Daily Devotions

Alternatives to Fear and Violence

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He said to his people, “Look, the Israelite people are more numerous and more powerful than we. Come, let us deal shrewdly with them, or they will increase and, in the event of war, join our enemies and fight against us and escape from the land.” (Exodus 1:9-10)

 

In two quick verses, the Biblical writer sums up the entire global paranoia that has, throughout time, given rationale for powerful leaders to subjugate and eradicate large groups of innocent people. At this very moment, Syria’s dictator, Bashar Hafez al-Assad is treating his own subjects with the same disdain. Worse, other manipulative leaders like Vladimir Putin, protect and affirm Assad to protect their own selfish ambitions.

 

Isn’t it ironic that as much as things have changed over the previous thousands of centuries, how many things remain the same. We Americans have no right to point the finger at others without owning our own sin. We have propped up any number of dictators ourselves. Can you say Manuel Noriega?!

 

Fear causes any number of poor decisions. Individually and among nations, we can allow our fears to motivate our decisions. Fear has created some of the world’s greatest tragedies. Hitler used the nation’s fears to bring a holocaust down on the Jews. The Serb, Croatian, and Bosnian civil war brought untold suffering with any number of mass graves. The more we attempt to overcome our fear with violence, the more destruction we heap on our world.

 

Today, pray for our world. But this time, pray for our leaders, internationally, to address their fear. Then, pray for our leaders, that we can learn to address our fears in ways beyond simple, instinctive, lashing out. Christians have an obligation to speak out politically, to address fear in alternative ways, beyond simply acting out with violence. Christ changed the world by taking the world’s violence onto himself. Gandhi and Dr. King followed that Christ like example and transformed their eras. Prayerfully seek the courage to face fear with alternatives to violence and submission. Doing so might just bring about the Kingdom of God.

An Answer to Fatalism

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Now a new king arose over Egypt, who did not know Joseph. (Exodus 1:8)

 

My Wednesday Bible Study class discussed death last week. It was real uplifting. Joking aside, it was a meaningful discussion. There were many topics discussed, but at one point we discussed the issue of whether to be cremated. Then the discussion continued as to whether to have one’s ashes scattered. We discussed genealogy and whether there is a need to have a gravestone, for future generations to have record of us.

 

As I think of the discussion last Wednesday, I am reminded that within a few generations we will no longer be remembered. Joseph was one of the most powerful individuals in all of Egypt, the most powerful country in that time, and he was forgotten. So, what makes us think we will be so special?

 

Most of us try not to think about how finite our lives really are in this world of ours. We live, we love, we suffer, we die. Even most Presidents of the United States, the most popular country in the history of the world, are barely remembered. Can you name all 45 Presidents in order? If you can, you are better than me. So, what makes you think you will be remembered beyond three or four generations?

 

I say this not to drive you back to reading Albert Camus and the other existentialists, or as he liked to be called, an absurdist. What I am trying to articulate is that apart from a vision and legacy of faith, all we have will wither and die, as described in James 1:11.

 

We have one child. She is married and pregnant with their first child. Many of the things I cherish, like two of my guitars, will get sold off when I die. My large library will be sold off and given away. Many of those stories will die with me and with the splitting up of my books. What the secular world values will wither and disappear. Apart from faith, life would be absurd and fatalistic.

 

Thankfully, we have a loving God who insists on not allowing our finite bodies to be the end of our story. God loves us so much that God insists we be brought into an eternal relationship. While we will not be remembered for long on this earth, we will be remembered in God’s eternal ledger. We will not be forgotten by God. Today, think about what is important and what is simply finite. The finite withers, but the eternal, well, you know. We are already living in eternity, pray that God will help us live with this recognition. When we do, suffering loses its power and joys are embraced as divine gifts along the eternal walk with God.

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