No Answers Here

Along the Way @ (1)

Gentle Reader,

The Middle East refugee crisis is one of the great humanitarian disasters of our time. There is no doubt about that. Large numbers of people flee horrific scenes of violence. They run fast and far from an ideological conflict that has been raging for centuries, but now threatens to boil over into a total war that could engulf the world. Allegiances shift. The reasons for fighting don’t always make sense to those of us living in the West. Politicians vacillate and babble. Everyone has an opinion as to what should be done.

I don’t.

I don’t have the answers.

First, it’s stupid of anyone to think that he’s got the magic bullet that will solve all the problems in the Middle East. Have all the meetings you want, but the hostility, stretching back to Isaac and Ishmael, is not going to stop this side of eternity. Second, it’s ignorant to believe that the Islamic State is not a legitimate form of Islam. No, not all Muslims are terrorists and not all Muslims support the Islamic State. But members of the IS do not practice eisegesis. They do not read into the Qur’anic texts ideas and concepts that are not already there. (See this excellent article for an in-depth exploration). If we are going to attempt to address this problem at all, we had better do it from an informed place.

But even then, what should our response be?

I am a pacifist. Have been since I was a young teenager. I believe that the Lord convicted me on this due to my own slow-burning but ultimately very bad temper and the fact that I have to work hard to control it. There’s no way that I can make the call to spread the Gospel blend with violence of any kind, physical or verbal. I don’t question the faith of people who see things differently and I would never be disrespectful to anyone in the military. (My parents raised me better than that and my uncles, all members of the armed forces or police officers, would rake me over the coals). This is simply where I fall.

As such, I don’t believe that sending troops to the region will do any good in the long term, especially since the battles waged across desert sands are theological in nature. This is about Islam. About the domination of a particular interpretation and practice of that religion. No amount of intervention on our part is going to change that. I don’t see the sense in American men and women putting their boots on the ground to take part in a little-understood, unending conflict that grows bloodier by the day.

So you might conclude that I would be on the side of those who call for the government to throw open wide the doors for any refugees who wish to come here.

Not necessarily.

Nothing gets my blood boiling faster than seeing children suffer because of the selfish actions of the adults in their lives. I hate to think of them trying to sleep with the ring of gunfire in their ears. The image of mothers scrounging for food for their little ones makes me sick. Elderly people shouldn’t have to live in war zones. A large part of me says, “Let them come. Let them come.”

Another part of me realizes that human beings are sinful. Islam allows for kitman, meaning that a Muslim may make ambiguous statements and pay mere lip-service to authority while maintaining personal opposition. She may say one thing and do another. Like it or not, it’s not out of the realm of possibility that a member of the IS would use kitman to pose as a refugee in order to enter the United States. (Whether or not that’s an appropriate application of the concept is outside my realm of knowledge. I’ll leave that debate to the experts).

Still another part knows that a sizable minority who flee the terror are my brothers and sisters in the Lord. The persecution they suffer for their faith is real, despite protests to the contrary. I can’t turn a blind eye to beheadings and crucifixions. I want to rise up and shield them from such barbarous evil.

I can hear your objections. “You’re spreading religious hatred!” “You’re prejudiced!” “You’re hateful!”

Not at all. I don’t for a second believe that all of the refugees, or even a majority of them, are terrorists in disguise. I don’t think that every Muslim is a liar. I don’t think that we need to fear these people.

I do think that we need both compassion and wisdom. There’s a reason that Jesus tells us to be wise as serpents and harmless as doves (Matthew 10:16). We can’t have one without the other and navigate this life successfully.

I don’t know what our response should be, either nationally or as Christians. This is not as cut-and-dried as some on either side of the debate would have it be. At the national level, we face debt crisis after debt crisis; it’s unreasonable to think that we can, given the current economic make-up, financially support an unchecked flood of humanity. It’s not wrong to wonder why other Muslim-majority nations aren’t more accepting of Muslim refugees. At the faith level, yes, we are called to stand for the oppressed and care for the widow and the orphan. We are also told to be watchful and eschew willful ignorance. We can’t and shouldn’t ignore the problem and hope it goes away, but all of these elements need to be taken into consideration before attempting to implement any solution.

Whatever side any of us lands on, we must acknowledge that one thing we absolutely must not do is lob figurative grenades at each other as we wrestle with these issues. Christians screaming at each other and calling each other’s faith into question does nothing. We can be members of the one Body and have different opinions on how to respond to this. As my pastor shared last week:

I remember a time, especially as Christians, when an issue such as the Syrian refugee crisis confronted us, and our first reaction was to pray about it. We sought the Lord individually or even collectively in our faith communities and asked, “God, what would you have me/us do?” I remember a time when we would seek the leading and the conviction of God’s Holy Spirit and respond in obedience and absolutely no one had to know. We didn’t have to come up with a creative meme, Tweet or Facebook status – we simply responded in obedience to how God was leading us…not solely with our emotions. Furthermore, if your willingness to obey resulted in you having a different opinion about a particular issue than someone else, that was okay – you could function in humility in a relationship with people of varying opinions because you might be supporting a cause that was diametrically opposed to your neighbor’s value system, but they were none the wiser because you simply lived your life in quiet obedience to what you sensed God wanted you to do. How I miss that time! I wonder if it can be reclaimed?

– Mark McWhorter, Rambling Thoughts as I Get Old

Let us reclaim that spirit of unity in diversity.

Let it begin with me.

My journey to faith. (15)

P.S. – Since I know someone is going to bring it up, I’m neither a supporter or a member of either the Republican Party or the Democrat Party. Both disgust me in equal measure.

Five Minute Friday: Dwell

Along the Way @

Gentle Reader,

Got to enjoy some time chatting with my fellow writers, but I confess to being distracted.

I’m worried that I’m going to forget underwear.

Headed out for a ladies retreat tomorrow evening. I’ve packed my clothes. Checked more than once to make sure that the underwear is present and accounted for. It’s right where I left it.


Kate asks us to: dwell.


“He who dwells in the secret place of the Most High
Shall abide under the shadow of the Almighty.
I will say of the Lord, ‘He is my refuge and my fortress;
My God, in Him I will trust.'”

– Psalm 91:1-2 (NKJV)

Dwell is defined as, “to live or stay as a permanent resident; reside; to live or continue in a given condition or state; to linger over, emphasize, or ponder in thought, speech, or writing.”

Live. Stay. Emphasize. Ponder. Linger.

In the secret place.

One of my favorite hymns is Rock of Ages. Often when I’m feeling anxious, snippets of lyrics float to the forefront of my mind. Let me hide myself in Thee. Helpless, look to Thee for grace. Wash me, Savior, or I die.

God invites us to dwell in Him. Not just with Him. In Him. Tucked safely in His lap, our ears pressed against His chest so that gradually all sound but that of His lion’s heart fade away. The tears run from flood to trickle. Breaths, staggered and shallow at first, turn slow and deep. The knots in our souls unwind, untangle.

God dwells in us (John 15:4). The moment of salvation finds Him taking up residence. The King comes to sit upon His rightful throne. He promises that we will never again be alone. Never without resources. Never without a defender. Never without guidance.

This reality stabs me with the peculiar ache that arises from the inexplicable gentleness with which He convicts and disciplines those within whom He dwells. Paul David Tripp says it best – when we willfully sin, it’s not because we don’t know it’s wrong. It’s because we don’t care.

God, His Holy Spirit, dwells within me. Earth-shaking. Paradigm-shifting.

And yet still I rebel.

Tender, how tender, is His voice. He does not sugarcoat. Nor does He attack. He simply tells it like it is. Me, the wayward sheep. Me, the cranky child. God, the Lord of all.

Let me hide myself in Thee.


My journey to faith. (15)

They Can’t All Be Correct

Along the Way @

Gentle Reader,

My home group has been journeying through the book of Acts for almost three months. Tonight we’ll be discussing Paul’s final recorded journey to Jerusalem and his subsequent arrest. Soon the narrative will draw to a close. I never fail to feel sad when I reach the end of a study. Even though Paul died many centuries ago, I’ll miss him.

Paul gets a hard time. People like to take what he wrote and what he was recorded as saying completely out of context. They spin his words for their own agendas. It frustrates me to no end to see the Bible abused this way. It is so, so important to take the time, to put in the effort, to consider and understand the context of a passage within the chapter, the book or letter or poem as a whole, the overarching salvation narrative and the historical timeline. This is the only way, guided by the Holy Spirit, to rightly handle the text.

Consider one of my favorite scenes from Acts:

Now while Paul waited for them at Athens, his spirit was provoked within him when he saw that the city was given over to idols. Therefore he reasoned in the synagogue with the Jews and with the Gentile worshipers, and in the marketplace daily with those who happened to be there. Then certain Epicurean and Stoic philosophers encountered him. And some said, “What does this babbler want to say?”

Others said, “He seems to be a proclaimer of foreign gods,” because he preached to them Jesus and the resurrection.

And they took him and brought him to the Areopagus, saying, “May we know what this new doctrine is of which you speak? For you are bringing some strange things to our ears. Therefore we want to know what these things mean.” For all the Athenians and the foreigners who were there spent their time in nothing else but either to tell or to hear some new thing.

Then Paul stood in the midst of the Areopagus and said, “Men of Athens, I perceive that in all things you are very religious; for as I was passing through and considering the objects of your worship, I even found an altar with this inscription:


Therefore, the One whom you worship without knowing, Him I proclaim to you: God, who made the world and everything in it, since He is Lord of heaven and earth, does not dwell in temples made with hands. Nor is He worshiped with men’s hands, as though He needed anything, since He gives to all life, breath, and all things. And He has made from one blood every nation of men to dwell on all the face of the earth, and has determined their preappointed times and the boundaries of their dwellings, so that they should seek the Lord, in the hope that they might grope for Him and find Him, though He is not far from each one of us; for in Him we live and move and have our being, as also some of your own poets have said, ‘For we are also His offspring.’ Therefore, since we are the offspring of God, we ought not to think that the Divine Nature is like gold or silver or stone, something shaped by art and man’s devising. Truly, these times of ignorance God overlooked, but now commands all men everywhere to repent, because He has appointed a day on which He will judge the world in righteousness by the Man whom He has ordained. He has given assurance of this to all by raising Him from the dead.”

– Acts 17:16-31 (NKJV)

Yes, Paul had a temper. He was an intense guy. He was a very flawed human being, something he declared over and over again. He made mistakes. He knew exactly what sort of person he was and exactly from what God had saved him.

Yet there is nothing offensive in his sermon. He is respectful, learned and passionate. He speaks to his audience in terms they will readily understand. He seeks out whatever common ground he can find and builds on it. I imagine him as the sort of guy that would be willing to sit down with anyone who wanted to talk about faith and God, probably over a good kosher burger.

But he never says that their way is right.

He never says that the road they are on will lead them to salvation.

We would do well to emulate Paul in this way. He never compromised the message. He was not wishy-washy. He did not go into pagan temples and participate in idolatrous rights in order to “connect” with people. He did not preach some mushy, gushy, “all you need is love,” fake, flimsy gospel. He spoke and wrote the truth. It got him run out of towns, separated from friends, whipped, beaten, stoned, shipwrecked and eventually (according to tradition) beheaded.

I have no doubt that he stands today among that great and unseen cloud of witnesses and shouts, “It was worth it! The Lord is worth it!”

They can’t all be correct. We do the unbelieving world great disservice when we refuse to reveal the Unknown God to them. When we spout the political correctness of relativism. When we refuse to face reality. When we fall prey to inconsistencies of logic and cognitive dissonance.

There is One way, One truth and One life. Period.

Let us be moved. Not to disdain, superiority or prejudice. Not to unkindness or brutality. Let us be moved, as Paul was moved, to take the Light of Christ boldly into the dark. Let us allow the Lord to break our hearts for the lost, for those who grope about wildly for what He freely and openly offers. Let us be strong and committed. Let us declare truth.

For that is real love.

My journey to faith. (15)