Since January, six thousand people—Christians, Kurds, Yazidis, have been brutally murdered by ISIS, the radical Sunni Muslim terrorist group that is carving an Islamic state out of northern Iraq and Syria. It’s incredibly painful to read the reports of the atrocities being committed. If you’ve ever wondered if Satan is real, read a few of these news items:
“What good has this “my way or the highway to hell” religion ever done for the world?” —TheFriendlyAtheist
It hurts to come across statements like the one above (I found it in the comments section of an article I was reading). Christianity has done a world of good in the last two thousand years. The sad thing is that few people are aware of our legacy. This is largely the church’s fault. True, we don’t want to boast, but a bit of PR might make a big difference. Besides, these aren’t our accomplishments—they are God’s blessings. Shouldn’t we tell everyone what God has done?
Here is my answer to TheFriendlyAtheist:
I can cut up a melon in minutes, core and slice a pear like a pro, roll and wrap a burrito before you can say, “egg and cheese and potato.” I can even run the industrial dish washer! How did I get so skilled? I volunteered to work in our church’s café.
Yes, this is the same eatery I complained about in my blog, “Carb Café.” The menu still mostly includes foods I cannot eat on my low-carb, sugar-free diet. At least they offer salads, paninis, and fruit cups now. I’m proud to say, Pete and I cut up all the fruit, at least on the Sundays we work.
The news items scroll down my screen: death, destruction, evil, hopeless. After years of war, starting from before the U.S. involvement and seemingly without end, Afghanistan has to be one of the darkest places on earth.
Yet, God loves the people of Afghanistan. He has not left them hopeless.
I’ve been through two deadly earthquakes, billiard ball-sized hail, and a hurricane, but none of these prepared me for an out-of-control wildfire. We feel blessed that our home is out of danger, at least at this time, but we live in a forest, with trees surrounding (at the requisite 30 foot distance) three sides of our house. The neighborhood of several hundred homes that went up in flames Tuesday night is only twelve miles away—less if you’re a wind-borne ember.
I’ve been on Facebook a lot the last few days, trying to see how friends are doing, letting people know we’re okay, and posting photos of the fire as seen from our driveway.
For over a week we have been aware of a huge fire burning west of Ft. Collins, about two hours north of us. Fourteen square miles and almost 200 homes have been destroyed. Anyone living in the area has been evacuated, unable to check on their property or retrieve belongings. I’ve tossed up a few prayers, especially when I read news updates, but it hasn’t exactly dominated my thoughts.
Saturday afternoon I happened to glance out the window and saw a huge plume of smoke rising from behind a ridge here in Colorado Springs. We were witnessing the first few hours of the Waldo Canyon fire. As I write this, thousands of people have been displaced although thankfully no one has been hurt and no structures have burned. Still, the fire has consumed 2,000 acres and is totally out of control. I can think of nothing else.
Our friend really screwed up. He lives in northern Washington and he’d made a quick trip to Colorado Springs to visit a number of ministries here. We’d seen him earlier in the day, but were surprised when he called us around 8:30 that evening. He sounded somewhat worried. Explaining where he was (on the freeway, heading north), he asked, “How long does it take to get to Denver International Airport from here?”
“About an hour and a half, if traffic is good. Why? What time’s your flight?”
There was dead silence for a moment. Then he slowly told us, “I have a rental car to turn in. And my flight leaves at 9:15.”
Oh-oh. He should have been waiting at the gate already, not 70 miles south of the airport!
(How do you pray in a situation like this?)
I don’t normally go to the other end of town. It’s not that I’m avoiding the area, it’s just that I have everything I need at my end—why drive an extra half hour?
Those at the other end of town tend to earn less money (with some notable exceptions). School districts have lower test scores and parents are busy just trying to make ends meet—they don’t have as much time or energy for getting involved in their children’s education. Many residents are newcomers to our country, and do not yet speak English. The streets aren’t dangerous, although the crime rate is higher there. Neighborhoods are full of families. During the day, children play in front yards and ride their bikes on the sidewalks. But you probably should think twice about walking alone at night.
The other end of town is where the homeless hang out. Street people in many layers of well-worn clothing stand at intersections with signs and a hand out, or pitch “tents” on the undeveloped land next to the freeway.
I’ve been praying about a friend’s unwise choice of solution to a major problem in her life. I can’t fault her for wanting relief. This issue is consuming her, causing her deep distress, and needs to be addressed. She isn’t breaking any laws, she isn’t hurting anyone else… so why do I feel so uneasy about this whole thing?
God showed me clearly this morning what the problem is. I was reading Isaiah 31, which just happened to be my next reading as I go through the Bible. The problem isn’t the avenue she is choosing. The problem is where she’s looking for help. Starting in verse 1,
Woe to those who go down to Egypt for help,
who rely on horses,
who trust in the multitude of their chariots
and in the great strength of their horsemen,
but do not look to the Holy One of Israel,
or seek help from the LORD.
In a sense, my friend has gone down to Egypt for help. She’s relying on horses and chariots, but hasn’t looked toward God. In fact, even though she claims to be a believer, she’s currently flatly rejecting Him.