Thursday, February 26, 2015

People of the Cross

Last week, the twenty-one were beheaded.

These are the men. Every one of them loved. Every one of them with so many left behind to mourn them. "People of the Cross", ISIS scornfully labeled them. But there is no name more glorious for those 21 men than that. People of the Cross, followers of the One who turned death backward.

But I'm not writing to tell anyone about what happened that day, because you all know. I'm actually writing, very sadly, to talk about what's happened afterward, what's happening right now. Because today I decided I had read one too many cynical, doubting comments about whether or not these men were Christians. It breaks my heart that Christians could calmly doubt, like that, that these faithful martyrs will be in heaven.

Just....stop worrying about how they believed differently than you do.

Stop thinking yourself so wise.

Ninety-five percent of Egyptian Christians are Copts, because the Coptic church is the main Christian community in the Middle East. Ninety-five percent of Egyptian Christians are Copts, because they don't have a different church of a different denomination on every corner, like we do. And as Dr George Grant commented a few days ago, "Here is all we know: 21 men who self-identified as Christians were executed solely on the basis that they self-identified as Christians. In addition, we know that the Coptic Church has distanced itself from Monophysitism, the error that separated it from the rest of Christendom, many, many years ago." Amen.

Here is all we know: that these twenty-one men were captured, tortured, and beheaded because they would not deny Jesus.

We know that as the knives went to their throats, they cried out, "Oh, my Lord Jesus."

We know that they died singing. Praying. Brave.

How many of us, with all of our lofty thoughts, would be that faithful in the end?

Would I be that faithful in the end?

Would you?

ISIS did not choose these men at random. They chose them specifically because they were Christ's followers. These men died this horrific death for Jesus's name. "Be faithful until death," Jesus promised, "and I will give you the crown of life" (Revelation 2:10). They will receive that crown, for they were faithful to the very end. They loved Him enough to die for Him and so they paid the ultimate price in peace.

 "Whosoever will lose his life for My sake shall find it" (Matthew 16:25). The 21 have found that life. Everlasting life.

I am full of awe and full of humility that men so faithful can be called my brothers. They fought the good fight. They are overcomers. Hallelujah.

Monday, February 16, 2015

There Is Hope

For there is hope of a tree, if it be cut down, that it will sprout again, and that the tender branch thereof will not cease. Though the root thereof wax old in the earth, and the stock thereof die in the ground; yet through the scent of water it will bud, and bring forth boughs like a plant.
- Job 14:7-9

 In the middle of deadness, there will come new life. Against all odds. In spite of us. Our God delights in the wonder of it; the wonder that we see hope clearest when it springs up out of the bitterest ashes. There is hope of that tree, that it will sprout again. There is hope of you, that you will smile again. 

Remember: The Shoot of Jesse grew up from a forgotten stump. 


Sunday, February 8, 2015

Takes Every Word

"A story is a way to say something that cannot be said any other way, and it takes every word in the story to say what it means."

- Flannery O'Connor

Tuesday, February 3, 2015


I thought I knew what grace was.

Um. I didn't.

I probably still don't.

I liked using the word; it sounds really pretty. But now I'm starting to know that most times it's not pretty and most times giving out grace means giving up pride. Because sometimes you'll have to just keep quiet, even when you know know KNOW that they're all wrong and that you're all right. And when you might end up looking like the bad guy. (Over and over again.) And most times grace is just taking that blame and biting your tongue and bearing it. And most times that is the hardest thing in the world. 

I used to unconsciously think would be easier that all that; everything kind of is before you try it. I should have known differently when the ultimate grace came through sinless hands and feet nailed to a tree and a Father turning His back. 

Grace is giving something away. Something that's yours. Something they do not deserve. And that goes against every human bone in our bodies because we want things to be fair.

We forget easily that if things were actually "fair"...we'd all be left to our sin and left to our punishment. If things were actually fair, the King would never have died to redeem His harlot of a bride. If things were actually fair, we, prodigals, could never be welcomed home.  If things were actually fair, we'd realize that no matter what, we are not completely in the right about anything, and the other person is not completely in the wrong. If things were actually fair, the dust would never have become flesh.

Usually if something seems impossibly hard, it's because my pride is getting rather uncomfortable. And somewhere inside I know that really means I need to let go. Right then. Completely. And I need to give a little grace. Or, better, a lot of grace. Or, best, every scrap of grace I have, because the beautiful thing is having nothing left to grasp for in the end. It means taking the blame, covering the shame, removing the stain (U2), because Someone I'm supposed to imitate does that for me with every single breath I live. "By His grace, we are the water made wine. We are the dust made flesh made dust made flesh again. We are the whores made brides and the thieves made saints and the killers made apostles. We are the dead made living." (N.D. Wilson)

It's so simple and so hard. The best things always are.