dollars!” I always simply shake my head, No.
All that to say, Jesus taught His disciples right from the start not to be jealous, competitive, or resentful of one another, or, of those who are working toward the same end. Instead, he explained that none of us in the Lord’s work is a threat to the other, but, instead, a compliment: “[F]or the one who is not against you is for you.” I’ve certainly learned that here in Washington. From the very beginning of our mission work among top government officials, going back twenty years, I knew to join hands with fellow laborers in the vineyard. While I didn’t fully appreciate it at the time, back in my formative days as a minister, my mentor, Pastor Tommy Reid of the Tabernacle Church in Buffalo, New York, taught me that there simply wasn’t room for competition in God’s work; the challenge is just too great. So, from the very start of Faith and Action, I’ve joined hands with others so the Gospel can be advanced effectively and efficiently.
Today, Faith and Action has a number of what we call “allied ministries” with which we share prayer, information, resources, personnel, and facilities. This constellation of organizations covers a wide spectrum of Christian labels, denominations, and strategies. We are as different from one another as we are the same, but our objective is singular: to be witnesses of the Truth that is in Jesus Christ among those at the top levels of government in our nation.
Today, Faith and Action routinely joins hands with eight other ministries, and often works with several more. I also serve as a board member to five church-related groups. In this way we lend our gifts to one another so the whole can be greater than the sum of its parts. I guess that’s just a complicated way to say we can get a whole lot more accomplished working together than we can working apart!
In talking about working together, I can’t, of course, leave you out, nor the many churches across the country for which we serve as a missionary extension. We rely on our individual and church supporters for your prayers, your encouragement, and your generosity. Without all three, we couldn’t do what God has called us to do here in Washington, DC.
I understand why the disciples fought with one another and with newcomers, but I have no desire to mimic that behavior. I believe God gives us to one another as gifts so that we can get His work done in an honorable and fruitful way. Thank you for being part of that great lesson in cooperation!
Your always grateful missionary partner for His glory and not our own,
Sometimes small things are big things–and that was certainly the case yesterday at the US Supreme Court. For the fourth year in a row, I took a small group of ministers over to the High Court to conduct a National Day of Prayer observance. The group’s size was by design: We had “cut a deal” with the Court (so-to-speak). I’ll explain:
Several years ago, after my friend and colleague, Rev. Pat Mahoney of the Christian Defense Coalition, was arrested and prosecuted for kneeling to pray on the steps of the Court, I decided enough-is-enough with the Court’s long-standing “no prayer zone.” After all, it wasn’t just public displays of prayer (which they explained as an illegal form of “demonstration”) that brought summary judgement–but even silent non-demonstrable prayer. In other words, not so many years ago, you could be arrested–or at least ejected from the Court building–simply for bowing your head in silent prayer! Well, with help from the American Center for Law and Justice, Pat and I approached the Court–and, through a complicated process–arrived at an understanding: So long as our group is small, we don’t command a lot of public attention, and we don’t tip off the media to what we’re doing–there will essentially be no problem with our prayer services on the National Day of Prayer.
So, once again, our delegation of pastors and ministry leaders formed a horseshoe under one of the flag poles on the Court’s celebrated and marbled plaza to conduct a prayer service for the Court and for our country. Below is the “liturgy” or written service we used. (That’s another part of our strategy: doing it in writing so that every word is documented.) Some of the prayers and statements are adapted from the historic Book of Common Prayer, others I wrote especially for this service.
I hope you’ll pray these prayers with me. As I pointed out yesterday at another National Day of Prayer event at the Capitol, prayers have no expiration dates–no “shelf-life.” Prayers go on into eternity–or until God sees fit to fully answer them in His own time.
Thanks for your support in all we do here as your missionaries to elected and appointed officials!
Daybreak Prayer on the National Day of Prayer
Faith and Action in the Nation’s Capital
109 2nd St, NE, Washington, DC 20002 202-546-8329
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A reading from Daniel, Chapter 4, verses 34-35:
“At the end of the days I, Nebuchadnezzar, lifted my eyes to heaven, and my reason returned to me, and I blessed the Most High, and praised and honored Him who lives forever,
for His dominion is an everlasting dominion, and His kingdom endures from generation to generation;
all the inhabitants of the earth are accounted as nothing, and He does according to His will among the host of heaven and among the inhabitants of the earth; and none can stay His hand or say to Him, ‘What have you done?’”
Lord, we pray always that reason will return to our elected and appointed officials and they, too, will praise and honor You; in Jesus’ name, Amen.
The Prayer of the Court
(Together) “God save the United States and this Honorable Court!”
#1 For our Nation
Almighty God, who has given us this great land for our heritage:
We humbly ask You that we may always prove ourselves a people mindful of Your favor and glad to do Your will. Bless our land with honorable industry, sound learning, and pure manners.
Save us from violence, discord, and confusion; from pride and arrogance, and from every evil way. Defend our liberties, and fashion into one united people the multitudes brought here out of many kindreds and tongues.
Endue with the spirit of wisdom those to whom in Your Name we entrust the authority of government, that there may be justice and peace at home, and that, through obedience to Your law, we may show forth Your praise among the nations of the earth. In the time of prosperity, fill our hearts with thankfulness, and in the day of trouble, suffer not our trust in You to fail; all which we ask through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.
#2 For the President of the United States and all in Civil Authority
O Lord our Governor, whose glory is in all the world: We commend this nation to Your merciful care, that, being guided by Your Providence, we may dwell secure in Your peace. Grant to the President of the United States, the Governor of the 50 States and of the territories, and to all in authority, wisdom and strength to know and to do Your will. Fill them with the love of truth and righteousness, and make them ever mindful of their calling to serve the American people in Your fear; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with You and the Holy Spirit. Amen.
# 3 For the President by name
“Lord God Almighty, on this National Day of Prayer we bring before you Barack Obama, President of the United States. Grant to him a desire to know You fully, a humility to acknowledge Your rulership over his life, and an appreciation for Your great gift of salvation through Jesus Christ. Enlighten the understanding of our President that he might receive Your wisdom, respect Your laws, and faithfully execute Your will through his public office and in his personal life. Grant our President wisdom, knowledge, insight, and understanding, for they are more profitable than silver and gold; cause him to always and in every way trust ultimately and absolutely in You. Convict our President of sin and of righteousness and turn his heart and mind to You in repentance and in humble obedience. Provide for and protect our President and his family as they look to you alone as their Defender. We commit President Barack Obama into your constant care and keeping, for we ask these things in the mighty name of Jesus; for just and true are Your ways, King of the Nations. Amen.”
#4 For the Congress
O God, the fountain of wisdom, whose will is good and gracious, and whose law is Truth: We ask You to guide and bless our Senators and Representatives in Congress as they assemble across the street, that they may enact such laws as shall please You. We ask that You would, in Your mercy, cause the people of the United States to elect to the Congress those who will hear and obey Your moral will for our American civilization; to the glory of Your Name and the welfare of this nation; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.
#5 For the Leaders of Congress by name
Holy God, we bring before Your throne the leaders of Congress:
Speaker of the House John Boehner
Majority Leader Eric Cantor
Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi
Majority Whip Kevin McCarthy
Minority Whip Steney Hoyer
We pray, also, dear Lord, for the leadership of the United States Senate:
President of the Senate Joseph R. Biden, Jr.
President Pro-tempore Patrick J. Leahy
Majority Leader Harry Reid
Minority Leader Mitch McConnell
Majority Whip Richard J. Durbin
Minority Whip John Cornyn
And, in a special way, we pray for the two leaders of the US Senate Judiciary Committee, charged with vetting nominees to this and other federal courts, Chairman Leahey and Ranking member Chuck Grassley.
# 7 The leadership of the Congress
We ask, O Lord, that You will inform the consciences of these leaders, imbue them with a desire to know and to obey Your will; Grant to them favor only as they do so. We ask these things in the Name of Christ, who always leads us in triumphal procession, and through us spreads the fragrance of the knowledge of Him everywhere. Amen.
#8 For Courts of Justice
Almighty God, who sits in the eternal throne judging right: We humbly ask You to guide the courts of justice and the magistrates in all this land; and give to them the spirit of wisdom and understanding, that they may discern the truth, and impartially administer the law in the fear of You alone; through him who shall come to be our Judge, Your Son our Savior Jesus Christ. Amen.
#9 For the leadership of the federal judiciary
O God, Who judges the earth and inherits the nations: We lay before You in particular all of the judges, justices, magistrates, special masters, and others that serve on the federal bench. We bring before You their clerks and administrators, marshals, and all those that assist in the conduct of the federal judiciary. We name specifically Judge Thomas F. Hogan, director of the Administrative Office and secretary to the Judicial Conference of the United States.
#10 Specific Prayer for the Justices of the Supreme Court
Lord, we bring before you now the nine justices of this court:
Chief Justice of the United States, John G. Roberts, Jr.
Anthony M. Kennedy
Ruth Bader Ginsburg
Stephen G. Breyer
Samuel Anthony Alito, Jr.
#11 For the Direction of the Court
We ask, O Lord, that You would draw the Justices close to Yourself; guide them in the way of salvation, holiness, and righteousness. Cause them to do what is just under the Constitution of the United States and in conformity with Your ways that constitute the Highest Law of all. We ask in the Name of the One our Founders called the Supreme Judge of the World, Jesus Christ, Who reigns from Your right hand forever and ever. Amen.
#12 For Sound Government
O Lord our Governor, direct the leaders of our land, that we may be a people at peace among ourselves and a blessing to other nations of the earth. Lord, keep this nation under your care. May the President and members of the Cabinet, governors of States, mayors of cities, and all in administrative authority, learn to fear and obey You. As they do, grant to them wisdom and grace in the exercise of their duties. We ask these things through Christ the Lord. Amen.
Descend to the sidewalk
(Kneeling) The Lord’s Prayer
Our Father, which art in heaven, Hallowed be thy Name. Thy Kingdom come. Thy will be done in earth, As it is in heaven.
Give us this day our daily bread. And forgive us our trespasses,
As we forgive them that trespass against us.
And lead us not into temptation, But deliver us from evil.
For thine is the kingdom, the power, and the glory,
Forever and ever. Amen.
(Standing) The Pledge of Allegiance—stressing “under God.”
I pledge allegiance to the flag of the United States of America, and to the republic for which it stands, one nation under God, indivisible, with liberty and justice for all.
” . . . I have called you friends . . .” Jesus to His disciples, John 15:5
If it’s possible to have favorite passages in the Bible, this one is certainly among my favorites. The idea that Jesus not only had friends, but that He intentionally deemed certain people to be His friends, is mind-blowing to me. I used to think friends were like weeds: they just popped up in your life, sometimes where you least expected them, without any intentional action on your part, and they hung around as long as they felt like it, some of them overtaking the landscape and others shriveling up, dying, and disappearing as fast as they appeared and without explanation. In fact, I even thought some “friends” could become as much a nuisance as weeds, crowding my garden of relationships and sometimes sucking the nutrients from other, more important human connections. Basically, I thought of friendship as something totally out of my control.
Then I contemplated this passage about Jesus and His friends. To “have called” implies a volitional, considered action. Jesus’ words here are not an impulsive exclamation or spontaneous eruption of emotion. This is not an uncontrolled utterance. Jesus’ words are deliberate. He is deeming His disciples to be His friends. This is intentional.
This epiphany–this aperçus–caused me to look at all my relationships differently. I realized some friendships might be organic and spontaneous, but most will not be. They must be intentional. Jesus intentionally identified some to be his “friends.” Of course, there were reasons: Some had dropped everything in their lives to follow Him, others literally obeyed His instructions on life and salvation and on prayer. Others showed their devotion in tangible and intangible ways. Some even risked their lives for Him. They, too, had chosen Jesus as a friend, as imperfect as their understanding of friendship might have been. The point is, though, Jesus and His disciples decided to be friends to each other. It cost them something. They had to work at it. And that leads me to you . . .
If you’re reading this, I can say–with near certainty (there’s always the rare exception)–I want to be your friend and I want for you to be my friend–and I’m willing to work on it! We all need friends–and it’s impossible to live life without friends. “The Lord God said, ‘It is not good for man to be alone.’” I know, that supernal statement was followed by the creation of a unique partner for Adam–namely, Eve, his intimate compliment. That only proves my point all the more because marriage should be the quintessence of “friendship.” To have a truly happy marriage, a spouse must be more than a domestic partner–more than a roommate–more than even a romantic lover. A spouse must first be a friend–albeit a unique and unlimited friend. But I digress . . . let me get back to the original point: I’d like you as my friend.
I’d like to work on friendship with you because I need your friendship, I enjoy your friendship, and because you have proven yourself to be my friend–though I often feel unworthy of it. Your interest in my ministry work in Washington, your encouragement to me, your prayers for me, for my family, and for my ministry team are so very kind and generous. I feel them constantly–and they keep me going–especially during the hard times, like what I faced just last week.
Of course, friendships are not always easy and can even be rocky. The friendship between Jesus and His disciples certainly had its problems. At times the disciples were frustrated with Jesus and He was exasperated by them. (See Luke 9:51-56) At the end, while Peter would risk death to (wrongly) defend Jesus in the garden, he would none-the-less easily abandon his Lord when gawkers simply associated him with the now captive and certain-to-be-condemned Jesus.
The thing about true friendships is that they can survive even the worst conflicts. Jesus’ friendship with Peter certainly did. Even after Peter threw Jesus under the Roman bus, the Son of God asked his hapless friend to take care of those He loved. (See John 21:16)
So, I want you to know that following the example of our Lord, I’ve prayerfully, intentionally, and literally deemed you “my friend.” You are a gift from God to me and I am very grateful to Him for you. I mean this with all my heart. I know I can’t live without friends–all kinds of friends–and all kinds of friendships. Maybe we’ve never actually met in person, but we know each other none-the-less. Maybe you’re a “Facebook Friend.” While some might be tempted to devalue that kind of relationship, I don’t. In fact, sometimes I know more about my Facebook friends because of their posts, their profiles, and their photo galleries, than I know about my “in-person friends” who don’t tell me much about themselves at all–much less show me anything about their lives!
So, no matter the circumstances of our friendship, I value you very highly and I will never take our friendship for granted. If Jesus needed and valued His friends, how can I think I can do anything less? And, I pledge to in-turn be a good friend to you. I promise to pray for you, thank God for you, do what I can for you, and keep in touch with you!
Oh, and to those friends that responded to my need last week for prayer, encouragement–and–let me just put it out on the table–my badly needed financial help for our ministry–words will never be adequate to say “Thank You.” All I can do is say how much it means to have friends at difficult times like last week. I don’t think I would have survived without your friendship. Friends were God’s rescue for me, for my family, for my team, and for my ministry. Now that makes friendship invaluable!
With great gratitude to the Lord, here’s to you, my friend!
I am always,
Your friend in Christ,
The past week–well, ten days–were some of the most fulfilling I’ve known as your missionary to Washington, DC. I know a lot of people were upset that President Barack Obama was inaugurated for a second term–and many were lamenting the 40th anniversary of Roe v. Wade–but for us, promise was in the air!
First , there were the hundreds of thousands of people that passed by our ministry house on Capitol Hill and saw our banner that read, “We don’t always agree with the President, but we always pray for him. (1 Timothy 2:1-4)” I know, a few people thought the message was too wimpy, but in Washington, you must always be, as Jesus said, “Wise as a serpent and harmless as a dove.” To say anything more forward about our opposition to some of the President’s policies would have invited an equal and opposite reaction. Instead, we had countless people stop, look up, read the banner, obviously consider it’s message, then discuss it, even argue it, with their companions, phone it in to somebody, and ask us about it. It was an open invitation to talk about the things that really matter. The result was a wonderful time of very fruitful ministry. Our prayer that the President would see it seemed also to be answered when his limousine went right past our front door–not once, but twice!
That same day, as I reported to you, I was at the historic Willard Hotel to pray specifically for the President. Even though the ballroom was filled with mostly his supporters, I prayed boldly and very honestly. I didn’t hold anything back. Of course, I was respectful and deferential–as I always am with those in authority–but I was also candid. One thing I’ve learned being in Washington for eighteen years, is this: If you’re not strong in your convictions and you don’t speak your mind, you will garner no respect here. In other words, if you cower in the presence of those in authority, if you are obsequious or sycophantic, you’ll be dismissed as a useless toady. On the other hand, if you are disrespectful, insulting, impertinent, you’ll be written off as a useless crank. I’ve learned to discern a very careful middle track that assures I’ll be taken seriously and given an audience. That’s what happened this week. It’s why I was invited–at the very last minute–to attend the special prayer service for the President at the Washington National Cathedral on Tuesday. The person responsible for that unusual invitation knows exactly where I stand with the President–and even knew about the banner on our building–but took me seriously enough to invite me. I was grateful to be just one row of pews away from the President where I was able to pray for him in an intimate way.
Thursday I convened a special summit of some of our most valuable allies to seek their wisdom in crafting a ministry strategy for the next four years. These men and women were pastors, ministry leaders, and seasoned veterans of Gospel work. They were young, old, urban, suburban, black, white, men and women. They were enormously helpful to me and to my ministry leadership team. The Scripture says, “Where there is no guidance the people fall, But in abundance of counselors there is victory.” (Prov 11:14 NASB) The insights, experience, guidance, and wisdom shared by these friends of our ministry not only proved enormously helpful, it left me greatly encouraged. I was ready to commit to whatever it takes to maintain a strong prophetic presence in Washington over the course of the next four years, but coming away from that roundtable of counselors left me feeling victorious! I’m grateful to God for each one that loaned his or her time, talent, gifts, and resources to our strategic summit!
The big moment for me came on Friday, though, when many of the same Christian leaders at our roundtable joined me and scores of other clergy for the 19th Annual National Memorial for the Pre-born and their Mothers and Fathers at the famed Constitution Hall across the street from the White House complex. Hundreds of pro-life activists gathered there to pray for an end to the abortion holocaust, the healing of those injured by it in body and soul, and for a new day when God’s gift of life is celebrated by all and protected under law. I started the Memorial program by asking everyone to join me in a unison shout to President Obama, who lives across the street from where we assembled. Quoting the President’s very words at a news conference on the terrible tragedy in Newtown, Connecticut (with a minor modification shown in upper case), we shouted at the top of our lungs–respectfully, of course:
“President Obama: Our first task as a society is to keep ALL our children safe!”
It was a wonderful feeling to get that off our chests before we began two hours of serious prayer, praise, testimony, and worship. My long-time friend, Fr. Frank Pavone of Priests for Life, delivered a powerful message that will was streamed live around the world over the Internet and will be re-broadcast many times in the days ahead. Nearly 70 ministers from dozens of churches and many denominations each had a part in the service. A young couple that had experienced the painful loss of abortion shared their very moving story of redemption and journey of healing. It renewed all of us and prepared us to plunge back into the battle for justice for the whole human family!
One thing I didn’t get to do this past week was to drop by the massive Students for Life Conference that was held across town simultaneously with our other events. Our allied ministry partner, Rev. Pat Mahoney of the Christian Defense Coalition, did speak to the more than 2000 college-aged kids who conducted numerous pro-life events throughout the week. His report to me and photos of these very serious Christian young people assured me that the victory for Life is already won! Join that evidence to the tens of thousands of young faces among the more than 400,000 that walked in the March for Life on Friday, and it means it’s just a matter of time!
Finally, good things sometimes come in small packages, and two fellowship dinners that Cheryl and I enjoyed with friends who were here for different reasons were just as important to us as anything else–maybe even more so. As the saying goes, none of us is an island. We all need others. St. Paul gives us the metaphor of the body in 1 Corinthians 12. We need each part in order to function properly. Sitting with friends–in this case the incomparable Paulette Farina of Columbus, OH, on Friday night–and Lt. Col. David Hensey USMC, of Las Vegas on Saturday night–reminded me of that truth. Not only do I enjoy time with friends immensely–I also need my friends. These two fellowship meals capped off the week beautifully!
And speaking of friends, that circle includes you! Your prayers, your encouragement to us, and your generosity allow us to enjoy these experiences. I will always be grateful to God for you and for your kindness to us. I will never take it for granted. Thank you!
On to our next challenge . . .
Many of you know one my greatest contemporary heroes is martyred German pastor and theologian Dietrich Bonhoeffer, who stood up courageously and spoke prophetically to the Nazi powers and to Adolf Hitler. He would pay for his obedience to God with his life. At age 39, after leaving us countless sermons, more than 10,000 pages of theological writings, correspondence, and prayers–and, of course, an uncompromising model for confronting evil with the Truth of the Gospel–Dietrich was hanged at the Flossenburg concentration camp. Here is a Good Friday-Easter meditation taken from his sermon on Romans 11:6, delivered in Barcelona, Spain, on the Third Sunday in Lent, March 11, 1928:
“Good Friday and Easter–the days of God’s overpowering acts in history, acts in which God’s judgement and grace were revealed to all the world–are just around the corner. Judgement in those hours in which Jesus Christ, our Lord, hung on the cross; grace in that hour in which death was swallowed up in victory. It was not human beings who accomplished anything here; no, God alone did it. He came to human beings in infinite love. He judged what is human. And he granted peace beyond any merit.”
From my family to yours, may you have a blessed Good Friday and Holy Saturday–and a thoroughly joyous Resurrection Sunday!