Saturday, August 9, 2014

When Persecution Comes

   What happened to my blogging? The short answer is my life happened, aggravated by continuing challenges with carpal tunnel syndrome. Your prayers for full recovery physically and full recovery of "the rhythms of life" will help more than I can describe.
     I would also welcome your help in terms of my sense that I should publish some of my thoughts. I am hoping before too long to publish some short books extracted from this blog via Amazon's self-publishing feature. The question is: where should I start? I have covered a lot of subjects in this blog, and any thoughts for some of you as to where I should start my focus would be very helpful. 
     Now for what's uppermost on my heart: God's persecuted people, concern for whom has been raised up again for all of us via current world events. I have written before about our persecuted brothers and sisters, click here to read my last post on this.
    But here are a few more thoughts God placed on my heart about when persecution comes to His people.
     First, much to my surprise, God reminded me that the anger we as believers feel when we read/hear of such things is normal and not necessarily bad. Even Jesus was angry at what religion and hatred do to people. But Papa also reminded me not to stay in that place of anger, because anger never works His purposes (James 1:20). Instead we must allow Holy Spirit to reroute anger so that it fuels motivation. I also sensed God warning me/us to beware of the danger of hardening of my heart. It's very easy for anger to become hatred. We see the sad evidence of this in the Facebook comments "Christians" make about some of our (admittedly inept and corrupt) political leaders. When honor for others completely disappears from what we think and say, when we find nothing but hardness and anger in our hearts when we think of certain people (including any human "enemies"), we are in danger of being swept into the enemy's camp. And it is then that we will resort to using his methods (force, coercion, shame, etc.) instead of God's. On the other hand, if we give our anger to God, he will keep us tender towards Him and towards everyone else. One example: God's tenderness in our hearts will help us care simultaneously for the people of Israel who are harassed and pummeled by Hamas while also caring about the Palestinian folks who are also victimized by the same terrorist group by being used as shields and also subjected to the great disruption and loss that war always brings. You see, then, I trust, that God's desire is to pull us away from anger to a different place--away from anger and fear--so that we rise to that place of peace that enables us to wage war as God wages it. 
     Second, I heard the Lord remind me not to feel guilty nor allow fear to stay rooted in my heart. Since I wrote about how to handle guilt in the blog I mentioned earlier, I won't repeat myself. As for fear, He who searches our hearts invites us to bring all fear to Him and allow Him to bring us to a different perspective that helps banish fear. (And He does this by bringing perspective, which I write more below).
     But what can we do? In addition to what I wrote last November I would add the following thoughts.

     Prayer. I hinted at this in my previous thoughts on persecuted believers when I wrote of carrying the persecuted ones in our hearts before God. But today I realized in a new way that prayer is our most powerful weapon, not just an optional tool that we casually use occasionally. So although I am far from a powerful intercessor, I am learning more than ever to keep my heart open at all times to the Spirit of Intercession and allow Him to turn me to prayer when I hear news of persecuted people (instead of going to anger or fear). And I am learning in new ways that every prayer, every thought, is treasured in Heaven and that fierce, persistent prayer that flows from the place of peace is remarkably confusing to our adversary and also powerfully effective (James 5:16 comes to mind).  Will you join me, then, in agreeing to pause every time you see/hear the news about persecuted people and lift them to God? Will you join me in asking God to show you how best to pray? 
     Perspective! That is, allow God to adjust your perspective to His. This has many facets, at least for me. Here are three that come to mind right now.
  • First, there is the personal adjustment that comes to me as I realize that "others have it worse, much worse." Suddenly my whining and short-sighted selfishness is swallowed up in the larger reality of the suffering world we live in. My whining turns to weeping for others, my grumbling to genuine gratitude, my pettiness to prayer. 
  • Second, there is the measure of peace that comes from taking a longer view of human history. In spite of an underlying culture myth in America myth that life can be trouble-free, history shows us that ever since Adam's sin invited the evil one into our world, there have been seasons of noticeably increased evil that break over our world like tsunamis of darkness. For example, World War 2 resulted in over 60 million deaths and inestimable destruction! My own dad's stories of that dark season in our world always brings a healthy adjustment to my perspective. But even in that dark time, goodness eventually prevailed, but not without great suffering and sacrifice. And history, recent and ancient, is replete with these tsunamis of evil and with God's answering redemption. This present world is not as God intended and never will be, but His mercy keeps flowing and working and will do so until Jesus comes to set all things right. 
  • Finally, there is the unshakable peace that comes when we are able to view things from a truly eternal perspective. This is what I like to call, “Eternity’s gift.” God promises persecution, but He also promises ultimate triumph and the redemption of all things. We catch glimpses of this eternal perspective in Psalm 73, in Romans 8, in 2 Corinthians 4-5, the book of Revelation, and many other places. The truth is that someday, several thousand years into eternity, we will all (perhaps especially our persecuted and martyred sisters and brothers) understand the wonder of God's sovereign redemptive work and worship with fresh wonder at how God redeemed even the most vile and wicked acts of the devil and his human agents. And it is this perspective that Holy Spirit uses to bring resting peace" as He speaks to those in the fire and even to us who see the fire from afar off. Will you step with me into His perspective, "eternity's gift"?
     What's the final conclusion of all of this? To be honest, I am not sure. But let me at least suggest to you that when anger, fear, and yes, even hatred (if we honest), begin to rise in our hearts, let's resolve to go and sit with Papa until perspective returns (Psalm 73:16-17) and prayer flows.

Praying for and from Perspective,

Tom, one of Abba's children