From Honored to Horrified

While reading in Exodus 1 – 3 today about the horror of the Israelites’ slavery in Egypt, the truth that the Israelites originally were invited into Egypt as honored guests, really struck me.

“So Joseph settled his father and his brothers in Egypt and gave them property in the best part of the land, the district of Rameses, as Pharaoh directed.”

Genesis 47:11 NIV

Often we see in the Old Testament that peoples were enslaved because of bad behavior, but the Bible doesn’t ever even hint at disobedience being the cause for the Israelites’ bondage. It simply says this:

Then a new king, to whom Joseph meant nothing, came to power in Egypt. “Look,” he said to his people, “the Israelites have become far too numerous for us. So they put slave masters over them to oppress them with forced labor, and they built Pithom and Rameses as store cities for Pharaoh.

Exodus 1:8‭-‬9‭, ‬11 NIV

If you find yourself in a place of oppression not brought on by anything sinful that you have done, keep looking to God. Remember that even in their oppression, the Israelites were blessed:

But the more they were oppressed, the more they multiplied and spread; so the Egyptians came to dread the Israelites

Exodus 1:12 NIV

God is concerned about you.

So God looked on the Israelites and was concerned about them.

Exodus 2:25 NIV

And He will eventually rescue you.

That day the LORD saved Israel from the hands of the Egyptians.

Exodus 14:30a

Why did God allow the Israelites to suffer so horribly for 400 years? The Bible never specifically says. But maybe it has something to do with this declaration in the New Testament:

Not only that, but we rejoice in our sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance, 4 and endurance produces character, and character produces hope, 5 and hope does not put us to shame, because God’s love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit who has been given to us.

Roman’s 5:3-5

So should we find ourselves suffering even when we are doing things the right way, we can claim this promise of hope. Remember, God promises to use everything to bless us if we love Him.

And we know that all things work together for good to them that love God.

Romans 8:28

If you are in bondage because of something you did, just agree with God that it was wrong and accept His forgiveness because of Jesus’ death on the cross and resurrection. Then claim the promise of hope in the above verses for yourself, too!

Is Spain the United States’ mother?

Some friends of mine, who are missionaries in Granada, Spain, recently sent a video, encouraging me to go on a virtual prayer walk for their ministry. As I “walked” through the streets of Granada, I ended up doing just as much praying for the United States as I did for Granada. Here’s why…

It was after Granada, the last Moorish outpost on the Iberian peninsula, was conquered by Spain, that Queen Isabella finally bankrolled Christopher Columbus’s journey to find a new trade route to China and India.

Spain, while historically Catholic, is also a very secular country, meaning that most people in Spain don’t view life through a spiritual lens. My concern for the United States is that Christians are trying to do what Queen Isabella did, forcefully remove all opposition to Christianity. She meant well, but did she really create the Christian country she dreamed of?

Jesus didn’t bother with calling out the political leaders of his day, or their policies. As a matter of fact, he encouraged Christians to not only to adhere to some egregious policies but to go above and beyond them (see Matthew 5:39-48).

Yes, we are supposed to uphold truth, but our focus should be the truth of the gospel. We are not to get involved in civilian affairs (2 Timothy 2-4), i.e. things of this earth that are not of true heavenly concern.

They will know we are Christians by our love (John 13:35). Our true religion is to look after orphans and widows and to not be stained by the world (James 1:27). God has shown us what He expects: to act justly, to love mercy and to walk humbly with God (Micah 6:8).

As Americans, we are in a democracy, so we should vote to see the increase of God’s laws over the land. But this is not our final home. Our main focus should be on the eternal souls of our neighbors, not ourselves and what we think are our rights. Remember, as Christians we have no rights, per the example of Christ: Jesus laid down his very life while being unjustly accused. That is what brought us our salvation. Now He asks us to follow in His footsteps — to lay down our lives, that He might save others as they see Him in us.

I pray that Granada would become a place of Christian fervor of the kind that overflows with the true love of Christ. May it be a shining example to the world, and especially the New World.

From Columbus to Columbus

I was shocked when my kids told me how horrible Columbus was to the natives here in the Americas. I had been simply taught that he accidentally ran into some Carribean islands while trying to make it to China. But after coming across an excellent modern biography about Queen Isabella, written by Kirsten Downey, I saw that much of what my kids had been taught was true.

Queen Isabella asked Columbus to treat the natives respectfully. He was to recognize them as the rulers of a foreign nation equal to Spain, and to seek to set up trade relations with them. She also had priests go along to share Christianity, but everything was to be done carefully and diplomatically. Because Columbus botched things so badly, he was pulled from voyaging to the new world after just a few trips, but the damage had been done. Wave after wave of Europeans came to the Americas, wreaking havoc and destruction on the native peoples.

“Why, God?” I questioned. “Why did you allow such atrocities to come to the Americas through Columbus and the following onslaught of European explorers?”

A number of months later, I noticed this National Geographic article in the sidebar of my browser:

Exclusive: Ancient Mass Child Sacrifice May Be World’s Largest
More than 140 children were ritually killed in a single event in Peru more than 500 years ago. What could possibly have been the reason?

The ritual killing was dated to 1450, not even 50 years before Columbus made it to the Americas. Immediately, I knew this was the answer to my question of why.

My family had recently read Leviticus 18. Most of the chapter is about laws governing sexual relations. But the following verse is thrown in there:

Leviticus 18:21 “‘Do not give any of your children to be sacrificed to Molek, for you must not profane the name of your God. I am the Lord.”

At the end of the list of things not to do are these verses: Leviticus 18:24-25 “‘Do not defile yourselves in any of these ways, because this is how the nations that I am going to drive out before you became defiled. Even the land was defiled; so I punished it for its sin, and the land vomited out its inhabitants.'”

No one is certain why these children were killed, but archaeologists believe it may have something to do with El Nino. Research shows that weather had been tough for some years before the sacrifice, so most likely the people were trying to negotiate with their gods. The children were killed for the economic benefit and comfort of the adults. Innocent lives were snuffed out for selfishness. And God could stand by no longer.

This civilization in Peru was actually demolished by another South American people in 1475. But the Aztecs were also known for their child sacrifices.

God allowed the Europeans, who were at least trying to fear Him, as imperfectly as they did, to conquer the Americas. The land had become defiled with the blood of innocent children, so the land vomited out its inhabitants, some of whom are my ancestors, making room for the past 500 years of immigrants.

Which brings us to today and the toppling of Columbus statues around the nation.

Leviticus 18:26-28 says, “‘But you must keep my decrees and my laws. The native-born and the foreigners residing among you must not do any of these detestable things, for all these things were done by the people  who lived in the land before you, and the land became defiled. And if you defile the land, it will vomit you out as it vomited out the nations that were before you.”

We are defiling the land with the blood of the innocent children we are aborting for the economic benefit and comfort of adults. And don’t forget all of the people of color being killed by those who are supposed to protect them. The land is now trying to vomit us out.

The day that China shut down 80 of its cities at the beginning of the pandemic, I happened to be reading in Job and ran across this verse: Job 37:7 “So that everyone he has made may know his work, he stops all people from their labor.”

God is trying to get our attention. He loves us and wants to bless us. Let’s stop defiling the land. Let’s protect the life of everyone. Young, old, white, black, brown, everyone.

2 Chronicles 7:14 “If my people, which are called by my name, shall humble themselves, and pray, and seek my face, and turn from their wicked ways; then will I hear from heaven, and will forgive their sin, and will heal their land.”

Less Wind in the Storm

All of this forced togetherness can build us or break us. I must admit that, while I want to have a good relationship with my family, the hustle and bustle of our old lives made it so that I could get by with being less and expecting less than I should’ve.

Now, they, and I, never go away!

So, I have learned to act more calmly in trying situations. Before COVID-19 I didn’t feel like I had the time to wait for a situation to stabilize. I was busy, or they were busy and needed a resolution now! Or, I knew they were leaving soon, so if things got a little dicey, they would be gone and things would feel peaceful, so why put in the extra effort to find peace while they are still around?

I pray that you, too, would find the time to learn how to have better family relationships.

And for those of you in abusive situations, my prayers are with you. I don’t understand why God is allowing you to go through this, but please know that He sees, He cares, and He has a plan to turn it into good for you. He promises.

Am I perfect now? Hah! If only! I will always have a long way to go. But is my family life better.? Thanks to the power of God working in a willing heart, yes.

Coronavirus to the rescue

How do your kids spend their time? Mine are constantly online.

Even before the current online learning, they did their homework online. They connected with their friends online. They connected with their grandparents online. They connected with me online. Only the cats were interacted with exclusively in “person.” Wait, no, my kids would even show them videos and use instagram filters on them.

I just saw a headline that says, “Pastors worry most about reaching next generation in local churches, study shows.” This pandemic is forcing churches to learn how to use digital technology.

That’s how to reach the next generation, for any reason.