The 64 Blog

What Do We Do Now?

This headline is not original with me. Shortly after the news began to break about the tragic terrorist attack in Orlando, a friend posted this question on his Facebook timeline. I believe my friend articulates the cry of every one of us as we watch the world we live in get more difficult to understand. What do we do now?

On Sunday morning as most were waking up preparing to enjoy a beautiful day of worship or relaxation a nightmare scenario was unfolding in Orlando. For more than 3 hours a man had been shooting, holding hostage and destroying the lives of dozens of families. What we witnessed on Sunday was the worst mass shooting in American history: 49 lives tragically killed in a gay bar in Orlando, Florida. The terrorist was Omar Mir Seddique Mateen, a devout American-born Muslim who had pledged his allegiance to ISIS and who this morning (Tuesday 6 AM) has been identified by CNN as himself a gay man.

Few news stories have the convergence of so many controversial cultural issues all wrapped up in one. Nabeel Qureshi once a Muslim, now a Christian summed it up well this week when he said,  None of us can think entirely objectively, especially at the heels of a terrorist attack charged with so many political controversies. The rhetoric and agendas are flying, even though the dust has not yet settled. Gun control? Homophobia? Islamophobia?

What are we going to do? Although we all have the same reality, we all certainly do not have the same reaction. Everyone has to answer that question for themselves. Some believe this is primarily a Gun issue. Perhaps there is something we can do to limit gun crime. If there is we should do it! Yet it seems impossible to prevent someone who is determined to do harm to another from finding a way to destroying lives. If people want to hurt people, they will find ways to do it. Hate is stronger than any restriction!

Others believe this is a Gay rights issue, that those who are gay are being persecuted. Let me be clear, there is no place for violence towards anyone based on a difference of opinion. Just because we disagree over something doesn’t mean we should hurt the other nor does it mean that we should, for our disagreement, be called hateful! In this case this is complicated given the news that this man was himself gay and had been active in that lifestyle for years.

And then others believe this is a God issue. Dr. Everett Piper said “This man didn’t have a gun issue, he had a god issue.” According to this terrorist his god allowed for the slaughter of innocent Americans. The greatest influence in any of our lives is our god, defined as that thing that we love, serve or fear the most. Our god will ultimately have the greatest influence in our life. The issue of his Muslim faith and radical Islamic views are certainly relevant to this discussion as all these things are.

So, What are we going to do?

John 1:17 tells us something about Jesus that I believe helps us as we wrestle with this question. For the law was given by Moses, but grace and truth came by Jesus Christ.  In my understanding we must deal with every issue of life trying to understand how these two things apply; GRACE and TRUTH.

Jesus came into this world and illustrated these for us like no other. On the one hand no one was more gracious, kind, loving and forgiving than Jesus. And yet, no one was more unbending and direct about morality, truth, sin and eternity than our Savior.   He exhibited beautifully both sides of the coin, grace and truth. His life was the portrait of grace and truth.  His death is a beautiful, painful picture of his love for us and yet his view sin.

So what should we do? My aim is to be like Jesus and never lose grace towards those I disagree with. I want to love the hurting, care for the broken, lift up the sinful. Like Jesus I want to “do good to those who hurt me and pray for those who persecute me”. And yet I want to do this without compromising God’s truth on the issues of morality and religion that are so prevalent in our society. It is possible to be both gracious and have an unrelenting commitment to truth. Oh may we all find the truth about these issues and express grace to a hurting world!

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Desperation In The Storm

In Matthew 14 we find the story of Jesus having compassion on the multitudes, healing their sick and teaching them many things.  As the day draws to a close, He miraculously feeds 5,000 men, plus the women and children, using only five loaves and two fish.  Then the account reads, “Immediately Jesus made the disciples get into the boat and go on ahead of him to the other side, while he dismissed the crowd. After he had dismissed them, he went up on a mountainside by himself to pray. When evening came, he was there alone” (Matthew 14:22&23).

On one hand, we see another amazing snapshot of Christ’s model of prayer and intimacy with the Father.  The text indicates that He began praying around sundown and continued in prayer until at least 3 a.m. (the fourth watch), when He appeared to His disciples by walking on the water past their wave-tossed boat in the midst of a terrible storm.

On the other hand, we see that Jesus intentionally sent the disciples into a storm on the lake rather than inviting them to join Him on the mountain to pray.  Knowing there were other times when He invited some of them to pray and when they were observing Him as He prayed (Luke 9:28; Mark 14:33-35; Luke 11:1), I wonder why He made this choice with the disciples on this particular evening.

Ready to Pray?

Perhaps Jesus simply wanted alone time with the Father.  Perhaps there were reasons related to the disciples that prompted Jesus to send them away rather than join Him to pray.  Several ideas emerge at this point:

1. They probably would have slept rather than prayed.  Earlier in the day, they had returned from a grueling ministry assignment.  They had been so busy they did not even have time to eat and Jesus invited them to come apart to a quiet place.  Instead, they were interrupted by the crowds and the feeding of the 5,000 ensued.  Surely, Jesus knew they were tired; perhaps too tired to pray.

2. They were not in the proper frame of faith to pray.  When the writer Mark speaks of this incident, he writes of the disciples, “for they had not understood the loaves; their hearts were hardened.”  Even after the miracle feeding, they were not in the place of faith that the Lord desired. 

3. They needed a greater revelation of Christ.  That night on the sea created a desperation in the hearts of the disciples.  The appearance of Jesus on the water struck holy fear in their hearts.  His declaration to them,"Take courage! It is I (literally, ‘I Am’). Don’t be afraid" (Matthew 14:27) called them to embrace His divinity.  His power to calm the wind and the waves caused them to fall on their faces in worship and declare, "Truly you are the Son of God" (Matthew 14:33).

Our Lessons about Prayer

There are some lessons in this story for us.  First, Jesus still invites His followers to pray.  He wants us to seek His face.  He wants His church to be a house of prayer.  Many times we join Him – often sleepy, lacking faith, and without a high, holy, and captivating view of who He is.

As He did with the disciples, He allows us to encounter storms that wake us from our faithless doldrums.  He uses the storms to stir desperation in our hearts.  Until we become desperate, we seldom pray with passion and perseverance.

In that desperation, we come to a greater biblical revelation of His character.  Christ wants us to see Him in the greatness of His power and glory.  This place of genuine worship is the foundation of life-changing prayer.

Storms to Stimulate Our Seeking

If we are struggling in our prayer lives, we know that the Lord is not content that we neglect our relationship with Him.  We also know that He will not just let us go through the motions.  Because He loves us, and purposes that we love and know Him through prayer, He will bring storms to make us desperate, that we might gain a fresh vision of His majesty, and pray in a transforming fashion for His glory.

 

 

©2015 Daniel Henderson. All rights reserved.

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