January 28, 2013

Praying for our President

I read this article in Relevant Magazine this morning and felt it worth sharing.  Obama has an overwhelming task ahead of him. Maybe he is not the ideal candidate for the job but he chose to commit to the next four years to lead a broken and divided nation. Never has the job been more difficult than it is today. I watched the movie Lincoln yesterday and felt so overwhelmed. Any leader......in history and today has an incredible task in the face of MUCH opposition. Those that are against them are often times greater than those that are for them. Now is the time to pray. In GOD we trust. Not the political system. Not the president. Let's not forget the Sovereignty of God always has and will always be what holds us together. He started something in motion from the beginning of time and He intends on seeing it through to completion. And let's pray. Let's not worry. Let's not argue. Let's pray. For our president. For the Nation and for its people. As broken and divided as it is. We have a DIRECT line to the Commander-in-Chief of all the armies of Heaven. That's an ALLY we have in VERY HIGH places!!!!!!!!!!!!! ;)
“In God We Trust.” Since 1864, it has been stamped on every U.S. coin. In 1956, it was added to our paper currency. During the Civil War, this motto came to represent the reality that, in moments of national turmoil and strife, our ultimate trust is not in any earthly authority but is found in God alone.
The relationship between faith and country has always been a tenuous one. Yet regardless of how you might feel about having this motto on our currency, the question of who we trust is ultimately an important one to consider.
For those of us who are Christ followers, the truth is that no administration, no party and no political system will fully represent all of the values that we hold as members of God’s kingdom. And Christians, like everyone else, have divided over who they voted for in our recent election. Regardless of how you voted, it’s clear our nation is facing many challenges, and the debates over what need to be done from here are deep and complex.
So, how do we come together today, on the inauguration of Obama’s second term? Well, I think that we do what we have always done: We pray, and we work for transformation. Now, as in times past, we must be people of prayer who humbly serve alongside those in authority for the greater glory of God.
But how do we pray for and work with our government, even when we won’t always agree with its policies or decisions on every point? In Romans 13, the apostle Paul gives us some powerful words by which to measure ourselves as we consider our relationship with the governing authorities. He writes:
“Let everyone be subject to the governing authorities, for there is no authority except that which God has established. The authorities that exist have been established by God…For the one in authority is God’s servant for your good ... They are God’s servants, agents of wrath to bring punishment on the wrongdoer. Therefore, it is necessary to submit to the authorities, not only because of possible punishment but also as a matter of conscience.”
Of course, our democratic context is far removed from the totalitarian state under which Paul lived. However, the main thrust of Paul’s message was to help the early Church view its interaction with the state through the lens of God’s authority, realizing that all human authorities ultimately stand under God’s sovereign reign. As a result, they were to live as God-honoring citizens who fulfill their duties to the state in a way that ultimately pointed those in power back to the God as the rightful ruler of the universe.
This truth in our current context requires us to engage in the political process as citizens of the Kingdom by playing a transformative role in our society and by pointing all authorities back to God as the ultimate sovereign. We do this not by criticizing and condemning those in authority from afar, but by serving them in ways that ultimately reflect our commitments as members of Christ’s Kingdom.
Paul’s words here remind us that those in authority have a staggering responsibility. In verse 4, Paul notes that the authorities have been charged with pursuing justice in a world broken by sin. As such, we should honor them where honor is due and pray for them because they are, ultimately, going to be held accountable by God for their actions.
Because of this incredible responsibility, we, as God’s people, must diligently pray for and lovingly serve those in authority. As President Obama today stands for his inauguration into his second term, we pray for him and for his cabinet and advisors that they would use their power wisely, exercising justice for all people and pointing them back to God as the source and definer of what true justice ultimately looks like.
Furthermore, we should partner with those in authority as much as possible to pursue ends that advance the kingdom of God. As children of God, we are supposed to have a transformative effect on our society—and that means that we are all called to political engagement.
Of course, sometimes having a transformative effect on society also means holding the authorities accountable and calling them to a higher standard. Martin Luther King Jr., who we also celebrate today, is a model example of this. As a Christian minister, Dr. King understood what it meant to be prophetically engaged with those in Washington. During his last speech, Dr. King spoke these powerful words:
“All we say to America is, ‘Be true to what you said on paper.’ If I lived in China or Russia or any totalitarian country maybe I could understand some of these illegal injunctions. Maybe I could understand the denial of certain basic First Amendment privileges because they haven’t committed themselves to that over there. But somewhere I read of the freedom of assembly. Somewhere I read of the freedom of speech. Somewhere I read of the freedom of press. Somewhere I read that the greatness of America is the right to protest for right.”
Dr. King embodied what it means to faithfully and lovingly call our authorities to the greater calling of justice, and to work alongside those who did so. He had plenty to criticize America for, but he chose the difficult road by engaging this broken system rather than standing apart and condemning it. So must we.

January 13, 2013

"Who am I?" and musings from Les Miserables

Les Miserables, the story itself, has been in the forefront of my thoughts the past few days....I was excited to see it. The music was incredible. Each individual song was a performance in itself. It was brilliant. Very inspiring, compelling and passionate. So there ya have it. My review-in a nutshell. But one thing in particular stood out to me. Jean Valjean had been freed from serving his 19 year sentence for stealing bread. Javert referred to him not by his name but as " prisoner 24601" time and again. He'd been told that he would wear a badge of shame till the day he died. All he'd ever BE is "24601". A convict. A man on the run from his one mistake. Later in the movie, after he'd been set free, he was being tormented by his past. He knew He now belonged to God but his past was still haunting him. Who was it that defined him? 24601 or the man he could BE? Was it hate that would rule his heart or love and forgiveness? Grace and Mercy? Could he ever be at rest or would his past always chase him down and be the chain that he will NEVER be free from? 4 times in the story Jean Valjean has an opportunity to extend grace and love another person. One is to a woman who by society's standards doesn't deserve it. Another is to a little girl who he takes on as his own and the third is to the very person who has committed his OWN life to hunting him down and destroying him. (The one who condemned him to shame for the rest of his life.) The 4th is to save Marius's life during battle. Presented to him is 4 different opportunities to extend grace, to show love selflessly. He suddenly realized in the moment he was holding the little girl Cossette in his lap that there was a peace in his heart. There was light in the world that he hadn't seen before. When he began spending his life on another person. But the most beautiful moment in MY opinion was just after Jean Valjean had an opportunity to take Javert's life and he didn't. He let him go. Javert said, "Once a thief always a thief." Jean Valjean said, "You are wrong, and always have been wrong.I'm a man, no worse than any man. You are free, and there are no conditions, No bargains or petitions. There's nothing that I blame you for" .....there's nothing you OWE me. I hold nothing against you. I wish you no harm. Be free. In setting Javert free....he freed himself. Free from the chains that held him for so long. Free from 24601. His shame and regret and mistakes no longer defined him. Javert spent his life condemning people and in the end killed himself because he couldn't find rest from the torment of his soul and the torment of bitterness and unforgiveness and hate. But when Jean Valjean set Javert free (when he could have taken his life) he let go of all it. He was really setting HIMSELF free. Because NOW he was free to love, free to give and extend grace to whomever. Even his enemies. "Who am I?" those words echo in me even today. Will you let others define who you ARE. Your past? The limitations of your flesh? The restraints others have placed on you? Or will you be free to walk in the Truth of who God created you to be? To be the hands and feet of God and extend Grace and kindness and love and mercy to whomever you may meet.In your giving you will find freedom and peace.

              "To love another person is to 
          see the face of God."

January 9, 2013

Walking in the F.O.G.

Favor: "something given through kind regard or grace rather than an act of justice or remuneration" After a really rough day yesterday I dropped my fairly new phone in the bathtub. I didn't think I could manage one more disappointment yesterday.... but there it was. It was foolish for me to have it near the bath water and I couldn't be surprised nor disappointed. I went to Verizon and was told it would be a couple of days to turn it into insurance and have it replaced. But then in a surprising turn of events and finding favor with the gentleman helping me......he found a way...... to not only get me a NEW phone, but a better phone with upgraded software and longer battery life. he added a tablet to our plan (which I already had and didn't have to buy) ,gave us a BETTER plan....and in the end I paid less than I would have to turn my other phone into insurance AND our monthly bill is now less than what we were paying. That's favor! With God....(who's always one step ahead of me)....and man. (Just happened to get the guy who could fix this for me;)) I didn't deserve it. I didn't ask for it. But grateful He can redeem even the most insignificant details and turn them around for our good. Just because He's a good God. Do I believe that was the hand of God? Absolutely!.....I walk in the F.O G.....and I will never hesitate to turn it back to praise. He's a GOOD God....even when we are undeserving.