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A "Sect Spoken Against Everywhere"

As more details come out about the mass shootings in Oregon, the more disturbing this whole thing is.

Here is this shooter, in a classroom where, just before his entry, more than a couple of dozen college students were having an English class. As they hit the floor when he entered, the shooter commanded them to stand up and tell what faith they espouse. If they claimed to be Christian, he promised to shoot them in the head. If not, he asserted that he would shoot them somewhere else, usually the leg.

When the incident was over, nine people had died and ten were sent to the hospital. Ultimately, the shooter lost his life as well. (I received this information from an article on the website washingtonpost.com).

What a tragedy! First and foremost, we all need to continue to pray for the victim’s families. One young woman who received a gunshot wound in the back has miraculously survived. I watched an interview with her dad on television last night. Praise God!

But again, how does one put this in perspective? First, I’m not sure that any of us could possibly have the right perspective right now.

However, I think it would be hard to argue (and I know that I am Captain Obvious at this point) that what we are witnessing first hand is an all-out war against Christians. Is this a brand new phenomenon?

Not exactly. These words that I read this morning in Acts 28 confirm this. Here is the Apostle Paul under house arrest in Rome. A group of Jewish leaders gather around him. Paul starts to give his testimony. Here is their initial response: “They (the Jewish leaders) said, ‘Nobody wrote warning us about you. And no one has shown up saying anything bad about you. But we would like very much to hear more. The only thing we know about this Christian sect is that nobody seems to have anything good to say about it’” (Acts
28:21-22 MSG, parentheses mine).

“Nobody has anything good to say about it”—doesn’t that describe what is going on in our world today. There is toleration for any and every other kind of religion EXCEPT Christianity.

And yet, third, I can’t help but think that the heat is being turned up on the stove these days. I think things are worse, and right now, that is a subjective opinion, but it seems as if, no matter where one turns, he or she discovers overt actions against believers. ISIS beheaded those Coptic Christians in Egypt. Saeed Abedini and many others like him sit in prison precisely because of their faith.

The unbelieving world is on the attack, but the other side of this coin is how it is affecting the church. This whole situation with the International Mission Board is deeply disturbing. Recently, David Platt (head of the IMB) announced the necessity to layoff 600 missionaries around the world!

We know a dear family who serves in South America. They are from Colorado. They have shared about their work many times in our church over the past several years. The Board gave them the option of early retirement. They have to leave the work to which God called them. It is very sad. Their hearts are broken.

Why? Churches like the one I serve have witnessed a precipitous drop in giving. So, this situation compounds itself.

Anyway, another passage I read this morning gives us more insight. In Jeremiah 18, God told the prophet to go down to the potter’s house for a graphic lesson. Here it is: “Then the word of the LORD came to me saying, ‘Can I not, O house of Israel, deal with you as this potter does?’ declares the LORD. ‘Behold, like the clay in the potter's hand, so are you in My hand, O house of Israel’” (Jeremiah
18:5-6 NASB).

Will we allow the Lord to use the events of these difficult days to mold and shape us or will we harden ourselves, refusing to repent and believe, as Israel did?

The jury is still out.

Lord, these are very difficult days that are only becoming more difficult. I lift up Brother Saeed and the families of the victims in the Oregon shooting and the members of the church I serve—give us grace and strength to keep on keeping on, as Your skilled fingers press hard to mold us and make us vessels useful for serving You. Amen.
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