When the Headlines Mention Crematoriums and Mass Graves

You consider yourself a fairly positive person.

You don’t load every text with smiley faces or wish everyone a nice day, but you’ve made it a habit to live by faith, to open your eyes to the good that God may be working through trials, to praise God in the storm.

But, when the evening news rolls footage of those who stagger, displaced, along the Syrian border,

when the headlines contain words like “crematoriums” and “mass graves,”

when weeping mothers appear on screen and you don’t need to hear the translation to understand their agony,

positive fades in the rear-view mirror of your soul.

These are Psalm 120 times. Times of distress, of lying lips and deceiving tongues, when even pew-sitters sense the urge to call upon the Lord. Continue Reading →

To Those Seeking to Destroy the Church of Jesus Christ on Holy Week

To Those Seeking to Destroy the Church of Jesus Christ on Holy Week,

You think if you spray the walls of our churches with our blood, this will silence the truth. In truth, blood is nothing new to the church. The blood of Jesus Christ was shed for us all. The blood of those slain by humans cries out to our Father God and He hears the testimony of the dead.

The blood of the saints is a river that flows through human history since the death of Jesus Christ. You haven’t caused it – you’ve been caught up in its riptide. Better to join the river of blood than to be crushed upon the Rock when He comes. Let Him who has ears to hear, hear the truth.

You think you will control us or our message with your guns, your bombs, your terrorist claims. In truth, you control nothing.

Our lives are in the hands of Jesus Christ. This week, of all weeks, we remember that He laid down His life; no one took it from Him. We are His people. The timing of your acts this week perfectly coincides with His reminder to us that those who think they are in control, have no lasting power. Continue Reading →

What Responsibility Do Christians Bear for ISIS?

child-1154951_640I faced a hard question this week. It came to me on my knees.

So much conversation is in the air about who is responsible for ISIS. What president is most to blame for their existence? Which candidate is most likely to eradicate them? What nation should be addressing them? How does our culture contribute to their recruitment of some Americans and other Westerners?

How does the world protect Christians living in their shadow? Furthermore, how does the world protect Christians living under North Korean persecution or Chinese oppression? We should be addressing all these questions but for Christians, there is a more important question to ask: Continue Reading →

Our God is an Avenger

sunset-50494_640Dear Yazidi mother,

I cannot imagine your pain.

I’ve read reports of what you’ve endured and can hardly bear to read another. Your husbands and sons murdered, your daughters ripped from your arms and sold to men who tell them their god gives them permission to rape and to enslave. A world feasting on the lurid details of your daughters’ pain but largely helpless to force their way into those dark rooms and carry them to safety. Words, words, words, and here, I add more. I’ve no combat detail at my command, no special forces, no stealth weaponry to deliver them and bring them home. Even worse, I know where my children are. I can see them, hold them, watch their laughter, and hope for their future. What have I to offer you, dear Yazidi mother, except that I know you are out there in unrelenting pain?

You may or may not have heard of my God. I had never heard of your people before ISIS took your daughters. What little I know now has not been from you but from observers half a world away. Forgive me that I neglected to know more until you became a headline. Your plight has spurred me to understand more about the people where you live and become familiar with cultures that are largely unnoticed until calamity strikes. I know the enemy takes advantage of our ignorance and the scarcity of intercession for these unknown peoples. May your children’s pain bring an end to this lack of knowledge and the dearth of believers’ prayers. Continue Reading →

We Don’t All Get the Miracle (for my friend who is facing death)

glasses-1004311_640We don’t all get the miracle.

We know this. We know, because we’ve lived on this planet, that not every prayer is answered the way we want, that not every Christian lives a rosy existence this side of glory, that some of us die young despite every intercession.

It doesn’t sit well, though, does it?

When God’s faithful ones endure relentless trial, when they suffer, when they don’t receive the check in the mail or deliverance from the sword or cure from the disease or rescue at the last minute, we don’t handle it well. We weep, we plead, we rail, we protest, we agonize, we go silent, we grieve, and we ask questions. Why, God? Why Holy Father? Where were you for this daughter? Why did you not protect this son? Continue Reading →

Accounting for Lifeblood Shed in Orlando

woman-1006100_640The news greets you on your phone only seconds after you silence the alarm. It’s the notifications you see. So many from the Associated Press you know there’s been an incident.

Your first thought is where? Mentally, you locate your people.

You disregard the number, twenty dead and forty-three wounded because it’s a first count, sure to grow. You think to yourself that by now you know the drill and that, alone, makes you sad. Orlando. Night club. Gay community. Possible terrorist connection. You place the phone back on the stand and close your eyes against the week you already see forming.

Through the window, you spy a lovely summer day. The wind moves the leaves in trees that are still untouched by ravenous caterpillars and the light dances through them. Birdsongs fill the air and you think somewhere children laugh, couples dance, and seniors rock on porches listening to the fiddle or guitar. But elsewhere phones are ringing and there are knocks on doors followed by weeping, gathering, and more weeping as loved ones hear that the child they raised or the one they loved or the friend they cherished or the sibling they wrestled are among the bodies left on the night club floor. Throughout the day, numbers will become names will become someone’s sorrow. Continue Reading →

Ten Reasons You Kill Christians

sunset-50494_640In the past several days, reports from Belgium, Nigeria, and Pakistan of suicide bombers targeting Christians have seemingly rolled in like waves. One month ago, four Wycliffe translators were martyred in the Mid-East and a kidnapped Catholic priest was crucified in Yemen over the weekend. I believe, with headlines destined to stir fear, it is upon the Body of Christ to foster courage in the ranks and a focus on the truth that our lives are now, as always, in the hands of the One we trust the most. It is for that reason, I share this post again, so you can share with others the word that neither evil nor ISIS nor any other mechanism of darkness on earth has the final word on this battle. The battle belongs to the Lord.

This is a message for those who persecute, torture, imprison, and kill Christians. We know why you’re killing us – do you?

Killing Christians is a practice as old as Christianity. Those who practice it do nothing more than imitate their predecessors. Predecessors who attempted but failed to snuff out the life of our faith in its infancy. The practice of persecution is hard for some to fathom but it’s actually an understandable act. In fact, I can think of at least ten reasons to kill a Christian: Continue Reading →

Persecution Comes to the Strong, the Weak, and the Fake

lamb-buoyancy-814278_640In America, we don’t yet have a practical grasp of persecution.

We don’t live daily in fear of our lives so for most of us, persecution is still a conversation we have over dinner tables and in small groups over Starbucks. We revealed our naivete recently by praying fervently for the release of Pastor Saeed Abedini but then stumbling when we learned of his struggles with some unattractive sins. The stumble showed what we don’t understand yet about persecution.

We seek heroes like baby ducks wanting to imprint on a mama, that’s natural. But as Christians, we have One who is our hero and really, we shouldn’t try to make fellow believers try to fit the same bill. Even when they’re imprisoned in the name of Jesus. Even when they hold up under torture for Jesus’ name. Even when they die in Jesus’ name. We sing that all the glory goes to Jesus but in practice, we try to spread it around and that can be a disservice to all. Continue Reading →

If You Can Keep Your Head When All About You . . .

Fear talk rules the day.

I’m not afraid right now but that’s because I feel safe. I know where all my loved ones are and my little town isn’t likely to appear on a prime target list. So, it’s easy for me to write brave words. This is true.

What’s also true is that I don’t know what to do about the Syrian refugees. When one side speaks, I think they’re right until I hear arguments for the other side, then they seem right, too. Continue Reading →

It’s All Ruined

holzfigur-980784_640One simple sentence makes my stomach knot every time I hear it or think it.

This sentence has the power to send worlds into a tailspin, emotions into a downward spiral, and faith into bankruptcy. It’s a short sentence with ancient origins. It was likely uttered for the first time at the dawn of creation and every utterance of it since carries with it the destructive power of its genesis.

“It’s ruined!”

That’s it. One sentence. It’s ruined! Or You’ve ruined everything! Or I’ve ruined it! Or That’s it. Now it’s ruined. Or He ruined his life. Or She ruined their relationship.

It’s an exclamation of despair. Powerlessness. Loss of hope. Loss of innocence. Destruction. Fatality and doom. Continue Reading →