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Monday, November 23, 2015

7 Things I Learned Praying for ISIS.

When I was kid, my grandmother read to me often. Tales of witches and dragons never caused me any nightmares. Maybe it was because the heroes always win in those stories. Of all the stories she ever read, the only nightmares I ever had came from the story of  "The Three Little Pigs". Depending which version you read, the pigs suffer tragedy and loss before their victory. Through the years, I've lost count of how many dreams where the Big Bad Wolf, with flaming eyes, has been outside my bedroom window, trying to get me to let him in. I'm well into my forties, and still, occasionally, he shows up. Lately, he's been showing up in a new place. In a reality where I am wide awake. It's a real nightmare. It's as if, ISIS is saying, "open the door and let me in." Yet somehow, in this world of ultra tolerance for the bazaar and insane, anyone who replies, "not by the hair on my chinny chin chin" is a racist discriminator of religion. Go figure.
 Despite how you might feel about the Syrian refugees, you'd have to be naive to think there isn't wolves in sheep's clothing among them. Americans, including Christ followers and especially the politicians, as with many other issues, are divided. "Christ has told us a house divided will not stand." As a follower of Christ, I've never struggled so much with how to respond to a situation in my life. How do we do what is commanded by scripture in this case? Clearly, we not only have a responsibility mandated throughout scripture to protect our homes, families, and friends, but also have been commanded to love our enemies,and to live sacrificially and fearlessly. Giving to those in need is certainly required. I've been torn between the two concepts for awhile, prayerfully seeking wisdom to give me peace. Searching the scripture and praying, so as to, not trust my personal feelings to draw a simple conclusion, has been a daunting task. Those times in prayer and scripture, I have been reminded of the simple order of my allegiances. My obedience and obligation lies in order to God, spouse, family, church, community, state, nation, and world. Here's what I've discovered so far.

1. Loving the enemy means praying for them. Even from Christians, there hasn't been much of a call for prayer for ISIS or the refugees. It's important to remember the population of Syria is about 10% Christian. Our brothers and sisters are among the refugees . The Bible tells us to pray for our brothers and our enemies. It won't cost us anything to pray. Pray for their salvation, and our protection.

2. I don't have to separate logic from a spiritual decision. God is the inventor of common sense. It tells me so in Proverbs 2:6. I won't pretend otherwise. Sure, sometimes the Holy Spirit asks us to do what seems crazy to us. That doesn't mean everything He asks us to do should seem like suicide. I can share my resources, but not to the point that I've divided them so thin I, along with those I'm trying to help, perish. In order to help, I must preserve myself. Loving all people makes me find creative ways to help from safe distances whenever possible. There are better ways to help without opening our borders.

3. Never forget what sacrifice is. Never forget what sacrifice does. Every call for self-sacrifice by God's followers has been for the salvation of others, mostly in conjunction with destroying the enemy. Even His own sacrifice. Still, He did so willingly. I believe the litmus test for self-sacrifice is the preservation of life for others by a willing participant. Otherwise, it maybe martyrdom but not self-sacrifice. In the case of our nation, it would mostly be neither. Rarely, if ever, does God ask us to gamble with other people's lives, and or souls. This scenario puts the lives of both parties at risk. I am unaware of any place where God included the unwilling in sacrifice. Likewise, we shouldn't expect those who are unwilling to take in refugees to do so. In weighing the possibilities, our decision should be made by how we can best positively impact all parties. Relocating Syrians to areas with similar culture would best serve and protect the majority.

4. We should not let those without a connection to Christ, being used by Satan, to lecture us on the merits of Christian charity. Here's why: 2Timothy3 1-7" But understand this, that in the last days there will come times of difficulty. For people will be lovers of self, lovers of money, proud, arrogant, abusive, disobedient to their parents, ungrateful, unholy, heartless, unappeasable, slanderous, without self-control, brutal, not loving good, treacherous, reckless, swollen with conceit, lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God, having the appearance of godliness, but denying its power. Avoid such people. For among them are those who creep into households and capture weak women, burdened with sins and led astray by various passions, always learning and never able to arrive at a knowledge of the truth." It's tragically funny, those who have made every decision, based on logic, now suggest we aren't following scripture. Making cautious decisions, to preserve as much life as possible and to avoid conflict, is Christ like.

5. Be true to the teachings and example of Christ. All of it. Christ is so compassionate and forgiving, we sometimes forget, He called His enemies a bunch of snakes. He told His disciples to be "shrewd". Defining enemies as those who are not with Him, Jesus plainly points them out. Moreover, He instructed disciples to value a weapon above clothing. (Luke 22:36) Clearly, a weapon can be used by a Christ follower for noble purposes. Don't forget Jesus ran people from His Father's house. It leaves me little doubt I shouldn't do the same. Don't disconnect from Christian charity but be shrewd.

6. Neither view things optimistically or pessimistically. Be realistic in whatever situation you find yourself in. Ask yourself, what is our best chance for reaching the most lost people already here? Adding an extra 100,000 lost people here will make the task much more difficult. However, if the Church finds itself in that circumstance, we will have an incredible opportunity.

 7. God is in control. I'm trusting not in my ability to build a house of bricks the Big Bad Wolf can't blow in. I stand on a foundation built upon God's promises of a grace I can fall back on. His word will be my lamp, His hand will be my guide. He will cause what comes to work out for our good. Come what may, I will not be afraid.

If you have struggled, with the complexity of this issue, I hope this will give you peace in rejecting a threat. Just to be clear,  we must always be ready to listen individually to the Holy Spirit. I expect there will be exceptions where God will intervene.  I'd never claim we should stay inside of our comfort zone to serve God. I only ask, are you trusting God? Or just your feelings? I hope you join me in praying for ISIS and the refugees as well as for the protection of our nation.

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