Tuesday, February 6, 2018

I Went To A Town Hall Meeting…And God Showed Up!

God gave me an assignment this past weekend.  I honestly didn’t see it as God-inspired task when I decided to go to a Saturday morning town hall meeting in our neighboring town, where four Indiana Representatives and one State Senator would be taking questions.  I’d never been to one before but just decided to go to this one and check it out.

There was a pretty decent crowd there for our small town and I took my seat in the back when the two-hour meeting opened.  Each one of the participants had an opening statement about his or her work at the statehouse.  I knew three of the five and really have a lot of respect for all of them.  Throughout the meeting, I got the sense that all of them, including the one from the opposite party of mine, were really good people who were trying to do the best job they could for our state.  The meeting was very civil…quite the opposite of the raucous affairs that you see on the TV cameras from time to time.  It was also very informative.  I haven’t taken any interest in state politics until the last handful of years, but I’ve learned that much more gets done at the state level than most people realize.  Our Founders actually intended for the lion’s share of the governmental work to be done at the state level not the national…but I digress.

Not too long after the meeting started I began to feel a little nudge from the Holy Spirit about a question that He wanted me to ask.   Now I didn’t come with any idea of asking any questions, but I had felt a nudge before I left home to grab a paper notebook to go with me.  I began (albeit reluctantly) to scribble some thoughts on paper while the meeting was going on.  I really didn’t want to do this, and I wasn’t a hundred percent sure that this was even the Lord speaking to me.  However, as time I went on I began to feel more and more but that this was God because…I really didn’t want to do it! 

If we want to walk with God, we must listen for the nudges and be willing to obey them when we get them.  One way that I can often tell that it is really God speaking to me in a particular situation is that  He wants me to do something  that I don’t want to do at all.  If it is something that I really wanted to do anyway, well…that’s much harder.  That could just be me speaking to me. Following the Spirit takes much practice, and I confess I’m still a novice at it!

So at some point in the meeting I began holding my hand up when they began taking questions.   There were a number of people ahead of me, and I didn’t really know if they would have enough time to get to me.  Really, that was just fine with me, because…I really didn’t want to do it! (Did I say that already?)

The meeting was to end at eleven.  At five minutes til, the gentleman directing the meeting tapped me
The only picture available from the meeting..
.not the best!
on the shoulder and said, “You’re the last question.”  I had been asking the Lord to give me courage to speak boldly, as honestly, I’m not bold at all in my own self.  It was going to have to be all Him! 

After introducing myself as a local pastor, I told them that I belong to a praying church. I also commended them for their civility and their hard work as legislators.  I told them that they are true citizen legislators, and I really meant that.   I then asked two questions:
  1. In light of the myriad of social problems we are facing in our state (and I listed several of them), what would you say is the overarching problem that we are facing in our state which we as the body of Christ can be praying for?
  2. What can we be praying for each of you personally?
When I sat down, to my amazement, the room erupted in applause.

Each legislator then responded to my questions. Interestingly, I didn’t get a lot of answers to the first question, although there were a few.  However, the reactions that I got from the second question were truly surprising to me. 
  1.  One legislator asked for prayer for safe travel on her frequent trips between Evansville and Indianapolis…a three-hour trip.  Also… “Please pray for my kids!”
  2. Another legislator asked for us to please pray for her staff, and the staff of all the legislators at the capitol.  These people are the ones who do the lion’s share of the work at the state level. They are the ones who answer all the irate calls from constituents, and yet they remain largely anonymous to the public (my paraphrase).  Also…”Please pray for those who don’t have anyone to pray for them.” (That was touching!)
  3. Another representative asked for prayer that God would change hearts and minds.  He also asked for prayer for his personal health.  This devoted public servant, who has a full time job besides his extensive legislative work, has been constantly sick with colds the last few weeks, and hasn’t had any down to get over them. 
  4. The lone Democrat on the panel asked that we would pray for more human moments in the legislature.  He mentioned that he is good friends with a Republican legislator who was also on the panel (#3 above), and they ask about each other’s kids and family and that they really care about each other.  He wants us to pray for more of that.  Also…”Please pray for my wife.  She’s 16 weeks pregnant with our first child.
  5.   The lone state senator on the panel, who is a friend of mine and a committed Christian, used the question to talk quite eloquently for several minutes about how much we need God in our  public lives.  He spoke about how that, since we have chased God out of our schools and the public square, we are facing a myriad of social problems that stem from our turn away from God (my paraphrase).  Also…”Please pray for just the weight of the problems we have to deal with.”  He said he wakes up sometimes at 3 am just with a heavy weight of concern on him of all the problems that we are facing as a state and as a society.
Who knew?

Every one of them thanked me sincerely for the question.  There was almost a sense of amazement that anyone would ask this question. One of the panelists said, “We don’t get asked about us.”  In talking to the legislators after the meeting, I was again thanked for the question and was told, “We never hear this!  People always come to us just because they need something.”

I had several audience members tell me things like “That was the best question of the day” and “That was supposed to be the last question.” I know it was.  There was no way I could have engineered it.

Only God…

In reflecting about the amazing things that God did with this very simple question, I realized a few things:

  •  Politicians are just people.  Whether on local, state, or national level, they get colds, have issues with travel, get stressed out, and have worries about their families…just like any of us.  They don’t need criticism so much as they need prayer
  • These state legislators work hard for very little pay and not much recognition, yet they often receive much criticism.  One of them told me that their job description only mandates them to show up and vote, yet he knows no legislator in our state in either party who does only the bare minimum.  They serve on committees, spend hours examining laws and studying issues, performing services for their constituents, and a host of other duties not on their job description.  One of them, my friend Sen. Jim Thomes, has such a reputation as a man who will try to help constituents, that he gets calls almost every day not only from people from his district, but from many other districts in the state and even other states.  And his does his best to help every one of them.
  • This is a much-neglected field of prayer that is “white to harvest!”  Many of us pray for our president on a regular basis (which we should), and our national representatives and senators (which we should), but we also need to be praying for those at the state and local level as well.  I have confessed to the Lord since Saturday that I’ve missed this vital area of prayer, and asked Him to help me and our church to be more engaged.
  •  I feel profoundly grateful to be a part of a praying church.  I shared with our congregation Sunday about these events, and told them, “I was just ‘the point man’ on this.  I couldn’t have done this if I didn’t KNOW that I have praying people behind me.”  A group of us meet together for prayer before church on Sunday morning, and again for a dedicated prayer meeting on Tuesday night.  We also have a bible study on Wednesday night where we spend a few moments praying before the study.  And, just as important, by God’s grace, we endeavor to keep Paul’s admonition to “pray without ceasing” (1 Thess 5:17), that is, continue in a spirit of prayer throughout the week. 
  • God can do so much with so little, when we just make ourselves available to Him.  I felt a little like the little boy with the loaves and the fishes.  When Jesus blessed his little lunch, a multitude was fed!
Days before the town hall meeting, God had begun to put in my heart a message to share with our congregation Sunday.  Part of it had to do with Elijah’s “bad hair day” in 1 Kings 19.  This great man of God had the worst day of his life recorded for us in that chapter.  He was thoroughly discouraged and afraid of an ungodly woman named Jezebel, even after he had been used of God in an amazing way on Mt. Carmel just a few days before.  He hid himself in a cave near Mt. Sinai, where God met him.  God’s words to Elijah that day are the same words that I believe He is speaking to the church today.  “What are you doing here, Elijah?”  In other words, "What are you doing in a place of discouragement and fear, when I have anointed work for you to do?"  Thankfully, Elijah would move out of the place of despondency and powerlessness to do even greater things for the kingdom of God.

As it turned out, the town hall meeting that I attended Saturday provided a perfect illustration for what God put on my heart to share with our congregation on Sunday.   God has called us to get out of our caves! God has called each of us to be “salt and light” in our families, our communities, and our world.  He expects us to be equipped, by spending time daily in His word and in prayer, and to be an active part in our local church body.  Then He expects us through the direction of the Holy Spirit to go love people. 

A pastor friend of mine shared with me yesterday that Jesus had spoken the simple yet profound words to him recently, “Love is your weapon!”  That is essentially the weapon that God was prompting me to use at the town hall meeting.  It is a weapon that I have often failed to use, and a weapon that the church as a whole has seldom used.  Why don't we as a church put down our carnal weapons, and pick up the God-ordained, love-tinged "sword of the Spirit" that we are called to wield and use it daily for His glory?

2/7/18 Update
I received a text yesterday from the representative who asked for prayer for his personal health, as he has been fighting colds for weeks.  I wanted to share this here:

"...later on Saturday, after the Town Meeting, and completely  unexpected, a doctor acquaintance stopped by our house...(My wife was helping his wife with sewing).  He asked me how I was...before he left I had a prescription for antibiotics.  How often do you get an unprompted house call from a doctor who is not even your doctor?  The Lord does answer prayer."

3/17 Update
I just uploaded the rest of the story today...What happened after the Town Hall that led to a prayer at the Indiana Statehouse..."The Question That Led To The Prayer"

Want to read more?  Here are a few other similar blog posts you might be interested in...

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