Celebrating the Birth of the ‘Prince of Peace’ in Violent Times

PrincePeace2I’ve been pondering THIS ARTICLE for several days- very thoughtful and prayer-provoking re: peace…And how about this quote: “What does it mean for Jesus to be a Prince of Peace, and what does it mean for me to be an agent of that peace?”

Take the prayer challenge and send to a friend: Praying for Peace in 2016  #prayfortheworld 

In the last five days of 2015, join us in prayer each day for one of the top five conflict areas in the world.

  1. Syria
    Syria was the most violent place in the world in 2015. Since war broke out over four years ago, over 220,000 men, women, and children have lost their lives in a complex war that pits multiple warring groups and the government against each other. Many of the world’s armed forces are dropping bombs across the nation, bringing grand matters of geopolitics into the local struggle and displacing millions of civilians within Syria and across its borders. Millions have sought refuge in camps in neighboring countries such as Lebanon and Jordan. Hundreds of thousands of other refugees have traveled farther afield including to Europe, seeking peace. Christians are persecuted and people of all faiths are being targeted by violent extremists.

Pray for God to protect innocent civilians from senseless violence; pray for God to bless diplomats, security personnel, and other leaders to find effective and just international action to resolve the war; pray that the global Church would understand clearly how to respond to the naked, hungry and poor within Syria and the countries to which they have fled; and ask God to end this merciless and lethal war.

 

  1. South Sudan
    As the brand-new country struggles with a second year of horrific civil war, parts of South Sudan are experiencing severe famine. This predominantly Christian nation split from predominantly Muslim Sudan in a popular referendum in 2011. But the new nation descended into internal turmoil after only a few years of independence. In December 2013, two former allies (President Salva Kiir and Vice-President Riek Machar) sparked a civil war along ethnic, religious, and political lines. A tentative, internationally-enforced peace agreement was signed in August of this year. 50,000-100,000 people have been killed, half a million are displaced, and tens of thousands of children remain at serious risk of famine.

Pray for God to reconcile South Sudan’s leaders; pray for God to embolden the Church of South Sudan to seek and pursue peace and for God to mobilize the global Church to support them; and pray for vulnerable children, civilians, and all the humanitarian workers and security personnel helping them.

 

  1. Somalia
    Since the military overthrow in 1991, Somalia has experienced cycles of conflict and failed government attempts. Ravaged by inter-clan fighting, Somalia fragmented into clan-based regions ruled by rival warlords and, at times, Islamic courts. Somalia has also suffered violence from Al-Shabaab, an Al-Qaeda-allied militant group that continues to pose a threat. Much of the population – 70% of which is under 30 years old – has emigrated, fleeing violence, unemployment, and lack of basic services. In 2012, a tentatively stable full federal government was established. However, current President Mohamud has called off the 2016 popular election, citing security concerns.

Pray for government reform toward inclusivity and economic growth, and for the groundwork to be set for a transparent and peaceful popular election; pray for God to reconcile clan groups; pray for God to protect civilians, leaders, and security forces against violence and extremism; pray that God’s people would be obedient to bring his mercy and justice to people caught in this conflict.

 

  1. Central African Republic
    Central African Republic is considered a failed state in permanent crisis. Perennial conflicts in bordering countries of Chad, Sudan, and DR Congo overflow into CAR, bringing an influx of arms and refugees. These refugees, along with internally displaced Central Africans—one quarter of the country’s population—are in dire need of humanitarian assistance. A coup in 2013 ousted President Michel Djotodia, the first Muslim leader of the majority-Christian country. Inter-religious clashes between majority-Muslim and majority-Christian militias are increasing. Christian militias have been known to attack Muslim civilians and there is a high risk of genocide along ethnic-religious lines.

Pray for stabilization of the wider Central African region; pray for God’s provision of humanitarian assistance for refugees and IDPs and protection for the humanitarian workers and security personnel helping them; pray for God to intervene in the growing genocide and that Jesus followers and others would be freed from cycles of revenge and violence; pray that the Church in CAR would grow to shrewdly love their Muslim neighbors and to love their enemies.

 

  1. Afghanistan
    2015 saw the bloodiest year of the Afghan War since the US-led invasion 14 years ago. Planned peace talks between the new Afghan government and the Taliban, which seeks to re-establish Islamic fundamentalist power, were put on hold earlier this year. In 2015, the Taliban made significant gains, temporarily capturing a key northern city. Meanwhile, ISIS has also seized territory in the eastern part of the country. Though NATO and Western powers officially ended combat and handed leadership over to Afghan forces in 2014, over 10,000 troops remain in the country, and President Obama recently announced an extended timeline for troop withdrawal.

Pray for God to protect civilians from violence; pray for the resumption of peace talks and for God to give government leaders wisdom and humility as they seek a resolution to the war; pray that security forces live up to the responsibility of their vocation, act with justice, and demonstrate both strength and restraint within the rule of law; and pray against the growth of violent extremism in the region.

 

In addition to your prayers…Join others praying for peace on Twitter by following #prayfortheworld and tweeting your own prayers using the same hashtag.

For More Information:

Global Peace Index from the Institute for Economics and Peace
http://www.visionofhumanity.org/#/page/indexes/global-peace-index

Fragile States Index
http://fsi.fundforpeace.org/

Veririsk/Maplecroft
http://maplecroft.com/portfolio/mapping/maplecroft/landing/#maps_a_z

International Crisis Group
http://www.crisisgroup.org/

More Joy | Less Drama

A celebrity recounted how they celebrated “Friendsgiving” this year instead of Thanksgiving, noting “it was fun to hang out with friends where we could all avoid the drama of family, and nobody even drank that much.”

It’s easy to feel overwhelmed and exhausted by drama, whether it’s external (family, friends, work, etc.) or internal. We can avoid it, we can medicate, or we can grin and bear it.

But what if there is another way? On Sunday we looked at 10 practical tools to help you experience more joy and less drama.

10Joys2What if there was another way? What if you could be present, not take on all other people’s drama and respond differently to those who create it?

Check out #9 Quit responding in the same way with people who create drama.

Jesus is a great example of this…

Imagine being there: Jesus is healing people. Huge crowds are coming from all over, desperate and hopeful, bringing sick and oppressed people. The religious leaders are plotting to kill him. He has just picked his 12 apprentices. The crowds are so big they can’t even eat a meal in the house.

And the very people you’d expect to support him and lessen the drama (his family), show up to take him away because they think he’s lost his marbles. Would your family believing lies about you and thinking you are crazy qualify as creating drama?

Then Jesus entered a house, and again a crowd gathered, so that he and his disciples were not even able to eat. When his family heard about this, they went to take charge of him, for they said, “He is out of his mind.” Mark 3:20-21

Then Jesus’ mother and brothers arrived. Standing outside, they sent someone in to call him.   A crowd was sitting around him, and they told him, “Your mother and brothers are outside looking for you.” Mark 3:31-32

Ok, so how would you respond? Most of us would try to get our family to understand.

“Give me 5 minutes to go out and let my family know what’s really going on. I will convince them I’m fine and then they’ll know I’m pretty amazing, doing all this Messiah-stuff.”

What does Jesus do? He responds differently.

“Who are my mother and my brothers?” he asked. Then he looked at those seated in a circle around him and said, “Here are my mother and my brothers! 35 Whoever does God’s will is my brother and sister and mother.” Mark 3:33-34

Jesus stepped outside the family drama without running away. He defined who He was by stating what He was about. He didn’t try to convince anyone who didn’t want to believe.

So how does that relate to you and me? How can we step outside the drama without running away?

We can ask God to let us know His purpose in our lives. We can reaffirm that purpose (what we know of it) – to ourselves and to others. And we can let go of trying to convince people who want to pull us into drama.

No this doesn’t give us a free pass to do whatever we want and ignore the wise counsel of others. But it does lead to more joy and less drama, internally and sometimes externally.

Imagine Thanksgiving, Christmas and New Years with more joy, more Jesus and less drama. It is possible!

Musings on Tough Questions

TQ-610But again they did not understand His meaning, and they were afraid to ask Him for an explanation. Mark 9:32

Time and again the disciples were puzzled by the teachings of Jesus.  Imagine being in that same place day after day… retiring with Jesus to a remote place and scratching your head re: what you just heard.  The crowds were confused.  You’re part of His entourage and afraid to let Him know you’re in the same boat.  Hmmm.
 
For some reason we think hanging out with Jesus means everything is gonna be crystal clear.  

“My thoughts are not your thoughts…”
God spoke through the prophet Isaiah (55:8).
 
“I was senseless and ignorant; I was a brute beast before you.”  Psalm 73:22
 
I was relieved to read “Doubt is the halfway house to faith.”  Os Guinness
 
How can we be immersed in the fundamentals of our faith without becoming a fundamentalist (prideful, arrogant, exclusive, without mercy)?
 
We can be genuine followers of Jesus and still work our way through doubt to a place of deeper trust and faith.
 
Back to the disciples…
 
In John 14 we see Philip doing what many of us do, asking Jesus to make everything clear and then we’ll be ok. Jesus says, I am the path, the truth, and the energy of life. No one comes to the Father except through Me.  If you know Me, you know the Father. Rest assured now; you know Him and have seen Him.  (14:6-7)
 
Lord, all I am asking is that You show us the Father.  (14:8 Philip’s request)
 
I have lived with you all this time, and you still don’t know who I am? If you have seen Me, you have seen the Father. How can you keep asking to see the Father? (14:9)
 
It’s like He is saying, “Hey, check it out.  I’m here.  Even in seasons of question and doubt.  I am good.  It will all get sorted. And it’s better to hang out with Me.”‘
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