Monday, November 28, 2011

Nazi Collaborators

Have a vacation day today and started it off watching a couple of episodes of "Nazi Collaborators" on the Military Channel (which I only have for two more day and then the free trial goes away - rats).  One episode was titled "Beast of the Balkans".  It was the recounting of an early "ethnic cleansing" of Serbs in the old Yugoslavia during World War II. 

A couple of things jumped out at me as I listened to this episode.  First, the magnitude.  It was estimated that between 330,000 and 1,000,000 Serbs were killed.  No one knows for sure because all the records were destroyed before the Allies recaptured the area from the Germans.  Secondly, the brutality.  It was reported that even the Germans were a bit queasy about how the Croats were "disposing" of the Serbs.  They preferred more brutal methods of killing (slitting throats, shooting to death, etc.) than gassing like the Nazi's did.  This upset even the Nazi's "tender sensitivities" (HEAVY sarcasm there).  Third, the church was complicit in this cleansing (Orthodox Christians were "forced" to convert to Catholicism or else).  The last thing was that one of the prime conspirators in this cleansing, fled Europe at the end of the war and lived "peaceably" in Argentina for 50 years - raising a family and working in a factory - no remorse, no sadness, no "I am sorry" (in fact, he laughed at his trial when evidence was presented against him).

Mind you, this was 1941.  This was NOT the dark ages.  This was not the Huns hacking and slashing their way across Europe.  This was in a "civilized" state.  Right...............

Two things strike me and scare me about situations like this.  First, the severe hatred it would take to treat someone as subhuman, as a piece of garbage to be thrown away like a used napkin.  I cannot fathom how much hatred existed between these two groups (refer to the start of WW I also....) that would drive them to think that it was OK to kill that many people - men, women, children, old people.  Second, how defiled their consciences must have been to allow them to do such a thing and not sense, feel or exhibit ANY remorse. 

Funny how this happens isn't it.  The scriptures speaks of the contrast between living at peace and allowing a root of bitterness to grow up (Hebews 12):

14 Make every effort to live in peace with all men and to be holy; without holiness no one will see the Lord. 15 See to it that no one misses the grace of God and that no bitter root grows up to cause trouble and defile many.

The "root of bitterness" that grew up in the Croats defiled their consciences as a nation and allowed them to murder hundreds of thousands of people.  Their consciences were seared closed because they did not feel any pain, any remorse, any sorrow in doing what they did.

OK, so why is this important.  This will not happen today, will it?  Oh yes it will.  If we do not take care of those little roots of bitterness, if we do not confess our sin and keep our conscience clean and pure, roots grow and cause us to "dehumanize" people and treat them like objects.  If we can look at someone in our life with spite and anger, we are on the road to having our life consumed by the root of bitterness and our consciences seared. 

My advice?  Take care of these things when they are small.  Do NOT let your heart become hardened in the course of your day.  Do not allow your conscience to be seared.  Root out the roots of bitterness.  Keep watch on your soul so this does not happen.  Make EVERY effort, as the writer of Hebrews says, to live at peace.

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Wow.  There are just certain parts of scriptures that scare me.  I was reading Amos last night, a shorter book in the Old Testament that was written by a shepherd from a town near Bethlehem.  He starts his letter by telling us this so my expectation is that his writing is going to be on the "pastoral" side of things.  Not!

Amos, who was a prophet if only for a short while, wrote about the pending destruction of the northern kingdom of Israel and the destruction of other surrounding kingdoms (Moab, Philistia, Edom).  In the first few sentences of his letter, he paints the historical context of when he spoke these words - when Uzziah was king of Judah and Jeroboam was king of Israel, two years before an earthquake that hit the land.  I did a little research and found that this was 50-70 years before Israel was actually destroyed and taken away into captivity.

In the grand scheme of history, 50-70 years does not seem like a long time to me.  However, if you were there, listening to his words, 50-70 years would feel like what he was saying was never going to come true.  I believe that this is a tool of the devil in humanity - scoffing at the future, knowing that there is righteous judgement, but saying and really believing that it is never going to happen to us and therefore what we are doing must be OK in God's eyes.  We mistake the patience of God for his approval.  We mistake his forbearance for lack of judgment.

I love what Peter says about this in his second letter (II Peter 3:9):

The Lord is not slow in keeping his promise, as some understand slowness. He is patient with you, not wanting anyone to perish, but everyone to come to repentance.

His heart is bent on our redemption.  His heart is set on grace.  His heart is set on bring us to himself, not on judgement.  He is patient.  He is loving.  He desire is that EVERYONE comes to him, but he will have to judge or he is a liar. 

God gave the nation of Israel men like Amos to warn of impending judgement.  God gave them plenty of time to repent, to turn around, to follow him.  Through guys like Amos, he gave specific behaviors that they needed to repent from. The unfortunate thing is that they did not repent and eventually all the things that Amos prophesied came true.

So I ask myself this question - what behaviors do I need to change?  What areas of my life am I practicing sinful patterns and since things are going OK, I think that I am OK.  What are areas that, as a nation, we are practicing and since things seem to be OK, we think that we are OK.  What things are we as believers passively tolerating even though God is not.  What areas are you practicing that need to be changed? 

There is another verse that strikes me as I think of this - Do not be deceived, God will NOT be mocked, whatever a man sows, he will reap.  If he sows to the flesh, he will from the flesh reap destruction.  If he sows to the Spirit, he will from the Spirit reap life.  God will NOT be mocked.  He will judge.  He desires repentance and redemption, but if that does not happen, he will judge.  Maybe not today, maybe not tomorrow, but it will come.  Make sure you are on the blessing side and not the judging side; please.

Sunday, November 13, 2011

Asking - Part Last

There are times when I simply do not know what to pray for.  When I learn of a death in the family of a close friend, when I hear of a child who has cancer, when there is a tragedy in the community - thees are the situations that I simply so not have words to express a request, a thanksgiving (in everything give thanks - don't really understand how to do that sometimes), or any other kinds of prayer.

I am comforted during these times by what Paul wrote to the church in Rome -

In the same way, the Spirit helps us in our weakness. We do not know what we ought to pray for, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us with groans that words cannot express. And he who searches our hearts knows the mind of the Spirit, because the Spirit intercedes for the saints in accordance with God’s will. (Rom 8:26-27)

The Spirit prays for me when I don't know what to pray.  When I don't have the words, He prays for me.  He has a direct line into the Father and represents us before Him. 

This is one of the most profound truths of scripture - that in the midst of my weakness, in the midst of my inability to comprehend how messed up the world is and how to communicate effectively with God, the Spirit prays FOR me.  He understands where my heart is and what my desires are and also understands that I do not have words to express what is going on in my heart.  HE goes to the Father and intercedes for me.  HE goes to the Father and expresses, requests, thanks for me.  HE communicates to the Father for me.  What an incredible asset in our prayer life!

Be liberated by this truth as you pray.  If you don't know what to pray, ask the Spirit to pray for you.  He is doing it anyway, it is just good to give Him credit!

Sunday, November 06, 2011

Asking (praying?) Part III

I am finding that prayer and meditation are related. 

Foundational premise (or maybe this is just free information....) - I cannot strictly approach prayer from an asking perspective.  I cannot use solely as my mechanism to "get something" from God.  If I approach prayer from this perspective, I go right back to "consume it upon my lusts" principle from James.  I think that it would be awfully hard to not move into the "my lusts" category if all I ever do is ask for things from God.  (In addition, there are plenty of other things that we are to do in prayer - give thanks, pray for others, etc.)

Back to meditation.  I find that meditation is listening for me and prayer is talking.  This is relationship - listening, talking, understanding, listening, asking, talking, seeking, questioning, listening......  I have to do both - listen and talk.  My listening is meditation.  My talking is prayer.

What do I meditate on?  How my life and my prayers are either in agreement with or in conflict with what God is telling me.  Where do I find what God is telling me?  The scriptures.  (This is why some people teach to pray scripture.)  Reading God's word and then asking God about where and what He wants from me and then waiting for an answer from the Holy Spirit, is how I listen to God; this is meditation for me.  I have to take this time to slow my mind down, to kind of empty my mind of the "stuff" of life, so I can listen to God speak to me through his Spirit.

Foundational principle #2 - God is out for my best interests and has a deep desire for relationship with me.  I know that whatever he says to me, whatever he asks me to do, is for my good and ultimately will be the best thing for me!

Take time to listen and pray today.  I am saying that to me.  I have to slow down and do the hard work of relationship.  I have to spend time with my Lord if I want to have a great relationship with him.