How long, O Lord?

When he opened the fifth seal, I saw under the altar the souls of those who had been slain because of the word of God and the testimony they had maintained. 10 They called out in a loud voice, “How long, Sovereign Lord, holy and true, until you judge the inhabitants of the earth and avenge our blood?” 11 Then each of them was given a white robe, and they were told to wait a little longer, until the full number of their fellow servants, their brothers and sisters, were killed just as they had been. (Rev. 6:9-11)

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Father Jacque Hamel, slain while giving a morning mass at his church in France.

No thanks, I would rather yell

We are in such volatility this week.

I live in Minneapolis, so we have the added issue of a young black man shot by police and the tension is pretty heavy here as well.

Beyond that “small” local issue… there is France and terrorism. ISIS. Immigration.

Governors refusing to let in Syrian refugees. The president firing back. Political candidates yelling. Facebook is just poison. Christians… Christians… yelling at each other over whether to let refugees in or not.

In the midst of this week’s turmoil has been our reading in James for MULTIPLY.

Today I was moving through the section in James 5 talking about prayer. I was using the IVP commentary as a companion moving through those verses and the author made an interesting connection between James 5:12 and the rest of the section to follow.

James 5:12 (NIV)

12 Above all, my brothers and sisters, do not swear—not by heaven or by earth or by anything else. All you need to say is a simple “Yes” or “No.” Otherwise you will be condemned.

The author’s contention was that when pressure mounts, we can have the same tendency as the world to ratchet up the volume and “seriousness” of our argument and swearing enters in. We make silly oaths.

The answer that follows is simple…and one we don’t like. Especially in this current environment.

PRAY.

James 5:13–16 (NIV)

13 Is anyone among you in trouble? Let them pray. Is anyone happy? Let them sing songs of praise. 14 Is anyone among you sick? Let them call the elders of the church to pray over them and anoint them with oil in the name of the Lord. 15 And the prayer offered in faith will make the sick person well; the Lord will raise them up. If they have sinned, they will be forgiven. 16 Therefore confess your sins to each other and pray for each other so that you may be healed. The prayer of a righteous person is powerful and effective.

When? When we’re in trouble. When we’re happy. When pressure is mounting…

PRAY.

To which we all seem to be saying, “No thanks. I’d rather yell.”

Yelling is cathartic. Yelling makes me sound serious. Yelling helps me insult someone I’ve really wanted to insult all along but now I have a good excuse. DOG GONE IT! I LIKE YELLING! LEAVE ME ALONE! I’LL PRAY LATER!

Wow. That felt good!

But what got accomplished? Compared to stepping back and talking to the great King of all kings about any of the world’s current situations? Yelling may feel good, but it accomplishes nothing. Bullet point political rants may make the Twitter feeds, but they don’t solve the problems.

We need prayer. Desperately.

Too much noise

The events in our world put into the echo chamber of social media and very narrow “news” organizations on the right and left is only a deadly poison.

Paris bombings, Syrian refugees, racial tensions…

ALL things worthy of attention, but we are not giving them attention. We are just yelling.

This week may be one of my highest music listening weeks in quite some time. When I can’t even get a decent, straight up, “here are the facts as we know them right now” kind of story… I have to cut it all off in my head because all I’m doing is listening to yelling and no one caring about what is actually happening. 

These are days I put headphones on and crank up my favorite music.

And I also dig deeper into the Word. NOT because I want to ignore these situations, but precisely because I care about these situations.

So my prayer for today comes from Psalms:

Psalm 86:11 (NIV)

11 Teach me your way, Lord,
that I may rely on your faithfulness;
give me an undivided heart,
that I may fear your name.

Paris, Beirut, Cancer, and the Word of God

Through this portion of MULTIPLY discipleship we are focusing on the need to study the Word of God. We need this anchor. In a world gone mad, we need this anchor.

If there isn’t something deadly serious going on in the world (as in ISIS bombings in Beirut and Paris) there is always something ready to offend us (like crazy social media outrages). We can so easily be upset with so many things… real or imagined.

This past week came news of a wife who has faced cancer and beat it… and it’s back again and this time the faith is a bit harder to “muster up.” Treatments aren’t going well, more tumors are showing up… Lord! Hear our prayers!

We need anchors.

We hear news of bombings and the fear can mount up. We pray against cancer and the fear can mount up.

It is the steady diet of the Word of God that can keep us anchored. We need his presence in a powerful way and the Word can lead us into that powerful presence.

In a week gone crazy from the idiotic (like the great Christmas controversy of the Starbucks cup) to the deadly (like cancer returning and the horrific news out of Beirut and Paris), we can let all other voices dictate our “responses.”

We can lose focus.

It is today I found myself in Psalm 73. It is a psalm dealing with that very theme: the temptation to lose focus.

For the psalmist, the deal was with the wicked and the wealthy. They always seemed to “get away” with things! Why follow God? Why bother?

It was desperate!

13 Surely in vain I have kept my heart pure
and have washed my hands in innocence. Psalm 73:13 (NIV)

But then there is the turn:

16 When I tried to understand all this,
it troubled me deeply
17 till I entered the sanctuary of God;
then I understood their final destiny. Psalm 73:16–17 (NIV)

We need the anchor of the Word. We need the presence of the LIVING Word calling us out to gain perspective. It will save us from fear, from hatred, from normal “worldly” responses… and in a day like today, that is precisely what we need.

Hear our prayer, O Lord.

Blessed Peacemakers

Blessed are the peacemakers,
    for they will be called children of God. (Matt. 5:9)

In a day when the boiler plate view of Muslims is “they just want to come over here and bomb us,” there is a fresh reminder that not all Muslims are that way. Most aren’t. Hard to believe. Just true.

Tunisia is one spot no one pays attention to, even though it was the first place the “Arab Spring” started. Egypt blew up. Libya blew up. Syria dug in their heels. But Tunisia kept plodding toward peace. They still make their way in a treacherous situation, but a group was recognized yesterday for their work in bringing peace and stability to their nation. 

“We are here to give hope to young people in Tunisia, that if we believe in our country, we can succeed,” said Ouided Bouchamaoui, president of The Tunisian Confederation of Industry, Trade and Handicrafts, a group that’s part of the Quartet.

It’s interesting what can happen when the world isn’t watching… and criticizing.

The number is 300,000

While our shallow “journalistic” coverage, only driven by our shallow American desire for, well, all things American and culturally relevant to us… and can really stir up controversy on social media… fixates on one county in Kentucky, the story we refuse to pay attention to, among so many, is the immigrant crisis in Europe.

As we allow the man with the hair problem wax elephants on “immigration” by saying, well, absolutely nothing, we are missing the larger story of a true immigration crisis. Because it is currently in Europe, we ignore it and it will be to our own detriment. We can’t connect dots very well. But that’s an easy call since the numbers of “journalists” in one county in Kentucky now probably outnumbers the actual population of the county.

300,000 is the number. That is how many immigrants have flowed into Europe so far this year. It is a 40 percent increase over ALL of last year. And it’s the first week in September.

If you want one number to explain the mass movement today, start with 60 million. The U.N. says there are 60 million people displaced worldwide — the most since the U.N. started keeping records and the most since World War II.

We are facing a worldwide crisis that we somehow can’t find the time to cover in the United States. ISIS has displaced 3 million, while millions more flee other Middle East and North African conflicts and repressive regimes.

2500 have lost their lives trying to get to freedom. Now millions are stuck in areas because Europe doesn’t know what to do, and smugglers are profiting off of people desperate to make it anywhere safe.

The numbers don’t mean anything, do they?

300,000

2500

Blah, blah, blah.

How about this number: ONE

One picture. A picture of a little boy’s body washed up on a shore. A picture that finally got out and around the world and made us stop for an oh so brief moment and possibly get a tear in our eye.

Five years old. Him, his brother, his mother all lost to the sea and their bodies washed up as they tried to find freedom.

The number is not 300,000. The number is ONE. One picture can turn things around. The question is this: will you let it?

Will you let a picture haunt your soul. Really. I mean it. HAUNT you.

It haunts me. I’ve had times when I couldn’t stop crying thinking of that picture. That boy. The father weeping on TV.

And I think, “What am I doing? What is MY life that I just go on about my business?”

But we all have lives to live. It’s not necessarily about dropping everything and going to Syria. For some, that may be the answer.

Yet, I am drawn again to that number: ONE.

300,000 I get blown away by. ONE. That can mean something.

So… what do I do? Drop everything and find a way to Syria? To Turkey? To France?

No. I’ve asked. I have honestly asked. And the answer is this: “Find the ONE where you are where you can invest in their life and their spiritual body doesn’t end up washed up on some spiritual shore.”

Invest in one.

For me, it’s getting involved in mentoring. I’m pumped for it. I had a kid last year I absolutely loved being with week after week. I long for that again.

ONE. The number is ONE. Right where you are.

Will you do THAT?

Help us care. Help us pray!

More persecution. How we need to lift up the Body of Christ in prayer!

Bishop Angaelos, the general bishop of the Coptic Orthodox Church in the United Kingdom, underscored the Ethiopians’ testimony.

“Once again we see innocent Christians murdered purely for refusing to renounce their faith,” he said in a statement.

“As Christians, we remain committed to our initial instinct following the murder of our 21 Coptic brothers in Libya, that it is not only for our own good, but indeed our duty to ourselves, the world, and even those who see themselves as our enemies, to forgive and pray for the perpetrators of this and similar crimes,” he said. “We pray for these men and women, self-confessed religious people, that they may be reminded of the sacred and precious nature of every life created by God.”

The devaluing of human life

Usually when it comes to war and use of force, especially use of troops, media sources like The New York Times are fairly pacifist. (Depending on the president in office at the time and their political party, of course.) Generally speaking, many media outlets back off the calling for use of force.

But this editorial in The New York Times was strident.

They want force against ISIS. NOW. Tough words are laid down in this piece:

Will the world do nothing to stop extremist groups…

And this:

But the United Nations says it is largely powerless to deal with the threat, and Western governments claim they have more urgent military objectives.

This is dangerously wrong.

And this:

Why hasn’t the international community responded?

I’ve certainly asked questions like this of the media before. Where IS your outrage?

The difference is this: I am burdened over the loss of life. There is a systematic persecution raging in many part of the world against Christians. Thousands displaced. Thousands killed. Slaughter every week that should shock us. Al-Shabaab killed 148 Christians in Kenya last week. Targeted them in a university and shot them.

The outrage The Times has over ISIS? National treasure… STUFF… is being destroyed. It took the destruction of artifacts for the paper to shout, “Why aren’t we nuking these people???”

Not one word in this piece about the extreme loss of human life. It’s not even that they’re silent on Christians being slaughtered. It’s any religious group. The silence, as they say, is deafening.

It is the height of hypocrisy and it is revealing of a soul all at the same time. I could call it an “elitist” attitude or a “liberal” attitude, but that’s just too narrow. What it is… is scary. People of influence, people of means, people of persuasion who sit back and say nothing about the loss of human life… and if they do they will hesitate to show the loss is due to religious affiliation… but destroy a painting and they are ready to call for nuclear war.

This is the world they want. A world without religion in the public square. They don’t want people going “all moral” on them about the value of human life. This is a world where “freedom of religion” is about the “individual” and their right to keep their religion to themselves… just don’t drag it out there for the public to see.

This isn’t about conservative or liberal theology, or conservative or liberal Christianity. This is about a deep desire in those spouting off a false belief in the “progressive improvement” of humanity without religion getting their ultimate way. The value system is warped, and it’s on full display in this ridiculous opinion piece. Center stage.

Religion at its core isn’t the problem. It’s the insistence on not having religion in the public square adding to the debate that is the problem. Without religion in the public square, there is the false belief that humanity will only get “better and better” and if there are problems in this world, it is religion that is at fault.

It is not religion. It is human. Humanity has a problem. At our core, we want to be the little gods. We want to be in ultimate control. And left to our own devices… we don’t improve ourselves very well. We tend to start world wars and find more ways to destroy people than ever before. That’s not religion. That’s humanity.

But a world with less religion, and by that if it means fewer religious people, so be it, is a GOOD thing… in their view. Just save the artwork!