Category Archives: God is Sovereign

Hard Truths from Jesus

This is not going to be a popular post because it has little to do with the junk that is filling social media, but everything to do with things that are of lasting importance. As I’ve Sunday Truth: Hope In The Hard Days - Julie Lefeburestudied the Scriptures and the life of Jesus, I find that he rarely mentions what is going on with the Roman governors. He had no comment on the horrific way they treated people or the good things they did. Those issues were not why He came to this world. He came to this world to help us see God and to provide a way for us to receive the gift of salvation.

I believe that there are believers with a variety of perspectives because of the environments in which we were raised. Still, God’s word is faithful and true. If we could only press ourselves to pursue God’s perspective in all aspects of life we would not be swayed by this pastor or that pastor who are so easily led by public opinion. He tells us to love our neighbors and our enemies. Jesus said, “Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, that you may be sons of your Father in heaven.” (Matt 5:44-45) Our goal in life is not only to have faith that secures eternal life for ourselves but to live in such a way as to give light to others who are also looking for that relationship with the One True God.

Jesus talks about the anger that is being expressed in our world this way, “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.” (Matt 5:22) To be sure, Jesus got exasperated with people who were desecrating His Father’s house by selling trinkets in the temple courtyard. He was so angry that He overturned the tables containing their merchandise and threw them out of the temple. (Matt 21:12-16) That was an anger that was righteously motivated and proved that God, Himself, does get angry.

The anger we are experiencing in our world is far from such a holy anger. We tend to get angry over things with which we disagree. We need to learn to contain and reserve our anger for those things that matter to God. We should be constantly seeking to avoid the judgment of an angry God. In our colloquialisms, we sometimes infer that we have put the “fear of God” into someone. Our society would do well to have a healthy dose of the fear of the God they have banished from our schools and are banishing from our government. The kind of fear that is a reverent respect and awe for His sovereign power and righteous holiness.

The apostle Peter penned these straightforward words as given to him by the Holy Spirit, “Be subject for the Lord’s sake to every human institution, whether it be to the emperor as supreme, or to governors as sent by him to punish those who do evil and to praise those who do good. For this is the will of God, that by doing good you should put to silence the ignorance of foolish people. Live as people who are free, not using your freedom as a cover-up for evil, but living as servants of God. Honor everyone. Love the brotherhood. Fear God. Honor the emperor.” (1 Peter 2:13-17)

This gives me pause as I reflect on the rhetoric of today by some of our Christian leaders who want so desperately to be relevant. In so doing they never have the opportunity to share, what John wrote about in the book of Revelation as, the eternal gospel. (Rev 14:6) This gospel is of utmost importance to every man, woman, and child and contains the Truth all men are seeking.

Some may scoff at this simplified perspective but, as Christians, we have to learn to keep the main thing the main thing. We have to remember that our purpose here on this earth is to spread the eternal gospel in such a way that it is magnetic and facilitates rather than hinders God’s work of drawing all men to Himself.

Just a few thoughts for the day.

Hard Questions of Faith

This past weekend we were impacted by the homegoing of a man of God who, as many would say, died way before his time. He was 34 years old. Nabeel Qureshi is a former Muslim who became a world reknown Christian apologist with a ministry that impacted millions. My friend Natasha Crain asks one of the hard questions of the faith in her blog posted yesterday. Her reflections and conclusions, posted in Christian Mom Thoughts, are worth sharing here so that more people will reflect on God and how He responds to our prayers.

We are currently going through a series on prayer in our church, so the timing of this piece is appropriate.

Why Didn’t God Heal Nabeel Qureshi?

 

Why Didn't God Heal Nabeel Qureshi?

I don’t know.

I simply do not know the answer to this question, nor can I fathom what it might be.

But I was heartbroken when I learned that Nabeel succumbed to cancer this weekend at age 34, leaving behind his wife and young daughter. My tears just kept coming after the news, even though I never had the opportunity to meet him personally.

For those who haven’t followed his story, Nabeel Qureshi was a Muslim-turned-Christian Apologist who authored the best-selling books Seeking Allah, Finding Jesus: A Devout Muslim Encounters ChristianityAnswering Jihad: A Better Way Forward, and No God But One: Allah or Jesus? A Former Muslim Investigates the Evidence for Islam and Christianity.

Seeking Allah, Finding Jesus tells the incredible story of Nabeel’s journey to Christ through an extraordinary set of investigations, dreams and visions. After committing to Jesus, Nabeel became a Christian apologist and spent the rest of his life writing and speaking, with a heart for bringing light to the Muslim world.

When you read his story, it is amazingly clear that God chose him for this important role.

But that clarity was also the reason so many people were shocked when he was diagnosed last year with stage 4 stomach cancer, which has a 5-year survival rate of 4 percent. The obvious question everyone wanted to ask was, “Why would God so clearly raise someone up with such an extraordinary testimony, only to let him die at this young age?”

Instead of accepting the grim outlook, however, Nabeel made it clear that he was not giving up. He started filming regular videos to document his treatment and reflect on faith during a difficult time. He prayed fervently for healing and strongly believed that healing would come, for the glory of God. Tens of thousands of people prayed for him and fasted over the months of his treatment. He attended healing services. In his videos, he recounted many experiences with people who told him they “heard a word” from God and that they knew he would be healed. On his Facebook page, thousands of people commented every time he posted a new video, and many of the comments were from people who said they, too, “knew” he was going to be healed.

I, like so many others, anxiously awaited each video in the hope of a miracle. After all, that same question from when he was diagnosed sat firmly planted in the back of my mind: Why would God so clearly raise someone up with such an extraordinary testimony, only to let him die at this young age?

Surely, this must be for the glory of God so He can perform a miracle and demonstrate to the Muslim world that Christianity is true!

But on Saturday, Nabeel died.

When Your Faith is Wounded

Many people have shared beautiful tributes to Nabeel’s life, and my Facebook feed is overflowing with posts proclaiming that Nabeel received ultimate healing. They are celebrating his life, and there is much to celebrate.

But I’m still crying.

To be honest, it’s a very complex mess of tears.

Tears for his wife and daughter, tears for the ministry he can’t continue, tears that many Christians were wrong about having “heard from God” that he would be healed, tears that Nabeel himself believed he would be healed but wasn’t, and tears for all those I’ve prayed for God to heal but who ended up dying anyway.

Though I don’t want to admit it, many of these are tears of disappointment in God. And though I really don’t want to admit it, there are some tears of bitterness in there too.

While I believe many people do experience modern-day miracles, I have not witnessed one myself despite praying for people to be healed on many occasions. At times like this, I find it incredibly hard to ask God for anything in prayer.

I don’t want to be let down again.

If God doesn’t answer the prayers of tens of thousands of people for Nabeel’s healing when there are SO many apparent reasons to do so, why should I bother to ask God for much smaller things—like for my kids to stop fighting so much?

Or so the disappointed logic goes.

You see, my faith has been wounded.

I know that’s not the response people expect from an apologist—someone who is supposed to be a strong defender of the faith. But perhaps that’s why I wanted to write this today.

Knowing a lot of answers to questions about subjects like God’s existence, the historical resurrection of Jesus, and the reliability of the Bible does not mean you never experience difficulties with faith. Everyone experiences difficulties, to varying degrees, in their spiritual journey. As such, if your faith is only rooted in the summation of your personal experiences, it can easily fall prey to fickle human emotion. Given the number of people with cancer for whom I’ve prayed in recent years, only to see them succumb to death anyway, it wouldn’t be too hard for me to never again pray for a person’s healing…if I gave in to my feelings.

I am extraordinarily grateful I can say during a difficult time, however, that the strength of my faith rests on far more than feelings. Because I have studied apologetics in depth, that understanding is an objective anchor I can reach for when my emotional ship has been rocked. This is precisely what we should want for our kids as well.

Apologetics isn’t just about dealing with skeptics.

It’s about dealing with life.

The fact that God didn’t heal Nabeel doesn’t change the fact that the evidence for God’s existence is extensive, that there is compelling historical evidence for the resurrection, or that there’s excellent reason to believe the Bible is God’s word. Those intellectual anchors hold me firm even when life is making me feel seasick.

So Why Didn’t God Heal Nabeel Qureshi?

On Saturday, the day that Nabeel passed away, I received the first printed copy of Talking with Your Kids about God in the mail. A bit ironically, I opened it to the chapter on talking with kids about how we know God answers prayers. I thought I’d end this post by sharing the conclusion to the chapter. I needed to be reminded of this as much as anyone this weekend.

In the book, this is addressing a particular question on why God doesn’t heal amputees (a question often asked by skeptics). But I’m replacing the word amputees here with Nabeel in brackets. The same conclusion applies.

So what have we learned the Bible says? God answers prayers, but there are many reasons why he doesn’t answer all prayers in the way we’d like. The question of why God doesn’t heal [Nabeel Qureshi] is no different from numerous other questions we could ask: Why doesn’t God answer a prayer for a million dollars to instantly appear in a person’s front yard? Why doesn’t God answer a child’s prayer to fly like a bird? Why doesn’t God answer a prayer for a child’s burn wounds to heal immediately rather than gradually? If we know from the Bible that God doesn’t answer allprayers, we logically can’t look at the outcome of any particular prayer to determine whether God ever answers prayers. What we’re looking at may be one of many examples of requests that God, in his wisdom, does not grant.

A lack of certain prayer outcomes is not inconsistent with the Bible. What would be inconsistent with the Bible is if God never answered prayers.

But millions of people throughout history have claimed they’ve received answers to prayers. Today, according to Pew Research, almost one-third of Americans say their prayers result in “definite and specific answers from God” at least once a month, with almost one in five adults saying they receive direct answers to specific requests at least once a week. While a skeptic might claim every single one of these millions of people is mistaken every single time, that’s a belief worth being skeptical about.

There’s no way for Christians to prove God answers prayers, just as there’s no way for a skeptic to prove God doesn’t answer prayers. But if (1) there’s good reason to believe God exists (as we saw in part 1), (2) the Bible claims God answers some but not all prayers, and (3) it’s the overwhelming experience of Christians that God does, indeed, answer prayers on a regular basis, then the fact that God [didn’t] heal [Nabeel] has no logical bearing on the truth status of Christianity.

Yes, my faith has been wounded for a time. But not mortally so. Never mortally so. My conviction runs too deep.

Rest in peace, Nabeel. I do not understand now, but have no doubt I will someday.

He’d Still Been God

So often when we experience challenges and trials in life, we wonder where God is and why He hasn’t protected us from the misfortune that has come our way. It seems we’re caught off guard when life isn’t fair; when we’ve been dealt a hand that seems counter to all that we’ve worked for. James wrote that we should consider it all joy when (not if) we encounter various trials. (James 1:2) Why? Because the testing of our faith produces good things in us like the steadfastness of a tree standing strong in the face of constant winds and harsh weather. Like these two trees outside my office window. They have withstood winds over 75 mph, freezing temperatures to 20+ degrees below zero, hail, and infestations of bugs.

These two trees standing in the rain today have weathered the storms and are standing strong and erect. One has a little bow in the trunk, but don’t we all change somehow as we weather all that life throws at us? Hopefully, the ups and downs of life have improved our perspective and perhaps strengthened us to better handle the next storm. A dear friend is a kind and gentle man (now in his 80s) who has seen his share of disappointment and his share of success. But the ups and downs of his life have strengthened his faith and given him a perspective and wisdom that he shares freely with me. Together we look at what we can learn about God through our lives, through the lens of Scripture.

Jesus was talking with Nicodemus one night and said, “The wind blows where it wishes, and you hear its sound, but you do not know where it comes from or where it goes. So it is with everyone who is born of the Spirit.” (John 3:8) So it is with the ways of God as He continues to mold and shape us to prepare us for life with Him in heaven. The apostle Paul wrote to the church at Philippi, And I am sure of this, that he who began a good work in you will bring it to completion at the day of Jesus Christ.” (Philippians 1:6) We are indeed a work in progress.

So, as God continues to use all things that come into our lives for the good of those who love Him (Romans 8:28) let’s not despair over the trials of life. Rather, let’s use them to grow in the knowledge of God, being more convinced than ever that He is still God, the great I AM. Let’s not let our view of Him be drawn only by the good things that come our way, but, as we look around at creation, being confident that whatever comes our way in life, He is still the God who made us, loves us enough to die for us, and continues to care for us and shape us for His purposes in eternity.

While attending a 4th of July musical a few weeks ago, the Legacy Quartet sang a song that caught my attention. It’s titled “He’d Still Been God.” The words go like this:

Master, carest Thou not that we perish?
Can’t You see that we’re about to die?
This boat we’re on is surely going under
“Save us now!”, His disciples cried
So Jesus rose to stand against the tempest
Knowing His disciples had no faith
Just to prove that He was still the Master
He spoke, and the wind and seas obeyed

But He’d still been God
Even if He’d never calmed a storm on a raging sea
He’d still been God
Even if He’d never caused a blinded eye to see
He’d still been God
Even if He’d never brought a crippled man to his feet
It’s not about what He did
It’s all about who He was
‘Cause even if He’d never come and done a single miracle
Then Jesus woulda still been God

Mary was His loving, earthly mother
She understood the purpose of her Son
Ever since the angel’d come and told her
“This child is the blessed Son of God”
So when she’d see the people gather ’round Him
Watching for a miracle to prove
That He would be their One and great Messiah
She just smiled ’cause she already knew

The original release was done by a group called Greater Vision and here is a link to their version of “He’d Still Been God.” The YouTube video is about 5 minutes long and I’d encourage you to give it a listen.

Friend, let’s not let our circumstances define God. Let’s see our circumstances through God’s eyes. Let’s not let our faith hinge on God’s performance of a miracle in our lives. God loves us and is continuing to do a work in us that will not be completed until we get to heaven. Life here on this earth is preparation for eternal life with our Savior, Jesus Christ. Let’s allow God to shape us into His image rather than us trying to shape God around our comfort zones.

Grace and Peace,

 

Be Strong and Courageous

I am the Lord and beside me there is no other …

Image result for strong and courageousThis phrase is repeated ten times over three chapters of Isaiah 44 – 46. To be repeated this often, perhaps God has a message for us? What is he saying? What are the implications of this saying?

It is interesting to note that there are also five instances of “I made you, and formed you in the womb!”

He’s telling us that he has things under control. He put the king of Persia in place to serve his purposes in rebuilding Jerusalem. Just as he made us he also made the king of Persia and just as he has a purpose for us he has a purpose for the king, even though his people had abandoned the God who created this world.

There are many messages in these three chapters, but a consistent theme is God’s confirmation that He alone is God and there are no other gods like him. He has things under control to the point where he made us and formed us in the womb with a purpose that serves his greater purpose.

If God is in control, we should not be shaken by the events taking place in this world, such as terrorist attacks or changes in leadership. We should not be shaken when our personal worlds are shaken by financial instability or sickness. I have friends who have come through cancer, and other debilitating illnesses. I have friends who are currently going through treatments for illnesses. I have recently lost a friend to a sudden heart attack. There are many in my life who are going through a period of financial hardship. Indeed my own world is shaken in the mighty winds that blow.

There is a two word phrase often repeated in the scriptures, “but God …” Those two words give us hope. God has a larger plan, he sees the larger picture and tells us that all things work together for the good of those who love him and follow him. He also has a plan for this world that will not be thwarted. One only has to look at the book of Revelation to read about the end of the story. It ends with God and everything that is good and right in his eyes surviving and finally bringing the peace that we all seek.

We can have a sense of that peace even today. By placing our faith in the Son of God, we can have peace in the middle of the storm. We can have the hope of an eternity with God. Four times in the first chapter of Joshua, God tells Joshua to be strong and courageous. In verse 9 he says, be strong and courageous because the Lord your God will be with you wherever you go.

He is the Lord who made us, named us, and formed us in the womb. He is the Lord who made this world and everything in it? There is nothing in this world big enough to disrupt God’s plans for us and for this world. God’s purposes will be done and our job as believers is to be strong and courageous salt and light in our world. Be an encouragement and tower of strength for those who don’t know the God who made them. He said in verse 7 of Isaiah 45, “I call you by your name, I name you, though you do not know me.”

We have a God who made us to be salt and light for him in this world. Each with a purpose and each with access to the hope that he has offered us free of any obligatory behavior. There is nothing we can do to curry favor with him besides believe in his Son whom he sent. Through faith we are all children of Abraham.

Rather than buying into all the fear, uncertainty and doubt in this world, know that he said, “my peace I leave with you.” It is the peace that passes all understanding.

Carpe diem, seize the day, the Lord your God goes with you, it is he who has made you to overcome the world. Be strong and courageous! Let’s have hope and peace even in the face of fear, uncertainty and doubt.

God has told us “My counsel will stand, and I will accomplish all my purpose.” Have faith. Have hope. Love God first, then love your neighbor.

On Being Thankful

All around the USA today will be a day when we pause to give thanks. We know that those who traveled here from Europe in the 17th century, together with their Native American Image result for thanksgivingfriends, paused to give thanks to God for their first harvest in this new land. George Washington issued a proclamation of thanksgiving during his Presidency. In 1863, with a country torn apart by the Civil War, Abraham Lincoln declared a national day set aside for “Thanksgiving and Praise to our beneficent Father who dwelleth in the Heavens.” The setting is an interesting one for the declaration of a day of thanksgiving.

In case you were wondering, we are not the only country that takes a day to give thanks. At least 11 other countries have similar holidays. It is important to have a thankful heart. We need a time when we can set aside our anxieties and remember to give thanks. A time when we can give thanks to God for each other. A time when we can give thanks for life itself. Yes, even a time when we can give thanks for those things that God has provided for us.

I think it is no stretch to say that a thankful heart makes us glad. Happy people tend to live longer. There is another side to it as well. It’s been said, “Harboring bitterness (not being thankful) is like drinking poison and hoping the other person dies.” A thankful heart is a healthy heart. We have so much for which to be thankful. According to a February 11, 2016 Time magazine article, happy people are not as prone to sickness, are healthier over all, and as a result live longer.

Thankfulness is an attitude of the heart. In the fourth chapter of Philippians, Paul writes about thankfulness and contentment. He writes, “The Lord is at hand: do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving, let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your heart and your minds in Christ Jesus.”

Nearly all of us face some sort of personal challenge on a regular basis, whether it be sickness, financial, work, or relationships. Yet even in this we can give thanks. Give thanks to a God who will carry us through these times. There are people in this world who are much worse off than nearly any American but they have learned how to be thankful. There is an old Dutch proverb that says, “They are not poor that have little, but they that desire much. The richest man, whatever his lot, is the one who’s content with his lot.” Where do we find our contentment? How many of us grew up dirt poor, but we were rich because we didn’t know we were poor.

Paul wrote this, “I have learned to be content whatever the circumstances. I know what it is to be in need, and I know what it is to have plenty. I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation.” What is that secret?

I go back to the two great commandments which are that we should love God with all our heart, soul, mind and strength, and love our neighbor as much as we love ourselves. That secret is buried in these two great commandments. The first helps us know that there is a God who is sovereign, who created the universe, and cares about us at an individual level, and we love and worship Him. The second helps us take our eyes off of ourselves and our own pity party and look out for the needs of others. No matter how bad our situation, we can always find those who are in a worse position than the one we are in. In that fourth chapter of the letter to the church at Philippi, Paul gives us the foundation for his contentment and thankful heart. In verse 19 he writes, “And my God will meet all your needs according to his glorious riches in Christ Jesus.”

Can we take that promise by faith. Can we believe that the God who created this universe, the far reaches of which are still being discovered, cares enough to meet your needs and my needs? If we can do that, we can live a life of thanksgiving. We can be thankful that we know our God who rules this mighty universe cares about you and me enough to make sure that all our needs are covered. Let’s choose to be thankful this holiday season.

Thanks for taking time to read today’s ramblings.

The Direction We’re Headed

Much to-do has been made in recent years about “the direction we’re headed.” In many https://i0.wp.com/pbs.twimg.com/media/CoDyrtjUAAMSl8p.jpg:smallcases that phrase is used in the context of our governmental dictates and decisions, or non-decisions. In some cases the phrase is used about our world in general, and still in others, it is used regarding societal values. In nearly any context the phrase is used in a negative sense and the need for change. In most cases we see the abandonment of Christian values, e.g., banishing prayer from schools, the press for removing references to God and the scriptures from the public square, attempts to change the definition of family, and the list goes on seemingly endlessly. Man’s attempts to make up his own rules on the fly have resulted in ever changing standards of acceptable behavior, and with each change, acceptable behavior becomes ever more defined by one’s personal perspective and preferences.

Interestingly, that ancient book of wisdom, the Bible, foretold of these days and provided counsel on how we should respond. In Proverbs 3:5 the wisest man who ever lived gave us these words from God himself, “Trust in the Lord with all your heart, and do not lean on your own understanding.” In other words, quit making up your own rules to explain or guide your lives. Trust in God and his word and he will make your ways consistent and aligned with his design.

He told us in Romans 1 that the wrath of God would be revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men, who by their unrighteousness suppress the truth. Isn’t that what our government and many in our world are trying to do? They’re trying to suppress the truth about their immorality and the value of life itself. We have a President of The United States of America justifying the killing of police officers. We have an entire group of radical Muslims waging war against any organization or country and anyone who stands for Christian values as prescribed in the scriptures. It seems at times that our country’s leadership is bent on protecting their right to do so.

God is giving these people up in the lusts of their hearts to impurity, to the dishonoring of their bodies among themselves, because they exchanged the truth about God for a lie. He is giving them up to dishonorable passions. Their women and men have exchanged natural relations for those that are contrary to nature, and they have become consumed with passion for one another. Since they did not see fit to acknowledge God, God gave them up to a debased mind to do what ought not to be done. Though they know God’s decree that those who practice such things deserve to die, they not only do them but give approval to those who practice them. More and more of our Christian denominations are condoning and participating in such things.

So where does all this lead us? The country in which we live has an election this year for the leader of what used to be the most influential country in the free world. Many are bemoaning the choices before us, as the successful candidate will most likely be elected, not on his or her merits but, as the choice of the lesser of the evils. Does this not sound as though God has given us up to our own passions and suddenly we recognize the repulsiveness of those passions? One candidate is an egotistical braggart with a platform based on platitudes and slogans, and the other is a habitual liar who was declared guilty of stupidity in the best case scenario, but no charges were filed because she was the leading candidate for her particular party. Does this not sound like a country that is being turned over to itself?

How can we respond in the face of such choices?

First, know that God is still God and he has not lost control of his plan. If you read the last book of the Bible, you’ll see that God wins. At the end of all this tomfoolery, God still wins. God created this world and so deeply loves the people in this world that he sent his Son to die on the cross for every person who will place their faith in him. God knew this was going to happen. It may be that he is turning us over to ourselves, we don’t know all that God is doing in this season. We do know that nothing we do here can surprise him or thwart his plan.

Then we can pray. Pray for our leaders. Pray that God will turn this country toward himself so that we will once again, respect and honor his name. We can pray for the election. We can get involved in the process by supporting that candidate that is running on a platform of values that are consistent with God’s word. For those who are so gifted and called, we could be working to take our voice to Congress and the White House, not to mention the Supreme Court.

Last but not least we can vote. I’m sorry that there are those Christians, even in my circles, who feel they should not vote. Not voting is voting. Being angry at all the candidates is not being responsible. You may not like either of the candidates, but God has put you in a country where we have the opportunity to voice our opinion. Not using that gift is casting aside a gift that God has given you. One of the candidates will be elected whether you vote or not. It would be better for your vote to be counted than for you to defer to an unacceptable candidate because you chose not to vote.

Be thankful that God placed you in a country where you had an opportunity to determine the future direction. Not voting is an abandonment of your responsibility to the next generations. The next President will place several Supreme Court justices and will influence the laws in this country for decades to come. Few in this country like its current direction. Some will vote to change that direction. How about you?

Faith and World Events

Today is the 14th anniversary of the comandeering of four commercial aircraft. Three of them crashed into (1) World Trade North Tower, (2) The Pentagon, and (3) World Trade South Tower. The fourth hijacked over Pennsylvania, presumably to head for the White House. That hijacking was subverted by some very brave people and the plane crashed in a field in Somerset County, Pennsylvania killing all aboard. Thousands of lives were lost that day as the World Trade Towers crumbled from the heat of the fires created by the planes flying into them. It was a horrific scene.

I remember that I had just concluded a meeting at Starbucks near our home and had returned home, clueless to what was going on. As I turned on the television in our family room, I was watching a reporter talk about the plane that had crashed into the North Tower. The North Tower was engulfed in flames in an area quite near the top. As he talked, I noticed a plane flying across the skyline and thought little of it until the South Tower exploded before our eyes on live TV. As the horrors of the scene continued to unfold, we learned that a commercial airliner had crashed into the Pentagon. The pieces then began to fall into place that our country was under attack. We later learned of the fourth plane that crashed in Pennsylvania.

We had no idea how these events would change our world. During the ceremonies of remembrance today, one person being interviewed commented that unlike Pearl Harbor which was attacked by Japan, there was no country or political entity that had created this event. What we were dealing with was a fanatical Islamic religious group that worked out of Pakistan, Afghanistan, and some of the middle eastern countries. We found ourselves at war with an ideology rather than a country that could be punished or counter-attacked for such an attack. This was a new world and we knew little about how to combat an ideology. To this day we know little about maintaining a safe world, given the challenges of identifying the enemy. So where does this leave us?

Our God is a sovereign God. Nothing happens in this world that surprises Him. Could He have stopped the attacks? Yes, but throughout history, He has chosen to give man a free will. And guess what? Despite many who want to believe that man is inherently good, the Bible tells us that we are ALL sinners (Rom 3:23) and that through Adam (one man) sin entered into this world. From the time Eve believed the serpent and gave Adam some of the apple, sin has been a part of who we are. Even Adam’s son, Cain, killed his brother Abel. From those tragic beginnings, the Bible tells us that everyone has sinned and the devil has been allowed to “prowl around like a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour.” (1 Peter 5:8) We are in a season where the devil who is called “the prince of the power of the air, the spirit that is now at work in the sons of disobedience,” is being allowed to roam this earth. As long as he is allowed to roam free, we will have a battle on our hands. Ephesians 6:12 says, “For we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against the rulers and authorities, against the cosmic powers over this present  darkness, against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly places.” So there is a spiritual battle going on for which we need to be prepared. The rest of Ephesians 6 describes for us the “whole armor of God” that helps us withstand the spiritual forces that will attack our hearts, minds and souls. Romans 5:6 tells us that “While we were still weak, at the right time, Christ died for the ungodly.” God has a plan and that plan is at work. He says that Jesus will not return until every nation has heard the gospel. While we are fast approaching that milestone, know this. God’s timing is perfect and He will come to claim those who believe in the name of Jesus.

I said above that God is a sovereign God which means that He is in control. The Bible tells us that He even puts the political powers in place. Romans 13:1 says, “For there is no authority except from God, and those that exist have been instituted by God. Therefore whoever resists the authorities resists what God has appointed, and those who resist will incur judgement.” An appropriate warning for our day, when Christians are so prone to protest and not comply with the law. It is important to remember during the days of Christ, the Roman government was as corrupt and debased as any in the history of man. In that light it is interesting that scripture does not record Christ railing against the government. He repeatedly chastised the church leaders, but never spoke about those in government. In fact, even after he had been anointed as the next king of Israel, when David had opportunity to kill Saul, he refused to kill the man who was out to kill him, because he was the Lord’s anointed. Another man’s wrong does not justify wrongdoing on our part.

How then should we live? In the U.S., our government has long approved and funded abortions, more recently it has approved the marriage of gay and lesbian couples. We see many in the Christian community at a point of rebellion against our government, to the point that our speech has become hateful and unloving toward sinners just like us. God calls us to love Him with all our heart, and soul, and strength, and to love our neighbors as ourselves. If we focused more on loving our neighbors and less on hating the government that was put in place by God, perhaps we’d have a more attractive faith. Perhaps we’d be viewed not in the same light as the radicals Islamic terrorists. I’m not suggesting that we condone sin. Christ never did that, but still He loved the sinner. He told the woman who was about to be stoned for adultery to go and sin no more.

A man asked Jesus what he must do to inherit eternal life. Jesus gave him the list of several of the commandments, to which the man replied, “All these I have done.” The next words are stunning … instead of berating and correcting him, the book of Mark records that “Jesus, looking at him, loved him …” and told him to go sell everything he owned and give the proceeds to the poor. I fear that in today’s Christian community we would be prone to show our skepticism and dismiss the person out of hand by saying something to the effect, “Yeah, right!” Our challenge is to be Christlike. Be a Berean by studying the scriptures so that you know how to respond.

In the context of today’s world, most people of middle eastern descent and especially followers of Islam are viewed with suspicion and often with disrespect. We’ve come through a Civil War which started this country on the path to respecting all races. We still have a ways to go. In light of the radical Muslims who attacked us on 9/11/01, we need to be careful not to paint all people of Islam with the same brush. Is it hard to tell who can be trusted and who cannot? Sometimes. But suppose we started from a position of trust until proven otherwise. Suppose that we followed Christ in loving even those who railed against us. Suppose we really were able to love our neighbors as much as we loved ourselves. Just suppose …

Christ told us to love those who hate us and to love our enemies. That is not a model I’m seeing widely practiced in the public arena today by “Christian” politicians or even those who are posting on the social media. We are throwing the Bible at these sinners and expecting them to live up to our standards without the help of the Holy Spirit! Let’s think about our rhetoric and vitriol before denouncing unbelievers and trying to hold them to biblical standards. 1 Corinthians 5:9-13 tells us that it is not our job to judge those outside the church. That is God’s job! Our job is to love those outside, so that they will come into the church. The Holy Spirit then convicts men of sin.

Just suppose that we loved our enemies and those who hate us. Might there be fewer, then, who hate us? We’re doing a fantastic job of making new enemies with each self-righteous statement that we make.

Something to think about.