Rev. Stanley's book calls for introspection, change

A year ago, the Rev. Charles Stanley, burdened by issues he believes are destroying the American way of life, asked the country to join him in prayer.

More than 100,000 people, he said, took the 140-day challenge of asking God to help them turn from wrong actions and attitudes, and to find opportunities to promote God in their communities.

Still, as an America citizen, father and grandfather, Stanley, pastor of the First Baptist Church of Atlanta and founder of In Touch Ministries, his teaching and broadcast ministry, believed he needed to go a step further. He needed to speak up about those issues, to boldly hold the nation's leaders accountable and refuse to tolerate what he calls  "the flood of immorality" washing over America.

The end result is "Turning the Tide," a book on how prayer and civic involvement can spur real change in the country.

"Turning the Tide" is his way of reminding Americans of their civic duty and encouraging them to stand up for the freedoms they enjoy and ensure those freedoms are available to future generations.

On the eve of the Fourth of July holiday, First Baptist will hold special services on Sunday celebrating America and kick off the launch of the book. Rev. Stanley will sign copies before the 9 a.m. and 10:45 a.m. services.

In response to emailed questions last week, here's what he told us:

Q: Very early in the book, you list 20 issues that are negatively impacting our country. Which of those do you consider the three most pressing issues facing us today?

A: Terrible financial difficulties, increasing unemployment and a rise in the number of broken families tear at the very fabric of our society.

However, these issues are symptoms of an even bigger problem. I believe that the greatest issue impacting our nation today is the rejection of God. This has been the downfall of nations throughout history.

When we lose our reverence for God, something happens within us. We lose our respect for authority. We fail to follow godly principles, such as wise stewardship of resources and the preservation of each person’s dignity and right to live. In other words, we lose the very foundation that made this country great in the first place.

Q: You often say that God’s promises do not work for those who do not believe Jesus died for the remission of their sins. There are many disbelievers who care deeply for this nation. What, if anything, can they do to help turn the tide?

A: I cannot imagine how difficult it is to continually work to make things better in the nation without the knowledge that God will help them. Our problems always seem impossible and disheartening when we think of them in our own strength and in our own wisdom -- and the problems our country faces are too enormous for any of us to solve on our own.

Everyone needs the hope of God’s help, love, forgiveness, and provision.

So for those who want to make a difference in our country, I would ask them to search their own hearts. If they are not personally experiencing true hope and peace, then how can they expect to create those things in our nation? The truth is, these things can only come through a personal, intimate relationship with Jesus Christ.

Q: There has been a great deal of finger-pointing at President Obama and Congress, but how much of what has gone wrong in our country is the fault of us ordinary citizens?

A: No one man or woman is at fault for all the problems of the nation, and no one man or woman can solve all the troubles our country is facing either. As citizens, we have a great deal of responsibility for what is going on. After all, the leaders we elect reflect our values and who we are.

This is why Proverbs 11:11 teaches us, “The good influence of godly citizens causes a city to prosper,” (The Living Bible). When Christians influence those around them to seek God and inspire others to live by godly values, the entire nation is blessed. This is why I am so committed to asking believers to pray, stand up and be a light to those around them. I believe that when they do, the entire country will benefit.

Q: For those who are Christians, to what specifically should they be praying?

A: I believe the first thing Christians should do is recognize that God is sovereign and holy. We should understand how awesome and powerful the Lord is so that we can comprehend the privilege we have in prayer.

Second, believers should ask the Father if there is anything hindering their relationships with him so that they can repent of those things. Everything we do as believers starts with our personal relationship with him, so that needs to be as strong and healthy as possible.

Third, we should express our willingness to be used in God’s service; submit to his will, be willing to minister to those in our communities, and speak out about issues as he calls us to.

Finally, we should also intercede for the leaders in our nation, that they will turn to God and have the courage to follow the principles found in his word.

Q: How hopeful are you that America will regain its economic and moral footing in the world?

A: I am absolutely hopeful! Do we have very difficult, complex problems to overcome? Yes. Are there deep divides in our nation that seem insurmountable? I would say so.

But Luke 18:27 promises, “The things that are impossible with people are possible with God.” He can do awesome things in this nation if we will turn to him.