Pursuing Answers to Questions of Faith & Life

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

Sermon - Calming the Storms of Life & The Call Out of Normal - Mark 35-41

Calming the Storms of Life—Mark 4:35-41

There has been a lot of storms in the last few weeks—not everyone has recovered from them. Many people went to work one morning and didn’t have a home to go to at the end of the day.

It reminded me of the theme song to Gilligan’s Island talks about a group of people taking a Three Hour Tour—a short boat ride around Hawaii, when the weather started getting rough. They ended up stranded for several seasons.

We can be sailing along with everything going great, and all of a sudden, a storm hits that can shipwreck our life, or at least throw us off course.

Have you ever experienced storms in your life? Those times where things just didn’t make sense. Times where your problems seemed so big and your faith seemed so small. Times where you felt so swamped and so afraid that you were going to be taken over by the storm.

Turn to Mark 4:35

After a long day of teaching crowds on the shores of the Sea of Galilee, Jesus asks to be taken to the other side of the lake. The disciples obey his directions, as do several other boats.

Did Jesus know the storm was coming? And He asked them to get out on the lake anyway? He must be doing it on purpose.

Along the way, He decides to rest and sleep, yes He’s physically tired, but I believe He also wants to see how they will respond.

During this time, when the Disciples have a few moments “to themselves” a storm erupts which they cannot control. It is beyond their power to do anything about it despite the fact that they are experienced boatmen. Nothing in their experience could save them from the power of the storm.

It seems as if they tried to do everything they could before going to Jesus. We’ll let Jesus sleep and try to take care of this ourselves. “Let’s not bother Him. It’s not that big of a deal. I/We can handle this.”

Too often, when the storms of life come, the last place we turn for help is Jesus. We only go to Him after we’ve tried all we can. “We’re all going to die!!” Jesus, if you just get us out of this I’ll do anything you want.

1. The Normal Life

a. The disciples weren’t really all that different from us. They had lives, families, jobs. They had friends, hardships and joys. And then the met Jesus and He began changing their life.

b. Understand, up to this point, it had been fairly easy for the disciples to follow Jesus. He called, they followed—Jesus was still growing in popularity—people liked Him.

c. They listened to what Jesus said as He spoke and taught. They had watched Jesus heal people. They had witnessed Him raising the dead. They had seen Him cast out demons, and do other mighty works in the context of that preaching and teaching.

d. But all this activity never really required anything of them until Jesus said, "Let us cross over to the other side." Those men had no idea what was coming next. Their faith had to move up to the next level. These men had to cross over in their hearts from having control over their own lives to placing their lives into the hands of Almighty God.

e. Being a disciple was going to get harder to the point that their lives were in danger. And Jesus was leading them to that point. Following God’s directions, His will for your life is not a guarantee of Safety & or Prosperity.

f. Our walk with Jesus is NOT going to be all sunshine and rainbows. And there are times for that—necessary times of green pastures and still waters—so your soul can be refreshed.

g. But so many times when our lives are going along good and easy, we rely more on ourselves than we do God. We pretend that life is going to continue on like this—we become content, comfortable and complacent.

h. The Normal Life is often a great danger to the life of Faith.

i. If you were here one Sunday night last month, we went over Psalm 23. According to that Psalm, we are not designed to stay in the green pastures and by the still waters—those moments are Pit Stops on the Paths of Righteousness that our Shepherd wants to take us on. And in many cases, those paths of righteousness lead us directly into the Valley of the Shadow of Death—where our very lives are on the line.

j. God upsets our Normal Life so we can Live the Life of Faith.

2. Storms Hit us Unexpectedly & Shake our Complacency

a. This passage talks about a “furious squall” hitting them. That was life on the Sea of Galilee, the mountains all around, the cool Mediterranean Sea, with the hot deserts caused storms to hit hard and fast. They are unexpected and even the experts can get caught in them.

b. Life throws a lot of curves. Many of which are beyond our control or ability. Despite all our skills, and experience, we are often unable to deal with the problems of life.

c. And God wants you to know that. He doesn’t want you to forget that you need Him. Wants you to look to Him—wants you to Walk by Faith & Not by Sight--

There are various types of storms in life.

• Literal Storms – we’ve seen this recently—the power is knocked out, the house is damaged, the house and property is destroyed. Your normal life is suddenly altered.

• Situational storms. This is when circumstances seem to plot against you and everything seems to go wrong at once. Murphy’s law is in full force.

Financial Storms Health Storms

• Relational storms. These are when you have tension between people. When a relationship is strained to the breaking point - parent and child, husband and wife, friends. These are the cause of many storms in life.

• Emotional storms. These are often hidden under the surface. We have a nice smile, but inside we’re seething and boiling in distress. People pass us by without realizing that a storm is raging within. You might become Paralyzed by fear. Overcome by guilt. Raging with anger. Consumed with worry or jealousy.

One or more of these storms might describe you this morning. The Bible says three things about the storms of life that I want to discuss before we continue.

• Storms in life are inevitable. Everyone will experience them. If you’re not in a storm right now, just wait. You will be in a storm. They are a part of life. In James 1:2 it says "When you face trials..." It does not say “If you face trials.” So you can Count on it!

• Storms are unpredictable. They come suddenly. They come unexpectedly. They are unpredictable. Matthew’s account uses the word “suddenly” that, "Without warning a furious storm came up". Try as we may, we cannot predict the things that will happen to us. None of us can predict when a simple test at the doctor’s office can bring life-changing news. We experience storms that are very short and ones that last for weeks, months, even years. They are unpredictable.

• Storms are impartial. They happen to good people, they happen to bad people. They happen to believers, they happen to unbelievers. They happen to all of us. Matthew 5:45 says, "He sends the rain on the just and the unjust." Being a Christian does not exempt us from being in storms.

• In many cases, Storms are Intentional

There is a misconception that people have, that the only time they have tough times is when they’re disobeying God. Sometimes that’s true… bad choices have consequences.

But it’s not always true.

In the passage we’re looking at today, Did the disciples get into a storm because Obeyed or Disobeyed Jesus? They were in the center of His will. And they were right in the middle of a storm. When you’re going through a tough time, don’t automatically assume, “I must be out of the will of God.” You may be exactly where God wants you to be

3. Jesus challenged the Disciples in an area of strength. How many of these disciples were fishermen used to working the Sea of Galilee? Many of them were skilled boatmen.

4. Unfortunately, just like the disciples, we often try to fix everything ourselves first, we try everything we can think of to solve the problem. We rely on our own abilities. Most of the time such efforts only bring anxiety and worry.

a. The message that Jesus presents to us in this Gospel account today is borne out in a recent stress management survey. Experts say that only 2 % of our "worrying time" is spent on things that might actually be helped by worrying. The other

98% of our "worrying time" is spent as follows:

40% is spent worrying about things that never happen

35% is spent worrying about things that can not be changed

15% is spent worrying about things that turn out better than expected

8% is spent worrying about things that are so petty that they don’t matter at all.

b. While we are trying to solve all the problems ourselves we like to carry Jesus with us without making Him an active part. We let Him sleep while we do all the work ourselves. We know Jesus is there “sleeping” waiting to be called upon but we do not until we know we can’t handle the storm.

c. As a last resort we go to God and we ask Him to help us. Sadly however, we often come with an attitude that the Disciples had… “Don’t you care if we drown?” “Aren’t you paying attention God, don’t you care what happens to me? Why haven’t you taken care of this already?” We act surprised and hurt by the fact that God hasn’t fixed everything for us already. We cry out and blame God for all that is going wrong. “Do something, ANYTHING” we complain.

This attitude is wrong. This is the Normalcy Jesus wants to Shake us from! God is waiting for the opportunity, waiting for us to do things His way and in ways that will glorify His name.

5. Step out of the Normal Life into the Life of Power

a. When we go to Jesus, we can witness Amazing things!

b. He had the authority to rebuke the storm and tell it to be quiet. Lot’s of people have tried to pit their wills against the forces of nature and we’ve considered them foolish. Not this time.

c. The storm obeyed Him. As the words came out of Jesus’ mouth, the “winds died down and it was completely calm”.

d. Storms may be short term or long lived, but they respond to the command of God. This demonstrates that…

e. All situations are under His control. Nothing takes Him by surprise. Even the created world was under His authority. He restores peace and calmness. This is the hard thing for us to understand…

f. Sometimes we cry out to God and the storms do not disappear. God, we know You can do it, so why aren’t you?

But let me tell you with absolute truth….

g. Whether or not the storms disappear, He is still in control. He is more than enough of what you need.

h. In all these things that He does and allows—the intent of all of it is to draw you closer to Him and grow your Trust & Reliance on Him.

i. Perseverance means nothing if it has never been put through a trial. People endure and persevere through hardship—when someone says, “I persevered when I was captured in Vietnam and made it through my time as a Prisoner of War”—we know that means something.

When they say, “I persevered my trip to Disneyland”—we know that—for the most part—that’s a joke.

The normal life is not always the Friend of the Life of Faith.

j. It’s the unexpected, the disruptions, the storms that reveal our faith and our character.

k. Why does it take a crisis to get us to keep our faith in the forefront?

l. Why do we repeatedly exhaust ourselves, thinking we have the power to Control our Lives? To overcome the Storms of Life? That if we can just work harder, we can do it ourselves?

m. He Promises to be Faithful in our hardships—gives peace to each of us in spite of our troubles. Do not let your hearts be troubled… cast all your cares upon Him… take my yoke upon you…

n. The peace of God can transcend all understanding, all circumstances, all storms. The winds may be blowing around you, the rain may be falling, the floodwaters rising. You may feel that you are in the deepest, darkest valley away from God. But in reality, that is when He is closest—it may not always feel that way, but it is true.

But you cannot escape Him. LYRICS—Valleys Fill First

This is the valley that i'm walking through

And if fells like forever since

I've been close to you

My friends up above me don't

understand why i struggle like i do

My shadow's my only,only companion

and at night he leaves too

Down in the valley, dying of thirst

Down in the valley, it seems that i'm at my worst

My consolation is that you baptize this earth

When I'm down in the valley, valleys fill first

6. Questioning the Disciples

a. When Jesus comes and brings peace, He usually has some questions for us. As I said earlier, the disciples needed to be taken to the other side, they needed to move their understanding of Christ to the next level—to get their life out of the Normal and into the Supernatural. Changing how they know Jesus and Who they think He is

b. Their understanding of Jesus had to get bigger than the storm. Our understanding needs to Grow!

We need to change From seeing Him as a powerful teacher and healer, to one who is truly God Incarnate, One into whose hands we can trust our everyday, normal life and our Storms.

c. Jesus asks you and me the same questions that He asks them. Why are you so afraid? Do you still have no faith? Do you not really trust me? Do you not really know who I AM?

d. After all that you have seen in me, all that we have been through, do you still not believe that I AM the one in control?

e. When we go through storms, do you know what He so often asks us?

What took you so long to come to me? Why am I your last resort?

f. Come to me first, and let me give you rest, then, though the storm is raging, the winds will be calm and still in your heart and mind.

g. Peace in the Storm , Strength to endure it…is just as big a miracle as Calming the Storm.

h. In each case… we are often surprised. We respond with awe to who Jesus really is—Terrified—Who is this? We always seem to be amazed when God does something. Each time, we come back and say, “I don’t believe what just happened”. The “Mountains often look so big, but [our] faith just seems so small”. If you truly have faith in an awesome God, we can rejoice at His miracles without being surprised by them.

7. He wants us to come to Him, He wants to calm the storms in our lives. He may do it on the outside—changing the situation, He may only do it on the inside—calming your heart while the wind continues blowing.

• Both are miracles.

8. Jesus wants to move you out of Normal—it causes you to seek Him, to rely on Him and makes opportunities to See & Experience His Mighty Hand.

9. Are you ready to go Sailing in the Storm with Him?

Psalm 107:28 Then they cried out to the LORD in their trouble, and he brought them out of their distress.

107:29 He stilled the storm to a whisper; the waves of the sea were hushed.

107:30 They were glad when it grew calm, and he guided them to their desired haven.

107:31 Let them give thanks to the LORD for his unfailing love and his wonderful deeds for men.

Thursday, May 05, 2011

The Importance of the Christian Heritage of the United States

I was recently sent a video by David Barton pointing out some of the religious influences of that can be seen in a simple tour of the Capitol Building in Washington DC. To some degree, the video was promotional and trying to increase awareness of the group producing it—a video commercial. But the video itself was highlighting a greater program of the evidences of our Christian history that even our Federal Government was not unwilling to hide in the past.

The email with the video was sent out to a large email list. One person chose to “reply to all” with a criticism. His main points were that our country has not always lived up that faith and therefore attempts to “restore” this heritage are misguided and impractical considering modern America and how we have progressed beyond the intentions of the Founders.

I took the “reply to all” response, rather than a private email to the sender, as an invitation to discussion and replied. I realize that I’m only showing my response and that may be considered unfair, but I have not asked for permission to print his words.

I responded with the following (and yes, it’s long). My point is not arguing contemporary issues of Church & State but rather the foundation of our freedoms and how the erosion of that foundation jeopardizes every freedom we have today.

There’s a lot to respond to.

I think the overall point of the video is sadly lost. Whether or not efforts are made to “return” to our Christian roots is presumed by the watcher and he is presuming the motives and goals of those who would agree with the perspectives. No one is proposing turning America into a Theocratic state with mandatory church attendance or state sponsored church—that too is a straw man used to denigrate the opposing view.

Rather, the greater point is how the history and influence of Christianity in America has been systematically removed from public knowledge. Influence enough to be beautifully painted and hung in the halls at great expense, which, until the last century was taught as part of our collective national identity.

Without that heritage, the freedoms we now enjoy have lost their context and make no sense as to how and why they were derived. The effort to secularize our history and downplay that influence is perpetuating ignorance at best and disingenuous at worst. I do not believe it is done innocently, nor without some malicious intent.

In my opinion, the removal of this history from the public knowledge is just as dangerous (if not as revolting) as those who dismiss and deny the Holocaust. People like the Iranian President deny the Holocaust for one primary reason; their own perspectives are discredited and impugned if the true history is known and accepted.

In the case of our national freedom, a people’s rights can be systematically removed if the basis for making them “inalienable” is undermined. These rights were considered inalienable because they are derived from a source that is greater than the government itself and are imparted as part of the design and image of God. Governments do well to recognize those inherent rights, they do not merely grant them. If they are merely granted or tolerated, then they can be removed when the mood suits them or public opinion changes.

The foundation of our rights and freedoms which are for all people, is God. That is how they understood and argued them. That is the source of authority which gave them confidence to oppose the greatest nation of the day. We are “endowed by our Creator with certain inalienable rights”: rights that are irremovable, rights that are inseparable, rights that are inherent regardless of what government is in place. If the knowledge of the source of our rights is ever removed from our public conscience and awareness, then the government has greater ability to manipulate, distort and remove the rights we enjoy and many men and women fought and died for.

Here is an example of the systematic removal of religious influence. In searching for “Who wrote the Bill of Rights?” many of the returns echo an answer like the following:

Who Wrote the Bill of Rights?

James Madison, is the one who has written the bill of rights. However, it is George Mason who is known as the 'Father of the Bill of Rights' as his ideas in the Virginia Declaration of Rights had a great influence on James Madison, the one who wrote the bill of rights.

It is true that James Madison has written the bill of rights, but there are a few factors which make his status as the writer, a little complicated. Firstly, James Madison was never in support of a bill of rights and wanted the constitution to be ratified without any such amendment. This is because he believed that the federal government was not strong enough to become a powerful government and would fall in some time. It was Thomas Jefferson who tried hard and eventually succeeded in convincing Madison to support the formation of a bill of rights. Certain rights mentioned in the First amendment were considered to be heavily influenced by Thomas Jefferson's ideas and thoughts. It is also believed that George Mason's thoughts in the Virginia Declaration of Rights formed the base for the bill of rights. These thoughts were mainly influenced by the works of John Locke, a European philosopher. The free speech protections written in various state constitutions, are also considered to have inspired the language of the bill of rights.

While this description is not inherently inaccurate, it is historically misleading.  There is no mention of a religious influence at all in this answer. I expect that most school textbooks and history museums reflect this “religion free” history. It is true that Madison first opposed the necessity of a BoR and that Jefferson was an influence. However, it was not until Madison was opposed in an election process by a Baptist minister, John Leland, that Madison relented. Leland was a third party candidate opposed to the Constitution that had no guarantee of freedom of religion. Leland’s presence in the race siphoned votes away from Madison that made him vulnerable to defeat. It was not until the two candidates met and Madison conceded to add a Bill of Rights that Leland dropped out of the race and Madison won. Leland’s religious convictions compelled him to move in the political arena—something considered abhorrent by today’s secular society.

An Abstract from the Penn State and Pepperdine University School of Law (April 2009) titled John Leland and James Madison: Religious Influence on the Ratification of the Constitution and on the Proposal of the Bill of Rights says this:


Itinerant Baptist preacher John Leland (and Baptists generally) strongly influenced James Madison's elections to the Virginia ratifying convention and to the First Congress, with possibly substantial effects on American history. New insights include evidence making it seem nearly certain Madison had a key letter concerning Leland in hand at a critical time and evidence showing that George Eve's famous defense of Madison at a Baptist church meeting was in pivotal Culpeper County, rather than Orange County. The paper also notes Leland's relationship with Thomas Jefferson; Leland's consistent advocacy of religious liberty for all persons; his criticism of slavery; and the unusual accessibility of his straightforward and humorous prose. Leland deserves more attention, especially now that his works are very easily accessible on Google Books. As L.H. Butterfield (an editor of the papers of both Thomas Jefferson and John Adams) put it, Leland "was as courageous and resourceful a champion of the rights of conscience as America has produced." Leland (in Philip Hamburger's phrase, "Jefferson's friend and ally, the irrepressible John Leland") is worth getting to know.

Regarding the first amendment, I had always wondered why so many topics: religion, speech, press, assembly; were all lumped into one amendment. Could they not make up their mind which was the most important and just take the “we’re all winners” approach?

Not at all. The Establishment and Freedom clauses are separated from the remaining subjects by a “;”. This minor punctuation signifies that what follows is a list of abuses that have been enacted at various times by various governments to stifle religious expression. Speech in the form of preaching was denied to minority ministers, many of which were thrown in jail. Press is referring to more than newspapers. Rather, it is referring to individuals (often ministers) going to the local Kinko’s (Printing press) and printing flyers expressing their beliefs or invitations to an event. If these were not approved by the local or ecclesiastical authorities then those pages could warrant arrest and confiscation. The British had prohibited English Bibles to be printed in America and allowed only imports from England (from which they could tax), which is why it is significant that one of the first acts of our Congress was to order the printing of Bibles here in America as mentioned in the video. The peaceable assembly is not only referring to protests, marches or clubs, but church gatherings that were meeting without licenses from or payment of fees to the local government.

In other words, the entirety of the First Amendment deals with religion and limits the power of the government to silence and repress its expression. Now it has been expanded to other issues of speech, assembly and press, and rightfully so, let us not teach a false history that they have no connection to religion. Sadly, I would guess that 90% or more of the public sees the issues raised in the first amendment as separate from religion and in many cases excluding religion (e.g. – “freedom from religion” is not the government’s job).

A strong, historical argument can be made that the climate of revolution in our pre-independence was shaped in the hearts of the people by the preaching in the churches. While not perfect in its expression, the moral foundation of Christianity upon the Founders and the general population is what made the revolution a success in stark contrast to the Libertarian philosophy dominant in France. Their revolution was bloody & corrupt, the people spiraled into anarchy and the revolution failed quickly. France returned to the dictatorship of Napoleon who promised a return to order.

Many saw the revolution not just as means to political freedom but to a religious freedom as well. “No taxation without representation” also meant a freedom from a mandatory state/church tax for which one did not claim membership. They did discuss religious freedom in terms which included Jews, Hindoos (as spelled then) and Mohammedans or Turks (as called then). You can see that in samples like “The Rights of Conscience Inalienable” – by John Leland.

Many people were recruited to fight the British from the pulpit. Many ministers led the men of their congregation with their rifles. The Presbyterian, Rev. James Caldwell, took part in the Battle of Springfield, NJ by passing out hymnals so his soldiers would have wadding for their muskets—portrayed in the painting of the battle and the phrase, “Give ‘em Watts” (in reference to the hymn writer Isaac Waats). Of the signers of the Bill of Rights, the top was the first Speaker of the House of Representatives, Frederick Augustus Muhlenberg, himself a Lutheran minister

The case for freedom of conscience and the separation of church and state is clearly there in our early history. Separation in the understanding of that day is necessary and vital for a free people. Today’s understanding of Separation is wholly different: that being the removal of public expressions of faith. Many levels of our governments have moved from creating a climate of freedom to a stifling and suffocating climate. In doing so, they are trampling on the “prohibition” line of the First Amendment. There are now serious discussions regarding people who hold to serious religious conviction being unfit for public office or appointment as a federal judge or tenure as a professor in a public university.

The new favored religion has become a secular, non-religious one. Under the guise of tolerance and progressivism, the foundations of our freedom has been eroded to the point that we do not even recognize when they are being trampled upon.

The primary goal of this particular video is to awaken an awareness of where our freedoms came from, where that evidence can still be seen, and the danger of losing that knowledge.

To paraphrase a famous line about history:

Those who forget the foundation of their freedom are doomed to be deprived of it.

Tuesday, May 03, 2011

The Death of Bin Laden and the Spirit of Celebration

I remember where I was on 9/11.  My family and I had driven to Mt. Home, AR for my grandmother-in-law’s birthday.  It was a tiring drive into the late night.  That morning, I was in bed.  My wife came in and told me that a plane had crashed into the first tower.  My thought was, something like a Cessna—single engine plane.  Not good, but not really worth getting out of bed for—I turned over and tried to go back to sleep.  A frustratingly few minutes later (when you’re tired constant interruptions make you irritable) she came back in loud and fast.  A second plane flew into the other tower, “We’re under attack!”   That cleared the cobwebs and I jumped up quickly.  We spent the rest of the day in the room watching the news.  My son, then 1 yr old, kept trying to get us to play and not many of us adults were in the mood for it.

Like many of you, I’ve long wondered why it was taking so long to catch Bin Laden.  I’ve wondered what kind of help he’d been getting, where he would be hiding, and wondering if he died would we ever know.

I looked forward to the idea of justice catching up to him at the hands of the US Military.  Now that Bin Laden has been killed in an assault by our military, I must say I have mixed feelings.  There is a great relief and satisfaction that a guilty person (self-confessed) who is responsible for killing thousands of Americans and even Muslims around the world has not escaped. 

The Bible is full of moments in Psalms and Proverbs of the people of God calling out for Justice, calling out for the evildoers to be held accountable.  There are numerous questions why the wicked go unpunished or even prosper and then the pleading with God to set things right.  There is relief and a sense of joy at the thought (Proverbs 21:15 "When justice is done, it brings joy to the righteous but terror to evildoers." & Proverbs 11:10 "When the righteous prosper, the city rejoices; when the wicked perish, there are shouts of joy."—these are observations more than commands).

I also experience a sense of sadness in the sense that by all evidence, Bin Laden is now in a Christ-less eternity where he will have no Advocate on his behalf before an Almighty & Holy God.  Because even a monster like Bin Laden also bears the Image of God and Hell was not created for him but for Satan and his demons.  The way Satan hurts the heart of God is by deceiving those whom God loves and died for and keeping them from a saving faith.  The wages of sin is death, and death has found him.  God does not want anyone to perish but all to come to repentance.

As much as Bin Laden was an enemy to America and to believers in Jesus (and even his own faith), he was a pawn for our true enemy.  Jesus died even to save murderers like him.  Is not the Blood of Christ powerful enough to Atone and cover over sins as great as Bin Laden’s?  Scripture says yes, but this power is a gift that must be received.  The Blood of Christ is Available for all, even if not taken advantage of.  I truly believe there is no sin too powerful to overpower the Blood of Jesus—rejection of that saving power is the cause of that.

It is always tragic when a sinner dies in their sin, no matter who it is.  That does not mean the person is not deserving, nor that justice or death is not warranted.

When someone is a killer and sheds the blood of men, Genesis says by men his blood will be shed.  I’ve read somewhere recently that the idea of the death penalty within a deliberate system of justice does not diminish the image of God in humanity, it defends and upholds it.  The New Testament in Romans 13 reminds us that the government does not bear the sword for nothing.  As imperfect as human governments can be, they are instituted by God to be a calming influence on the human population and also at times as an instrument of God’s judgment.

What has disturbed me (and others) in the whole death of Bin Laden affair has been the celebratory attitude many of us have exhibited.  I was similarly disturbed when after coming out of a movie (Transformers 2--the movie was bad enough) I heard people rejoicing at the news of Michael Jackson’s death.

With Bin Laden, many are throwing a party, in essence “dancing on his grave”.  I can understand on some levels, but it reminds me too much of how I was offended at seeing the celebrations in the Middle East when the tower fell.  To me, the people celebrating exemplify a spirit of vengeance and not a spirit of justice.  Justice is necessary because it means that something terrible has happened.    But justice does not take pleasure in it.  Vengeance revels and takes pleasure from the suffering of the person in question especially when they are guilty. 

This difference between vengeance and justice is especially dangerous for the victims of heinous crimes, and yes we as Americans, as a people, were victims of this man to some degree, some more than others.   But when we cross the line into vengeance and take pleasure in the suffering of the perpetrator—we become more like them.  We become more capable of doing something heinous because our own sense of pleasure has been corrupted by enjoying someone else suffer.

That is why one of the signs of psychopathic behavior is the mutilating of animals.  It can be seen as a cry for intervention in children at a young age.  It is a symptom of a greater problem—a lack of empathy for the suffering of others. 

I am afraid that Bin Laden’s death reveals the lack of our humanity.  When we are corrupted by sin inflicted on us—the more it corrupts us and we give in to vengeance, the more influence over our heart, mind and spirit we really give to the perpetrator—in essence increasing our victimhood.

The power of forgiveness breaks the power of our victimhood—breaks the power of the evil done to us and prevents that person from continuing to inflict hurt upon us.

Make no mistake what I’m saying—justice was served—as best as we could make it.  In some sense I would have preferred a capture and trial, but I can understand the mess that would be and the years that would drag on (especially considering how the lawyers got involved with prisoners in Guantanamo—can you imagine the anguish and fighting going on over people who would want to give O.B.L our Constitutional rights?).

But let us remember several verses from the Bible on such issues:

Proverbs 24:17-18 "Do not gloat when your enemy falls; when they stumble, do not let your heart rejoice, or the LORD will see and disapprove and turn his wrath away from them."

Ezekiel 33:11 "Say to them, 'As surely as I live, declares the Sovereign LORD, I take no pleasure in the death of the wicked, but rather that they turn from their ways and live. Turn! Turn from your evil ways!

Ezekiel 18:23 "Do I take any pleasure in the death of the wicked? declares the Sovereign LORD. Rather, am I not pleased when they turn from their ways and live?"

Ezekiel 18:32 "For I take no pleasure in the death of anyone, declares the Sovereign LORD. Repent and live!"

All of these passages speak to the desire of God for even the wicked to repent.  He does not shy away from Judgment of sin, but He would rather see them turn, would rather give Grace.

Remember: Justice is getting what we Deserve.  Mercy is not getting what we deserve.  Grace is getting above and beyond what you don’t deserve.

When Jesus approached Jerusalem, He looked over the city and wept, knowing full well there were wicked people in the city, some people who would kill him just a few days later.  He wept because people were unwilling to come to Him.  He longed to gather them together under His wings, but their unbelief and hard hearts would keep them from doing so.  It broke his heart.

Bin Laden was similarly unwilling.  And though we may think BL was undeserving of God’s grace, it still breaks His heart that OBL held out to the end in the deception of the enemy. 

God is OBL’s judge, let us leave that to Him.  Let us also follow His leadership and not rejoice over the death of the wicked let us through the power of the Holy Spirit, love our enemies and pray for them above what they deserve.  Because that says more about us.