Prayer for Congo

God, where are you in Congo? Were you there in Luvungi when 242 people were raped last month? Were you there in Uvira when 21 children were raped? Were you crying with them? God, please help them. We beg you to step in. Have we not prayed enough? Don’t we have enough faith? Were we crying with them? Did we notice? Please forgive us our indifference, change us, give us faith. And Lord God, don’t let our failings prevent you from acting.

We pray for everyone in Congo working for peace and governance. We pray for soldiers and rebels tempted to abuse their power: strengthen them. We pray for those grieving for lost people and lost innocence: protect them from revenge – reward their perseverance with wisdom. We pray for those with blood on their hands: bring justice and punishment, and conviction and repentance. We pray for the ordinary people living in their towns and villages: please stop the attacks. Lord we know you have power to do these things: will you do them?

We pray for the foreign governments’ influence on Congo. For our own leaders we ask for insight and wisdom about how to spend aid money. We ask in particular for understanding of how and whether to support the Rwandan and Congolese governments. We pray that our government would be wholly innocent of accepting injustice in exchange for profit.

When we get serious about asking you such huge things, we realise how serious you are. Maybe it was one of us who was supposed to be your servant in Congo, and we didn’t listen? Maybe you were asking us to influence our government, or provide some money?

God, where are you in our lives? Are you our master? Are we your slaves? We turn, now, from our quiet rebellion. We confess there are no areas of our lives that are off-limits for you: there are no decisions that belong to us. If you send us to some place or some person, we will go. We are ready to do what you ask. Only tell us in a way we can understand – leave us no excuse that we’re not sure of your will. We want to obey you Lord – change us, transform our disobedience.

My anti-Tithe

Giving all of ourselves to our God, whom we call “Lord,” would include giving our everything. To me, my devotions would be my job, my girlfriend, my extended family, my friendships, my songwriting, my blog, my habits…everything. This would include my finances.

Of course, my devotion and dedication to God changes moment by moment, as we all have seen in our own lives, but my desire is to be 100% sacrificial with my life, for the sake of Jesus and His way of life. It’s my longing (usually, almost always) to give everything I have, own, and do to the cause and purposes of Jesus.

I do not go to a church, however…mostly by choice. I don’t see myself being involved with just one church, but more of a networker/discipler between believers from different churches (including the unchurched). Due to my circumstances, I’m held back from doing so, but it doesn’t mean I haven’t started to prepare for Cyndi and my house group, hosting parties and sleepovers at our home, or an online community, not unlike the blog that I keep.

Even though I do not attend a “traditional” church, which is usually a meeting that looks nothing like what I believe that Jesus had intended, I do contribute to parachurch organizations, international relief ministries, friends going on mission trips, and to the local homeless people looking for a meal.

“But that’s not to your local, community church,” some would often say.

First, let me assure you that I’m not one of those postmodern believers that use the emerging church, Gen-Y excuses to avoid furthering the Kingdom of Heaven, neglecting spiritual responsibilities. Everything, if I’m interpreting Scripture right, is God’s; He’s entrusted me with what I have. How I use/give what I have reflects my motivations.

A little theology: Tithing in Malachi is the Old Covenant. The 10% thing is overshadowed by the cross. Paul writes that for those who wish to keep a section/fragment of the Written Law is then required to keep all of it (including the sacrifices and stonings in the Torah, if I’m interpreting Scripture right).

Okay, what does the New Covenant say about tithing? Acts 2 says that in the stated community of believers, they sold all that they had, so that what they had could be distributed among themselves. Perhaps, things were different in other underground, house/city churches, but I assume that they did things quite similar in order to just survive and thrive. It was a matter of practicality and simplicity. And Scripture says no one was in need; nobody did without.

Simplicity. Generosity. These are characteristics of a compassionate believer. Mercy towards the needy, justice toward the broken. These are marks of a Christlike servant. How I treat the needy, broken, incarcerated, homeless, fatherless, persecuted, single mom, infected, etc. is how I’m subsequently treating Jesus. These are the ones He cares for and has a special place in His heart (if I’m reading Scripture as it should be read), and neglecting these people with my finances would be like neglecting Jesus’ needs.

If the “local, community church” is having a hard time finding the time or budgets to do these deeds of caring for the needy, broken & forgotten, then I have to either find groups or people that are, or step out into the real world and give to these people myself.

I believe it’s my responsibility to see to it that the money that’s been entrusted to me is a blessing to others, advancing a Kingdom of love, simplicity, practicality, compassion and sacrifice. If that means that the “local, community church” will not receive my “tithe,” then so be it. I’m sure these churches have well-meaning pastors, attendees and routines, and I’m sure God’s interests are their desire, but I believe these rituals, traditions and habits need to be rethought.

Showing love through my finances is important to me, even to the point of being un-traditional.

Forcing things and handing over power

My relationship with God has been sinking for a while now. Nothing dramatic – just more of my usual dread of prayer, and more of a dead feeling when I do try to pray, and less relief of the feeling that there is nothing there.

I’ve been somewhat at a loss as to what to do about it. I’ve tried regular, disciplined prayer for a few weeks at a time, but in terms of my feelings* I haven’t seen anything change.

*By the way, the old adage about how it’s not about feelings – I’m not sure I understand that any more: what else is it about?

Our church group decided that we wanted to spend some time trying to work out what our “calling”s were, or at least what God wanted us to do at the moment, and this fitted quite nicely into the fact that I/we are thinking about our future: my job, where we live etc. We assigned each other a couple of names each to pray for, and one of the friends who was praying for me felt that God was telling her to read the book of Joshua in the Bible, and asked me to read it too in case something came out of it for me.

Of course, nothing came out of it for me.

Last night we had our meeting and she told me that the part of Joshua* that struck her as being about me was the part in Joshua 7 where a guy called Achan steals some of the plunder from destroying Jerico, instead of handing it over to be given to God. This was extremely brave of her since she must have been terrified that she’d be confronting some terrible (probably sexual) sin in my life and didn’t know how I would react.

* As an aside that I just can’t leave out: I want to make it clear that Joshua is probably the hardest book of the Bible for me to accept as being from God, or, normally, of being any use, because it is basically just an account of a genocide backed, nay commanded, by God.

I didn’t suddenly break down and confess to a propensity to place gerbils in any orifices. In fact, I didn’t know how to take it on board at all. I couldn’t see what the terrible sin in my life was: I knew there are pretty crippling sins of pride and greed going on, but not some nice specific thing I can stop doing.

A couple of weeks ago, I felt a little comforted by the idea that maybe what God wanted of me was just to try and follow his “ways” i.e. live our life as a family in a generous and kind way, and be gentle and attentive to my colleagues at work. I felt that I was doing that: on the big decisions we were trying to consult God (with little appearance of answers from him) and trying to do the right thing for our kids and for other people.

As we prayed last night, and prayed and talked and thought today, I have begun to think that what God is trying to say to me is that I am holding back something that belongs to God, like Achan (who, incidentally, was stoned to death along with his wife and daughters). What I am holding back is power over my life.

I think I sort-of knew this already, but I hadn’t considered it to be such a bad thing – one of the mini-sins that we all have a bit of and can’t do much about. The comparison with Achan is shocking, not just because of what happened to him, but mainly because what he did was seen as so wrong – disobeying a specific and direct order. But what am I doing when I hold back power over my life from God? I am making worthless the key thing that being a Christian is: you turn from your sin, and you “follow” God – you submit to God, you “accept” him as your master. So suddenly the idea that this is some grievous sin makes more sense.

What I am left with, then is what to do about this? It is difficult to make a plan of action about something as woolly as giving power back to God. This evening we were praying about our future and I was saying all I’ve written above, and I felt a sense of release. I’ve been extremely tense (my sleep has been utterly shot) as we have been thinking about the future, and some of that tension seemed to be released. Not all of it, by the way, or I would be asleep now instead of writing this.

I realised we have been trying to force it: to bend life to the way we want it to be. When I became a Christian* I turned to God, submitted to him: promised to follow him. How do I do that? I don’t really know, but I think I need to stop having areas that are reserved for me – that may be influenced by him, but it’s my final call.

*Although there’s another potential article in the fact that I don’t have a good moment I can point to when I did become a Christian.

Having the final call is too stressful anyway. I sort of long for relief.