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Attacks Against Religion

December 30th, 2019

First of all, then, I urge that petitions, prayers, intercessions, and thanksgiving be offered on behalf of all men for kings and all those in authority, so that we may lead tranquil and quiet lives in all godliness and dignity. This is good and pleasing in the sight of God our Savior, who desires all men to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth. (1 Tim. 2:1-4 BSB)

There will always be a great need for reasonable and peaceful people in the world — and this need will increase the closer we get to the return of Christ.

I am writing this from my son’s house in Chicago, Illinois, USA, after a weekend of violence in America, one against a Jewish community in New York and another against a Christian church in Texas, both having peaceful meetings of worship. Though the details are still coming in, it appears in both circumstances mentally ill persons attacked them and were subdued or later captured. After it is all said and done, I believe at this point that what will be revealed with be two conflicted individuals and two complicated circumstances, and that no one single solution will emerge that could have prevented these tragedies.

The problem is that one person may complain about a religion he is suspicious about, or does not agree to, and that is just the exercise of free speech. But a mentally ill person overhears his words and decides to attack innocent people who are doing him, or anyone else, any real harm. Of course I have simplified this multi-faceted and multi-layered process.

So perhaps the question is how does it go from one person’s expression of dislike to another person’s act of murder? And, for our purposes, what persons could have been involved in this “multi-faceted and multi-layered” process. The first question can be answered by mere observance and does not need much comment: a culture that is covered in violence, video games and popular music that glorify violence and dehumanize certain people, divorce and the breakup of homes, the rise of mental illness and the misunderstanding of common people in society getting involved in helping the mentally ill, etc.,

The second can be and should be more clearly emphasized. At any point along this trail people of peace could have stepped in and disrupted the process. Peacemakers are essential in every age and that is one thing we can all do. Rather than preach the false “gospel” of violence, we can share the true gospel of Christ and act out its love and understanding. Of course, this is already going on or we would have more and more acts of random violence.

So in response to these events, we should not react in anger but in compassion and grace. God said above that His desire is that “we may lead tranquil and quiet lives in all godliness and dignity.” To sit down and explain how to treat people with dignity and respect, and how we should protect the innocent, as well as deal appropriately with the truly dangerous, is what keeps society safe.

And pray! In light of these acts we should thank God that they happen so rarely here in the West, and pray that they happen not at all. We need wisdom, not more angry rhetoric, but understanding and wise actions. Would to God that Christians would pray more for elected officials, for government workers, for policemen and policewomen who protect us. Prayer is an unseen but very real power to prevent these acts.

We should recognize the quick and brave actions of those who stopped both acts of violence, those who arrested the men in New York and those who stopped through gun fire the murderer in Texas. In both circumstances that was the appropriate use of strong measures to protect the innocent. But these acts by legitimate heroes were not the same as those of the perpetrators who merely wanted to hurt others.

My thoughts. Blessings to you all.


Our Joyful Duty

November 29th, 2019

When all has been heard, the conclusion of the matter is this: Fear God and keep His commandments, because this is the whole duty of man. For God will bring every deed into judgment, along with every hidden thing, whether good or evil. (Ecclesiastes 12:13-14)

Doubtless it is difficult to imagine a more fitting final thought to end the book of Ecclesiastes than is contained in these simple words. The inspired author has taken the subject of human life and shaken it to see what unshakeable truths will remain.  The issues such as the purpose of life, its understanding, its inequities, its thrills, its defeats, and man’s place in the universe — these and more have remained elusive. Why is life given to us? No man can say other than that it is given to us to live.

In the optimism and confidence of youth we begin our lives, and in the end we feel as Elijah did, “I am no better than my fathers” (1 Kings 19:4). Oh, it is good to see your children living responsibly, dealing with their challenges effectively, blessings others, etc. But the understanding of life, let alone its mastery — as if we could ever come close to this — remains as elusive as ever.

The whole duty of man

The inspired author says that it is not our duty to understand life, but to trust God and to obey God — to fear Him and keep His commandments. The Pharisees would later make much of this, that we were not to understand the meaning of the law, just do it. They would put their emphasis almost entirely on keeping the commandments and not on fearing God or on faith in Him. But the scripture emphasized both: fear Him and obey Him.

The fear of God is simple faith in Him. It is not to fear Him as an unreliable divinity who is undependable. Rather it is to recognize Him as the One to whom we must give an account. It also means that when He says He loves us that we are afraid not to believe Him! God is unpredictable in His actions, but never in His motives. His heart is pure because His love and His holiness are pure.

The limits of our understandings

There are many things we can understand about God and about life, but we still are short-lived beings whose earthly existence passes quickly along a certain historical timeline. We are fleeting things on earth, and our eternal life that is promised is in the future. Though we may pass away in a time of peace and prosperity, the day after we die pestilence can sweep the land, a financial disaster may overcome the earth, wars may breakout, and the comfortable life we leave our loved ones with may be stripped away from them in minutes.

The certainty of judgment

But we can be certain that after this life we must stand before God and give an account of how we used our opportunities. “It is appointed unto man once to die, and after that the judgment” (Heb. 9:27). This calls us to be serious and to be obedient. We are only accountable to obey what we understand the will of God to be. We must sort through the misunderstandings and well-intentioned legalism that misguides us. We must also be careful not to go beyond what is written (1 Cor. 4:6), as well as not to ignore what is commanded.

The beauty of the Lord

And along this path, we should enjoy God. To know Him is eternal life. To spend time with Him on earth is to prepare for eternity. That He cares that we fulfill our duty, that we know Him, means that He values us, and has a purpose for us, a reason for our existence. Oh, look up at Him and enjoy Him. For this is as much of our duty as anything else. He calls us to see His beauty, the wonder of a new day, the thrill of seeing Him at work around us, the goodness that is in the comfort of His love in our hearts. These realizations of Him revealing Himself to us are the life-altering moments He has lovingly entrusted to us.