THE WRONG COLOR RED: Radicalism Comes Home

We must never again sacrifice our principles in the name of tolerance and we should never resort to hate because of ignorance. Maintain who we are, strengthen who we will be, develop who we can be and exhibit to the world the foundation of our faith, unapologetically, with grace; the same amount of grace we are thankful God bestowed on us.

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ON THE HOMEFRONT

ImageGilles de Kerchove,the EU Counterterrorism Coordinator declared before a UK Parliamentary hearing that the return of high risk, highly volatile Islamic extremists from Syria to the United Kingdom is “unprecedented. … All the reports I have seen suggest that it is becoming increasingly acute.” According to the Langley Intelligent Network, the British Home Office warned, “Dealing with terrorism in Syria is a very significant challenge due to the numbers of people fighting with the many Syria based terrorist groups, their proximity to the UK, ease of travel across porous borders and the ready availability of weapons.”[i]

What does this mean for the United States and its foreign policy particularly when it comes to dealing with international issues of terrorism and political unrest?

The current situation in Ukraine unveils the Russian bear, Vladimir Putin again showcasing the vulnerability of the United States and the weakness of this administration. It is a case in point of the inability of national governments to function effectively when leadership fails to adhere to the standards by which a citizenry can live in peace. There is no excuse that the citizens of Ukraine living on the peninsula of Crimea are suffering without water or electricity because their homeland has been invaded by an opposing army and no one has checked the violence brought by criminal elements acting under the direction of Vladimir Putin. A nation’s leadership will set the bar for its vulnerability whether international terrorism, crime or attack by foreign forces.

The same is true now for Great Britain. Parliament failed to act decades ago to stem the tide of Islamic extremists pouring across the borders, overwhelming communities, and degrading the legal and political system to their own advantage. The political correctness police have brought the British society to the point of near annihilation. Several British nationals have shared that they cannot even recognize London as their own any longer.

Feckless has become a term equated with the inability of the current Obama administration to be able to do anything to stand up against those forces that spit in the face of America. Recently, Retired Lt. Colonel Oliver North was quoted as making this very clear statement, “We don’t need a head of state who draws a phony red line with a pink crayon.”

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What will it take for societies – that value freedom, democracy and, (whether they now admit it or not), have a foundation of Judeo-Christian values; to stand-up strong for those values that once made them great?

There has been a lot of blood spilled, not just over the centuries, but in these last two decades all in the name of Islam. If the hardline followers believe it to truly be a religion of peace, then how do they explain its resulting hardship, pain and grief particularly for their own people? Their own leadership has succeeded in embittering their people and reducing their lives to a struggle to survive. Never has there been a generation of harmony and peace between them and their neighbors for they define peace as only the total rule of Islam  with total subjugation to their own rule, where no persons may live under another faith.

The African sub-Saharan is a primary example of the extremist mindset. Thousands of non-Muslim people, men, women and children are murdered in the most brutal of ways, without any shred of human dignity or compassion.

This piece is not, however, primarily a piece on the logic or the fundamentals of Islam. The God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob; the God of all comfort, the Father of all mercies (as Paul described him); never forced Himself on anyone. But, you say, in the ancient times the God of the Bible ordered entire populations killed in order to preserve His people ‘of the Book’, the Hebrews. I can only reply that in those instances, God, as sovereign with total right to reign over His creation, I believe knew the heart of every individual soul that perished and none were punished eternally that God was not fully aware of what was taking place and it was necessary for righteousness of His creation. Does that mean that children died naturally and were eternally separated from God? I believe that as God is a God of compassion and grace, no one was separated from Him eternally that was not fully capable of choosing to deny His grace.

God, Jehovah, was very clear that His people were not to allow themselves to be drawn away by other religions or gods; nor were they to allow those who taught such religions to take root within their communities. God’s people were (and are) to live among them in peace and if by the lives of the believers that they might win some, (those are Paul’s words). That was a good thing but to allow those who degraded and derided their faith, God would not allow for that. His patience is longsuffering and His grace sufficient but it is not without end. There will be a day when the doors shall be shut and the chances have run out.

To what end does this bring us? Here is a list: National governments who prey on and destroy their own people like Bashar al Assad and his cronies, even to the point of chemical weapons and mass murder. Egomaniacal dictators like Vladimir Putin whose demented mind at the age of a young teen even longed to be a KGB agent to strike fear into the hearts of those who trusted him. Inept novice rulers, like those atop the Ukrainian political rubble. Parliamentarians who have leaned so far left in the desire to be politically correct they have allowed themselves to be blinded to the eroding away of the very fabric of their Kingdom.  Then there is the United States with a socialist president who believes that re-setting buttons with Putin, bowing before Middle Eastern royalty, backing down from countries like Iraq and Syria, turning his back on our only allied democratic nation in the Middle East who also happens to have the divine promise for those who aid Israel and the curse for those who fail to do so. And finally, the people of the United States who have stood back and allowed it to happen.

This is the list of the culpable. It is time to put a stop to the madness. Every citizen of each of the countries named here and, for that matter, every  citizen of each of the countries not named here, should realize the important role – the absolutely critical role – that they have to set and maintain the standard for democracy, independence, and true freedom of religion. That means that each citizen may not only worship, in a house of worship as they choose (these are the limitations the Obama administration seeks for religious “freedom”) but to live out their faith within community. This requires, of course, that the Muslim has as much right to choose to live out his or her faith in peaceful accord with the remainder of society as does the Southern Baptist. I mentioned earlier that God required His people not to syncretize their faith with that of the other religions. But, Christ also modeled the ability to love people where they were and by love, show them the true faith.Strong, yet compassionate. We must never again sacrifice our principles in the name of tolerance and we should never resort to hate because of ignorance. Maintain who we are, strengthen who we will be, develop who we can be and exhibit to the world the foundation of our faith, unapologetically, with grace; the same amount of grace we are thankful God bestowed on us.

 

[i]http://www.lignet.com/ArticleAnalysis/UK-Threat-Radicals-Returning-From-Syria.aspx?ns_mail_uid=4703528&ns_mail_job=175366_04282014#ixzz30WceLmyA

 

Drinking Deeply from the Well

In those tough times, Christ’s followers should be those who come alongside, provide the refreshing water, explain the new way that is open to those who are hurting, and help them to get strong and to help lift them up when they fall.

 

True North Ministry logo

Rev. Ross L. Riggs, D Min

 An introduction to True North Ministry ~ strengthening the hands that hang down and feeble knees and helping to make paths straight ~ (Hebrews 12)

When Christ taught lessons that became some of His dearest and most treasured, He took the listener, the learner, right to their own dry spot. He knew their hearts and where they most needed the refreshing truths of His Word. His talk with the Samaritan woman, who had come to the ancient well that Jacob had dug centuries before, came directly to the dryness of her heart. He told her that if she drank from the water of life that He offered, she would never thirst again. Although she thought of her physical thirst, Jesus had so much more to offer. (John 4:1-26)

Jesus planned the encounter with this Samaritan woman. He knew that she would arrive at the hottest hour of the day to draw water because of her position of shame. Even in the Samaritan community, she could not draw when the other women came to draw. She was too shamed by those around her to be permitted to draw water with the other women of the town.

How surprised she was when Jesus spoke to her. After all, she knew Him to be a Jew and no self-respecting Jewish woman would talk to a Samaritan woman; they were mixed-breeds, having been subjected to Assyrian slavery and inter-marriage. For a Jewish man and a teacher, a rabbi, to not only speak to her, but ask a favor of her was more than her mind could absorb.

Jesus knew all these thoughts were spinning through her mind. Still, Jesus understood the depth of the well from which He was able to draw and the depth of her need. When Jesus asked the woman to provide for him a drink of water, He opened the way for dialogue that would shine a straight ray of light directly to the darkest parts of her hurt. She was to find not only the refreshing coolness of the water of life that Christ could bring to her dry parched soul. Christ’s light banished the darkness from her life to provide her a direction for the future paths she could never find alone.

One of my favorite stories that I recall from my teen years, when I would stay up late at night to catch the A.M. radio station, WWL, New Orleans Louisiana. (I can still hear how they would say that call-sign!) It took just the right atmospheric conditions for their signal to reach NE Ohio; but I often was able to listen to the story tellers that came on late nights. One in particular was of a navy ship out at sea in a dark stillness. The captain of the ship radioed to the vessel he believed to be about to come on a collision course with his ship.

“Unidentified vessel, this is the USS Franklin, change your course ten degrees to starboard.”  Much to his surprise, the reply came:

“Negative. Advise that you alter your heading ten degrees to port.”

Furious, the Captain responded, “Sir, this is the USS Franklin, an armed vessel of the United States Navy. I order you to alter your course ten degrees to starboard!”

Once again came back the calm reply, “Negative, sir. Alter your course ten degrees to port.”

Fearing now that a crash was imminent, the still fuming Captain would not be swayed. His voice boomed over the radio waves, “I am a Captain of senior rank aboard a United States destroyer. What is your rank and vessel that you refuse to alter course under a direct order? I demand a reply.”

Calmly, the voice replied, “I am a Seaman, Second Class, sir.  I am the lighthouse.”

So often, just as pride made the Captain risk wrecking his ship rather than take the course of safety to which the lighthouse directed him, how often do we ignore the directions the Lord has given in His Word as a light to our path? The book of Proverbs has a verse that reads, “Trust in the Lord with all your heart, and lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways acknowledge Him, and He shall direct your paths.”[i]

True North Ministry is based on that simple proverb. The earliest explorers, whether on land or sea, sought the brightest star, the North Star. They knew that single light would direct them home. That star would always appear in the same place in the night sky. Its light was true. A single beam of light, the North Star never veered from its post, always there to direct sailors home from the sea and adventuring explorers home back from their excursions. A fancy star with all kinds of lights shining from it and around it would be useless as a guiding star. If the lighthouse would have cast out dozens of beams in different directions, it too would be useless for keeping ships from going aground on the rocky shores.

An author known for his entrepreneurial work in local business, Steve Adams, said this about a focus for anyone’s life work. He explained that it must be like a laser beam, not a disco ball. The same is true for a ministry. Our goals must align with those of Christ. When He told His disciples that they must follow Him where He was about to go, one replied that if they did not know where it was that Jesus was going, ‘How could they know the way?’ “Jesus said to him, “I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through Me.”[ii] If that is not an exclusive statement, then such a statement doesn’t exist!

One of the key problems in the post-modern world is its lack of belief that a single truth exists. Everyone’s truth is as credible s everyone else’s. That is just wrong and there is no other way to say it. The world is full of men and women just like the Samaritan woman at the well who found Jesus there. Their souls are as dry as an Iraqi sandstorm. They need the refreshing water of life that comes from the throne of grace. Millions of people are lost in that very same sandstorm and they cannot find their way. They need Jesus to direct their paths. There are those whose lives are adrift at sea, being tossed about by every wind of doctrine or ‘new’ thinking that comes along and they need the creator of the North Star to guide them safely home. Their pride may keep them trying to sail in another direction but eventually, they run out of headings to take as each one fails, and there is just one heading left to take; that is Christ’s. God’s Word informs us that those who seek to follow Christ are to: “Therefore strengthen the hands which hang down, and the feeble knees, and make straight paths for your feet, so that what is lame may not be dislocated, but rather be healed.”[iii] (The ‘Therefore’ refers back to the fact that God will discipline His children when they need it. So, the writer says… before, during and after that disciplining; do these things which will strengthen and help you and others.)

Tough times come sometimes because God disciplines. Sometimes they come simply because we live in a fallen world and bad stuff happens, even too good people. Then, too, there are also consequences for our actions. In those tough times, Christ’s followers should be those who come alongside, provide the refreshing water, explain the new way that is open to those who are hurting, and help them to get strong and to help lift them up when they fall. That is the essence of True North Ministry. Will you join us in prayer daily as we seek God’s blessing on this new and growing ministry?

 “The Lord bless you and keep you;
The Lord make His face shine upon you,
And be gracious to you;
The Lord lift up His countenance upon you,
And give you peace.”[iv]

When Your Faith Is Not Strong (and for good reason!)

“For I will work a work in your days which you would not believe, though it were told you.”

pocket watch quarter

 

Habakkuk 3:17-19

New King James Version (NKJV)

A Hymn of Faith

17 Though the fig tree may not blossom,
Nor fruit be on the vines;
Though the labor of the olive may fail,
And the fields yield no food;
Though the flock may be cut off from the fold,
And there be no herd in the stalls—
18 Yet I will rejoice in the Lord,
I will joy in the God of my salvation.

19 The Lord God[a] is my strength;
He will make my feet like deer’s feet,
And He will make me walk on my high hills[i]

Don’t you wish you had Habakkuk’s faith?  He is so sure of himself. He is so confident. Well, maybe he was and maybe he wasn’t. So often we look at “heroes of the faith” and we picture them with halos over their heads, going about in white robes, hands neatly folded, going around blessing people like a Franciscan Friar. The truth be told these were men who struggled with worry and doubt. They had friends turn on them; political trouble, headaches and stomach aches, sore feet and knees and sometimes they were just down-right crabby.

In this particular Bible story, actually in this particular account, when the doors first open and we meet Habakkuk in his prayer time, he is surveying the political and military mess that Israel is in. Habakkuk was making sure God understood the plight of Israel. They were completely surrounded with what seemed like every enemy Israel had and they were coming to annihilate them. It was not a good position to be in and Habakkuk was not entirely sure that God truly appreciated their predicament.

God had one a wonderful reply to Habakkuk, much similar to when He asked Job, “Where were you when I laid the foundations of the earth?[ii]God told Habakkuk, For I will work a work in your days which you would not believe, though it were told you.”[iii] And with that reply, Habakkuk declares that he will remind himself and others that God is on His throne and that he would watch and see what God would do.

Eventually, and I say eventually because it was not until Habakkuk had the opportunity that God gave him time to consider what God had said.

It is possible for us to need a little time to consider what He has said.

The title of the article says ‘for good reason’ because Habakkuk chapter 1 is Habakkuk explaining or more likely complaining to God that: 

O Lord, how long shall I cry, And You will not hear? Even cry out to You, “Violence!” And You will not save. Why do You show me iniquity, and cause me to see trouble? For plundering and violence are before me; there is strife, and contention arises. Therefore the law is powerless and justice never goes forth. For the wicked surround the righteous; Therefore perverse judgmet proceeds.[iv]

 

That may describe well the circumstances you find yourself in today. It seems like no matter what you do there is someone close-by that is there to tear you down, make your success seem like a failure, to make us feel like all our trying is for nothing. Allow me to ask you, the reader, a question. When was the last time you went out of your way to encourage a fellow believer along his or her journey? (That means not just conveniently mention it when it is ‘greet your neighbor’ time on Sunday Morning!) One of the toughest things that can happen to a believer is to face struggles that during his time passing through them he never hears from those he was closest, at least when you are up to your nostrils in deep water, if they won’t throw you a life-preserver; it would at least be nice to get a snorkel!

Recently, I had the opportunity to relate to someone an event that happened to some of us who were ministering in Bosnia-Herzegovina. Traveling one wintry night up the mountain that makes up Tuzla’s main residential area, we were in a van that was not designed for the winding, steep roads. We had finished or visit at the top but our van, unfortunately was facing the wrong direction and the chances of getting it turned around to come down the way we came up was nearly impossible. We opted to continue down the mountain by going ‘forward’ along the road in uncharted territory. When we came to an area that was quite steep and it was impossible to see on ahead, one of our party felt an uncanny sense of alarm, and asked he driver to stop immediately that they would walk out on foot to see what was ahead of our headlight beams, because, of course it being Bosnia, a fog had settled in!

After walking only twenty-five yards ahead, this one turned and came back to share that within 30 yards was a steep embankment where the road had stopped. May cultures would use the term: “cliff.” As we tried to ‘back-up’ and go  back, up the hill the van just spun its tires on the icy roads and at one point nearly struck one of the group as the van suddenly caught dry pavement and lurched to the side. He jumped out of the way into a ditch. That having happened I said a quick prayer under my breath, “Lord, we need help and we need help now!” There was scattered on the mountainside about four houses, al dark and quiet being late into the winter night. Suddenly, (and I mean suddenly) about six young men were there, (supposedly from the houses), and the pushed us up to an area where the van was able to turn and go the safe way up and then down the mountainside. Now, this next part is true and because the Bible says that we are not to swear upon stars etc., for vows; I promise you readers, it is true! I turned to thank   the young men; they were gone, nowhere to be seen!

Why share that story here? Well, as I mentioned, I just had a chance to share that event with a brother who was feeling very blue and without hope and the lesson we gleaned from it was that God is paying attention to our needs. He does hear our prayers and He responds to the cries of His children!

The author of Hebrews writes:  Therefore strengthen the hands which hang down, and the feeble knees, and make straight paths for your feet, so that what is lame may not be dislocated, but rather be healed.[v]

Isaiah wrote:  “Strengthen the weak hands, And make firm the feeble knees. Say to those who are fearful-hearted, “Be strong, do not fear! Behold, your God will come with vengeance, with the recompense of God; He will come and save you.”[vi]

 

Note: All Scripture references NKJV

Preying for Each Other

RIGGS MINISTRY MINUTE: When there’s only a minute for ministry. www.docriggs.com 16 August 2012

Yesterday morning I took our dogs out for their walk and as I returned I saw this lady sitting on our garage door. As if she were deep in her morning meditations, she sat motionless waiting for her prey to get within reach of those long front claw-like arms.

According to Wikipedia the general type of mantises are “ambush predators. They camouflage themselves and stand perfectly still. Then they just wait for their prey to stray too near. When a target does get close enough, the mantis then  strikes  at remarkable speed, in fractions of the time it takes people to blink. Some ground and bark species, however, pursue their prey. Prey items are caught and held securely with grasping, spiked forelegs. The praying mantis usually holds its prey with one arm between the head and thorax, and the other on the abdomen. Then, if the prey does not resist, the mantis will eat it alive. However, if the prey does resist, the mantis will eat its head first, and then carry on with the body in pieces.”[i]

If you are a regular reader of Ministry Minute first, Thank You! Second, you are no longer surprised get a somewhat different approach to ministry than perhaps with some devotional reading you have done!

The praying mantis got me thinking. I wonder how often prayer requests or prayer chains are more about spreading some good gossip more than they are about really praying for the person. Before long you might have someone prey-ing for you rather than praying for you! Now, before anyone begins to speculate, “No, I have not recently been the subject of such (of which I am aware). I’m just thinking out loud here.” The Apostle Paul had a concern for those in the first century church that they were falling in to the snare of gossip. In his letter to young Pastor Timothy, he speaks of those who have cast off what they first believed and “…they learn to be idle, wandering about from house to house, and not only idle, but tattlers also and busybodies, speaking things which they ought not.”

You see, the praying mantis first camouflages itself and remains perfectly still. Gossip is the same way, camouflaged as concern for the person of whom they are about to share some juicy piece of information as a ‘prayer request.’ Then, the mantis, once it has its prey in its claws two things can happen based on the action of the trapped prey. If it doesn’t resist, it is eaten alive. Perhaps if a person who is gossiped against doesn’t speak out against the lies, they are consumed by the gossip about them. Perhaps their ministry is torn apart and cannot continue. If the prey does resist, the mantis bites off its head to stop the resistance. If the gossip analogy is accurate, then the target of the gossip, if they speak out and defend themselves, they may be cut off at the head.  Idle gossip becomes vindictive slander with a purpose to destroy that which it has targeted. Gossip is death to a ministry.

Paul was concerned about such behavior and we should be also. Be on the look-out for praying that is really preying. Speak only good one for another in order to build up and not tear down. The praying mantis is cute from a distance and you can even hold it. The little fellow just seems scared but if you could see its face…

Hebrews 12:12

“Wherefore lift up the hands which hang down and the feeble knees.”


[i] http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mantis  accessed 15 August 2012