Needless to say, this week has been a difficult one for this country. I suspect we have all been impacted by the mix of emotions at recent events — sadness, fear, anger, despair, etc. Or perhaps you have tried to avoid the barrage like the proverbial ostrich. For me, I find myself aware of the grief and needless waste of life. I have made some of my thoughts known on FB. However as a Christian, I think there is a response that can not only bring us personal comfort, but also make a difference in the world.
I am sitting in the International House of Prayer Global Prayer Room http://www.ihopkc.org/prayerroom/ as I type this. That in itself is a good response to times like this. Praying yes, but also seeking God together with the people of God.
One thing that is not helpful is to tell other people what they should be doing. “I can only speak for myself,” so the saying goes. Real change can only come from within in the human heart, one heart at a time, starting with our own. It is not helpful to lecture other people about what “they should do.” Such lectures often miss the mark. Defenses go up, ears close shut, and people start looking for a way of escape. (Who likes a scolding lecture?!) Often such lectures assume that "what applies to me will apply to you." We error by universalizing our own situation in life, trying to apply it to everyone else. "Another words, if I post a hashtag, you also need to post the same hashtag."
That said, there are things the people of God can and should do in response to time like these. Jesus told us:
““Be on guard so that your hearts are not weighed down with dissipation and drunkenness and the worries of this life, and that day does not catch you unexpectedly, like a trap. For it will come upon all who live on the face of the whole earth. Be alert at all times, praying that you may have the strength to escape all these things that will take place, and to stand before the Son of Man.”” (Luke 21:34–36)
Last night I went to the Encounter God Service (EGS) at IHOPKC’s Forerunner Christian Fellowship (http://www.ihopkc.org/resources/weekend-services/egs/). It was like a healing balm. Jesus said, blessed are those who mourn for they shall be comforted (Matt 5:4), and last night I felt some of that comfort. On the surface, it was a normal EGS service. However it as also a gathering of God’s people at the end of a difficult week, and at such gatherings, the Spirit of God knows exactly how to minister to us!
The first thing about last night was that we were able to come together in praise and worship (thank you Misty Edwards). Music is a powerful thing, and it can express the human soul better sometimes than words alone. The music and lyrics reminded me of the bigger picture and greater story that goes beyond the daily news cycle. It reminded me that God is good and that he is not like everyone else in this world who seems to be arguing or fighting or fearing or just plain hurting each other. God is called the God of Peace (Phil 4:7) and in Him we find a supernatural peace. God sees us in the midst of all of our life, and He knows our inner pain and anguish. It also reminded me of the fact that God is working to set all things right — it focused on hope, rather than despair.
“and hope does not disappoint us, because God’s love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit that has been given to us.” (Romans 5:5)
Where two or more are gathered in Jesus’ name, He is there (Mt 18:20), which brings me to the second thing about last night — the gathering of the people of God. Having the presence of the God who is the enbodiment of love and bestows peace is enough, but there is something good about coming together with other followers of Jesus. In particular the FCF community is very diverse. There are men and women, young and old, of all races and nationalities, which of course includes a large number of African Americans. Just being with such a group that has supernaturally transcended the divisions that are so plaguing this country is in itself a healing experience. Jesus prayed:
““I ask not only on behalf of these, but also on behalf of those who will believe in me through their word, that they may all be one. As you, Father, are in me and I am in you, may they also be in us, so that the world may believe that you have sent me.” (John 17:20–21)
As we came together last night, there was an anointing on the evening that brought the reality of this prayer into our lives. We did not come together to lecture one another, but rather, we came together because of our share identity as children of God. Mike Bickle's talk last night was on the "Beauty of the Bride" -- the beauty of the people of God. Just coming together with one mind is itself a healing balm, because it reminds us that things can be different between people than what we see in the weekly news cycle. We start to see each other as God sees us!
The third thing about the FCF services is there is always a time of prayer and healing and intercession. We take the time to pray for each other, and for things going on in the world. Scripture says:
“if my people who are called by my name humble themselves, pray, seek my face, and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven, and will forgive their sin and heal their land.” (2 Chronicles 7:14)
This principle is just a true today. If only the response of God's people were always to come together and pray, seeking God! I know we would have much more peace if we as Christians would respond to events such as those of the last week by gathering together -- not just on Sunday or Wednesday, but perhaps by calling up some people and say, "let's pray and seek God about this thing?" Then the peace of God will start to spread across our cities and nation (Phil 4:7). Unfortunately, we get busy and distracted, and go back to our FB newsfeed. We don’t want to spend 3 hours on a Friday night to do this. I am speaking for myself here.
True, with IHOPKC is that there is always an opportunity — often multiple opportunities — to get together with the people of God. I am sitting in the 7x24 Global Prayer Room now, but I do not live in Kansas City. We have to ask God to show us how to come together in our own life situation.
Some might think that "merely" praying and listing to music is not going to change things in our country. However, from my experience, most of the IHOP gatherings have a significant degree of informality, and they offer opportunities to talk and share. Rather than ignoring the person next to us, we talk to them, and ask about their lives. We may in the course of the conversation pray for each other. People come together and then make genuine friends. In so doing, we get insight into who the other person is -- all without a lecture! God also takes our prayers and turns them into actions. This has resulted in numerous ministries that are directly reaching out to the hurting and suffering of this city and world. All of this without yelling, shouting, lecturing, marching, or rioting.
“Day by day, as they spent much time together in the temple, they broke bread at home and ate their food with glad and generous hearts, praising God and having the goodwill of all the people. And day by day the Lord added to their number those who were being saved.” (Acts 2:46–47)