Seek the Welfare of the City

American politics disgust me.

I’m sorry if that offends anyone for I really don’t mean to be rude.  I know many people take great pride in the democratic functions of our government and love to take part in serving their community, state, or country in the political realm.  I guess I just have a jaded view of politics born out of the corruption we hear about literally every day in the news.  It’s just created a sense of distrust that those in political power commonly look out for themselves and rarely for the people they are serving.

But all of that aside, I still love my country.  I’m not into the popular idea of “worshipping” my country or our freedoms or some famous document like the Constitution because that would be worshipping an idol, but I do love my country and the people who live in it because it’s what God asks me to do.  Don’t believe me?  Read the following passage of Scripture and see if it changes your mind…

“Thus says the Lord of hosts, the God of Israel, to all the exiles whom I have sent into exile from Jerusalem to Babylon: Build houses and live in them; plant gardens and eat their produce. Take wives and have sons and daughters; take wives for your sons, and give your daughters in marriage, that they may bear sons and daughters; multiply there, and do not decrease. But seek the welfare of the city where I have sent you into exile, and pray to the Lord on its behalf, for in its welfare you will find your welfare.”

(Jeremiah 29:4-7)

Here, we read of God’s people who are exiled in Babylon and forced to live in a pagan culture which is a drastically different environment from how they were called to live.  What’s interesting are God’s instructions for how his people should conduct themselves while there.  They are to pray and seek the welfare of the country in which they reside.  They are told that their blessings will come through the blessings of the Babylonian empire.  God did not call his people to criticize or complain about their situation.  He didn’t ask that his people rise up in rebellion and show the Babylonians the power of the true and living God.  He called them to be light to the nation of Babylon.

Now contrary to popular opinion, God is not sitting up in Heaven right now only looking out for the welfare of the United States of America.  “We’re a Christian nation!,” is a common refrain heard from pulpits around the country, but the truth is, God is concerned about all of his children.  He wants all of humanity to come into a knowledge of who he is and how much he loves us.  Christ’s church is not limited to the man-made boundaries found on a map.  That’s why God would ask of us today the same thing he asked of his people during Jeremiah’s time.  We should still actively seek the welfare of the city, of the country, and of the world in which we live, even if it is a sinful one!

26 And he made from one man every nation of mankind to live on all the face of the earth, having determined allotted periods and the boundaries of their dwelling place, 27 that they should seek God, and perhaps feel their way toward him and find him. Yet he is actually not far from each one of us,” (Acts 17:26-27)

 

“First of all, then, I urge that supplications, prayers, intercessions, and thanksgivings be made for all people, for kings and all who are in high positions, that we may lead a peaceful and quiet life, godly and dignified in every way. This is good, and it is pleasing in the sight of God our Savior, who desires all people to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth.” (1 Timothy 2:1-4)

As Christians, we should stop complaining about the condition of our nation and be active in promoting its welfare for the glory of God.  Is there evidence of sin around us today?  Sure.  Was there rampant sin in Babylon during the time of the exile?  Again, the answer is yes, but the people of that age were still commanded to honor God even in the midst of their enemies, and we should do the same.  Let us follow the advice of Jesus when trying to live in this world and not of this world…

43 “You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’ 44 But I say to you, Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, 45 so that you may be sons of your Father who is in heaven. For he makes his sun rise on the evil and on the good, and sends rain on the just and on the unjust. 46 For if you love those who love you, what reward do you have? Do not even the tax collectors do the same? 47 And if you greet only your brothers,[a] what more are you doing than others? Do not even the Gentiles do the same? 48 You therefore must be perfect, as your heavenly Father is perfect.”

(Matthew 5:43-48)

Let us always seek the welfare of the city.

-Joe Butler

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They Had Been With Jesus

“And as they were speaking to the people, the priests and the captain of the temple and the Sadducees came upon them, greatly annoyed because they were teaching the people and proclaiming in Jesus the resurrection from the dead. And they arrested them and put them in custody until the next day, for it was already evening. But many of those who had heard the word believed, and the number of the men came to about five thousand.

On the next day their rulers and elders and scribes gathered together in Jerusalem, with Annas the high priest and Caiaphas and John and Alexander, and all who were of the high-priestly family. And when they had set them in the midst, they inquired, “By what power or by what name did you do this?” Then Peter, filled with the Holy Spirit, said to them, “Rulers of the people and elders, if we are being examined today concerning a good deed done to a crippled man, by what means this man has been healed, 10 let it be known to all of you and to all the people of Israel that by the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth, whom you crucified, whom God raised from the dead—by him this man is standing before you well. 11 This Jesus is the stone that was rejected by you, the builders, which has become the cornerstone. 12 And there is salvation in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given among men by which we must be saved.”

13 Now when they saw the boldness of Peter and John, and perceived that they were uneducated, common men, they were astonished. And they recognized that they had been with Jesus.”

(Acts 4:1-13)

If you haven’t already done so, go back and read the above passage of Scripture closely.  There are several subtleties, that if read too quickly, are easily missed.

Take a moment to reflect on who Peter and John were.  As two of Jesus’ earliest disciples, it was a common belief amongst the religious elite of the day that these two men were just simple fisherman tricked into following the provocative teachings of a false prophet.  The rulers, elders, and teachers of the law had no respect for the crucified Jesus and thought even less of his so-called uneducated followers.

These disciples were beginning to stir up trouble even after the priests believed they had taken care of their Jesus problem.  Here were Peter and John and the other disciples proclaiming a resurrected Christ and teaching people to repent and be baptized for the forgiveness of their sins (Acts 2:22-24, Acts 2:38).  These followers of Jesus were continuing to convince the Jewish people of their need to separate from the corrupt religious leaders of their day (Acts 2:40-41) and follow Jesus as well.

And now Peter and John are actually out healing people in the name of Jesus (Acts 3:1-10).  The Holy Spirit was bestowed upon them (Acts 2:1-4) and they were using their new-found power from God to bring the message of Jesus to the masses.  It was precisely this message that had the religious leaders so incensed.  It’s why they throw Peter and John in prison and question these suddenly powerful men about their dealings as of late.

It’s Peter and John’s response that’s so surprising though.  You would think that after watching the cruel death of their Master on a Roman cross, the disciples would be afraid.  You can imagine them trying to hide, trying to stay out of the way of a possible crucifixion themselves.  But instead, we find them boldly standing up for the truth.  With courage, they insist on preaching the name of Jesus as our means of salvation.

This should be a rallying cry for all those Christians out there who may believe they live a simple existence.  The power of God resides within you!  These leaders looked at Peter and John and they saw their courage.  They knew they were unschooled in Jewish law.  In fact, they were generally unschooled period, just eking out a meager life as fishermen.  But there’s one unique thing about these men.  They had been with Jesus!!!

Today, the same example can still apply.  Shouldn’t people be able to look at our lives, how we act, the way we respond, the way we proclaim God to the world, and say that we’ve been with Jesus?  I don’t mean being with Jesus in a physical sense, but have we been in his word?  Can others see the Holy Spirit at work in our lives?  Do we spend a lot of time in prayer, seeking the guidance and direction of God?

HAVE YOU BEEN WITH JESUS?

-Joe Butler

An Electrified Christian

“The difference between the almost right word and the right word is really a large matter…it’s the difference between the lightning bug and the lightning.”

-Mark Twain

I have this quote from Mark Twain on a bulletin board in my classroom at school.  Because I teach language arts, I try to teach my students to expand their vocabulary and use words in their writing that are more powerful and effective.  Like the difference in strength between a lightning bug and a bolt of lightning, there is a major distinction between a weak word and a strong one.  Hopefully by the end of the school year, my students will have learned a whole new set of vocabulary words they can use in their writing and conversations.

In a way, we can reapply this quote to what it means to be a zealous Christian.  We really do have a choice to live our lives and let our light shine with the effectiveness of a lightning bug or a lightning bolt.  The Bible directly addresses this concept in several places as well:

14 “You are the light of the world. A city set on a hill cannot be hidden. 15 Nor do people light a lamp and put it under a basket, but on a stand, and it gives light to all in the house. 16 In the same way, let your light shine before others, so that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father who is in heaven.” (Matthew 5:14-16)

 

33 “No one after lighting a lamp puts it in a cellar or under a basket, but on a stand, so that those who enter may see the light. 34 Your eye is the lamp of your body. When your eye is healthy, your whole body is full of light, but when it is bad, your body is full of darkness. 35 Therefore be careful lest the light in you be darkness. 36 If then your whole body is full of light, having no part dark, it will be wholly bright, as when a lamp with its rays gives you light.” (Luke 11:33-36)

We can learn from these passage that our light, our example and modeling of Christ-like behavior, is not meant to be subdued or covered up in any way.  Our lives are meant to reflect Christ living within us, to bring the light of Jesus into the darkness of our sin-filled world.  It’s not too difficult to visualize that to shine forth like a lightning bug only allows us to have a limited reach, while letting our light explode out into the world like a lightning bolt will reach many more people for Christ.  The lesson is simple.  The amount of fervor we have for Christ directly affects the environment around us and has the ability to win more souls for the Lord.

So where does this light come from?  What powerful force must we rely upon in order to positively light up our world?  This isn’t about the unique features of bioluminescence found in a lightning bug or the powerful forces of static electricity in a bolt of lightning.  The strength of our light is found in Jesus himself!

12 Again Jesus spoke to them, saying, “I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will not walk in darkness, but will have the light of life.”(John 8:12)

I don’t know about you, but I am in awe over the fact that I’m tapped into the most powerful force of light in all of creation.  You are too if you are in Christ.  The really important question is: Are you living in the power of that light and letting it shine through your life every day?

-Joe Butler

Prayers For My Daughter (Part 4)

Today is my last post in this 4 part series about the prayers we should pray for our children.  Be sure to go back and read Part 1, Part 2, and Part 3 if you haven’t already done so.

  • RESPONSIBILITY (Galatians 6:4-5)- In light of the most recent school shooting and all of the irresponsibility we have from people from all walks of life, it feels appropriate to talk about responsibility, or maybe the lack thereof.  Our society, for some reason, has grown into a group of people who want to take less and less responsibility for their actions.  That’s why we must pray for our children to learn to be responsible and test their own actions.  Our kids must learn that it’s not only about the rights afforded to them, but also the responsibilities they must shoulder as well.  They must learn this trait, because in the end, they will have to answer to the Almighty God for their actions.
  • MERCY (Luke 6:36)- I firmly believe there’s no better way for our children to learn the true mercy and forgiveness that our heavenly Father offers them than to pray for and exemplify that mercy ourselves.  The Bible specifically commands us to be merciful if we expect to receive mercy from God.  Fervently pray that your children show a merciful heart towards others when they are wronged.  It’s not always easy, but that way they may truly understand what God has done for them.
  • THE HEART OF A SERVANT (Ephesians 6:7)- This statement may be too much of a generality, but I believe the most detrimental thing affecting the growth of the church today is the fact that many Christians haven’t yet developed the heart of a servant after giving their lives to God.  More and more we are hearing Christians complain about the church not doing this or that, and instead we should be looking for ways that we can serve and be a blessing to the bride of Christ.  I have prayed for my daughter to have the heart of servant and I’ve seen the fruit of those prayers as she has taken up a leadership role in our church’s early childhood education program.  Just one more example of how God answers our prayers for our children.
  • HUMILITY (Titus 3:1-2)- In a world filled with a multitude of social media opportunities, it’s easy for our children to grow an unhealthy sense of vanity, as if the entire world centers around them.  In fact, this seems to be a problem across all age groups of people.  There’s never been a more important time to pray for the humility of our children so they can help contribute to showing the world how little we truly are.  When Christians and their children start living an example of godly humility, the world will definitely take notice.
  • HOPE (Romans 15:13)- This virtue seems an appropriate way to end this list of things we should pray for our children.  A Christian should have hope, and children seem to have a propensity for this, but we must pray for it anyway.  It’s hope that keeps us focused on God when trials or temptations come our way.  It’s hope that brings us joy at the end of our lives, knowing what awaits us in Heaven.  Pray that your children may receive this blessing from God and have the kind of hope that can only come from his Spirit.

I hope this series of posts has been as much a blessing to you as it was for me to write.  As you can see, we parents have a tremendous responsibility to raise our kids in a godly manner, and the truth is, we can’t do it alone.  We’ve got to pray wholeheartedly for the spiritual welfare of our children.  Let’s pray for their…

  1. salvation
  2. love
  3. honesty and integrity
  4. courage
  5. contentment
  6. perseverance
  7. compassion
  8. self-control
  9. love for God’s word
  10. faithfulness
  11. passion for God
  12. purity
  13. generosity
  14. self-esteem
  15. gratitude
  16. responsibility
  17. mercy
  18. the heart of a servant
  19. humility
  20. hope

This list was not meant to be exhaustive as I’m sure many of you can think of other ideas to pray for.  The important thing is that we pray, because these are prayers that I’m confident God will answer, for he wants us to be successful in this act of stewardship.

-Joe Butler

Prayers For My Daughter (Part 3)

It’s time again to continue my mini-series of posts discussing the prayers we should offer for our children.  Be sure and take time to go back and read Part 1 and Part 2.

  • PASSION FOR GOD (Psalm 63:1-8)- I was recently having a talk with my daughter about going to middle school next year and all the new challenges she will undoubtedly face.  Not one to pass up a teachable moment, we ended the conversation by discussing how she needs to maintain her focus on God regardless of the environment around her.  Like the 63rd Psalm, we should long for the company of our God who provides a safe haven for us during any time of need.  Pray that your children find this kind of intimacy and develop a genuine passion for God.
  • PURITY (Psalm 51:10)- When King David wrote this psalm following his sin of adultery and murder, he pleaded with God to cleanse his heart and spirit.  It’s no surprise to say that godly morals are on the decline in our society today, so we must pray for our children’s purity while they are growing up in a world that tries to defile them.  And when they make mistakes and sin, we must pray, like David, that God create in them a clean heart that desires to serve him.
  • GENEROSITY (1 Timothy 6:18-19)- To say that my family and I are blessed would be a gross understatement.  In fact, if you’re reading this, it means you probably have a nice expensive phone or computer with internet access, so suffice it to say that you’re blessed too.  But not everybody in this world has it as good as the majority of us.  That’s why we must pray for and teach our children the concept of generosity.  The verse referenced above tells us to be rich in good works, to be generous, thus storing up treasure in what really matters.  Help your kids to know that all that we have and all that we are belongs to God.  It’s our job to use our blessings to generously show God’s love to others.
  • SELF-ESTEEM (Ephesians 2:10)- Kids can sure be mean sometimes.  Trust me, I know.  I’m around third graders all day long.  In their haste to fit in with the crowd, our children can have all kinds of ugly things happen or said to them.  This is why we should pray for our children to have a healthy view of themselves.  This isn’t some kind of pretentious outlook either where they believe the entire world revolves around them.  This is a godly self-esteem that believes they are truly precious in the eyes of God.  Pray that your children know that they are the very workmanship of God.
  • GRATITUDE (Ephesians 5:20)- Have you ever given your child something and been offered a look of, “Is that all?”  I can’t imagine any parent being able to answer “no” to that question.  We human beings tend to have the ingrained ability to grumble and complain about our circumstances, and our children are no different.  In fact, they may have even learned that attitude from you!  Nevertheless, we should pray that our children exemplify a heart of gratitude, always giving thanks to God for what he’s blessed us with.  And be sure to live that attitude as well, because your children will most definitely follow your example.

That ends our five things today on what to pray about for your children.  Make sure to check out the next and final post in this series and start praying for the virtues that we’ve already covered.

-Joe Butler

Prayers For My Daughter (Part 2)

Yesterday, I began a series detailing how we should be praying for our children.  Today we continue this series of blog posts and discuss the next five things that should be on our hearts when we talk to God on behalf of our children.  If you haven’t already done so, read part 1 here.

  • PERSEVERNACE (Hebrews 12:1)- If all of my readers were present here in front of me at this very moment and I asked if anyone had ever experienced any troubles in life, I have no doubt in my mind that every hand would go up.  I wish it weren’t so, but trials are a part of life.  We live in a sinful world where things don’t always work out as God intended.  That’s why it’s essential that we pray that our children show perseverance while running the race of life.  There are so many lessons to be learned by being persistent, and of course, the reward of Heaven awaits those who hold fast to following God.
  • COMPASSION (Colossians 3:12)- This is another area where I’ve been blessed as a parent by having a daughter who exemplifies a compassionate and tender heart.  It is something I continue to pray for on her behalf, because many people treat compassion with contingencies.  We are commanded in God’s word to clothe ourselves with compassion.  What does that look like?  I believe we find the answer in the story of the Good Samaritan (Luke 10:25-37).  We should show empathy and concern when we see someone hurting or struggling, and should we teach our children to do the same.
  • SELF-CONTROL (1 Thessalonians 5:6)- At the sake of sounding a little pessimistic, we definitely live in a world where people refuse to accept responsibility for their words and actions.  Prisons are full of people who have excuses for why they’re there.  The reality is, being a Christian requires a tremendous amount of self-control.  But we can’t do it on our own.  Without God’s help, we’ll never come close to living a life of complete self-control.  That’s why we must pray for our children to listen to God’s word and the urgings of the Holy Spirit so that their decisions are based on a godly standard and not on the world’s idea of what’s right.
  • A LOVE FOR GOD’S WORD (Psalm 19:7-10)- Speaking of a godly standard, we can only understand that standard if we actually read God’s word.  This is one area where I believe many Christian parents are failing their children today.  It seems less Christians are opening their Bibles outside of a worship service, and even less are discussing biblical topics with their family at home.  I’ve prayed consistently that my daughter will grow the kind of love for God’s word that’s mentioned in Psalm 19.  That will only happen if I model that behavior myself so when she grows up, she’ll look to God’s word for guidance, encouragement, and instruction and not just follow the popular teachings of the day.
  • FAITHFULNESS (Proverbs 3:3-4)- Without faith, it is impossible to please God (Hebrews 11:6).  If I could offer up only one prayer for my daughter’s faithfulness, it would be that she understand that we need not have all the answers.  So many children growing up ask why and have a deep anxiety or angst at not receiving the answers they want to hear.  God assures us that he always has our best interest at heart and to trust him with our life.  I think this is a great prayer we can speak over our children.

That wraps up our five virtues today on what to pray for your children.  Be sure to come back next time to the read the next post in this series.

-Joe Butler

Prayers For My Daughter (Part 1)

I love being a father.  I wear many hats in my life, but I think the role of “Daddy” is  my favorite.  Now, I will admit that I don’t have a teenager yet.  My daughter just turned 11 years old, but to be honest, I don’t think I’ll mind when she hits her teenage years either.  Part of being a parent is experiencing all the stages of childhood, and I feel so blessed to have been given the important job of raising my daughter.

Like any other Christian parent out there, I’ve quickly learned that to be a godly parent, you must be a person who prays.  God absolutely wants me and my wife to be successful as parents and he wants you to be as well.  But we must understand that God’s idea of success may be a little different from our own.  God doesn’t care as much about how much money your child makes as he does about his or her salvation.  God isn’t concerned whether your child grows up to be a sports star as much as he cares about their love, contentment, and faithfulness.

What follows is a 4 part blog series which will detail some of the things that I pray for on behalf of my daughter.  Each virtue is supported by a passage or two of Scripture showing that God really does want to bless us in our endeavor to raise godly children.  Today, we’ll start off with the first five and continue with five more each day.

  • SALVATION (Hebrews 7:25)- As a parent, the most important thing we can pray for is the salvation of our children.  There is nothing else in this life that will have a longer lasting effect than teaching our children to obey the gospel and give their lives to Christ.  Because I was baptized at age 10 and my daughter is now 11, I’m keenly aware that this decision may be made soon, so we have spent a lot of time studying the Bible and answering questions that she may have.  Most importantly, I’ve fervently prayed that God will touch Emma’s heart and help assure her that a life surrendered to him is the only way to live.
  • LOVE (Ephesians 5:1-2)- Second only to loving God with all of our heart is to love others as ourselves.  In the case of our daughter, she has such a tender heart for others and I think that is a direct result of our prayers for her on that behalf.  In a world with more and more selfishness, love for our neighbor is becoming a lost art.  Always pray that your children will imitate God and live a life of love and teach them that they should do so regardless of the circumstances or without passing judgment.
  • HONESTY AND INTEGRITY (Psalm 25:21)- One of my favorite things to tell my daughter, especially at her age, is to be prepared to do the right thing, even if you have to stand alone.  As a teacher, I see firsthand the effect that peer pressure has on our kids.  Even when it’s not necessarily bad, our children are constantly tempted to sacrifice godly integrity to maintain friendships or fit in with the crowd.  It takes a certain kind of personality to always stand up for what’s right, and your child may have a more go-with-the-flow demeanor.  That’s why, as parents, we should pray that our children look to God for their standard and will boldly live a godly lifestyle not matter what the world throws at them.
  • COURAGE (Deuteronomy 31:6)- Coinciding with the previous virtue is the idea of courage.  I pray that my daughter will always feel the presence of God with her and know that in all situations, he is there and is helping her do the right thing.  So many children today suffer depression or anxiety, and while there are many reasons for those issues to occur, the knowledge that God will never leave us always brings great assurance.  Pray that God will bless your children with the courage necessary to face any kind of trial that may come their way.
  • CONTENTMENT (Philippians 4:12-13)- Let’s just put this out on the table.  I’m not a millionaire.  There’s no doubt that my family and I are very blessed, but we live a relatively simple life surrounded by friends, family, and God.  And I wouldn’t have it any other way.  In the materialistic society that we live in, it’s vital that we teach our children that God wishes for us to be content.  We must also pray to that end, because we are bombarded daily with the message that we need more.  Contentment is found when we learn that God truly has given us everything we need and more, and this is an attribute that we should instill in our children as well.  Example really sets the tone here.  If we, as parents, live a life of contentment, our children are much more likely to follow suit.

I hope this series of posts help to encourage you to be a better parent and one who actively prays for the physical, emotional, and spiritual health of your children.  Come back next time as we examine 5 more prayers that we should offer up to God for our children.

-Joe Butler