Anger At Crime And Corruption
Last week I wrote about the Lord working in the midst of a terrible situation, where my friends lost a child who was kidnapped and killed. That was a glimpse into some of the difficulties we have faced in Brazil, but there have been many more!
Many Brazilians right now feel very angry and disgusted at their own country. The bureaucracy and high taxes on everything are extremely frustrating, making this one of the hardest countries to do business in. Corruption and crime are rampant. The president is in the process of being impeached right now. It seems that the government protects criminals yet prosecutes honest people. Everything seems so backwards, and frankly, stupid. It seems that every day we see another story of kidnapping or murder, of money laundering, of a dam breaking or building collapsing because the job wasn’t done right.
We have been through the fire personally as well. We and several neighbors have gotten bullets in our houses. One criminal threatened to kidnap our daughter because we helped an 83-year old man who was repeatedly assaulted. I no longer go out on the streets near our house with my baby daughter. And we have a stressful life and work schedule besides that. We work hard to make ends meet. My wife leaves early in the morning and often doesn’t get back until 8:00 PM. And most of the English classes I teach are late at night or on weekends, the only times I have to spend with my family. Our time together is precious.
There have been some really low points of great discouragement. There have been times where feelings of anger over the wrongdoing, the violence, the carelessness, and the “Brazilian way” seemed overwhelming. Yet I keep finding my help in the Lord. Last week I promised that I would write a few posts about the things these trials have forced me to think about, and what the Lord has been speaking to me through them.
When I was 18, I visited a dangerous and violent town in Central America. At first my attention was on how spiritually dark this city was. But the Holy Spirit spoke to me and told me to change my perspective.
Isaiah 6:3 (NIV) Holy, holy, holy is the Lord Almighty; the whole earth is full of his glory.
Psalm 33:5 (NIV) The Lord loves righteousness and justice; the earth is full of his unfailing love.
The Lord told me that it was idolatry for me to be more impressed with the powers of evil in this place, than his glory which filled it! Yes, there were spiritual forces of evil at work. Yet by paying so much attention to them, I was giving them honor that they didn’t deserve. They were false gods, and I really shouldn’t be so impressed by them!
Psalm 138:1 (NIV) I will praise you, Lord, with all my heart; before the “gods” I will sing your praise.
God showed me that I should sing his praise before these false “gods”. I was to refuse to be impressed by them. So I obeyed. The Lord opened the eyes of my heart so that I saw that this town was filled with His glory. I had a heavenly experience, and within a few months the church in that place doubled because of so many new believers. You can read more of that story in Awakening The Dawn In Orange Walk Town.
Into The Fire!
The Lord has reminded me of this in Rio De Janeiro. I am not to be impressed with false gods or give them attention that they don’t deserve. I must never be more focused on or impressed by what the devil is doing, than what the Holy Spirit is doing. I must be careful about what I give my attention to.
We often think of idolatry as loving something more than the Lord. But how often do we think of idolatry as fearing something more than we fear the Lord? If you take the time to look at some images showing idols of false gods, it becomes clear that many of them are created to capture your attention through fear. On the other hand, Scripture talks about fearing the Lord because of his blessing and forgiveness. One definition of “fearing the Lord” could be “Being more impressed with the Lord’s goodness and the work of the Holy Spirit than anything else.” When we fear the Lord, He is the one who captures our attention.
I realized that in the story we read in Daniel 3, Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego were not tempted to worship a false god by loving it more than they loved the Lord. They were tempted to give honor and worship to a false god by fearing it more than they feared the Lord. This was the decree of king Nebuchadnezzar:
Daniel 3:6 Whoever does not fall down and worship shall immediately be thrown into a furnace of blazing fire.
Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego still refused to honor or fear any false god by giving it their attention. In the same way, I must refuse to give anything I face, any circumstance, any evil, the attention that the Lord deserves. I must learn to always be more impressed with what the Holy Spirit is doing!
Daniel 3:14-20 Nebuchadnezzar said to them, “Is it true, O Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego, that you do not serve my gods and you do not worship the golden statue that I have set up? Now if you are ready when you hear the sound of the horn, pipe, lyre, trigon, harp, drum, and entire musical ensemble to fall down and worship the statue that I have made, well and good. But if you do not worship, you shall immediately be thrown into a furnace of blazing fire, and who is the god that will deliver you out of my hands?”
Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego answered the king, “O Nebuchadnezzar, we have no need to present a defense to you in this matter. If our God whom we serve is able to deliver us from the furnace of blazing fire and out of your hand, O king, let him deliver us. But if not, be it known to you, O king, that we will not serve your gods and we will not worship the golden statue that you have set up.”Then Nebuchadnezzar was so filled with rage against Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego that his face was distorted. He ordered the furnace heated up seven times more than was customary, and ordered some of the strongest guards in his army to bind Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego and to throw them into the furnace of blazing fire.
I’ve had times of walking so wonderfully in the glory of God, constantly aware of His presence, that it felt like I was in heaven while on earth. It was as if currents of liquid love were flowing through me all day. And the heat got turned up.
I faced financial problems, loss, and all kinds of other difficulties and traumas. I felt so stressed that it felt like my head would explode. Sometimes it just seemed like one thing after another. And for a while, I got my eyes off of the Lord. I became negative. I began to give more attention to these things than to God’s goodness and what the Holy Spirit was doing.
In Brazil, the heat has been turned up even more! Yet I have never forgotten what the Lord has done in my life, and the Holy Spirit has never stopped working. I finally got to the point where I was just tired of fearing false gods. I began to focus my attention again on what the Lord is doing, and I am so strong now! The trials have not stopped. Yet my faith has become much stronger! I won’t easily be moved.
I’m developing this attitude of saying to the devil “No matter what happens, I’m not going to bother giving you my attention!” I’ll sing the Lord’s praise before all false gods. I’m learning to refuse to fear or be impressed by evil. I feel my spirit, strong in the Lord, growling back at whatever comes my way. I know that whether I live or die, I belong to the Lord. You can take everything from me, but you can’t take God’s presence! I will still be so much more impressed with the glory of the Lord, which is worth my attention, than all the works of the devil!
Daniel 3:24-27 (NRSV) Then King Nebuchadnezzar was astonished and rose up quickly. He said to his counselors, “Was it not three men that we threw bound into the fire?” They answered the king, “True, O king.” He replied, “But I see four men unbound, walking in the middle of the fire, and they are not hurt; and the fourth has the appearance of a god.” Nebuchadnezzar then approached the door of the furnace of blazing fire and said, “Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego, servants of the Most High God, come out! Come here!” So Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego came out from the fire. And the satraps, the prefects, the governors, and the king’s counselors gathered together and saw that the fire had not had any power over the bodies of those men; the hair of their heads was not singed, their tunics[f] were not harmed, and not even the smell of fire came from them.
What a testimony to the world when you come out of the fire unharmed! What a testimony when you sing the Lord’s praise before all false gods and instead of being a product of what you’ve gone through, you are radiant with the glory of God and don’t even smell like smoke! You are still obsessed with Jesus and focused fully on what the Holy Spirit is busy doing.
In earlier posts like “We All Prayed And We Believed, But He Died” Parts One and Two and “The Power Of Faith, Or The Goodness Of God?“ I shared about how the Holy Spirit has helped me to grow in faith, showing me when I was not in a place of faith, and showing me what I could change in my thoughts and attitudes.
I think that today’s post should also be very helpful in understanding what real faith in God looks like. These concepts are applicable to healing the sick and to any situation that we face. What does strong faith look like? It is being so impressed with God that you laugh at the puniness of everything else in comparison with His goodness, power, and glory. It is seeing from a right perspective, seeing that the glory of the Lord fills the earth, and seeing that those other things which you used to be afraid of didn’t deserve the attention that you gave them. It is seeing from a heavenly perspective.