I awoke at 3:30 am and began to pray. I prayed through until 5 am, then I got up. Reverberating through my heart was this one line: “This is wickedness.”
Antifa: The name is short for Anti-facist, but they seem to be against all kinds of things and groups and people, indeed, perhaps against anything we might consider wholesome or good. This group is organizing riots in many U.S. cities, including Portland. Does the phrase “Organizing Riots” sound like an oxymoron to you, too? It ought to. Portland, unfortunately, has its own Antifa chapter, founded in 2007, called Rose City Antifa. Lord, have mercy.
Last Sunday night, October 11th, Antifa’s chapter led in a demonstration apparently to honor “Indigenous People’s Day” and to make a stand against the Alaskan pipeline. They staged a well-publicized event at the Historical Society building, smashing in the front doors, and then pulling down the bronze statues of both Theodore Roosevelt mounted on his horse and another of Abraham Lincoln nearby in the park blocks of Portland. The rioters would not allow videos of them pulling down the statues. But posed for pictures afterwards. What is this? The police were there and stood by and watched. What is going on? And how was this demonstration of mayhem and destruction in honor of one group and against another? This remains unclear.
One of the protesters was well known, and had already filed a lawsuit against the Portland police on August 4th claiming they used unlawful violence against her. This from one who is clearly unlawful in her own behavior. Since when is smashing in the glass doors of a local business not considered against the law? When previously arrested on more than one riot occasion, she and other rioters were released the following day every time. Did someone pay bail?
After hearing of the Sunday night incident was when I awoke at 3:30 am praying. Why doesn’t anyone do something? Are we all just commanded to stay at home in order for anarchy and rebellion to reign in our streets? What can we do?
I imagined going downtown, standing in the front of rioters and praying against the spirit manipulating them and calling for them to stop. But then the picture came to mind of Saint Telemachus. He was the monk in 397 AD who ran into a gladiatorial arena before the watching crowds shouting for an end to such bloodshed. The crowd rose up against this righteous monk and stoned him to death. His death caught the heart of the Christian Emperor Honorius who officially ended the games in January 404 AD.
I had momentary flights of imagination against the people doing these acts, but then remembered, “our battle is not against flesh and blood” but against “the spiritual forces of wickedness in the heavenly realms”(Ephesians 6:12). It is important to remember this. The ones enacting these things, they are only people, perhaps misguided, but people who have parents, brothers, sisters, aunts and uncles, friends and most likely families. We cannot afford to dehumanize anyone. Yet, we cannot deny they are committing terrorism.
This is terrorism.
I was reminded of how Jesus spoke of the enemy of our souls. “When he lies it is consistent with his character; for he is a liar and the father of lies” (John 8:44b). There are lies being told by so many in this era. Such liars have aligned themselves with this same father of lies. And also in another passage, Jesus refers to this enemy as a thief. “The thief comes to steal, kill and destroy,” and then speaking of Himself, Jesus said, “but I have come that they might have life and that abundantly” (John 10:10).
These actions of anarchy are seeking to steal, kill and destroy which demonstrates with which spirit they are associated. Indeed, the wrong spirit. We need to align ourselves with the One who came to bring life and that abundantly and pray for these wrongdoers and against the spirit behind them.
That morning, I felt the anger against the rioters still and God needed to remind me, “Your anger can never make things right in God’s sight” (James 1:20). A friend told me, after hearing me tell of this, “Brian, this is what you get for having scriptures hidden in your heart, God is free to remind you of them!” God also brought to mind the line from Psalm 125, “The scepter of the wicked will not remain over the land allotted to the righteous for then the righteous might be tempted to use their hands to do evil.” Right. But still I was lamenting —
Is anyone doing anything, Lord?
And God answered.
Immortal, Invisible, God only wise,
in light inaccessible hid from our eyes,
most blessed, most glorious, the ancient of Days,
Almighty, victorious, Thy great name we praise.
Great Father of glory, pure Father of light,
Thine angels adore thee, all veiling their sight;
All praise we would render; O helps to see
’tis only the splendor of light hideth thee!Walter C. Smith, 1867
God is bigger than all this — rioting, anarchy, and wickedness. None of this surprises nor overpowers God. Most Glorious, Most Blessed, The Ancient of Days, Almighty, Victorious, Thy Great Name We Praise. Walter Smith, the author of the poem above, had that right.
Had Smith’s era lacked difficulty, heartache and hardship? Hardly. He wrote his poem in 1867 just two years following the end of the Civil War which had claimed 620,000 lives and left many states battle scarred and decimated. The well-beloved President, Lincoln, had been assassinated and his Vice President, Andrew Johnson, had then been named the 17th President. Slavery had been declared illegal, however, the KKK was founded in 1866 in an ongoing racist and anarchist movement. In such a season of darkness, Smith penned this hymn. He understood darkness and penned words about the Immortal and Invisible God of Light and power.
Darkness seems to reign, now, but God, the “pure Father of light” is always at work. “It is darkest just before the dawn,” my pastor reminded me this morning. And God’s people have been at work showing up, praying, and standing in the gap. There have been many prayer nights in Portland.
One such event was “Riots to Revival” on August 9th on the waterfront. Around 5,000 people gathered, led by Sean Feucht, worshiping, singing and praying. Many came to Christ and were baptized in the Willamette. What a reminder as the church we do not go to war with guns and rifles or by “taking down anarchists,” but we go to war in the Spirit, we enter the hottest battles on our knees, taking up the weapons of worship and prayer. Make no mistake, there is a battle in the heavenly realms. It is real. And when we see things like we are seeing now in the streets, it is the heavenly battle showing up on earth.
“Riots to Revival” was such an example to me of God at work. Sponsored by the “Let Us Worship” movement. Sean Feucht founded this movement in response to the governmental restrictions on worship with the COVID pandemic. But I am grateful to him. I am grateful he brought such praise and light to the streets of Portland. I am grateful for the reminder, that the Antifa event last Sunday night is not the only thing that has happened on the streets of Portland. Countless people have been on those same streets praying, worshipping, seeking God for the city and weeping in lament. There are people on their knees praying over Portland. The ongoing spate of negative rioting might be viewed as the last gasps of the spirit over the city seeking to hold on and keep out the Prince of Peace. But you and I know, only God is God and no one gets to be a god in His place.
One photographer who was at the Riots to Revival event tweeted this:
The media is so quick to show us the bad, the scary, and the sinful. Tonight, this is what OUR eyes saw at Waterfront Park in Portland, OR.
Let’s share the heck out of these photos. I want our nation to see THIS side of our beautiful city.
(More photos on FB)
What a list of words: Hope. Redemption. Repentance. Renewal. Freedom. Unity.
Next time I wake up at 3:30 am concerned about the plight of the world, I need to focus in on those words, give thanks and rejoice in the fact God is still God full of light and purpose and power and majesty. Whose “great Name we praise” — this God is in charge and my work is to join others to bring revival through prayer.