9 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)
When a newspaper posed the question, “What is wrong with the world?” the well-known Catholic thinker G.K. Chesterton reputedly penned a brief reply. I wish I was that brave today.
We always look for the spectacular. We always look for the bombastic attention grabbing events and headlines. In today’s saturated digital world, it gets harder and harder to do something that actually gets attention, so the action has to be BIGGER AND BIGGER.
Headlines these days will center on TERRORISM or IMMIGRATION or POLICE BRUTALITY or something that will somehow grab the attention of people.
Even for the American Church, we have the tendency to do the “splashy” to try and get people’s attention.
Advent reminds us God just doesn’t operate that way. Advent should remind us that the Kingdom of God will not come in the way you think it should come.
One of my favorite devotionals from years ago was by Chuck Swindoll and it sums it up:
The year was 1809. The international scene was tumultuous. Napoleon was sweeping through Austria; blood was flowing freely. Nobody then cared about babies. But the world was overlooking some terribly significant births.
For example, William Gladstone was born that year. He was destined to become one of England’s finest statesmen. That same year, Alfred Tennyson was born to an obscure minister and his wife. The child would one day greatly affect the literary world in a marked manner.
On the American continent, Oliver Wendell Holmes was born in Cambridge, Massachusetts. And not far away in Boston, Edgar Allan Poe began his eventful, albeit tragic, life.
It was also in that same year that a physician named Darwin and his wife named their child Charles Robert. And that same year produced the cries of a newborn infant in a rugged log cabin in Hardin County, Kentucky. The baby’s name? Abraham Lincoln.
If there had been news broadcasts at that time, I’m certain these words would have been heard: “The destiny of the world is being shaped on an Austrian battlefield today.” But history was actually being shaped in the cradles of England and America.
Similarly, everyone thought taxation was the big news – when Jesus was born. But a young Jewish woman cradled the biggest news of all: the birth of the Savior.
The world overlooks the small corners of the world, but it is in those small corners that the Kingdom will often show up. In Jesus’s day, it was the news of the mighty Roman Empire. In 1809, it was the news of Napoleon. Today, it is ISIS, it is terrorism, it is Putin… And we need to be reminded that what dominates us (or wants to dominate us) in fear today will be gone. ISIS will be gone. Putin will be gone. But the Kingdom? What we do for the Kingdom today will LAST.
Advent. Christ has come. Don’t overlook him.
This was the headline:
And this is the reminder for all of us as believers:
18 They said to you, “In the end time scoffers will come living according to their own ungodly desires.” 19 These people create divisions. Since they don’t have the Spirit, they are worldly.
20 But you, dear friends: build each other up on the foundation of your most holy faith, pray in the Holy Spirit,21 keep each other in the love of God, wait for the mercy of our Lord Jesus Christ, who will give you eternal life. 22 Have mercy on those who doubt. (Jude 1:18-22)
No meaningless platitude when we pray… REALLY pray. And we need to be reminded of this: we probably won’t like God’s solutions, either. God doesn’t consult our foreign policy experts to decide how he will deal with those who wreak havoc on this world. But deal with them he will.
Christians are singled out yet again in an attack in Kenya.
Gunmen attacked a university campus in northeastern Kenya early Thursday, clashing with guards, forcing their way into dormitories, taking hostages and singling out non-Muslims, the authorities said.
We need prayers lifted up to the Father today.
NIAMEY, Niger — The Niger government says at least 45 churches have been set on fire in this predominantly Muslim West African nation in protests over French cartoons lampooning Islam’s prophet.
In a statement issued Monday, the government also declared three days of national mourning for the 10 people who died amid the violent protests that first began on Friday.
Authorities have said that the victims were inside churches and bars set ablaze by protesters angry about the portrayal of the Prophet Muhammad in the French news weekly Charlie Hebdo. The publication was the subject of a terror attack that left 12 dead earlier this month.
Niger’s government in the statement promised that those responsible for the arson and deaths will be sought and punished.
It is heart breaking to see what is happening to people longing to live in peace. The temperature is HOT against those who love peace. And against Christians. Any excuse will now do.
9 Blessed are the peacemakers,
for they will be called children of God.
10 Blessed are those who are persecuted because of righteousness,
for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. (Matt. 5:9-10)
It’s a bit of an odd world when, in the past few weeks, we’ve had some deep American need to “defend free speech” by going to see a very stupid movie about North Korea.
And now, it’s everyone claiming, “I am Charlie Hebdo” in response to the terrorist attacks in Paris on a satirical newspaper. We’re defending the right to “free speech,” which was all about offending Islam and other major religions.
David Brooks quickly reminds us that “free speech” may be a great idea for a French magazine, but it wouldn’t exist on most college campuses in America.
Islamic fundamentalists have severe reactions as well. Kill opposition. It’s a new Middle Ages the world has been plunged into: “I’m right. You’re wrong. Therefore, you must die.”
The Kingdom of God MUST be different. In every way.
Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good. (Rom. 12:21)
Christianity will continue to be ridiculed, just as Islam will be poked at. We must be different. We don’t firebomb newspaper offices or kill writers.
At the same time it is the harsh realization that Christians will suffer far more than just a stupid cartoon. It’s the crisis going on throughout the Middle East and some parts of Africa. They are simply killed and cleared out of villages.
It’s also important to note that we don’t overcome threats, real or perceived, by going to stupid movies or supporting poor speech. Free speech allows for poor speech, but that doesn’t mean you call free speech “good” speech. Satirists have a place in society, but as David Brooks points out, they don’t all get to sit at the “adult table.” Rejoice in free speech, but that doesn’t mean it’s “good” speech.
In the Kingdom of God, move toward “good” speech. Move toward blessing.
It is a more difficult way that must be empowered by the Spirit… but as believers in Christ, THAT is our call.