I’ve seen a lot of posts on Facebook and Twitter about how 2016 should be a mulligan; a re-do; a this-sucks-so-bad-that-we-will-collectively-as-a-nation-and-as-a-world-ask-to-try-it-over-again year.
This week has been incredibly heartbreaking to witness. It felt each day was getting worse. With two black men being killed, five police officers killed in Dallas, 84 people killed in France, and now Turkey experiencing a coup (possibly), and let’s not forget the continued wars that are happening throughout the world, it’s no wonder that I have ended this week with a broken heart.
And yet, my faith in God has strengthened.
How? I’ve been studying the Book of Daniel and I was reminded of some key facts:
God is in control of kingdoms. He allowed the Exile to happen. He humbled King Nebuchadnezzar and he killed King Belshazzar. I mean God is fully in control. Kingdoms come and go. Nebuchadnezzar’s dream was of a large statue with a gold head, silver body, bronze lower body, and legs made of fired clay. They were kingdoms that have since passed. They are now history. So, sure this week I am feeling like the world is out of control, but it’s not. There is more happening than I can see. Do you think the people of Judah knew that God was using Daniel for His Kingdom? No. So, who knows who God is using right now to build His Kingdom. And my job is to help build God’s Kingdom – the Everlasting Kingdom – let my focus be on that. It’s not to ignore and avoid what is happening, but it’s to remember that God is at work and in control.
Prayer is powerful. Throughout the book of Daniel we see Daniel praying even at times when the world would tell him he is being reckless. After King Darius makes the decree that all men must pray to him and if anyone is found praying to another god then they shall be thrown into the lion’s den, we see Daniel goes to pray three times a day without hesitation. He knew the cost, but he also knows that God is more worthy of prayer than any king on earth. He’s also been through so much at this point – he’s already serving his third king! – he knows his priority is God. This week I felt helpless praying. Why can’t I do more? And then I realized prayer saves lives; prayer is action; prayer intersects our humanity with God’s holiness.
God humbles the mighty. There are people throughout the world who are oppressed. Look at what is happening in my own country. #BlackLivesMatter has become a movement in response to the oppression an entire community of people have experienced. ISIS is attacking because they believe their ideology is superior and will stop at nothing to kill anyone who thinks otherwise. There have been forces at work for quite a while,and while we think they are growing in strength, I have learned that “Pride goes before destruction and a haughty spirit before a fall,” (Proverbs 16:18). It’s time. This world is breaking with the narcissism and corruption of power – soon things will fall apart, again. And God will be there, as He always is.
I could go on. I am so incredibly thankful to God that He strengthened and encouraged my spirit during this incredibly heavy, dark week… year.
Going onto Facebook is like whiplash – ignorance and love, anger and empathy.
This week, and to be honest, the past two years, I have lived in shock and anger and fear and frustration.
How can I ignore when men and women are being murdered in my own country because of the color of their skin? Black lives matter. They do. And we as human beings need to recognize right now that there is a problem. A huge problem. A problem that runs so deep. It’s going to need a lot of humility, repentance, love, grace, and a whole lot of Jesus to pull out this broken, toxic root from this country.
I don’t know if this inconsequential blog matters to the greater conversation that is happening out there, but I want you to know, I am listening, praying, and acting in the direction of my prayers. Join me?
Earlier this week I awoke to a tragedy – a blatant racist terrorist act. When I read the news of the Charleston Shooting I wept and prayed. What else could I do? I couldn’t do anything but cry. I stood in the shower begging God to comfort the victim’s families and to hold tightly to the ones who were murdered. I am so thankful that these nine people were loved and known by God and are with Him now. I also prayed for the man who shot them. Jesus tells us to love our enemies, and what better way to love our enemies then to pray for their salvation. Only God can redeem this situation. Only God can deliver true justice. I prayed against the multiplication of hatred and terror. This was a violent act and violence and hatred can easily multiply when God is not involved, as we can see in our recent history.
What breaks my heart the most is I am not surprised by what happened. I am in no way ignorant of the racism and violence in our country. How can you not be aware? How can what happened the past year not tell you what this country has been all along? I think John Stewart said it correctly that ISIS and other terrorist groups will never be able to do the damage that we do to ourselves.
We are a broken nation who so desperately needs God to reconcile and redeem this nation.
While praying tonight for the persecuted Church God reminded me of this passage:
“I myself was convinced that I ought to do many things in opposing the name of Jesus of Nazareth. And I did so in Jerusalem. I not only locked up many of the saints in prison after receiving authority from the chief priests, but when they were put to death I cast my vote against them. And I punished them often in all the synagogues and tried to make them blaspheme, and in raging fury against them I persecuted them even to foreign cities. (Acts 26:9-11 ESV)
Who does this sound like? People who hate Jesus? People who want to destroy those who love Jesus? People who would go to cities that are not their own to blaspheme the name of God?
I sat staring into this candle I lit trying to understand God’s redemption. He took a man, Paul, who hated people that loved Jesus, and then through God’s divine will, he was saved and became one of the biggest advocates for Christ writing half of the New Testament! Countless people have come to know Christ by the words that Paul had penned. His relentless faith changed the world and glorified God.
While praying for my enemies tonight, I was reminded of God’s glorious Redemption. This is why I pray for my enemy. That not only will they be saved, but that their redemption will reflect God’s Amazing Grace.
I pray that one day the men and women of ISIS will one day know God’s Amazing Grace and will glorify Him. That one day I will call them brother or sister.
How incredible is this prayer? I don’t think I could’ve said this a year ago. Thank you Lord for deepening my faith. Keep on keepin’ on, please.
The Apostle Paul wrote the church of Ephesus, now modern day Turkey, while in prison for his faith. He had suffered much for the Gospel but that did not stop him from speaking the truth. He wrote to the church of Ephesus, one in which he visited and preached previously, encouraging unity, purity, and perseverance.
It’s in this letter that he writes one of the most important passages for Christians:
Finally, be strong in the Lord and in the strength of his might. Put on the whole armor of God, that you may be able to stand against the schemes of the devil. For we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the cosmic powers over this present darkness, against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly places. Therefore take up the whole armor of God, that you may be able to withstand in the evil day, and having done all, to stand firm. Stand therefore, having fastened on the belt of truth, and having put on the breastplate of righteousness, and, as shoes for your feet, having put on the readiness given by the gospel of peace. In all circumstances take up the shield of faith, with which you can extinguish all the flaming darts of the evil one; and take the helmet of salvation, and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God, praying at all times in the Spirit, with all prayer and supplication.To that end keep alert with all perseverance, making supplication for all the saints, and also for me, that words may be given to me in opening my mouth boldly to proclaim the mystery of the gospel, for which I am an ambassador in chains, that I may declare it boldly, as I ought to speak. (Ephesians 6:10-20 ESV)
It is here that I go to when I am frustrated; when I feel useless and restless; when I see the persecution of the church and I feel like I can’t do anything. I feel guilty to freely praise and go to church on Sundays and that I am not harmed for my belief in Christ. I feel frustrated that I cannot stop the injustice in this world. My brothers and sisters are dying for Christ by the hands of hateful men and women and I cannot stop it. My heart bleeds for them.
And then I remember Ephesians 6 and I am reminded that my part to play is not guilt or anger, but it’s to pray for the church. It’s putting on the full armor of God, and instead of hating the men and women who are murdering, it’s praying for them too (Matthew 5:43). Because, after all, the enemy is Satan.
Tonight I am joining in A Call to Pray with others from around the world and I ask you to join.
It’s incredibly hard to live in the already but not yet. To see the amazing grace that Jesus offers, the grace and compassion and equality and freedom found within the gospel, set within a broken world filled with power and corruption and inequality and slavery.
My heart breaks for the people whose voices go unnoticed. For those who whisper so quietly that their message is silenced by the majority. Or for those that scream with such rage that their message is silenced by fear or anger.
I will not pretend to completely understand what the people of Ferguson have experienced, but I can empathize. When God redeemed me, He gave me a new heart and it fiercely loves His creation.
I am thankful to live in a time when voices are heard. When I can go on Twitter and read and see for myself the truth. Though the loss of a son, a friend, a brother is great – I know Michael Brown’s death will not be in vain. Though there has been much destruction in the name of his death, there has also been a spotlight given for what has been happening this entire time. It’s not just Ferguson. It’s not just one community. This is a microcosm of the reality in which we find ourselves.
But there is hope and change is possible.
Instead of using this as our soap box to point fingers and offer divisive names, this is a time for us to pray for God’s justice to come; for us to love our brothers and sisters with action; to be peacemakers; to truly listen and to truly see our common humanity.
We need to remember that God sees our pain. God sees our brokenness. God sees our hatred, our anger, our hurt, our fear – He sees it all, and you know what? He loves us. He redeems us. He heals us.
So, I am sitting in this pain. I will not let it just be a story. I will sit in my room and cry. I will feel the pain that God feels when He sees His children in pain. I will let my heart break and I will fiercely love His people.