True crisis

We insist on panic in areas that don’t need it. Ebola in America, for instance. We have completely ignored the heavier issue of West Africa… but what is that to us?

While we panic over a handful possibly contracting the virus, we continue to ignore larger issues.

ISIS is still tearing through Syria and Iraq and is bent on destruction.

If there are weightier things to pray about and, if you insist, be panicked about, you might want to give that some consideration. Personally, I’d start with prayer and simply ignore the panic.

Why pay attention to ISIS and the Middle East?

Sometimes we can reason out the current Middle East situation with logic that says, “Let’s back away from the region and let them work it out… or battle it out.”

What would be wrong with that?

First of all, it’s incredibly difficult to say WHAT to do… but to do nothing has some scary consequences. It is not realizing the full extent of what groups like ISIS really want to do in the world.

This article lays out the severity of this group, but has this sobering paragraph that SHOULD wake us up. It talks about some “marketing” techniques ISIS is using on the web and magazines:

The cover shows a picture of St Peter’s Basilica in Rome, with an Islamic State black flag superimposed in place of the cross atop its obelisk. Inside it features photos of the group’s arsenal of heavy weaponry and what it says is the final letter to his mother from an American journalist the group beheaded.

Again, the thought of what TO do is daunting. What is clear, though, should be the thought we should NOT keep our heads buried in the sand on this. We need to pay attention to a part of the world that doesn’t include the United States or the latest celebrity goof ups.

Let us be aware. Let us then be in prayer. We may not know what to do, but we can talk with One who is fully aware and can give us insight that we desperately need.

Blessed are the peacemakers

We’re good at picking sides to determine who is “right” and who is “wrong.” And when it comes to the Middle East, we are REALLY good at it.

But for people, especially Christians, IN the conflict areas, there are different prayers. It is not about praying over who is “right” or “wrong.” It is learning to pray what Jesus asked all of us to pray.

The death of any human being without the Messiah is a tragedy. The death of Palestinians or Israelis or Iraqis is equally painful for every human being is a gift from God. Every Israeli, every Palestinian, and every Iraqi is a gift from the Lord. We, as followers of Jesus, want to celebrate life, not advocate death. We are not against evildoers but against evil. We fight evil with good, not guns. In the midst of these tense times, we affirm that the bloodshed of Israelis is as painful as the bloodshed of Palestinians or Iraqis.

More HERE.

We don’t always take up that “pray for your enemies” idea very often. In these times of upheaval, we need to learn these lessons from our brothers and sisters who are IN these areas.

Lord, help us to grieve over innocent lives lost, regardless of race, skin color, belief… Help us to BLESS those that curse us. We need the power of your Spirit!


Random Weekend Thoughts

We had a fast and furious trip to Duluth to see our son in the musical “Pippin.” As I drive I have a lot of thoughts tumble through, none of which I can remember for very long. To develop them is a lot of fun… but maybe for another time… and privately.

Some thoughts along the way:

— We heard the news of the Malaysia Airlines flight being shot down, then of Israel invading Gaza. In the midst of all that I thought of an extended novel idea regarding the two Malaysian flights that have gone down this year. A rather good spy novel I know nothing about, so I’m sure Nelson DeMille will figure out something and really do it justice.

— On Russia, and the Middle East affair, what if the world just quit doing business in those areas? Just. Stopped. Not out of hatred for one side or another, but out of CONCERN for all involved. Let the world give these regions a “time out” by feeling a nice economic punch. FIFA needs to step up and do something moral for the first time in their existence: Threaten to take the World Cup elsewhere in four years. Long shots all, but drive time gives me a lot of time to think stupid crazy thoughts.

— Pippin is an amazing musical, at least the adaptation my son’s group did. It is a great morality play that finally lets people know they want to chase crazy dreams when normal may just be okay. We too often play to the edge and forget that Christ wants to take us to the center. Finding Christ the Center, we will understand how Christ was so attractive to the edges… and he drew them in to him. He didn’t leave them “out there.” Normal is okay, folks.

— Driving home was the best of all. There was a stretch of road where I reflected on three incredible sons, an amazing wife, the tremendous blessings amid the tremendous challenges… and I realized it is well with my soul.

Amazing blessings all.

Learning to weep with those weep

I  will never have the whole Middle East thing figured out. (That will disappoint many conservative friends… and that’s just the way it is.)

My heart breaks with the news I hear, the posts I read from missionaries, the posts I read from the churches in those areas. Rather than identify with those suffering, we are far too quick to pick sides and thump our political or theological chests to declare who is REALLY right.

I came across a poem today from one who has worked in Gaza and it is becoming my prayer. The post is worth reading as well.

Cry with us
This is a season of weeping and mourning, but it is not void of hope.
Our tears are the bridge between brutality and humanity;
our tears are the salty gates for seeing a different reality;
our tears are facing soulless nations and a parched mentality;
our tears are the dam preventing rivers of animosity.
For the sake of the mourning men, cry with us to reflect your amity.
For the sake of the poor children, cry with us demanding sanity.
For the sake of lamenting mothers, refuse violence and stupidity.
Love your enemies and cry with them is the advice of divinity.
Bless those who curse is the path to genuine spirituality.
Pour tears of mercy; compassion is true piety.
Pray with tears, for the sake of spreading equity.
Followers of Jesus: crying is now our responsibility.
But don’t cry for your friends only;
but also for your Enemy. — Yohanna Katanacho

The end is near! Or… A revival is coming!

Two very different takes on just how Christianity is “doing” in different parts of the world show our tendency toward tribalism.

In the Middle East there are dire warnings of Christianity becoming extinct in the Middle East. 

Meanwhile, Manhattan seems to be on the verge of a new revival!

So, which is it?

As Anthony Bradley points out on the Manhattan side (and not really anyone has pointed out on the Middle East side), it is probably a little bit of both. But nothing drastic in either direction. For evangelicals, we get so caught up in what God is doing, especially since WE got there! Bradley points out, and rightfully so, that there were Catholics, Presbyterians, Lutherans, etc., who have been there. For someone to say they actually knew every born again believer in Manhattan in 1993 is beyond the phrase “quite a stretch.”

But to the other side… Is the Church in danger of becoming extinct in the Middle East? Well, if you are Orthodox, you probably think so!

This goes to the point of demonstrating our tribalism. God didn’t show up until WE showed up… or God is leaving because OUR BRAND of Christianity is leaving…

Neither extreme is true.

The faithful witness of Christ abides. And it’s not just in our tribe.


Where Was the Church?

Sobering questions from the latest news out of the Middle East.

The saddest audience question was from a young man who I’m guessing was Egyptian-British. He asked: ‘Where was world Christianity when this happened?’

Nowhere. Watching X-Factor. Debating intersectionality. Or just too frightened of controversy to raise Muslim-on-Christian violence.

Too often the response I hear, and the one I too often give myself, is this: “Well, what CAN we do?”

I am finding that too weak in my life now.

First of all, I can pray. I am no longer saying, “All I can do is pray.”

First of all, I can pray. THAT is what the Church should do. They did it in Acts. When they were threatened, they prayed.

From there, I don’t have any more definitive answers.

But I also know when we try to raise awareness among American believers, we get less than enthusiastic responses.

Maybe we get mad at Muslims. That’s about it.

Over the years we have allowed the news to dictate to us the Middle East conflict and we see it too often as Muslim/Jew. We need to be more aware that Christians are getting completely run over in these countries and we need to step up.

Our problem here is that if we raise the level of concern on the West Bank, we could be seen as “anti-Israel.” And, God forbid, we get that albatross hung around our necks!

Then, we see other countries and simply think, “Well, that is Muslim against Muslim.”

Not always.

So, I am asking that we PRAY, and that we TALK. We work harder to get the word out about what is happening to our brothers and sisters in Christ. 

Let us START with prayer!

The remains of the Amir Tadros Coptic Church in Minya, southern Egypt. (VIRGINIE NGUYEN HOANG/AFP/Getty Images)

Peace in the Middle East

I am a political person to the core. I can talk politics all day long. So… I avoid it. There are just too many other things going on, so I want to focus more on theology, spiritual formation, etc.

Theologically, the whole realm of “end times theology” is a massive heap of varied opinions. So, when I see statements issued like this one, I am curious as to reasons for particular people signing on. Take a look at the press release, then the signatories, and if you get a chance let me know what you think.