Pastor Tim Webster and the folks at Uniontown Bible Church in Union Bridge were the first church in Maryland to financially support us as missionaries to politicians with Capitol Commission.  What a great church they are with vision, authenticity and dedication under the strong leadership of godly elders. 

Tim, Lara, Rebekah, Nathan and Mark Webster

On February 5, Pastor Tim’s wife, Lara, went home to heaven after her cancer diagnosis about a year ago.  Through her illness, she kept a blog letting us know of her battle and keeping us well-informed with prayer requests.  It was an honor to lift up this dear family during that time.  Her sweet spirit and care for her family was evident in her testimony of grace during difficult days.  She encouraged me to trust Jesus more.

You can see this family’s testimony for yourself here.

On Sunday, February 21 at 6:00 p.m. there will be a service celebrating Lara’s life at Westminster High School.  Would you pray for this church?  Pray for Tim and the kids – Rebekah, Nathan and Mark.  Pray in the weeks and months to come for their adjustment, for their faith, hope and love to deepen.

These words by the nineteenth-century pastor Octavius Winslow are a comfort:

It is solemnly true that there is a “time to die.” Ah! affecting thought- a “time to die!” A time when this mortal conflict will be over- when this heart will cease to feel, alike insensible to joy or sorrow- when this head will ache and these eyes will weep no more- best and holiest of all- a time “when this corruptible shall put on incorruption, and this mortal shall put on immortality,” and we shall “see Christ as He is, and be like Him.” If this be so, then, O Christian, why this anxious, trembling fear? Your time of death, with all its attendant circumstances, is in the Lord’s hand. All is appointed and arranged by Him who loves you, and who redeemed you- infinite goodness, wisdom, and faithfulness consulting your highest happiness in each circumstance of your departure. The final sickness cannot come, the “last enemy” cannot strike, until He bids it. All is in His hand. Then calmly, confidingly, leave life’s closing scene with Him. You cannot die away from Jesus. Whether your spirit wings its flight at home or abroad, amid strangers or friends, by a lingering process or by a sudden stroke, in brightness or in gloom, Jesus will be with you; and, upheld by His grace, and cheered with His presence, you shall triumphantly exclaim, “Though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil; for you are with me: your rod and your staff, they comfort me,” bearing your dying testimony to the faithfulness of God, and the preciousness of His promises. My time to die is in Your hand, O Lord, and there I calmly leave it.

Let me take a minute today to brag on some lawmakers who deserve our recognition.  It’s not because they are receiving prestigious awards or citations from their community or state for their dedicated public service (although they serve well).  I’m proud of them and want to brag a little because they recently asked for prayer.

The first is my delegate in the West Virginia legislature, Jonathan Miller (Berkeley County).  I want to commend Del. Miller for his faith and openess to talk about spiritual things when we get together.  He recently sent a survey to his constituents which included a letter with this request:

Del Jonathan Miller

But there is one more thing you can do to help me serve you: pray.  Please pray for me as well as the Charleston politicians.  Praying for those serving in public office is the most powerful thing you can do to help our community, state, and nation. . . So, please return the ‘Rapid Response Survey on Key Issues’ and pray for all your elected officials today.”

I love it when leaders ask for prayer, because it is a public ackowledgement that their work is beyond them; that they are dependent on the God Who has placed them in their offices. 

I also saw this post on Facebook a few days ago by Maryland Delegate Donna Stifler (Harford County) who is recovering from a painful ankle sprain:

Del. Donna Stifler

to all who have been praying for me, my ankle appears to be improving! I did not have to take pain med last night for the first time in about 2 weeks! please continue to pray for my strength and healing down here. thanks

We may forget to pray for our leaders from time to time, but when they come right out and ask for prayer, sometimes with specific requests, we should not fail to stop and lift them up to the Lord.  Praise God for these who let us know what their needs are and that they believe and depend on the prayers of their constituents!

So pray for delegates Miller and Stifler.  Consider visiting, writing or calling the representatives from your district and ask them how you can pray for them as well.  I can tell you this is not a request they receive very often, to the church’s shame.

I had coffee today with a member of the Maryland General Assembly and a comment he made has stuck with me.  He said, “Brent, if Satan himself sat down with a pad of paper to design an environment effectively suited to derail a person from thriving spiritually, it would be politics.”  No field, according to this delegate, causes one to reject the crucial and eternal things of life and to embrace the fleeting and temporal things as much as politics.  That’s a significant statement coming from a politician.

C. S. Lewis, author of "The Screwtape Letters"

C. S. Lewis, author of "The Screwtape Letters"

It got me thinking about The Screwtape Letters, C.S. Lewis’ effort to describe Satan’s strategy of distracting humans from following God (who is referred to as the Enemy in the book).  In a series of letters the demon

Screwtape, an experienced tempter, is writing his advice to his nephew, Wormwood, on how to draw his assigned human away from God.  Consider these quotes through the filter of the life of the believing or unbelieving politician (really buckle down and think about these; it’s not always easy reading):

“Prosperity knits a man to the World. He feels that is ‘finding his place in it,’ while really it is finding its place in him. His increasing reputation, his widening circle of acquaintances, his sense of importance, the growing pressure of absorbing and agreeable work, build up in him a sense of really being at home on Earth, which is just what we want.”

“This, indeed, is probably on the Enemy’s motives for creating a dangerous world — a world in which moral issues really come to the point. He sees as well as you do that courage is not simply one of the virtues, but the form of every virtue at the testing point, which means, at the point of highest reality. A chastity or honesty which yields to danger will be chaste or honest or merciful only on conditions. Pilate was merciful until it became risky.”

“The Enemy loves platitudes. Of a proposed course of action He wants men, so far as I can see, to ask very simple questions: Is it righteous? Is it prudent? Is it possible? Now, if we can keep men asking: ‘Is it in accordance with the general movement of our time? Is it progressive or reactionary? Is this the way that History is going?’ They will neglect the relevant questions. And the questions they do ask are, of course, unanswerable; for they do not know the future, and what the future will be depends very largely on just those choices which they now invoke the future to help make.”

“Talk to him about ‘moderation in all things.’ If you can once get him to the point of thinking that ‘religion is all very well up to a point,’ you can feel quite happy about his soul.”

“Aggravate that most useful human characteristic, the horror and neglect of the obvious. You must bring him to a condition in which he can practice self-examination for an hour without discovering any of those facts about himself which are perfectly clear to anyone who has ever lived in the same house with him or worked in the same office.”

Marriages can be devastated by working in the political world.  Satan knows this and exploits it, which is another reason to soberly pray for our leaders’ homes:

 “Make full use of the fact that up to a certain point, fatigue makes women talk more and men talk less. Much secret resentment, even between lovers, can be raised from this.”

Even when someone enters politics with the intention of being careful about Satan’s attacks, it is also true that

“Suspicion often creates what it suspects.”

When it comes to a Christian’s political involvement as a citizen, these might be helpful:

“We produce [a human’s] sense of ownership not only by pride but by confusion. We teach them not to notice the different senses of the possessive pronoun–the finely graded differences that run from ‘my boots’ through ‘my dog’, ‘my servant’, ‘my wife’, ‘my father’, ‘my master’, and ‘my country’ to ‘my God’. They can be taught to reduce all these senses to that of ‘my boots’, the ‘my’ of ownership.”

“On the other hand we do want, and want very much, to make men treat Christianity as a means; preferably, of course, as a means to their own advancement, but, failing that, as a means to anything-even to social justice. The thing to do is to get a man at first to value social justice as a thing which the Enemy demands, and then work him on to the stage at which he values Christianity because it may produce social justice. For the Enemy will not be used as a convenience.”

The plan and schemes of the real “enemy” of men’s souls can be overcome, but only by God Himself.  Do you want godly leaders?  Are you praying for them to desire Him and His ways?  Are you communicating to them that you care for their souls more than their votes?

 Satan has conjured a plan to lead people astray from God.  Many inside and outside of the Church are falling prey to his subtle attacks.  We are in a battle in the spiritual realm and must know our enemy and his tactics, but also trust the One who has the power to defeat him.

For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the powers, against the world forces of this darkness, against the spiritual forces of wickedness in the heavenly places. Therefore, take up the full armor of God, so that you will be able to resist in the evil day, and having done everything, to stand firm. Ephesians 6:12, 13

praying silhouetteThe following is an excerpt of a prayer email I sent out on Labor Day 2009:

Since today is Labor Day and this is our monthly prayer email, a verse came to my mind.  What a convicting example is presented to us in Colossians 4:12 which says, “Epaphras, who is one of your number, a bondslave of Jesus Christ, sends you his greetings, always laboring earnestly for you in his prayers, that you may stand perfect and fully assured in all the will of God.” 

 Why don’t we take the opportunity on this Labor Day, a day generally given to the opposite of laboring, to let that verse sink in and challenge us.  When Epaphras prayed, he labored, struggled, strained, strove.  It’s a sports mindset where the athlete contends intensely with the one goal of winning.

 Now pick an adverb to describe your pattern of prayer.  Where does it happen?  How often?  How long?  How strenuous?  How easily distracted?  The prayers of Epaphras were wrestling matches, with a foe to defeat.  I have so much growing to do in my praying. 

Could we learn to pray more like that?  I need to.  Would you repeat the prayer of Epaphras for your political representatives and their staffers and families?  What if we really prayed, believing that the hearts of our leaders could “stand perfect” and be “fully assured in all the will of God”?

Thank you for remembering Capitol Ministries Maryland in your prayers.  The people-group we seek to serve face many pressures and temptations in very public positions.  Pray evangelistically for those who need to repent and call on Christ.  Pray for growth and deepening obedience for those who already know the Lord.  The stakes are high, not because our laws need changed but because God must be glorified.

And when we pray, let’s labor like Epaphras.

cyprus-mapMD county mapAn interesting thought strikes me as I read Acts 13:4-6.   

So, being sent out by the Holy Spirit, they went down to Seleucia and from there they sailed to Cyprus.  When they reached Salamis, they began to proclaim the word of God in the synagogues of the Jews; and they also had John as their helper.  When they had gone through the whole island as far as Paphos…  (Acts 13:4-6a)

Paul and Barnabas are just starting off on their first missionary journey, landing on the eastern side of the island of Cyprus in a town called Salamis.  They then work their way across the island, preaching the gospel, headed west eventually to reach the capital city of Paphos.  I’m reminded that each of the State Directors for Capitol Ministries is seeking to do the same thing.

In addition to developing ministry initially at the state level in our respective capitol communities, we also want to partner with churches throughout our states to reach leaders on the local level.  This would include elected officers in county commissions, city councils and school boards.  This kind of local outreach can only be done with the involvement of like-minded believers through the state who share the burden to see leaders encouraged by the Word of God.

Instead of Salamis to Paphos, I’m thinking of ways to make this happen from Ocean City to Oakland in the state of Maryland.  Maybe you have a thought on putting together a strategy in your area.  I’d love to hear it!