WAR ZONE

…we live in a war zone. There will be casualties

I have written in past days about my first experiences in Bosnia Herzegovina not very long after the cessation of open war. I use the term open war because the hatred and the racial and societal issues still divide the country and corruption stops any real forward progress in defeating the enemy.

It is difficult to describe a war zone. The buildings that once were homes, businesses, churches are just bombed out shells, with no life save the foraging insects and vermin that root among the remains looking for what else they can devour.

A hand painted sign reading welcome to Sarajevo covered in shrapnel caused pock-marks
Iconic Sarajevo sign 1995

Where people still reside, apartment buildings have shell holes that allow in the winter wind and the outside is pock-marked, the results of shrapnel tearing apart at the structure trying to weaken it.

There is a stark analogy between the physical war zone I witnessed in Sarajevo and remote areas of the countryside and the spiritual battles we face today. In Bosnia, no place was left untouched. Specific places had horrific stories of hate-driven carnage and we see the same in the battles Satan wages upon our world. I have felt the darkness of Satan’s demonic power more in Bosnia than anywhere else I have traveled but, it is only because there the mask of civilization was ripped away, and Satan’s plans were open for anyone to see. In the rest of our world, often, we keep the mask of civility and Satan’s attacks are, perhaps, not unseen, but unnoticed  by an uncaring society too wrapped in their own pain and secular drives to respond.

In the Bible we read, Satan is a roaring lion, prowling around seeing whom he may devour, just like the vermin crawling among the carnage of Bosnia’s war. Paul tells us our war is not against flesh and blood but “against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms.” (Eph. 6:12)

A fierce looking lion crouched as if to pounce surrounded by a black background with the words Our Adversary the Devil

God has permitted Satan to have dominion over the world until the time He finishes it and brings Satan to destruction and all who believe in Christ are His forever in peace. God waits, not because He is cruel but because He is patient and loving. Peter explains it, writing that God is “not slow about His promise, as some count slowness, but is patient toward you, not wishing for any to perish but for all to come to repentance.”(2 Peter 3:9)

Until then, as one writer put it, “Satan’s attack means that we all are vulnerable to sickness, betrayal, financial meltdown, relational loss, emotional despair and other hardships… bad things happen to good people… we live in a war zone. There will be casualties.” (Rooted, Mariners Church 2011 p 85)

In our spiritual battles, there will be homes empty, just shells remaining where once there were families. There will be businesses and churches gone, only the few, scattered remains from a bombing by sin and failure. Where people still reside, there will be shell holes letting in the cold winter wind, chilling the soul and hardening the heart; the explosive remains of  damaged relationships, lost trust and horrific sin. The lives of those struggling to survive are pock-marked by the shrapnel of sin which has left its mark upon them.

There is hope.

The damage of war can be overcome and what was once uninhabitable shells of homes and broken down lives can come to life again like spring after a hard winter. The refreshing breeze of peace and love that comes only from Jesus Christ through His victory over death and sin.  When it coms to spiritual battles, as the ‘Rooted’ book spells out, “And (the Lord) wins. Every. Single. Time.” (p 85)

Someone once wrote how, in the darkest of places, a single candle burns brightest. I saw such a candle in Bosnia. It came in the form of a simple, unpretentious man who loved His Lord and loved every single person God sent his way in a very dark place. The flame of his candle lit many small candles which will burn for generations when the Spirit moves to set those candles within His lampstand.

A completely dark black frame with one bright flame from a candle visible in the darkness

John writes, “We know that we are children of God and that the world is under the control of the evil one.” That is disconcerting to say the least. But in context, we find hope. The verse just before this one reads, “We know that no one who is born of God sins; but He who was born of God (that’s Jesus)keeps him (that’s you if you truly believe)and the evil one (that’s Satan) does not touch him. Jesus told us we would have trouble in this world, but the Good News is that Jesus has overcome the world! He said so! Jesus doesn’t lie. Satan’s attacks will be all around us, but as believers, saved by grace through faith, even if we die because of a sinful world’s sickness, we are safe, secure, in heaven forever with Him.   

We live in a war zone. Live under the banner of the victor. Take heed to what He teaches about daily survival and keep a long-view, looking toward the completion of all things under Christ.

OBVIOUS: adjective So Very Clear

Our nation’s leaders and large portions of its people pretend to be blind to what is surely ahead for the nation of Israel under the shadow of a nuclear Iran. Can they also ignore the warning God gives to those who curse Israel?

Obvious: adjective So Very Clear

The famed detective, Sherlock Holmes, brought to life by the pen and from the mind of Sir Arthur Conon Doyle, is quoted as having instructed Dr. Watson that, “There is nothing more elusive than an obvious fact.” (1) The quote was effective enough that it was used in the 2009 film version of the great detective’s stories; Sherlock Holmes. What is so very clear is that the obvious facts are being ignored.

"There's nothing so elusive as an obvious fact."
The currently cascading reams of information coming forth regarding President Obama’s “negotiations” with Iran are coming from every sector of the world community; business, finance, the military, commercial, and private sources, yet nothing has been honestly communicated from the West Wing. The Obama Administration has refused to come clean on how it has overwhelmingly allowed Iran to design its own nuclear future. Even many members of Congress have been slow to take a resolute stand on the issue. Many of them seem to be deafeningly quiet as an election year comes upon us. Democrats are beginning to line up in support, just when they need the Democratic campaign coffers the most.
A recent article stated that even if Congress disapproves the treaty that has been created in the sleazy backrooms of the White House, the palace in Tehran and side streets of Istanbul, Kabul, Islamabad, Riyadh, Moscow, Baghdad, and Damascus, there are still mechanisms in place that will permit the Conspirator in Chief to push forward the treaty as if it were U.S. law. Perhaps not since the wholesale abandonment of Sarajevo and the Muslims of Bosnia-Herzegovina to the slaughter of the Serbians has the west, particularly the United States government, been so egregiously guilty of abandoning an ally, Israel. Our nation’s leaders and large portions of its people pretend to be blind to what is surely ahead for the nation of Israel under the shadow of a nuclear Iran. Can they also ignore the warning God gives to those who curse Israel?
The Jerusalem Post ran a portion of a letter President Obama sent to NY Congressman Jerrold Nadler regarding Obama’s alleged support for the Israeli government in a move to garner support for the upcoming vote on the treaty. The excerpt reads, “Our governments should identify ways to accelerate the ongoing collaborative research and development for tunnel detection and mapping technologies to provide Israel new capabilities to detect and destroy tunnels because they could be used to threaten Israeli civilians” (2)  I personally have never surveyed a plot of land nor measured in micro millimeters the length of an inch worm but, common sense tells me that there is a very long distance between ‘Our governments will’ and “Our governments should”

The obvious fact is that the Iranian government has done nothing in the last two plus decades to cause us to put any credence into anything they might say, Secondly, the treaty (and I despise even using that term) ends in fifteen years and then Iran is free to use industrial amounts of weapons grade whatever they choose and their break-out time to a weapon is reduced to a couple of days. But… the administration assures us that our intelligence capabilities will be so much better then, etc., etc., etc. Just as this administration’s and Congress’ fix for the economy is to punt it down the generational path and let our kids and grandkids fix the problem; they are punting a nuclear Iran down the generational yellow-brick road to let the next generation of Israelis and Americans deal with it. Toto, I don’t think we’re in Kansas anymore!
The key issue is that a sinister, evil group of people are strangle holding a country and they are bullying the world into cowing down to their brazen acts of international aggravated menacing; threatening to wipe an entire nation “off of the map.” If that were not abhorrent enough, the most powerful nation in the world is aiding and abetting their criminal acts by not stopping the terrorists’ threats and eliminating the malefactors that are the cause of the issue. Had someone taken out Adolf Hitler in 1937, think of how different history would be. Instead, Obama ignores the obvious facts and sends my grandchildren to the next world war.

1) Doyle, Sir Arthur Conan, The Boscombe Valley Mystery, The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes

2) http://www.jpost.com/Israel-News/Politics-And-Diplomacy/Obama-unveils-compensation-package-for-Israel-after-of-Iran-deal-412914

Photo) https://en.wikiquote.org/wiki/Sherlock_Holmes_(2009_film)#/media/File:Tower_bridge_works_1892.jpg

The Other Side of the Cup

MINISTRY MINUTE: When there’s only a minute for ministry

Rev. Ross Riggs

The ebb and flow of the patrons follows the clock around as the hour hand again strains toward twelve as if it will take every ounce of effort to get over that hump and back down again. I have the neither the time or nor the money to lounge in a U.S. coffee shop for any length of time. In Bosnia it is a part of the daily existence because it is there that a ‘time out’ is called from the rush of the day to catch our breath and resettle our minds. I think that perhaps if Jesus were ministering in Bosnia in 2012, as He did in the land of Israel in the first century, instead of the wilderness, He would have headed to a coffee shop to find His time away from the pressures of ministry.

In the U.S. it is a not an escape from reality but a plunging headlong into the work-a-day world of dozens of entrepreneurs who perhaps have home-based businesses and need a place to meet clients. It is the world of the movers and shakers (or their wannabe’s) that fear the ears of the office and decide to meet their protégés in the bustling atmosphere where classical music sets the back drop for the harried business calls and the deals yet to be sealed.

It may be my cynical side creeping out but I suspect that just as Jesus may have used a coffee shop in Bosnia to escape for a few moments respite; in the U.S. it would have been Judas who sealed his deal with the devil in a coffee shop. To all my readers who cannot wait to grab their customized cup and hit their local bean roaster, I may have committed a sin worthy of anathema in the religion of the coffee drinkers’ world.

I am actually old enough to have visited a ‘coffee shop’ near our college campus in the days when self-designed poets plied their trade on all who would, yes, snap their fingers in approval. I didn’t stay long, I must confess. Even today, I snap my fingers usually only to scold my dog or shoo the chickens toward their roost.

This day I find myself back in a coffee shop. No poets agonizing the long dead ears of the masters but in a ‘modern’ shop where latte’s and iced-coffees reign and classical music sets my nerves on edge as it incessantly seems to be playing the same song over and over, at least to my ears. The client I was to meet has failed to appear and I suspect has either lost his way or his nerve. Either way, I am given time to reflect on the bustle around me, the hurried un-hurriedness of those who seek a diversion from what lies outside those doors but who have in effect carried the reality of the outside in and the line between the two is barely noticeable save for the squeak of the door as it opens and closes.

I find myself wishing I were sitting along the bustling streets of Sarajevo, quietly lost in the world of a ‘real’ coffee shop. Even though the healthy drive to prohibit smoking in any place where there is air has not yet, and may never, hit Sarajevo; still the din of the Sarajevo coffee shop is so much more peaceful than the repressed quiet of the American shop. And we haven’t even begun to address the issue of the coffee!

I know that if I truly had my ‘druthers’ I would be out in a beautiful country-side setting, along the foothills of a Rocky Mountain range, leaning against a tree, coffee cup in hand. My horse would be grazing quietly nearby and the only chore left to do is to settle on what to cook over the fire for dinner before unrolling the bedroll for a night under the stars. The coffee would not be any more of an exotic blend than what those out west call ‘cowboy coffee’ and the only music playing would be that of nature. As I consider the options, Jesus always chose the wilderness and I think I understand why.

Enough of that, with my client over thirty minutes late, it is time to get back up in the saddle and head back into reality.