Whom Shall I Fear?

Happy Thanksgiving! Merry Christmas! Happy New Year! Yeah, I kinda missed all of those here on the blog, but I’m hoping you were much too busy enjoying the holidays with your loved ones to have noticed. Now that we’re all caught up, I wanted to take this post to encourage anyone who needs to be reminded of some truth.

With just a casual perusal of news events in recent months and weeks, it’s easy to feel a lot of fear and anxiety. It’s tempting to lose hope for the situations we see around the world, across the nation, and in our own cities. Terrorism is on the rise and coming ever closer to home. Politics are more divisive than ever. Once-trusted leaders, once-beloved celebrities, and community servants are being exposed as men with dark, horrible secrets. The media, meanwhile, seems to just add fuel to the fire.

Psalm 11:3 says, “If the foundations are destroyed, what can the righteous do?” No matter how much the foundations of our society shake and crumble, as Christians, we can stand secure. We must fix our eyes on the Lord, who is still sitting on His throne, as the very next verse reminds us. We do that by spending time seeking Him in His Word and in prayer. The Bible is rich with His promises of His goodness, His compassion, and His protection for His people. It doesn’t mean we stay uninformed and ignorant of how difficult things are around us. It doesn’t mean we walk around staying “too blessed to be stressed” or thinking our “favor” is going to spare us from hard things. All of those are tactics from the enemy to keep us from walking in the true authority and grace that can be ours during hardship and trials.

One of my children was pretty upset Christmas night after a rather scary ride home from Pinson to Pelham through flooded roads and crazy intense lightning. He asked why God allowed such bad weather on such a special day. I told him that God is always good, and His promises are always true. However, sometimes His goodness allows us to experience hard things or scary things because we learn to draw near to Him and trust Him more, which is far better than just always being safe and happy. We prayed through that scary drive home, and we saw God directly answer those prayers that night. We wouldn’t have experienced those answers to prayer, or even recognized our need for God’s provision and protection like we did without that storm.

Read Psalm 91 slowly and meditatively, asking the Holy Spirit to let it soak in deep to your spirit. Read Psalm 56, or Psalm 27, and there are so many other passages throughout the Bible where our good and loving Heavenly Father assures us of His protection. No matter what we face, we can know that He is for us, and that He works ALL things together for good to those who love Him and are called according to His purpose (Rom. 8:28), and nothing can separate us from the love of God. (Rom. 8:35). We have an anchor for our souls. I believe that as we learn to trust God’s promises, walking in humility before His Sovereign power and grace, we can be a light and a beacon of hope that will draw the lost and hurting to our Savior, our Rock, our Firm Foundation, Jesus Christ.

If you’ve already endured significant hardship or loss, please do not think God’s truths have failed you. I know that’s tempting when you’re hurting so badly, because I’ve been there. Choose to trust Him even when nothing makes sense. It is very possible to grieve – which I think involves processing all the “whys” that come with grief – and to trust at the same time. God is faithful and you will see His goodness even in places of deep pain and loss.

Well, this is an unusual blog post with which to start off the new year. These are just some thoughts I’ve had through the holiday season, and I felt led to share them with you. Next week, we will pick back up with praying through some of the great nonprofit organizations in the metro-Birmingham area.

The Beginning of Knowledge – Praying for Better Basics

Happy Friday! Today, we are praying for an organization called Better Basics. Based in Birmingham, it was founded in 1993 by a man named John Glosser on the belief that poverty and illiteracy are so closely linked that they are practically one and the same. Their mission is to make a positive difference in the lives of children and their families by advancing literacy through enrichment and intervention programs. They do this by providing literacy intervention, enrichment programs, and educational programs for elementary and middle-school students throughout Alabama. Better Basics was recently listed as a “Top Ten Charity to Watch” by Charity Navigator, and has a 4-star rating with them based on fiscal responsibility and program results. Karen Kapp has been the executive director since 2008, having been part of Better Basics since 1998. As of this month, she is retiring and Ammie Akin will become executive director. (Can we all take a moment to appreciate the alliteration in the names of these two executive directors of a literacy organization whose name is also alliterated?! It’s just fantastic.)

Proverbs 1:1-7 – “1 The proverbs of Solomon the son of David, king of Israel: 2 To know wisdom and instruction, to discern the sayings of understanding, 3 To receive instruction in wise behavior, righteousness, justice and equity; 4 To give prudence to the naive, to the youth knowledge and discretion, 5 A wise man will hear and increase in learning, and a man of understanding will acquire wise counsel, 6 To understand a proverb and a figure, the words of the wise and their riddles. 7 The fear of the LORD is the beginning of knowledge; fools despise wisdom and instruction.”

Holy Father, You are awesome, great, majestic in wonder, and fearsome. No one and nothing can stand in Your awesome presence unless You enable them. Yet through Your Son and through Your Word You have revealed Yourself to us in ways that we can understand. But even the deepest revelations to humankind of who You are are but the tiniest of portions of Yourself. How amazing to know that such a holy God desires a relationship with us! You amaze us with Your splendor and with Your love!

Father, we live in a culture in which it is more obvious than ever the father of lies rules. It is so vitally important to know truth as it is revealed in Your Word by the Holy Spirit. Our young people, our children, are paying with their lives for a lack of knowledge and truth. Yes, I know literacy is vital to being a successful student and becoming a successful adult, but as I was researching and praying about how You would have us pray, the importance of knowing Your Word quickly came to the forefront. We pray that as these students learn to read and cultivate a love of learning and reading, that You would reveal Yourself to them. Draw them to Your written word and to the Living Word. Let the precepts and statutes shape their thinking. Let the revealed person of Christ teach them how completely they are loved – and what real, safe, sacrificial love looks like.  We pray that our students in the metro-Birmingham area, and throughout our state, would know wisdom and instruction, have discernment and understanding. Let them receive instruction in wise behavior, justice, and equity. Give them knowledge and discretion so that they can become wise adults who know and defend truth.

We thank You for Better Basics and their passion to spread the love of reading to students around the state. We especially pray for them as they transition from one executive director to the new one. Even the best of leadership transitions have their challenges. (My church just changed worship pastors earlier this year, and is now changing our lead pastor, both under the best of circumstances, with the former worship pastor and former senior pastor getting called to bigger levels of responsibility because of their faithfulness and integrity, so boy do I get this, and boy can it still be so hard at times.) We pray that Ms. Akin will keep her eyes steadfastly on the Lord, walking in the fear of the Lord and with wisdom and discernment. We pray for unity among the staff and volunteers even as they grieve not working with their friend and former director and support and encourage their new director. Encourage and strengthen them through this transition. We pray for new ideas, new creativity, new partnerships, and that together as an organization, Better Basics would continue to grow in wisdom, knowledge, and the fear of the Lord. Use this organization to spread literacy, the love of learning, and most of all, truth as it is revealed in Your Word. Amen.

To find out more information about Better Basics, and how to get involved by giving, volunteering or praying, go here.

Praying for Prisoners

Today, we’re praying for one of the last issues I would have come up with on my own, but the Lord has laid it on my heart in an undeniable way. You may have seen some of the news articles, like this one, regarding the horrible treatment of prisoners in the Alabama prison system. It’s easy to shrug our shoulders and say, “So? They’re in there because they deserve to be. They did the crime, they do the time, whatever that looks like.” I’m guilty of forgetting that those prisoners are still human beings whom God has compassion on and desires to reconcile them to Himself. Breaking the law, even in the most heinous ways, does not remove a person from the reaches of God’s grace. It also does not make it okay for that person to be mistreated and abused by anyone. Breaking the law also does not justify someone else breaking the law in their treatment of that person.

Some of you may be struggling with what I just said. You may think I would feel differently if I had been the victim of a criminal act. Well, I have, in significant ways, and I know the frustration and pain of not seeing justice done. I have also had family members who were involved in crime and have spent time in jail (albeit not in the state prison system). My husband is a Birmingham police officer. I’m in a unique position of having experienced the criminal justice system from several different angles, and I have run the gamut of emotions and opinions on it. But I’ve learned I need to seek the Lord’s heart about these things. It’s possible to desire justice and have compassion at the same time. It’s very hard, at times, but it is possible. We must seek the Lord.

While I was praying about doing this blog post, my children and I went to Vulcan Park and Museum. In the museum, we read about how the prisoners were treated so horribly as they were forced to do labor in the furnaces. Many of them were beaten and killed; all of them were pushed beyond humane limits. Many of them were not hardened criminals, but were serving time for petty crimes, and still they were treated as though they were less than human. It made me realize that what is happening in the state prison system is a generational issue that has been around at least since the early days of the metro-B’ham area. We must pray.

Luke 4:18-19 – “The Spirit of the LORD is upon me, because He anointed me to preach the gospel to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim release to the captives, and recovery of sight to the blind, to set free those who are oppressed, to proclaim the favorable year of the LORD.”

Lord Jesus, praise Your name! You are Sovereign Lord, full of grace and compassion, who died for us while we were yet sinners. Justice and compassion are Yours, the One who experienced the grossest miscarriage of justice as You, who are holy, were condemned for all our sins, and who found no compassion among the crowd crying out for Your death. You know and understand what injustice and lack of compassion feels like. You give us the power by Your Spirit to have compassion even on the worst of people. You enable us to forgive those who sin against us, just as you forgave the very soldiers who crucified You.

We thank You that You can set the captives free, and that we are some of those very captives whom You have freed. We pray for every man and woman in the Alabama prison system right now to be set free by the power of the Gospel – not necessarily physically free, but set their spirits free. This includes not just those who are serving time, but also for the men and women working in the jails. Jesus, we pray that You would give those in authority over the prisoners a heart of compassion. Set them free from bitterness and hate. Remove any unrighteous leadership over the prison system, and raise up God-fearing, Christ-like leadership who can bring the necessary reform to the system.

We pray that the oppression against these prisoners would cease, and that instead of thinking of criminals as less than human, and deserving of whatever mistreatment they endure, that You would change our heart and remind us that if it were not for the grace of God, any of us could find ourselves in the same situation. Give us Your righteous indignation and help us to do whatever You call us to do to speak out against what is happening in our prisons. We confess that we have chosen ignorance and blindness to these issues. Forgive us, and restore our sight. Let us see the situation with Your eyes and Your heart.

In Your name, Lord Jesus Christ, we tear down the generational stronghold of hate and oppression that has existed in this prison system since nearly its inception. Thank You, Lord, that the injustices of abuse and extortion are coming to light, because that is a sign that You are already working. We pray that Satan would no longer be allowed to prevail against these prisoners and against the corrections officers/guards. Instead, we pray that God’s kingdom would come, and that His will would be done in every single prison in this state as it already is in Heaven. Lord, I confess that even as I pray that, my mind and flesh are trying to speak against it – trying to convince me that is an impossible request. Thank You, Lord God, that with You nothing is impossible. We can see our prisons become places of redemption, hope and light, in Jesus’ name.

We pray all of this in the matchless name of Jesus Christ, amen.

If you’re like me, this isn’t a subject you often pray about. Is there something the Lord is laying on your heart to pray, or is there something I prayed that either bears witness with you or that you’re struggling with? I would love to hear from you either way.

How to Pray for the Fallen

I’m sure by now most everyone has heard of the sad news regarding the arrest of Matt Pitt, founder of the youth ministry, The Basement. I debated and prayed for several days about whether or not to post anything, and if so, if it should be a whole blog post or just a post on our Facebook page. I also wanted to be careful not to just post my opinion on the situation. See, I’m the wife of a Birmingham police officer, so I have strong feelings regarding the case.

One of the tragedies, though, in any situation where a well-known person gets into trouble, is the onslaught of public opinion that person, and their family, have to endure. No matter how deserving the person is of the arrest/trouble they’ve brought on themselves, the comments are horribly abusive. We forget it’s a real person with real feelings, and that but for the grace of God, we could find ourselves in a very similar situation someday.

So how should we, as Christians who are called to pray, respond? I think one of the first things we must do is choose to fast from our opinion and emotions about the situation. I had to choose to set them aside, because otherwise, I was too angry at the pride that caused such wrong choices, at foolishness, at sin. I was too hurt for all the young people who are very hurt and confused because of these events by someone they greatly admired. I feared for the direct harm he may have caused some of those young people, if they got sucked into his bad choices. I could not hear how the Holy Spirit wanted me to pray with all of those emotions and opinions drowning out His voice. It doesn’t mean I shouldn’t feel those things, but that I need to choose to lay them at the feet of Jesus.

The next and real first thing we do is pray for Matt Pitt. If we still can’t bring ourselves to pray as we ought, and are tempted to either pray for his complete downfall so that he “gets what he deserves”, as some comments have said, or if we are tempted to pray for so much grace that he gets off scott-free, then we can turn to Scripture and pray the Scriptures.

We can pray out of Genesis 50:20 by praying, “God, what the devil and man have meant for evil, You meant it for good. We pray that You would cause Matt Pitt’s present result to accomplish Your purposes, to bring many people to You.”

We can pray out of the Lord’s Prayer found in Matthew 6:9-13 – “Heavenly Father, You are holy and Your name is holy. Would you preserve and display Your holiness in the face of this public fall-out from a Christian leader’s bad choices? Let Your kingdom come through Your people, and let it stand in stark contrast to the kingdom of darkness. We pray that Your will would be done for Matt Pitt and The Basement here on the earth, as it already is in Heaven. Cause Matt to feed daily on Your Word so that He can receive Your forgiveness that You freely grant to all who sin and have fallen. Deliver him from the evil that has gotten a hold of his life right now. For Yours is the kingdom and the power and the glory forever. Amen.

Those are just two examples of how we can use Scripture to pray for Matt Pitt and any leader who lets us down by succumbing to sin. This kind of praying does not excuse their sin, nor does it condemn him. We have no right to do either of those things. This kind of praying lines us up with the heart of God for all of His children. May we all be so blessed to receive such prayers on our behalf in our time of need.

What are some other Scripture-based prayers the Lord has led you to pray for Matt Pitt, or the The Basement ministry?