Tag Archives: Egypt

God’s Laundry

Dirty socks may not understand this, as they are sloshing around in the washer, but they have nothing to fear, not even from the repeated rinse and spin cycles.  People who are gathered to God in Jesus have nothing to fear either, from the growing bloodthirstiness of ISIS, the new alliances between the evil dictators of Russia, Syria and Iran, or the hostility toward Israel that simmers in Egypt and Iraq.  God told us to expect all that, all that and more.  There’s no way for us dirty socks to know if this will be the final rinse and spin, but we can take heart in knowing that things turn out well for God’s Laundry:

This is the word of the LORD concerning Israel. The LORD, who stretches out the heavens, who lays the foundation of the earth, and who forms the spirit of man within him, declares:   “I am going to make Jerusalem a cup that sends all the surrounding peoples reeling. Judah will be besieged as well as Jerusalem.  On that day, when all the nations of the earth are gathered against her, I will make Jerusalem an immovable rock for all the nations. All who try to move it will injure themselves.  On that day I will strike every horse with panic and its rider with madness,” declares the LORD. “I will keep a watchful eye over the house of Judah, but I will blind all the horses of the nations.   Then the leaders of Judah will say in their hearts, ‘The people of Jerusalem are strong, because the LORD Almighty is their God.’  –  (Zechariah 12:1-5)

Keep the Faith – Part 1

A few days ago, a mob in Egypt burned down a Christian school and then took 3 nuns out into the streets, to parade them around as prisoners of war.   There have been recent reports of courts in Iran sentencing people to death for the crime of believing in Jesus.  It is impossible for us to imagine how great the pressure is in these situations for people to deny their faith in Jesus, or at the very least keep quiet about it.

In my community the pressure is much less forceful (there were 2 letters to the editor in our daily newspaper today, telling Christians to keep what they believe to themselves.) but when it comes against you, personally, it still feels very challenging.    When the push of the world becomes shove, when faith is tested in painful ways or even simply embarrassing ways, there are some things we can do to help us stand firm.  We’re going to look at some of them in more detail over the next several days.

You may think the Bible was written by a drill sergeant and just tells us to suck it up and be strong.  But back when the early Christians were doing a lot of bleeding, real people needed real ways to keep their faith strong.   The book of Hebrews spent a whole chapter telling of great men and women of faith, who resolutely continued to believe in God and His promises, despite severe pressure from the world.  And then, the author of that book gave some practical tips for Christians facing similar threats to their faith. He said, here’s what you can do to stay strong, too:

Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles, and let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us. Let us fix our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy set before him endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God. Consider him who endured such opposition from sinful men, so that you will not grow weary and lose heart. (Hebrews 12:1-3)

We’ll take this in pieces.  The first tip is this: Remember that your suffering has come because you are playing on a great team!   The word, witnesses, probably doesn’t mean that the souls of dead martyrs are watching from heaven as you struggle.  It means that they have borne witness by their lives that holding on to faith in the midst of suffering is really worth it.  The word, witness, is the Greek word from which we get the English word, martyr.  The idea here is that when you are tested because of your belief in Jesus, you have come off the bench to play on a great team that has left a legacy of fearless faith over the centuries.

There is a reason that pro sports teams retire the number and display the jersey of a great player.  The fans love it for sure but the deeper reason has to do with the impact on the team.  Implied in those acts that honor the former greats, is a message to the rookie on the bench: “This is who we are; this is what we play like and this is what we stand for.”

The great cloud of witnesses gives that message to the lonely soul who is being threatened for her or his faith today.  You may feel like giving up, caving in, but look up as you come off the bench.  Look up to the rafters and see those sweat and blood-stained jerseys of the great men and women who have played on this team before.  Remember their courage.  Know that they are glad to know you are standing in the lineup today.

Stay tuned over the next few days, and we’ll dig deeper into the next tip for keeping the faith.

Dangerous Faith

Speaking of people who lived by strong faith, the author of Hebrews says:

Some faced jeers and flogging, while still others were chained and put in prison. They were stoned; they were sawed in two; they were put to death by the sword. They went about in sheepskins and goatskins, destitute, persecuted and mistreated—  (Heb 11:36b-37)

Of course, that was back in the old Bible days, right?  What challenges do we face today that test our faith?  Well, last week, 20 churches were burned to the ground.  Homes were ransacked and torched.  People were beaten and a few were killed.  Why?  They were Christians living in Egypt.  In some areas of Egypt, Christians are living as prisoners in their homes, afraid to go outside, even to get food.  Most of us cannot imagine what these people are dealing with, much less really know how we would respond if we were in their shoes.  They are facing a stark challenge to their faith.  What they choose to do, in response to these attacks, will show what they believe.   The world urges us to fight back, to get even, take revenge.  Jesus taught: 

But I tell you: Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you…  (Matthew 5:44)

Sadly, the situation in Egypt is hardly unique.  Levels of Christian persecution are higher than they ever have been.   This faith business is dangerous business.   Would you join me in praying for these brothers and sisters, asking God to strengthen their faith?

Will the Real Leader Please Stand Up?

Do you despair when you hear all The bickering that goes on in Washington? How do you suppose the upheaval in Egypt will turn out? Do you think the new leader in Iran will be better than Ahmedinijab (How do you spell his name? My spell checker converted it into something about getting a job at Denny’s)? When you consider all the unrest in the world are you ready for a perfect leader? Here’s a prediction about just that from Isaiah 11. He is prophesying about Jesus. When you read how Jesus’ leadership will be characterized one day, it sounds pretty good…

A shoot will come up from the stump of Jesse;
from his roots a Branch will bear fruit.
The Spirit of the Lord will rest on him—
the Spirit of wisdom and of understanding,
the Spirit of counsel and of power,
the Spirit of knowledge and of the fear of the Lord—
and he will delight in the fear of the Lord.
He will not judge by what he sees with his eyes,
or decide by what he hears with his ears;
but with righteousness he will judge the needy,
with justice he will give decisions for the poor of the earth.
. (Isaiah 11:1-4)

Question is, with a leader like that, would you follow Him, would you cooperate?