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.

The News of the Day and Advent

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.

God WILL fix it… you just won’t like HIS answer

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. 

 

 

The intolerant look for any excuse

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.

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)

The Kingdom of God and severe reactions

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.

When will the body count bother us?

Not as Americans, but as Christians, when will the news we refuse to pay attention to finally start to jolt us? The New York Times has a picture at the top of their website showing body bags of a Syrian family. The report is death by nerve gas. Thousands, thousands, have perished in Syria. Hundreds, if not into the thousands, were killed just this week in Egypt.

I am not asking this as a matter of American intervention. I am asking this of me and other believers: When will the body count bother us? When we will be shocked the point of prayer? When will we cry out to God for solution, and then offer ourselves as a possible solution?

Violence in Our World

The bombing in Boston has shaken us again. We will be on the lookout again for the perpetrators, and then we will ask, “WHY?”

In our time, we are fixated on “WHY” as if we should somehow be exempt from problems. Somehow violence needs to be “over there” and not “here.”

Violence is a part of the human condition. A world in rebellion will breed violence in some way. It might be somewhat more “acceptable” in some ways… like abortion… or violence against women and young children in sex trafficking…. or undocumented in slave labor… but a world in rebellion is going to manifest violence in some way and we are not exempt.

It is not a condition new to our day.

How long, Lord, must I call for help,
but you do not listen?
Or cry out to you, “Violence!”
but you do not save?
Why do you make me look at injustice?
Why do you tolerate wrongdoing?
Destruction and violence are before me;
there is strife, and conflict abounds.
Therefore the law is paralyzed,
and justice never prevails.
The wicked hem in the righteous,
so that justice is perverted. (Hab. 1:2-4, NIV)

Our hearts grieve. The loss hurts. We want “justice,” and probably “justice” will come in some way on this event… and then another event will roll around and we will feel that shock all over again.

Lord, we are a people in rebellion and our hardened hearts breed violence in every way imaginable. Help us to surrender our hearts and lives to the King of all kings so we may know the blessedness of being ones who bring peace instead of violence.

 

The Terrorism Without… and Within

It is rare that I interact politically on this blog. I’ve done it, I’m sure, but most of the time when I make a political comment, it’s on my Facebook page or somewhere else.

However, I cannot leave a couple of news items alone. The first is the terrorism without. Thomas Friedman wrote a column that is scary. Friedman is a level headed liberal, and I mean that in the kindest way. When it comes to terrorism, he is one of the best sources I can read. His latest column needs to be read by every American. Agree or disagree with Iraq, Afghanistan, etc. (and he has his opinions as well), what we are forgetting is there is truly an enemy and that enemy is not forgetting us. We may not like the fact we have an enemy, but that doesn’t make them go away.

It’s like the devil. Some believe in a literal devil. Some don’t. Either way, he doesn’t care. He’ll use either belief system and keep on battling humanity.

Friedman recounts several recent events where authorities have stopped potential terrorist attacks on our soil. Then, he says this:

These incidents are worth reflecting on. They tell us some important things. First, we may be tired of this “war on terrorism,” but the bad guys are not. They are getting even more “creative.”

It’s a sobering column worth your full attention. We are so temporal in our thinking. We have such a “been there, done that” mentality, we are not realizing the need for vigilance in our national security. HOW that is done is still a matter of debate, but I am more and more convinced that it MUST be done. It’s not a matter of NOT staying vigilant.

Then, I refer to a terror within. National healthcare reform.

I am not saying healthcare reform is terrorism. I am saying the current Bacchus bill up for consideration and a possible vote IS terrorism in a new way. This article runs the numbers on the current bill and it’s just plain scary.

Here are my options as someone who cannot currently afford healthcare:

1. Pay incredibly high premiums for little coverage because it will be required.

2. Don’t pay for health insurance and pay a fine each and every year I can’t afford health insurance.

3. Go to jail for not paying the fine.

This bill has a “tax credit” to “help pay” for those premiums. Here is the false premise on that: you still have to pay the premiums. You get the tax credit at the END of the year, so I’ll still have to pay nearly $1000 a month for insurance for a family of four!

This is war on the middle class. The poor have coverage. The rich have coverage. They’ll get taxed to pay for the poor to have coverage. The middle class will end up in jail. But at least in jail we’ll have medical care!

This line out of the article is what sends me over the top:

Most of the uninsured are in households headed by someone who’s self-employed or works at a business that doesn’t provide coverage. It’s this group that Democrats are trying to help.

THIS is the help we are getting? Mandatory insurance, through companies that still won’t give us affordable plans, OR JAIL?

WHO STOLE MY COUNTRY?

I’ll get back to my regularly schedule blog tomorrow.