Thursday, February 19, 2015

A Response to "A Message Signed with Blood, To the Nation of the Cross"

This past weekend, ISIS released a video entitled "A Message Signed with Blood, To the Nation of the Cross."  I saw images of 21 Christian men, kneeling in orange jumpsuits in front of 21 men shrouded in darkness.  I looked into the faces of these brave men, and tried to put myself in their place. They must have known what was coming.  They must have been tortured terribly physically, emotionally and psychologically prior to being led out onto that beach.  They must have suffered so much before being on that beach, and yet, I look into the faces of those men and I try to imagine what they were thinking in those last moments on earth.  I see bravery, I see courage, and I see love.

In Matthew 10:24-25, Jesus tells us:

"A disciple is not above his teacher, nor a servant above his master.  It is enough for the disciple to be like his teacher, and the servants like his master.  If they have called the master of the house Beelzebul, how much more will they malign those of his household."

The last is said as a statement, rather than a question.  If we know that Jesus was mocked, flogged, tortured and executed in the most hideous of ways, we also should expect the same being those of his household.  This isn't said to scare us off, but rather so that when these things happen we are not surprised by them.  Two thousand years ago, what happened on the beaches of Libya on Sunday was spoken about.  But what should our response to these actions be?   If I desire to be a disciple of Jesus, then his Word ensures that "it is be like the teacher"(Matthew 10:24).  And to be like the teacher I need to look at what His response is to these things.

Matthew 14:13-21 gives us an example of what our response should be.  Having just learned from his disciples that John the Baptist had been beheaded, here is Jesus' response:

"Now when Jesus heard this, he withdrew from there in a boat to a desolate place by himself.  But when the crowds heard it, they followed him on foot from the towns.  When he went ashore he saw a great crowd, and he had compassion on them and healed their sick.  Now when it was evening, the disciples came to him and said, "This is a desolate place, and the day is now over; send the crowds away to go into the villages and buy food for themselves.  But Jesus said, "They need not go away; you give them something to eat."  They said to him, "We have only five loaves here and two fish."  And he said, "Bring them here to me."  Then he ordered the crowds to sit down on the grass, and taking the five loaves and the two fish, he looked up to heaven and said a blessing.  Then he broke the loaves and gave them to the disciples, and the disciples gave them to the crowds.  And they all ate and were satisfied.  And they took up twelve baskets full of the broken pieces left over.  And those who ate were about five thousand men, besides women and children."

The first thing that Jesus did upon learning about the beheading of John the Baptist is that he withdrew from the crowds to a desolate place by himself.  My contention would be that the Lord himself withdrew to spend some quiet time with the Father, but he was not given much time as the crowds followed him and pursued him.  They actual came out of the towns and went after Jesus because they were hungry.  Hungry to see his response.  Hungry for the Son of God to do something. Hungry to know how to respond.  Did you find yourself in that place on Sunday when you heard the news of our 21 brothers that were beheaded?  Did you go before the Father and search out "why", and "how long", and pray for their families?  Many of us did.  And the world is watching.  ISIS is watching, our neighbors are watching, our friends and co-workers are watching.  The enemy wants to know if their "message signed with the blood" of our 21 brothers will shake us, rattle us, anger us or cause us to turn from serving our Jesus.  They mean to intimidate and silence us, but what should our response be?

"...he saw a great crowd, and he had compassion on them and healed their sick." Matthew 10:14

We're called to have compassion on them, and to serve the lost.  We're called to heal the sick.  I find it so backwards, when we're in a world of entitlement and "justice", that the model our Savior gives is love and compassion.  It is love to go and engage the crowd, instead of hoarding our time alone with the Father.  It is love to put ourselves at risk by coming out and being bold in our faith.  It is Christ's compassion that does not allow him to consider himself more than the crowd, and allows him instead to go out and heal the sick.  We are called to do the same.  We are called to be compassionate and loving and to pray and believe for the sick to be healed.  

We're also called to share the gospel.  When evening fell, the disciples tried to help Jesus out and send away the crowds.  It's as if they said, "alright, enough of your ministering and love and compassion and healing, what these people really need now is some food.  Let them go eat Jesus, and we can rest too.  But check out Jesus' response, "They don't need to go away, you give them something to eat."  The disciples had no idea what to do, so Jesus took the lead and showed them.  He took the five loaves and the two fish, blessed them and broke them.  Then here's where Jesus shows compassion to his disciples.  They missed their first opportunity to turn the five loaves and two fishes into enough to feed the 5,000+, but he gives them a second chance.  "Here's what you do with it, now YOU go out and give it to them."  Sometimes we don't know how to provide for the impossible circumstances around us. We need to look to Jesus to multiply our meager circumstances.  The Bible tells us that there was such an abundance, that twelve baskets were filled with the leftovers!  

With God there is always more than enough.  And with those who come into our lives, what they are seeking out is a godly response to a world of disorder.  What makes sense in the natural is to preserve our safety, but what makes sense in the spiritual is to have compassion, to heal and to spiritually feed those around us.  The world is looking for a response to the message that ISIS sent, and here is my response: 

Thank you for the reminder to spend the beginning of each of my days worshipping the God of all Creation, and to put his son, Jesus as the example of how I should live my life.  It reminds me of who He is, and gets my eyes off of myself.  And when my eyes are off of myself and on Jesus, it helps me to look and be reminded that everyone I encounter today is in my life for a reason.  The good and the bad.  The healed up and the hurting.  The joyful and the depressed.  Those very near to the Lord, and those that would kill me because of my faith.  Those who shine brightly, and those who are shrouded in darkness.  Each one I encounter is a divine opportunity to have compassion, to pray and believe for healing and to make sure that they know they are welcomed at the Lord's table.  There is a spiritual food that satisfies our deepest hunger and pain, and it was purchased for us through the blood shed on a cross 2,000 years ago.  I have tasted that food and know that it is good, and my deepest desire is to share that food with everyone I meet.  The blood of my Savior reminds me that His death was worth it.  The blood of my 21 brothers on a beach at your hands reminds me that it is worth it.  I have spent time away worshipping my God and praying for you, and I look at you with compassion, desiring for your healing, and welcoming you to my table.  Come and eat with me.  Tell me of your burdens, let me pray for you believing in a real God who will show up and heal your every ache.  Come angry, come burdened, come hurting, come lost, come shrouded in darkness, but come.  Taste and see that the Lord is good, and that there is a life in the light that makes everything else pale in comparison.  

An encouragement to my brothers and sisters in Christ from Matthew 10:28-33

"And do not fear those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul.  Rather fear him who can destroy both soul and body in hell.  Are not two sparrows sold for a penny?  And not one of them will fall to the ground apart from your Father.  But even the hairs of your head are all numbered.  Fear not, therefore; you are of more value than sparrows.  So everyone who acknowledges me before men, I also will acknowledge before my Father who is in heaven, but whoever denies me before men, I also will deny before my Father who is in heaven."

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