Wednesday, July 13, 2011


Many of you may know the story of how, in the early 1980s, in southern Brazil, I called the police when a the next-door neighbor was out with a handgun, threatening his wife, while she was hiding in the house with us.  The family I was living with at the time said it would do no good to call the police, and they were right.  No one answered the phone when I called the police in the nearest town, and when I called the county seat, a city of about 100,000, the officer who answered the phone said that he couldn't come because he needed to stay and answer the phone, and the only other officer on duty was out on a call.  That was one experience that made me realize how privileged we are to live in the United States, where we can, generally speaking, trust law enforcement to do their best.

We need police because of the evil in the world.  I was speaking with a police dispatcher recently who sees this reality all too clearly.  Those of us whose homes are not filled with constant shouting, threats, occasional violence and other forms of abuse don't realize how sweet our lives are.  Those who suffer know the dark side of reality.  So do those who are sworn to protect and serve.  I'm sure my dispatcher friend could tell many painful tales from calls he's taken night after night.  And other suffering souls never call.

But even in the darkest corners, Jesus brings light.  Where people are captive, Jesus brings freedom.  And where anger and depression leads to hardly imaginable ways to "cope," the Lord Jesus still pursues us, oftentimes by inspiring others to come alongside, demonstrating another way of life, a way that is given through the Holy Spirit.

This Sunday at Crossroads we'll hear from one of the precious souls who God has rescued and restored.  She has shared her remarkable testimony with me.  At church she won't share details about her past -- she'll just say that earlier in her life she was not safe.  She'll focus on how God has changed her life and how we are called to follow Jesus by the Holy Spirit in reaching others still in the dark:
Isaiah 61

The Spirit of the Lord God is upon me,
   because the Lord has anointed me;
he has sent me to bring good news to the oppressed,
   to bind up the broken-hearted,
to proclaim liberty to the captives,
   and release to the prisoners;
to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favour,
   and the day of vengeance of our God;
   to comfort all who mourn;
to provide for those who mourn in Zion—
   to give them a garland instead of ashes,
the oil of gladness instead of mourning,
   the mantle of praise instead of a faint spirit.
They will be called oaks of righteousness,
   the planting of the Lord, to display his glory.
They shall build up the ancient ruins,
   they shall raise up the former devastations;
they shall repair the ruined cities,
   the devastations of many generations.

God does remarkable and miraculous work when Christian believers don't just sit on the sidelines.  The young woman we'll hear from had opportunities to spend time with Christ-centered families.  She traveled with church groups for short-term missions.  She says that she went on mission trips for several summers while in middle school and high school, not necessarily for the right reasons to start with, but "the Lord truly used" those trips, allowing her to be in a "Godly environment" where she "was able to begin to see the Lord."  Since then she "started feeling a huge calling to go into missions."  "So," she continues, "I googled missions schools and ended up at BCOM [Bethany College of Missions]. BCOM is where I began to find the true freedom the Lord had for me..."  Now she is planning to go to Thailand.  We'll hear more about that this Sunday at Crossroads.  I hope you can be with us.

When we suffer, especially when we suffer in our homes, many times we do not know what to do.  But the young woman who will share with us on Sunday will be a sign for us that no matter how hard things may be today, that God can bring a new future--and lead us into ways that we can truly bless and save others.

Some of those who have suffered and who now have found freedom will "protect and serve" in law enforcement.  Some will serve as social workers and mental health professionals.  Some will volunteer or work with abuse shelters.  And others will just be consistent and caring friends, letting suffering souls know they are precious, treasures, gifts of God, blessings--no matter what.

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