America was riveted by yet another tragedy that unfolded in San Bernardino yesterday. For reasons yet to be determined, a couple went on a murderous rampage at a holiday party and left 14 dead and more wounded before being gunned down. This morning a city weeps and a nation wonders. And, I pray! Yes, I pray for the Church to recover her calling to be Light in a dark world, to be the Salt that preserves from the rot of evil. I pray that kneejerk reactions will be few and that wisdom will prevail. But, let me speak to your heart today . . .
So many people that I know are dealing with sorrow, disappointment, and fear. So many are asking, “is there any hope?” The brokenness of Creation and the evil that stalks the dark corridors of this world seep into our lives. There is personal tragedy. Bev and I live with cancer, evidence of the curse of sin. Many are gripped by the ongoing sadness of family feuds. So-called natural disasters – when the earth shakes, the flood comes, or the storm blows – sweep away homes and livelihoods. Then, there are the kinds of incidents that we watched in horror yesterday in California. We cannot foolishly pretend that ‘all is well’ though many try. We cannot just sing louder, hoping to drown out the cries of the hurting.
What can we who are servants of the King of Kings, sons and daughters of the Almighty Father, do?
We become warriors. Oh, please, not like the ‘warriors’ of ISIS with bombs and bullets; not like the cultural ‘warriors’ who feed hate with twisted bits of Scripture. We are bold warriors of love. Don’t tune me out yet. We are called to run to the battle. “Resist the Devil,” the Word says. But, how? With profound love! God does not release us to little oases of pleasure in this world. He sends us into the struggle with sin, suffering, and Satan! “Comfort the broken. Feed the hungry. Be fathers to the orphan. Stand with the oppressed,” He says. And, we enter the struggle equipped with the power of His Spirit, protected by the armor of Lord that covers us with the assurance of salvation and life eternal. We proclaim, more with actions than with words, that Christ is Savior and Lord. We invite the broken to come to Him. We intensely care for those that others overlook, dismiss, or even hate. We speak truth to materialism, greed, sensuality, discrimination, and fear. And, we pray … strong prayers that call for the armies of heaven to throw back the forces of hell!
Do I desire a world without cancer, without divorce, without conflict, without gunmen who shoot down unsuspecting people? Yes, yes, yes! But I am not God and I do not get to shape the universe. What I can do is work faithfully in my little corner of it to build the kingdom of Heaven. We must tear down those high fences that isolate us from the realities of the world! We are not the first generation of Christians to deal with evil, though we sometimes think we are.
Paul, at the beginning of the faith, wrote to the Corinthian church and said, “we do not preach ourselves, but Jesus Christ as Lord, and ourselves as your servants for Jesus’ sake. For God, who said, “Let light shine out of darkness,” made his light shine in our hearts to give us the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Christ. But we have this treasure in jars of clay to show that this all-surpassing power is from God and not from us. We are hard pressed on every side, but not crushed; perplexed, but not in despair; persecuted, but not abandoned; struck down, but not destroyed. We always carry around in our body the death of Jesus, so that the life of Jesus may also be revealed in our body. For we who are alive are always being given over to death for Jesus’ sake, so that his life may be revealed in our mortal body.” (2 Corinthians 4:5-11, NIV)
In the middle of the sorrow and suffering, when we are most vulnerable, Jesus shines through the cracks! But, He cannot shine if we are not renewed with prayer, worship, and humility before Him each day. Yes, I pray for the ‘Kingdom to come!’ I long for the day when questions of evil will find be answered with the coming of the King, who is the Lord of Righteousness.
In this season of Advent, we remember that He came to us once as our Savior, God Incarnate; and that He will come to us again as King, Lord of Glory. Faithfully we pray the closing words of the Holy Scripture – “He who testifies to these things says, “Yes, I am coming soon.” Amen. Come, Lord Jesus. The grace of the Lord Jesus be with God’s people. Amen.” (Revelation 22:20-22, NIV)
Here’s a word from the Word. Take it with you today. “Be strong in the Lord and in his mighty power. Put on all of God’s armor so that you will be able to stand firm against all strategies of the devil. For we are not fighting against flesh-and-blood enemies, but against evil rulers and authorities of the unseen world, against mighty powers in this dark world, and against evil spirits in the heavenly places.” (Ephesians 6:10-12, NLT) “Stand your ground, putting on the belt of truth and the body armor of God’s righteousness.” (Ephesians 6:14, NLT)
Would you pray with me?
Father, my world – both inward and outward- is chaotic today.
The suffering that I see is hard to fit into a system of logic,
but I pray for faith to cling to your promise.
Keep me from fear and make me bold in your service.
Fill me with the love of Jesus and let that love
overflow in my word and actions today,
spilling into the lives of those who are without the comfort of faith.
Break the curse! Defeat the Evil one!
Let Your kingdom come,
Your will be done, on earth, as it is in Heaven.
In the mighty and holy Name of Jesus, I pray. Amen.