Tuesday, July 29, 2014

God’s Chosen People—Under Siege

I will bless those who bless you,
And I will curse him who curses you;
And in you all the families of the earth shall be blessed. ~Genesis 12:3 

The past few news cycles have reported that God’s chosen people are increasingly coming under attack. The governments of the world, by and large, seem content to let the atrocities continue unabated; little is said and less is done. 

I’m speaking of course of the persecuted Church. Christian men, women, and children—God’s chosen people—are being imprisoned, raped, tortured, and murdered throughout the Middle East, Northern Africa, and beyond. It is a form of genocide 

The reach of this silent tragedy is sweeping – a global religious genocide on “slow burn” with occasional conflagrations that make it into the mainstream media. There are an estimated 100 million persecuted Christians. 

What is greatly disturbing to me is that I hear more American Christians passionately “standing with Israel” than standing with God’s chosen ones—followers of our Lord Jesus Christ. 

To be sure, I don’t begrudge Israel the right to protect or defend itself. I afford this right to any nation. And at the same time, I don’t begrudge Palestinians their desire for statehood or self-government or what have you. (It’s a complex situation, it seems, and I’ll not attempt to unravel it here.) 

Nevertheless, my heart goes out to beleaguered believers in Jesus—God’s chosen people—even to those who are largely ignored or forgotten in Gaza 

Western Christians fail to fully grasp the suffering of Palestinians, including its Christian population, Bethlehem Bible College professor and Palestinian Christian told The Christian Post on Monday. "The Christians in the west, most of them, they don't know the realities here. . . . In the United States and much of Europe people — they just don't understand the realities on the ground," he added. 

"The Palestinian Christians in Gaza today, they suffer as much as the Palestinian Muslims in Gaza. They are under bombardment. They have only eight hours of electricity of every 24 hours. They have a hard time getting fresh water . . . the Christians are suffering, not only in the Gaza strip but also in the West Bank." 

Issa Tarazi, the executive director of the Near East Council of Churches, recently told the National Catholic Register that the airstrikes on Gaza "are affecting all Christians and Muslims; Christians suffer the same as all the other people of Gaza, the same threats and the same stress.” 

Perhaps you, dear reader, proudly stand up for the secular nation of Israel; but in so doing please do not negligently lay down on the suffering Israel of God—the Church of Jesus Christ.

Tuesday, July 22, 2014

Show Me The Money!

A few days ago a young believer shared with me that her employer—who self-identifies as a Christian—defrauded her of seventy dollars in wages. A simple phone call confirmed the claim. 

How should Christian employees/employers think in such a situation? 

As I’m sure you are aware, dear reader, I believe scripture is to be our guide in all matters of faith and conduct. Therefore I appeal to biblical principles.  

Please note that I am speaking of principles, not amounts of money. The seventy dollars kept from my sister in Christ will in no way “make or break” her, and it certainly is of no substantial consequence to her employer. However, what should be of utmost concern for all parties involved are the principles the seventy dollars in wages represent. 

To begin, we must remind ourselves of an axiom which we often forget: Wages belong to the employee, not the employer. This truth is impressed upon us by our Lord when He announces, “the laborer is worthy of his wages” (Luke 10:7).  

Notice it is the worker’s wage, not the employer’s.   

Thus we speak of paying not giving wages. Paying wages connotes legal and moral obligation. In other words, we pay workers because we owe them. That is, the payment of wages is a matter of indebtedness not charity.  

 My friend’s unfortunate and unnecessary circumstance reminds me of the chilling words from the Apostle James:  

Indeed the wages of the laborers who mowed your fields, which you kept back by fraud, cry out; and the cries of the reapers have reached the ears of the Lord of Sabaoth (James 5:4).  

May such sentiments never be said of any Christian employer!  

I have found that few things in all of this world more accurately reveal one’s true moral character than money. Hence each of us is challenged, in sundry ways, to glorify God in our handling of it.

Tuesday, July 8, 2014

You Talkin' To Me?

God whispers to us in our pleasures, speaks in our conscience, but shouts in our pains: it is his megaphone to rouse a deaf world. ~C.S. Lewis 

Last week I wrote of my adventures in lawn-mowing and this week it is my displeasure to inform you that my summer fun is prematurely cut short. A week and half ago I tore my left biceps muscle from my elbow. 

I was volunteering for a local charity (throwing a box spring mattress on a burn-pile behind Grace Bible Church) when I heard and felt the tear. (Yes, I actually heard it and the memory gives me the willies.)

It hurt. It hurt physically but also mentally and emotionally. That’s the nature of pain. 

And if Lewis is correct—and he usually is—regarding our pains and our God, then it certainly seems that God is none too shy about speaking to us in His, shall we say, outside voice. 

Inevitably a local sage comforted me by explaining, “Well…you’re getting older.” While I do not dispute the factuality of the statement I do indeed deny its implication: I am not so old that my muscles are jumping off my bones. 

Having said that, I’ll be undergoing surgery in a couple of days to reattach muscle to bone: more pain. But this will be suffering of a different sort. Contemplating the coming procedure and the discomfort that is certain to follow, it seems that a differentiation between “good” and “bad” pain is in order. 

Tearing the muscle was “bad” pain. It was nothing but harmful. Repairing and rehabbing the muscle will be “good” pain. If done correctly it will be nothing but beneficial.  

Ideally, the suffering doctors inflict is for their patient’s betterment. It’s “good” pain. Thus, while it may feel otherwise, we believe our doctors are doing things for our good—saving what is spoiled to the best of their ability. 

Now, to be sure, we can’t always neatly distinguish or categorize “good” from “bad” pain. Life’s much too complicated for that. But we can always trust the hand and heart of the Great Physician in the midst of the messiness.  

We must always strive to view our pains—good and bad—through the lens of Christ’s sufferings and with an eternal perspective. 

At any rate, I suspect I’ll be hearing the outside voice a bit longer and I don’t know when I’ll be publishing another article. (I loathe “hunting and pecking.”) But until then…thank you for reading and thinking. 

Tuesday, July 1, 2014

A Matter of Perspective

Last week as I mowed the lawn in front of Grace Bible Church, I found myself under winged attack. The beasts bent on my demise were fiery orange, bumble-bee like flying nightmares with attitude. They were fierce and they were aggressive (like that rabid soccer dude).   

I retreated at breakneck mower speed and my shirt was hastily fashioned into a whirling, whip-like weapon. I downed three or four of the marauders and escaped—shaken but unscathed. 

After morning worship I shared my traumatic experience with a married couple and the compassionate husband offered, “ManI wish I could’ve seen that.”  

How nice. 

As you can imagine—though I’ve never been one who actually looks forward to lawn-keeping—the prospect of mowing again was less than appealing.  

But then something amazing happened. My neighbor had a most fortuitous discovery: My nemeses are not bees, hornets or morbidly obese wasps. They are 17 Year Periodical Magicicada. And according to my reading, they do not sting or bite. (However, according to my experience, they do cause heart-attacks.)  

But let’s be abundantly clear: my “near death” experience was grounded in a misperception. The fear was real; the threat was not. Was my fright therefore irrational? Not at all.  

I was merely thinking, emoting, and behaving according to my beliefs at the time. My beliefs at the time (held with firm conviction) were not illogical; but neither were they factual. That is, my beliefs were rational but not true. 

My adventures in lawn-mowing remind me of a word from C. S. Lewis:  

What we learn from experience depends on the kind of philosophy we bring to experience. It is therefore useless to appeal to experience before we have settled the philosophical question. (Miracles, p.p. 9-10) 

We should probably keep this mind when engaging folks who see things differently from us. Lots of things are matters of perspective. It is said that perceptions are stronger than reality. Maybe so—but they aren’t truer. And thankfully, they can change.