Over the last couple years, various stories have popped up about social media and the false reality it portrays. People share the highlights of their life, and nothing more. Not surprisingly, this can have a negative effect. One study actually showed that facebook makes people sadder because we begin to feel isolated and compare our “boring” lives to the exciting lives of others on social media.

There are a couple interesting responses to this phenomenon. One young woman in the Netherlands recently faked an entire 5 week trip to SouthEast Asia. She never left town, she simply redecorated her apartment a few times for skype calls, took advantage of photoshop, and posted everything to social media. She explained her actions, “I did this to show people that we filter and manipulate what we show on social media, and that we create an online world which reality can no longer meet.”

Another viral video dramatized facebook depression rather well in June. It depicts a man going through a rough time. While looking at people’s beach photos, however; he decides to put a positive spin on everything. For instance, when he gets fired his facebook post says, “finally quit my dead-end job!”

Since people are getting sadder, some are arguing that we shouldn’t present highlight reels of our lives. For me, this is problematic for two reasons:

1) I do think we should be more honest on social media, but still, there are plenty of things I don’t want to share with the world. “Clogged the toilet again” probably doesn’t belong on my facebook wall.

2) I can’t control what other people put on social media. I can only control my response.

Instead of criticizing people who are “audacious” enough to post a picture of their trip to the beach instead of a picture of their garden that still has a few weeds, we need a better way to respond to facebook depression*. Here it is:

1) Stop comparing yourself

One of the earliest effects of the curse of sin was comparison. After comparing himself to Abel, Cain actually kills his brother because of jealousy. As was demonstrated with the articles above, this is very problematic on social media. Steven Furtick explains the problem, “The reason we struggle with insecurity is because we compare our behind-the-scenes with everyone else’s highlight reel.”

Some people’s highlight reels aren’t even real! Img Source: Zilla van der Born

Instead of comparing yourself to others, focus on what God thinks of you. Tim Keller puts it this way, “We are more wicked than we ever dared believe, but more loved and accepted in Christ than we ever dared hope.” Comparisons to other people cannot benefit you, but God’s love can save you, give you value, and change everything.

2) Get busy living

I should probably be more sympathetic, but I don’t understand people who sit at home on their computer all day and then become jealous about other people’s lives. Your problem is that you’re sitting at home on facebook! If you want to have a life of adventure or romance or fun, you will never find it online. You actually need to step out of your comfort zone and out your front door.

We all have dreams, some harder to achieve than others. We all have obstacles to those dreams, some greater than others. I get that – not everyone can travel the world or even run through the park. But our dreams are often more achievable than we think, and our biggest obstacles are often self doubt. 5 years ago I would have said, “it’s impossible to move to New Zealand.” And yet, here I am.

Perhaps I was lucky – our move could have been a disaster. But if I hadn’t tried, I would never know. You won’t strike gold every time, but the more you try to succeed at something great, the stronger your chance of success. So get out, and get busy living.

3) Be inspired

Instead of comparing yourself and feeling bad when you look at someone else’s photos and status updates, why not be inspired? If your friend on social media can live their dream, then you can too. So go for it!

4) Build true connections

Research indicates we are the most connected generation of all time, but also the loneliest. Why? Because we aren’t building true connections. Social media attention is short, we comment and move on without a sound. We need to hear people’s voices, we need to experience people’s touch, and we need to share the good and the bad.

When you spend actual time with people, you learn about their triumphs and their sorrows, their joys and their struggles. We NEED to share our struggles with others – it is freeing and helps us realize we’re not alone. This requires vulnerability and relationships with people in your life who care and will share in the challenges we have.

We often wait for other people to come into our lives and initiate relationships, but we shouldn’t. Start making the effort, go after people and build a true connection. Invite them over for dinner, host a game night, meet up for coffee, listen. Whatever you choose, just remember that social media can never replace authentic relationships.

5) Remember where true satisfaction comes from

Jeremiah 2:13 says, “for my people have committed two evils:
they have forsaken me, the fountain of living waters,
and hewed out cisterns for themselves, broken cisterns that can hold no water.

This is ultimately at the root of our problem. God is the fountain of living waters – He is our true satisfaction. We should run and rest in Him. When we look at social media and become jealous of another person’s life, we’re actually believing their “adventures” are more satisfying than God. We think, “if I had what they had, then I’d be content.” The truth is, those things will never bring us the full life, only God can.

The world of social media is a broken cistern. Don’t let it depress you or make you sad, but run to God. Jesus came that you might have life, and have it to the full. Believe that, and be satisfied.

Conclusion

The moral of the story is this: if facebook is making you depressed, then spend less time on it. Instead, spend that time seeking the Lord, building relationships with people, and get busy living.

#LiveFully

*I’m no psychiatrist, and I’m not even a counselor. If you’re experiencing true depression (as opposed to facebook jealousy), I won’t pretend it’s an easy fix. Meet with a counselor, tell family and friends, and know you aren’t alone. There is help! 

The Fave Five 09.12.14

Evan Forester —  September 12, 2014 — Leave a comment

1) Favorite Meme: Forrest, Forrest Gump with Jesus

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2) Favorite Camping Photos: Morning Views from the Tent by Oleg Grigoryev (Click here for more)

All Rights to Oleg Grigoryev

3) Favorite Theme Song: Lyrics to Jurrasic Park

4) Favorite Rube Golderberg: The power of optics

5) Favorite Volleyball Rally:

Last night my wife, Morgan, and I watched the movie Frozen. It’s become one of the biggest films of all time, winning 2 academy awards and earning more than $1 billion dollars globally. It’s a remarkable film, and even as a 28 year old male I still enjoyed this cartoon movie about 2 princesses.

The True Myth

Frozen reminded me of a rather famous conversation between C.S. Lewis and J.R.R Tolkien. Two of the greatest authors of the 20th century were excellent friends, and Tolkien actually led Lewis to Christ. Both were professors at Oxford, and both were obsessed with myths. Humphrey Carter recounts their conversation in his biography of Tolkien:

“But, said Lewis, myths are lies, even though lies breathed through silver.

No, said Tolkien, they are not.

…just as speech is invention about objects and ideas, so myth is invention about truth.

We have come from God (continued Tolkien), and inevitably the myths woven by us, though they contain error, will also reflect a splintered fragment of the true light, the eternal truth that is with God. Indeed only by myth-making, only by becoming a ‘sub-creator’ and inventing stories, can Man aspire to the state of perfection that he knew before the Fall. Our myths may be misguided, but they steer however shakily towards the true harbour, while materialistic ‘progress’ leads only to a yawning abyss and the Iron Crown of the power of evil.

You mean, asked Lewis, that the story of Christ is simply a true myth, a myth that works on us in the same way as the others, but a myth that really happened? In that case, he said, I begin to understand.” 

Our most common form of myth (or story telling) today is film. Here are a few popular examples that steer us “shakily towards the true harbour” of Christ. (Spoilers ahead).

1) Frozen

When Anna’s heart is frozen by Elsa, she can only be saved by an act of true love. Instead of receiving the expected true love’s kiss, however, she sacrifices herself to save her sister. Olaf recognizes this sacrifice as an act of true love, and Anna’s heart thaws and she is saved. Elsa’s fear had caused her to lose control of her powers, but then she realized that love is the solution to her fear.

In the same way, Jesus demonstrated the greatest act of true love by sacrificing himself to save us. Not only that, but 1 John 4:18 says this, “There is no fear in love, but perfect love casts out fear. For fear has to do with punishment, and whoever fears has not been perfected in love.” Sound familiar?

2) Harry Potter

Harry has received some negative press from the Christian community, but I think they’re missing a brilliant demonstration of God’s love. Harry’s mom sacrifices herself to save Harry, and her blood protects him throughout most of the series. Then, in the final chapters, Harry willingly goes to Lord Voldemort to die. He knows his death will make Voldemort vulnerable, and his act actually protects the people he dies for. After willingly dying, Harry is able to return from the dead and finish off the evil Voldemort forever.

John 15:13 says, “Greater love has no one than this, that someone lay down his life for his friends.” In the same way, Jesus willingly died to save us and to defeat Satan. His death was not the end, however, as he rose from the dead. His blood has covered us, and now we too can have eternal life.

3) Superman

The world’s most popular superhero has significant parallels to Jesus. A man, not born of Earth, comes and lives amongst us. He has unusual powers and rescues people, inspiring them to greater things. The “S” symbol on his chest means “hope,” and this is what Superman brings to the world. In the scene below, immediately after his father says, “you can save all of them,” notice the posture Superman takes (50 seconds):

This particular film is filled with parallels, and so are the comics. Likewise, Jesus is frequently referred to as our hope, he is our salvation, and (believe it or not) he is even more powerful than Superman.

4) Star Wars

The dark side of the force illustrates the effects of sin in our lives. When Anakin joins the dark side, they say he dies and Vader takes his place. We know this too well about our sin nature, as Ephesians 2:1 says, “You were dead in the trespasses and sins.” Perhaps the most moving scene in the original trilogy, however, occurs when Vader repents, turning from the Dark side of the force to save his son.

In this final scene we witness one of the greatest villains of all time find redemption. It is a clear reminder to us; no matter what our past, we can still be saved by the work of Jesus. Ephesians 2:4-5 continues, “But God, being rich in mercy, because of the great love with which he loved us, even when we were dead in our trespasses, made us alive together with Christ—by grace you have been saved.

5) Beauty and the Beast

Since I started with a Disney princess movie, I might as well finish with one. The last time I cried in a movie was when I saw Beauty and the Beast in theaters. The year was 1991, I was 5 years old, and this is the scene that did me in:

If this doesn’t remind you of the work that Jesus does in us, then I don’t know what will. 1 Corinthians 5:17 says, “Therefore if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creature; the old things passed away; behold, new things have come.” In this scene, the beast is transformed before our eyes, new life is breathed into his broken body, and he is made new.

It’s all true

This list could go on and on. Films like ET, Braveheart, The Avengers, Lord of the Rings, Signs, The Lion King, the Shawshank Redemption, many are filled with truths that resonate with us on a deep level.

Do you ever watch these stories unfold and wish they were true? This is the brilliant thing – they are! So many of the great stories, the ones that really matter, are all made true in Jesus. He is the real “Superman,” he casts out fear with his perfect love, and he redeems us and makes us a new creation.

He is the fulfillment of all our hopes and dreams, he is the embodiment of that which we hold most dear.

I hope you’ll watch stories from now on and look for the “splintered fragments of the true light” that point us home. They are a reminder that we are called to something greater than the mundane. We are called to abundant life, and we find it in Jesus.

#LiveFully

Your Turn: What is your favorite story?

Fave Five 09.05.14

Evan Forester —  September 5, 2014 — Leave a comment

1) Favorite List of Puns: Awesome Puns

2) Favorite Star Wars Tribute film: Retribution (This was filmed at UGA and directed by a football player named Chris Conley – he also loves Jesus)

3) Favorite Cosby moment: Responding to Victoria Olsteen

4) Favorite Sermon: A Christian’s Happiness by Tim Keller (Listen to this – a far superior response to Olsteen then you’ll read anywhere)

5) Favorite Vlog: Do movie titles matter?

Here at #LiveFully, we love to talk about transformation, not just personally, but culturally as well. Today’s video is a quintessential example of the cultural impact that is possible when people are united by a vision to serve a community (and more broadly, an entire country).

I am so proud of the filmmaker, and our dear friend, Mary Claire Stewart (@maryclairephoto, www.maryclairephoto.com), as well as my wife Erin Burchik, who had the vision and passion to drive this video project from the beginning. Most of all, we are all so proud of our friends Berat and Valdete Gegaj, who have committed their lives to serve their country of Kosovo.

This is a short documentary film about a beautiful friendship that has formed between two cities – Lilburn, Georgia, USA, and Suhareke, Kosovo. Kosovo Hope, a non-profit organization in Kosovo, partners with Americans to host a summer camp for Kosovar students. An extensive selection process takes place during camp to chose 25 students to be a part of the Kosovo Hope Exchange Program, where they are given the opportunity to study English in American for a month while living with host families. This is the story of some of those students and the many people who are bringing hope to the next generation.

For more information or to find out how you can be a part of Kosovo Hope, email berat.gegaj@gmail.com

It’s been an interesting few weeks on social media. Newsfeeds have been flooded with content revolving around ISIS, Robin Williams, Ferguson, and of course, the Ice Bucket Challenge. Many people have rejoiced at seeing such attention drawn to things like ALS, but others have had a more skeptical view.

I recently learned a new term, “slactivism.” Essentially, it means this: when you discover a problem in the world, you do nothing more than share a link or video on your social media. Slactivism is all about awareness, but rarely about actual action. For this reason, some people have criticized things like the ice bucket challenge.

Before moving forward, let me just say that I have nothing against building awareness. I work in marketing and generating awareness has actually been my number one priority for the last two years. Awareness is important, because without awareness there is no action. I definitely support posting things to social media, and I love seeing how something as silly as a bucket of ice water can unite people and change the way a nation perceives a horrible disease like ALS.

I also support discussion, especially when there is an event like what has been happening in Ferguson, Missouri. Even if we don’t know all the facts, it is vital that we communicate with each other and work to understand the broken world we live in. Thabiti Anyabwile, for instance, explains how speaking out has helped challenge and clarify his position on how the Gospel should transform the situation in Ferguson.

Awareness and communication are good things, but we need to be wary of doing nothing more than talk. I majored in philosophy at the University of Georgia. I remember students would hang around Peabody hall and discuss how they would solve world hunger or politics or family structures. The only problem was, they never left the hallways of the school. They just sat there, smugly pretending they knew how to fix everything.

I’m all about awareness, but I want that awareness to lead to action. Here are 7 ways you can ensure that you don’t become a slactivist:

1) Don’t Forget

It’s amazing how quickly we forget things. You might read a story about sex slavery in Thailand that upsets you. You share the story online, and you might even pray about it. But how will you feel in 2 hours? In 2 days? Or 2 weeks? The danger of social media is the mass quantity of messages you hear, and because of this it’s hard to keep anything in focus. When you truly desire to change something, don’t let the next Miley Cyrus publicity stunt replace it in your memory. Write it down in your prayer journal, pray about it daily, and keep looking for ways to make a difference.

2) Put your money where your mouth is

Many causes require more than word-of-mouth, they require funding. Philippians 1:3-6 says this, “I thank my God every time I remember you. In all my prayers for all of you, I always pray with joy because of your partnership in the gospel from the first day until now, being confident of this, that he who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus.” Most scholars believe that this “partnership” Paul refers to is a financial one. Later on, Paul refers to their donations as “a fragrant offering, an acceptable sacrifice, pleasing to God.”

The reality is, you can’t be everywhere and help everyone. But you can support people who are serving in places you can’t reach. Do take the time to research and consider the organizations and people you choose to give to, and remember that God will carry the work you helped start with giving unto completion.

3) Get your hands dirty in your local community

You may not be able to resolve racial tensions in Ferguson, but you can work to increase freedom in your own community. Sometimes I get overwhelmed with the problems of the world – there are so many issues I cannot possibly solve them all. The reality is I’m not supposed to solve everything. I can, however, actually make a difference in my own neighborhood, and so can you. Engage with the people in your life and seek opportunities to change things.

4) Actually go to the community in need

If there is a place or situation God has truly laid on your heart, prayerfully consider actually going to that community. The older I get, the more I realize that no problem has a silver bullet solution. If you truly want to make a difference, you will need to build relationships and listen and work for an extended period of time. This is no small challenge and requires substantial commitment. Most likely God is calling you to your own community, but every so often, He calls people to another city or country.

5) Choose Carefully

Being a slactivist for some causes is perfectly fine, as long as you’re still an activist for something. Becoming an activist takes time, however, so you must choose carefully. I am horrible at this and frequently spread myself too thin. Don’t make this mistake, but instead bathe all your decisions in prayer and choose how you will make a difference with wisdom. A while back, Brian wrote a helpful guide to identifying your calling that is an excellent start.

6) Remember that prayer actually works

I sometimes feel like prayer is a cop-out, like I’m not really doing anything. But again, the Bible is clear that prayer matters and God listens. The great revivals were all preceded by outpourings of prayer, and nothing we do can compare with God’s ability. If anything, I need to pray more. I often pray for something once and then forget about it. But we must make every effort to pray with passion for God to bring healing, justice, and peace.

7) Make Disciples

Jesus made a famous command (or commission) before leaving us in Matthew 28. It wasn’t to go and post stories to social media, but rather “Go and make disciples.” There is nothing short and sweet about discipleship: it requires time and life-on-life relationships. Very few of us will ever be able to impact millions or billions of people at once, however, we can each have a deep influence on 4 or 5 people in our life. Once you have invested in others, once you have changed their lives, they can begin discipling people as well and you will begin to see multiplication.

Discipleship is the method Jesus gave us to change the world. A pastor in Atlanta, Randy Pope, oversees a congregation with more than 5,000 members. In his book, Insourcing, he actually states that if the elders came to him and said, “you must choose between pastoring the church and discipling your small group,” he would choose discipleship. Why? Because it works – it changes lives, families, and even communities.

Leave a comment: What do you think about slactivism?

Img source: By Rauglothgor (Own work) CC-BY-SA-4.0, via Wikimedia Commons

The Fave Five is a collection of our favorite links from the week. Leave a comment if you’d like to share something we missed!

1) Favorite Squirrel: This guy:

2) Favorite Cat: Mulder the cat who could open a door

3) Favorite List: Organizations who are helping refugees in Northern Iraq

4) Favorite Battle with Reality: “I don’t want him to grow up!”

5) Favorite Movie Trailer: UP (if directed by Michael Bay, the director of Transformers)

6) Favorite Superhero: Spiderman in Atlanta (Bonus since we missed last week)

This past weekend I was reminded how amazing God is.

For those of you who don’t know, I live in Christchurch, New Zealand. It’s winter here, and they have some impressive mountains. Snow skiing is my favorite activity of all time, but growing up in Atlanta didn’t present many opportunities. New Zealand, however, is another story.

We drove down to the town of Wanaka and spent two days on the slopes. The weather and the scenery were unbelievable: blue skies, clear lakes, snow capped peaks. It was like Psalms 104 happened in front of my very eyes. I spent the entire two days with my jaw in a permanently dropped position.

Treble Cone overlooking Lake Wanaka

And the crazy thing is, the trip almost didn’t happen. Why? Because it was inconvenient.

We have no vacation days left, which means we couldn’t take a day off work. In order to ski two days, we had to drive 5 hours after work on Friday and then 6 hours after skiing on Sunday. We pitched the idea to people, and most said we were crazy.

But once I was outside, surrounded by God’s incredible creation, I had no regrets. It was one of my favorite weekends of all time, and I couldn’t help but remember one of the first lessons I learned when we moved to New Zealand:

A full life will not come looking for you. You need to actually get up and go after it.

Step outside your front door

When we arrived at our new home, I was somewhat naive about this. It was a land filled with mountains, glaciers, rivers, Lord of the Rings locations, and more. I just expected to walk off the plane and into an adventure. But after being here a few weeks, the most exciting thing we had done was a bike ride through the park.

I sat on the couch in a bad mood, wondering why we hadn’t experienced more adventure. We came out here to live fully! The answer to my problem, however, was right below me. Since arriving, we had made little effort to get off our couch and out into the world.

We didn’t come here on vacation, we came here to establish a life. But despite the epic nature of our new country, the life we were establishing was just boring. I realized that it does not matter where you are – Atlanta or New Zealand – unless you make the effort to live fully, you won’t. 

Here are a few practical things I noticed this weekend that contribute to living fully. It is by no means an exhaustive list, but definitely part of making the effort:

6 Keys for Living Fully

1) Embrace the inconvenience: Our culture loves convenience. From where I sit, I have a nice footrest, can turn on the television, watch a Braves game, surf the internet, play candy crush, read a book, and more. Most of my greatest memories, however, did not occur because of convenience. They took work, effort, and a willingness to get out of my comfort zone. If there is an idea bouncing around in your heart or mind, but you aren’t sure it’s worth the effort, then just stop debating and go for it. You’ll either love it or learn from it, but either way it will be better than doing nothing.

2) Go with People: God created us for community. While things like social media and texting can keep us connected, they can never replace genuine relationships. I find that most things in life (eating, traveling, working, exercising, worship, etc) are always better when done with good friends. Interestingly, I also find that good friendships are created when you do most of those things in life with people. Our 6 hour, post skiing car ride was fantastic – we were exhausted, but we ate burritos and talked about the important things in life the entire way.

3) Enjoy Creation: I find it so much easier to connect with God while in nature. As Psalms 19:1says, “The heavens declare the glory of God, and the sky above proclaims his handiwork.” No matter where you live, I believe you can find the beauties of God’s creation. It could be in the mountains or beach a few hours from home, or it could be in your neighborhood park. It could be a local river, or it could be the people in your life God has made. Our first home was a garden, we should make efforts to spend time in His creation.

4) Be a bit reckless: I could get in trouble for this, so let me clarify: don’t do anything illegal or to hurt others. That being said, sometimes you need to go against conventional wisdom if you want to live fully. Some would consider a weekend trip to Wanaka reckless: we might be tired at work on Monday, it could be horrible weather, we won’t have time to get chores done, and so on. The trip was a bit of a gamble, particularly in regards to weather, but the reward was totally worth the risk. Following Jesus also goes against conventional wisdom, but this time, the reward is infinitely greater and more secure because of his love for us.

5) The Experiences: I find most people prefer to spend money on material goods instead of experiences. We obviously need some material goods, like food and clothing, but I find experiences so much more valuable than having the latest iPad or biggest television. Everyone has limited finances, but I highly recommend you give priority to experiences you can share with people you love. The memories and the moments will last so much longer than the latest tech gadget.

6) Take time to soak in God’s glory: It can be easy to take things for granted. Sometimes we get so focussed on our particular tasks for the day that we fail to notice the beauty of what God has done in our lives. As I said, I love skiing and wanted to get as many runs in as possible, but I kept forcing myself to stop and look around and soak in God’s goodness. What has God done in your life that you might be missing? How is He working in the people around you? In the city or town you live in? Life is busy, but we must always find the time to pause and give thanks and praise for what He has done.

Your turn: What is your favorite activity when you want to live fully?

I think sometimes we like to believe the world is basically a good place filled with good people. The Bible tells a different story: “For all have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God.” In Western Culture, we forget how bad sin can really be. But for our Christian brothers and sisters in Northern Iraq right now, they must literally flee for their lives because of sin’s cruelty.

A growing group of militants who call themselves the Islamic State (IS) and used to call themselves the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) have been making the news recently for beheading children, raping and murdering women, enslaving or killing men, and seeking to wipe out entire people groups. This is mass genocide and it is a terrible tragedy.

Large populations of Christians are being killed. Another religious group, called the Yazidis, are also being wiped out. Many have three choices: Convert to Islam, die, or flee. There is plenty of news coverage on this, and you’ve probably seen how horrific it is. I’ve been torn up for the last couple days thinking about this terrible persecution. I want to help make a difference, but I wasn’t exactly sure how for two reasons.

First, I struggle with global news because It is filled with problems occurring on the other side of the world, and frankly, I can’t really do much about them. And yet, when a group like ISIS is at large we simply cannot just sit around and do nothing.

Secondly, when I read these stories, my first thought is that we need to bomb these monsters into oblivion. They are doing seriously evil things and must be stopped. But I am somewhat troubled by the words of Jesus, “love your enemy.” IS is clearly an enemy of God’s people, so how do we balance this? The church endured terrible persecution, even in the Bible, but they never seemed to fight back. How do we stop them and love them at the same time?

I’ve done a fair amount of thinking and research on these two questions. To be honest, I’m still not sure of all the answers, and would love some comments with your thinking, but here are 6 ways you can actually do something to make a difference:

1) Love your enemy:

Romans 12:14-21 is a riveting passage in which Paul calls us to love our enemies. Here are a couple verses that highlight this: 14 Bless those who persecute you; bless and do not curse them. 19 Beloved, never avenge yourselves, but leave it[i] to the wrath of God, for it is written, “Vengeance is mine, I will repay, says the Lord.” 20 To the contrary, “if your enemy is hungry, feed him; if he is thirsty, give him something to drink; for by so doing you will heap burning coals on his head.” 21 Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good.

From this it is clear, as Christians we are called to love the Islamic State. This seems insane, and I almost feel dirty saying it, but it’s the truth. We need to realize what it means, however. Loving someone does not mean you encourage or allow them to continue in their sin. It means we point them to Jesus and his saving grace. Members of the IS are evil, but Jesus died for them, and ultimately he is the only one who can change them. You will probably never meet a member of IS, but you can pray that they would repent and believe the truth.

2) Call on the government for justice:

Can you love someone and demand justice be served against them? Of course – God does this often.

I was talking with my friend Keith and he pointed out that Romans 12 is followed immediately by a passage where Paul explains one of God’s systems for dealing with justice. Romans 13:1-4 says, “Let every person be subject to the governing authorities. For there is no authority except from God, and those that exist have been instituted by God. Therefore whoever resists the authorities resists what God has appointed, and those who resist will incur judgment. For rulers are not a terror to good conduct, but to bad. Would you have no fear of the one who is in authority? Then do what is good, and you will receive his approval, for he is God’s servant for your good. But if you do wrong, be afraid, for he does not bear the sword in vain. For he is the servant of God, an avenger who carries out God’s wrath on the wrongdoer.

God has instituted the governments of the world to carry His wrath on the wrongdoer. ISIS definitely qualifies as a wrongdoer, and so we should be calling the governments of the world to bring justice. The US recently approved airstrikes on the terror group, and this is certainly a start, but more is needed. I can’t pretend to be a politician and know the answers, but our leaders will listen if we unite in this cause. So contact your congressman or the White House or Parliament or whoever is in charge of your nation, and call for action! One of the quickest and easiest ways is to sign this White House petition. You can also contact your congressman directly using this website – it will take 2 minutes and you will make a difference, so just go do it!

3) Love your neighbor:

This is more of a proactive approach than a reactive approach. ISIS is nothing new, there are many terrible examples of genocide throughout history. Kosovo, Rwanda, Cambodia, the Holocaust, and the list could go on. If we love our neighbor, we can help prevent things like this in the future.

Omar Shafik Hammami grew up as a Southern Baptist in Alabama. In 2012 he earned a spot on the FBI’s most wanted terrorist list because of his work for the Somali Islamist militant group al-Shabaab. How did this happen? I don’t really know, but I do believe that if he had truly experienced the love of Christ in his own neighborhood, he would not have gone down the same path. So love your neighbor, you are an ambassador for Christ and can change the course of their future, and maybe the future of many others.

4) Support Relief Efforts:

Not only do we need to stop ISIS, but we need to help the people who are suffering at their hands. Our Christian brothers and sisters in Northern Iraq need help, and we should work to give it to them. Not only that, but we should support the other minorities in the area as well. Again, one way you can do this is by contacting your congressman or government leader.

I would also suggest giving to relief organizations like Open Doors. I’ve had trouble finding many other direct donation opportunities, so if you know of any, please share it in the comments. (Update: Nanci commented below with this link and recommended Samaritan’s Purse).

5) Don’t stereotype:

There is always a temptation when a group called the “Islamic State” starts killing people. While some will want to blame everyone who belongs to Islam for this, we should not make that mistake. I’ve visited Kosovo twice, where in the 90’s a group of Serbians killed thousands of Muslims. Many Kosovar had to flee their homes and lost family members at the hands of their enemy. During my two trips, I became friends with many Kosovars. I was shocked and appalled to hear that many of their family and friends were killed in the name of the Father, Son, and Holy Ghost.

Now, a group of “Christians” committed that atrocity, and again some would want to blame all Christians for that act of genocide. But we know this is not true Christianity. In the same way, we know that all Muslims do not support what ISIS is doing. In fact, many Muslims are being hurt and killed by these terrorists. So continue to love, encourage, and pray for your Muslim neighbors.

6) Pray and Fast:

This is, perhaps, the most important of all. Pray genuinely matters, and the Bible has multiple instances where God fights for his people in the Bible. In 2 Chronicles 20, King Jehoshaphat calls the people to pray and fast so that God would rescue them from Ammon, Moab, and Mount Seir. God hears their prayer, and when Israel goes out to battle, God puts their enemy into confusion and they all kill themselves.

In 2 Kings 19, King Hezekiah prays to the Lord to rescue them from the Assyrians. Again, the Lord answers his people, this time in an even more miraculous way. Here is what vs. 35 says, “And that night the angel of the LORD went out and struck down 185,000 in the camp of the Assyrians. And when people arose early in the morning, behold, these were all dead bodies.

We should be praying for the salvation of people from ISIS in the same way we would pray if ISIS were outside our front door. We must plea with passion for God to intervene, and we must believe he can make a difference. The same God who threw the armies of Ammon and Moab into confusion and sent his angel to destroy the Assyrians is the same God today. How awesome would it be if the same thing happened today? What if ISIS turned on itself? God can and will bring justice, let us pray (and even fast) and ask Him to bring it soon. Garret Kell has put together a Scripture based prayer for the situation.

I’m not very good at fasting, but when the need is this great I think it is worth the effort. Not only that, it helps (in a very, very small way) to identify with the people who are suffering in Iraq. If you’d like to join me, spend some time fasting this week (it could be food, but doesn’t need to be – just make sure it’s a sacrifice). During the time you save, pray for relief and justice, and I believe if we unite as a global community of Christians for this, God will not allow the prayers to be wasted.

Your turn: What do you think we could be doing about ISIS?

The Fave Five is a collection of our favorite links from the week. Leave a comment if you’d like to share something we missed!

1) Favorite Painting: This guy (David Garibaldi) who painted Jesus in less than 2 minutes

2) Favorite Photo Collection: 15 Dogs diving in water after balls

3) Favorite Birth announcement (and Coke commercial): #Shareacoke

4) Favorite Sermon: How to know God (and why it is not an anti-rational experience) by Tim Keller

5) Favorite Commercial: How to Dad