Praying for Norway

“The soul who sins shall die. The son shall not suffer for the iniquity of the father, nor the father suffer for the iniquity of the son. The righteousness of the righteous shall be upon himself, and the wickedness of the wicked shall be upon himself.    “
–Eziekel 18:20

What prompted a Norwegian     man to kill 93 people?  What caused him to believe that the right course of action was to place a bomb in Oslo, then go to a youth camp and slaughter children?  What kind of world do we live in that contains animals like these?  It is really hard to understand.

I don’t know the reason.

We are now seeing plenty of experts in the headlines with possible answers.  Maybe it was caused by politicians and leaders sparking hatred amongst extremists.  Maybe it was because he had a difficult childhood.  Maybe it was a particular traumatic event that led him to commit this horrible act.  Maybe he is clinically insane and was off his medication.  I suppose there could be many reasons.

Maybe – he is just evil.

I think sometimes we try to make sense out our fallen world.  We try to find the magic pill or cure that will prevent mad men from committing crimes. If we just medicate them correctly, or if we just fix the issues in society that led them astray.  Why is it that we just can’t come to grips with the fact that there is such a thing as evil in this world?  Why can’t we just understand that there are people in this world that don’t want to be good people?

Don’t get me wrong.  I completely agree that medication and finding resolutions to societal issues that cause crime are worthy endeavors, especially since I know that through God – all is possible.  But evil people have existed since this world began.  As much as we try, they will always be among us.  Since the day Adam fell in the garden of Eden, evil has existed, and until our Messiah returns, life in this fallen world will be a struggle.  Some will unfortunately choose evil rather than good.  Some will fall.

“And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil.”
–Matthew 6:13

I truly believe that the farther we stray from God, the easier it is for us to be tempted, and the closer we come to evil.  It can happen to any of us. While most of us would never commit a crime as a result, we are all susceptible to it.  We are all imperfect, and such can be tempted to act in a way that does not honor God.

So how should we react to this horrible act?

“Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good.”
–Romans 12:21

The Bible will always hold the key.  I believe it is very clear how we should react.  We can overcome evil only with good.  We cannot do it through revenge, since that right belongs to God.  It is not through anger, as that will simply tempt us to stray from God.  It is only through our adherence to the Bible, and God’s word that we can overcome such a horrific crime. Hey, I know it isn’t easy, but Jesus never told us that following Him would be easy.

Today, we pray for Norway.

We pray for the children and all who lost their lives.

We pray for those that have survived and are finding a way to make sense of the senseless.

We pray for ourselves, that we continue to follow our Savior, and that evil is overcome in the arms of Jesus.

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Your Help is Needed, America

“Open your mouth, judge righteously, defend the rights of the poor and needy.”
–Proverbs 31:9

America is still the richest country in the world.  We can be thankful to God that He has blessed us with a country where most people have a place to live and food on their table.  Even during a recession, with an uncertain future, we are not doing nearly as bad as other countries.

In fact, according to an article from ABC News:

  • In 2005, the American government gave about 28 billion in foreign aid.
  • In the same year, private Americans gave about 33 billion to other countries.
  • Immigrants send about 62 billion to their families in other countries.
  • A few years ago, the American government pledged 900 million in Tsunami aid, while the American public gave 2 billion for the cause.

That is awesome, and no country comes close to us in giving to other countries.  The fact is that America is simply a generous country.  We can be very proud of that fact, except for one thing.

People are still suffering.

With all of the money that we send to other countries to help, there are still children in other countries who go to bed hungry, who don’t have the proper clothing, who are not getting the education they need.  The fact is that with all of the money we send, it simply is not enough.

It is easy for us to look at the statistics and say “we have done enough”.  But that is not what the Bible tells us to do as Christians.

“If your brother becomes poor and cannot maintain himself with you, you shall support him as though he were a stranger and a sojourner, and he shall live with you.”
–Leviticus 25:35

Throughout the Bible, they are many examples of how we are to treat the poor.  The fact is that Jesus gave a commandment to love our neighbors as we love our God.  As such, it is our responsibility to not turn a blind eye to the poor and needy in this world.

Here are some of the statistics from Compassion International:

  • Children under age 18 make up nearly 48 percent of the population of the world’s least developed countries, compared with 21 percent of the population of the world’s industrialized nations.
  • More than 1.6 billion people lack access to electricity and modern forms of energy.
  • Over 1.4 billion people in the developing world live below the poverty line (U.S.$1.25 per day).
  • More than 9 million children under age 5 die each year. Two-thirds of these deaths — more than 6 million every year — are preventable.

The bottom line is that our help is still needed.  It does not matter that we already provide so much help.  As Christians, we are called by our Savior to provide help for our neighbors, and it is obvious that more is needed.

How many times do you go to a restaurant and spend at least $40 or more?  Do you know that $38 a month will feed, clothe and educate a poor child for a month?  Do you know how many children have been saved from poverty by Compassion International in countries like Brazil, Nicaragua, El Salvador, and others?  They are currently helping 1.2 million children, yet so many are still not being helped.  It is Americans like ourselves that can mean everything to one of these children.

When you sponsor a child through Compassion International, you are not just sending money to an charity.  The money you send is going directly to help a specific child.  Your contribution will clothe that child, it will feed that child, and it will educate that child.  They will teach the child about God.  You will have the opportunity to write the child and influence their life directly.  You can even visit the child if you choose.  You will have the opportunity to pull that child out of poverty, and give them a chance they would never have had otherwise.

Will you make a commitment today?

Click here to sponsor a child.

What Happened To You, Caylee Anthony?

“See that you do not despise one of these little ones. For I tell you that in heaven their angels always see the face of my Father who is in heaven.”
–Matthew 18:10

I am angry.

Even though I have my opinions about the case, the fact is I was not there. I don’t have all of the facts. I was not a juror, having to decide the fate of this mother. Yet the truth is that I have serious doubts as to Casey Anthony’s innocence. I also have serious doubts as to the innocence of the entire family. I cannot believe that no one in the Anthony family knows what happened to Caylee. They know, and one day, mark my words, those responsible will have to stand before God and explain their actions.

“For I know the plans I have for you, declares the Lord, plans for welfare and not for evil, to give you a future and a hope.”
–Jeremiah 29:11

I know where Caylee is. She is in Heaven. She is sitting next to our Savior. Whether she is aware of what is going on down here I don’t know. But she is no longer in pain. She no longer has duct tape wrapped tightly around her mouth and nose, cutting off her breath. She is no longer lying in the back of a car trunk. She is no longer discarded in a field, being rained on, open to the elements. She is flying high, safe and sound, in the arms of a family that has much more concern for her than she ever received on earth. No longer will she wait for her mother while she parties all night. No longer will she be neglected, set aside while the adults in her life find other pursuits to entertain them. She is now receiving the love she was denied on earth.

This case makes me angry.  I am angry because the trial, and its verdict, reminds me that a family in Orlando cared so little for the welfare of this child, that they allowed her to be killed, stuffed in a car, then discarded in a field.

What really happened to Caylee?

The trial did not answer the question, and we may never know.  The Anthony family knows the answer, though.  They were entrusted with the care of this child. The child was NOT their possession, to do with as they please. That child belongs to God, and they chose to destroy her earthly body, either by their actions, or by their neglect. They will answer for it. God is not only a God of love, but one of justice. They will never be able to hide from Him.

The ones responsible for Caylee’s death may have escaped justice in this world, but God’s justice will come.

In a few weeks, the media will slowly stop covering this case. People will go about their daily lives. Some will forget the names, the facts surrounding the case, and the faces will fade from their memory. Caylee will become one of the many children our society mourns for a time, then discards much like the way she was discarded by those she trusted. I hope this does not happen in this case, but I know for many it will. We are a fickle society. We have been de-sensitized to these stories, because, unfortunately, they happen often enough that they no longer shock us as they should.

But folks, this is a human being, a child. She did not deserve this. My hope is that everyone who reads this blog will look at the photo of Caylee, really look at it. She is your daughter. She is your sister. She is your friend. She deserved much better. She deserved to live a full life. We need to cry over her death. We need to mourn her. We need to be angry. We need to pray – really hard – that God does a work on the hearts of the mothers and fathers in our society. We need to pray that parents place a higher priority on the health and well being of their children than they do on going to a party, getting a tattoo, and drinking themselves into oblivion.

Today, I mourn the death of a little girl taken too soon, but I rejoice in knowing she is safe in our Savior’s arms.

America, look at that photo, and see that you do not forget that little girl.

I will never forget you,  Caylee Anthony.

Giving Thanks For Freedom

“Stand fast therefore in the liberty wherewith Christ hath made us free, and be not entangled again with the yoke of bondage. Behold, I Paul say unto you, that if ye be circumcised, Christ shall profit you nothing. For I testify again to every man that is circumcised, that he is a debtor to do the whole law. Christ is become of no effect unto you, whosoever of you are justified by the law; ye are fallen from grace. For we through the Spirit wait for the hope of righteousness by faith. For in Jesus Christ neither circumcision availeth any thing, nor uncircumcision; but faith which worketh by love.”
–Galatians 5:1-6

“There is therefore now no condemnation to them which are in Christ Jesus, who walk not after the flesh, but after the Spirit. For the law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus hath made me free from the law of sin and death. For what the law could not do, in that it was weak through the flesh, God sending his own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh, and for sin, condemned sin in the flesh:That the righteousness of the law might be fulfilled in us, who walk not after the flesh, but after the Spirit.”
Romans 8:1-4

Thank you Jesus for for the freedom I enjoy today, that we celebrated this weekend. No, not the freedom won by our forefathers from the British. Rather, I thank you for the freedom that you won for me on the cross. I thank you for the freedom you grant me, not by anything I have done, but by your grace. It is the freedom I maintain through my faith. It is the freedom from sin, that grants me eternal life, regardless of where I live, what government is in place, or what any man on earth could ever achieve on his own.

“And you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.”
John 8:32

Thanks!

The Power of Pride

High school football player Isayah Muller.

He just led his team to a championship win.

He is dead now.

He was killed in New York after his father discovered a bottle of cologne missing from their car after a graduation ceremony.  When he noticed the bottle missing, he turned the car around and confronted the parking attendants.  The argument became violent, his son got involved, and was stabbed as a result.

Now we have one less 19 year old in the world, victim of a senseless murder because his father couldn’t live without a bottle of cologne.

Tell me America, that we don’t need a little more God in our lives, and a little less pride and conceit.

Tell me we don’t need to get on our knees and ask God to intervene in our lives.

Wake up America and start realizing what is important, before we destroy ourselves.

“Therefore pride compasseth them about as a chain; violence covereth them as a garment. ”
–Psalm 73:6

The fear of the Lord is hatred of evil. Pride and arrogance and the way of evil and perverted speech I hate.
–Proverbs 8:13


And you shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength.’ The second is this: ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’ There is no other commandment greater than these.”
Mark 12:30-31

Finding Strength

“Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? [shall] tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or peril, or sword? As it is written, For thy sake we are killed all the day long; we are accounted as sheep for the slaughter. Nay, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him that loved us. For I am persuaded, that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor powers, nor things present, nor things to come, Nor height, nor depth, nor any other creature, shall be able to separate us from the love of God, which is in Christ Jesus our Lord.”
–Romans 8:35-39

Last week, I wrote a post where I talked about the economic situation in America.  I talked about how things are getting worse.  I offered a way through the mess, through our faith in God.  Today I want to talk more about adversity and hard times.  I hope that through this post, I can reach someone who may be going through tough times, and encourage them to keep their faith in our Savior.

Pastor Greg Laurie recently told a stadium full of worshipers in New Zealand that he simply does not know why God allows suffering.  I don’t know either.  I mean I have my opinions, and I am sure many Christians do as well.  But I truly believe there are questions we simply won’t be able to answer on earth. We will have the answers one day, when we get to Heaven.  Until then, we have to look at the Bible, and do the best we can in this fallen world.

I have had my hardships in life.  No, I have not been at war.  No, I have not been in real poverty.  But the word hardship is such a relative term.  What is a hardship for one man is nothing for someone else.  With that said, I can tell you that I have had times in my life where I simply did not know how I could go on.  I spent many nights awake, pondering how to move on with life.  Yet I have never walked in the shoes of a homeless person.  I have never lived the life of a political prisoner, or a child of war.  So I consider myself truly blessed, knowing that my life has been relatively good.

My wife and I recently started sponsoring a child in Brazil through Compassion International.  The program offers help to children in need around the world.  For $38, we provide food, shelter, and help with education for a girl named Livia.  I don’t mention this to boast, although we are very happy to be able to help her.  I mention it because this experience is serving to humble us, and help us recognize the hardships others endure in this world.

Livia lives near a city named Recife.  If you follow my blog, you may remember that I posted a story about Recife, and the garbage dump people there.  This is the story of the people who live off the scraps of food and items they pick up at the garbage dump in the city.  Livia lives in a small town near this city.  Compassion International is helping to keep Livia from this situation.  They not only provide food and shelter, they educate her and her family, and teach her about Jesus, encouraging her in her faith.  Thousands of children just like Livia have been helped by Compassion International and have been able to get out the slums and ghettos of these countries as a result.

The reason I mention Livia, is because there are so many children just like Livia around the world.  Yet here I sit, in an air conditioned room, sipping on a hot coffee, typing on my computer.  Yes I have suffered hard times, but Livia has nothing.  She lives in a shack with a dirt floor.  I live in a two bedroom villa, with a fully stocked refrigerator.  So I have been thinking about Livia lately.  How is she expected to survive her situation?  How can she persevere, so that she can grow up and get out of that situation?  How can we survive our situation, and get out of our hardships as well?

“Not that I speak in regard to need, for I have learned in whatever state I am, to be content: I know how to be abased, and I know how to abound. Everywhere and in all things I have learned both to be full and to be hungry, both to abound and to suffer need. I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me.”
–Philipians 4:11-13

Paul writes in Romans that nothing can separate us from the love of God which is in Jesus Christ our Lord.  Poverty will not do it.  Sickness can’t.  God loves us no matter what our situation is.  It does not matter if we make mistakes.  God knows we are fallen creatures.  He knows that no matter what hardships we suffer, that He has provided a way out, a way of escape. In the verses from Philipians above, we are told that through Christ, all things are possible.  No matter who we are, where we live, or what we have done, there is a God who loves us unconditionally.  We are special to Him, and through our faith in Him, there is nothing we cannot accomplish.

“Beloved, think it not strange concerning the fiery trial which is to try you, as though some strange thing happened unto you: But rejoice, inasmuch as ye are partakers of Christ’s sufferings; that, when his glory shall be revealed, ye may be glad also with exceeding joy.”
1 Peter 4:12-13

In this passage, we learn how we are to deal with adversity.  We are to rejoice.  Why?  Because by suffering, we come closer to our Savior.  Remember how our Messiah suffered on the cross? Remember how he was beaten and tortured?  He did that for us, to save us from our sins.  In suffering, we can remember our Lord, and what He endured on Earth, and we can know that our suffering, no matter how bad it may seem, is only temporary.

In my last post, and in many that I write, I make reference to us being spoiled in America.  I always try to make comparisons to others around the world, how much other people suffer compared to our relative prosperity in America.  I believe for most of us, it is a good comparison.  It helps us to realize that we have it pretty good in America compared to others around the world.

But the fact is, for the homeless, for those that have lost their jobs, for those who are suffering from illness, my comparisons do not make their situations any better.  I understand that.  No matter how much more someone else suffers, we are still burdened with our own suffering.  I have been there my friend, and I do understand.  But know that no matter what we suffer in our earthly lives, God is with us.  He is right there next to us.  As the passage from Romans says, nothing can separate us from His love, and our faith will be rewarded.

“And the God of all grace, who called you to his eternal glory in Christ, after you have suffered a little while, will himself restore you and make you strong, firm and steadfast..”
–1 Peter 5:10

Again, we will never truly understand in this life why God allows suffering.  But we do know – through His word – that He will stand with us while we do.  Our suffering will strength us, it will make us wiser, and it will draw us closer to our Savior, who suffered on the cross for our sins.  We can know that our trials and tribulations are temporary.

For Livia, and  for us, our faith will carry us through.

“I can’t stop the rain, From falling down on you again
I can’t stop the rain, But I will hold you ’til it goes away”
–When the Rain Comes, Third Day