Archives For ISIS

My dear brothers and sisters, words cannot express my pain, grief and sorrow over what you have experienced in the ISIS bombing, an atrociously evil act of terrorism committed against Belgians on Belgian soil, with the ripple affect being against humanity, those created in the imago Dei.

I stand with you in this hour of tragedy and pain.

I grieve with you in the loss of lives and the accompanying fear created by such evil acts against humanity.

I pray with you for the strength to persevere, for the courage to speak truth in the midst of this chaos, for the hope you can give, both in words and deeds, in the gospel of Jesus Christ.

I proclaim with you “He is risen,” which gives meaning, purpose and hope, especially in these days of doubt, fear and despair.

During these days I focus on two key truths regarding the Lord Jesus Christ.

First, based on the work of Christ, we live in a redeemed-not-yet-glorified world. This means we will experience tribulation. But even in the midst of these trials and tribulations, we have Jesus’ promise that he has overcome the world and this gives us hope, strength and courage: “I have said these things to you, that in me you may have peace. In the world you will have tribulation. But take heart; I have overcome the world.” (Jn. 16:33).

Might this truth, grounded in and manifested through the resurrection, be an anchor for you.

Second, grounded in the person and work of Jesus, the Father “‘crowned him with glory and honor, putting everything in subjection under his feet.’ Now in putting everything in subjection to him, he left nothing outside his control. At present, we do not yet see everything in subjection to him. But we see him” (Heb. 2:7-9). Jesus is Lord. All things are subject to him, even though we do not yet see or experience this. However, we do see Jesus. He is the ground of our hope and assurance. The resurrection is the guarantee this is true. Even though we are not experiencing this subjection in the world at present, we see Jesus.

Might this truth bring rest and peace, and also hope and assurance, and might it enable you to engage in humble and bold worship these days as Christians celebrate the death, burial and resurrection of our Lord Jesus Christ.

He is risen! He is risen indeed!

In brotherly love,

Through Christ our Lord,

Greg Strand

Islam has always attempted to overcome and conquer through conquest by using means of death and destruction. For them, they are citizens of one kingdom, the kingdom of Islam that equates religion and politics.

Christians proclaim the kingdom of God through death – the death of the Lord Jesus Christ, death to self and the kingdoms of this world, and a willingness to die in the propagation of the gospel since this is the means by which the gospel proclaimed may well be manifested. We are citizens of two kingdoms, or cities as Augustine wrote, that of God and that of man. And for Christians our heavenly citizenship marks and guides all we do while living in this earthly, transient kingdom.

John writes of Christians that we overcome “by the blood of the lamb,” i.e. the death and resurrection of the Lord Jesus Christ, “by the word of their testimony,” i.e. by testifying that they believe in the Lord Jesus Christ, and “they loved not their lives even unto death,” i.e. they were willing to die for the sake of this truth (Rev. 12:11). The reason for this, John writes, is because they knew that even though they die, yet shall they live (Jn. 11:25-26).

Because of these truths, Jesus teaches us that we are to love our enemies (Matt. 5:43-48). Does this include the Muslim terrorists known as ISIS?

Please take four minutes to watch this powerful video created by Michael Chang: Who Would Dare to Love ISIS? (A Letter from the People of the Cross). Granted he has not lived this and has not been asked, at present, to give the ultimate testimony to his faith in Christ through death, which he acknowledges. But that does not change the truth of this message. As you watch this video as a believer, do so with these two questions: How do I process this? What is the appropriate, God-honoring response?

And if you have a few extra minutes, I encourage you to read the following in which Chang is interviewed about this video and his on-line video ministry, Mighty: An Invitation to ISIS: Love, Not Hate – An Interview with Michael Chang. I include only the first part of the interview:

KATHRYN JEAN LOPEZ: Most people’s first thought when they hear about an ISIS beheading is not to “love ISIS.” Why would you devote a video to the concept?

MICHAEL CHANG: Precisely for that reason. The only thing ISIS has heard are words of vengeance and hate. And they deserve it. Their actions demand heavy justice. But there’s another message out there. The message of the cross proclaimed by the people of the cross. This message of forgiveness and love in the midst of our darkest sins has always been the heart-cry of Christians. However, the world isn’t very fond of Christ and his people, so our voices get silenced or twisted.

LOPEZ: Can a man really be forgiven for beheading another?

CHANG: What’s worse? Beheading someone, or nailing the Son of God to a cross? And yet, Jesus, while He hung there, said, “Father, forgive them, for they do not what they do.” The forgiveness of sins is not determined by the degree of the sin but by the value and worth of Christ.

LOPEZ: Who are “the People of the Cross?”

CHANG: Christians. Christ-followers.

Although the martyrdom of 21 Coptic Christians occurred a couple of weeks ago, I continue to ponder what this means to these Christians immediately affected, and also to us, albeit more indirectly. We affirm with Paul, “There is one body and one Spirit – just as you were called to the one hope that belongs to your call – one Lord, one faith, one baptism, one God and Father of all, who is over all and through all and in all” (Eph. 4:4-6). Furthermore, we can affirm with the writer of Hebrews that “In your [our] struggle against sin you [we] have not yet resisted to the point of shedding your blood” (Heb. 12:4), but we also affirm that some have and some will.

Related to the death of these Coptic Christians is the perpetrators of this death. One ponders the rise and spread of ISIS and the implications of their brutal and gruesome and heartless atrocities committed against fellow human beings, those created in the image of God.

Ramez Atallah, general director of the Bible Society of Egypt and vice chair of the Lausanne Movement, responded to the martyrdom of these Christians with a biblical reference: The World Was Not Worthy of Them. The full context of this expression is important to read (emphasis mine): “They were put to death by stoning; they were sawed in two; they were killed by the sword. They went about in sheepskins and goatskins, destitute, persecuted and mistreated, the world was not worthy of them” (Heb. 11:37-38).

In the immediate wake of this news, Atallah arrived at the Bible Society office distraught and discouraged about what had occurred. He was a bit taken aback when a young coworker stated she was “very encouraged” by what happened. In her words,

I am encouraged, because now I know that what we’ve been taught in history books about Egyptian Christians being martyred for their faith isn’t just history but that there are Christians today who are brave enough to face death rather than deny their Lord! When I saw those young men praying as they were being prepared for execution, and then many of them shouting “O Lord Jesus” as their throats were being slit, I realized the gospel can still help us to hold onto the promises of God even when facing death.

If the earlier Hebrews texts applies to what they experienced from others, this text from Hebrews explains how they responded the way they did, and it provides a way to pray for them, and us.

But recall the former days when, after you were enlightened, you endured a hard struggle with sufferings, sometimes being publicly exposed to reproach and affliction, and sometimes being partners with those so treated. For you had compassion on those in prison, and you joyfully accepted the plundering of your property, since you knew that you yourselves had a better possession and an abiding one. Therefore do not throw away your confidence, which has a great reward. For you have need of endurance, so that when you have done the will of God you may receive what is promised. For, “Yet a little while, and the coming one will come and will not delay; but my righteous one shall live by faith, and if he shrinks back, my soul has no pleasure in him.” But we are not of those who shrink back and are destroyed, but of those who have faith and preserve their souls (Heb. 10:32-39).

Atallah lists these prayer requests:

  • Pray for comfort for the families of the victims.
  • Pray for effective mass distribution of a Scripture tract we’ve just produced, that God’s Word will comfort and challenge the many who will receive it.
  • As I write, there is news of more Egyptians being kidnapped in Libya. Lord, have mercy!
  • Please pray for Egypt as we pass through this painful period.

From a fellow Christian removed physically but engaged spiritually, Tom Schreiner provides a biblical and pastoral response from one here in the United States: “A Biblical Meditation on the ISIS Execution of 21 Christians

  • We Are Not Surprised (Jn. 15:18-20; 16:2; Lk. 14:26)
  • We Are More Than Conquerers (Rev. 2:10; Matt. 5:10-12; Acts 4:41; Isa. 43:2; 2 Cor. 9:8; Rom. 8:37; Rev. 12:11; 20:4)
  • We Grieve with Those Who Grieve (Phil. 1:21; Rom. 12:15; Phil. 2:27)
  • We Pray for Both Our Enemies and Our Suffering Brothers and Sisters
  • We Plead for God’s Just Judgment (Rev. 6:9-11; 22:20).

Finally, I include a powerful response/statement by Ramez Atallah, mentioned above, who seeks to live faithfully in the midst of this martyrdom of fellow Christians. He recognizes God is sovereign, and this terrible slaughter provides a unique providential opportunity, although divine but not one humanly chosen, for the spread of the gospel.

Shortly after the martyrdom of the 21 Christians, Atallah and his partners in the gospel at the Bible Society of Egypt wrote and printed a Scripture tract. This brief yet incredibly amazing story is captured in the article How Libya’s Martyrs Are Witnessing to Egypt The article begins,

Undaunted by the slaughter of 21 Christians in Libya, the director of the Bible Society of Egypt saw a golden gospel opportunity.

“We must have a Scripture tract ready to distribute to the nation as soon as possible,” Ramez Atallah told his staff the evening an ISIS-linked group released its gruesome propaganda video. Less than 36 hours later, Two Rows by the Sea was sent to the printer.

One week later, 1.65 million copies have been distributed in the Bible Society’s largest campaign ever.

The tract is entitled Two Rows By The Sea, the content I have included below. Click on the link to see and read the tract, which adds powerfully to the words.

I thank the Lord for the faithful witness of these dear brothers and sisters. Even if one is in chains, the gospel is not bound (2 Tim. 2:9), so may these tracts bear gospel fruit (Jn. 15)!

Two Rows By the Sea

Two rows of men walked the shore of the sea,
On a day when the world’s tears would run free,
One a row of assassins, who thought they did right,
The other of innocents, true sons of the light,
One holding knives in hands held high,
The other with hands empty, defenseless and tied,
One row of slits to conceal glaring-dead eyes,
The other with living eyes raised to the skies,
One row stood steady, pall-bearers of death,
The other knelt ready, welcoming heaven’s breath,
One row spewed wretched, contemptible threats,
The other spread God-given peace and rest.

A Question . . .
Who fears the other?

The row in orange, watching paradise open?
Or the row in black, with minds evil and broken?

Which Row Pleases God?
Matthew 10:28, 32, 33

Which Row Understands?
1 Peter 4:12-14; John 16:2-4

Which Row Sees?
Acts 7:54-60

Which Row Will Prevail?
Romans 8:35-39