It seems like it was only yesterday, though in many ways feels like it has been forever, since the landscape of Orlando (and America) was changed by an unspeakable act of one individual inspired by a culture of hate, filled with malice and focused on terror. Our city was shaken. Our community was devastated. Our world altered.
Now, as I watch my city slowly begin the long road of recovery from the deep wounds inflicted through hatred and terrorism, I have a significantly greater empathy towards the people of Istanbul, who now find themselves in the tragic spotlight of terrorism's sting. I imagine that, going forward, each time a terrorist strikes I will feel a connection to those in terror's wake. The perspective on these horrific terrorist attacks is forever changed when it strikes in your community. So today, as I continue to pray for Orlando, I also intercede for Istanbul, asking God to bring peace to their chaos and comfort to their unimaginable pain.
I am compelled by the realization that we must resolve to passionately pray for our cities. We must purposefully strive to restore hope in our neighborhoods. We must remove terrorism from our nations. We must resurrect faith in our world. The big question is, how?
Often in times of crisis, we turn to God's directive to Solomon at the dedication of the temple: "If My people, who are called by My name, will humble themselves ..." Those of us with a few miles on the Christian journey can quote 2 Chronicles 7:14 in its entirety. We declare this verse as a reminder of the power of prayer. While there is no mistaking the impact of prayer, I am convinced that the key to this promise from God lies in truly embracing the beginning of the verse that is all too often summarily passed over.
There are no shortages of prayer vigils in times of crisis. People who typically are substantially disconnected from interaction with God use phrases like, "our thoughts and prayers are with those affected." Prayer, or at least the thought of prayer, is a relatively minimal investment response to the urgent issues before us. Yet, we are reminded, "If My people, who are called by My name, will humble themselves, and pray ... "
Genesis 30 introduces us to Joseph, a child with a great heritage and a significant destiny. This destiny is discovered a few chapters later, along with the difficulty.
Joseph has a remarkable future, one that is placed in jeopardy due to his issue with pride. The gift of an ornamented robe from his father became the source of angst to his brothers. A dream God gives to Joseph in secret is thoughtlessly shared in public. These actions that, on the surface, can be dismissed as innocent missteps reveal a character issue that, if left unaddressed, will lead to Joseph's failure to see his destiny fulfilled. The potential far-reaching impact of his failed destiny would affect not just Joseph, but an entire nation.
Joseph's journey to humility and eventual role in saving his people from the ravages of famine serve as a profound picture of the importance of genuine humility, and a caution to recognize how easily we can redefine God's presence in our life as an accomplishment on our part rather than the gracious gift that He faithfully gives. We are reminded of this truth in Paul's letter to the Philippians, "Let this mind be in you all, which was also in Christ Jesus, who, being in the form of God, did not consider equality with God something to be grasped. But He emptied Himself, taking upon Himself the form of a servant."
President Lincoln stated it well when, in 1863, he designated April 30 as a day of national humiliation, fasting and prayer:
"It is the duty of nations, as well as of men, who owe their dependence upon the overruling power of God, to confess their sins and transgressions in humble sorrow, yet with assured hope that genuine repentance will lead to mercy and pardon, and to recognize the sublime truth announced in the Holy Scriptures and proven by a history that those nations only are blessed whose God is the Lord. The awful calamity of civil war, which now desolates the land, may be but a punishment inflicted upon us for our presumptuous sins, to the needful end of our national reformation as a whole people. Intoxicated with unbroken success, we have become too self-sufficient to feel the necessity of redeeming and preserving grace, too proud to pray to the God that made us. We have grown in numbers, wealth and power as no other nation has grown, but we have forgotten God."
May God grant us the wisdom and determination to embrace, "If My people, who are called by My name, will humble themselves...!"
Ed Garvin was born in the Midwest, the 12th of 13 children. He grew up in southwest Florida and considers himself a Floridian at heart. Pastor Ed began his ministry journey as a successful youth pastor and executive pastor. He has since served as lead pastor for churches in Florida, Illinois and Wisconsin. He has also served as Public Relations Director for North Central University. Pastor Ed has been married to his best friend, Jodi for over 30 years and is blessed with two amazing children, Lauren and Drew. Ed is an active reader, avid runner and average golfer!
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