What a week we’ve had here in the south-east! It began last Sunday night with a thunderstorm that had the house shaking and the lights flickering…continued with an earthquake on Tuesday…and ended with a hurricane that, thankfully, left our particular neighborhood with little more trouble than a power outage and messy yards.
Elsewhere, I know there is devastation. Homes have been destroyed. Lives have been lost.
This is the obvious trouble in my corner of the world right now. But I know that, behind what makes it into the news headlines, there is more. There is hunger. Violence. Sickness. Fear.
Here where I am, there where you are, people are scared of these things that are not in their control. The consequences of sin are everywhere we look, behind closed doors, and in the hidden pain of hearts.
Further from home, across oceans…there are children, barefoot and without even clean water to drink. My youngest sister just came back from Romania, where she witnessed this for herself and is forever changed by the joy and gratefulness of a little girl when given a single pair of shoes to protect her feet from the broken glass, mud, and animal waste that is constantly underfoot in her little village. Hannah will be joining us on the blog this week to share more of her experience with you…we can’t help but to cry every time she shares another story, because there is such need…and we are humbled by all that we take for granted…
In other nations, there’s political unrest and souls aching for freedom…there’s economic distress and people desperate for jobs so that they can take care of their families. There is not one place on this earth that people are not in need of hope.
You know, when I began this post, it was with the intention of writing about taking time today to slow down. To look upon the face of our Father. To worship. To sing out hallelujah in the midst of the busy days, in the middle of the storms and the organizing for school or whatever your particular day might hold.
And, oh, we must spend time in His presence…for He is good and holy…and only by His grace and in His strength will we find our joy and peace…but what I can’t get away from right now is that we must not cling to that hope in isolation. We must not speak of this hope only to others who already live by His promises–though we are called to build each other up in our faith, we are also called to give this good news to those who are without it. Can we dare to act upon the thought that we have been blessed with such abundance so that we may share what we have? Can we dare to live our worship?
We are the family of God. And we cry it out, Hallelujah…praise to our Lord. Me, here in this tiny southern town. You, in your town or city. We may never sing it in the same room, but to the same Father, we sing…all across America, on farms and in colleges and offices, praise comes from the lips of stay-at-home moms, athletes, nurses, restaurant managers, musicians. There are innumerable backgrounds, personalities, and situations among us, but our common hope is Christ. To the north, to the south, there are men and women lifting their hands in worship. Half a world away, missionaries in their tiny homes sing with us…in cathedrals and in churches hidden from the eyes of those who would imprison them for their song, our brothers and sisters exalt the name of the Lord…Hallelujah…
And our Father, the Almighty I AM, He is the same God wherever we might be. He is the God who sent His Son to break the chains of darkness, to breathe forgiveness and redemption into our souls. To give life in the face of the death.
We worship Him, together…and our worship, true worship, is meant to be more than words. How can we mourn all of the need in this world…question the suffering….when we neglect to fulfill the simple call from our Father to follow His example in love? “We know that we have passed from death to life, because we love our brothers. Anyone who does not love remains in death…This is how we know what love is: Jesus Christ laid down his life for us. And we ought to lay down our lives for our brothers. If anyone has material possessions and sees his brother in need but has no pity on him, how can the love of God be in him? Dear children, let us not love with words or tongue but with actions and in truth…” (from 1 John 3)
God’s love is transformative. It is not passive. His love changes us. And when we are filled with that love, how can we help but share it? How can we hold it in, this love that He did not hold back from us?
God did not love us from afar. He didn’t speak of grace and stop there. His love became action — His word became The Word, and walked among us.
Sometimes we look at all of the trouble around us…from in our own families to those children across the sea…and it is overwhelming. We wonder how our little voice can make a difference.
Sometimes, we forget that we are a family. And in this time where we are more connected than our ancestors would have dreamed possible, we must remember who we are…the daughters and sons of the King–and, most importantly, who HE is — our powerful God who is mightier and bigger than the distances and problems that separate us.
As Mordecai said to Queen Esther, “And who knows but that you have come to royal position for such a time as this?” She had a chance to stand before the King to ask mercy for her people. And we have the capability to stand together like never before, coming boldly before the throne of grace, to stand in the gap for those in need. When we humble ourselves and lift our voices in unity, our Father will hear us. (2 Chron. 7:14) In Matthew 18:19, Jesus says, “Again, I tell you that if two of you on earth agree about anything you ask for, it will be done for you by my Father in heaven. For where two or three come together in my name, there am I with them.” If we allow His love to fill us and work through us for His purposes and not our own, He will be able to bring light into the darkness through us. Can we be His light-bearers, shining like stars in the sky to a ‘crooked and depraved generation’, as we hold out the word of life? (Phil.2:15)
But when we pray this prayer — we must be ready to live out His answers. I’m talking to myself, here, too– because it’s so easy to get caught up in our daily routines and our personal needs that we forget the bigger picture…we forget our role in the body of Christ. When we stand in the gap for the needs of others, when we allow His love to both work on our hearts and pour out of us to others…we must understand that it will require change. Sacrifice. Personal investment. We have to stop crying when we see the despair coming to us through our televisions or however we hear about it, praying for a moment, and then going right back to our regular schedules…in a world that isn’t improving, isn’t it time to submit to God so that the cycle of ineffectiveness is broken and He can use us to bring hope?
Are we all called to become missionaries or to plant churches? No…but we are all called to love. Wherever we are, in our own neighborhood. In our workplace. With our families. Sometimes making a difference outside of our own circle is as simple as buying an extra can of food to give away. Sometimes it’s taking our extra clothes to a shelter or starting an outreach to an overlooked group in your community, like the elderly. Sometimes it’s following God’s leading to save and give to those who are called to physically travel to another country with His message. The point is that it may seem like a small action to you, but if you’re doing it out of obedience and love — God can take that small action and use it to make eternal impact. Remember the two fish and five loaves? Little is much—so much more than we can ever know–when placed in God’s hands.
Please don’t let the magnitude of the need paralyze you. Don’t think that someone else will do it — you have been given a unique purpose, where you are, to work for God’s glory. Don’t let your fears or intimidation stop you from stepping out of complacency. We are the body of Christ that works together — we each are given talents and gifts, experiences and knowledge that no one else can contribute…and when we do unite for His glory, what a difference will be made! Whatever your part is, know that you don’t have to take care of it all…when we act in obedience and love, our Father can handle the rest.
Read the words of the Lord from Isaiah 58 with me…
“Is not this the kind of fasting I have chosen:
to loose the chains of injustice
and untie the cords of the yoke,
to set the oppressed free
and break every yoke?
Is it not to share your food with the hungry
and to provide the poor wanderer with shelter—
when you see the naked, to clothe them,
and not to turn away from your own flesh and blood?
Then your light will break forth like the dawn,
and your healing will quickly appear;
then your righteousness will go before you,
and the glory of the LORD will be your rear guard.
Then you will call, and the LORD will answer;
you will cry for help, and he will say: Here am I.
“If you do away with the yoke of oppression,
with the pointing finger and malicious talk,
and if you spend yourselves in behalf of the hungry
and satisfy the needs of the oppressed,
then your light will rise in the darkness,
and your night will become like the noonday.
The LORD will guide you always;
he will satisfy your needs in a sun-scorched land
and will strengthen your frame.
You will be like a well-watered garden,
like a spring whose waters never fail.
Your people will rebuild the ancient ruins
and will raise up the age-old foundations;
you will be called Repairer of Broken Walls,
Restorer of Streets with Dwellings.”
He is our Restorer — and until the day that sin is obliterated and the Lord reveals Himself in all of His glory, He will go on restoring what sin has broken…and we can be His vessels, using all that we are to show all that He is. We have been set apart for Him and commissioned to carry His love. We want this family of ours to keep growing…this good news is the power of God for the salvation of everyone who believes! (Romans 1:16)
Will you join me in prayer? Will you hear and heed His call to love? Will you ask others to join us?
May we, from every corner of this world, unite in compassion for the hopeless…and let it be known far and wide that we love because He first loved us. (1 John 4:19)
May we, from every corner of this world, sing out Hallelujah…and let it be worship that begins in our hearts, proclaims Him in our actions, and rings out loud and clear to everyone to may hear that He is the Lord of Lords, the King of Kings, our Holy God!