Wednesday, December 17, 2014

What if it were here?

As more details come out about the school shooting which happened in Pakistan, the horror of the story increases.  I wonder, though, if it were to happen here what our reaction would be.  It was just over two years ago that America mourned the school shooting in Connecticut.  And we should have.  Children were needlessly slaughtered, and it was a tough time even for those living hundreds of miles away.  We hugged our kids a little harder that day, struggling to fight light in the midst of the darkness.

But is this really any different?  The only difference is that there were more children killed this time, not less.  Sure, they were a little further away, but children had to hear the cries of the killers screaming "God is great" as they maliciously went through the school, finding anyone they could and killing them.  The reason given for the killing was war.  It's a "you killed us, now we're going to kill you" story.

It's time for this evil to end, but it isn't going to end if we aren't willing to stand for what is right, even when the evil is happening far away.

So what can we do?  There are no easy answers to this question, but there are things we can do, even from a distance, which can make a difference.

We can pray.  We need to pray for the ones who have lost children and family members in this killing.  We need to pray for the ones who killed.  We need to pray for them, that God would have mercy on them, and turn their hearts toward Him.  We need to pray for those who are in authority, that they would seek God for guidance on how to deal with these types of situations.

We can mourn.  These children were created in God's image, just like my own children.  They were dearly loved by God.  We need to mourn their passing, and do as Jesus said; to mourn with those who mourn.

We can love our enemies.  This all started with people responded to hate with more hate.  I've been giving a lot of thought these days to the words of Jeremy Courtney, the founder of Preemptive Love Coalition: "We all know that violence unmakes the world.  But preemptive love unmakes violence.  Preemptive love remakes the world through healing."  We can't live like the ones who are hating and expect change.  We must love first, and ask questions later.

If we do these things, I believe it can not only help today, but our hope is that it will help future generations.  They need to learn what it means to love like Jesus.

"But I say to you who hear, Love your enemies, do good to those who hate you, bless those who curse you, pray for those who abuse you.  To the one who strikes you on the cheek, offer the other also, and from one who takes away your cloak do you withhold your tunic either." - Jesus

Thursday, December 11, 2014

Does God Really Mean It?

We were having a conversation at church the other day, and we were discussing a story in Exodus 32.  We find Moses on top of a mountain where God is giving him the 10 Commandments.  Meanwhile, at the bottom of the mountain, at the people's request Aaron is making a golden calf for them to worship.

God tells Moses what is going on, and then says this: "I have seen how stubborn and rebellious these people are.  Now leave me alone so my fierce anger can blaze against them, and I will destroy them.  Then I will make you, Moses, into a great nation."

We discussed the temptation we would likely face here to do just what God suggested.  I mean, if I were in Moses' shoes, wouldn't that have been a pretty good offer?

Moses was apparently a better man than me.  He prayed "Turn away from your fierce anger.  Change your mind about this terrible disaster you have threatened against your people!"  He cries out to God to remember His promises to Abraham, Isaac and Jacob.

Then it says this: "So the LORD changed His mind about the terrible disaster he had threatened to bring on his people."

It's a curious phrase, and a curious idea, and brought up an interesting question from one of the gentlemen there.  He asked, basically, "Was God just testing Moses?  Would he really have done it?"

I answered that I believed God would have done this, for this reason: when God says something, I believe God means it.  I'm just not sure that's the go-to thought for most people today, even good Christians, which this man certainly is.

I think this has real life implications for us today.  When we read that God will discipline us, do we believe Him?  Do we believe in Hell?  On the flip side, do we actually believe that God will answer our prayers, or help us when we try to share our faith?

Trying to find hidden meanings in the Bible, instead of simply reading it for what it is, is not unusual.  People have been doing it since the dawn of the Church.  While it isn't unusual, that doesn't make it correct.

So next time you're reading your Bible, instead of trying to find the hidden meaning, ask yourself this question: If God really means what's written here, how should I live in response?