All the People We’ll Meet this Christmas

18 12 2019
Christmas Guy

Photo by Stte Funn on Unsplash

As I’m working on writing my fourth novel, starting a new trilogy on the topic of hope, I’ve been studying Johnny Enlow’s RISE teaching on bringing God’s kingdom into the 7 mountains of culture: government, business, education, religion, media, arts & entertainment, and family. As a teacher, I’ve been especially fascinated by his ideas on education.

Today one point that jumped out at me was when Johnny wrote that the student is always more important than the information. How many of us have had teachers who made us feel like our lack of mastery of the material made us sub-human and destined for an insignificant life? Hopefully all of us also had at least one teacher who lovingly modeled that the information was only important as it helped us move forward into a life of significance and destiny.

This reminds me of how God relates to His rules and to us. Have you ever felt that your lack of mastery of God’s rules put you on His naughty list and kept you trapped on the sidelines of life?

The reality is that Jesus declared, “The Sabbath was made for man, not man for the Sabbath.” (Mark 2:27) The person is always more important than the rules to God.

Or how about one of my absolute favorite Scriptures, the story of the woman caught in adultery? (John 8:1-11) Those who saw the rules as most important wanted to stone her; Jesus talked to her as a person needing his mercy.

I had an opportunity to practice what I was learning recently as someone threatened me with a lawsuit regarding something I’d mistakenly posted on my blog and promptly removed over a year ago. At first I was shocked by the person’s aggressive and unreasonable demands. I went to the Prayer Room and spent some time discussing it with God. His word to me was that the person was more important than the negotiations. Jesus’ command to “love your enemies” isn’t about Americans trying not to hate ISIS who live far away—it’s about loving the people around us who don’t treat us the way we’d like.

Our negotiations lasted about two months, because I was in no hurry. I needed time to pray for the person each day and ask God what I could share to help them return to His path of significance and destiny for their life. I have no idea if anyone else was praying for them, but at least for this season they got one faith-filled intercessor on their side. I hope I was just the voice they needed at the time they needed it.

I’m writing this in the midst of a busy Christmas season. Is it just me, or can the holidays bring out the worst in us? Could we take a moment to prepare our hearts for all the people we’ll meet this Christmas? How beautiful it would be if we could remember that the overwhelmed cashier is more important than the mistake on our bill; the mother juggling packages and a crying baby in the post office line is more important than the delay to our packed schedule; our impossible-to-please relative is more important than our desire for a “perfect” Christmas.

Perhaps a moment when we make them feel important again is the gift they really need.

Remember that God sent His Son to us at Christmas not because we were well-informed or well-behaved, but because in spite of us being NOT well-informed or well-behaved, He chose to love us anyway. He chose to see each and every one of us as precious, significant, diamonds-in-the-rough, people with a glorious destiny.

Now it’s our turn to see the same in all the people we’ll meet this Christmas.





Responding to ISIS

3 03 2015
ISIS slave market

ISIS slave market

ISIS continues to dominate the news headlines, from this week’s cover of Time magazine to the brutal images we see nearly every week on the national news. The closer we feel to the victims, the more personal our grief and the more urgently we want to respond.

If you are Japanese, the beheading of journalist Kenji Goto must have horrified you. If you are Catholic, the kidnapping of Iraqi nuns and orphans must have been awful to imagine. If you are a Shiite Muslim, the destruction of mosques and mass murder of your Shiite brothers and sisters must deeply wound your soul. If you are a woman, the kidnapping, torture, enslavement and rape of young women must break your hearts. And if you’re a Christian, the grisly scene of 21 Egyptian Coptic Christians being beheaded on a Libya beach last month must have brought a desperate cry of prayer to your lips.

How should we respond to ISIS? Perhaps God will lead each of us to respond in our own authentic and creative way. Angelina Jolie has responded by posting video interviews with the victims to increase global awareness. Various NGOs and charities are stepping up the relief effort, and you can donate through them—check out these three:

Cradle of Christianity Fund (CCF)  http://www.cradlefund.org/

The Foundation for Relief and Reconciliation in the Middle East (FRRME)  http://frrmeamerica.org/

Samaritan’s Purse  http://www.samaritanspurse.org/article/iraq-crisis-response/

The Pope’s response last week was to pray for the victims. But here’s an even more extreme response—check out this 8 minute video posted by an Egyptian evangelical church—their response is to pray for ISIS! The pastor states, “Satan is our enemy, not ISIS.” You’ll see the actual family members of the Coptic Christians who died talk about forgiveness and praying for ISIS soldiers to see the light. Now THAT’S a response that Jesus would be proud of! Watch the video here: http://youtu.be/ElTWcbCrY7g

The 21 Egyptians were true martyrs in the Christian tradition—they died for their faith; unlike other traditions where a martyr could be one who dies while killing others for their faith. They inspire us to follow the Bible’s teaching from Romans 12:21: “Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good.”

For those Muslims reading this post who find that an attractive alternative to vengeance, guess what? The Qur’an offers similar guidance in Surah Fussilat 41:34 “And not equal are the good deed and the bad. Repel [evil] by that [deed] which is better; and thereupon the one whom between you and him is enmity [will become] as though he was a devoted friend.” Repel evil with good? Win your enemy to become your friend? Yes, there are many Muslims who abhor how ISIS interprets the Qur’an, because like any religion, individuals choose what verses to base their lives on. Thank God for all those of every religion who choose peace and forgiveness.

For me personally, as an author, you’ll read my response to ISIS in the sequel to my first novel. This week I finished the first half of the first draft. I appreciate your prayers that this book will present a response to ISIS that both glorifies God and makes a difference in how we face this formidable issue.

I’d love to hear YOUR response to ISIS! Tell me what authentic and creative response God is partnering with you to do!





Praying for Strangers

8 07 2013

Tonight we begin another fasting month of Ramadan, when we will join our Muslim friends and neighbors in not eating or drinking during the daylight hours.  As much as my body hates fasting, my spirit knows that my body needs to be reminded who is really in charge here.  Or as my former mentor, Lou Engle, used to say, I need to set aside lesser affections for the greater hunger of my soul for God alone.

This dichotomy of flesh vs. spirit vying for preeminence is also found in my prayer life.  Passing through each day, my flesh and my spirit have different agendas—one is willing to carve out a small niche for prayer, the other craves a 24/7 experience of communion with God.

This month I greatly enjoyed reading River Jordan’s book, Praying for Strangers: An Adventure of the Human Spirit. The author sent both her sons off to war one January, and in her anxiety and helplessness, felt God draw her into an unusual new year’s resolution: to pray for one stranger every day for a year.  Sometimes she prayed silently as she passed by, but many times she stopped and told the stranger that she would be praying for him/her, and was so blessed at the responses she received.  Every time it was hard to take a risk, but she never regretted telling people she would pray for them.  She ended the year feeling more blessed than probably any one of the people she met.

One reason I love this book is because I’ve found a kindred spirit.  I, too, have a habit of praying for strangers everywhere I go.  But I rarely approach a stranger and tell them I’m praying.  This part of Jordan’s story challenged me.  Sometimes a prayer may be enough, but sometimes the encouraging word and smile of a person who is praying may make a greater impact.  I hope to overcome my fears and be willing to talk to these people my heart is already praying for.

I’d like to end by quoting a couple paragraphs from River Jordan’s book (p.213):

   On some days I pray for more than one person.  Because I can.  Because I want to.  Because my heart has been softened by the year of connecting with the world around me.  Just the other day I passed a man on his riding lawn mower wearing a white hat.  He smiled and waved and I waved back, and in that moment, special stranger of the day status or not, it was my automatic response to wish blessings on his life and say a quick prayer for his health and happiness.  And the rest of my day continued that way.  A cashier, the woman at the insurance company, the librarian—I prayed for them all.

prayingforstrangers

   Then I began to wonder: Could it be possible for us to move through our day on a wave of prayer, receiving and giving, offering silent words, thoughts, good intent to the people that we meet along the way?  Could our cities have undercurrents of prayer that course through the business of our lives?  Would there be a tangible feeling, a current that pulls at us, whispering for us to remember we are part of a larger, vast ocean teeming with life and stories?  If I can begin to live this way for a moment, for part of a day, for a week at a time, then yes, I can imagine a place where people find a common ground of timelessness and understanding and goodwill.  And I like that.

You can read more at http://www.prayingforstrangers.com