From Aleppo to Arkansas, Little Boys are Precious

Perhaps you’ve seen the picture of Omran Daqneesh, the five-year-old little boy pulled from the rubble and placed into an ambulance, following an airstrike in Aleppo, Syria. I stared at the photo for a long time. And I watched the footage – just barely over a minute (before clicking, know that it’s graphic) – of the rescue worker placing him in that chair. Rather than crying in fear or from pain, he stared calmly at the cameras, likely disoriented and in shock.

Image via The Guardian

The photo reminded me of the face of my own three-year-old son, Drew. I swiped through photos from our recent vacation and stopped on this one, taken on a pontoon boat near Crab Island in Destin. That was a good day. Sam bounced on inflatables in waist-deep water while Drew munched on a snack under the canopy of the boat. Our biggest worry that day was that there were quite a few jellyfish in the water – the kind that sting like a wasp and not much more.

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I don’t ever want to grow cold. I don’t want to become so desensitized that I stop feeling the difference between the world I know and the world of those trying to survive the carnage of war. I want to remind myself that wherever little boys are, in Aleppo or in Arkansas, there is the image of God himself dwelling in precious little human form.

My Drew is precious. He can be obstinate. He can throw fits. He ignores our shouts to stop when running away from us down the aisle of a store. But he gives amazing hugs and kisses at night, laughs easily, and is bewildered to discover all the sights and sounds of the world around him as he grows up.

Omran is precious too. He’s grown up on the other side of the world in a predominantly Muslim, war-torn country. But Omran bears the image of his Creator as much as any other little boy in the world.

God made it clear that it would be better for us to have a giant stone tied to our necks and be cast into the sea than to harm one of these little ones and then face the judgment of the Almighty. Yet every day, all over the planet, terrorists victimize children.

They are killed, captured, and enslaved. They are used as human shields and brainwashed into carrying out violent jihad. Just a few hours away from my home in Northwest Arkansas, parents (or at least two people who biologically produced an offspring) were arrested for severely abusing and neglecting a little girl who literally thought her name was “Idiot” because she’d heard it far more than her actual name from this man and this woman.

The news is rife with stories of stings and busts where preteens are liberated from the horrors of sexual slavery. We’ve aborted millions of unborn, precious, human lives – each one bearing the image of the Creator.

What are we doing? These are precious kids. Every. Last. One. Of. Them. We’re responsible for leaving behind for them a world in better shape than we found it. And honestly, we’re blowing it.

I don’t have all the answers, and I feel as helpless as most of you who will read this about bringing down the global giants of war and violence, poverty and hunger, illiteracy and ignorance.

But I’m a firm believer that there is always hope for people, and that you and I can be at least a small part of the solution. How? Here are a few thoughts.

  • Tell everyone who will listen about King Jesus. Social change starts with spiritual change. Cultures are reborn as the individuals and leaders within them are reborn.
  • Value life. Remind yourself what it is to be human, to be made in God’s image. And then mentally label every person you meet or see: Human – Made In God’s Image.
  • Value kids. Protect the unborn. Fight for just laws against abortion. Help parents-to-be find alternatives. Foster. Adopt. Volunteer in kids’ ministry.
  • Follow the hard teachings of Jesus. While the Bible assigns the role of justice-keeping to government, Jesus challenged his followers to love their enemies.
  • Protect the environment. Soil erosion, rising sea levels, and a constantly warming climate are real issues with real humanitarian ramifications.
  • Speak peace to a world in chaos. Give encouragement and affirmation, love and value, even when politicians spew divisive rhetoric.
  • See the world. Go on a mission trip. Volunteer with a nonprofit or relief organization. Touch and be touched by the hurting and desperate.
  • Pray. Pray for a softened heart. Pray for deliverance for captives. Pray for workers in the harvest. Pray for mission fields to open.

There is more, I know. I’m scratching the surface. But for most of us, we simply need to move from feeling nothing to feeling the pain of others, from saying nothing to speaking peace to power, from doing nothing to doing whatever we can to help.

From Aleppo to Arkansas, all life is precious.

We Still Don’t Get It… Human Life is Precious

Just after the Supreme Court’s ruling striking down Texas’ laws restricting abortions, I posted a simple status update about all human life being precious…

“All human life is precious. ‘You alone created my inner being. You knitted me together inside my mother.’ Ps 139:13”

It got lots of likes and amen’s.

Since then…

Alton Sterling was shot and killed. His death is tragic. Also tragic is the response of so many white people who dismissed the fear and angst that black people live with. And before you dismiss my assertion, know that I’ve heard well-respected black leaders and pastors speak of the fear they have about their black children playing with toy guns – something I’ve never thought twice about with my white suburban boys.

Update: A few hours after I posted this, Philando Castille was killed by a police officer during a traffic stop. He was compliant, had no record, and had alerted the officer he was carrying (and licensed to do so). 

Update #2: I just removed the word “All” from the title of this post. I’m not a fan, whatsoever, of the “#AllLivesMatter” snarky comebacks to a people in such deep pain. For black people, who are trying to figure out how to show us that they matter as much as anyone else, it’s unkind and unnecessary. The fact is, #BlackLivesMatter. 

200+ people were killed in ISIS terrorist suicide bombers in Iraq. But we didn’t really notice because they aren’t westerners. They were mostly Muslims being killed by other Muslims.

25 people died in Yemen, again at the hands of terrorist suicide bombers. But… it’s Yemen, an Arabic country.

I’m pro-life, and that means way more than being anti-abortion. It means that every single human life represents a soul bearing the image of God, infinitely valuable to the Creator.

Born and unborn; babies and senior citizens; black, white, and brown; male and female; Christian, Muslim, Atheist, Sikh, and Hindu; criminals, addicts, the terminally ill, the developmentally challenged, gay, straight, married, single, divorced, tattooed, pierced, westerners, easterners, middle-easterners… ALL human life is precious.

We humans have a terribly significant sickness gone epidemic among us – we don’t value each other nearly enough!! We’re dismissive of the stories of those who are different than we are. And until we get this principle – that ALL human life is precious – we humans will continue to be the greatest contributors to the problem of human suffering.

Thankfully, ONE came who is different. One came and valued the woman at the well who had been married five times. One came and pardoned the woman taken in adultery. One came and dined with sinners and tax collectors. One came and devoted his life to the final drop of his blood to the very people whom he knew would turn on him and nail him to a cross.

“… You are bought with a price.” – 1 Corinthians 6:20

Life In the Faith Lane

From the first chapter of Live, Love, Lead by Brian C. Houston, which I’m currently reading and thoroughly enjoying…

As followers of Christ, we are called to follow in his footsteps, living a big life along a difficult path, journeying through the narrow gate toward a glorious future. God redeems us as his Spirit transforms us, making us more like Jesus each day. While rarely easy or predictable, this process brings more fulfillment to our lives than anything on earth…

Living in the faith lane isn’t a paint-by-numbers picture. It colors outside the lines and sees with different eyes than the world does—eternal eyes with eternal perspective. Your Heavenly Father didn’t create you to live a life of mediocrity. He created you to live life in the faith lane…

Living in the faith lane is about taking control of your future while still depending on Jesus for every step you take—even when that means walking on water…

So often we fail because we get stuck in our heads, tangled in our thoughts, mired in speculation and probability, grasping to make life work any way we can. We want to walk on water. But we insist on trying to do it under our own power…

If you want to live, love, and lead like Jesus, then there’s no other place to live but in the faith lane. To discover his plan for your life, you will need to step into the great unknown, risking everything you have. If you get out of the boat and follow the sound of his voice, you will take steps you never thought possible. You will begin a mystery tour, an excursion to his unspecified destinations. You will come alive with the possibility of relying on God to do what seems impossible. You will find yourself challenged, stretched, and tried and tested. You may even walk on water. This is life in the faith lane!

533442: Live Love Lead: Your Best is Yet to ComeLive Love Lead: Your Best is Yet to Come
By Brian Houston / FaithWords

In this straightforward book, founder and senior pastor of Hillsong Church, Brian Houston, shares his own life-tested experiences and the powerful biblical truths he’s learned that will enable you to live fully, love completely, and lead boldly–the hallmarks of Jesus’ time on earth. When it comes to life with Jesus, there is no doubt–your best is yet to come! Hardcover.

The Christian Life In a Nutshell: Past, Present, Future

Ever heard the phrase “the Christian life”? Everyone lives physically, but those choose to follow Jesus come alive spiritually. And we live for him and his purposes, answering to him as Savior, friend, and King.

If you want a synopsis of what the Christian life looks like, Paul lays it out as he writes to the ancient church in Thessalonica

And now the word of the Lord is ringing out from you to people everywhere, even beyond Macedonia and Achaia, for wherever we go we find people telling us about your faith in God. We don’t need to tell them about it, for they keep talking about the wonderful welcome you gave us and how you turned away from idols to serve the living and true God. And they speak of how you are looking forward to the coming of God’s Son from heaven—Jesus, whom God raised from the dead. He is the one who has rescued us from the terrors of the coming judgment.

– 1 Thessalonians 1:8-10 NLT

To be a Christian means that you’ve turned in repentance and faith, from idolatry to Jesus. From all of the Jesus-substitutes that can never heal us, forgive us, or satisfy us – and that can only doom us. From self-worship, self-interest, and self-reliance to dependence upon the One who can alone forgive our sin, heal our souls, and change our eternal trajectory.

To be a Christian means that you serve the living and true God. You’re bound by immense gratitude to Him because of the awesome work of grace He has done in your life. What or whom else is there to live for, really? You’re His, bought with a price, and He is yours, pledged to you and guaranteed by the downpayment of the Holy Spirit in your life.

To be a Christians means you wait for His Son from heaven. Death is momentary and God’s wrath toward you has been extinguished by the very blood of Christ. So now you wait, not passively as though life is a bus stop, but actively living for his coming. You may feel that you’ve waited so long that he will never arrive, but his timing is not yours. He is indeed coming. He has an appointment he is absolutely bound to keep. So hope never dies. Your waiting will not be in vain. He’s on his way.

That’s the Christian life… you’ve turned from idols… you serve the living God… you wait for Jesus’ return. Everything else you experience and struggle with fits under one of these headings. There are still some things to leave behind in that pile of old idols. There is more adventure awaiting you as your life serves his purposes. And there is more to look forward to in eternity than you could ever imagine!

Life: It’s STILL Not About You

Over a decade ago, Pastor Rick Warren wrote The Purpose Driven Life, which went viral and global. I still give it away all the time as a basic primer on life as God intended it to be lived. And this best-selling book starts with a single line that polarizes and leaves no room for negotiation on a single point…

It’s not about you.

I’ve grown the deepest in seasons when God uses circumstances to remind me of this simple fact. Life isn’t about my happiness, health, or wealth. It’s about God’s good pleasure and glory.

Romans 11:33 says, “Everything comes from him; Everything happens through him; Everything ends up in him. Always glory! Always praise! Yes. Yes. Yes.” (MSG).

You can believe this or not. You’re free to disagree. But this much is true: Life doesn’t make sense until you realize it’s all for God.

God, in his goodness, is good to us. Why? Because it brings him both pleasure and glory. And when we, as feeble creatures, feast our hearts upon his goodness and grace, he is glorified and exalted in the earth.

Life is not about being happy, but when we relate rightly to our Creator, happiness often results. And when I find my joy in my relationship with Him, everything else starts to make sense.

If it were about me, I’d expect God to fix all of my circumstances. But it’s about him, and he’s more interested in growing my character.

If it were about me, it would be unfair to have to wait for gratification. But it’s about him, so his timing is what matters, and he is set on developing patience in me.

If it were about me, I would need to worry about making sure everyone around me likes me. But it’s about him, so his approval is all that matters.

If it were about me, I’d go nuts trying to do all the things I think are important. But it’s about him, so his simple agenda – his perfect will, is all I’m responsible for. And his yoke is easy, and his burden is light.

At the end of the day, the most important thing you can realize about life is that it isn’t about you. It’s about the One who made you to love you, to make you his, and to make you holy.

From Auschwitz to the Pasadena Planned Parenthood Affiliate: Our Culture of Death Continues

Crematorium at Auschwitz

Last night, I caught a few minutes of a History Channel show about Auschwitz, where 1.1 million Jews were essentially murdered systematically by the Nazi regime in occupied Poland. The picture in this article is of the ovens, which remain as you see them as a memorial to those who died. Shelly Palmer wrote a detailed piece on Huffington Post about the technology of the holocaust as highlighted at Birkenau. The holocaust was an atrocity that should never be repeated on this planet.

One of the more unpopular things to do, today, is to compare abortion to the holocaust. But I can’t help thinking of the similarities, especially in terms of the technologies used to exterminate a defenseless portion of humanity. In Auschwitz, it was ovens and gas chambers. In abortion-providing clinics across America, it is the ultrasound-guided precision murder and subsequent removal of babies from their mothers’ wombs.

UPDATE: Let me address the issue of comparing abortion to the holocaust, which really seems to raise the ire of those on the pro-choice side and evoke plenty of “how dare you” responses. The world today has erected a multitude of museums and monuments to the holocaust. We’ve done the same to mark the genocide of Native Americans, slavery, and plenty of other atrocities. Why? So that we can learn. So that we will look back and draw, not complete comparisons, but lessons about how we ought to protect the sanctity of all human life, at all cost. My personal hope is that someday, this modern holocaust will be behind us and we’ll erect a monument to memorialize the millions of lives lost. In other words, no apologies here for making this partial comparison. We ought to have learned from this horrid tendency to victimize the most defenseless for our own gain.

We are still cold. We are still calloused. And we’ll still eliminate sixty million people from our population, before they ever see the light of day, to keep life the way we’d prefer it to be for ourselves.

Continue reading From Auschwitz to the Pasadena Planned Parenthood Affiliate: Our Culture of Death Continues

Invincibility: Life or Death… I’m Good

Paul went from persecuting the church to being a persecuted apostle of the church. After his arrest in Jerusalem, during his first imprisonment, he wrote a letter to the Philippians in which he boldly declared this short but profound line…

For to me to live is Christ, and to die is gain. (1:21)

In other words… “If I live, I get to be all about Christ. If I die, I get to be with Christ, so either way, I’m good.” Here’s the thought that hit me – Paul was pretty much invincible at this point. Kill him and he’s with Jesus. Let him live and he’ll just live for Jesus. You can’t really hurt Paul.

I can think of plenty of things that could hurt me. Take away all my money, my time, or worse yet, take away my family and I’d be hurting. But I’d only hurt temporarily, or physically, or emotionally. Eternally? I’m good. We’re good. I won’t take money home with me and my family will meet me there.

Let me ask you an extremely important question… if someone took your life, would they be hurting you? If they let you live, would that cause pain for you too? Or are you firmly grounded and settled in an eternally secure relationship with Jesus?

As far as eternity is concerned, I’m invincible. Seems like I’ve always wanted that special power!