by Will Maule
Many are reporting a powerful move of God’s spirit across the heavily Islamic country of Indonesia. One Baptist pastor is describing the incredible happenings going on in his nation, as well as the persecution facing these new converts. “When one part of the body suffers, every part suffers with it,” Muslim convert, pastor Kongkin told The Christian Post.
“The call of Salvation by Christ,” he described as the main reason for his decision to convert. “The message of forgiveness, which extends to sinners. I realized I was without hope” while part of the Islamic faith, he explained.
“I heard the Gospel from my friend and I saw his family’s testimony, [his] walk as a Christian,” and the “peace and joy” that came with it, and thought “that’s what I want.”
“I started searching for the Lord, and accepted Jesus Christ as my Savior,” he said.
Now, Kongkin says that many young Muslims are doing the same.
“The numbers are getting bigger and bigger in many parts of Indonesia. There is steady growth,” he said, while noting that there is concern among some parts of the Islamic community over the rise of Christianity.
“Yes, the number is growing. I think a lot of Muslims are realizing that Islam is false; they see the bombings and terrorist attacks done in the name of Islam, and they wonder ‘Is this it? Is this what I want?'” he stated.
“They realize there has to be a better way, and then they find Christ.”
I stood behind a podium in the funeral home staring at a crowd of a couple hundred people. With sweat beading on my forehead, a lump in my throat, and a knot in my stomach, I repeated the only thing I believed could help in this dreadful moment—hope from the Scriptures. Between the crowd and me was a casket that was exactly three feet in length with a child that was way too young inside of it. The funeral of a short-lived life are never easy to officiate.
No matter the age, death is an inescapable reality for all of us. Ironically, many of us fear the death of family and friends more than we fear our own death. It’s this kind of death that produces extreme pain that stirs our emotions to grasp at any hope we can muster to cause our hearts a brief moment of rest from the affects of brokenness over unbearable loss. In the midst of this grasping and searching for the right words to help others, or to even to soothe our own souls, we tend to believe and say things that are not necessarily biblically true.
Too many times to count, in seasons such as these I’ve heard people say and/or post on social media, “God gained another angel today.” This brings on a cause for cringe, but I also strongly believe that it’s not helpful to dive into theological debates while someone is in the midst of extreme hurt. Often, the best thing we can do in these times of loss is to hurt with them, hold them, and just listen. However, in moments when cooler heads and hearts can prevail, we will be significantly more encouraged and empowered by biblical truth than we will ever be by pithy statements. Especially, ones that aren’t even true.
Here is the plain and simple truth. Humans are humans, and angels are angels. This remains so even in eternity. In fact, angels are intrigued by the interaction between God and His “image-bearing” humans: “It was revealed to them that they were serving not themselves but you, in the things that have now been announced to you through those who preached the good news to you by the Holy Spirit sent from heaven, things into which angels long to look (1 Peter 1:12).”
It’s actually better for you to be human than it is for you to be an angel. Most Bible scholars believe that the Scriptural accounts of Ezekiel 28:12 – 18, Isaiah 14:12 – 14, and Revelation 12:4 describe the fall of Lucifer (a former angel) and one-third of the angels (now considered demons) that joined his revolt against holy God. What’s sobering about the accounts of these fallen angels is that their judgments were final, with no hope of redemption, forgiveness, or grace. I believe this what the 1 Peter passage is discussing, when he says, “things which angels long to look.” They are astonished by God’s unconditional love for you!
Heavily armed Islamists in Egypt ambushed a youth pilgrimage to a monastery this morning, shooting dozens of bus passengers to death and leaving more to succumb to their wounds on a desert road.
Up to 28 people have been reported dead in the attack in Minya Province, with another 23 injured, though casualty numbers are still being confirmed.
Most of those killed or wounded were originally reported to be children, but those reports have not been confirmed. At this writing only two children, Marvy Hany Mourice, 4, and Mourisca Mina Samouel, 2, both of Al-Omranyia, Giza have been confirmed slain.
Those killed were all Christians, according to survivors. The median age of the victims was 25, according to a local human rights activist.
The ambush started on three vehicles in the pilgrimage – a van, a work truck and a bus for children and youths – at 10:30 a.m. Friday (May 26) on the desert road between Minya and St. Samuel Coptic Orthodox Monastery, just west of the town of Al-Idwa.
Local journalist and human rights activist Ezz Tawfik said 10 armed men dressed in camouflage and riding in three SUVs approached the bus and asked passengers their religion. When they said, “Christian,” the Islamic terrorists forced them out of the bus and opened fire.
Some of the militants attacked the van and truck, and some passengers jumped from their vehicles, only to be gunned down as they tried to sprint away. The dead and dying lay in the desert sand amid Islamic leaflets left by the assailants extoling the virtues of fasting during Ramadan and forgiveness granted to those who abstain from eating during the Islamic ritual.
Ramadan starts on Saturday night (May 27). It is often seen as the worst time for persecution of Christians who live in the Middle East.
No one has claimed responsibility for the attack, but it is widely thought to be the work of the Islamic State (IS) or an allied group. On May 5 in the IS publication “Al Naba,” the terrorist group warned of more attacks in Egypt and urged faithful Muslims to stay away from places where Christians congregate.
Egyptian forces have struck “terrorist training camps” in retaliation for the attack on Coptic Christians, President Abdul Fattah al-Sisi said today. State media reported six strikes hit the town of Derna in neighboring Libya.
On April 9, bombings at two Coptic churches, one in Tanta and another in Alexandria, claimed 49 lives, the overwhelming majority Christians. On Dec. 11, 2016, 29 people were killed when a suicide bomber attacked the Botroseya Chapel in Cairo. The chapel is next to the St. Mark’s Coptic Orthodox Cathedral, which is held by many as the spiritual center of the Coptic Orthodox Church. IS claimed responsibility for the two bombings.
The head of the Coptic Church, Pope Tawadros II, was at the service in Alexandria and had finished addressing the congregation before the blast.
The bombings followed a series of assaults on Christians in Egypt, who make up about 10 percent of the population. A series of murders of Coptic Christians followed, with IS issuing threats on a Feb. 19 video promising to rid the country of “idolaters.” Seven Copts were killed in one month.
On Feb. 23 militants reportedly stormed into the Al-Arish home of Kamel Youssef, then shot and killed him in front of his family. Two days earlier, the body of Saied Hakim, 65, was found Feb. 21 late at night in Al-Arish behind a state-run language school, where he was ambushed by masked gunmen. Hakim was shot in the head several times.
Medhat Saied, 45, Hakim’s son, was abducted and burned alive, his body found in the same place as his father’s, according to local media reports. No one has claimed responsibility for the three killings, but the consensus is that “Wilayat Sinai,” the Sinai Province branch of the Islamic State previously known as Ansar Bait al-Maqdis, killed the men in a quest to terrorize Christians and push them out of the region.
The Feb. 19 video features a recording of the suicide statement of jihadi Abu-Abdullah al-Masri, also known as Mahmoud Shafiq, 22, suspected in the December bombing of the Al Boutrosya Church. The IS speaker said the attack was “only the first.”
“There will be more operations in the near future, if God wills it, as you are our first target and our preferred target in our war,” he said. “You followers of the Cross, you traitors of all ties – know that warriors of the Islamic State are watching you, and our blessed invasion won’t be our last on you. Because what’s coming is worse and hotter than boiling oil, so wait and see, we will be victorious.”
Since Egypt’s 2013 coup, the military-run government has been involved in counter-insurgency operations in the Sinai against members of both the Muslim Brotherhood and Salafi groups now fighting under the banner of the Islamic State. Military outposts in the Sinai have been the sites of repeated attacks by terrorist groups.
The Egyptian army has had little success making strategic counter attacks or effectively protecting members of the Coptic minority constantly under assault.
On Jan. 30, Wa’el Youssef, 35, was shot down at his small grocery store in downtown Al-Arish. The assailants reportedly shot Youssef in broad daylight in front of his wife and one of their two sons. On Feb. 12, masked militants ambushed another Copt, Bahgat Zakher, 40, as he was driving his car through the southern outskirts of Al-Arish. A group of armed jihadis stopped Zakher then shot him in the head, neck and stomach, killing him instantly, according to local media reports.
Another Copt to meet his death at the hands of suspected jihadists in Al-Arish was Adel Shawqy, 57, a day laborer, who was shot in the head on Feb. 13.
On Feb. 16, masked men shot Gamal Girgis, 45, a Coptic schoolteacher and shoe shop owner. They ambushed Girgis while he was tending his shop. He was shot in the head and chest and died instantly, according to local media reports. The attack happened no more than 200 meters (220 yards) from a heavily defended army post.
If you would like to help persecuted Christians, visit http://morningstarnews.org/resources/aid-agencies/ for a list of organizations that can orient you on how to get involved.
We officially live in a selfie culture. In 2013, the Oxford Dictionary named “selfie” its word of the year. Let that marinate for a minute. There’s more. A recent study showed half of American adults have snapped a selfie. Selfies have replaced dogs as “man’s best friend.”
Let’s not pretend selfies are a new phenomenon. Photographers have snapped selfies in the form of portraits for years. Today, however, selfies are more readily accessible. Rather than calling a photographer or asking mom to get out the camera, selfies can come out and play anytime. Morning. Night. Lunch. Japan. America. Antartica. And the feedback is instantaneous.
But here’s the kicker. Social media. Instagram, Facebook, and SnapChat give selfies enormous popularity. From jocks to nerds, from CEOs to construction workers, selfies are loved by almost everyone.
While social media affords us opportunities never imagined before, these opportunities often come with a price. Slowly and subtlety, we can become selfie-centered. And a selfie-centered Christian portrays a false picture of God.
Here are 8 signs you are a selfie-centered Christan.
1.) You are easily offended.
When someone offends you, it should function as a red flag. I believe we get offended, generally speaking, for one of two reasons: discontent or pride. A selfie culture breeds defensive postures. Life is about us. When someone attacks our self-worth, we get defensive.
If this is true, Christians should take notice. Having worked as an engineer and a church leader, I can confidently (and sadly) say Christians are the most defensive group of people around. It’s strange, really. If you follow Jesus, you should be a fish swimming upstream, a counter-cultural model our world needs desperately. Instead, Christians are more sensitive to others’ remarks than most non-Christians. Why is this?
Jesus was never offended. You won’t find Jesus saying, “I can’t believe that Pharisee called me a heretic. Can you believe that John? He’s ugly and stupid.” Jesus was never offended because he was humble. Humility is the antidote to defensiveness.
Humility doesn’t allow you to elevate yourself too high. Humility forces you to consider other people before yourself. If you’re a Christian, it’s time to stop getting offended. Get off the high horse. Start thinking about others.
2.) You have a “never enough” mindset.
Brene Brown, in Daring Greatly, says scarcity breeds a “never enough” mindset. Scarcity says you lack something. You aren’t pretty enough. You aren’t successful enough. You aren’t smart enough. And so on.
Selfie-centered Christians focus on what they lack and what others have. They believe almost everything, from success to money, is finite. There’s only so much to go around. The spotlight only shines so bright.
What’s the result? Selfie-centered Christians are tight-fisted with everything, from their praise to their pocketbooks. They are plagued by discontent, shame, and disengagement.
Here’s the most toxic part, though. Selfie-centered Christians believe the answer to their “never enough” problem is abundance. “If I lose weight, I will be enough. If I buy a new car, I will be happy. If I become CEO, I will be content.”
The opposite of “never enough” isn’t abundance, it’s contentment. Selfie-centered Christians have a better chance of catching a Cheetah at full speed than catching contentment.
To combat our scarcity-driven culture, we must fix our eyes on God. Our Father is a giver. He never lacks. And, when we find our value and worth in God, he fills every void, every insecurity, and hand-delivers the contentment we consider so allusive.
3.) Your mood shifts, positively or negatively, based on the opinions of others.
Selfie-centered Christians allow the opinions of others to determine their self-worth. Their mood shifts, positively or negatively, as they scan Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram. If the likes trend upward on their latest post, selfie-centered Christians feel better about themselves. If, however, their latest pic, the one they spent 30 minutes filtering, doesn’t receive any “love,” feelings of shame and unworthiness creep in.
When I started blogging, I wasn’t prepared for the attacks. I just loved to write. I wanted to share my experiences. But it wasn’t long before negativity knocked on my door. And, it’s strange, negativity seems to travel in packs.
Eventually, negativity busted through the door and into my heart. I doubted my gifts. I resented people, including those closest to me. I wasn’t able to differentiate between destructive cynicism and constructive criticism because my worth was tied to others.
Through all of it, God re-assembled the door to my heart. I want to challenge you to find your worth in God. Here’s what I believe that means. The standard for beauty isn’t a model photoshopped on a magazine. God created you beautiful. Stop competing against other people. It’s a lose/lose race. Your only competitor is you. You’re the greatest threat to your greatness. Don’t run from pain. It’s too easy. The path to joy is often messy and painful. Difficult conversations. Owning bad decisions. But, when you run from the hard stuff, you also run from the good stuff.
These were my lessons. Maybe they will help you.
4.) You think God needs you to hold it together, regardless of the mess in your life.
Selfie-Christians buy the perfectionism lie. Hold it together at all costs. Don’t let anyone see your flaws. Cover your imperfections. Sweep them under the rug. You must hold it together.
For men and women, perfectionism plays itself out differently. For women, perfectionism says you must accomplish everything effortlessly. You must stand strong with the weight of the world on your shoulders. You can’t have weaknesses. The best mom, co-worker, sister, spouse, and friend. No exceptions.
For men, perfectionism says you must have all the answers. You can’t show pain or weakness, either emotionally or physically. You must excel at the office and at home. Your children can’t fail. Your marriage must be awesome. No mess ups.
As a leader in the church, father, husband, and friend, these pressures are real. They press hard on my heart and mind every day. God needs me to hold it together. No failures allowed. Vulnerability is weakness.
What a tragic and toxic lie selfie-Christians believe. God doesn’t need us to hold it together. In fact, the very opposite is true. Our imperfections shine the light on God’s perfection. The apostle Paul goes a step further and says our weakness make us strong (2 Cor. 12:8-10).
Perfectionism does not honor God because perfectionism is about us. Ultimately, our efforts to “hold it together” come from our desire to be accepted. We must be perfect to be valuable. So, we bury feelings of pain, failure, and inadequacy.
God’s power, his infinite, immeasurable power, waits for those who dare to show weakness.
5.) You have few meaningful relationships.
According to a recent study, the average American has 338 Facebook friends. But here’s the dark side of our current culture. The average American has only two close friends, and 25% of Americans have zero close friends. That’s right, none.
My heart hurts as I read the stats above. In my darkest seasons, good friends prevented me from giving up. When faced with difficult decisions, I leaned on good friends for wisdom and direction. The impact of good friends on my life is indescribable.
Selfie-centered Christians aren’t willing to pay the price for meaningful relationships. They want a quick fix, and intimacy requires time. They want everyone to focus on them, and intimacy requires give-and-take. They refuse to show weakness, and intimacy requires vulnerability.
But, make no mistake, a meaningful, joy-filled life isn’t possible without deep, intimate friendships. God wires us for connection. He designs us for intimacy. In the absence of meaningful relationships, you find shame-filled, fear-driven, absent-minded people void of passion, creativity, and joy.
The price for intimacy is high, but we can’t afford not to pay it.
6.) You are your own worst cynic.
“Frank, you are your own worst critic.” If I heard that statement once, I heard it a thousand times. As a teenager, it was the most frequent statement from my mom other than, “Frank, get out of bed. You’re going to be late.”
Looking back, “critic” was the wrong word. I was actually my own worst cynic. Make no mistake. Healthy criticism, either from others or through self-evaluation, is important for growth. Without it, we lack self-awareness. What plagues our culture today is not healthy criticism. It’s destructive cynicism.
Cynicism is an inside-out job. Cynics spend years shooting themselves before aiming verbal bullets at others. Most cynics hurt others only after they have left their heart for dead.
Cynicism doesn’t allow for discussion or debate. Cynicism is threatened by risk-takers and noncomformers. The only way to appease a cynic is to agree with their point of view.
Followers of Jesus need to understand this about cynicism. It is sin. Every time. It’s pride, arrogance, fear, and selfishness wrapped up in one toxic, destructive ball. It has no place in the life of a Christian.
Christians are life givers. We affirm others. We encourage risk-taking, creativity, and freedom. When we criticize, we do so productively. Our words come from a place of love, aimed at growth.
If you lead in any capacity, you will encounter cynics. They will accuse you of all types of evil from a distance. If you ask them to grab lunch or have a phone conversation to discuss the issues, they will ALWAYS refuse. Cynics run from intimacy. They have no desire to resolve an issue. They want to tear you down. They want others to feel the emptiness plaguing their lives.
Pray for cynics. But don’t waste energy on them.
7.) You do not practice gratitude.
Gratitude and perspective are the yin and yang of joy. No one is immune from difficulties and tragedy. We can’t determine whether we will face hardships. We can only determine how we will respond. Will difficult times lead you to give up or catapult you to greatness? Perspective and gratitude will be the determining factors.
Whether you believe others are out to get you or not, you’re right. Whether you believe you have a lot or a little, you’re right.
Consistent, intentional times of gratitude shift our perspective from scarcity to contentment. When was the last time you thanked God for the things you have?8.) You aren’t compassionate or empathetic.
Selfie-centered Christians don’t have time to care about others. When scrolling through their Facebook timeline, Jill’s rant about her teacher and an article about refugees receive the same attention. We often equate clicking “like” to showing compassion. This is the tragic result of a selfie-centered life. We are desensitized to pain. We can’t show compassion with a simple click.
Our constant connection to social media creates a disconnection from real pain around us.
Compassion is an important virtue for Christians. It connects us to our mission. It leads to action. It requires humility and selflessness. Compassion gets in the mess. It cries with those who cry. It hurts with those who hurt. To cultivate compassion, we must connect to real people.
Selfie-centered Christianity isn’t Christianity at all. It’s a self-made, watered-down version. I struggle with selfie-centered Christianity. But I’m determined to overcome. I hope you are too.
I love you all. To God be the glory forever. Amen!
This article was written by Frank Powell and originally appeared at his blog. Find it here.