A message signed in BLOOD to the nation of the cross…

Kidnapped. Beaten. Bruised. Broken. Carried to the shores after one to two months of captivity. Along the shoreline, marched like sheep to the slaughter. Wet, soft sand under feet. Trembling lips, quickening of hearts. Raw skin and flesh rubbed by rope on wrists. Cold metal of sword to neck. Orange jump suits and black masks. An image of such collision of good and evil…

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A message directed to the church of the 21 coptic Christians of Egypt taken prisoner in Libya by ISIS/ISIL. I nearly threw up tonight as I went on Google to pull up some more information of these atrocities. I saw, without intending, an image of one of the 21 beheaded men- Christians- who refused to recant and deny Jesus Christ. His head laid on his lifeless body. Their blood spilled out on the sand and coloring the water.

LET’S GET ONE THING VERY CLEAR:

The 21 men who died brutally and viciously on those shores were not men who devalued their lives. They were, in fact, men who recognized the value of the eternal life they had attained through Jesus Christ, a recognition so great that they knew they loved Him more than their own lives.  “They overcame him by the blood of the Lamb and by the word of their testimony; they did not love their lives so much as to shrink from death.” (Revelation 12:11) They knew that their lives had value because the God- the creator of everything- said so in the beginning. They knew that God loved us so much- despite our flaws, our failures, our imperfections, our evil- that he would send Jesus Christ to stand in our place for our wrongdoing. They understood that Jesus’ blood held much power that even the sword, the machete, the bullet, the knife couldn’t stop it from victory.

….the Blood sacrificed by Jesus Christ holds more power than blood shed by any man regardless of weapon. Though I’m not Egyptian, I am a Christian and you better believe that I hold firmly that the cross holds more power than sword, gun, or any other tactics. Whether in this life or eternity, Jesus will be honored by the sacrifice of those Christians who refused to recant the one True God. Those Christians lost their lives in such an evil, violent way. It saddens me to know that people chose to watch the video, look up pictures, and think that it doesn’t matter.

THIS DOES MATTER. This has to matter to you. It has to matter to me. This matters because people are being murdered. This matters because people are taking lives. This matters because that blood that soaked the shore was not spilled in vain. Christians, first, let’s stop pretending that this doesn’t affect us elsewhere in the world. These people dying- being martyred for their faith- share in the story of Jesus Christ. They are our brotherhood being killed. Christians, we need to stop being shocked by such evil. If we remain lazy and lethargic in the Bible- the Word God provided for us- we would be aware that He warned us that the Gospel would not be accepted, that people who serve Jesus Christ would be murdered, persecuted, and mistreated. He warned us that people would dislike us for our values, our convictions, and especially our speaking of the Gospel…the truth of salvation.  If we did indeed study the Word, we would know that Jesus Christ wants all people to know His love and redemption- that the Gospel is an inclusive message. We would know that He wants us to love our enemies and pray for those who persecute us. Does this make sense to you? Think about it….those 21 men beheaded knew that Jesus loved them, redeemed them and wanted to redeem their oppressors also. My hope is that as the deaths were imminent and near, they were praying for their captors. 

Non-Christians, this matters to you too. Whether you believe in the Jesus and God I serve… this most certainly still matters to you. People are being killed, others are committing the killing. Its a crime against humanity, at minimum. That is why you should care. But I also believe that this story is bigger. Whatever your reason for not believing in Jesus, that is your decision, but understand this: Jesus loves you and because of his great love, his was killed. His blood was poured out on the ground. His flesh was ripped open brutally. His body was beaten and almost broken. He was unrecognizable. Then he was brutally nailed to a cross. That cross represents to this day this one man standing in the gap for you and I, taking on the the punishment that is rightfully ours. We are imperfect, and at our core, have evil and sin. Without Christ, without his love and salvation from our evil and sin, we are no better than he who held the swords of those men on the beach. We are no more saved than them. It is only through the grace and mercy that is offered through Jesus that allows for us to have a clean slate and life in eternity with Him forever. It is only in Him that we may have hope in the midst of such trial, evil, and suffering. It is only in Him that even when the sword be on neck, we can stand tall knowing that no matter what would happen, we are His and will remain with an eternal life with Him.

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So, as ISIS said in their video, “a message signed in blood to the nation of the cross”. The blood that saved me, the blood that poured out, the blood that came from Jesus Christ is the most powerful blood their is or ever could be. His blood can heal. His blood redeems. His blood is the very thing that makes someone whole again, even if they die. The nation of the cross….I’ll take that, not as a warning, but a compliment for the men who died. They were recognized for bearing the image and imitation of Jesus Christ so much that these terrorists felt threatened and, dare I say, afraid of what that image and power could hold. Those men who were killed gave the greatest sacrifice any of us could ever give…life for that of Jesus Christ.

 

The blood of the Cross is everything. That is the power “the nation of the cross” holds.

Beheadings and persecution…

My heart is broken.

The evil in this world is sometimes far too great to bear. The pain, the suffering, the tribulation…just evil.

If you are keeping up with the news, than you will know how much evil is in this world. Specifically, in the Middle East, the evil seems to be rising making the news around the world. So far two American journalists have been beheaded, with videos having gone viral, with messages directed to President Obama. So far thousands of Christians all over Iraq, not counting other areas of the Middle East, are fleeing for their lives however, with imminent threat of death. I watched the news, hearing how various countries and organizations are wanting to help but unable without risk. Still others are pulling out their organizations and their citizens to save their lives. Still others, argue that no one should get involved at all. On social media and in the news, I have seen many people write or post about ISIS and how we [America] need to go in and kill them all. Genocide is never an easy fix or solution. Genocide never is met with peace without sacrifice. And genocide always leaves a wake of destruction for all parties.

This is why my heart breaks.

My heart breaks because my fellow Christians- brothers and sisters of the faith- are being murdered, beaten, tortured, raped and/or imprisoned [like Pastor Saeed in Iran]. My heart breaks because, for people in the Middle East to convert to Christianity, it means that they have counted the cost of faith and serving Jesus Christ. It means that they understand that, if they truly love Jesus, it may very well cost them their life. Alongside the Christians being persecuted, there are still Muslims in the Middle East that have nothing to do with the terrorism, genocide, or hatred, yet fall as bystanders in a cruel and evil fight. These Muslims are the ones that get the bad rep for their faith- though I don’t believe the same faith as them- they are people nonetheless and deserve the right to life. Even still, there are people from countries all over the world that are remaining in the lands of this evil because they are trying to help those caught in the destruction.

There is no peace in the Middle East. How can there be with this evil?

But I know a Peace that can bring healing, hope, restoration, and redemption. The problem is that we limit the reach of this Peace- the peace that comes through Jesus Christ. We, as American Christians, want to pray for the persecuted Church for safety, for protection, for a way out of the madness. We want to pray for them to overcome the physical, tangible hell they are in. We want to have punishment placed on the evil men and women bringing these atrocities. We want to have a perfect outcome in a completely imperfect and broken world.

For you reading this, especially if you claim to have faith and love in Jesus Christ, this is my plea to you: stop treating the evils in the Middle East and pretty much every other part of the world as something we can fix and mend. Only Jesus Christ can restore. I do not belittle the problems in this world by asking you not pray for them. I do ask that your prayers are bold prayers that rely on the power of Jesus Christ, not on our own ability. I ask that you stop praying for protection [only] for the persecuted Church, and instead, pray for their continued devotion and steadfast faith that will remain unshaken regardless of the trials they face. Like the Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego before the fiery furnace- God can free them from it BUT even if he does not, they can remain faithful to Him to the end. Our God is more than able to deliver us from evil, no matter what that evil looks like. But I also believe, that even if we do not understand why, he can help us through whatever it is that we face.

For you reading this, regardless of your beliefs, do not watch any videos these terrorists post. It only fuels their fear and fire. They want attention. Instead, be aware of what they are doing without continuing to watch the final gruesome moments of someone’s life. Give them- the murdered- respect, please.

And for you Church, I plead with you for this: pray for the members of ISIS, as well as other terror groups. Not for their success. Not for their continued evil. Not for their destruction either. Pray for God to show up in their lives. God can meet ANYONE where they are at, and no one is too far outside of God’s grace and mercy. We all want grace and mercy…until its for the terrorist or murdered or rapist or molestor. Church, pray for the salvation of those that you find to be most evil. Pray for the salvation of these men and women committing these crimes. What if we prayed for them and actually believed that their lives, like the Apostle Paul, could be changed? I’m not saying consequences for their actions shouldn’t come into play, but I have to believe that if Jesus died for the salvation of the world, that includes those that are evil. He desires for the wicked to be saved, not to perish [Ezekiel 33:11]. I am not one to say whether or not any of those members would actually change their lives, but I can at least pray for God to speak to them- to give them the chance at redemption.

That goes for anyone.

No matter who you are, whether you are a person of any faith, my faith, or no faith, I believe Jesus Christ loves you and he died so you could have restoration and redemption. He died so you could have the choice to love him or not. His resurrection offers us a hope and eternity with Him. When I see the evil throughout this world, I break because I see the brokenness that comes when this world lacks Jesus. I see the destruction that is led by selfishness, greed, and hate. I see that for many Christians in this world, to be a Christian, is more than a name or a religion but a literal death sentence for choosing Jesus. I see that we are fortunate in America, for now, to not have the same kind of evil. But I challenge you, don’t take it for granted. If you choose to follow Jesus, make it real, make it known, make it count. Be steadfast and unwavering. Don’t sit on the fence between partial care and obedience. If you are not someone who follows Jesus, or maybe doesn’t even want to because of some of things I wrote in this post… this world will continue to have evil present. It will continue to have destruction. You can choose to go through life with or without a true hope, which I believe, only comes through Jesus Christ.

This world is evil. I choose Jesus either way.