This picture grips me. Yet, not enough.
The story grips me. Yet, not enough.
9 When he opened the fifth seal, I saw under the altar the souls of those who had been slain because of the word of God and the testimony they had maintained. 10 They called out in a loud voice, “How long, Sovereign Lord, holy and true, until you judge the inhabitants of the earth and avenge our blood?” 11 Then each of them was given a white robe, and they were told to wait a little longer, until the full number of their fellow servants, their brothers and sisters, were killed just as they had been. (Rev. 6:9-11)
We are in such volatility this week.
I live in Minneapolis, so we have the added issue of a young black man shot by police and the tension is pretty heavy here as well.
Beyond that “small” local issue… there is France and terrorism. ISIS. Immigration.
Governors refusing to let in Syrian refugees. The president firing back. Political candidates yelling. Facebook is just poison. Christians… Christians… yelling at each other over whether to let refugees in or not.
In the midst of this week’s turmoil has been our reading in James for MULTIPLY.
Today I was moving through the section in James 5 talking about prayer. I was using the IVP commentary as a companion moving through those verses and the author made an interesting connection between James 5:12 and the rest of the section to follow.
James 5:12 (NIV)
12 Above all, my brothers and sisters, do not swear—not by heaven or by earth or by anything else. All you need to say is a simple “Yes” or “No.” Otherwise you will be condemned.
The author’s contention was that when pressure mounts, we can have the same tendency as the world to ratchet up the volume and “seriousness” of our argument and swearing enters in. We make silly oaths.
The answer that follows is simple…and one we don’t like. Especially in this current environment.
James 5:13–16 (NIV)
13 Is anyone among you in trouble? Let them pray. Is anyone happy? Let them sing songs of praise. 14 Is anyone among you sick? Let them call the elders of the church to pray over them and anoint them with oil in the name of the Lord. 15 And the prayer offered in faith will make the sick person well; the Lord will raise them up. If they have sinned, they will be forgiven. 16 Therefore confess your sins to each other and pray for each other so that you may be healed. The prayer of a righteous person is powerful and effective.
When? When we’re in trouble. When we’re happy. When pressure is mounting…
To which we all seem to be saying, “No thanks. I’d rather yell.”
Yelling is cathartic. Yelling makes me sound serious. Yelling helps me insult someone I’ve really wanted to insult all along but now I have a good excuse. DOG GONE IT! I LIKE YELLING! LEAVE ME ALONE! I’LL PRAY LATER!
Wow. That felt good!
But what got accomplished? Compared to stepping back and talking to the great King of all kings about any of the world’s current situations? Yelling may feel good, but it accomplishes nothing. Bullet point political rants may make the Twitter feeds, but they don’t solve the problems.
We need prayer. Desperately.
The events in our world put into the echo chamber of social media and very narrow “news” organizations on the right and left is only a deadly poison.
Paris bombings, Syrian refugees, racial tensions…
ALL things worthy of attention, but we are not giving them attention. We are just yelling.
This week may be one of my highest music listening weeks in quite some time. When I can’t even get a decent, straight up, “here are the facts as we know them right now” kind of story… I have to cut it all off in my head because all I’m doing is listening to yelling and no one caring about what is actually happening.
These are days I put headphones on and crank up my favorite music.
And I also dig deeper into the Word. NOT because I want to ignore these situations, but precisely because I care about these situations.
So my prayer for today comes from Psalms:
Psalm 86:11 (NIV)
11 Teach me your way, Lord,
that I may rely on your faithfulness;
give me an undivided heart,
that I may fear your name.
In a world of chaos, no one seems interested in sowing PEACE right now.
Through this portion of MULTIPLY discipleship we are focusing on the need to study the Word of God. We need this anchor. In a world gone mad, we need this anchor.
If there isn’t something deadly serious going on in the world (as in ISIS bombings in Beirut and Paris) there is always something ready to offend us (like crazy social media outrages). We can so easily be upset with so many things… real or imagined.
This past week came news of a wife who has faced cancer and beat it… and it’s back again and this time the faith is a bit harder to “muster up.” Treatments aren’t going well, more tumors are showing up… Lord! Hear our prayers!
We need anchors.
We hear news of bombings and the fear can mount up. We pray against cancer and the fear can mount up.
It is the steady diet of the Word of God that can keep us anchored. We need his presence in a powerful way and the Word can lead us into that powerful presence.
In a week gone crazy from the idiotic (like the great Christmas controversy of the Starbucks cup) to the deadly (like cancer returning and the horrific news out of Beirut and Paris), we can let all other voices dictate our “responses.”
We can lose focus.
It is today I found myself in Psalm 73. It is a psalm dealing with that very theme: the temptation to lose focus.
For the psalmist, the deal was with the wicked and the wealthy. They always seemed to “get away” with things! Why follow God? Why bother?
It was desperate!
13 Surely in vain I have kept my heart pure
and have washed my hands in innocence. Psalm 73:13 (NIV)
But then there is the turn:
16 When I tried to understand all this,
it troubled me deeply
17 till I entered the sanctuary of God;
then I understood their final destiny. Psalm 73:16–17 (NIV)
We need the anchor of the Word. We need the presence of the LIVING Word calling us out to gain perspective. It will save us from fear, from hatred, from normal “worldly” responses… and in a day like today, that is precisely what we need.
Hear our prayer, O Lord.
Blessed are the peacemakers,
for they will be called children of God. (Matt. 5:9)
In a day when the boiler plate view of Muslims is “they just want to come over here and bomb us,” there is a fresh reminder that not all Muslims are that way. Most aren’t. Hard to believe. Just true.
Tunisia is one spot no one pays attention to, even though it was the first place the “Arab Spring” started. Egypt blew up. Libya blew up. Syria dug in their heels. But Tunisia kept plodding toward peace. They still make their way in a treacherous situation, but a group was recognized yesterday for their work in bringing peace and stability to their nation.
“We are here to give hope to young people in Tunisia, that if we believe in our country, we can succeed,” said Ouided Bouchamaoui, president of The Tunisian Confederation of Industry, Trade and Handicrafts, a group that’s part of the Quartet.
It’s interesting what can happen when the world isn’t watching… and criticizing.