Beauty in Dirty Places

Today has been an incredible day. Before I share what happened, I need to re-communicate some information that got lost in translation yesterday. First of all, Kenya has public and private schools. Public schools are free and private schools are expensive. The school I spoke at today is a public school (named Mwiki Primary School) that has a private school reputation. Hence, it is one of the best public schools on the continent of Africa. It is also one of the largest. It is required that both public and private schools teach the bible as part of its curriculum, but Mwiki has embraced the Scriptures and holds assemblies each week for the purpose of singing songs and hearing God’s Word. Assemblies are not a required part of the curriculum.

Upon arrival to the school (we were running late…a common theme in Kenya), we found 3,000 students standing outside waiting for us. They were not running all over the place. They were standing quietly and patiently. I was impressed to say the least. They rushed us to the front of the assembly. Robbie gave a brief introduction and then she handed me the microphone to share a brief devotion. I said hello and in unison 3,000 students said, “Good morning Pastor Cary.”

After the assembly ended, I was taken to a room where I was asked to speak again to 80 eighth grade students. I started by telling them one of my favorite verses in the bible is Psalm 23:6. I paused to take a breath and before I could start my next sentence all 80 students started reciting Psalm 23:6. They all had previously memorized the verse in their bible class and just started quoting it. I was impressed and humbled.

After speaking to the students, I was hustled back to the pastor’s school to continue the training. I taught there for a couple of hours and was then taken back to the school to speak with the teachers of the school. They have a teacher fellowship each week and they requested that either Robbie or I come back to share with them. Robbie had done this in the past so she graciously offered me the opportunity to go speak with them. It was an encouraging time of sharing God’s Word with the teachers. Not all of them know the Lord, so it was a witness to them. When my time with the teachers ended I was taken back to the pastor’s training.

17 7 21bOne interesting thing, the neighborhood we had to drive through to get to the school and the neighborhood the school is in are both very poor and common communities in greater Nairobi. Pastor Paul, my guide and transportation, told me as we were driving through the neighborhoods, “Very few white people ever come to this part of Nairobi. Don’t be offended if the people stare.” Yes…they were staring. Several of the students while shaking my hand would rub the skin on my arm. I have had this happen before. They were trying to see if the white would rub off.

I was humbled today. I can’t believe God would give me the opportunity to represent Him to so many at one time. The kindness of the Kenyan students and teachers made me feel special. I pray God’s Word will spread through Kenya with power changing many lives.

A New Door

We never know what is going to happen when we follow God. The conference I am serving has 20 pastors in attendance. A few of them are in the picture above taking a tea break. God is using each one of these individuals. Some of them have high profile positions and others serve in small churches. Each has a story of how God is using them.

Gilbert is a Godly man who has a unique position in a large, college prep Nairobi school. The school is for children ages 5-21. It is one of the best schools of its kind on the continent of Africa (Just to help you understand…there are no private and public schools in Kenya…each family pays for their child’s education…the more money one has the better the education will be). Three thousand Christian, Muslim, Hindu, and non-religious students from wealthy families all attend this educational institution. Gilbert’s position at this school: he is the bible teacher and school pastor. Kenya requires its schools to teach the Bible as a required subject because the government has established itself as a Christian government (Please don’t read into this…I’m not saying this is better or worse than our current government policies…I’m just explaining how the Bible is a required subject in schools).

Every Friday the students and staff (over 3100 people) gather for an assembly. The assembly has 10 minutes of Christian worship music followed by a 20 minute Bible lesson. Gilbert speaks to this wide-age range crowd with its various religious backgrounds each week. After the assembly is over, he then chooses one grade of students and shares an additional 30 minutes of Bible learning. He rotates through the grades so by the end of the school year he has been with each grade several times.

He told me he regularly presents the Gospel asking students and staff to give their lives 17 7 19 A New Doorato Jesus. He uses the 30-minute lessons to share biblical principles, tailoring each talk to be age specific, challenging the students to follow Jesus and obey His teachings. As a result of his love for the students and staff, he is now considered the school pastor. Both students and staff come to him for counsel, prayer and spiritual guidance.

Today, after dinner, he approached Robbie and me. He pulled us aside and asked us if we would speak to the students and staff this Friday. He also asked if we would be willing to speak with the 8th grade students following the assembly for their additional Bible lesson. We agreed, but we are both humbled and awed that God would give us this ministry door.

So…on Friday at 7:30am (that will be 12:30am in OH), Robbie and me will be speaking at this school. Please pray for us. Gilbert asked us to share the Gospel and then to end it by having a call to accept Christ. Because of his reputation, character and ministry, the principle of the school gave him permission for this to happen. Pray for Gilbert. He has wonderful ministry of teaching the bible and being the pastor in a multi-ethnic and multi-religious school. Wow! God has His people representing Him from the highest to lowest places.

Welcome to Kenya

After 20 hours of flying and layovers, I made it to Kenya. I had no trouble getting here. No flight delays, no one getting dragged off a plane, and no bumpy flights. The loneliest activity in the world is traveling long distance alone. I did try to talk to people. I met a grandmother on her way to Savannah to spend time with her grand kids. I spoke with a man from Canada who works for the U.N. And of course, there was the traveling bag lady sitting beside me for 9 hours from Amsterdam to Nairobi. She seemed sweet, but clueless. She only spoke with me when she needed help with her in-flight movies. I wish I could tell you I had some meaningful conversation with someone, but that was not the case.

I arrived in Nairobi around 10pm (I am 7 hours ahead of you). I made it to my temporary residence around midnight. I was shocked by my accommodations. On my previous journeys to Kenya my home-away-from-home has always been primitive and rustic. Not this time! I have a private room and bath with hot water, a bed with a stylish mosquito net and even a couch to recline while I write my blogs. It is not a hotel. It a property owned by a church (PEFA Church of Nairobi…you can find it on Google). I feel humbled to stay in such a nice place. The pastors I am serving will sleep on a floor, share 1 or 2 toilets and heat their water on a propane stove.

The team is small right now…just me and one other person. Her name is Robbie. Robbie founded Ancient Promise (again…you can Google this ministry). She is a godly woman who loves the Lord and His people. Ancient Promise is striving to help others interpret and use God’s Word correctly. Here in Kenya, biblical resources are scarce. A pastor will have one bible, no commentaries, no Internet and no published bible studies. Most will have no education beyond the 8th grade. For the next two weeks I will be working with 20 pastors teaching them how to use the bible, give them a method to rightly interpret it, develop sermon outlines, and share techniques to deliver a message. It is exciting and challenging work.

I found out this morning that Robbie is sick. I spoke with her briefly. Please pray for her to recover. I am not prepared to teach her part of the material (she teaches a study called Transformed by Truth…it challenges the pastors to be godly men.) I teach a material titled Discovering God Together (which focuses on using the bible correctly and developing sermons). I know some of us might struggle with the idea of a woman teaching a group of pastors. Trust me…if Ancient Promise could find enough male teachers willing to come to Africa, Robbie would gladly work with the pastor’s wives. In fact, that is what happens when enough men are available. It is interesting to see how the pastors relate with her. They affectionately and respectfully call her Mama Robbie. She is a vital person God uses to build His Kingdom. Please lift her up.

Will My Kid…?

Will my kid…? Every parent asks some form of this question as they watch their child grow. Will my kid go to college? Will my kid get married? Will my kid be a good person? Will my kid…? You finish the question. I know you have already thought about it. You’ve already asked it at least a hundred times. The question pops up when he surprises you with a random act of kindness or when she acts selfishly or when their behavior seems eerily similar to yours. It happened to me the other day when one of my boys pulled away to read his bible and pray. He didn’t announce it (I’m not sure anyone else even noticed), but this act of faith made me think Will my kid always desire to hear God?

As I watch my boys grow into young men I often wonder what kind of people they will be? I’m not necessarily referring to their career choices (although I can’t help but think about that sometimes). I primarily wonder about their character. Will my kids be godly men? Ultimately, it is their choice, but there are forces in this world vying to have influence over their decisions. Society wants people to think and behave a certain way. And unfortunately, it is usually in contrast to what God desires.

I pray for their character. I pray for their hearts to belong to God, but I also hope my life in front of them will earn me the privilege of being a person of influence in their lives. I want to have a voice in their life for as long as I can. I have learned (and I’m still learning) this is goal…to gain influence…to keep my voice with them. Sometimes we parents loose sight of this. We sacrifice the opportunity to gain influence for the satisfaction being in control (that is, to get our way with our kid). When I do this I usually win the battle at hand, but it is a strategy that sets me up to lose my voice with them over time.

To complicate things for me personally, I’m learning that what worked with my biological sons may not be successful with my adopted sons. Not only do my strategies of gaining influence need to change for them, but I also don’t have as much time to do it. My biological sons have been with me since their birth. My adoptive sons will be with me for less than 10 years by the time both of them reach legal adulthood (BTW…just because someone turns 18 doesn’t mean they are an adult…but it is the benchmark our society uses). To gain long time influence in a person’s life is a challenging task, but to do it quickly requires divine intervention.

Proverbs 22:6 says, “Train up a child in the way he should go: And when he is old, he will not depart from it.” I’ve heard people use this verse as some type of biblical guarantee for raising a moral kid. I’m pretty sure it is not that. Unfortunately, there are no guarantees. Children will grow to make their own choices and the parent will have to sit by and watch. In those moments, parents do not have any control, but remember that is not the goal. The goal is to have influence, and that is what this verse is talking about.

The phrase, “Train up a child in the way he should go” is a word image. It is the picture of a mom trying to get her newborn baby to learn how to suck. Before hospitals, baby bottles and formula moms delivered their children at home with a midwife. It was imperative the infant learned how to suck milk from its mom’s breast. The child’s life depended on it. Granted most children picked up this skill naturally, but sometimes things would not go as planned. What would a mom do with a child that did not naturally know how to suck? She would have to train that little person how to do it. She did this by taking a grape and gently crushing it over the infant’s mouth. The sweet juice would run over the baby’s lips and trigger the skill to suck. The mom would then place the child on her breast. By doing this, the mom had started the journey of gaining and maintaining influence in the child’s life.

When it comes to raising moral children…no, godly children, we have to be like that mom. The child didn’t know how to suck and the mom could not make it suck, therefore, the mom had to change her strategy. Many times we think our kids should already know right from wrong, good from bad, and selfish from kind. After all, they are watching us? They should be able to learn by proxy? But, many times things don’t go as planned. The little person just doesn’t know what they don’t know. Guess what? That process never ends. Just because they are a pre-teen or even a teenager, they still need parents “crushing grapes” over them. We can’t make them be godly people, but we can strategize and hopefully influence them to follow God on their own.

Now for me, I’m still in process. I’m still strategizing. My boys are still home. I still have time. I realize that what I do today may not work tomorrow, but I must resist the urge to try to “make them” be good people. Instead, I must find new ways to gain influence. Every moment, using both my attitude and my habits, is an opportunity to crush grapes over my kids. I pray God’s Spirit will fill me and empower me to do this. I pray my life of faith will be attractive to my kids so that they will want a life of following Jesus…and it was their choice.

Reacting to Bad Government

How should Christians respond to bad government? It is a question that came up while I was preaching through the Book of Esther. Tucked away in this Old Testament book where God’s name is not even mentioned, we find a king who made a bad decision that impacted thousands and brought confusion to an entire empire. It is classic case of poor government. A case of a leader who is out of touch with the people he is leading, driven by the agendas of his closest confidants and simply ignoring the possibilities of just doing what is right.

Before I move forward, I want every person reading to understand I am not referring to any of our recent or current leaders in the United States. I am simply acknowledging that sometimes government is bad. It doesn’t matter if the leader is republican, democrat or independent. It doesn’t matter if the person is on the national, state or local stage. It’s just a fact…sometimes government is bad. And when it is, how should God’s people respond?

Xerxes (pronounced Zerk-sees) was king of the Persian Empire. He had an advisor named Haman who hated Jews. His anti-Semitism ran so deep that he devised a plan to have all Jews in the Persian Empire killed. He shared his plan with the king and sold him on it. The king passed a law legalizing a one-day genocide. Citizens of Persia would be permitted to purge their neighborhoods of all Jews. And, to top it off, people were allowed to take possession of their Jewish neighbor’s homes, livestock and wealth. Keep in mind; we are talking about the Persian Empire (around 480 BCE) when the king’s words were law. No questions could be asked and no law could be repealed. There was no Bill of Rights, civil rights, laws against discrimination or checks-and-balances in government authority. Haman’s atrocious plan was put into place and the purge was put on the calendar (just read Esther 1-3).

Mordecai was a Godly Jew living in the shadows of the palace when Xerxes announced the genocide (he also happened to be the foster dad of Queen Esther…that’s another story). When he discovered the law had been set in motion, the Bible tells us he…

“…tore his clothes, put on burlap and ashes, and went out into the city, crying with a loud and bitter wail. He went as far as the gate of the palace, for no one was allowed to enter the palace gate while wearing clothes of mourning. And as news of the king’s decree reached all the provinces, there was great mourning among the Jews. They fasted, wept, and wailed, and many people lay in burlap and ashes.”   (Esther 4:1-3)

From this brief passage we find guidance on how we should react when government is bad. Notice the 2 things Mordecai did:

1. He found a civil way to display his disgust.

In an era when civil liberties were not on the social radar, Mordecai displayed his anger and disappointment with the government without breaking any laws, destroying any public property or organizing a march. We are told he did not enter the king’s gate with his protest. Why? Because it was against the law! He was bringing attention to the unjust law without breaking any laws. Mordecai was walking a tightrope. If his protest were too strong, too loud, and too anti-government, then he would create a reason for people to hate him and other Jews. His actions would have built a case for Haman’s anti-Semitic opinions. However, if he did not protest enough, then he could not hold to Biblical values and people would think he did not care about what is good and evil…right or wrong. When government is bad today, God’s people must learn to walk this tightrope. We can’t riot, but we can’t be silent either.

2. Prayer was the backbone of his protest.

Mordecai went “wailing” in the streets and other Jews through the empire “fasted, wept, and wailed, and… lay in burlap and ashes.” These expressions of disappointment and angst are foreign to us. I’m not suggesting we start wearing burlap when government is bad. However, these were the customs of prayer when in a crisis for a Jew in 480 BCE. Their public displays of civil disgust were bathed in private prayer. Before they cried out to the greater community for justice they cried out to their Creator. It would be wise for God’s people to follow this practice when government is bad here in the good old USA. Too many of us rely on social media rants, rallies, marches or the latest political personality to be our voice. When instead, we could use our voice to cry out to God and then let Him give us a voice in our community.

Queen Esther found out about Mordecai’s personal, public protest. She was in the dark about what was happening and she was concerned. Mordecai did 2 more things.

Esther sent for Hathach…her attendant. She ordered him to go to Mordecai and find out what was troubling him and why he was in mourning…Mordecai told him the whole story,…[and] gave Hathach a copy of the decree issued in Susa that called for the death of all Jews. He asked Hathach to show it to Esther and explain the situation to her. He also asked Hathach to direct her to go to the king to beg for mercy and plead for her people. (Esther 4:4-8)

3. He used honest words not exaggerated comments.

When Esther’s attendant came asking what was wrong, Mordecai told the exact truth and backed it with a copy of the written law. He did not share his version of the facts, the fake news of the facts or the alternative facts of the facts. Even though he was emotional, he did not allow his emotions to exaggerate his story. When emotions get involved, it is easy to exaggerate (like the husband who is angry and says, “My wife NEVER helps me!”…Really?…Never?). God’s people can’t be like that. Nothing turns people into a hot mess like bad government…even Christians. But in those moments, we must use honest words not exaggerated versions of facts. Why? Because when we exaggerate we are trying to force a reaction instead of trusting God. When Mordecai shared the truth he was trusting God in a practical way with an emotional situation.

4. He boldly challenged others to take a stand.

Mordecai challenged Queen Esther to do the right thing by challenging her to use her influence and reminding her of God’s purpose for her life (read Esther 4:10-17). People in leadership positions need to be reminded of this. When is the last time you wrote a letter, made a phone call, scheduled an appointment or took a politician out to lunch? I realize with many national figures this is unrealistic, but city council members, mayors, county commissioners and other civic leaders are accessible. It may require some persistence, but the relational Christian is much more appealing than the political one. Mordecai did not tell Esther what to do. He asked her if she would let God do something through her. What would happen if conversations like this happened when government was bad?

I don’t have the space to tell you how this story ends, but I’ll give you a hint (spoiler alert). God rescues the Jews from genocide and bad government leaders are exposed. God rights the ship. I believe this is still possible today when government is bad. When things get sour in political circles and bad laws are passed, let’s stop shouting our rights and instead start practicing our faith.

Grenades of Goodness

I’m on vacation and my heart has a conflict in it. Don’t misunderstand…I’m having a great vacation! That is part of the conflict. Let me see if I can explain.

My journey with Christ has been dull recently. I hope I don’t shock you with those words (if I did…you think too highly of me). I’ve been walking with Christ for over three decades and this is not the first time I’ve hit a lull. Maybe you understand what I’m talking about…my times with the Lord seem to be one-sided (that is…I’m the only one showing up). Well, maybe I should back up. As of late, its been a personal struggle to even commit some time to the Lord. It’s not because I don’t have time. It’s because when I sit down with my Bible or when I try to talk to the Lord, I just can’t seem to connect with Him. I know He is there. I don’t doubt His presence or His love. I just don’t know what to say. I don’t know where to start. Prayer seems difficult and the Bible seems like a book I just can’t get into…on a personal level. So, my times with the Lord have become awkward… dry.

You want to know what is odd? Preparing sermons or Bible studies is not a struggle. I sit down and ask the Lord to show me what I should share from His word with His people and BAM! He guides me…gives me ideas…and gives me a message. I credit this to all the wonderful people praying for God’s kingdom to grow. It is so strange to hear people say, “God spoke to me through that message” knowing that I am personally having a difficult time hearing God’s voice in my own my life. This whole preaching thing is a wonderful mystery. I will never figure it out.

I digress. So…I’m on vacation (only 3 days in) and my heart and mind is being bombarded with the goodness of God. Now…I’m still struggling to pray and spend time in the Word, but its like God is lobbing grenades of goodness that keep exploding around me. It began with Cherry and I getting a hotel room without any kids (they are all staying with my parents). We’ve been able to talk (and do other things) without interruption. What a blessing this woman is to me! As I spend these uninterrupted moments with her it is as if God is saying, “Enjoy.” And in the recess of my mind I think…God you are so good to me. I can’t even have a meaningful conversation with You right now and you are showing goodness to me.

The next explosion of goodness came when I read on Facebook all the shout-outs to Pastor Stephen. People were encouraged by his teaching/preaching. I can’t tell you how happy this made my heart. I began to think of all the wonderful people God has placed around me. Again, God began showing His goodness to me as I thought of each of these individuals…their dedication to the Lord and His people…their talents and skills they use to build His kingdom…their partnership with me to make disciples of Christ.

2017vacationThe next blast took place when we took the family to my cousin’s house for a gathering of extended family. It was awesome! A total of forty-four aunts, uncles, nieces, nephews and cousins all in one place to play, reconnect and once again be reminded we are not alone on this planet. I come from a long line of people who know how to have fun and love the Lord. It was a good day. A day where once again God was saying, “Cary, I love you.” And in the back of my mind I’m thinking…Father, why are you so good to me right now. I can’t even read your Word on a personal level.

2017 zooWe went to the zoo. No one can walk around the zoo and not be reminded of the awesome creativity and power of God. With each animal, common and exotic, I was reminded of God’s presence. He created all this beauty and wonder and oddities (have you seen a sloth lately…it only moves 120 feet a day and that is usually when it has to poop!) for us to enjoy and scratch our heads over. Again, it was God reminding me of His goodness to me…to all of us.

Walking with the Lord feels one-sided on some days (that is, me doing all the work). On other days it feels like he is the One carrying the load to remind me of who He is and who I am (that’s where I am right now). However, there are some days when the walk fleshes out more like a partnership. Each of us working in tandem with the other to accomplish His greater plan. Those are good days. Those are the days I want to come back. Until then, I will keep enjoying His bursts of goodness to me. I do know this; with each detonation my heart longs to walk in the unison I know is possible (and my vacation is only half-way done).

The Heart Under Attack

I watched the news today. By the time it was over, my heart was under attack. It doesn’t happen often while catching up on world events, but today was different. It was no particular story that troubled me (I found them all to be disheartening in some way). I think it was just the dread of all the stories combined that caused my heart to feel assaulted. Evil appears to be thriving. Each day people under its influence find a new way to display its ugliness. Terrorism, which used to be groups trying to obtain weapons of mass destruction, has morphed into radicalized individuals who create homemade bombs, use cars as bullets and induce fear by wielding a knife when they can’t find a gun. Domestic violence used to be arguments behind closed doors that got out of hand. Now, we find children being assaulted (even murdered) by their parents; and I’m not even taking the time to describe the hateful things husbands, wives, boyfriends and girlfriends are doing to each other. Banks used to be robbed and thousands of dollars were stolen. Today, hedge-fund managers take millions from people’s retirements, health savings accounts and whatever else they can siphon. We’ve always known political parties disagree with each other, but now it appears they are out to destroy each other…no matter what it takes.

I turned the news off and my heart just felt…blah. As I tried to pick myself up off the couch to go be a responsible human being, I was tempted with the thought What difference does it make? All the right living you are trying to do; really, what difference does it make? The world is collapsing and you can’t change it. That is how you know when your heart is under attack. It wants to give up. It wants to quit. It becomes self-centered, cautious and seeking self-preservation at all cost. Funny, but on the tail end of that thought I was reminded of a scene from “The Lord of Rings: The Two Towers.” King Theoden had led his people to the stronghold at Helms Deep to escape the Orc army. The Orcs attack and overrun the stronghold. King Theoden, along with his closest warriors and Aragon, have barricaded themselves in a large room. The Orcs are getting ready to push their way through. The camera flashes to the king’s face. He looks despondent, overwhelmed. And then he utters, “What can man do in the face of such evil?” That is what I felt.

Aragon hears the king’s words and recalls a promise that was made to him by the wizard, Gandolf. Gandolf told Aragon, “In 3 days, look for me in the east as the sun rises.” It was day 3. It was time for the promise to be fulfilled. Aragon, upon recalling the promise, turns to the king and says, “Ride with me. Let’s fight.” If you’ve seen the movie you know what happens next. They mount their horses and ride out of their barricaded room to find Gandolf approaching from the east with a large army. The Orcs are defeated and evil is held at bay.

As followers of Jesus Christ, we are waiting for his return. One day he will come and rescue his people from the onslaught of evil, but what do we do until that day gets here? Are we supposed to barricade ourselves in our churches, private schools and home Bible study groups? Are we suppose to huddle up and just hope the doors hold until Jesus comes? I don’t think so. I think we are to combat evil in this world, but our weapons are not the traditional, man-made kind. We don’t fight with a bigger gun, a new political movement or our Christian apparel. Evil is not defeated with hate, political parties or trendy clothing. To take on evil God’s people must use the following strategies:

  1. Strengthen Our Hearts with God’s Promises

When the heart is under attack, it needs strength to survive and overcome. We can’t muster up the strength needed to face evil in these days. We need supernatural strength not a false hope manufactured from human wisdom or optimism. Leaning into and trusting the promises of God can only produce the kind of power I’m talking about. I don’t have the space to cut and paste all of God’s promises that provide strength. If you want your heart to be strengthened and encouraged…if you want hope to rise up in you like the Hulk awakens inside of David Banner…then read these verses and believe them: Isaiah 41:10, Romans 8:35-39, 1 John 5:4-5. These are just the beginning. Hundreds more await our discovery, but they will not find us. We must read the Bible to find them. Once our hearts have been strengthened, we can start standing up to the evil that is out to intimidate us.

  1. Practice Courage

Courage is not the absence of fear. Courage is doing the right thing even when you’re afraid. It would be nice if doing the right thing always ended with a reward, but that is not the case. We know that doing the right thing can open the door to more stress or trouble. And folks, that’s why we need courage. God has expectations for the way his people ought to live, and everyone else has expectations for us too. Civic leaders, bosses, our families, the coaches we play for, the people we fall in love with…they all want us to respond to life a certain way. But what if their way conflicts with what God expects from us? The Bible says it this way, “Don’t copy the behavior and customs of this world, but let God transform you into a new person by changing the way you think. Then you will learn to know God’s will for you, which is good and pleasing and perfect.” (Romans 12:2) God’s will is always good, but most of the time it takes courage to do it. And when we do God’s will, we are combating evil.

  1. Learn to love

I’m not talking about the pop, feel good love that promotes spineless tolerance of all behavior in the name of not judging right from wrong. I’m referring to the kind of love that sees humans as creatures created in God’s image. The kind of love that believes the purpose of humanity is greater than the comfort of humanity. This love is rare and it is rooted in the character of God. After all, God is love. What does this love look like? “Love is patient and kind. Love is not jealous or boastful or proud or rude. It does not demand its own way. It is not irritable, and it keeps no record of being wronged. It does not rejoice about injustice but rejoices whenever the truth wins out. Love never gives up, never loses faith, is always hopeful and endures through every circumstance.” (1 Corinthians 13:4-7). Jesus described it this way, “You have heard the law that says, ‘Love your neighbor’ and hate your enemy. But I say, love your enemies! Pray for those who persecute you!” (Matthew 5:43-44) I know it defies logic, but when we love and pray for our enemies (domestic and foreign) we are combating evil. I don’t know exactly how this plays out on the world stage, but what we are currently doing seems to have limited success. Jesus went on to say, “Because of the increase of wickedness, the love of most will grow cold, but the one who stands firm to the end will be saved. And this gospel of the kingdom will be preached in the whole world as a testimony to all nations, and then the end will come.” (Matthew 24:12-14) Did you see it? Our efforts to love our enemy is God’s will when we are facing evil; and it is the display of God’s love in those moments that will open doors for the Gospel to reach into all nations. Then, he will fulfill his promise. He will come and rescue his people. Just like Gandolf showed up at the right time, so will the Lord Jesus. The goal is to be found standing firm against the darkness…not barricaded in a place of safe living.

After watching the news and recognizing what was happening to my heart, I went and got my bible. Once I opened its pages, I found strength for my heart. Courage returned…I thought I will do what I know God has asked me to do. I will keep listening to Him. I will love those who don’t love me or know me.  I will fight today.

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