Tag Archives: ISIS

Eyewitness

Recant or be tortured to death.  Sound like ISIS?  Many Christians have faced that choice at their hands, but for the original disciples, it was the government who made that threat.  None of them caved.  All but John were executed.  How could they have been firm, so brave and so unwilling to change their story?  They were first-hand eyewitnesses.  They knew how outlandish their claims seemed.  But they seen, heard and touched Jesus before and after His resurrection. 

For we did not follow cleverly devised stories when we told you about the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ in power, but we were eyewitnesses of his majesty. He received honor and glory from God the Father when the voice came to him from the Majestic Glory, saying, “This is my Son, whom I love; with him I am well pleased.”  (​2Pe 1:16-17)
That which was from the beginning, which we have heard, which we have seen with our eyes, which we have looked at and our hands have touched—this we proclaim concerning the Word of life. The life appeared; we have seen it and testify to it, and we proclaim to you the eternal life, which was with the Father and has appeared to us. We proclaim to you what we have seen and heard, so that you also may have fellowship with us. And our fellowship is with the Father and with his Son, Jesus Christ.  (1John 1:1-3)

Good Works

Throughout much of the Middle East it is illegal to convert to Christianity from Islam. And yet hundreds of Muslims break that law willingly.  A church near the Syrian border has recently baptized over 800 converts.  One couple explained their decision before the judge: “When we lived in Syria the Muslims in ISIS murdered three quarters of our family before we could escape.  But here, the Christians have done nothing but love us, shelter us, feed us and clothe us.  So, tell us: Why shouldn’t convert?”

The judge dismissed the charges and let them go.

For this is the will of God, that by doing good you should put to silence the ignorance of foolish people.  (1 Peter 2:15)

For Roger, Too

Maybe you’ve seen the quotes from the Baptist pastor, Roger Jimenez, who seemed glad about the shootings in Orlando.  He claims to represent Jesus and preaches in a church named “Verity” that claims to stand for truth.  Neither claim is in line with Jesus’ teachings.  It is true the Bible teaches homosexual practice is out of sync with God’s design.  But so is heterosexual lust for someone not your spouse.  And greed, gossip, and coveting something not your own.  Jesus taught the inclination of our hearts in the wrong direction is just as serious as the worst act of that inclination.  For example, anger against your brother is akin to murder, He said, and just as bad.

“You have heard that it was said to those of old, You shall not murder; and whoever murders will be liable to judgment.’But I say to you that everyone who is angry with his brother will be liable to judgment; whoever insults his brother will be liable to the council; and whoever says, ‘You fool!’ will be liable to the hell of fire.  (Matthew 5:21-22)

Every one  of us is equally guilty in the eyes of God when it comes to doing, or even thinking about doing, things out of sync with His design.  To point fingers with a judgmental, holier-than-thou attitude is as serious before God as pulling the trigger.  Roger Jimenez should have known that.  He also should know Jesus did not come for those who considered themselves to be morally pure.  He came for those who know they are not.

And when the Pharisees saw this, they said to his disciples, “Why does your teacher eat with tax collectors and sinners?” But when he heard it, he said, “Those who are well have no need of a physician, but those who are sick. Go and learn what this means, I desire mercy, and not sacrifice.’ For I came not to call the righteous, but sinners.”  (Matthew 9:11-13)

Fact is, God loves the Orlando victims and sent His Son, Jesus to save them.  He came for Roger, too, if he can get over himself and see it…

For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but in order that the world might be saved through him.  (John 3:17)

Really Good News

The town of Raqqa, Syria, used to be a pretty nice place to live.  That is, before ISIS marched in and took over.  Now everyone is forced to live under their draconian laws.  No one is allowed to leave.  A squad of goons patrols the town, looking for people to arrest.  Commonly, those arrested, even for minor offenses, are publicly tortured, mutilated, beheaded or crucified.  In other words, life in Raqqa is not much different from life in Bethlehem when Jesus was born.  Particularly with the public floggings and crucifixions.

Consider that, and read this:

Luke 2:10 — 11 
And the angel said to them, “Fear not, for behold, I bring you good news of great joy that will be for all the people. For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Savior, who is Christ the Lord.

Good news?  Really?  Suppose you  lived in Raqqa, trapped and terrified, and an angel came and said, “Good news! A savior has come!”  But then he tells you the savior is an infant, so you are going to have to be patient…   Would that really seem like good news?  Wouldn’t you rather have a savior who was special forces and flew a helicopter? 

Most people felt the same way back in first century Bethlehem.  They didn’t realize their captivity was not primarily to the Romans but to their own self-destructive, sinful urges. As awful as it was to be under the thumb of cruel, pagan conquerors, far worse was the threat of eternal damnation.  Jesus was born as a baby and lived a normal and yet sinless life in order to be qualified to set them (and us) free from captivity to sin.

Joseph received this angelic message in a dream:

Matthew 1:21
She will bear a son, and you shall call his name Jesus, for he will save his people from their sins.”

I am certain there are people in Raqqa today who are discovering this Savior, just as some did in Bethlehem.  His salvation is just as powerful today as it was then, bringing peace and freedom despite dark and desperate circumstances.  Jesus gives eternal life that not even ISIS can destroy.  And that really is good news for all the people.”

Running the Rapids with Jesus

Before you even get in the raft, the white water guide begins to establish his or her authority and control.  In the early stages of the float trip they work hard to make sure everyone knows what to do, practicing the commands over and over.  “Back-paddle!”  “Right turn!”  “Let’s do it again!”  Why?  White water!  There’s rapids downstream and, when they get to them, it’s too late to begin figuring out what to do.  The idea is for everyone to be alert, trained and ready to respond quickly, without panic.  Even if the raft seems about to flip.

Jesus told the folks in His raft they would eventually confront dangerous rapids.  When they asked how they could know the end of the age was approaching, He didn’t mince words.  Instead, He prepared them (and us).   You can read what He told them in the 24th Chapter of Matthew, but here are some excepts of what He said:

Jesus answered: “Watch out that no one deceives you.  For many will come in my name, claiming, ‘I am the Christ,’ and will deceive many.

In other words, “When things get dicey, make sure you listen to my commands and not anyone else.”

“You will hear of wars and rumors of wars, but see to it that you are not alarmed. Such things must happen, but the end is still to come. 

In other words, “When you hear the roar of the rapids, don’t freak out;  I have told you this trip winds up in white water so keep your heads.”

“Because of the increase of wickedness, the love of most will grow cold, but he who stands firm to the end will be saved.   –  (Matthew 24:4–13 Excerpts – NIV84)

In other words, “Don’t be surprised at how violent the rapids will seem.  You may even get tossed out of the raft.  But remember to trust me.  Do what I say and you will come through just fine.”

Human history is filled with failed attempts to make our world better as we strive for utopia.  People even held the hope that World War I would serve to end all future wars.  No matter how or what we try, we have not succeeded in eradicating evil.  As we see the rise of ISIS, Russia’s alliances with wicked dictators and nations who pledge the destruction of Israel, it might seem discouraging and frightening.

But these kinds of events have been foretold in Scripture.  Jesus never whitewashed the truth: wickedness will increase as the age continues toward the end.  But He also said,  “see to it you are not alarmed.”  And, “don’t listen to others who will lead you astray.”  And, “stand firm in your faith and you will be saved.”

Peace

Our hearts and tears go out for our sisters and brothers of Paris.  We are shocked, dismayed by the wanton brutality.  We pray for them, asking that they might find real peace in their hearts, healing from the terror, comfort in sorrow.  And safety.  I pray that many will hear and respond to these words of Jesus:

“Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.”  –  (Matthew 11:28–30 NIV84)

“If anyone loves me, he will keep my word, and my Father will love him, and we will come to him and make our home with him.   –  (Jn 14:23b ESV)

Peace I leave with you; my peace I give you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid.  –  (John 14:27  NIV84)

 

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)