Presidential Inaugurations, Sodom and Gamorrah, and the Faith of Abraham

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This past week has seen a lot of controversy surrounding the presidential inauguration. What it basically comes down to is that a certain Christian minister was asked to give the invocation, and later stepped down from doing so amidst controversy about a sermon he gave 20 years ago regarding homosexuality. I’m not going to give it any more press than that. If you haven’t heard, you can read the story on any major news outlet. That’s not my purpose here.

It seems that this is one of the core issues of our time, and is seen as such from every side. I  have tried to avoid wading into this arena due to the messiness of it, but I have one simple observation tonight that I’d like to share. It’s a point of conviction for me, and one I think could be for the church as a whole. Regardless of one’s view of Christianity, regardless of which side of the debate one is on, one has to do something with what the Bible says about homosexuality. Some adhere to historical orthodoxy and hold that same-sex sex is a sin (like any other). Some re-interpret scripture in light of culture and the times and therefore reject that it is a sin. It seems that often both sides stop at this point and go on with their lives. To me, however, there is a burning question that must be answered. What do we do next? Some say we should fight a culture war. Perhaps they’re right. Some say we should advocate. Perhaps they’re right. However, in the midst of the turmoil, I believe beyond any doubt that Christians are called to pray. Scripture actually provides an extremely clear illustration of the call to prayer for this issue in particular, and I feel it wise for the church to heed it.

I don’t know that anyone “likes” the story of Sodom and Gamorrah. It’s messy, confusing, and really tragic. It’s also at the epicenter of many of the debates about the sinfulness of same-sex sex. A lot of people can’t come to terms with God directly destroying cities due to unrighteousness. However, I think I can kinda understand it. You see, Genesis 19 tells the story, and to me, the key verse is 13…where an angel explains to Lot that “we are going to destroy this place. The outcry to the Lord against its people is so great that he has sent us to destroy it.” I’m sure all of us hope we will never come to a place of crying out to such a degree that destruction happens, but I know that I’ve seen it in my own life. We Americans were all pretty united in outcry when terrorists crashed planes into our buildings, killing thousands. I think we’re all pretty united in outcry when we hear that there are 8-year old girls being forced into prostitution in some places in the world. However, I feel like most of us stop at that point of outrage and outcry. I know I have. At worst, I have voiced my opinions by posting on social media, have felt justified, and have walked away. At best, I have made a small donation to a nonprofit or done some advocacy work. However, most always, I eventually forget about it until confronted with it again whenever the next controversy happens. I know I’ve been lazy in this regard, and I imagine many in the church have as well. Recently, though, the Lord has been calling me to scripture and prayer, and in it I found another way.

Many of us know the story of Sodom and Gamorrah’s destruction from chapter 19 of Genesis, but I think we often overlook or forget about chapter 18. Don’t do it, or you’ll miss one of (in my opinion) the most beautiful moments in scripture. You see, before these angels went to Lot’s house, they stopped in at Abraham’s house. Being a man of faith, Abraham recognized that these weren’t mere men, and rushed to wait upon them. After good food and talk of miracles, the angels got up to leave, but then paused and had an internal conversation. It went like this: 17 Then the Lord said, “Shall I hide from Abraham what I am about to do? 18 Abraham will surely become a great and powerful nation, and all nations on earth will be blessed through him. 19 For I have chosen him, so that he will direct his children and his household after him to keep the way of the Lord by doing what is right and just, so that the Lord will bring about for Abraham what he has promised him. 20 Then the Lord said, “The outcry against Sodom and Gomorrah is so great and their sin so grievous 21 that I will go down and see if what they have done is as bad as the outcry that has reached me. If not, I will know.” There’s a whole sermon in there about this, but we’ll skip it for now and go on to Abraham’s glorious response…intercession.

Intercession is a big word that simply means intervening or mediating between two parties. In Christian parlance, it most often refers to prayer to God on another’s behalf. Intercession was Abraham’s response to hearing of forthcoming destruction resulting from sin. The NIV even names the section “Abraham Pleads for Sodom.” Specifically, Abraham asked God, “Will you sweep away the righteous with the wicked?” It would be easy here to say that Abraham didn’t care about the wicked, but only about the righteous. I don’t want to read into what’s not there, but I feel like Abraham really did care about all the people. He could have just as easily asked for the righteous to be removed from the city if there were any. He didn’t do that. He instead asked that if even 10 people were found in the city who were righteous, that God would effectively impute this righteousness to sinners, saving them. Did you get that? The righteousness of a few would prevent the destruction of the many. Thousands of years before Christ came, hundreds of years before the Levitical law and sacrifices were established, Abraham was praying to God for propitiation by imputation of righteousness from the innocent to the guilty. No wonder Jesus stated in John 8:53 that “Your father Abraham rejoiced at the thought of seeing my day; he saw it and was glad.” Abraham got it. He stood as an intercessor on behalf of those he knew were destined for destruction, repeatedly asking God for even more grace. Tragically, ten righteous were not found in the city that day, and God did not relent from bringing destruction. However, as Christians, we know and believe there was One who was righteous and died as an atoning sacrifice to bring life to the many.

So, where does this leave us? Pray, church. It doesn’t matter if you believe God has slated these people for destruction tomorrow…pray like Abraham. Intercede on behalf of these. As a contributor to the student newspaper at my alma mater stated, “The gay suicide rate is sky high. Gay depression is rampant. Gay loneliness is widespread. And where is the church?” No matter what you believe on the issue, pray. Ask the Lord that He would bring hope in Christ. Pray that He would draw these into confession and repentance that leads to imputation of Christ’s righteousness in them for their salvation. Ask that God would bring a revelation of truth that would be transformative. God doesn’t change, and His truth doesn’t change, so pray for His truth to be revealed in Christ (the truth, himself).  Ask that God would allow your church to minister to these…that we don’t miss this like the Tekoite nobles from Nehemiah 3:5 that “would not stoop to serve their Lord.” Like Abraham and the tax collector from Luke 18:13, pray from a place of humility, knowing that 1 Peter 4:18 says even those who are righteous are “scarcely saved.” In that regard, pray that God sends laborers into the harvest, but that He does the work, as we are completely incapable of saving anyone by ourselves. As Ephesians 6:12 says, “we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the cosmic powers over this present darkness, against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly places.”

Finally, don’t pray once and be done with it. Be like Abraham…boldly come before the throne of grace and repeatedly ask (seek and knock) the Lord for more and more grace to abound. Pray daily, or even hourly, as often as you can. Oswald Chambers said “Prayer does not prepare us for the greater work, it is the greater work,” and John Wesley taught that “God does nothing but in answer to prayer; and even they who have been converted to God, without praying for it themselves (which is exceeding rare), were not without the prayers of others. Every new victory which a soul gains is the effect of a new prayer.” Prayer really does matter, especially in this time and in this issue.

End It

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There are and estimated 27 million slaves today…in brothels, in factories, in quarries, in 161 countries, including our own. Many of these are children, some as young as pre-school age. Atlanta itself is considered a hub for child sex trafficking. With those facts, a movement was launched in Atlanta on January 3rd at the 2013 Passion Conference calling our generation to be the voices that speak and the hands that act to end modern day slavery.

So, how does the average American actively take up arms against slavery? Here are five immediate ways you can get involved:

  1. Help awaken this generation by raising awareness that slavery still exists. Talk about it in your churches, small groups, prayer groups, friend circles, and on social media. Post right now on Facebook and Twitter that slavery still exists and point people to outlets for information such as The End It Movement and The CNN Freedom Project. If you’re a college student, organize or take part in the Stand for Freedom Campaign on your campus.
  2. Donate to organizations that stand on the front lines of the fight to prevent individuals from getting trapped in slavery and rescue and restore those who are or have been trapped in it. A list of 20 such organizations can be found on the Passion 2013 website.
  3. Being vigilant and willing to use the national trafficking hotline at 1-888-373-7888 if you see anything suspicious. Put that number in your phone right now and tell everyone you know to do the same. The hotline is connected with nonprofits and law enforcement agencies in most every city in the country. In addition, the hotline team can provide resources to help you get involved in the fight against slavery. Many individuals trapped in the commercial sex trade industry don’t know this number exists. Freedom is one phone call away. Spread the word.
  4. Hundreds of people are fighting to curb the supply of slaves. You can be an agent of curbing the demand for them. Take the Slavery Footprint Survey and learn how many slaves work for you – based on the things you purchase, wear, eat, use and purchase on a daily basis. Be a conscious consumer and avoid purchasing products that are made with slave labor (pages 7-23). Also, be a generation that pursues and speaks out for purity. Pornography and slavery are closely tied industries. Stop.
  5. Pray. Pray for awakening, prevention, rescue, and restoration. Pray for those trapped in slavery, that they would be set free. Pray for those on the front lines of the battle, law enforcement and organizations like IJM, to receive the tips they need and to be extremely effective in their rescue operations. Pray for those communities where children are abducted or sold into slavery, that God would bring about economic development to make slavery unprofitable. Pray for the demand…that God would awaken this generation to pursue purity, abandoning the idols of pornography and prostitution. Pray that businesses would embrace ethical treatment of workers throughout their supply chains and act as an intercessor by demanding it of them through purchasing decisions and petitions. Pray for healing and restoration of those rescued from slavery and that their stories would carry weight to inspire and challenge all who hear them.

So, there are 5 immediate ways you can join the fight to End It in this generation. If this issue of slavery captivates you or you simply want more information, then download this PDF of 27 more ways you can take action and actually do them.

Matthew 13:44

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I had a dream last night where I was living in the most beautiful place I’ve ever seen. It was a neighborhood that overlooked a city with a mountain backdrop. Think Vancouver or Denver. The neighborhood was filled with wonderful people and had easy access to great amenities. At the end of the dream, I thought to myself “If only I had the money, I would buy a place here and live forever.”

As I’ve been pondering and praying this morning, the Lord brought to mind Matthew 13:44, in which Jesus says: “The kingdom of heaven is like treasure hidden in a field, which a man found and covered up. Then in his joy he goes and sells all that he has and buys that field.”

I’ve had the honor and privilege of serving as a volunteer at the Passion conference this week and have gotten to see nearly 60,000 18-25 year-old students fill a football stadium to worship Jesus. It’s one of the most ridiculous and incredible sights I’ve ever had. I feel like this is a Matthew 13:44 moment for this generation. The Lord is demonstrating His glory to us in our day. He is showing us a small piece of what Heaven will look like, and I’m overwhelmed by it. My prayer this morning for all those who are taking part is that they will be given eyes to see and ears to hear that they would recognize the treasure that God is putting before them and would be given faith by God to lay their lives down and seek this out in scripture, prayer, worship, and service.

Many believers pray for revival, and as I look around the Dome, I see what it could truly look like. We’re expecting thousands of students to make first time commitments of faith or to rededicate their lives to Jesus. They’ve been challenged to trust God’s word and to live according to it. They’re hungry for truth and ache to see the Lord’s justice revealed in the earth. They are called to love Jesus and to be missionaries on their campuses, in their workplaces, and to the ends of the earth. However, my heart breaks as I look out…who will disciple these? Who will train them up? Where will they go after leaving the Dome? Are we truly ready for revival?

For this reason, I’m praying also for the generation above mine. So many in my generation have never had someone to look up to or learn from. Divorce and sexual immorality have ravished our families, and we feel like orphans. We long for someone older to take an interest in us and help guide us on right paths. We don’t like authority and reject institutions, but we love and yearn for discipleship relationships. We want to know someone cares for us enough to take time to walk with us through this thing called faith. My prayer for the older generation is that they would be inspired and encouraged by the faith of this one and would be willing to lay their lives down to disciple and mentor this generation as we begin to move into positions of influence, start families, and seek Jesus. Would the generation above mine look at the field of my generation and see that it is indeed white for harvest. Would they see the treasure in the field of this generation and be willing to sell everything they have and invest in it. Would the Lord of the harvest send these laborers into the harvest.

Over the past two weeks, three major Christian conferences have seen over 100,000 18-25 year-olds gather to worship Jesus, receive teaching, pray together, and make a declaration to take the gospel to the ends of the earth, end modern day slavery, and seek the face of Jesus night and day. For any gen x-ers reading this (and even any baby boomers out there), would you pray and ask the Lord how you can get involved in this work of raising up this generation to do that which they’ve been called to? Would you have faith to step out and be those laborers.