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5 Thoughts on the Death of Osama

It is good for the righteous to rejoice in the destruction of the wicked.
It is not good for the righteous to rejoice in the eternal damnation of one made in the image of God, undone by his own wickedness cooperating with demonic deception.

It is good for the righteous to rejoice for living in a country that stays the course in punishing evil and restraining oppression.
It is not good for the righteous to identify this as proof of any inherent goodness or favor of God upon our nation, for we are a people who tolerate the legalized murder of far more innocents than Osama bin Laden ever killed.

It is good for the righteous to mourn for the death of one who, by all appearances, did not possess saving faith in Christ.
It is not good for the righteous to be wish the wicked long life, for it is good and just for God to remove the wicked oppressors from the earth.

It is good for the righteous to practice restraint regarding proclamation of the eternal resting place of the dead, for fear of immanent death is a mighty evangelist.
It is not good for the righteous to muddy the waters of salvation before the world by constantly repeating the refrain “we don’t know where he is.” Osama is dead and is where he is. You are not, and still have influence over which father you will follow, and whose inheritance you will receive.

It is good for the righteous to rejoice in the greater protection America will now receive from terrorist attack.
It is not good for the righteous in America to be myopic and think that protection from terrorist attack is the primary purpose of God. The wicked do not fall to secure our comfort, the wicked fall to pave the way for the progress of the gospel. And the progress of the gospel will usually demand the unraveling of our comfort.

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Singleness Conference

Already, there are probably humorous quips running through your head about the very name of this post. Yes, I’m publicizing a conference for singles. No, it’s not that kind of conference for singles.

Undivided is an annual one-day conference designed to exhort the unmarried to use the unique window of singleness to strengthen God’s church and fix their eyes on Christ and heaven. This year’s theme is “The Glory of the Gospel: the Docrtrine of Imputation.” The four speakers are David Forsyth, Milton Vincent, Alex Montoya, and Bobby Scott, all of whom are men who are known for their faithfulness in handling the Word of God.

Undivided will be held Saturday, February 19th 10 AM-9:30PM at Foothill Bible Church in Upland, CA. Registration costs $40 until February 11th and includes an In-N-Out lunch and a Juan Pollo dinner. Also some readers might be interested to know that Undivided will give you the chance to hang with Peter Bugbee for the day. After the 11th, there’s a $10 bump up in cost. To register, go to www.UndividedConference.org.

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Songs to Torture Me By

While browsing the news on cnn.com a couple days ago, I came across this article about how detainees at Gitmo were forced to listen to music at loud volumes in an attempt to get them to talk. So I began wondering what my torture playlist would be. Here’s what would make me tell all faster than a mockingbird:

1. The Meow-Mix Jingle (Perhaps the most loathsome jingle created in the history of mankind. Worse, the entire thing is meowed by a cat, which means that it transcends any language barrier. I’m in the middle of watching season 5 of 24, and I’m just waiting for the time when Jack Bauer yells “We don’t have time to break him through interrogation! Bring out the Meow-Mix Jingle.” Because it would work.)

2. Sandstorm by Darude (I’ve had some experience with this, as about a 15 second clip from it is looped in the line for Scream at Six Flags.)

3. I’m Blue by Eiffel 65 (The world motto my eighth grade year was  “If it ain’t Eiffel 65, it ain’t music.)

4. All These Things That I Have Done by The Killers (Thanks Andrew M.)

5. Paper Planes by MIA (Made popular by Slumdog Millionaire, the cash register and gunshots are a little bit over the top.)

6. Dueling Banjos (Hey…let’s play the same six notes over and over and over again for 4 minutes and call it a song!)

7. Lost in the 50s Tonight by Ronnie Milsap (Had to sing this as a solo in choir one year. Unfortunately I still remember the song 6 years later.)

8. The entire Nu Thang album by dc Talk.

9. All Creatures of Our God and King by St. Francis of Assisi (I feel bad for including a hymn with some great truth in it, but I really cannot see why this song has survived for 4 centuries.)

10. Honkey Tonk USA (I don’t know the artist, but the genre was country. This is what they play at gas stations in western Nebraska. That should tell you enough.)

Three Cups of Tea

A couple days ago I finished reading Three Cups of Tea, a book about a mountain-climber turned philanthropic school builder in rural Pakistan and Afghanistan. It’s been on the New York Times #1 Bestseller list for a while (as evidenced by the fact that my library chain has an 

three_cupscoverunheard of 23 copies of the book!)

After giving up his hope of making it to the summit of K2 in order to save the life of an altitude-sick fellow climber, Greg Mortensen gets lost during the descent. He winds up in a remote village of Korphe, where he is cared for by the chief’s family. After learning that the children of the village have no school, Mortensen promises to raise money in order to build them a schoolhouse and hire a teacher. 

So begins a twisting journey through Islamic customs, Taliban threats, corruption, and the transition from the pre- to post-9/11 Islamic world. By the end of the book, Mortensen not only has built the Korphe village school, but also oversees nearly 100 other schools and institutions that his organization has built.

Three Cups of Tea is a challenging book to read. Not in a literary sense, but rather in a philosophic sense. What Mortensen has done is simply incredible. His passion and devotion to seeing children forgotten by the world receive an education produces a dogged determination that shames my own work ethic.

Twice Mortensen had a fatwah (labeling him to be an outlaw who could be killed on sight) issued against him by jealous or corrupt clerics. Despite the danger to his own personal safety, he continued to labor to build schools, and eventually the fatwahs were dismissed by Islamic religious panels.

Though he is considered an infidel by the Muslims in the book, repeatedly they allow him to continue his work because his schools because they push no religious instruction, but rather remain faithful to Islam. Mortensen argues that education will ultimately defeat Islamic extremism. Oftentimes the only education provided in the rural regions of Pakistan and Afghanistan is steeped in religious extremism. By building schools that are focused on true education–reading, writing, mathematics, science, etc.–religious extremist schools will be forced “out of business” so to speak.

This book has challenged my thinking about overseas missions and evangelism. A Christian simply could not have accomplished what Mortensen has been able to do. Though not Muslim himself, Mortensen has no trouble practicing the prayer rituals of Islam alongside his friends and contacts in Pakistan. As Christians, we simply can’t do that! And for good reason! And yet the results–education that will raise the living standards of thousands of children–make tolerance attractive as a way of life. 

And yet, we can’t live that way. The gospel is a way of life. It is what motivates us to care for the poor and the suffering and to seek to help those in physical distress. But the same thing that compels us to live that lifestyle also compels us to open our mouths and share the even better news of Jesus Christ. If we minister to the physical side only, we are not serving the Lord Jesus Christ for we are called to be watchmen warning of the impending fires of Hell (Ezekiel 33-34). 

Christ-centered missions will always be balanced between relieving both the physical suffering and the spiritual suffering of people. There are equal dangers on both sides of the highway. To seek to minister only to the physical is to ignore the oncoming reality of eternal judgment. To minister only to the spiritual is to ignore the fact that authentic faith always motivates to action on behalf of the suffering, not just a “be warmed and filled and go in peace” shout as they head back out into the cold.

If you get the chance, read this book. It will challenge you. Most of us won’t agree with a number of conclusions Mortensen draws. But better than simply reinforcing everything you already believe, it will force you to think about how we ought to evangelize a window that is vehemently opposed to the gospel. I hope that Christians will read this best-seller and think about the call to evangelize every tribe, tongue, and nation. 

The question is, are we willing to go where the conclusion leads us?

President Obama’s Civil Rights Plans

President Obama has laid out his civil rights plans on his administration’s website. CSN News has written an article summarizing the plans. It’s worth your time to click here and read it, so you can pray with more specificity for our nation.

Bonheoffer, Abortion, and Utilitarian Ethics

Had everything gone according to plan, this post would probably be radically different. But, an oak table leg deflected the blast of a suitcase bomb intended to kill Hitler in the July 20 Plot. The subsequent manhunt for Hitler’s would-be assassins led to the execution of 200 German soldiers and civilians. Dietrich Bonheoffer, pacifistic pastor in the Confessing Church, was one of the civilians in league with the conspirators. He died at the hands of a Nazi execution squad on April 9, 1945.

Was Dietrich Bonheoffer right to involve himself in an assassination attempt of Adolf Hitler? Hitler, the same man who began World War Two. Hitler, the same man who ordered buzz bombs to be targeted at London civilians. Hitler, the same man who solidified power by instituting state-sponsored concentration camps. Hitler, the same man who had killed so many of Bonheoffer’s friends and flock.

If Hitler dies, Hitler goes to hell. And burns there. For all eternity. If Hitler lives, thousands of Jews and others die. They go to hell. And burn there. For all eternity. The stakes are high: eternal destiny.

Romans 13 commands you and me to be “subject to the governing authority.” Verse 3 says “For rulers are not a terror to good conduct, but to bad.” Paul seems to say “Be subject to governing authorities because they uphold what is right and punish what is wrong.”  What happens when their moral compass is inverted? What happens when they begin performing exploratory brain surgeries without anesthetics for the sake of research? What happens when governing authorities abandon the moral laws of God and plunges headlong into wickedness which makes humanity cringe?

Paul doesn’t say. There’s no explicit Scriptural mandate. But I think the life of Paul and the other apostles gives us insight into how we, as Christian citizens, should react to horrible governments. Paul and his fellow apostles travelled and preached the gospel until their arrest, then preached the gospel while in prison and on the way to the execution yard, and finally willingly died for their Lord. The Roman government was brutal. Pilate capriciously killed thousands of unbelieving Jews throughout his reign.  Yet never is there a movement toward the elimination of a civil government in an effort to save the lives of both believers and unbelievers alike.

While hiking through the mountains of Big Bear last year, my fellow OMC RAs and Gunner discussed this very topic. I argued that what Bonheoffer did was right. He certainly believed that it was, even being a pacifist (which I certainly am not!). And so, being incredibly hesitant to ever condemn someone from the comfort of my own non-persecuted, comfortable spot on my sofa, I do not think what Bonheoffer did was wisest. I wish we had his perspective. But he died by the sword…maybe as Jesus promised Peter.

Ultimately what changed my mind from that day at Big Bear to the present was a simple, yet horrifying question. If Bonheoffer was right, why don’t we bomb abortion clinics? Since 1970, 40 million infants have been murdered in small, sanitized concentration camps scattered throughout our country. That number sickens me. I hope it sickens you. We’ve systematically killed 31 million more people than Hitler did in the Holocaust. Those who murder children are just as much my enemy as those who murdered the Jews. And Scripture calls me to pray for them. That’s why I have to say Bonheoffer was wrong. What do you think?

London Bridge Has Fallen Down

Sitting in the airport today I watched newscast after newscast about the I-8 bridge in Minneapolis that collapsed three days ago. Five people were crushed to death, and thirty more are missing. If they haven’t turned up by now, they are most likely dead. Everybody knows the stories—the twenty year old school counselor who heroically helped a schoolbus full of children to safety, the man in the wheelchair who rolled to safety out of his van, the unconscious woman who woke up underwater and managed to escape. And now there is intense scrutiny of bridges and their safety classifications. Congressional studies will be done, money will be spent, jobs will be created, and funerals will be officiated. I drive across bridges almost every day. Most Americans do. Within a month—probably less—the I-8 tragedy will be all but forgotten.

 

I wonder what the safety rating of the Tower at Siloam was. Luke 13:4-5 describes another tragedy which killed innocent people and shocked many more. Jesus is asked what the people had done to deserve being crushed to death by debris. He responds by saying “[D]o you suppose that those eighteen on whom the tower in Siloam fell and killed them were worse culprits than all the men who live in Jerusalem? I tell you, no, but unless you repent, you will all likewise perish.” This answer would have surprised the audience. There was a general cultural expectation that when evil befell someone, it was because of a specific sin that God was avenging. Before healing the paralytic in —– Jesus was asked who sinned, the man or his parents. It was an assumption of the culture that those who were untouched by tragedy were not the sinners to the degree of the suffering.

 

Engineers have conveyed their surprise at the sudden collapse of the bridge. “It wasn’t supposed to do that” they say. Neither was the Tower of Siloam. The Tower of Siloam fell as a reminder from God that all men are but dust, and all deserve to die. This was Jesus’ response to his inquisitors. Were they worse culprits than you? God’s message hasn’t changed in the last 2000 years. The message of the 1-8 Bridge is this: Repent and devote your life to the God who created you for His glory. Why did the bridge fall? Because God removed His hand from underneath it.

 

I’m sitting in a plane as I type this. Looking out the window makes me realize how fragile life is. But I’m as safe up here as I am on the ground. God governs all life and death. Not a sparrow will fall without His knowledge, and not a person will die without His will granting such an event. Time and again the question is asked “How could a good God allow…9/11, Hurricane Katrina, a tsunami which devastates Southeast Asia, or a bridge collapse which kills thirty-five people.” God allows such for the reason presented in verse five. “[U]nless you repent, you will all likewise perish.” The message thirty-five people died to proclaim is this: Do you know the Savior? Are you passionately living for the glory of God? Or are you wasting your life on trivial things?