Are We Gate Crashing Hell

It could have been my sister in Orlando that night, shot and killed. It could have been my son’s best friend. My God; it could have been me; in the words of the early church martyr: “There but for the grace of God go I“.

It wasn’t me. It wasn’t you. But it was so many. Not one life. Not five or ten or twenty. Forty-nine lives were taken that day, in a horrific tragedy, by one single, hateful man. Forty-nine. Forty-nine life stories and love stories. Forty-nine sons or daughters or brothers or sisters or friends.

The place they were in might have made it easier to distance ourselves — some of us — from their plight and their tragedy. “A gay nightclub.” I would have never been in such a place. By God’s grace, you might add.

I think it was C. T. Studd who succinctly stated, “Some people want to live within the sound of mission bells, but I want to run a mission a yard from the gates of Hell.”

I was sleeping when the shooting occurred, but how deep was that sleep? How have I been lulled to sleep by church bells rather than stirred to life by the plight of the lost, the hateful and the hated? Someone filled with ideologies of hate and justice and wrath stormed that nightclub to shoot and destroy. Did anyone, I wonder, enter that nightclub in a spirit of love and mercy, to speak truth into the lives of those who had gone astray?

Or maybe not a nightclub. Maybe a classroom. Maybe a living room. Maybe a front porch. Or an abortion clinic. Or a church. The broken, the lost, the misled and the straying are everywhere. Are we looking for them? Are we seeking them out and speaking love and truth and mercy into their lives? Or have we already judged them in our minds? Both victim and perpetrator?

I was grieved at the news of the shooting. I have been more grieved, though, at the reactions of many Christians, those who are using the tragedy to push their own agenda. I have seen Facebook posts decrying current presidents and potential presidents, paragraphs filled with hateful and ugly statements. I have seen more moderate posts about the need to maintain our rights as Americans … and I ask myself, is this what Jesus would be promoting? Was it Jesus who promised rights? Or was it He who promised that those who suffer with Him would also rule with Him? Who promised that the one who carries the cross will bear the crown? Who said we might not have a place to lay our heads at night, but that we will have a home in His presence for eternity?

And we are using a tragedy where scores of human beings — scores of us — were shot and killed or wounded; we are using it to proclaim our rights and secure our position and defend ourselves against those who stand in other positions. Are we not called to open our arms and lives and speak truth in mercy and love? Are we not called to lift up the Cross of Christ, not the First or Second or 14th Amendment or the Bill of Rights?

What is our focus? Reaching the lost and searching? Or living a life of comfort and ease?

I have had to search my heart in light of this horrific incident and the varied responses I have seen across social media. I pray that we who are believers in the life-giving power of the risen Christ will all do the same. What are we here for? We who know Christ as Savior? We have assurance of eternal life; why did Christ not carry us home to be with him as soon as we were “saved”?

Because we have a calling. A commission. A commandment. Spread the Gospel of Jesus to all in every country, in every place.

Not spread the message of our rights, whether they are waxing or waning. But to keep our eyes fixed on Him, the Author and Finisher of our faith. And to enable others to also fix their eyes on Him.

May we crash the gates of hell by not fearing to run a mission there, rather than hiding in our houses or churches, promoting rights that were never given us by God. May we promote Him, whom to know is life eternal.

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Is Love Enough to Change the World?

Damini - death of a treasureA woman died yesterday … in India. In a nation of over one billion people, where over 15,000 people die each day and over 70,000 are born, why has one death provoked a worldwide response? Because of the reason this woman died. After being tortured and gang raped by six men while in a moving vehicle for hours, she had been fighting for life since the savage attack on the 16th of December.

Protests across India brought attention worldwide, and in New Delhi they invoked a response from lathi-wielding police men armed with tear gas and water cannons as the young woman fought for life in a hospital. She was only 23 years old. Her life was in many ways only just beginning. And yesterday, she drew her last breath.

Her fight for life drew attention across the nation. I only pray her death will bring attention throughout the world.

This is a tragedy that is repeated worldwide every day. Perhaps not with such grave consequences, or in such a horrific manner, but every day, in every country across the world, people who can’t defend themselves are subject to unspeakable treatment.

I recently picked up a book from the library. The title was A Crime So Monstrous.

It follows the journey of a man who spent five years traveling to nations researching the topic of slavery, and in many cases, sex slavery – rape. His book tells that researchers state there are more slaves in the world today than any time throughout history. Many of them are women, and many are young … very young. And very accessible.

While reading it, my heart grieved for the young and helpless ones subjected to mistreatment and brutal acts on a daily basis. Even more to think of those who perpetrate such vile deeds and consider it normal – people who buy and sell humans as if they’re inanimate objects, and treat them even worse than they would treat an object. I just can’t understand how those who do such things can do something so obviously wrong and treat it as normal and no big deal.

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There are many today who promote the idea of an awakening occurring across the world. An idea that we only need to awaken to the love and oneness within ourselves, and the world will enter a stage of lasting peace and renewal.

How I wish that were true – that the love of a few could awaken the love that rests dormant within the hearts of many, and through it, love and peace would take over and recreate the world.

But it’s not going to happen.

Yes, our hearts are capable of great love and wonderfully heroic deeds. Yet they are also capable of vile hate, and horrific acts.

And looking at the world today and the increasing deeds of evil and hate – shootings, violence, depression, fear – it is clear that our world is not on the brink of some great awakening. But, more than ever, we are in need of love and peace.

Is love enough?

Yes, it is.

But not my love. Not yours either.

For to look within, although there is much good, is not enough good. Not enough to change the world today.

Now, as always, there is need for more.

Christmas has just passed. A time when, though the world seems to be forgetting it more and more each year, the God of Love entered this world to fulfill a promise from the beginning of time, to die for the collective sins of mankind, and bring us back into fellowship with the Creator.

Why is the fellowship still broken?

Because, although it is easier to close our eyes to the evil in the world, which lurks in dark places, it still exists. It exists because there is a battle, a war that is fought over the hearts and souls of men every day. And this battle is unseen, but it is real. More real, in fact, than what we see around us. We catch traces of it in the world around us. In the sorrow. The hate. The depression. The despair.

There is a battle between good and evil, between God and Satan, between angels and demons. And humanity is their prime focus. Sometimes it’s easy to ignore; other times, it’s almost impossible to do so, when we strongly feel the battle, both seen and unseen.

Sometimes it seems so hard to do the right things, to make choice of love, forgiveness, acceptance, grace, patience, and kindness.

As great as it is to say, “Love is all we need,” the truth is that we need God to give us that love. We don’t have it in ourselves.

We need Him.

We need the love that comes from Him, the love that was so evident when He walked this earth and showed love to the broken, the lonely, the old, the suffering.

We need the forgiveness that He showed when He stretched on the cross, dying for the wrongs of this world, and still spoke words of forgiveness to the very ones who perpetrated His suffering.

We need His grace, His peace, and the freedom that only comes from knowing Him.

Only the love of Jesus will bring about the change that is truly needed in the world – through the life and love He brings to each heart.

Hearts that are in such great need of love. I know mine is.