Prayer: The First Defense

On March 16th, an article was written concerning two things that have been very raw in global news: The Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School shooting in Florida, and the kidnap of both the Chibok schoolgirls and the Dapchi school girls, among many others.

The article compared the school violence that has happened in America to the school violence exhibited by Boko Haram.1

One comparison was striking: For the Chibok and Dapchi girls—among so many others—protect our girlsthe terror was from the “outside,” an ideology and a people thoroughly against the governments of Northern Nigeria and other nations. In the School shooting in Florida, it was a young man—a man “within society”—that shot and killed 17 people, including students and school staff.

In both cases, people were lured by satan and spurred on by an evil world to commit these heinous and heartbreaking acts. People who hated their society, and thought little to nothing about the precious lives of the people they have kidnapped and killed.

In so little words, there is both terror within, and terror outside.

Fighting the Battles

In both situations, the watching world has vowed this vow: “We won’t forget.”2 Many have meant this, and many have not—but if you might be a person who has forgotten these people, this post is not to shame or push you into some sort of agenda. Actually, I have to be honest: I am a person who forgets these things. I am a person who does not always remember to pray for these precious people; and at times, I am completely ignorant to the pain others are feeling all around me.

This idea of both terror within, and terror outside, reminds me of Numbers 22-25, where a sorcerer/man of divination named Balaam is paid by the king of an enemy of Israel—King Balak of Moab—to curse the wandering Israelites3. It is the story of the talking donkey, which many people have heard of (especially if you have grown up in the church).

After being stopped by the angel of the LORD, God told Balaam to only say what God wanted him to say (Numbers 22:35), and Balaam refused just to say whatever he wanted (Numbers 22:38). Guess what happened? No matter how King Balak pressured Balaam,

doctrine-of-baalam

King Balak getting angry with Balaam for refusing to curse Israel.

Balaam could only say what God wanted him to: all blessings, and no curses, toward Israel (Numbers 23-24). Just like that, any terror and desolation that could occur from the outside of Israel through Balaam’s curses became inert; God was protecting His People.

But what Balaam couldn’t achieve through cursing Israel by divination, he helped achieve through the Israelite’s own wrongdoing. In Numbers 25, the Israelite men started sleeping with the local Moabite women around them; this debauchery led to the Israelite men worshipping the sexual, false gods and goddesses of Moab. The idolatry committed by Israel caused God to be angry; subsequently, a plague was sent to kill the Israelites. This terror, caused from within, ended up killing 24,000 people, and was only stopped when the “ringleaders” of this sin were killed.

What does this have to do with the violence in Northern Nigeria and Florida? I am not trying to compare the school shooting in Florida with what happened to the Israelites; absolutely NO VICTIM of the Florida shooting is in any way at fault for the choices of one person.

What I am saying is this: there is evil all around us—evil that is subtle, insidious, eating away at the life Christ has for us—both through attacks from the enemy, and from our own inward struggles with sin.

At the end of the day, this evil opposition comes at us from all sides, in a plethora of different ways.

evil

 

Prayer: First Line of Defense

With these attacks going on around us— and with everything we thought we knew for sure being shaken—I want to ask you one question: what is the first thing you normally do when you are attacked, or when you see an attack happening?

Do you go to Facebook and social media, posting and tweeting? Do you put together a protest, writing on signs?

Do you simply turn away from it all, hoping that, if it’s out of sight, it’s out of mind, and it will somehow resolve itself on its own?

All of these things are understandable; I’ve done all three. But I want to encourage you all to do one thing first: Pray to Jesus about it.

You’ll notice that I did not say “prayer” vaguely. I did this for a reason: The God of the Bible—the Godhead, three-in-one– is the only God in control, and able to change anything at all.

I can hear the scoffs and retorts. “Jesus? What is Jesus going to do? Time for prayers have ended, Annalee. We need action. We need results, now.”

But, regarding any attack in this life, Ephesians 6:12 declares, “For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms” (NIV).

And in terms of personal attacks happening in our everyday lives, God’s Word tells us to “Submit yourselves, then, to God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you” (James 4:7, NIV).

Honestly? I’m horrible at this whole “praying first” thing. Most of the time, I think that writing a blog post, or sending a tweet or even just a text instead is more productive than immediately going to the God of all Creation in prayer over these attacks. But, when one person goes in prayer to Christ, the One and only true God, about these things, more is done than anything we mere humans could ever do.

Praying to Jesus. This is the number one thing that will heal and protect, not only our morebroken children, but our broken world. So, may we protest. May we write blog and social media posts advocating for these precious people. May we be an active part of these people’s miracles.

But first, may we spend time with Jesus in prayer and worship. It is then that we will be strengthened and led to do all the beautiful things He has for us to do.


Do you know Jesus?

People today think that Christians are crazy for believing that a person can have a real, genuine, personal relationship with God. This is probably most evident in the words of Joy Behar recently, who publicly mocked Christians when she said, “It’s one thing to talk to Jesus. It’s another thing when Jesus talks to you. …that’s called mental illness, if I’m not mistaken.”

But, no matter what the world thinks about it, Jesus Christ is risen and reigning—and He longs to have a personal, saving relationship with each and every person ever made, if only they will accept Him as Savior and God over their lives.

Jesus cares DEEPLY for you. He has spoken, in His Word, about what it takes to know Him. Read more about His Good News, here.



Please pray for (print out a prayer sheet here)…

  • Joy Behar. This is random, but please pray that she would come to know Jesus even after her remarks on The View. Pray for the many, many people who agree with her sentiments.
  • The Dapchi girls. Please pray that they would come home, soon.
  • The Chibok girls. Pray that the 112 left in captivity would desire home, and would be able to come home. You can find a link to many of their names, here.
  • Those involved in and affected by the Marjorie Stoneman Douglas high school shooting in Parkland, Florida. Pray that these broken, hurt people would come to know Jesus.

Thank you for your prayers.  these kids be protected by Christ through prayer, and Christ-led action.

1 http://keranews.org/post/beset-school-violence-us-and-nigeria-consider-each-others-experience

2 The video featuring Anderson Cooper in this article: https://www.cnn.com/2018/02/15/us/florida-shooting-victims-school/index.html

3 https://www.gotquestions.org/Balak-in-the-Bible.html

 

Love: the Greatest Form of Warfare

(This started being written on the morning of Monday, November 6th.)

It is Monday morning, and all I can do right now is sit here and cry.

Cry over and about the shooting that happened in Sutherland Springs, Texas, at the First Baptist Church.

The 26 victims who passed away ranged in ages from 5-72 years old, according to CNN. Approximately 20 other people were wounded. There is practically no one who was not affected in some way, shape or form by the shooting, in such a small town as Sutherland Springs.

The regular pastor was away with his wife, and a visiting pastor came to preach at the church. He passed away in the shooting; as did the regular pastor’s 14-year-old daughter.

Among the dead were eight people, apart of the same family, spanning across three generations and including a pregnant woman and her three children (source).

No one in the church left unharmed.

I sit here crying, not just because of the sheer horror of all of this, but because these congregants came to this church on a Sunday morning, to worship Jesus and to fellowship with one another. Because it struck deep, and held some of the same similarities to my own church.

There was a visiting pastor at the church I visited, yesterday. There were about 50-70 congregants in the service. The regular pastor and his wife were in a different city, guest-pastoring there.

As we lifted up holy hands and sang together in worship, and as chuckled with each other through the funny parts of the service, the Pastor taught us one thing: God is Love; and Love is the highest form of warfare.

It is patient. It is kind. It does not envy. It does not boast. It is not proud.
It does not dishonor others. It 
is not self-seeking. It is not easily angered. It keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects. It always trusts. It always hopes. It always perseveres. Love never fails.
(1 Corinthians 13:4-8)

The kind of Love Jesus has for us is Agape Love. This kind of Love is sacred, and selfless. Loving without ever expecting Love in return. This kind of Love is not a cuddly, warm, fuzzy feeling. Neither is it only an impulse. It is an action. It is a choice, to be made daily.

It wages war on the self, or as the Bible calls it, “the flesh,” which wants self-gratification at any cost to those around itself. It wages war on the enemy, satan, and on his schemes to steal, kill, and destroy others through sin, deceit and spiritual attacks. Without this type of love, knowing everything in the world, having the greatest amount of faith, and doing even the most extremely selfless things, amounts to… well… nothing (1 Corinthians 13:1-3).

Jesus wins the war; Jesus, God, is Love, as 1 John 4:8 states (again, not the warm, fuzzy, super-tolerant ‘Love’; but the life-changing, transforming, in-your-face bold and beautiful kind of Love, that does not delight in evil or sin, but delights in the truth.). And, because Jesus is Love, Love will always win. 

Over the apathy. Over the self-centeredness. Over the hurt, the pain, the anger and insult and tragedy. The horror. Love never fails.

Friends, Beloved, if we must get something right, let’s get Love right. Especially between our brothers and sisters in Christ. As Matthew 5, and 1 John 4, say:

“‘You have heard that it was said to the people long ago, “You shall not murder, and anyone who murders will be subject to judgment.” But I tell you that anyone who is angry with a brother or sister will be subject to judgment. Again, anyone who says to a brother or sister, “Raca,” is answerable to the court. And anyone who says,”You fool!” will be in danger of the fire of hell.
Therefore, if you are offering your gift at the altar and there remember that your brother or sister has something against you, leave your gift there in front of the altar. First go and be reconciled to them; then come and offer your gift.
‘Settle matters quickly with your adversary who is taking you to court. Do it while you are still together on the way, or your adversary may hand you over to the judge, and the judge may hand you over to the officer, and you may be thrown into prison.
 Truly I tell you, you will not get out until you have paid the last penny.'”
(Matthew 5:21-26, NIV)

Dear friends, since God so loved us, we also ought to love one another. No one has ever seen God; but if we love one another, God lives in us and his love is made complete in us. … We love because he first loved us. Whoever claims to love God yet hates a brother or sister is a liar. For whoever does not love their brother and sister, whom they have seen, cannot love God, whom they have not seen. And he has given us this command: Anyone who loves God must also love their brother and sister.”
(1 John 4:19-21, NIV)

That last passage, in 1 John 4, is super convicting, because the word “to hate” in the greek can also mean “love less,” or “esteem less.” In other words, if you do not care more for, and esteem your brothers and sisters in Christ as more than you do for yourself, you cannot truly Love God.

Harsh words, I know.
But in the wake of this horrific, horrific tragedy, I believe they must be said.
Because life is too short to not live a life of Real Love: for God and for others.

a life of real love

As 1 Peter 4 puts it, “The end of all things is near. Therefore be alert and of sober mind so that you may pray. Above all, love each other deeply, because love covers over a multitude of sins” (1 Peter 4:7-8, NIV).

There is a town in deep distress, right now. And many are right; people need to change. But please, let’s hold off on the politics and the scrutiny, if only for a day. Because wherever you stand on the political spectrum, if you are a true Believer in Jesus Christ, you know that politics cannot truly save people; only Jesus Christ truly can.

Instead of politicizing this tragedy right now, or making it about another gun law gone wrong, let us just sit. And cry, with them, and for them, as they face the most pressing loss they may have ever encountered. Let us love our hurting, reeling brothers and sisters in Sutherland Springs, Texas, right now, in the form of prayer, and of anything else we can give.

And let’s get Love right. Because truly, throughout all of our lives, He will win in the end.

Rejoice with those who rejoice; mourn with those who mourn.”
(Romans 12:15, NIV)



Do you know Jesus?

“Oh, the overwhelming, never-ending, reckless love of God!
Oh, it chases me down, fights ’til I’m found, leaves the ninety-nine (Matthew 18:12-13).
I couldn’t earn it,
I don’t deserve it,
Still You give Yourself away;
Oh, the overwhelming, never-ending, reckless love of God!”
(Reckless Love, Bethel Music ft. Steffany Gretzinger)

Though this is just a song, it expresses the kind of Love Jesus has for us. 1 John 4:9-10 says, This is how God showed his love among us: He sent his one and only Son into the world that we might live through him. This is love: not that we loved God, but that he loved us and sent his Son as an atoning sacrifice for our sins.” 

Jesus, God the Son, gave His Life, and God the Father gave His Son, so that we might have a chance to be with God forever. Learn more about this reckless Love– and what Jesus has done for you, in His Reckless Love– here.


Please pray…

  • For the members of First Baptist Church in Sutherland Springs, Texas. Please pray for the victims’ families, as they are laid low in deep grief, right now.
  • For the churches all around the globe who have gone through the same thing, whether it would be because of ISIS, lone-gunmen, and/or the attacks of the enemy. Please pray that we would all stay united in Christ, and that we would pray for one another.
  • For those who are feeling lost, alone, suicidal, homicidal, and are generally in a low point of their lives. This gunman was a violent man; please pray that men and women like him would come to know Christ before something like this can happen again.
  • It has been reported that the gunmen spent a year in jail for domestic violence, by violently shaking his young son and abusing his wife on multiple occasions; but none of this information was relayed to police, which could have caused the ability for the shooter to obtain a gun.
    Please pray for those who relay this information, and for any guilt that any person could have over not doing their job. Please pray that they would come to Christ, and would forgive themselves for any way they could have caused this.
  • Pray for anyone in general who could have felt this way before, as well.

I love you, friends. Thank you for your prayers and support.