Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Discerning the Times

I was reading the paper yesterday, looking at the pictures of Japan and reading about all the crisis taking place since the earthquake and tsunami last week. I realized that I was listening to a song singing, "We will never be the same again.” I sensed the Lord’s presence and that I was to pay attention to that moment.

It’s hard to even remember all that has happened in the world since the calendar clicked over to 2011. Christ Church experienced an earthquake and cyclone, Egypt began to protest for leadership transition, sparked by the communication tool of social media. Country after country is following their lead. Earthquakes shook China and Bali.

However, none of us were prepared to receive the news about Japan, watching in real time a deadly earthquake and tsunami devastate their country.

Last week was a very strange week for me. I began to feel more and more disoriented, my body was shaky, my mind cloudy and my emotions all over the place. By Thursday morning, I was so shut down that one of my prayer intercessors changed her plans and came over to pray for me. As soon as we prayed, the struggle lifted, and I came back to myself.

Just an hour later, I got out of my car for a meeting and was struck with a deafening sound. It sounded like a barrage of loud trucks barreling down a creaky highway; instead it was the movement of the trees blowing across the highway. Soon the rain began to pound, and I saw my wooden, double stacked deck chairs rise off my deck and blow into our yard.

When I looked into the sky around 5 p.m., I knew that something very intense was happening. I began to ask the Lord,
“What is this storm about?”

We didn’t have to wait long to see the answer to that question. When I got the paper (one of my favorite times during the day is to eat breakfast and read the newspaper), I read that Japan had been devastated by a 8.9 earthquake, followed by a deadly tsunami.

The news continues to get worse. Nuclear reactors are damaged and they are emitting nuclear power into the environment. The Dow Jones is plummeting. Our sense of security is shaken as we read the stories that earthquakes are not if, but when, for Seattle and that our nuclear plants in the US could follow Japan’s lead.

So, it is at such a time as this, that we as Jesus’ followers have one of our most important opportunities and challenges. In the Old Testament, a statement was made about the Men of Issachar: “They knew the times and they understood what to do.” 1 Chron 12:32

How can we become People of Issachar that know the times and understand what to do?

First, it is important to be aware and attentive to what is taking place around us. What mode of communication do you like best? Television, internet, newspaper, social media: our choices are wide. The challenge is to become informed but not obsessed with what is taking place.

It is also vital that we seek to understand what is happening around us with a biblical worldview. History repeats itself and knowing the history of the Bible, God’s character and his ability to intervene in the worst of circumstances, are helpful barometers of our current circumstances.

When we trust God and know his ability to take the most challenging circumstance and turn it on its head, our ability to have faith in the unseen realm helps us to maintain a calm presence in the midst of information overload, fear, stress, and a sense of our foundation being shaken like the wind that shook us on Thursday. A calm presence can bring peace to those around us.

It’s also important to stay connected to one another; especially when events around us seem to be unstable and changing rapidly. Last week, almost every major leader of Missio Lux experienced an attack that shook them. When we keep it to ourselves, our enemy has much more power over us then when we tell others. Soon, we find that they are experiencing much of the same thing and the attack loses its power over us. We get a greater sense of where God is moving in his Body.

Friday I knew that we needed to gather and pray for what we saw taking place. However, gathering is challenging for Missio Lux as we are geographically spread literally around the world. So, I prayed and ask the Lord to show us what to do. I felt like we were to schedule a conference call where we can hear from the gifted intercessors in our midst, and then pray in unity and connection with each other.

Prayer is one of our most powerful tools for “such a time as this.”

Jesus tells us in Matthew 24 that we are to pray for the times of distress to be shortened, or the entire human race will be destroyed. Prayer helps us to recalibrate back to Jesus and to his perspective on what is taking place.

It also helps us from developing the deadly disease called “Compassion Fatigue.” When we are bombarded with bad news; we are often tempted to shut ourselves away to shut out the sadness and fear. Prayer wakes our spirits and hearts back up, and helps us to continue to have hope.

Hope is what we have to offer the world right now. We know that no matter what happens in this life; we have a better life around the corner. We know that God has the ability to take even the worst circumstance, the death of his Son, and bring about a surprise victory!

We know that a life of faith involves standing in the unknown because Hebrews 11:1 tells us that “Faith is the confident assurance that what we hope for is going to happen. It is being certain of what we cannot see.”

Our challenge is to stay in the place of trust and faith, taking our fears and concerns to our Loving Father who cares about our every need. Our opportunity is to bring a peaceful presence and hopeful faith to the people around us; especially those that are living without the experiential knowledge of Jesus’ care for them.

It is in the greatest darkness that our lives shine most brightly.

Let’s commit ourselves, people of God, to walk out these days like the People of Issachar who Knew the times and understood just what to do.”

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