In late April I received the news from my doctor that I had stage 4 lymphoma. My aggressive chemotherapy treatments began on June 16, right after I returned from serving as coordinator of The Response South Carolina in Charleston. Surrounded throughout this time by the love and prayers of so many friends, my family and I are so thankful that the adverse side effects have been minimal.
One thing I have not escaped, however, is the loss of hair. It first became obvious on Friday, July 3, as I was preparing for a prayer and fasting event for our country the next day. By the time Saturday evening came around, I had lost most of the hair on my head. But the Lord has a way of taking these kinds of circumstances and using them as "prophetic dramas," where we live out in the natural a word He is giving us in the spiritual. Our life experiences then become a life message that is bigger than ourselves, a message beyond the circumstances we've been through. We overcome by the blood of the Lamb and the word of our testimony.
After realizing the hair loss was a reality that Friday night, I felt the Lord speak to my spirit. "The eagle is balding," I said to Lisa. I was half joking, trying to make light of things. As Proverbs 17:22 says, "A merry heart does good like a medicine." Yet I knew the Lord was also placing something in my spirit that He wanted me to share the next day.
Our National Symbol
America's national bird is the bald eagle, representing strength and courage. They have incredible eyesight, with the ability to spot predator attacks on their nests from miles away. According to the book The Eagle Story, published by Bill Gothard and the Institute in Basic Life Principles: How to Conquer Habits, "The eagle has exceptionally sharp vision because it has two 'fovea,' compared to only one in the human eye. The cones in an eagle's fovea are small and tightly grouped, allowing the eagle to see very small details from extreme distances. For example, an eagle can spot an object as small as a rabbit from a distance of up to two miles!"
The book goes on to explain that the eagle has two sets of eyelids: conventional eyelids as well as a pair of clear eyelids called nictitate membranes, which can be shut for protection while not inhibiting the eagle's ability to see. While some experts say that no creature can stare at the sun without going blind, others argue that the extra eyelids on the eagle allow it to look into the sun with no damage. Regardless, when feeling weak and weary, with their eyesight dimming from age, eagles will soar toward the sun to rejuvenate themselves. This is what Scripture speaks of when it says, "But those who wait upon the Lord shall renew their strength; they shall mount up with wings as eagles, they shall run and not be weary, and they shall walk and not faint" (Is. 40:31).
A few days before the Lord began speaking to me about the eagle, one of our intercessor friends and her husband were awakened in the night by the sound of an eagle's cry coming from the alarm of a cellphone that was not even turned on. She prayed about what God was saying to them, then wrote to me after they heard about what I shared at the July 4 meeting: "The eagle represents America," she said, adding that it also stands for rational things, instruction in truths, renewal, resurrection, the prophetic, leaders, seeing clearly and wisdom. "We believe your personal battle parallels the battle for America."
The Roots of Freedom
How disheartening it has been for so many of us who have prayed and cried out for our nation to see the highest court in the land setting itself up as god in the house of God. These are the people we trust to interpret the law, yet they have totally redefined the nation's Constitution in a manner so far from what our Founding Fathers intended. They have crossed the line, assuming to dictate to God, the highest of all authorities, what is law and what is not law. Truth is truth, no matter who tries to change it.
Our nation's first president, George Washington, said in his first inaugural address, "We have God to thank for America's birthday!" Then he said, "No People can be bound to acknowledge and adore the invisible hand, which conducts the Affairs of men more than the People of the United States. Every step, by which they have advanced to the character of an independent nation, seems to have been distinguished by some token of providential agency." How things have changed.
President Ronald Reagan said this: "Freedom is never more than one generation away from extinction. We didn't pass it to our children in the bloodstream. It must be fought for, protected and handed on for them to do the same, or one day we will spend our sunset years telling our children and our children's children what it was once like in the United States, where men were free."
Like our Founding Fathers, Ronald Reagan understood that freedom naturally decays as societies expand unless people of principle defend it. That tendency has been true at every point in human history and always will be. Government has the necessary role of defending our liberty, free speech, the right to property, but virtue can become a vice when it attempts too much. We must be watchful to ensure that the government's good intentions don't become the overreach that becomes tyranny.
We've recently seen the tyranny of overreach from the highest court of the land, so we now appeal to the greatest courts of heaven, to the most Supreme Being—the Creator of the heavens and the earth, unto whom every knee shall bow and every tongue confess. Jesus Himself is the one we fix our eyes on. Though at times we feel weak, we know that when we wait upon the Lord, He will renew our strength. We know that when we fix our eyes on the brightness of the Son of God Himself that we will not to be blinded, but we will come back and be awakened as a church to impact the soul of our nation.
United to Save the Nation
Shortly after leaving the July Fourth prayer gathering, we received numerous encouraging messages from people who were touched by this word in season. One person wrote, "The headline in today's Houston Chronicle is, 'Nation Unites to Save Bald Eagles.'" A few days later, I went to a hospital in Clear Lake to see a young man who is also battling cancer. As we arrived and walked down the hallway, some of his family in the waiting room suddenly heard the loud shriek of an eagle and looked up to see a program on the television about bald eagles. Then they turned to see Lisa and me walking down the hallway at the same time, and they knew it was a confirmation of the July Fourth message. I believe God is using that confirmation to say He wants His church to unite to save the nation.
In 2011, Houston hosted The Response, a day of fasting and prayer for our nation, at the request of the governor of Texas. As of this writing, we have helped facilitate The Response prayer gatherings on behalf of the Governors of Louisiana, and South Carolina; and are working on gatherings in several more states.
Who would have thought The Response South Carolina on June 13 would gather the church in South Carolina to pray in unity just four days before the tragedy at Mother Emanuel AME Church? The initial reaction of many who participated in that prayer gathering was disbelief that this would happen after so many came to repent and pray for their state and their nation. Yet, as we began to engage in conversation with the pastors and intercessors there, we were reminded that God's timing is perfect.
Many leaders of various racial and denominational backgrounds in the Charleston area believe The Response was the very thing that helped them become the church unified, crossing racial, generational and denominational barriers to walk through a horrific time of racism and hatred. In fact, we did not initially intend to hold the event in Charleston, but it turned out to be God's providence. Thousands of Christians united after the tragic shooting in Charleston to become a coat of many colors, standing up for their brothers and sisters, unlike other cities where we've seen riots break loose. Even when the outside agitators came, the Church in that city said "No," and became an example for the rest of the nation. From the leadership of the AME denomination to the local congregations, the Church of Charleston sent a message to all of America on forgiveness, healing, and hope.
Of course, we only built on a foundation laid by generations of intercession that had gone before, but God allowed us to be part of a catalytic moment and to see an answer to the prayers of reconciliation and unity we had prayed just days before. The church comes in great numbers, linked arm in arm, in authentic love and unity. What the enemy intended for evil, God used for good, because the church of Charleston and South Carolina was united.
This is what God desires for His church across America. As we see the erosion and unraveling of so many of our moral foundations. He desires for His church to come together in unity and soar above the many distractions of the enemy.
A New Generation
True intercession is not just hiding in the prayer closet. It's standing in the gap between the living and the dead, like Moses and Aaron, as they grabbed the censers of incense (symbolic of intercession) and ran to stand in front of those who were perishing, begging for God to stop the plague of sin. They cried out for mercy, for God to move on behalf of their people. Likewise, many of you have prayed, some of you for decades, crying out in intercession, "God, stop the plague of sin! Stop the lies of the enemy over this nation!" God is hearing your cry. He hears the cries of His people, and He is still on the throne. He didn't bring us to such a time as this to leave us hanging.
There is a cleansing taking place. Many pastors we've looked up to and leaders in politics and business are falling and failing. But in the midst of the cleansing, God is raising up a new generation of Samuels, Esthers, and Ruths, a generation of Deborahs, Daniels, and Josephs. They are a new, prophetic generation of righteousness. Just as God exposed the sins of Hophni and Phineas and raised up Samuel as a righteous judge and voice of truth in his generation, so is He now going to expose unrighteous judges and raise up a new generation of judiciary. God is raising up prophetic voices who are not just prophesying for their own self-adulation and their own gain, but because they fear God and seek His kingdom first.
We are a generation that needs strength to come in to our destiny. We must fix our eyes on Jesus; soar on heights toward the Son. Only the brightness of His presence will reveal the greater reality and greater authority God wields. When we fix our eyes on Jesus, we can soar above our weakness and renew our strength. Then we can fulfill God's call and destiny in our lives and nation. God still has plans for America, if we as the church will unite to His purposes.
We cannot be informed only by what we see and hear on the news. We cannot let the circumstances around us dictate who we are. God has the final word. Who will we believe? I choose to believe the Word of the Lord. He never waivers. He is the same yesterday, today and forever.
One in a Thousand
There is a spiritual cancer in America. Many leaders are experiencing an attack in the natural realm that mirrors the spiritual state of the nation. But I believe for many the sickness is a lie of the devil to distract them and the church from the spiritual war that rages over our country right now.
There are those in governmental leadership who still recognize a higher authority. Some bold and courageous men and women are rising up to speak into the very core of what's happening in our nation—like governors who are not afraid to say, "Our nation needs prayer!"
Let us not forget, however, that our nation will only be restored to its God-ordained destiny by the church uniting in intercession. When Abraham cried out for Sodom, he pleaded with God to spare the city if there was even one in a 1,000 found righteous. [NOTE: Some commentaries say there were around 10,000 people which would be one in 1,000. Other commentaries say there were around 1,000 people in Sodom.] There are still righteous men and women in our land. We must follow Abraham's lead and intercede for our nation in like manner. Only by fixing our eyes on the Son can we intercede for our nation out of love, as Abraham did.
Church, you and I are the hope of Christ to a dying world. We are God's chosen ambassadors, to be the tangible expression of Jesus, to demonstrate truth in love, a love the world does not understand. It is not a love that tramples the sacred blood of Jesus, but a love that shares the truth uncompromisingly in the spirit of grace and mercy. Only then can those who hate and oppose what we stand for see the beauty of holiness.
As I have been writing this article, several of my sons in the faith have messaged me saying God has given them a Scripture for me during their times of prayer. That Scripture is Malachi 4:2, "But for you who fear My name, the sun of righteousness will rise with healing in its wings."
The Son of righteousness is rising, and He will bring healing to the nation.
Even as the eagle in its time of weakness regains its strength by soaring toward the sun, we the church—and the nation—in our time of need must fix our eyes on the Son and soar together toward the brightness of His presence. As we fix our eyes on Jesus, the author and finisher of our faith (Heb. 12:2), we can believe for awakening in the church in America and for revival to spread throughout the land.
As the nation unites to save its national bird, the bald eagle, the question we must ask is this: Will the church unite to save the nation?
Doug Stringer is the founder and president of Somebody Cares America/International. You can find him on line at dougstringer.com.
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