Let me URGE you to share the gospel.
Friends, these acts of treachery and murder will not end unless Jesus Christ is preached. Look at the man who carried out this attack - a Muslim. What would cause him to do such a thing? Islamic ideology. What would cause him to cease? Jesus Christ.
The ONLY way we will see an end to the violence that rages in our world is if people are exposed to and accept the gift of salvation through Jesus Christ. But they cannot possibly hear it if it is not preached. We have a huge responsibility while we walk this earth. The gospel is ours to share. If we neglect this command thinking it will all "be okay" and that the American army will take care of these people, we will find ourselves facing genocide, war, and murder the likes of which we have still yet to see.
What has caused our nation to flourish as it has? Jesus. What has held the evil at bay? Jesus. Only Jesus can conquer evil, indeed HAS conquered it, and it is He we need to preach. So please, fellow Christian, take seriously this command. Leave the protective bubble of your Christian friends and Christian music and Christian outings and get out there! People NEED the gospel! The Ottowa shooter NEEDED the gospel. Men and women on Skid Row need the gospel. Homeless and CEOS, drug addicts and disgruntled citizens, adulterers and liars, haters and the ambivalent desperately and unequivocally need the gospel. It is our job to get it to them.
The gospel should be the sole reason we live. It should be the air we breathe, the thoughts we think, the desire we treasure. It should be the hope we give, the words we speak, the center of our entire existence. God Himself came to give the gospel. Where do we get off thinking our lives are more important? How have we gotten so wrapped up in doing and being and experiencing that we forget the command about giving? Why is it that we treasure family and our bank account, cars and a white picket fence or fun vacation, but we do not treasure the one treasure we actually own?
Families and bank accounts, cars and white picket fences will fade. All who are married will eventually become single and children will move away. Lives will move on and times will change. Money cannot go with you and neither can that car. But the Gospel - THAT lives on.
So give the gospel! Give the one gift which will never fade or tarnish. Give the one bit of hope which cannot be taken away or shattered with a bullet. Give the one promise which will never be broken. Give the hope of the Gospel. We must learn to do away with our petty protestations and feeble excuses. NO excuse is good enough for not sharing the gospel. It might be awkward, possibly even uncomfortable at times, but dying on the cross did not feel comfortable! We must, absolutely MUST - I cannot emphasize it enough - we MUST share the Gospel!
I once was lost, now I am found. I once was dead in sin, now I am alive in Christ Jesus.
Freedom, hope, love, and salvation wrapped up in two sentences. I am constantly struck by the utter beauty and simplicity of the Gospel. So many times we get waylaid by the lie that we must know the ins and outs of any ideology we might run into before we can effectively share the Gospel. We get stymied, thinking we should read the entire Qur'an before we speak to a Muslim. Or perhaps we should peruse The Power of Now before we talk with an atheist. But do we really need those things? With what must we be equipped to effectively share the Gospel?
Jesus Christ and Him Crucified.
In I Corinthians 2:1-5, Paul says, "And I, brethered, when I came to you, came not with excellency of speech or of wisdom, declaring unto you the testimony of God. For I determined not to know any thing among you, save Jesus Christ, and him crucified. And I was with you in weakness, and in fear, and in much trembling. And my speech and my preaching was not with enticing words of man's wisdom, but in demonstration of the Spirit and of power: That your faith should not stand in the wisdom of men, but in the power of God."
Paul was undeniably one of the most influential preachers of his (and our!) time, but his methods did not mirror those of the Roman or Greek of his day. Never were oratorical devises employed nor did he study under great speakers to learn the manner of wooing a crowd. He simply preached Jesus Christ and Him crucified.
Paul's ministry stands as a great example to us today. Let us not fall into the thought that we must develop an argument we can use to "win" when speaking with an atheist or Muslim or fill-in-the-blank. Let us stop putting off our desire to share the gospel because we don't "know enough" of the other person's beliefs yet. Instead, let us arm ourselves with the Gospel and be ready to speak it whenever we have occasion! Let us be ready to give an answer to all who ask us the reason for the hope within us!
We have the hope of eternal life! This is no light matter! We literally possess the sum total of everything needed, hoped for, and desired by every human being on the planet. People are hungry and thirsty for the Gospel. Let us be ready to share it with them! Someone made the effort to ensure I heard it fourteen years ago - I cannot do any less for those I know today.
I don’t know how much you have heard about the current crisis in Iraq. It is often mislabeled as a “civil war,” or passed off as “those middle easterners at it again, fighting amongst themselves.” But many fail to understand that Iraq is in the middle of an international humanitarian crisis that qualifies as genocide. ISIS (or Islamic State) is going into towns and killing all of the men, and taking the women and children, forcing them to convert to Islam before trafficking them as slaves. They do not intend to stop until Yezidis and Christians are exterminated. This extreme Muslim sect is laying aside any label they may have had (Sunni, Shia etc.), and fighting anyone that they come into contact with. Their goal is to take over the world, and they say that they will not rest until they control land from China to Spain. They fully intend to raise an ISIS flag in the White House.
I have been devastated by ISIS’s activities, because I have personal contact with Lincoln Nebraska’s 860 Yezidi refugees. These 170 families have emigrated from Iraq to Lincoln since the 90’s to find a safe place to raise their families. Yezidis are a peaceful, non-Muslim minority that has experienced intense persecution for their faith in Iraq. You can learn more about who the Yezidis are at www.yezidis.org. The Yezidi nation has withstood so many attempts at genocide since the time of Mohammad, that they use a genocide-based dating system: they will say: “Before the 73rd attempted genocide, this person was born,” or: “After the 50th attempted genocide, they built this temple.” They tell stories about their time in Iraq, about not being able to buy material or food from the nearby towns, because Muslims would not sell to them. I had the opportunity to learn more about their culture, and share the love of Jesus with people in Zakho, Iraq, in 2008—even at that time, I could see how the Yezidis were discriminated against. I had one Yezidi man in the English class that I taught, and everyone made fun of him. They said things like, “I don’t know why he needs to learn English, he won’t be doing anything with his life anyways.”
I have had the privilege to be a part of a small para-church ministry to Iraqi refugees here in Lincoln for 10 years now. We do weekly Bible clubs for grades 1-8, and I have continued with a ministry to high school girls. Through these outreaches, I have built solid friendships with many of the city’s Yezidis. In this current crisis, as we are filled with a sense of hopelessness and despair, they have welcomed me - along with my pastor and his wife - into their lives and homes in a new and exciting way. We are welcomed to pray with them, to share Jesus’s love, and “mourn with those who mourn”.
So what can we do? You may ask.
Well, first off, pray! There is such a desperate need right now for God’s people to step up and pray for the Yezidis to turn their hearts to Him, and walk away from their worship of anything else. Pray for the Yezidis here in Lincoln to stay focused and not lose hope. Pray for those in Iraq who are sharing the Gospel with those who are displaced from their homes there in Iraq.
Secondly, www.yezidis.org has information on how to contribute financial aide if you would like to be a part of that.
Thank you so much for remembering the Yezidi nation in its time of need.
People are dying, children are starving, thousands don't have water, thousands more are homeless. We are in the middle of a humanitarian aide crisis that is nearly unfathomable.
As I follow the news out of Iraq and Syria I can't help but think about the people I know personally who live in those lands. I can't help but think about the arid yet achingly beautiful desert landscape I traveled with strangers who became friends. I can't help but remember taking an afternoon to travel with my English students to an oasis where the men clambered into the river like a bunch of teenagers and the women eagerly served amazing traditional food.
When I lived in Kurdistan, I was just out of college and I probably wouldn't have been aware of trouble if it had crept up behind me and shouted "HERE I AM!" I didn't have to worry, though. My students, men and women college age and up, had my back. In fact, they had all of our backs. They wanted our team there. They appreciated the fact that we had come to teach them English. They wanted to know what we believed and eagerly listened when we offered them Hope. That is what I did in Kurdistan. I taught English and offered Hope. I will long remember that trip as a time of learning to live and give the hope and love of Jesus Christ.
Now people I knew, people I taught, people who literally ran interference to make sure we stayed safe... those people are running for their lives. With nothing. They are fleeing to refugee camps and countries that are as foreign to them as an In-N-Out burger. These people need our prayer. They need the practical hands-and-feet love of Jesus which will meet them in their time of need and cause them to be warm and filled. They need the eternal hope of the gospel. They need us - that's right - us, individuals like you and me. Just as we are needed to be a daily light that shines the gospel to everyone around us, so we are needed to pray for those suffering in this world. We are needed to partner with and uphold them. We are needed to encourage our fellow brothers and sisters in Christ who face persecution.
If this blog does nothing else today, please let it encourage you to pray. Pray for the displaced thousands fleeing persecution in Iraq. Pray for those who have no lasting Hope and ask that they would be introduced to our loving Savior. Pray for the aide workers and missionaries who are in hostile lands seeking to live out the great commission amidst circumstances I can only imagine. It is neither my plight nor my calling today to face down persecution and declare my love for Jesus at the point of a gun. But it is for the people in ISIS controlled territories. So please fellow Christian, be upon your knees and pray for these... these persecuted, these hopeless, these homeless, these fellow brothers and sisters who need courage and faith and boldness to stand firm in their love for Christ. Please... pray for these.
What do we mean when we say, 'God bless America'?
Every president to walk through the hallowed halls of our White House has invoked this blessing at one time or another. Sports stars and rock stars, baseball hall-of-famers and Grammy Award winners have all used this saying in their speeches. John Q. American has uttered it from a place of heart-felt angst; Jack P. Politician has stuttered over 'God' in that phrase but struggled his way through for sake of constituents. Sadly, this phrase is now becoming anathema strictly due to Jack P. Politician's inability to pronounce those three little letters without offending someone. John Q. is told he can no longer utter those letters for the same reason.
I used to think there were two ways a Christian could look at this phrase. One, say it and hope against hope that the Lord would actually continue to bless a country that is rapidly turning away from Him. Or two, refrain from saying it at all, because how can one condone all that is occurring by asking for a blessing in light of it? Now I take a different tack - undoubtedly the one that I should have taken all along.
These days, I do speak that nearly-forbidden phrase. I utter it in prayer, say it in agreement when others shout it out, and honor those words in my heart when I hear them. But what do I mean by these words? Namely this: I do not use this insta-prayer to invoke promises for an ever-increasing country at the top of the monetary food chain. I do not say these words in hopes of promise for better country-wide commerce, lower oil prices, or a permanent position as the #1 world power. These things are fleeting and if we as a country truly do turn away from the Lord, I would not wish us in a prominent position for all the money in the world. Just as Israel was to be a light unto the nations to point them to Yahweh, America has largely been that light for the last couple hundred years in pointing people to Jesus Christ. If that is no longer our function, then we no longer deserve to be in a place of prominence.
So what do I mean when I utter those words? I say them in a prayerful attitude of seeking the greatest blessing the Lord could ever bestow upon this nation - that the masses within these shores would come to the saving knowledge of Jesus Christ and thus obtain salvation for all eternity. My heart cries out for my beautiful country, this land that I love, in much the same way it cries out for the many nations which inhabit this planet. In the same way I desire the lost of Albania and Morocco and Lithuania be found, so I desire my own country to receive that blessing.
Instead of cringing with doubt as to whether He will bless this country, I say those three words with all urgency and desire knowing that it is His desire to bless this country because He does not want any to perish! He wants every constituent in every county to come to a saving knowledge of what He has done for them. He does, indeed, want to bless America. - with the saving knowledge of Jesus Christ! And so, I shout it out in form of prayer and plea - God, PLEASE, PLEASE, bless America! And while I'm at it, I'll add Morocco and Lithuania and Saudi Arabia and Croatia and every other people group on this planet. Instead of a trite saying, it is now my constant prayer: God, bless America... bless America with the saving knowledge of Jesus Christ. And every other nation too.
Sometimes it seems as if the world is hurtling to its doom and destruction. If one were to look merely at circumstances reported by the nightly news, there should be no hope for the human race. But I know better.
In the midst of ISIS trying to take over the world, Ebola outbreaks in the US, a dear friend fleeing her mission field with a forced evacuation, terror threats on home soil, a seemingly ceaseless debasement of our moral fiber, ill morals and blatant untruths being taught in our school system... in the midst of all this... Jesus.
Jesus is holding back the world from utterly crumbling into destruction. Jesus is reaching through the vastly encroaching darkness to bring light with the glorious hope of the gospel. Jesus is standing beside the displaced missionary letting them know He has a plan and it will work for their good and His glory. After all, the darkest moment in history of Christ's death on the cross brought the most glorious light and hope the world has ever known. And that is why through the midst of tragic events and a seemingly uncertain future, I can rejoice - for my future is secure!
I am secure in Christ and the hope of eternal life spent with Him. I am secure in knowing He has taken every single one of my sins, nailed them to the cross, and has washed me clean! No matter what may occur, of this I am sure, my life is hid with God in Christ Jesus. Oh what salvation! What marvelous grace! That my Savior would die for me, take the dreadful punishment I so righty deserve, to set me free from the bondage of death - for only the price of belief! What mercy!
And so, in looking around me, I say with the prophet, 'Come quickly Lord Jesus' and in waiting until He does I will follow His instructions and 'put my hand to the plow, not looking back' and will 'occupy until He comes.' May He find me hard at work for the spread of His Kingdom until the day that trumpet blows!