November 16, 2015

Praying for Peace

It is a beautiful, but chilly day here in Phoenix. We had rain most of yesterday, and now we have a cold front moving in from the west coast. I had to get out my winter clothing yesterday, and today, I am sitting here with my turtleneck sweater on. It is fall, finally, and with that comes the blessedness of cool, and sometimes, wet days.

I am home today, well for a short while, anyway. I decided to forgo spending four hours in a chilly library for the comfort and extra coffee (free, mind you) at home. I am glad I drove home because it gave me time to reflect on my life, and to consider all the things I am thankful for today.

Speaking of reflecting some..I was over on Facebook a few minutes ago, and I saw the news reported that ISIS has recently threatened to hit Washington, DC next. I don't know how credible that information is, you know, because it came through social media, but the possibility doesn't surprise me at all. After the horrible tragedy that took place in Paris this weekend, the thought that these terrorists are on the move toward the USA doesn't shock me one bit. I mean, these Islamic jihadists, and that is what they are, extreme fanatics who believe in causing as much human collateral damage as possible, in order to obtain a privileged status in heaven, are in my view, individuals who are out of control and completely insane. The worst part is that so many atheists out there believe that there is no difference in fanaticism, so whether you are a Christian or an Islamist or a Jew, you are cut of the same cloth, so to speak. Yet, you don't see Jews or Christian's murdering innocent people, terrorizing whole nations, and seeking to inflict pain on millions of people. No, you see the Christians, in particular, seeking to build up and nurture the poor, to help end the suffering, and to support and enfold the disenfranchised in our world. Anyone who thinks that Islam is a religion of peace is mistaken, because it is not. I don't mean to demean those that practice this religion, but what I have seen of it thus far tells me that it is a religion of hate and violence, especially against women, children, and those who are "infidels" (non-believers). I have seen nothing that would make me desire to convert to this religion at all.

On the other hand, when I see the good works that Christians do in this world, all the ministries that are founded on Judeo-Christian beliefs, I am convinced that Christianity, for all its warts and black-eyes, is still the best religion in the world. In fact, I would go as far as to say that it is the most expansive, inclusive, and completely open religion to exist in all time. You may disagree with me, but there is no other religion that accepts the poor, the minority, the disenfranchised -- the prostitute, the criminal, and the victim -- like Christianity. Yes, there is a moral code that underlays this religion, one predicated on the Holiness of God, but no one is turned away from Christianity, from believing in Jesus Christ on the basis of their lifestyle. This is a misnomer promulgated by the media who are anti-Christian. You can be gay and a Christian. You just cannot remain in that lifestyle. You must be transformed through His grace, and in doing so, you will come to see the holy requirement of the Lord, the requirement that calls you out of the former way of life, and into the new way of life. This is the crux of the disagreement within the church, the belief that says "come as you are, stay as you are" versus "come as you are, leave transformed and made new." The one side of this debate thinks you can come dirty and stay dirty and because God loves you, that is OK with Him. No change is required. The other side maintains that you can come dirty, and because God loves you, He made it possible that through the washing of Jesus' blood, you are made clean. Thus, you must not go back and dirty yourself again, but you must remain clean (through Grace and the will of God). This is the black-eye of Christianity, the fact that there is disagreement within the Church universal. The problem is that for outsiders looking in, this disagreement in views makes us look just as criminally negligent as the Islamic terrorists who are seeking to overtake the world and enslave all people to their way of thinking. This is not the case, but our lack of unity, wholeness in mind, body, and spirit is leading many to think we are no different. It is sad, but it is true.

My studies this semester have focused on Theology and Communication. As such, I have read a number of influential works that seem to be saying the same thing -- the time has come for Christian's to start acting out what they believe. The old adage, you are what you think you are, has come true. We must live our commitments as Michael Warren says in his book, "Seeing Through the Media." We must live our worship as James Smith says in his book, "Desiring the Kingdom." Yes, we have long slumbered, languishing within a system of rules, regulations, and ritual, and it is time for Christians everywhere to start living what they say they believe and what they hold true.

I believe that we are in the end times. Yes, I believe that our days are numbered, and this world as we know it, is coming to an end. This means, of course, that the return of the Lord is near at hand. Thus, it is vital for all believers in Jesus Christ to unite, to stop bickering over details, and to start living the great commission. We must love the lost, serve the poor, and remember the days, for they are evil (Eph. 5:16). I am ready for His return. I am ready to embrace my calling, my commitment to Him, and to start living my life as though today was my last. You see, for many of the victims in Paris this weekend, none of them I would guess, thought that Friday evening would be their last day on this earth. The same is true for the 3K plus men and women who lost their lives on September 11, 2001. None of them thought "Today, I am going to die" as they headed off to work. No, we live our lives as though they are endless, as though there will be no end, and if there is one, well that day is somewhere off into the distance. But, the days are evil, as Paul writes in Ephesians 5:15-16 NIV:

Therefore be careful how you walk, not as unwise men but as wise, making the most of your time, because the days are evil.

The days we live are tenuous, and thus, we must walk rightly, living as wise men, men who know the truth, and who rightly and accurately handle it (2 Tim. 2:15). Let's us endeavor to be about His business when He returns for His bride, the Church. Let us be making the most of our time, always seeking to do His work, to love God and others in Jesus' Name. Let us not be found in disharmony, disunion, and distress -- causing distress for our brothers and sisters -- as well as for those who are lost, and who desperately need to know Him. Let us live our commitment to Christ wholly, fully, and completely devoted to Him, to His work, and to His will. Amen, so be it. Thy will be done. Selah!

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