Why Some Christians Enjoy Safety, Health, and Peace

glasses-1004311_640God is never afraid.

He doesn’t fear Somalian warlords, the Zika virus, suicide bombers, desert assassins, inner-city riots, California wildfires, Louisiana floods, lone gunmen, or cancer. The presence of these varying forms of violence, whether manmade, natural, or biological, doesn’t prevent the God of the Universe from being present. It doesn’t chase Him out. He doesn’t exit the building. Even in places where every believer has been shot dead or raped into silence, God can enter in and He often does this on the incense of His people’s prayers.

I didn’t grow up in churches that celebrated worship with incense but I love in Revelation that God gives us a glimpse into the inner workings of things beyond our comprehension. “And another angel came and stood at the altar with a golden censer, and he was given much incense to offer with the prayers of all the saints on the golden altar before the throne, and the smoke of the incense, with the prayers of the saints, rose before God from the hand of the angel. Then the angel took the censer and filled it with fire from the altar and threw it on the earth, and there were peals of thunder, rumblings, flashes of lightning, and an earthquake.” Revelation 8:3-5 (ESV)

If you’ve ever had a grease fire in your kitchen or a furnace fire, you know that smoke and soot penetrate places that stretch the imagination. One pan of grease, one blast from a sooty furnace, and homeowners hire specialized teams to clean because smoke will have compromised everything in their homes – crawling inside cupboards, between plates stacked on one anothfire-1551191_640er, into closets, and in every crevice of furnishings, every fold of cloth.

This scene in heaven is holy and terrifying but it says that God receives our prayers, mixes them with heavenly incense, and puts them to work in places we may never go but He can. And it’s no sprinkle of fairy dust but a thundering, rumbling, flashing, earthshaking ordeal.

We are entering into wild times on this planet. There have been other wild times – other ages, centuries, marked with rampant violence and sweeping changes but these are the times we face. He has designated us and designed us for this but it’s good to remember that God is never afraid.

This week I read and re-read the first chapter of Mark and I remembered that our God is not tame. We’ve grown so accustomed to the domesticated face of the church that we can come to imagine God as a sort of deified Clark Kent. We falsely imagine His superpower is a supernatural niceness the world calls love but really that’s a diluted version of the actual substance Jesus embodied – a love that is stronger than death.

The gospel of Mark opens with John, a strange and unruly character emerging from the wilderness, proclaiming the not nice message that people need to repent and receive forgiveness for being such sinners. Jesus enters into the waters to be baptized by this wild man and the heavens tear open. The heavens tear open and a voice calls out from them. Then, this Jesus, He, too, takes off for the wilderness where He dialogs with the devil, dwells with wild animals, and receives comfort from angels. Next thing we know, the wild prophet is thrown in jail, and Jesus begins delivering the not nice message that got John into trouble with the crown.

weather-971973_640Are you following me? The beginning of Jesus’ ministry was not the stuff of flannel graphs. If it had happened in these times, we’d be following it by livecam on CNN and wondering when the authorities were going to regain control. Jesus proves He isn’t afraid of upsetting things. He immediately calls men to leave their jobs, their family businesses, and follow Him. He enters the synagogue and teaches with authority. Demons confront him – DEMONS CONFRONT HIM – and He makes them stand down. He sees illness and disease and commands it to cease. He demonstrates He is not afraid of those things that make us wet our pants.

The crowds grow but Jesus draws away to a desolate place to pray. He isn’t afraid of losing the crowd. He isn’t afraid of not pleasing them. He isn’t afraid of desolate places, in fact, by the end of the chapter we learn that’s where He takes up His preaching – in desolate places. This was no Clark Kent. This wasn’t even Superman. This is a living God with such a new Way, such a new gospel – IT’S STILL NEW TODAY.

There are many fearful things happening in our world  – in our personal worlds and in the greater community. Our God is not afraid and He has made His dwelling place within each of us who follow Him. We are not helpless. Of course, as to our humanity, we are frail, faltering, fragile, and frankly, we die easily. If I faced a Somalian warlord, a wall of fire heading for my home, or cancer, fear is exactly what I would feel.

Which is precisely why God has afforded some of His people a place of safety from these things so that we mightincense-706653_640 pray for the rest. It’s not an accident; it’s an assignment.

And those prayers are not without effect. His angels mix them with incense and they become a combustible force on this planet that can invade cities or cells under siege. We do not pray to move the hands of God but to push back the forces of darkness from the places He desires to enter in.

Don’t sit in your home and quake with fear, barricading your door lest you be next. Join the battle being waged in heavenly places, the invisible, thankless work of the saints, and add your prayers to the censer of our God who is a consuming fire.

We are entering wild times but we serve the God who created the wilderness, who owns thunder and lightning, who commands fire. He is not afraid.

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3 Comments

    The Conversation

  1. Laurie Kincaid says:

    I’ve regrettably tried to put Him in a box on occasion. Thankfully, He always bursts forth in power and might, and Amazing Love.

  2. Thank you, Lori for encouraging me to drop to my knees and add my prayers to the cencer, strap on my armor, and go where the Lord sends me! These times are uncertain, but our God is in control!

  3. Melanie Gibson says:

    Sometimes I feel a bit guilty because I live in such a peaceful area and am surrounded by so much of God’s handiwork and beauty. Thanks for the reminder that I should never take this for granted, and that I have a very important job to do as a Christian.