Why I left the International House of Prayer: Atlanta Part 2

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Disclaimer: Before I begin I want to say that this is my story with IHOPKC and IHOP-Atlanta and that though I know I am not the only one with this type of experience I also know that there are those that have not had this experiences. There are many people I know that are still involved at both houses of prayer and I respect and love them all and it is out of respect for my friends involved still that I will refrain from using any names.

Nevertheless though I might be against how both IHOPs have been run and believe that there are many in leadership that have gravely crossed the line, I still love them all. We are all broken people deserving of love and respect, nevertheless I firmly believe that the truth must be shared, especially when many have been harmed by an unhealthy culture. I have had many good experiences that I am thankful for as well as made my own mistakes in my own personal life but that is not the point of this blog. I am in no way trying to slander either ministry but simply share things that needed to be addressed that are impacting people in negative ways.

Out of the Frying-Pan into the Fire: IHOP-Atlanta

When I first began at IHOP-Atlanta it looked like the promise land and rightly so I had just left an incredibly unhealthy situation and was still blinded by the pain and confusion. During my first year at IHOP-Atlanta things seemed great, though in the back of my mind I felt something was off but could not see it.

I Can See Clearly Now

During my second year at IHOP-Atlanta I began to see past the excitement and became aware that many of the staff were undervalued by the leaders. For many of us that have been at either of the houses of prayer we can attest that if you are not on stage in a band, teaching, or a poster child for the ministry then you ultimately have little to no value by the leaders. Sadly this is a problem in many ministries. If we did not meet the model of a perfect IHOPer then leadership didn’t acknowledge us. This is true for many of us who served daily and never even had a genuine “conversation” with the leaders. Sadly with the ratio of leaders to staff at IHOP-Atlanta being 5 to 1 at max you think that would not be.

When I look at IHOP-Atlanta I am grieved that the leaders ask so much from their staff and give so little. The staff are run ragged by leaders who act as drill sergeants all to keep the building 24/7. So many of us would be left exhausted and dead in our hearts hopping from the same exhausted intimacy and urgency messages hoping to keep our hearts afloat all the while trying to figure out how to eat with our state of poverty. But when you can throw passages out of context like when King David said “I will give no sleep to my eyes” then it is quite easy to control the staff to keep fueling your ministry.

During my time at IHOP-Atlanta I began to notice a trend of performance messages masked through messages of urgency and or intimacy. The senior leaders were the slave masters and the staff and interns were the slaves and with each message came that lash of the whip upon our backs to perform. With this kind of preaching it is no wonder why so many would leave after their internship.

During my time I also began to notice that the entire time I was a part of IHOP-Atlanta I almost never heard a message on Jesus. Instead it was messages on how we need to be radical like John the Baptist or be like the Church in China and if not it was how we all need to be evangelists/missionaries.

How Dare I Visit Another Church?

During my first year there I was a part of a small group led by a senior leader. On Good Friday (Friday before Easter) I decided to attend a special service at the local Catholic Church as they meditated upon the last 7 words of Christ. Afterwards I went to my small group and the leader asked us what we had been up to, so I shared. He was completely offended that I would choose to be at a meditation/worship service at another church. He attacked my decision by trying to invalidate it by asking me why I would go to another church when I could do that in the prayer room. After point out that we were not doing a service like that, he told me that I should start something like that at IHOP-Atlanta. I responded with “Why, when I can join in with 300 people at the Catholic Church.” The leader shunned me the rest of the next hour of small group. The following Christmas I attempted to do a Christmas meditation service and less than five people showed up for it, no leader came, all had been invited. How could we expect to see people value something like this when the leaders don’t? During their last Christmas services they have preached on Song of Solomon and the Church in China instead of acknowledging Christ’s incarnation.

I Know You, Even If We Have Never Talked Before

If you have ever been at either House of Prayer you will have noticed that most leaders treat each moment talking as an opportunity to preach about their convictions and call us to do their bidding in the next ministry endeavor. There was little to no relationality among IHOPers. Many people assume that they knew each other well because they saw each other each day in the prayer room. This would play out constantly among leaders who thought they knew staff so well that they can involve themselves in their personal lives whenever they want. I always found this troubling that people thought they knew someone so well without ever having a single real conversation.

My Time As Housing Director and Missing Money

During my last two years at IHOP-Atlanta I ran their internship housing department, though staff and students were known to live there. Among other problems I experienced with running housing was that I almost never had any money in the housing budget to spend on the houses. The interns would pay over $2,000 and you would think some of it was going towards housing, well I would not find out until after I ended my two years managing housing that none of the money was going towards housing. Where did it go? The problem was that when talking to many interns they wondered why almost nothing was done with them. Where was their money going to? Many of them have expressed that they felt cheated that the leaders never talked to them let alone did anything with them.

In regards to the issue of money, there was one particular time when a staff member signed up to do one of IHOP-Atlanta’s bible schools. This staff member signed up and paid their money. Within the first 3-4 days they realized that this school was not right for them and wanted to quit. The leaders of this school used manipulating tactics to keep them from quitting. Even when the staff member expressed that they felt uncomfortable and wanted a friend in the meetings with the leaders. The leaders instead ignored the staff member’s concerns and forced meetings. By the end of the first week the staff member was free from the school, though not at the expense of receiving the cold shoulder from the leaders. The reason why I tell this story is that once they were out of the school by day six, the leaders refused to give any of their money back.

Why, because the staff member signed a contract saying no refund. What are we Pharisees or Christians? This literally poor staff member who raised the money from their supporters never saw one cent returned. In addition they continued to live in the internship housing that was supposed to be covered by their tuition; however, since they left the school they now had to pay more money just to live there. Thus they essentially paid double rent to live there. This was a complete injustice. I tell this story because I was there and I asked multiple leaders to reimburse this poor staff member but they refused, they even refused letting them live in the housing for free or at least a discount. Where did their tuition money go?

Working for the Bible School

During my time at IHOP-Atlanta I helped their bible school as a teacher’s assistant as well as managed the social media for the bible school and IHOP-Atlanta. During that I saw that many students showed up for the first semester; however, after that first semester the school attendance dropped of completely. Many left saying that they felt that the teachers did not show any interest in them as students and that the teachings were solely IHOP’s interpretation and not open to any other ideas.

As a teacher’s assistant I found that the teachers did not even take their role as teacher serious. One just read verses and barely talked about them; many of the times they were read them out of contexts. Another teacher would constantly show up late, talk for 15 minutes, pray for 15 minutes, tell stories that had nothing to do with the class subject, and then might spend 15-25 minutes talking about the material, and would then finish by praying for 15 minutes. The students paid $300 for this and were ultimately robbed.

On one occasion a teacher said “Who takes an Old Testament Survey class wanting to know about the law, the prophets, and the history of Israel? Nobody, they take it to know the knowledge of God.” At that moment I felt as though all the saints of old were ready to cast their stones and sadly many students ate it up. Many walked out saying they learned so much but when I asked them what they could not give me any specifics, just vague hollow platitudes.

When I managed the social media pages I found this to be a great opportunity to reach out to people. However, the excitement of this opportunity quickly died when I was asked to promote things like their upcoming missionary school with posts that were completely manipulative at their core. How could I be a part of manipulative tactics? To say things like: “Don’t ask if the Lord wants you to be a missionary, but instead ask what nation should I go to?” I suppose God doesn’t want people to go to college and get a job here in the states.

Concluding Thoughts

After years of trying to make things work, I finally gave up. After eight years of being involved with the House of Prayer movement I left. I knew that there was more for me and that I should not settle.

Today I have met many people who have left either of the houses of prayer asking “What do I do now?” Many have given their early twenties to the prayer movement and now that they are out are left to find their way on their own, with no education and little to no skill set as well as little to no life experience. All of these are tools needed to help enter into the real world. There are many of those I have met who have gone off to college in their late twenties and early thirties, and quite a few of them regret either doing the house of prayer or at least staying as long as they did. This being said I think some of the best advice I could give potential IHOPers is to consider going to college first so that you have an education to fall back on.

On top of the lack of tools needed to help reenter the real world there are many people who having left IHOP are now not only dealing with the lack of education and professional experience, they are severely crippled financially. It is n secret that most people involved with either house of prayer lives in a manner that is below the poverty line., however; once people leave they find that whatever financial support they once had is gone and now they are left to try and find a job and attempt to stand on their own two feet.. In addition there are many that I have met that upon exiting the houses of prayer are left with way less relationships as they quickly realize that now that they are out of the bubble that not only does the financial support dry up but so does much of the relational support. There are many who have found that once they leave current IHOPers do not stay in contact with them, that is unless they want to send a support letter to them asking for money.

Lastly for those I have met leaving the houses of prayer I have noticed that many though not all end up floundering in their spiritual relationship with the Lord. Where they once had to be in the prayer room talking to God for their job as well as go to church service, but now that that is stripped away from them many find that having a spiritual life is completely hard. This leaves many to stagnate if not completely pendulum swing in bad ways in their heart before the Lord. Many of them have walked out with such emotional wounds from the house of prayer that they experience not only the pain in psychological and emotional ways but also the pain hits them in the arena of their spiritual walk.

Though many of us have come out of either of the houses of prayer with stories of pain and confusion on what had happened and what to do next, there are those that have had the opposite experience. Many have come out unscathed and with a good experience. Nevertheless, for those reading this trying to decide if to be involved with IHOPKC or IHOP-Atlanta given their current history I would say there are plenty of other ministries that are more established and safer. However, if you want to be involved get wisdom from people you know that are not mesmerized by the Houses of Prayer. My advice is just go to the prayer room, if you want to be involved more maybe do an internship, but I would currently not advise more .

Why I left the International House of Prayer: Kansas City Part 1

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Disclaimer: Before I begin I want to say that this is my story with IHOPKC and IHOP-Atlanta and that though I know I am not the only one with this type of experience I also know that there are those that have not had this experiences. There are many people I know that are still involved at both houses of prayer and I respect and love them all and it is out of respect for my friends involved still that I will refrain from using any names.

Nevertheless though I might be against how both IHOPs have been run and believe that there are many in leadership that have gravely crossed the line, I still love them all. We are all broken people deserving of love and respect, nevertheless I firmly believe that the truth must be shared, especially when many have been harmed by an unhealthy culture. I have had many good experiences that I am thankful for as well as made my own mistakes in my own personal life but that is not the point of this blog. I am in no way trying to slander either ministry but simply share things that needed to be addressed that are impacting people in negative ways.

Who am I?

How do I tell my eight year story at IHOP? Well why not start with the beginning and tell you a little bit about who I am. Ever since I was a child one of my strongest desires was to help people, specifically through the some type of church ministry. I had always found myself being pulled to the area of justice and ministry but what would this look like?

Growing up I never experienced a perfect little cookie cutter life as seen on TV, but neither would you if you lived with an abusive bipolar father. The funny thing is I never truly felt sorry for myself, because as the saying goes “Whatever doesn’t kill you simply makes you stronger.” I knew that enduring this would make me a stronger person with a desire to fight for those who have been hurt, because I knew what it was like to hurt. However, even with this drive burning within me I still found myself floundering around struggling to find myself and how to walk out the desires of my heart.

Onething 2006

When I turned 21 I was invited to Kansas City, MO to attend the International House of Prayer’s (IHOPKC) end of the year Onething Conference. As I walked into the conference I found myself surrounded by twenty thousand young adults excited to sing the songs and hear the messages that IHOPKC had to share. I quickly found myself being lured in with the militaristic messages of how we need to take the world for Christ and how the “prayer movement” is the new thing that God is doing in the world. With all of the messages of “hope” or rather “false hope” in doing something great I found myself hearing and obeying the siren’s song.

Fire in the Night

I quickly went home and sold my stuff and moved to from Georgia all the way to Kansas City, MO. My goal was to do two three month tracks of IHOPKC’s Fire in the Night Internship where we would spend our nights praying through the middle of the night. I would continue to do this nightwatch schedule seven of my eight years involved with the house of prayer. The internship was a time to disconnect with life and “focus on the Lord” even at the expense of not communicating with people in the outside world all that much. Aside from my small group leader in my first track I would spend the next eight years being led by those that would never take a moment to get to know me as a person.

The teachings were exciting at first because they were new, but quickly I came to see that the messages were nothing more than recycled teachings that I had already heard during the Onething Conference three months prior. The two redeeming parts of my experience with my internship as well as House of Prayer experience as a whole would be the friends that I would make and the time I would spend in the place of prayer and in the word.

FSM…No Wait NSM…Wait Scratch that Call it IHOPU

After my internship I found myself wanting to stay on and start IHOPKC’s bible school Forerunner School of Ministry now known as the International House of Prayer University or IHOPU. As mentioned earlier I had always wanted to serve both God and people through the context of ministry so the idea of sticking around to attend their bible school was quite enticing. IHOPU is an unaccredited school and thus no real degree can be earned there and is actually more costly than some colleges I know.

However, the IHOPU leaders would assure us that what we were doing is the “new thing” that God is doing in the earth. They would even challenge the idea as to why would we want to invest in the old and obsolete way of biblical training when we can do the new and exciting thing. Sadly many of us ate this elitism up. We spent our college funds on hearing the gospel according to IHOPKC in which left many of us afterwards asking why we never just went to a real college instead.

IHOPU leaders would constantly challenge the idea that going to a seminary had any worth and would establish themselves as superior because they have a “prophetic history” as a seal upon their legitimacy. Why go to a seminary and learn how to properly read and interpret the bible in the original text? Why learn from those who had been biblical scholars for over thirty years? According to IHOP leaders to be a great biblical teacher you just need the Holy Spirit to guide you and not a real education on the bible. It was this concept that was vomited upon us time and time again at IHOPKC and IHOP-Atlanta that always left me asking “I wonder what Paul and Daniel would say if they were here?” Sadly many still eat it up. We were held prisoner to the will of many in IHOP leadership through their manipulation, and the thought of branching out into a college or even different ministry was shamed by many.

Working and an IHOPU

During my time in IHOPU I stayed on the night watch, for me this was not hard as I had always been one to fancy a late night schedule. As a student we were encouraged to raise support to be full time missionaries at IHOPKC. For many of us that worked we found ourselves stigmatized for not having support and being more of an IHOPer because a real IHOPer has support.

The worst part was that whenever I would find the time to rest from being full time IHOPU student as well as working a job, I was expected to take part in “community building groups” and if I didn’t I was looked down upon for not helping build a stronger community and thus became an exile. This stigma either pushed people out or deeper into the rabbit hole that is IHOP as they quit their jobs, for me it would be the latter.

While at IHOPU I found that the teachers constantly stuck with the gospel according to IHOP and never acknowledge any other ideas and if we asked or challenged an idea we were quickly shut down and/or even rebuked. Many of them stuck to the position that their interpretation was the only one and all others were completely wrong and thus not deserving of their acknowledgement. To think outside the box was wrong, but it was ok for them.

Just Be More Flexible

During my time at IHOPU and in both of the houses of prayer in general things were always changing and the leaders would always tell us that God is doing something and that we just need to be flexible. I always found myself curious at what point did God become a mood swinging bipolar. In reality the leaders never wanted to admit that they did not know what they were doing and if we questioned them on the constant change it was always thrown back in our face as something we need to deal with in our own hearts. I quickly found this to be the go to attack by leaders at both houses of prayer when they were exposed to be wrong or unable to answer whatever question given to them.

In the midst of the constant instability my own program of study ended and left myself and a few others having to decide what new program to jump into. I ended up starting a new program and essentially started my third year all over again. When this happened none of the leaders came to those of us affected to apologize let alone explain what was happening. Instead they responded through a messenger. They ran from their responsibility. A year later I was able to address this with the leader of the nightwatch as well as ask him why he would make promises to the students and not follow through with them his response was to attack me on not being flexible enough; however, in another meeting this same leader attacked me on not following through. So apparently it was my fault that he broke promises and ran from his responsibility.

My Last Year of IHOPU

During my last year of IHOPU my fellow students and I were to do a ministry outreach of our choosing. I was one of the first to start their outreach as I had already been involved in it for two months prior. I had two leaders a male and female. My female leader signed off on it and said “I feel God on this.” My male leader was suppose to check in on me weekly concerning my outreach and both leaders were suppose to be reading the journal blog entries concerning my ministry experiences. These entries were to count as a grade and sadly they never followed through with our weekly check-ins. Well come to find out at the end of the semester they decided to fail me because I was not doing a ministry that they liked as well as not doing enough ministry hours. I was failed? I currently still have a 4.0 GPA and am going into my junior year as a college student; I don’t make B’s let alone F’s. How did this happen?

Well the female leader at the end of the semester as one of the last ones to decide on a ministry outreach, when the students knew it wasn’t true. To make a long story short they accused me of being negligent and that it was my responsibility to be asking them weekly on how I am doing. When I challenged them on their promise to weekly check in on us it was not my fault that they did not do what they said they would.  They went on to accuse me of being rebellious and unsubmisive. When I challenged them on how it is the teacher’s responsibility to keep up with their students because it was a part of what we paid them for. Nevertheless the same female leader would go on to attack my relationships, and in my last semester accuse me of misogyny.

During my last semester of IHOPU this female leader accused me of misogyny. She lied about having a conversation where she told me to not write on an idea in my thesis paper; from there she accused me of misogyny before the leaders. Why, because well, I have never been able to figure out why she targeted me so much. She accused me of misogynistic writing in my thesis, though when I had others look at it they could not find where the problem was. My paper was on the topic of teaching others truth and sticking to it. One of my points was that we only see Adam being told to not eat of the forbidden fruit, thus how did Eve know? My idea was that perhaps Adam told her, if this was the case then how firm did he stick to this truth when he told her. I was brought into a back office and bullied by leaders by calling me rebellious and misogynistic, yet when I suggested that she never had that conversation with me she they continued in the accusations. One leader rebuked me of suggesting an idea that the bible does not openly mention, when if you have ever been to an IHOPU class then you would know they do that all of the time.

Nevertheless, all the leaders came together to bully me into submission by attacking my character when most of them never even read the paper. They used language about how they were worried about my soul and how I was on a bad path. Why did they say this? Who knows, but it is quite ironic that they would do this on a thesis paper about sharing truth.

After finishing IHOPU I decided that staying at IHOPKC was incredibly unhealthy for me so I decided to leave and tryout IHOP-Atlanta, surely both houses of prayer can’t be bad right? Well for my last conversation with an IHOPKC leader was over the phone where I left it on speaker phone s my friend could hear as a witness in case the leader crossed the line, sadly they did. They actually told me, “Didn’t your dad kill himself? Please don’t go off and kill yourself in Atlanta.” I immediately hung up in disgust, that someone who never knew me would say such a thing, especially when I have never once had a suicidal thought. This brought an end my time at IHOPKC as I was now IHOP-Atlanta bound.

To Be Continued with Part 2: My time with IHOP-Atlanta

To Have a Vision or to Cast Off Restraint

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(The following was an article I wrote for my school paper in lieu of a new school year beginning.)

A few years ago, I read a proverb that said, “When people lack vision, they cast off restraint.” In other words, those who have no life vision and method for achieving it will cease to be self-disciplined in life. They will merely float around in life as ghosts of who they were meant to be.

Having a life vision is not just your life dream, but also how will you achieve it and consequently walk it out. Now this proverb really struck me to my core as I began to ask myself the deeper questions of life. Who am I? What are my dreams? What do I want to do with my life?

It was this proverb that ultimately brought me back to college after a nine year hiatus. I left college, because I had no vision for life. I wandered around trying to find myself and in many ways I tried to adopt the vision of others, which goes without saying, is a very unhealthy thing to do.

Now, I am about to turn 30 years old and can say looking back that I wish I had had someone to help me cast vision for my life. Then, I might not have taken such a long break from school.

Last spring, I started my first semester here at GPC and one my first assignments was to write a journal. The journal was to consist of three goals and how we were working to achieve those goals. I am happy to say that thanks to Professor Kim Clark, I not only set all three goals but also achieved them. However, I did not stop there but have now set even more life goals and have others helping me to achieve them.

Of course when you are fresh out of high school as many of you are, you are probably thinking, “I am just 18, how can I have a life vision already?” Well, you are in luck! One of the best benefits of GPC is that they have a wonderful faculty team of student advisers, personal counselors, and professors who have been in your shoes at one time or another and can give you the advice you need.

Even if you do know what you want to major in, whether you figured it out on your own or with the help of an adviser, I challenge you not to just go through the motions of going to the mandatory classes and making a passing grade but to go the extra mile. It is a competitive world out there, and one of the best ways we can succeed is by working together.

Do not do it alone! Find others with similar academic goals or career goals and work toward them together. This is more than simply just networking but actually doing it side by side.

http://www.collegiannews.com/2014/08/column-to-have-a-vision-or-to-cast-off-restraint/

Know Thyself, Improve Thyself

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Seven years ago in 2007, I was introduced to the life changing area of personality tests. I knew very little about how our personalities worked, let alone just how unique they are. My first test was the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator (MBTI), and all I can say is “wow.” After taking the test I read about every aspect it listed about me and I must say that it had me pegged perfectly. This test helped me understand just why I am so prone to always be in my head thinking as well as my love for structure. However, though my love for structure does help me be organized and get things done there is a flipside. The flipside is that I struggle in environments that are more “free flowy” and have little to no structure. So not only do we learn more about ourselves and how we operate, we also begin to learn more about our weaknesses in addition to our strengths.

Nevertheless in my opinion one of the major benefits to tests like Myers-Briggs is that not only do we gain a better understanding of ourselves, but it makes us more aware of others. For those like myself who are more of an analytical thinker, then our biggest weakness is that we are going to be more prone to neglecting our emotions and even worse the emotions of others. For me I am the thinker and my girlfriend is the feeler, so for us knowing this it allows us to better interact with each other. I know she processes with her feelings and she knows that I process through my thoughts. Therefore, us having a basic understanding of who we are and how each person’s personality differs helps us in our day to day interactions with each other.

A year after I took it the first time I had my mother take the test and I still remember her response. After taking the test and reading about my type she came up to me and said “I now better understand my son after 23 years.” Turns out she thought I was depressed because I spent so much time alone. Nope, now she understands that I was just introverted. So when we understand ourselves, it becomes easier to understand those around us, thus improving our relationships.

As Socrates famously said “The unexamined life is not worth living.”  (Socrates). So in understanding ourselves we can better understand how we can make the most out of our lives. In addition, this has far reaching implications into our day to day interactions with friends, in school, and at work. When we understand ourselves we are more capable of interacting with others because we know our strengths and weaknesses.

We live in a time with nearly half of all first time marriages end in divorce, miscommunication runs rampant, and many people seem dissatisfied in at least one area of their life. So I ask you, “What if we took the time to learn more about who we are?” If more people understood how personalities differ and what theirs and their spouse’s was: “Would divorce rates lower?” What about those unsatisfied in their jobs, “Would they know more of what work environment would be best for them?” If they better understood themselves, then would their state of well being increase? So I challenge you to learn about personality types, especially yours and those closest to you.

“People are inherently and genetically different. When we truly understand the people around us, we will become successful entrepreneurs, dedicated employees & friendlier colleagues. It’s when we try to make people think like we think and act like we act, that we end up firing employees, quitting jobs (and probably getting divorced).” –Forbes Magazine

Sex Sells: The Cost of Freedom

human_trafficking_modern_Day_slavery_global_Fund_international_aid_opt (1) “Let’s talk about sex, baby. Let’s talk about you and me.” For those of you who are old enough to remember, this 1991 single by Salt-N-Pepa is about the positives and negatives of sex. Seriously though, let’s talk about it.  Did you know that each day women all around the world are exploited for sex and that many are taken from their homes and forced to sell themselves for sex? Women are not the only ones but even children, both girls and boys, are daily sold into slavery. Today this exploitation and form of slavery is called Human Trafficking, which is one of the greatest injustices in our world today. What is Human Trafficking? Human Trafficking is defined as organized criminal activity in which human beings are treated as possessions to be controlled and exploited (as by being forced into prostitution or involuntary labor). Today nearly “21 million people are victims of forced labor: 11.4 million women and girls and 9.5 million men and boys. Of those exploited by individuals or enterprises, 4.5 million are victims of forced sexual exploitation.” (International Labour Organization). The number of slaves today is nearly double the 12 million Africans that were taken by the Trans-Atlantic slave trade. (The Gilder Lehrman Institute of American History). Today, Human Trafficking is the new Slave Trade of the modern age. According the Federal Bureau of Investigation in the city of Atlanta, GA ranks at one of the top 14 cities in the U.S. for children in prostitution. (Swecker, Chris. Federal Bureau of Investigation). In one article for the Dacula Patch by Deb Belt, Deb purposes that the city of Atlanta is the number one city for human trafficking, specifically for that of child trafficking. (Belt, Deb. Dacula Patch). Why? For starters Atlanta is home to the busiest airport in the world.  Additionally, interstate I85 connects Miami to New York.  Furthermore, the city is home to three professional athletic teams all of which causes tons of traffic in the city from all over the world. With all of the comings and goings within Atlanta how can human-trafficking be thwarted? In an interview with an Urban Plan and Design student from UMKC, he proposed from his studies that it is possible that city urban planners have the ability to be aware of every building within the city limits and knowledge of if it is used or not and what it is used for. Simply because trafficked slaves have to be held somewhere. On top of this he proposed that city urban planners are capable of finding out how many hotels have high reports of complaint; thus, allowing them to help law enforcement know what hotels need higher investigation. (Scoggan, Micah. Personal Interview) With this being said, why not push for a higher level of cooperation between city planning officials and law enforcement? Sure dealing with the building investigation is helpful, but that still does not deal with all of the traffic in Atlanta. Well ultimately security with airports, convention centers and athletic stadiums need to be enhanced. For example, more security cameras, security guards, and even more security check points can help flag suspicious suspects. Just like in the movie Taken where we see the trafficker targeting American girls outside of an airport regularly, with heightened security they should be able to flag him as a suspicious suspect who regularly is at airports yet never flies and is not a cab driver. Much like the hiring-on of more security, we should consider roach checks on major interstates like I85 in Atlanta. With more control on the comings and goings on the interstates through state patrol pulling suspicious vehicles over and potentially toll booths as well, the likely hood of trafficking women and children is dramatically decreased. However, the down side to this idea is the increase of traffic on the interstate which after the 2014 Snowpocalypse we might not want.  Thus, the city would have to create more public transportation to compensate the traffic jams, all of which creates a need for more money. This means more taxes. Plus who gets to determine which cars are suspicious and which are not? Just like how movie theaters have the video asking you to turn off all cell phones and business’ have their signs, why not include signs, posters, or videos warning you about human trafficking?  For example, since major sporting events are major hubs for human trafficking, such as the World Cup, Olympics, and Super Bowl which are the top three, why not before a game begins play a quick video saying something like the signs of trafficking awareness or something of that nature?  Additionally, right beside the “No Weapons Inside” sign why not include a number to call for trafficking awareness or a warning sign?  I guarantee if they see the video the traffickers’ targets will be more alert. On top of that, this is one of the cheapest methods one can use. Lastly, much like how we have Sex-Ed class in schools, now we should incorporate classes to warn kids about human trafficking and in parent teacher’s meetings talk to the parents about it. The more awareness we have in our city the more we can combat this injustice. This is yet another affordable method to deal with human trafficking. Most of these ideas may be costly; however, is the price for freedom ever not? Nevertheless, “the cost of freedom is always high, but Americans have always paid it. And one path we shall never choose, and that is the path of surrender, or submission” (Kennedy, John F. Cuban Soviet Missiles in Cuba Address). Therefore, let us remind ourselves that the fight for the freedom is costly. Thus, we must take on the attitude of the abolitionists of old- that even if the cost is high and even if the government asks for higher taxes, our efforts will be worth it in order to bring an end to human trafficking. “And so, my fellow Americans: ask not what your country can do for you—ask what you can do for your country. My fellow citizens of the world: ask not what America will do for you, but what together we can do for the freedom of man. Finally, whether you are citizens of America or citizens of the world, ask of us the same high standards of strength and sacrifice which we ask of you. With a good conscience our only sure reward, with history the final judge of our deeds, let us go forth to lead the land we love, asking His blessing and His help, but knowing that here on earth God’s work must truly be our own.” (Kennedy, John F. Inaugural Address).  Together we can see the end of Human Trafficking in the city of Atlanta, the U.S., and the world.     Works Cited

Wolves in Sheep’s Clothing

wolf-in-sheeps-clothingHypocrite! Bigot! Zealot! Today in the States, such words are used to describe those of the three major monotheistic religions of the world with a major emphasis being on those who claim themselves as Christian/Catholic. But are these terms valid? Do they hold any weight? Today, most Americans claim Christianity as their religion, but are they even Christian? For many it is merely the religion they were born into and yet walked away from since adolescence. For others, it is merely a thing you check off on a personal Facebook profile after race and political view. However, there are those who more than claim it but also practice it, yet even then they differ in their actions. So who are the real Christians and who are the fake ones? Who are the hypocrites, bigots, zealots and so on?

St. Paul in his letter to the Romans establishes first and foremost that those who seek to be followers of Christ are those who confess openly and believe within that He is Lord (i.e. Yahwheh), acknowledge that they are sinners in dependence upon His merciful salvation,and seek to follow Christ in thought, word, and deed. So this is the first distinguisher between a real versus a fake Christian. Though it is easy to run one’s mouth confessing things, it is another thing to believe what you are saying and live it out.  It is the one who actually believes and lives it that makes them a Christian. Many today say they want to “thank their Lord and Savior Jesus Christ” in their speeches yet do not follow Christ and continue in their sinful lifestyle. These people deceive not only Christians but also non Christians by their words and consequently their actions bring a taint on the name Christ and Christian. Sure, they talk the talk but do not walk the walk. For example look at those who used the name of Christ to promote violence, death, self gain, and manipulation and judge their fruit according to the scriptures. “Not everyone who says to Me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but he who does the will of My Father who is in heaven will enter. Many will say to Me on that day, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in Your name, and in Your name cast out demons, and in Your name perform many miracles?’ And then I will declare to them, ‘I never knew you; depart from Me, you who practice lawlessness.’ Matthew 7:21-23

In one of His most popular messages, Christ calls His followers to beware the “wolves in sheep’s clothing.” These are people who claim to be His followers, yet are really not and are ultimately out to destroy the Church. In another teaching He warned His followers that many would seek to deceive them using His name. Christ continues in His message to offer the solution to this dilemma of struggling with discerning the character and realness of one’s faith by “watching their fruit and judging accordingly.” In addition to establishing and defining what makes someone a Christian according to the New Testament, scripture also provides further guidance on discerning the realness and quality of one’s faith.

“For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.” These words of Christ resound such simple truth that what we focus on reveals what is in our heart. Even the great philosopher and thinker Solomon once said, “For as a man thinks within himself, so he is.” For the one who confesses Christ their fruit begins with what they treasure. Do they focus on the external treasures of money, title, and popularity? Or do they focus on the internal treasures of love, joy, peace, patience, and kindness? For the true follower the internal is greater than the external, but by no means does that mean if you can make money do not. It simply means it is not your master.

Alas, if this was the only separation between Christianity and fake, or rather Facebook Christianity, then the former could easily be misconstrued for various other religious beliefs; thus, the differences go further. The main issue comes down to holiness and love, which are both two major themes throughout the Bible and the Christian life.  To the Christian, holiness is pursuing the ways of Christ. “You shall be holy, for I am holy.” These words from the Scripture ultimately mean to pursue a higher standard of living, a life free from sin. This does not mean Christians are perfect or claim to be perfect! It merely means they are called to pursue holiness, pursue being the key word. The calling to love is more than being kind; it is preferring others over oneself, helping, fighting for another, guiding others, etc. The one who loves God, others and themself overflows with the fruit of Christ. 1 John 4:8 says, “Whoever does not love does not know God, because God is love.”

For most Christians the line between walking in love and holiness is hard to reach, and many tend to lean one way or the other. This leads to what many see as “Bible Thumpers” or “Zealots” because they focus so much on holiness that they forget about the calling of love and step into religious legalism. This group focuses strictly, for the most part, on performance void of love and their hearts are not connected with the love and mercy of Christ. This is very easy to do. For others they begin to steer so much on love that their lifestyle is void of holiness. In otherwords, they may in “love” not address their friend’s sin with an anger issue; but in reality theuy are doing them a disservice by not calling them higher. In reality this tends to breed people who allow others to sin because they are afraid to offend them because they want to show love. Both sides can look and perhaps even become hypocritical when not balanced, but alas only God can read the heart. This is the fine line all Christians must find.

Finally when it comes to real Christians versus fake ones we must see both as a whole. It is very easy for one to claim being a Christian and yet live a lifestyle of sexual immorality or other “sins.” The difference between the real and the fake is that for the latter they tend to not really care about stopping. However, for the former they do care and they are seeking ways to stop through programs, accountability, or other means. Yet even with some Christians they may not be aware of their shortcomings.  For others, it may not be the right timing to address their pornography addiction, for instance, because perhaps they might be focusing on their alcohol addiction or something like that.

With today’s media putting a major focus on fake Christians and the shortcomings of the real ones, it is very easy for one to see them as one in the same. However, there is still a major difference which comes down to knowing what the Bible defines as a real Christian and if the person produces the fruit of a real Christian. This is why it is not the role of those outside of the Church to judge whether they are or not, but the Church’s, which sadly does not always happen. In the end it is those who claim to be Christians but do not acknowledge their dependence upon Christ and follow Him by pursuing a lifestyle of love and holiness are your wolves and those who do are your real Christians. Nevertheless, not only is there a difference between real and fake Christians, there is also a difference between those Christians who have “good fruit” and those whom are misguided and have “tainted fruit” **He may wonder what you mean by “tainted fruit “for all are not Wolves in Sheep’s Clothing.

The Looming Baby Booming

baby-boom-blocks

Boom! Boom! Boom! Let the babies come on in! Some have suggested lately that the U.S. should limit or at least highly encourage citizens to only have two children per family unit.  What is this? Communist China? The idea that a nation would limit two children per family is completely absurd. A nation cannot grow in this manner. Literally it cannot grow! For any nation to grow in population even but a little there must be three or more children per family, anything less will stagnate the population or even decrease it. But more citizens would not be the only reason in and of itself, for with the increase of children would come many benefits to any nation.

For instance, when the birth rate rises, jobs will rise-specifically in the fields of medical, agricultural farming, and education. When the birth rate increases, the needs for medicine and food will always increase with the new populace. On top of that, more children means more teachers, which will create more jobs.  It also puts a higher demand on education reform. Sure, this is not a lot of jobs, but those who have the children will also become better workers. Why? Because with bigger families comes a greater need for parents to be more involved with their children on a day to day basis. And when parents have a greater connection with their families they tend to always have a stronger sense of incentive to provide for them, which will lead to harder workers. Though this is not always the case, it is still truth. Those who have a stronger relationship with their families almost always work harder because they are working for someone, especially when for multiple children.

In addition with the increase in jobs and better workers comes a much larger population, which ultimately means a bigger military when they come of age. Nations like China can merely use their population size as a simple military deterrent because who wants to mess with a nation whose population exceeds a billion? Along with population growth comes a larger active military which is always a great military deterrent, just look at North Korea’s million man army. Thus with the increase in population comes an increase in military strength, if needed.

However, military is not everything, for with the increased population comes an increased number of tax payers which is always quite beneficial to any nation suffering from severe debt. As the rise of these new taxpayers comes, so does the next wave of inventors, pioneers, artists, and thinkers to help strengthen society, especially if properly raised and educated.

Lastly, children from bigger families tend to more easily learn very helpful life skills and character traits like competition, sharing, serving and other characteristics that an only child may not get as easily. These life skills and character traits has the potential to go on to better improve the state of society as a whole, given that the children learn these traits.

So should the U.S. discourage families from having more than two children per unit? May it never be! It would be complete folly as downsizing will not work, for if society as a whole is greatly strengthened with more children then we should encourage it. If anything should be discouraged it should be children outside of marriage and abortion if and when possible. For how can a nation or a society truly benefit long term from killing off its citizens because they do not want them? How can we fully raise good citizens in broken homes when the statistics show that the children will have a much harder time succeeding?

Finding God in Suffering III: Finding Hope

Resurrection -1465- by Piero della Francesca

            In my previous entry I discussed how we can find Jesus in our suffering and how He is with the sufferer. He is in the very midst of their pain and anguish. Isn’t that what a lover does? A lover wants to be with their beloved wherever they may be, even if it is in the mud or out in freezing cold fighting to live. A lover wants to be with their beloved even in the midst of their trials. That is what St. Paul said in his first letter to the Corinthians when he wrote on love:

“Love suffers long and is kind; love…5does not behave rudely, does not seek its own…6does not rejoice in iniquity, but rejoices in the truth; 7bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things.” 1 Corinthians 13:4-7

So if God is love then these things that Paul mentions about love are really definitions of who God is and consequently examples of His interactions with His beloved. But today’s blog is not about how God is with His beloved in the midst of suffering but about finding hope in suffering, so where to begin? Well let’s begin where we left off with our last blog, with C.S. Lewis in The Problem of Pain. “We can ignore even pleasure. But pain insists upon being attended to. God whispers to us in our pleasures, speaks in our conscience, but shouts in our pains: it is his megaphone to rouse a deaf world.” It is in the place of pain that God is shouting to us that something is wrong. Something is incredibly wrong with the world and the way things are happening that needs a drastic change. For example you don’t have to tell the child with a stomach ache that something is wrong, they already know. They know that something is wrong and that their sickness is probably not going away until they run to mommy. Now can mommy make the sickness go away? No, but she can diagnose it and find out that the child stayed up each candy to all hours of the night and now they are sick.

Now just as the child knew that they are sick when we experience suffering the pain we are experiencing is telling us that something is wrong, and just like the child we can respond in one of two ways hide in our pain and try to numb it and ignore it or we can tell mommy, or in our case God. Our suffering is as Lewis put it God’s “megaphone to rouse a deaf world.” It is God’s way to tell us that the pain the woman feels each night as her husband beats her is not right. The pain people experience in life is His indicator to us that something is wrong, thus meaning if God is God then that means He has a better plan. What is this better plan? Well in a single word it is resurrection.

Resurrection or rather rebirth is ultimately a new beginning. It is the end of the old and the beginning of the new. It is the beginning of a new chapter, a fresh start for humanity and yet still so much more. It is the end of suffering and triumph over all of humanity’s enemies. It is the end of sorrow and beginning of unending joy and peace, and it is this reality of the Christian Hope that is the conclusion of the Gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ, so let us dig deeper.

So where did this rebirth begin? Where will this end or rather when will it culminate? Well it began two thousand years ago when Christ conquered death and became the first fruits of new life. Christ the first fruits having thrown down the principality of death becoming the first born of the dead, the first to enter into the new birth has paved the way for humanity to follow; however, the story does not end there. But what does that entail? Is it merely a spiritual new life or is it physical as well? Is this “new life” better than the original? Well let’s begin with the spiritual side.

New Birth: Spirit

At the point of spiritual new birth, that which comes through salvation, the spirit begins the sanctification process that ultimately is the freeing from the internal bondage. What does that look like? At the point of salvation man’s spirit begins to change through the leadership of the indwelling Holy Spirit who now lives within to guide in the paths of righteousness. On top of this the Spirit begins to bring freedom to our spirits from the bondage and sufferings that have befallen us for so long because of sin. So what does this mean in less spiritual jargon? Well as the Holy Spirit begins to sanctify us in righteousness we begin to stop saying yes to sin; which in the Christian mindset is the root of suffering. At the point of salvation the sinner is now both freed from the bondage of sin and becoming free as well. As we sin less we are ultimately creating less suffering for us and for others, though this does not mean the Christian is now free from suffering, but quite the contrary as the Christian is ultimately now creating less suffering.

Along with the decreasing of desire for sin in the sinner’s new birth into Christianity, the new Christian begins to walk the path of freedom from those things that had so long entangled them during their estrangement from God. These things being and not limited to: addictions to drugs, smoking, alcohol, sexual immorality, freedom from self hatred, narcissism, ect. However contrary to the more Post-Modern American Evangelical mindset it is not some instantaneous change from a sinner to a great holy Christian, nor is it some state of immediate freedom from ones struggles. Though some may experience some supernatural freedom from past struggles or massive leap in the sanctification process it is still a process that will continue throughout the entirety of ones life.

Now the last aspect to the new birth of the spirit is the end of alienation. No longer does the sinner remain alienated from God, but through salvation and the new birth of the spirit the Christian can now enter into blessed fellowship with God through the indwelling Spirit.

Though there are more aspects to the spirit’s new birth these are three of the main ones, though one might argue for eternal life the Bible makes it clear that even the unrepentant will have eternal life but they will be living it out in the lake of fire. At the point of death of the body or of the resurrection of the dead then our spirits will be transformed into Christ’s likeness both in the body and in the spirit.

New Birth: Body

The new birth of the body is just as glorious as the spirits, though for many it is simply the end of death but it is so much more than that, so let’s delve deeper. Unlike the new birth of the spirit the body’s new birth does not begin at salvation but at the resurrection of the dead when Christ returns.

So let us begin with the obvious death is no more, no longer will man be able to die. No longer will man be able to suffer pain, sickness or any infirmity. This invulnerability to death and suffering is for those who are in Christ alone; as for those outside of Christ they will receive some form of an eternal body, but unlike those in Christ theirs can and will experience suffering.

There is much that shrouds the capabilities of the resurrected body but what we can safely assume is that whatever Jesus did with His and even what Adam and Even could do pre-fall we can do. That means when we work, yes we will still work, we won’t sweat. Work won’t be hard unlike it is now. Our minds quite possibly could be enhanced to where we are able to tap into 100% of our brains instead of only part. This idea can be seen in Adam’s ability to name every animal and manage the garden. We won’t experience shame or even self hatred concerning our bodies; this does tie in with the new birth of our spirits. Just as Jesus ate, we will eat. Unlike the Greek Gnostic mindset that says the body, work and all of physical reality is bad, the Biblical mindset says that the physical reality is Holy which is why we get a New Body.

For many they tend to liken the abilities of the resurrected body to that of modern day superheroes and though they may appear similar they are still completely different. Now concerning walking through walls, though it is possible scripture does not support this idea. Jesus never walked through walls, but rather it says Jesus came, the doors having been shut, and stood in their midst.”John 20:26. So how did He get in there? Well it was most likely more like He was translated just like Philip in Acts 8:39. Jesus on another occasion is translated from one place to another on the road to Emmaus in Luke 24:31. Lastly how else could He see 500 people in 40 days, unless He could translate? Finally can the resurrected body fly? Though Jesus does ascend to heaven and is supposed to come riding on the clouds, that does not completely constitute flight. It merely shows that God was and will be demonstrating is superiority over the world. Does that mean we won’t fly no? No, it simply means we cannot assume anything other than it will be both glorious and perfect.

So in summary, what will the new birth of the body look like? Perfect.

New Earth

Presently we live in a fallen world where chaos, anger, death and corruption run rampant, but the New Earth will be completely the opposite. Just like the resurrected body the New Earth will in many ways return to the way things once were. Well what does that look like? Well there is peace; humanity lived in perfect harmony with all of creation. The soil was soft and not hard, the animals were not trying to kill them and there were no destructive storms in the land. Yes even the weather itself was in perfect harmony with the rest of creation. So if that was what creation looked like on the earth pre-fall we can only assume it will be at the least be the same if not better, which it will be.

Since the fall creation has groaned; for ever since humanity was thrust into exile from paradise they have waited, longing for alienation to end. Ever since the resurrection humanity has been freed from their estrangement from God and a New Exodus has begun, one that will culminate with all of creation finally reunited with God. For when Christ returns He will put to right all the wrongs as humanity’s exile comes to an end and the Father walks among His creation once more.

So what does the Bible say about the earth or rather New Earth as it says in Isaiah 65 and Revelation 21? Well first there is a King named Jesus, but that goes without saying if you have ever read the scriptures, but for the sake of the one who has not read much I divulge more. In Psalm 89:3-4 David recalls the covenant that the Lord gave to him:  “I have made a covenant with My chosen; I have sworn to David My servant, 4I will establish your seed forever and build up your throne to all generations.”  So from the covenant the Lord has established the throne of David forever, thus if Jesus is the promised seed then there must be a throne. This is not some celestial, ethereal throne floating off in the cosmos but one on the earth. It is tangible.

However more than a King, there is also a Kingdom for a king is not a king without a kingdom; it is as simple as that. So what is this Kingdom? In a word it is perfect. So what is a Perfect Kingdom? For starters there is only peace. No longer will fear, anxiety and depression fill the streets. No longer will violence rage from nation to nation, for peace will overflow from the throne to the ends of the earth. This is what it means for Isaiah when he said: 7There will be no end to the increase of His government or of peace, on the throne of David and over his kingdom, to establish it and to uphold it with justice and righteousness from then on and forevermore. The zeal of the Lord of hosts will accomplish this. Isaiah 9:7 In short there will be peace all over the earth and it is will never end for there is not end to the expansion of Christ’s Kingdom. Now does that mean that because there is no end to the increase of His Kingdom that we will take over the stars, planets and galaxies? It is unlikely that we will expand the Kingdom to the galaxies as the language is focusing on the fact that no other government could stop Christ’s Kingdom. To add on to this thought on the Kingdom there will no longer be wickedness or injustice for the One who sits upon the throne will uphold the perpetual peace through righteousness and justice for it is these two realities that are to be found as the foundation of His throne. “Righteousness and justice are the foundation of Your throne; lovingkindness and truth go before You.” Psalm 89:14 No longer will there be an unjust or wicked king, no longer a flawed righteous king but a Perfect King who will always uphold righteousness and justice all throughout the Kingdom. Thus the poor will be fed, the homeless will be given a home, the orphan and widow a family, the leaders will no longer take bribes or be corrupt. Every sphere of society will be upheld by righteousness and justice. No longer will teachers pick their favorites and ignore the ones who are hard to educate. For when the Prince of Peace sits upon the throne the perfection of all things will go forth as justice and righteousness upholds all things.

Well if there is a Perfect King and Kingdom what about the rest of creation? Well for starters it is new or rather perfect. Contrary to popular belief in much of the church we will not be living in heaven on clouds as fat little cherub babies after this life, nor will we dwell before the Lord worshiping in heaven for all eternity. To go along with these false suggestions of the afterlife the current earth will not be completely destroyed, thrown away and thus replaced but it will be restored to perfection. Why? Well why not? Why would God who has done so much to save all of creation when it is all said and done just abandon His creation? What’s more what about the apocalyptic scriptures that don’t reference people but the land? So let’s look to see what Isaiah has to say concerning the earth: Isaiah 35:7 “The scorched land will become a pool and the thirsty ground springs of water.” Isaiah 44:3 “I will pour out water on the thirsty land…” Isaiah 62:4 “…your land, ‘Married’; for the Lord delights in you, and to Him your land will be married.” God clearly has a heart for the earth as it is His desire to not only to revive that which has become barren and dead but He also desires to marry the earth. Even if you want to spiritualize the reviving of the earth as a spiritual revival then why would God say He will marry or rather become one with the earth? Why would He give the Israelites in Deuteronomy laws concerning the treatment and mistreatment of the land if He did not have both a heart and destiny for the Earth itself? So what is the earth’s destiny? Perfection.

To even go one step deeper there will be peace on the earth even among nonhuman creation. Once again let us peer into the eyes of Isaiah: “And the wolf will dwell with the lamb, and the leopard will lie down with the young goat, and the calf and the young lion and the fatling together; and a little boy will lead them.” Isaiah 11:6 Finally humanity will not live in fear of creation as there is peace among all creation. To quote Woody Allen “The lion may lie down with the lamb, but the lamb won’t get much sleep.”

How does the earth become perfect or new? Well it starts back with the King. When the King comes He will establish peace, righteousness and justice in the earth that will ultimately transform all creation. At the very end of His thousand year reign, He will have thrown down Death, Hades and the accuser of the brethren Lucifer. No longer will death take place in the earth, no longer will injustice continue and no longer will the oppression continue. In Zechariah chapter 14, Zechariah prophesies that the Lord will be king over all the earth and even goes on to talk about the rain and the cattle as if these two things are still needed, thus food and the harvest will continue. But if these things be true and if even the people of the earth are beating their swords into plowshares in order to farm then there must be a destiny for the earth. So what is the fire that will consume the earth? Well if you have ever read the Psalms or the Prophets then you will have noticed that on many different occasions the writers use the word fire as a means not for destruction but for purification. So if this be true then surely when the Bible says fire will consume the earth, then perhaps this is what it means. The fire of God will purify the earth unto perfection transforming it into a new look or rather a new earth. As N.T. Wright so eloquently once said “Heaven is important, but it is not the end of the world.”

God All in All

So with a view of our hope being found in New Spirit, New Body and New Earth there is one last wondrous reality to consider; God will finally be all in all. Paul in his typical emblematic fashion paints the picture of the culmination of all things into perfection with this one small phrase: God will be all in all. O’ the bliss God and humanity will finally be one; the creator and His creation finally dwelling together in perfect unison. No longer will heaven be God’s realm and earth creation’s, but God and creation both humanity and nature will all be one. God will be glorified in complete perfection through all created order, and it is this reality of the Christian Hope that is the conclusion of the Gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ.

20But now Christ is risen from the dead, and has become the first fruits of those who have fallen asleep. 21For since by man came death, by Man also came the resurrection of the dead. 22For as in Adam all die, even so in Christ all shall be made alive. 23But each one in his own order: Christ the first fruits, afterward those who are Christ’s at His coming. 24Then comes the end, when He delivers the kingdom to God the Father, when He puts an end to all rule and all authority and power. 25For He must reign till He has put all enemies under His feet. 26The last enemy that will be destroyed is death. 27For “He has put all things under His feet.” But when He says “all things are put under Him,” it is evident that He who put all things under Him is excepted. 28Now when all things are made subject to Him, then the Son Himself will also be subject to Him who put all things under Him, that God may be all in all. 1 Corinthians 15:20-28

Justice, justice, all cry for justice!

crying-eye

Justice, justice, all cry for justice,
One child takes another child’s toy,
Not fair, not fair all cry not fair!
 
Father beats his child,
Child hides in closet,
Why me, why me, all cry why me!
 
She does all the work,
He gets all the credit,
Not right, not right, all cry not right!
 
The rich get richer,
The poor get poorer,
Corrupt, corrupt, all cry corrupt!
 
Politicians steal and take bribes,
The citizens suffer,
Foul play, foul play, all cry foul play!
 
Nation rages against nation,
Gang clashes with gang,
Violence, violence, all cry violence
 
Mom lies in bed, gasping and shivering,
Tears streaming down he watches her die,
Why God, why God, all cry why God!
 
Creation groans, creation waits,
As injustice increases, all cry to Him,
Return, Return, ALL CRY RETURN!

Finding God in Suffering II: Jesus With The Sufferer

Flagellation-of-christ-_Rubens

             Jesus is not just some philanthropist seeking to bail humanity out of their suffering but He is a lover seeking to draw near to His beloved in their suffering. These words ring throughout the depths of my soul; God desires to be with us in our pain and brokenness.

             “You would not have called to me unless I had been calling to you,” said the Lion this is such a powerful statement Aslan tells Jill in C.S. Lewis’ “The Chronicles of Narnia: ‘the Silver Chair’” In the midst of our own brokenness we are blinded to our own need, though we may be aware to a degree of our need we truly have no clue just how broken we are. Just as the man blinded by complete darkness cannot see the dirt and filth that covers, we cannot see just how dirty we are. It is this reason why in John 1:5, 9 it says The Light shines in the darkness, and the darkness did not comprehend it…9There was the true Light which, coming into the world, enlightens every man.” As the world lay in deep darkness unaware of its need suddenly a great light pierced through the veil to enlighten the souls of man.

God looking upon humanity’s inability to draw near to Him out of their own blindness took it upon Himself to solve the problem of alienation between God and man Himself. The answer was Jesus, the very Second Person of the Blessed Trinity; God in flesh. The One who spent eternity past arrayed in light took off His garbs of glory and took on the garments of dust. The one who knew equality with God laid it all aside to draw near to the broken, consequently now knowing equality with broken humanity. Until we understand the depths of what He gave up for us, we will never truly know the greatness of His love towards us, but this will be touched upon in a future blog. As stated prior, if you are a lover then you want to be with your beloved in all things, even in their pain. This is what it means to be a lover, to be with them in the rejoicing and in the weeping.

So God looking down upon us in our anguish took it upon Himself be with us. Like Aslan calling to Jill before she even knew there was an Aslan, Jesus was coming to us before we ever knew there was a Jesus. The lover was coming to His beloved before she ever knew they were ever loved.

 Christ Suffers With Us

            Let us begin with the most iconic moment where Jesus suffers with humanity. “Now Jesus loved Martha and her sister and Lazarus. 6So when He heard that he was sick, He then stayed two days longer in the place where He was.7Then after this He *said to the disciples, ‘Let us go to Judea again.’” John 11:5-7 The Bible tells us that Jesus had love and affection for His friend Lazarus; thus, hearing that His friend is sick decides to stay two more days and then go see His friend. Having kept a low profile with the Jewish religious leaders seeking to kill Him, takes two more days and then comes out of hiding to go see His friend whom He knows is now dead. Does Jesus know that Lazarus is going to die prior to the time He leaves? Who knows but what we do know is that He decides to wait in order to bring glory to the Godhead.

As Jesus shows up on the scene Martha comes running up to Him to say in summary “If you were here my brother would still be alive, but I trust that You could do something” in which Jesus responds “You have no clue what I am up to but I do love you which is why I am here.” Martha leaves and sends Mary to Jesus. As Mary comes running up to Jesus she falls at His feet in tears saying in summary “I know You could have done something if You had simply been here.” Jesus looking at His friend weeping at His feet and those that came with her weeping was both deeply moved and troubled. Why troubled? Well we will save that for another time. What we do know is that Jesus experiences sorrow and begins to weep within; this is what it means in the Greek by wept. It is not a loud sobbing but rather a silent weeping that is primarily an experience of internal sorrow. So Jesus in other words is not performing some outward weeping like the professional mourners who accompanied Mary, but as one whose heart was broken in deep pain. As a side note at the time there were those who people would hire to come and mourn at a funeral, these being called mourners. This is why the silent and more internal weeping that Jesus experienced was a true experience of sorrow, thus in the moment Jesus is entering Mary’s own suffering as well as Lazarus’ suffering.

Turning to the John 8 we read the story of the woman caught in adultery being brought before Jesus for judgment. As all gathered to mock and condemn her as she wallowed in her shame before all to see; Christ knelt down beside her. As the upper echelon of religious elite sought to condemn her to death after she had experienced the fullness of shame possible, Christ did the unthinkable. The Great Rabbi adorned in fine garments got on his knees and played in the dirt. Though many have speculated what He was drawing whether He was writing their own sins or just doodling either way, whatever it was all their attention left the woman and moved to Christ. The religious elite no long looking and mocking the woman now with turned gazes stood bewildered at this Great Rabbi as His next words would leave them reeling to the point they would leave; yet, it was His drawing that moved her shame unto Him as the laughed at the “Great Rabbi” becoming the “Crazy Rabbi”.

Christ Enters into Suffering: Part I

            Jesus seeing that humanity was lost and broken and completely alienated from God became a man, lived thirty-three years and suffered death. However, though the cross was a painful experience it was His being cut off or separated from the Father that was the true pain. Jesus’ alienation from the Father began in Gethsemane and continued to build until it climaxed into total abandonment at the cross.

As Jesus entered into the Garden “He *took with Him Peter and James and John, and began to be very distressed and troubled. 34And He *said to them, ‘My soul is deeply grieved to the point of death; remain here and keep watch.’ 35And He went a little beyond them, and fell to the ground and began to pray that if it were possible, the hour might pass Him by.” Mark 14:33-35 For as the hour approached for Jesus to head to the cross His soul was already deeply pained to the point of death, so much that He couldn’t bare for eight of his disciples to even see Him in His sorrowful state of weakness. Jesus though not wavering in His identity or in any way committing a sin was now facing His greatest temptation and greatest fear; fear of being separated from His Father, separation from an eternal relationship.

His heart rent with deep agony fell to the ground and began to groan in intercession. For it was that   Jesus is now being tempted in a way that He never truly experience, that was far greater than what He had ever experienced, even in the wilderness. Jesus is in such agony and pain as to what is to come that He is yelling, groaning and even sweating drops of blood. Why, because He is afraid. Sure He is about to experience the greatest beating and one of the most painful deaths imaginable that is not simply enough to cause Him to enter into this state. Many men have gone to the cross and died that were of less character than He and never once suffered the agony we see Jesus entering into. So what is He afraid of? Well for one reason though not nearly as dramatic as the primary but big enough is the fact of betrayal. Jesus after many hours of pursuing His best friend Judas’ heart at the last supper, in hopes to save him, knows that he is coming to betray him, which will ultimately lead to his own damnation. (For more on this see Love’s Final Attempts) This is more than enough to break Jesus’ heart but still not enough to the point of His agony in Gethsemane even when paired to the sufferings on the cross.

Jesus in His agony yelled in deep sorrowful groaning “Abba! Father! All things are possible for You; remove this cup from Me; yet not what I will, but what You will.” Mark 14:36 Jesus is ultimately saying “Dad! I do not want to do this!!! Is there any other way? You are the most powerful and wisest person I know, PLEASE!!!! Have You found a new way? But if this is it…I will do it.” These prayers in the garden were not pretty eloquent prayers but groans of a man in complete terror, because of what is to come. Jesus is about to experience the wrath of God, Satan and Man that will ultimately lead to him being separated from God and Man.

Satan Wrath: This can be summed up in two ways. Satan is doing everything to keep Him from going to the cross, but also wants Him dead. Though the Bible does not openly acknowledge this, we can be sure that Satan is tempting Jesus in the Garden and all the way to the point off death to not go through with the cross. “When the devil had finished every temptation, he left Him until an opportune time.” Luke 4:13 With Jesus undergoing His greatest fear we can be safe to say there was no greater fear to tempt Him. Along with this when Jesus says to Peter to “Keep watching and praying that you may not come into temptation; the spirit is willing, but the flesh is weak.” Mark 14:38 He was not simply telling them for themselves alone but also for Himself. His Spirit was in Full Obedience to the will of His Father, but His flesh was terrified and thus tempted. With this in mind the other aspect of Satan’s wrath is in the fact that he hates God so much that he wants to see Him suffer to the point of death. So both sides are crashing upon Christ’s frame. However the next two are even harder on Him.

Humanity’s Wrath: The ones Jesus loves and came to save are now betraying Him, mocking Him, beating Him, rejecting Him and are soon going to kill him.

God Wrath Fall Upon Him: As the sin of humanity descends upon Jesus His Father would release the full judgment upon His Son that would cancel the judgment destined for humanity, thus also leading the Father turning His back on the son and cutting off from fellowship with Him; this leaving the Son completely abandoned and ultimately an orphan. This being the greatest suffering He will ever experience, the suffering of abandonment from the One Who loved Him for eternity past.

            The writer of Hebrews states that because of Jesus’ piety the Father heard His cries and does respond in two ways the first being He sends angels to strengthen His Son in the Garden and the ultimate is that He truly did save Him from death, but not the way Jesus had hoped. The Father saved Him by death through the resurrection. But in between the two the Father does not say or do anything. Why do I say this? Well for one Jesus is praying three times in the Garden and the Father does not answer but only by sending angels, thus showing the estrangement from each other has begun. The ultimately display is when Jesus for the first time ever address God not as Father but as God when He cries out “My God, My God, Why have You forsaken me?” Jesus no longer using the familial address of Father but is now taking on the cries of an orphaned heart saying ultimately “God where are You? Why have you have abandoned me and casted me out into darkness and silence?” Yet in His time of pain and abandonment He never gave up.

In His abandonment Jesus becomes cut off from an eternal relationship from His own Father; thus, bringing alienation to fullness. The Son becoming cut off went from an eternal relationship of always experiencing and feeling His Father’s love to being alienated and separated. It is for this reason why He was sweating blood in Gethsemane, because He knows what is to come and is terrified and does not want this. Thus Jesus experienced loneliness and can actually say “I know how the widow feels when they are lonely.” Think of you marrying the love of your life at 18 years old and you remain in married bliss for the next seventy years and now at 88 years old your spouse tragically leaves you because they no longer love you. Think of how traumatizing and painful that would be, then times that by ten billion and you still cannot touch the depths of the pain of the Father’s abandonment of the Son. This sorrow was experienced equally on both sides in different ways, but that is a point for a different time. It is this sorrow of abandonment and separation from His Father that stands alone and equal to all the suffering humanity has ever experienced combined.

Christ Enters Into Suffering: Part II

            As the story of the Gospels go on, Jesus is betrayed by His best friend whose breast He once leaned upon in fellowship just a few hours earlier. (For more on this see Love’s Final Attempts) Jesus even at the last supper expressed the pain of what Judas’ betrayal through one of David’s Psalms as one of the greatest pains a person can experience. Side note the Gospels recognize Judas as a thief and Jesus was aware, thus Jesus suffered being robbed on multiple occasions even by His close friend. However; not only does Judas betray Him, but all of His friends abandon Him, Peter denies Him three times and Judas kills himself. This is alone is enough to break the strongest of hearts, yet Christ endures. While Christ is on trial He is beaten, mocked and spit upon constantly that leads to His crucifixion. The ones He loves and came to save would soon send Him to the cross to hang naked humiliation for all to see and mock. The betrayal of His own people was such a huge pain of suffering that one cannot fully grasp without a deeper understanding of His relationship with them throughout the Old Testament.

As already stated but while hanging on the cross Christ would soon experience the greatest suffering ever in all of history, the suffering of His abandonment from the Father. Yet even in the face of His abandonment Christ pressed on to endure one final suffering; He died. Jesus Himself declared about His own life in John 10:18 that “No one has taken it away from Me, but I lay it down on My own initiative.” In other words if Jesus had never willingly went to the cross, because He makes it clear to Pilate that He could have delivered Himself if He had wished, but if He did not willingly die He would never die. Jesus could not die unless He allowed. But He is a man right? Yes, but even in His humanity because He had never sinned He was not subject to the curse of death. This meaning Jesus would still be alive preaching and doing miracles today if He had never died. Even more because He had never died, Jesus could not get sick, or grow to be an “old man” full of wrinkles, lose His eyesight, go bald or even go grey as all of those are consequences of sin. If you were to have never sinned, then you would not be bound by death and decay and all that accompanies, thus all the more important for Jesus to willingly lay down His life. With this in perspective Jesus suffering of death is far greater than even the average.

Jesus with the Present Day Sufferer

            When finding Christ with the present day sufferer few have said it better and clearer than C.S. Lewis in “The Horse and His Boy”

Shasta was a little reassured by the breath: so he told how he had never known his real father or mother and had been brought up sternly by the fisherman.  And then he told the story of his escape and how they were chased by lions and forced to swim for their lives; and of all their dangers in Tashbaan and about his night among the tombs and how the beasts howled at him out of the desert.  And he told about the heat and thirst of their desert journey and how they were almost at their goal when another lion chased them and wounded Aravis.  And also, how very long it was since he had had anything to eat.

“I do not call you unfortunate,” said the Large Voice.

“Don’t you think it was bad luck to meet so many lions?” said Shasta.

“There was only one lion,” said the Voice.

“What on earth do you mean?  I’ve just told you there were at least two the first night, and -”

“There was only one: but he was swift of foot.”

“How do you know?”

“I was the lion.”  And as Shasta gaped with open mouth and said nothing, the Voice continued.  “I was the lion who forced you to join with Aravis.  I was the cat who comforted you among the houses of the dead.  I was the lion who drove the jackals from you while you slept.  I was the lion who gave the horses the new strength of fear for the last mile so that you should reach King Lune in time.  And I was the lion you do not remember who pushed the boat in which you lay, a child near death, so that it came to the shore where a man sat, wakeful at midnight, to receive you.” 

            So where was Jesus? Where was God in the Holocaust? Where was He when the child was being abused? Where was God during injustice? Where was He as present day humanity suffers?

Well He was with the prisoner in the gas chambers at Auschwitz. God was with the slaves being lynched during slavery. He was on His knees with the woman caught in adultery. He was with Mary and Martha in her sorrow at Lazarus’ grave. He was hanging on a cross with both thieves on Calvary. He was with the child hiding in their closet from their abusive father. He was weeping with the child whose parent(s) tragically died. He was with the single mother struggling to take care of her children. He was with young man filled with shame cause he was bound in sexual immorality. He was with the man who just couldn’t seem to get it right. He was with the one who could see everyone around them prospering with relative ease and they fought to keep going. He was with the one stuck in addiction. He was with the one who felt worthless. He was never distant and never will be distant from the sufferer but will always be right there with them.

            In summary I will leave you with C.S. Lewis in The Problem of Pain “We can ignore even pleasure. But pain insists upon being attended to. God whispers to us in our pleasures, speaks in our conscience, but shouts in our pains: it is his megaphone to rouse a deaf world.”

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