Tag Archives: Romans 8

Recovering the Christian Art of the Lament

“For everything there is a season, and a time for every matter under heaven…a time to weep, and a time to laugh; a time to mourn, and a time to dance…” (Ecclesiastes 3)

weeping

A year ago I did a multi-post blog on the art the lament, the first of which was entitled: Sometimes You Just Have To Go Ahead and Cry.” Recently, since I summarized those posts in a message for a church in the Bay Area, I thought I’d share that primer here.

I find that biblical lament is a tough theme for many and it’s not commonly considered in many Evangelical circles. I confess that as a pastor, unless it came up in a study through the Psalms or Jeremiah, I hardly gave it any notice. But I truly believe that Christians should cry more; if not actually cry, feel the pain that God feels for the mess we’ve made of our world. Continue reading

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Providence, Prayer, and Protest

protestI said in a previous post that “’Liberty and justice for some’” isn’t a world we can tolerate, especially when we’re not included in “the some.’”

So, what can we do about it? What do our biblically informed consciences tell us? They say a few things, that God is sovereign and worthy to be trusted, they remind us to intercede in prayer, and they tell us to interfere with injustice with our mouths, feet, and hands.

I’ve heard a lot of social media talk during this election cycle about the first two; God’s sovereignty and how prayer is our primary responsibility to influence elections and social policy. I’m quite interested in those truths, believe in them (in a manner of speaking), and have a few things to say about them if you’re willing to listen.

Providence…

First of all, yes, God is in control, but that’s a far cry from him being controlling. I hear people say that at the end of the day God will have his way! No doubt about it, but only insofar as they’re referring to the “end of days,” not necessarily at the end of each day.

Yes, God will get his way in the very end of time, but to claim that he always gets his way in the meantime is to insinuate that it was his way for Hitler to murder six million Jews, for 800 million people in the world today to be starving, for nearly half a million people to die in the Syrian conflict so far, for radical Islamists to bomb, behead, and traffic millions of innocents, for millions of babies to be born with horrific maladies! None of that has anything to do with God’s way or will.

It’s an absurd claim that God will work it all out, at least by the end of this 24-hour cycle or even by the end of our lifetime. Sometimes, even oftentimes, he does. Thank you, Jesus! But it’s only in the hereafter where our tears and sorrows completely disappear and God’s will is done with perfection.

Prayer…

Pray, they say, and God will give us the President we should have. Yes, pray––pray a lot and pray with faith! But to expect him to finagle the Electoral College because he loves America so much or because enough people prayed is just being naïve. It’s simply not how he routinely manages his omnipotence.

I would concede that prayer is our first responsibility to hinder the work of hell and to cooperate with the release of heaven (Thy kingdom come, thy will be done…). It is not our last resort in hell hindering, but it is the first.

I wonder if prayer comes first so we can give the Creator a chance to inject his perspective of world events and at the same time identify our worldly attitudes about those events. In other words, when we pray for the world we don’t come with our agendas, infused with our politics and preferences. We come asking him to ask us to ask him for what he wants! We begin with saying, How should we pray for this mess, Lord? Give us your perspective on your tangled up world. “For we don’t know how to pray as we should…” (Romans 8)

I wonder how we’re doing in the “Thy will be done” department. Do we want what he wants or do we want what we think we need? Do we pray, not so much with a blank slate, but with a Scripture-filled slate, trusting him to do what we can’t do about the mess we find ourselves in?

And then I wonder if we’re engaging with the powers that influence the atrocities, greed, and inhumanity to man or are we too busy interceding for Aunt Sophie’s foot surgery and Uncle Orville’s toothache? Just wondering.

The best prayers are those that begin in the heart of God. He shows us how to pray about a certain matter, we do so, and when he answers we praise him! Prayer then is a partnership, a collaborative conquest over hell and for the release of heaven. So, yes, let’s pray.

Lastly, prayer is where we begin, but not where we end––not by a long shot!

Protest…

God is in control! Amen! So, we must pray for him to intervene. Amen and amen! But then what? He does often intervene, but in addition to prayer we have the responsibility to interfere with the black hole of inhumanity to man. Someone said, “If I pray for God to move a mountain, I must be prepared to wake up next to a shovel!”

Those who know me are aware that I’ve never been nearly so vocal about politics and politicians as I have been for the last year. I admit that a certain candidate, who will remain anonymous, if not infamous, suckered me into this. I simply couldn’t, in good conscience, stay out the fray, especially since so many of my brothers and sisters have ridden the T. Train through the campaign season.

Okay, so whether or not you agree with my assessment of this particular individual’s suitability for public service, please hear me out about our responsibility to do more than pray and sit back and wait for God to do his sovereign thing. Prayer doesn’t let us off the hook. It usually sets the hook (God’s hook) firmly in our mouths.

I’m glad that Lincoln and Wilberforce did more than pray about the abolition of slavery. I’m glad that Martin Luther King did more than pray about civil rights for Black Americans. I’m glad that Billy Graham did more than pray for people to come to Jesus!

We have to do more than pray that God will intervene. Empowered by the truth and by his presence we have to interfere with the world’s destructive direction. We who possess heavenly “firepower” must interfere––at the polls, with our pens (well, computing devices), and with our petitions. In addition to our prayer petitions sent to the Lawgiver we must utilize our right to petition our lawmakers, if not through letters and peaceful protest, at the very least, through the vote.

“We must always take sides. Neutrality helps the oppressor, never the victim. Silence encourages the tormentor, never the tormented. Sometimes we must interfere.” Holocaust survivor and Nobel Laureate Elie Wiesel

PS If you haven’t already, please consider getting my book, The Other End of the Dark. The profits go to Freedom House, a safe haven and therapeutic environment for women and girls who have survived commercial sexual exploitation. Supporting their work is one simple way to protest against the horrific injustice of human trafficking.

How can a bunch of crying Christians do the world any good?

weepingMy eyes fail from weeping, I am in torment within; my heart is poured out on the ground because my people are destroyed, because children and infants faint in the streets of the city. Lamentations 2:11

So, are you saying we’re supposed to just sit around and cry about how bad the world is? Aren’t we supposed to do something about it? What on earth are we here (on earth) for, anyway?

In other words, “Well, that’s fine, but how does all this grieving change anything? We have a world to win, why should we waste our time lamenting?” Continue reading

Another Reason to Weep

weeping angelA few years ago a brother from our church rushed into the church office on a weekday lunchtime and said, “There are two kids in the bushes right outside having sex!”

“What are you talking about?” I said.

“I’m not making this up. When I passed by the front of the church, there was a boy and girl having sex behind a bush!”

With our building located next to a high school hundreds of students passed through our property everyday on their way home or stayed to hang out on our lawn. We relished the opportunities that our proximity gave us to share God’s love with kids over pizza, music, and skate ramps. Of course there were boatloads of difficulties that went with the privilege, all of which were a small price to pay to be able to show and share good news with such young hearts. The most common inconveniences were relentless graffiti, piles of garbage, clouds of pot smoke wafting into the office windows, along with the occasional teenage brawl in the parking lot. Copulating in the bushes was a whole other level of disruption of our daily office routine! Continue reading