Awful Advent Reminders

Regular Scripture reading schedules have a way of bringing me back around to texts that I both “enjoy” and “hate” at the same time. They are texts that speak of faith and prayer… and then I’m reminded, “Oh, yeah! That means I need to pray!”

Then, I pray my “immense” amount of time (probably 5 minutes) and give up.

“God doesn’t hear! What’s the use?!”

So I come to a passage like that again in this Advent season.

I come to it after reading this devastating article on Syria and how ISIS and Assad are still using chemical weapons. Something that was “supposed” to have been “dealt with” by our powerful government and other world “leaders” and still… it exists. My heart broke reading that article.

And then, I read the Gospel for today and come across this:

21 Jesus replied, “Truly I tell you, if you have faith and do not doubt, not only can you do what was done to the fig tree, but also you can say to this mountain, ‘Go, throw yourself into the sea,’ and it will be done. 22 If you believe, you will receive whatever you ask for in prayer.” (Matt. 21:21-22)

Honestly… and I mean honestly… How can someone read THAT and think, “Oh, yeah! I’ll just pray the chemicals away!”

But there it is. Staring me in the face. It doesn’t matter HOW things like ISIS or Assad (the “president” of Syria) go down. That’s not my call. I can’t even ask for the how. What I need to do is command that they fall. THAT is the challenge.

So… why not? Our government hasn’t done anything more effective to this point, have they?

What if we, as believers, just began praying in earnest for the fall of ISIS and the removal of Assad? Just leave all the questions at the door. (Who would take his place? How would they be removed?) Just command the mountain to move.

Not just because ISIS and Assad are pure evil. Because they are oppressing their own people and no one cares.

Maybe… just maybe… some mountains would fall.

Every day… command the mountain to move.

Why not?

#IamaChristian

The shootings in Oregon have rumors swirling. Did the shooter target Christians? The media… oh, the oh so accurate media that always want to make sure they get it right… urges “caution.” (Meanwhile, at a county clerk’s desk in Kentucky…)

In our current cultural war mode, it may “play well” to see the hashtag campaign rage on. That’s about the extent of our commitment, though.

Meanwhile, a reminder for all of us is that Christians truly are being targeted in other parts of the world.

THIS REPORT details what happened just last month in Syria.

Friends, let’s not forget the brothers and sisters in Christ we have all over the world who really are targeted. The media won’t play it… but so what. Let US pray. Let US labor. Let US follow Christ.

Residents inspect damage from what activists said was an airstrike by forces loyal to Syrian President Bashar al-Assad on the town of Douma, eastern Ghouta in Damascus.

Why it’s hard to “care” about world events

Over the past few days I have relentlessly posted links and thoughts about the persecution of Christians and other minority groups in Iraq and other places. 

That’s hard enough to get attention, but then (for Christians) it’s hard to also pay attention to stories out of the Middle East that don’t have “Christians” in them. 

Such as the civil war in Syria

First of all, it DOES have a “Christian angle” to it. That is always under-reported. 

Secondly, because we’ve been conditioned to hate Muslims, Iraq, etc., we just don’t care, quite frankly, if Muslims are blowing each other up. 

Hopefully that was a crude enough statement to at least jolt a few people. 

The trouble is we just often don’t know HOW to “care” about news because if it doesn’t have some personal connection, we just often don’t know what to do with it. 

Then we can complain that the “media” doesn’t cover it enough. Or, when they do, it’s the “wrong” media. For instance, the above link goes to a Fox News story. Some of you may have clicked on that link, saw it was a Fox News story and already were pre-disposed to not pay attention because it was Fox News. Others were ready to read every word because it was Fox News. Some of you who haven’t clicked on that link will now NEVER click on that link because I already told you it was Fox News.

I hope THAT was crude enough to jolt a few more people. 

Here is a primer for how to “care” about what is going on in the world. 

1. Knowing what is going on is vital. Caring is another issue. Long to KNOW first, then “caring” can follow. KNOWING is vital. We’ve ignored the Muslim civil war that is sweeping the world and NOW we are reaping a whirlwind. 

2. Quit thinking in terms of “What should the U.S. do to respond?” We aren’t always the “calvary” to ride in. Sometimes the very best thing is to read and TO PRAY. Honest. 

3. READ. 

4. Read widely. Quit using your favorite sites alone. Learn how to read other sites you disagree with. Learn to put down your political lenses and just READ. Sometimes the story IS from Fox. Sometimes it’s from Slate. It could be the BBC or NPR. When we don’t read widely, we fail to understand that something IS being reported… just not from our normally “reliable” sources. 

5. Get to know a missionary or two. I know a lot of missionaries in just about every part of the world. They give whole new perspectives that take out the politics and put in people. 

6. When you get more “news” or “information,” realize it could be the time to pray. Not call for more troops. Pray. It is prayer that can stir our hearts to pay attention and seek God more. 

It’s not that we should “care” about world events, or we don’t “care” because we don’t know what to do. We need to read more because it can lead us to prayer, and THAT gets us into the flow of the Kingdom of God. 

Smokescreen

100 years ago there was an obscure “archduke” assassinated by a small faction of a small ethnic group that just seemed like nothing in the news. It was so out of the way, WHY would it be significant? There were bigger things on the table at the time. People wouldn’t pay attention to some backwater story when Germany was the big elephant to worry about.

It’s amazing to me as to what passes for “backwater” stories these days. Yet, it demonstrates our own political and cultural biases.

Because of our political and theological biases, Israel and Gaza have become the story. It is NOT insignificant that nearly 2000 Palestinians and hundreds of Israelis have lost their lives. Not by a long shot.

But I have come to believe it is the smokescreen. IT is the “backwater” story, but we’ve made it center stage.

The “backwater” story we never pay attention to is Syria and the Islamist group ISIS. And while we haven’t paid attention to this “tiny” story, millions have been displaced and thousands of Christians and other “opposition” religious groups have been slaughtered. Israel and Gaza raise such passionate debates and arguments, we’ve hardly given a look to Syria. In fact, when it may have been we were starting to pay attention, THAT is when Gaza blew up. (I’m just a conspiracy theorist at heart… and it’s my blog.)

While we have relegated passages like Matthew 24 to the “end times” (and somehow only to American Christians), brothers and sisters in Christ are living this today. 

Observe:

The Chaldean-Assyrian Christians, Maronites, Melkites and Copts are also being “butchered under the banner of ‘There is no God but Allah'”. They, too, are fleeing into the mountains for refuge, as Christ exhorted at the time of the end. They, too, are being reviled, persecuted, and their children murdered. But we’re not hearing an awful lot about it.

More HERE.

It is hard for me to fathom, as a Christian, that we have cared so little about Christians in Syria and Iraq. It just doesn’t hit our radar. But the moment Israel comes into the conversation… BAM! We rant and rage and defend and attack…

There has been a civil war raging for quite some time all over the world… and we’ve virtually ignored it. And radical groups are counting on us to keep ignoring it. Rant all we want about Israel and Gaza… it just keeps us pre-occupied, and they get to keep on killing.

Arabic N

Overcome

For the first time in 1600 years it is possible that there was no Christian worship in Mosul, Iraq this past Sunday.

The Christian population in Syria has plummeted from about 6% of the population to possibly less than 1,000 believers.

We must be reminded of the words of Christ:

I have said these things to you, that in me you may have peace. In the world you will have tribulation. But take heart; I have overcome the world. (John 16:33)

A Christian home “marked” in Mosul, Iraq.

Real persecution actually exists

It is my hope that the following statement offends just about everyone who regularly reads my blog, because I have something BEYOND that to which we need our attention drawn:

For evangelical Christians and gay rights folks in America, here is the stark truth: none of us know persecution. 

The current broohaha over the Arizona bill concerning businesses and serving gays or not serving gays… nothing. 

I hope I have your attention. I truly hope I have your anger in some way. Because here is the reality:

Beirut (AFP) – A jihadist group in Syria said Wednesday that Christians in the city of Raqa will have to pay taxes and hold religious rituals behind closed doors, under a set of rules.

The Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL), listed 12 rules which made up an “agreement” with Christians in the northern city to provide “protection.”

The terms, bearing the stamp of ISIL which controls Raqa, were distributed on jihadist forums.

They include a provision that Christians must pay a “jiziyeh” tax, as imposed in early Islam on non-Muslim subjects.

It said wealthy Christians must pay up the equivalent of 13 grams (half an ounce) of pure gold, that middle-class Christians pay half that sum, while the poor pay a quarter.

The agreement also demands Christians “do not put on display a cross or anything from their book, anywhere on Muslims’ path or markets” and that they should not “use megaphones to make their prayers heard.”

The jihadist group demands that Christians follow “rules imposed by ISIL, such as those relating to modesty in clothing.”

ISIL is rooted in Al-Qaeda in Iraq, which also imposed the jiziyeh tax on Christians after the US-led invasion of 2003.

When there are truly places in this world where real people are being severely limited in their freedoms… and severely isn’t a term I would give as “in the eyes of the beholder”… we in America have issues. 

Gays and evangelicals may now scream arguments about, “Well, if we keep on this road we’re on we’ll be right there.”

I disagree.

There are deep issues we have to face and need to work out. But, we get to work them out. And work them out we should… in a free country.

Call me what you want. Anti-gay. Anti-evangelical. Anti- whatever makes you feel good about not like me. Go ahead.

I am simply pleading for perspective… and prayer. Prayer for people in places like Syria that have no voice in how they are treated. In America, we all have voices… and they are so loud right now we can’t even hear each other.

Today, let us pray. Pray for brothers and sisters in parts of the world that aren’t some “slippery slope.” They are in hell. Cut off. Persecuted. And voiceless.

God help us.

 

Praying for Syria

The situation in Syria… Syria… why does that name sounds like it should mean something?

At any rate… the situation in Syria is so immensely complex. Add on that the plight of Christians.

Wanting Assad gone may not be the best for Christians in Syria. (For some reason WordPress is not showing all my links to other articles right now, which has caused WHOLE PAGES to disappear. So to see the article I’m referring to, click inside the next set of parentheses.) (LINK)

The allegiances of this world and the allegiances of our God and his Kingdom pull us in all kinds of directions!

Syria, Christians, Prayer

There are simply no easy solutions in Syria. It is beyond upsetting to think of a government using chemical weapons on its own people. It DOES cry out for justice.

Yet, in the rush to judgment, there might be a need for some pause.

Justin Welby, Archbishop of Canterbury, gave this address to the House of Lords as they debated Syria and action on the part of the British government.

One key point:

But there is a further point, talking to a very senior Christian leader in the region yesterday, he said “intervention from abroad will declare open season on the Christian communities”. They have already been devastated, 2 million Christians in Iraq 12 years ago, less than half a million today. These are churches that don’t just go back to St Paul but, in the case of Damascus and Antioch, predate him. They will surely suffer terribly (as they already are) if action goes ahead. And that consequence has to be weighed against the consequences of inaction. In civil wars, those who are internal to the civil conflict fight for their lives, necessarily. Those who are external have a responsibility, if they get involved at all, to fight for the outcome, and that outcome must be one which improves the chances of long term peace and reconciliation. If we take action that diminishes the chance of peace and reconciliation, when inevitably a political solution has to be found, whether it’s near term or in the long term future, then we will have contributed to more killing and this war will be deeply unjust. –

This is a complex issue, which is why we don’t like to think about it. We’re not good with complex issues. We want simple solutions so we devise simple problems.

This is why we pray. We need to hear from heaven. But, by all means, let us pray.