Recent Tumult in the United States and Abroad
This has been a difficult week, with insane violence inflicted randomly on victims who could be anybody—even you or me or our families. I was moved by a scene of a weeping father hugging his young daughter in El Paso in gratitude and relief that she was alive and safe.
Pray for our brethren who are at this moment in the path of violence and rioting. Our Hong Kong member, Mary Ong, who is a schoolteacher wrote to me yesterday:
“We need your prayers. The rallies, as you have heard, have been going on for weeks. This Sunday, August 11, they will be held where many of us live. I may have to cancel my lessons if I need to. Thank you so much for your prayers. We know God is in control and hopefully these violence and riots will be solved before the Feast of Tabernacles that will be held here.”
Mary Ong and her community received this notice from the local police station:
“There will be an anti-‘Changes in the Fugitive Offender Ordinance’ parade in Quarry Bay and North Point area on Sunday, August 11, and there may be chaos by then. The Management Office reminds all residents and shops to pay attention to home and personal safety. Please close windows to prevent smoke inhalation. For families’ elderly and young children, please keep them inside for personal safety. Thank you for your attention and please tell each other. Neighbors should help each other to pass this extraordinary period safely.”
The police have been helpful and protective in Hong Kong. Not so in Malawi, where riots and marches are in progress as I write. They tend to stand by and watch and do nothing. The demonstrators and rioters have come right up to our church hall and the LifeNets business center which is in front of our building. The fact that we have a storefront Internet café with computers and a grocery store makes us a target for looters.
Please pray for all of our brethren and their safety. Nick and Megan Lamoureux write in greater detail about the events in their blog, Out of Vermont .
Also, our Lilongwe church accountant, Joseph Mughogho, wrote a report this morning about the rioting in Lilongwe which I have posted at http://kubik.org/malawi-riots
Redeem the Time in the Wake of Terror
As the apostle Paul witnessed huge societal cracks fissuring in the Roman Empire in the first century, he didn’t mince words with the disciples of Jesus Christ. In the A.D. 60s, he clearly saw things starting to fall apart. He wanted those in his charge to face life squarely, having their priorities in order. God and Jesus Christ had to be first in their lives.
He told the Ephesians, who lived in the looming shadow of the Temple of Diana (Artemis), a massive idolatrous pagan fixture and one of the seven wonders of the ancient world, that they must be “redeeming the time”—or as the English Standard Version puts it—”making the best use of the time” (Ephesians 5:16 Ephesians 5:16Redeeming the time, because the days are evil.
American King James Version×).
Why? “because the days are evil ” (verse 16, ESV, emphasis added throughout).
This week I found myself totally in agreement with the Mayor of El Paso, Texas. In the wake of 22 shooting deaths, Mayor Dee Margo told a newscaster: “Nobody prepares for this… it’s pure evil as far as I can characterize it.”
As the FBI and other investigations advance, officials are beginning to view the shootings in Texas and Dayton, Ohio, as hate crimes or domestic terrorism. This cuts me to the heart. I am a naturalized U.S. citizen who immigrated from a war-torn Europe. I have always found America to be a land of opportunity, a land where people like me have historically been welcome. As people divorce themselves from a life-guiding and saving belief in God, that is changing, just as Paul watched society rip itself to shreds in the first century.
This grieves me. I count myself—as I’m sure you do—among those “who weep and sigh because of the detestable sins being committed in their city” (Ezekiel 9:4 Ezekiel 9:4And the LORD said to him, Go through the middle of the city, through the middle of Jerusalem, and set a mark on the foreheads of the men that sigh and that cry for all the abominations that be done in the middle thereof.
American King James Version×, New Living Translation).
The days truly are turning evil.
A few days before the shooting, Special FBI Agent Grant Mendenhall, the former head of the FBI terrorism unit, said in a public address that radicalization of people through social media—where people can be bent toward extreme hatred and then be motivated to take deadly action—was a major threat in America. His words were prophetic in one sense, as news accounts have shown that the Dayton shooter—who killed his own sister while killing nine people and gunning down dozens more—was highly active on radical online websites and social media.
Ironically, the Dayton shooting took place just a few hundred feet from the facility where we had conducted an “America—the Time Is Now” public appearance campaign, proclaiming the gospel of the Kingdom of God.
Local reports from our pastors in Dayton and El Paso further rammed home the point that we increasingly live in an evil time. Here is how Ron Barker, pastor of the Dayton congregation, eloquently put it:
“I woke up Sunday morning to the newscast. It was another, unfortunately, far too familiar story about a terrible thing that had happened in a distant place. Only this time, it wasn’t a distant place, it was my city. It was a place that I had visited many times. A place of fun, good music and good food. A place where people go to unwind after a busy day. It was another act of senseless violence on an unsuspecting crowd.”
The aftermath was horrible. “As the bios of those killed began to come out, it was heartbreaking. A mother of two; a father of four; the sister of the gunman.”
As Ron summed up, referencing Matthew 24:12 Matthew 24:12And because iniquity shall abound, the love of many shall wax cold.
American King James Version×: “As we enter the last days, known as perilous times, I suspect that we will continue to see events such as this increase as the love of most truly does grow cold. We live in a nation that is distancing itself from God, and whose flag is flown at half-staff far too often. May God’s Kingdom come quickly so that once the world is full of His knowledge, hate and hurt will exist no more.”
As a preface to his August commentary, El Paso pastor Steve Buchanan wrote: “Outbursts of hate and anger in a relatively civilized society stand out like a sore thumb.” He continued with this timely observation:
“It has been well documented recently that many American cities are rotting from within, from cities that used to be renowned for their beauty and tourism—San Francisco to Los Angeles, the east coast cities of New York, Philadelphia, Baltimore, as well as the Midwestern cities Chicago and Detroit. To a degree all are important to the health of the nation, from manufacturing to shipping.”
He continued: “What has happened in the last couple of decades to these once great cities? They have become havens of lawlessness, crime, drugs and murder. To one degree or another, they are all suffering from permissive, even radical departure from law and order. They are the result of greed, avarice, corruption—and hate .”
So what can we in the church do?
In how we conduct our lives, we must reflect the powerful love of God as we receive and stir up the Holy Spirit (Romans 5:5 Romans 5:5And hope makes not ashamed; because the love of God is shed abroad in our hearts by the Holy Ghost which is given to us.
American King James Version×). We must have empathy for those who are suffering (even as you read this). We should be praying for comfort, mercy and healing. We should openly reject ungodly racism and any form of white supremacy.
We must appreciate and fully embrace that God is no respecter of persons. Peter declared to the disciples: “Truly I understand that God shows no partiality, but in every nation anyone who fears him and does what is right is acceptable to him” (Acts 10:34-35 Acts 10:34-35 34 Then Peter opened his mouth, and said, Of a truth I perceive that God is no respecter of persons:
35 But in every nation he that fears him, and works righteousness, is accepted with him.
American King James Version×, ESV). As Paul thundered to the Colossians: “there is neither Greek nor Jew, circumcised nor uncircumcised, barbarian, Scythian, slave nor free, but Christ is all and in all.” (Colossians 3:11 Colossians 3:11 Where there is neither Greek nor Jew, circumcision nor uncircumcision, Barbarian, Scythian, bond nor free: but Christ is all, and in all.
American King James Version×).
And we should be known for having the same attitude.
God also inspired His Son to powerfully instruct us as to how we are to conduct our lives. In the model prayer given by Jesus, a full one-third is devoted to praying for protection in this evil age.
Jesus taught us to pray that we be not led into sore trials. He specifically directed that we should also pray that we be delivered from evil, that we be protected from elements of the unseen, evil spiritual world, particularly from Satan himself.
God hears and honors those prayers. This week and beyond, let us redeem the time. Let us get on our knees and re-double our prayers. We know this world is in agony, that “all creation has been groaning as in the pains of childbirth right up to the present time” (Romans 8:22 Romans 8:22For we know that the whole creation groans and travails in pain together until now.
American King James Version×, NLT), awaiting redemption in the Kingdom of God. When I see the suffering of parents and family and friends who saw their children and friends get murderously cut down in the richest nation in human history, I groan. I want this age to be over.
Let us pray for peace that we might be able to do the work of God. Let us pray for protection, for each other and for ourselves.
And let us pray ever more fervently, “Thy Kingdom come!”