Mourning and Responding to Orlando

While politicians and presidential candidates are using the largest shooting in U.S. history as a platform for their prospective gun-control policies, most of the rest of us are just left saddened, confused, and angered by such a tragedy. Here are two ways to respond from The Gospel Coalition:

a) Mourning, Longing for Truth and Love (from Nabeel Qureshi):

As an ex-Muslim who loves America and my Muslim family, my heart is hurting beyond expression.

Today we witnessed the worst mass shooting in American history: 50 tragically killed in a gay bar in Orlando, Florida. The authorities announced the details just a few minutes ago: it was Omar Mir Seddique Mateen, a devout American-born Muslim who had pledged his allegiance to ISIL.

AP Photo/Phelan M. Ebenhack
AP Photo/Phelan M. Ebenhack

Mateen’s father has said the shooting had “nothing to do with religion,” and that his son may have committed this crime because he saw “two men kissing in Downtown Miami a couple months ago.” But no one goes on a killing rampage for seeing two men kiss. Clearly there’s more to this than his father doesn’t see. I do not blame him, though. His son has just died, and he’s not in a state to think clearly. We ought to be praying for him.

None of us can think entirely objectively, especially at the heels of a terrorist attack charged with so many political controversies. The rhetoric and agendas are flying, even though the dust has not yet settled. Gun control? Homophobia? Islamophobia?

As we are clouded by agendas and struggling to react, two opposing positions are coming to the fore: “Islam is a religion of peace and Mateen’s actions therefore have nothing to do with Islam,” or “Islam is inherently violent therefore we must see all Muslims as latent threats.”

As an American and a former Muslim, my heart is torn by these two poles of rhetoric. Those who take the first position are endangering my country by overlooking the very real cause of Jihad, which are the teachings and history of Islam. (See my article “How Does Jihad Compare with Old Testament Warfare?”) Those who take the latter position are endangering my Muslim family and friends, loving and patriotic Muslims that are as innocent and American as the rest of us.

The fact is, the vast majority of Muslims are loving, peaceful people who would never want to hurt any American or homosexual. I know this because I was deeply rooted in the Muslim community, and not a single Muslim out of the thousands I knew were violent or harbored violent tendencies. (The community I am referring to is in Norfolk, Virginia, with Sunnis, Shias, and others attending the same mosque. It was an open-armed and diverse Muslim community.)

Regardless, Islam itself has always taught that gays should be executed. Muhammad commanded: “If you find anyone doing as Lot’s people did, kill the one who does it, and the one to whom it is done” (Sunan Abu Daud 4447). Imams who have been trained in these Islamic teachings are teaching in our communities. Just three months ago, an imam who is well known for proclaiming Muhammad’s teachings on homosexuality spoke in Orlando. In a prior speech about homosexuals he was noted to have said, “Let’s get rid of them now” (video and news article). The imam spoke at an Islamic center that is less than 20 miles from the site of today’s atrocities. Some American-born Muslims, such as Omar, are taking teachings like these at face value, listening to their imams and following Muhammad.

b) 5 Ways Christians Can Respond (from Joe Carter):

It happened again.

In the dark hours of this Sunday morning some 50 people were killed and another 53 were injured in a terror attack in gay nightclub in Orlando. President Obama has called it an “act of terror and an act of hate,” and it’s being described as the most deadly shooting in American history.

The news of such violent atrocities comes to us so regularly nowadays that we may feel numb, helpless to know what to do or say after such events. But as followers of Christ we can’t simply shut out the pain and despair. We must bring light and healing.

These horrible events of recent years have targeted a wide variety of people: military personnel, movie-goers, elementary school children, and now patrons of a gay nightclub. All have dignity as made in the image of God. The death of any leads to mourning, whether they were targeted at random or not.

Over the years several writers for TGC have provided wise guidance on how to respond. These five calls (pray, pause, grieve, love, hope) to action apply to the most recent in a string of tragedies.

Beyond the Gates of Splendor

He who dwells in the shelter of the Most High will abide in the shadow of the Almighty. I will say to the LORD, “My refuge and my fortress, my God, in whom I trust.” (Psalm 91:1–2)

Five families in the early 1950’s moved to Ecuador to reach the isolated Waodani tribe with the Gospel of Jesus Christ for the first time in history.  Although at first they found acceptance they would soon meet hostility and eventually death.

60 years ago today – January 8, 1956 – Jim Elliot, Nate Saint, Ed McCully, Peter Flemming, and Roger Youderian were speared to death on a sandbar called “Palm Beach” in the Curaray River of Ecuador.  The courage of these men was deep, but too few recall the courage of the wives and children they left behind.  After their death, members of the slain missionaries’ families returned to the same tribe to live among them with the same aim of reaching them with the Gospel.

They did…

…and nothing has been the same since.

The world called the death of these 5 missionaries a ‘tragic nightmare’ but Elisabeth Elliot, wife of deceased Jim Elliot, was not convinced and wrote a book about the events that took place called Shadow of the Almighty (title coming from Psalm 91 seen above).  She was convinced that the death of her husband was a glorious reminder that God is a refuge for His people, not from suffering and death but a refuge from eternal death.  The world learned a lesson that day.  That the Gospel, the precious Gospel of Christ, is worth dying for, and those who love Jesus always walk (even in dark times) in the shadow of the Almighty.

A documentary of these events was made called Beyond the Gates of Splendor (which prompted the making of the motion picture The End of the Spear), Nate Saint’s young son Steve grew up and founded his own missionary organization (ITEC) taking his father’s place as a missionary himself, and last but not least Jim Elliot’s journals were gathered and published for all read.

We now know the story, and are grateful for it.

John Piper has written a wonderful piece describing the significance of these events, I encourage you to read it today (click here).

Also the entire documentary (that is worth your time) is on YouTube (click here).

Here are a few quotes from Jim Elliot to take to heart today:

“Father, make of me a ‘crisis man’. Bring those I contact to decision. Let me not be a milepost on a single road. Make of me a fork, so that men must turn one way or another on facing Christ in me.”

“What is written in these pages I suppose will someday be read by others than myself. For this reason I cannot hope to be absolutely honest in what is herein recorded, for the hypocrisy of this shammering heart will ever be putting on a front and dares not to have written what is actually found in its abysmal depths. Yet, I pray Lord, that You will make these notations to be as nearly true to fact as is possible so that I will know my own heart and be able to definitely pray regarding my gross, though often unviewed, inconsistencies. I do this at the suggestion of Stephen Olford whose chapel message of yesterday morning convicted me that my quiet time with God is not what it should be. These remarks are to be written from fresh, daily thoughts given from God in meditation on His Word.”

“The world cannot hate you”, so Jesus said to those who were of the world spirit. O’ that it could! The Lord is not enough ‘with me’ that the world can recognize and hate me for what I am – “not of the world.” The world loves its own, and for me it shelters not hatred. Lord, have I wandered so far?”

“There is now no longer any inheritance for me down here. I’ve been bought by the labors of that great Shepherd who came from afar to gain me as His bride. Lead on, Lord, whatever God’s command is or wherever He may lead, I am now ready to go.”

“God, I pray, light these idle sticks of my life and may I burn up for Thee. Consume my life, my God, for it is Thine. I seek not a long life, but a full one like Yours, Lord Jesus.”

“Lord, I know Thou art with me, but I fear that because my life is barren for Thee so much of the time, that You gain little glory from being with me. I pray Thee, make my way prosperous, not that I achieve high station, but that my life might be an exhibit to the value of knowing God.”

“Lord, here at Wheaton we need some affliction to unite us in our purpose, to make us prosper, to scatter us abroad. I pray, then, Lord, for should I ask for a Pharaoh who knows not our Joseph and is antagonistic? (Gen. 37- Ex. 1) Yes, send persecution to me, Lord, that my life might bring forth much fruit.”

“He is no fool who gives what he cannot keep to gain what he cannot lose.”

“What Do I Say of Muhammad?”

On this day, April 7, 1321 brother Thomas of Tolentino and three other Franciscans monks witnessed for Christ. On either the 8th or 9th of April, after torture, they were beheaded. Traveling toward China the party had been detained near Bombay. A local Cadi summoned them to discuss religion. Thomas and his associates upheld the divinity of Christ. The Cadi then demanded to know what they thought of Mohammed. Thomas replied that since Mohammed’s claims did not square with Christ’s, the Cadi, if he were wise, should be able to determine what to think of him. The Cadi and his attendants would not accept this evasive reply but demanded a direct response. The answer below, when it came, caused the Muslims to shout that Thomas had blasphemed the prophet and to call for his death.

Quote: “Since ye can only repeat What do I say of him, I should blush to refuse the reply ye seek. I reply then, and tell you that Muhammad is the son of perdition and has his place in hell with the devil his father, and not he only but all such as follow and keep his law, false as it is, and pestilent and accursed, hostile to God and the salvation of souls.” (Source: The quote is from Cathay and the Way Thither: Being a Collection of Medieval Notices of China. The date is from Internet encyclopedias and saints’ sites.)

Lesson?

In a time where political correctness rules the day, may we be found to be as faithful as these men for the glory of Christ.

All Marriage Begins in Joy and Ends in Tragedy

Insightful piece from Carl Trueman:

When I married a young couple in my congregation a few years ago, I commented in the sermon that all human marriages begin with joy but end in tragedy. Whether it is divorce or death, the human bond of love is eventually torn apart. The marriage of Christ and his church, however, begins with tragedy and ends with a joyful and loving union which will never be rent asunder. There is joy to which we point in our worship, the joy of the Lamb’s wedding feast. But our people need to know that in this world there will be mourning. Not worldly mourning with no hope. But real mourning nonetheless, and we must make them ready for that.

To read the rest, which I recommend you do, click here.

Egypt! Egypt! Have You Forgot?

A Poem from John Piper, stemming from his reflection on the current events playing out in Egypt.

Egypt! Egypt! A Meditation for Today on Isaiah 19:24–25

O Egypt, Egypt, do you not

Recall, dear friend, have you forgot

That twice you were the savior of My only Son — though not from love?

You fed him in the famine. Then You took him for a slave.  And when I rescued him, I made you know My name, my power, and how much woe Will fall on those who mock my Son.

And when he came again, the One That Herod would destroy, he fled once more to his dear friend who fed Him once before.

And there you hid and suckled him like Moses, ’mid the rushes and the riches of the regal court — though not from love.

Two years you gave him shield and bread until his enemies were dead and it was safe for him to make His way back home, and for your sake To die.

O Egypt, Egypt, will you now destroy his house, and kill His people, cut his seamless word to pieces, lest the truth be heard — The sweetest news that he, or I, could ever speak?

And so I cry Aloud again: O Egypt, Hear this tender word.  It is as near to you as hope.

Did not your own Isaiah tenderly make known My heart? O Listen, Egypt! “In that day, in spite of all your sin, together, you and Israel, and vast Assyria, will dwell As one — the kingdom of my Son —  and in that day, with joy, I’ll stun the world, and call you mine.

And you will be my people.

Yes, the true and happy bride of Christ, with all your meek and broken foes who call on his great name.

And in the end, you’ll know why I have called you friend.”

“Though You Slay Me”

One of my best friends, Ross Floyd, is in the process of raising support to move to Bogota, Columbia for missions with his wife Angela.  He posted this on their blog today, and it is moving to say the least.  I’ve re-posted it here for your joy and benefit.  If you feel so inclined, please do support them, all the info is on their blog, click here.

Though You Slay Me

I just finished watching this video not 2 minutes ago and it really cut to the core.  Many of you are familiar with some of the pain that Angela and I have experienced through the past years with loss of our two children through miscarriages.  It is something that I feel the pain of everyday.  I find myself at times struggling with understanding why Christ chose us to go through this suffering.  Through these times of struggle I am admittedly very critical of people when I see posts on social media praising God when things are going well.  Why do I never see posts about God’s faithfulness during times of pain, and well, HELL?  Why do I feel like people are only willing to show off our God in times of victory and joy?  And then it hits me.  Where was I when Angela and I were suffering?  Was I posting about God’s faithfulness?  Was I praising Him and His sovereign grace during the times of hell?  No, I was cowering behind the pain and hurt hoping for pity and comfort, instead of proclaiming that Our God is Sovereign and there is nothing that happens outside of His will.  He planned the miscarriages for His glory and honor.

Right now, Angela and I are in the midst of raising support to be missionaries in Bogotá, Colombia.  I never thought that it would be as hard and as challenging as it really has become.  We struggle everyday to be motivated to call people and ask them to support us on this journey.  We struggle with comparing ourselves to others; it seems they have not struggled in raising the support like we have.  But one thing that I know is true, Christ intends this time of struggle, this time of doubt, and pain for His glory.  He is sovereign in the timing of when we get to 100% and are able to go to Bogotá.  So we are to honor him in the way we work towards that goal.

These past two years have sucked.  There has been some extreme hurt and disappoint in our lives.  Though we may be slain, Christ is ultimately glorified and given praise.

“Though the fig tree should not blossom, nor fruit be on the vines, the produce of the olive fail and the fields yield no food, the flock be cut off from the fold and there be no herd in the stalls, yet I will rejoice in the LORD; I will take joy in the God of my salvation.  GOD, the Lord, is my strength; he makes my feet like the deer’s;  he makes me tread on my high places.” ~ Habakkuk 3:17-19

~ Ross