Monday, December 15, 2014

Still Desperately Needed: More Help for the Iraqi People

So much has been happening over these past few months involving loss of life. A senseless shooting near my area that was done by the powerful against the powerless. An apparent suicide by a beloved celebrity who seemed to have everything to live for. More recently, over 20 women have been coming forward to declare that a well-known, respected and beloved celebrity had sexually abused them. Recently, other shootings have happened in the US and out of the US, which have made headlines. But one situation is more urgent, more desperate, more disturbing and more heartbreaking. Why? The murders are being committed on a mass scale. The victims are our brothers and sisters in Christ (for the most part). The survivors are suffering endlessly. Today, months after the victims of ISIS (Islamic State Iraq Syria) in Iraq were being shown on the news, I saw something in my Newsfeed, to the effect that these people still desperately need our help. Just because they are no longer making the headlines does not mean their dire needs have gone away.

If you have been following the news at all, you have heard about the dire situation in Iraq. You may have seen the heartbreaking and graphic images of suffering, terror and bloodshed. You may, like me, wrestle with feelings of helplessness and perplexity. You may admire the heroic efforts of those who are right there, on the ground, helping these endlessly suffering individuals. You, like me, are probably in no position to go and help our suffering brothers and sisters in Jesus. If you have been hearing about the beheading of children, the raping and murders of women, and the hangings of men, you are no doubt sickened, disgusted and heartbroken. Yet what can we ordinary people do to begin to be a solution?

1). Pray, pray, pray, if you are a Christian who believes in the power of prayer. We can all pray, as Christians. We need to pray that God will use these horrors to open the hearts of radical and moderate Muslims and grant many "Saul to Paul" conversions to many Muslims in and out of Iraq. We need to pray that survivors of these horrors will be given safety, shelter, care, and peace. Let's pray for God's mercy and comfort the Christians remaining in Iraq, many elderly or disabled and forced to convert to Islam. WE need to call on God to deliver Iraq. God uses our prayers to work His wonders!

2). Advocacy. All of us can help in this way. Get the word out and tell others! It is clear that use of social media for advocacy can make a powerful difference, and the more we post about this, the more people will be reminded that this is not going away and remains urgent! You can start with sharing this post. If you use Facebook, join my group right here. If you do not use social networks or the Internet much, you can still use the good old word of mouth method.

3). Give. If you feel it in your heart to do this, there are two nonprofits that exist to serve our persecuted brothers and sisters in Jesus all over the world. Both have accessible giving tabs if you elect to give online. They have physical addresses for those who prefer to send checks or money orders. These nonprofits are Voice of the Martyrs and Open Doors. They do not help only Christians but all the minority religions that are ISIS victims in this current crisis.

The time clock keeps ticking for these believers and for other religious minorities, even as they will need help over the long haul. We can all be part of the solution.

Monday, December 8, 2014

Ferguson, God & Country


That word brings up images race riots. It brings up images of a war zone. It brings up images of a law enforcement officer (LEO) shooting a teenager. This word brings up images of devastated, grieving parents. It brings up images of a justice system that has failed again. It brings up images of burning buildings. This word brings up a city that is imploding. It brings up images of a city in need of healing.

Is this hostility between two or more races true only of Ferguson?

Over a year ago, a hot-tempered civilian, named George Zimmerman, who had been in a foul mood, was driving in his van. It was dark outside and it was raining. He spotted a figure of a boy walking. Disgusted at this intruder, he called 911, and muttered under his breath about this person. Though the Dispatcher dissuaded Zimmerman from following the intruder, Zimmerman rejected her advice. You should remember the rest of the sad facts and the sad conclusion.

Like officer Darren Wilson in Ferguson, George Zimmerman had not been initially charged or arrested, either. It took vigorous protest movements and a petition of over one million signatures demanding an arrest, to charge Zimmerman.

That was in Florida. The outcome of that trial, acquittal, was seen as a travesty of justice by many. Vigorous protests and multiple petitions calling for the Department of Justice (DOJ) to investigate Zimmerman's shooting of Trayvon Martin, ensued. Even before that, all over the country, such racially charged cases have been happening ever since we have been the US.

I know that those who see racially charged cases from one perspective, will usually bring up the fact that most crimes against Blacks are by other Blacks. No one is arguing this. What this perspective misses is that, in those cases, the justice system usually works. This perspective may also miss is the fact that most crimes by whites are by other whites. And in those cases, the justice system usually works. And in crimes against whites by Blacks, the justice system works.

It is just when whites commit crimes against Blacks that we get divided, angry, hateful, and those cases stir up racial tensions. It seems then that the justice system fails most. And that has happened all over the country.

I dare say that the shooting of Michael Brown will not be the last racially-charged shooting, not unless hearts are changed. When will that be?

Even as I write this, talks in the media are focusing on how to tweak laws to improve police training, so that tragedies like the Michael Brown shooting will never happen again. That is good and needs to happen. But both LEO's and civilians continue to carry prejudices or at least implicit biases. We all hold implicit biases. I have them. You have them. We all have them. LEO's have to make split-second decisions and, sadly, we see that they too often make them based on implicit biases.

There is a case in New York, centered on a shooting victim named Eric Garner, also Black. The shooting is known as "the chokehold death." Garner was shot by a LEO, while other LEO's watched. As I had watched this video, it looked like LEO brutality. That is my understanding. It was caught on video. This time, also, the Grand Jury has refused to indict the LEO in this case. This is the Michael Brown case all over again! But this time, the case did not polarize us like the Michael brown case, because it was all caught on video. Protests have become not only national but international, reaching into Nigeria. Though the widespread protests all over New York have been largely peaceful, like Ferguson protests, those protests have turned violent in the past few days. Ferguson is simply a mirror for what is wrong with us. Cops have not had to face any charges in the shooting death of a man with Down's Syndrome (who happened to be white). Years ago, cops were acquitted in the shooting death of a man, Caucasian, and whose father was a well-respected position in his community. But most these cases seem to happen between Caucasian cops and Black males.

This fact about implicit biases that all of us, even the best-hearted, have, shows that our hearts need to be changed. All the hate, divisions and racial unrest are nation-wide and are also world-wide. We know that similar hostility exists between Jews and Arabs in the Middle East and between races all over the world.

Our problem? Sin. It causes racism.

We need to call on God and on His Son Jesus as Savior and Lord. We will only be at peace with each other when we turn to the Prince of Peace.

Saturday, December 6, 2014

You Can Save A Baby's Life Today!

This holiday, most of us here in the West will be spending lots of money on clothes, electronics, toys, and other goods for our families and friends. Many of us are already doing this. You have no doubt heard the outcry about the consumerism that is rampant specially during this time of the year. I'm not going to get into a tirade against that here.

In the population-dense country of India, which you probable already rightfully and mentally associate with extreme poverty, countless children will not only have no presents to open up on Christmas Day. Many children in India will not even live to see their first birthdays. According to Compassion International, one in three infant deaths happens in India.

That is tragic. Behind every dying or dead baby are parents with broken hearts. But this can be prevented. We can be the solution! We can give a gift that keeps on giving every day of the year, 365 days a year.

Please go here, to learn about a new Child Survival program in Gujaret, India, or to sponsor a child in India.

These images are courtesy of Compassion International.

Friday, December 5, 2014

The Next World War by Grant R.Jeffrey

This book is one on the "last days," written by an author who believes that we are living in the days before Jesus' Second Coming. In the earlier part of this book, he focuses on radical Islam and informs us about the roots of this hate between Arabs and Jews, based on the Scripture and also from history. Jeffrey also tells us about Islam itself and quotes from the Koran. He then discusses the events surrounding September 11 and gives his evidence about his strong conviction that Saddam Hussein was behind this September 11 attack on the US. He details why he holds the conviction that Saddam Hussein had Weapons of Mass Destruction (WMD. The book, obviously in support of Israel and against Palestinian statehood, asserts that we can tell that "the last days" are upon us because of rampant anti-Semitism. This book, well-researched, has four appendices, one devoted to the author's assertion that Saddam Hussein had WMD. Jeffrey provides notes and a bibliography.

This book was what I expected, a book about end times prophecy. As a person who has never been particularly passionate about end times prophecy, I found the book only mildly interesting. But many of the facts presented were a good source of information. As a non-Muslim, I was helped by basic facts about Islam and its history. As this book was written during the Bush Presidency and five years after the September 11 terrorist attack, I read it in historical context. I fear that this author, in his strongly pro-Israel and anti-Palestinian state stance, may be adding to the already harsh plight of Christians in the Middle East. Plus, he may be inadvertently opening the door to "Islamophobia." I did not know what to think about his assertion that we "have solid evidence" that Saddam Hussein had WMD. That's because he provided documentation to back up his asstertion. If he did and the second war in Iraq was justified, by has the situation in both Iraq and Syria gotten so horrific that it has produced ISIS (Islamic State Iraq Syria)? Why is it that ISIS terrorists have been brutally murdering men, women and children? Why is it that the plight of Christians and other religious minorities is even worse in Iraq than it was when Saddam Hussein was in power, according to human rights advocates? I'm glad that the Gospel is clearly presented at the end of the book, unlike in many Christian books.

I recommend this book for anyone who is interested in the end times. Pastors may want to read it to gain a better idea of some perspectives on end times, despite its bias. I especially recommend this book for non-Christians who are interested in Islam, Middle East concerns and current events. They will be presented with the clear Gospel of Christ and be challenged to call on Him as Savior and Lord. This book is meant for niche readership, not for general readers. I doubt that the book would interest many demographics unless Middle East concerns and end times prophecy is of interest to them. But I recommend that this book be read with this author's own bias and its timing of authorship, in mind.

I received a complimentary copy of this book through Blogging for Books in exchange for my honest review.

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Friday, November 28, 2014

Lean On Me by Anne Marie Miller

This book is a personal experience book about the pursuit of finding what is called community. This author describes her personal experiences in her successful pursuit of what she calls committed, vulnerable community. She uses these words frequently throughout this book. She opens up about her past, her emotions about it, and how her committed, vulnerable community (her circle of friends), have facilitated her healing process. This is not another "how to build community" book. The author occasionally presents advice and principles throughout this book, all based on her own experiences with both. The end of this book presents a short chapter on advice concerning how to experience this community for oneself, a chapter of resources where this author got researched information, and a reader's guide to facilitate personal reflections and applying the principles of this book to one's own situation.

This book was not quite what I expected. I was anticipating more of a "how to" guide on how to build community in the context of the local church environment, directed to the church leadership who have decision-making power on making that happen. While this is a Christian book and the author writes about her own faith journey in the context of seeking and finding community, she clearly does not address her book to local churches about how to "do community" but to individuals. As her life situation was much unlike mine with much more personal freedom to pursue a broad circle of friends, I did not feel that I could relate to her. I was glad for her that she found a circle of friends so like-minded and caring, that she "submitted" to them and answered to them on her life. As she gave many examples of how she "let her hair down" and bared her soul to them about her needs, I wondered to myself, "How can you find anyone, in this super-busy, fast-paced age, to give you the time of day? How blessed you are!" For, during the time I was reading this book, I was trying to get a hold of a person in my own local congregation about an important matter. I did not get any response. So I was thinking, "Committed, vulnerable community, a lovely but unrealistic idea in our hyper-busy, fast-paced age!" as I read. This book, though it is easy to read, provides no easy answers but I did not expect them. I was a bit put off by the author's belief that that selfishness is why we do not pursue committed, vulnerable community, while I know it is true. We make time for what matter to us.

I recommend this book, but not for all people. Married people may or may not find it interesting and helpful. I think that this book would bore teens and they are not its target readership, anyway. I highly recommend this book for single people, never-married, divorced, or widowed, as much of this book is written about this writer's years after her divorce. I even recommend it for non-Christians, for there is much here that addresses the felt emotional needs of people and how God can satisfy them through a community of His people. I do not think this book will add much to a busy Pastor's library as it is not directed specifically to Pastors.

I received this book free of charge by Booklook Bloggers. in exchange for my honest review. I was not required to give a positive review.

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