India. Complex. Overwhelming. Fascinating. It’s a land of flamboyant colors, intensely flavorful food, memorable odors. The city traffic is relentless—trucks, taxies, auto-rickshaws, buses, mixed with bullock-drawn carts and bicycles, motors rumbling, horns blaring. It’s a land of contrasts—city-blanketing smog comprised mainly of smoke from cooking fires, engine fumes and factory-produced dust, and blue skied villages; churches and idols; fabulous, bejeweled wealth dressed in business suits and silk saris, and too-thin families living under bridges or in back alleys. I can’t wait to get there, and I am relieved to go home again.
Should Christians be patriotic? I’ve read dozens of articles on this controversial topic over the past few years, with devoted believers with sound reasoning weighing in on both sides. I admit to getting frustrated when I go to church around July 4 and it’s all about the USA instead of all about Jesus. On the other hand, this is the country in which God has placed us. Shouldn’t we care about it?
Christianity Today magazine recently posted what I consider to be an excellent explanation of why it’s fine to be patriotic, as long as your nation doesn’t become an idol. Do you agree? You can read their editorial and decide for yourself.
For years, the church in Europe has been in decline. We speak of rising secularism, and the evidence is everywhere. Soaring cathedrals stand empty, with the buildings for sale. The German Spiegel Online reports:
Dwindling church attendance and dire financial straits are forcing the Catholic and Protestant Churches in Germany to sell off church buildings en masse. Some are demolished, while others are turned into restaurants or indoor rock climbing centers.
A cathedral in the Netherlands has been turned into a skateboard park. Others are becoming mosques.
The Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC, formerly known as Zaire) might be the poorest country in the world. It’s a place of both abundant natural resources and abject misery. Located in the heart of Africa, the DRC is surrounded by ten other nations, including Angola, Tanzania, Uganda, South Sudan, and Rwanda. Africa’s second-largest country (by land area), it’s home to 80 million people.
The DRC should be a prosperous nation, with its flowing rivers (and their ability to generate hydroelectric power), fertile soil, and rich mineral resources. It is not.
Read this: Passport through Darkness: A True Story of Danger and Second Chances, by Kimberly L. Smith.
For perhaps most Americans, their faith consists of going to church on Sunday, sending up an occasional prayer, and being nice. Some volunteer at church, or for a local ministry. Some read their Bible on a regular basis. A few go on short-term mission trips. But for Kimberly Smith, none of that was enough. She and her husband sensed God calling them away from their comfortable lives and onto the mission field.
Are you wearing green? Eating green food, drinking green beer? Stores are selling shamrocks, leprechauns adorn decorations, and we’re all hoping for a pot of gold. What is St. Patrick’s Day about, really? Just as Frosty and mistletoe have little to do with the true purpose of Christmas, and Easter holds far more significance than a bunny bringing baskets of jelly beans, St. Patrick’s Day has a rich heritage far beyond our cultural celebration.
Patrick was born in Scotland 385 AD. He was abducted at age 16 and taken to Ireland, where he lived in bondage as a shepherd. During that time, his Christian faith became real to him, sustaining him for six long year. God then rescued him and he returned home, where he became a priest—only to be called as a missionary back to the very country where he had been enslaved.
Consider someone whose life is filled with incredible hardship. Danger and disease. Sacrifice. Doubt. And yet amazing faith. Grace. Intense joy.
I’m not usually big on biographies. Many of the ones I’ve tried to read have seemed to muddle along, the story filled with inconsequential details the author just couldn’t bear to leave out. But I make an exception for Christian biographies, especially those of cross-cultural missionaries. People who obey God’s call rarely live boring lives!