Thursday, July 14, 2011

Welcome to the World, South Sudan

Something happened in the world last week that I think is truly remarkable. As economic pressures continue to increase in the west, and politicians play politics, something of great historic significance is taking place in Africa. As many people (though, not nearly enough) are aware, one of the worst humanitarian tragedies in modern history is taking place in Darfur, which is the western region of the Sudan. Influenced largely by the Muammar al-Gadaffi of Libya, the Sudanese government adopted a policy of "Arab supremacy." For several years, they have worked in cooperation with Arab armies called "Janjaweed" to kill and displace the non-Arab citizens of Darfur.

The only reason for these attacks is that these particular citizens are not Arabs. Since the violence began, nearly 3 million citizens of Darfur have been driven from their homes and have either become nomads or are else living in refugee camps in the neighboring country of Chad. Additionally, nearly half a million people have been murdered and countless women and girls have been abused and mistreated by the pillaging Janjaweed armies. Thousands of families have been left homeless and children have watched their parents butchered before their young eyes. Thankfully, some developed nations are working to attempt to end this crisis, and much international attention has been brought to it by some celebrities, most notably, George Clooney.

Although a lasting resolution has not been reached between Darfur and the government of the Sudan, there was a major development with this nation in general just a few days ago. Because of the genocide and overall tyranny exerted by the Sudanese government, the southern portion of the nation has withdrawn and formed an independent country. It took numerous civil wars and much travail, but as of last week, the Republic of South Sudan is now a nation free of Sudanese rule. This momentous event did not directly liberate the people of Darfur, but it has dealt a major blow to the corrupt system that as prolonged the intolerance and senseless brutality of a horrible government. This new nation's motto is "Justice, Liberty and Prosperity." By God's grace, they will have those as their reality, and our prayer should be that they spread like wildfire to the rest of the Sudan and surround the victims of the Darfur Conflict.

There is no way to separate the Lord from justice. According to Micah 6:8, there are three things God requires of us: justice, mercy and a walk with Him that is based in humility. We should seek to manifest these three things in all that we do, and as Martin Luther King, Jr. once said: "Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere." I hope this new nation of South Sudan is a worldwide inspiration for people to capture a renewed passion for justice and freedom. Many thousands died in our great nation some 200 years ago to make justice and freedom possible here in America. May their same zeal possess our hearts today anytime we see justice and freedom threatened.

I watched a documentary recently about the Darfur Conflict, and it was heart breaking, but inspiring, all at once. It contained numerous interviews from some of the victims of this tragedy, and one particular gentleman especially stood out to me. He had finished what would be the equivalent of our high school, but because of the ongoing conflict, he was unable to go on to the University. His home village had been displaced by the Janjaweed and many of the men were either killed or were actively fighting against the Arab attack. He joined his village in the middle of the desert in a makeshift settlement and took it upon himself to start a school to teach the children of that village. He taught the children for years in a one room hut without ever making a penny, all for the sake of those children and their future. Even though there has been no end in sight to the conflict, he is sacrificing for the hope that the next generation might know something different and better.

That man's remarkable story should inspire us all. Although he was not on the front lines of the battle, he faithfully filled his role right where he was. He saw in those children something worth fighting for, and fight he did. We are living in a time unlike no other, and here in America, we are at a point where our nation's future is being determined. What happens from here on might have less to do with the decisions made by our government and more to do with what you and I do in our individual spheres of influence. What do you and I have that is worth fighting for? Let us never let it slip away. All are called to pray; some are called to fight; others are called to speak or write and teach our children. No matter what our office, let us carry it out faithfully in the service of the true King. In all that we do, let us act justly, show mercy and walk with our King humbly.

Monday, July 4, 2011

America's Biggest Battle

Comparatively speaking, the United States is still a fairly young country. We declared our independence from England in 1776, which makes us 235 years old this year. Many other nations have been in existence for many hundreds and even thousands of years. However, despite our young age, we have had our share of battles and wars. As I mentioned before, The Declaration of Independence was ratified by Congress on July 4, 1776, but this declaration didn't come easy. We fought with England for 8 years in what has become known as The Revolutionary War.

We successfully gained our independence from England, but less than a century later, our young nation found itself in a 4 year long Civil War that pitted North against South in a much divided land. In the twentieth century, we fought in two world wars and were involved in numerous wars and battles from Korea to Vietnam and from Lebanon to Iraq. As the twenty-first century has dawned, the United States has led the way in a global war on terror. Since our inception, we have fought or been involved at some level in numerous major battles, but I believe the biggest and most important battle in our nation's history is being waged right now. This battle is not being fought in quite the same manner as the others, but it is one in which we are all involved and one that we must win. This crucial battle is being fought for the morality and purity of America.

In II Timothy 3:1-5, Paul wrote to Timothy about the end of this age and listed several reasons the end will be so intense. One of the reasons Paul listed is that people will consider nothing sacred (see verse 2, NLT). One brief glance at our society will reveal that this describes our nation with increasing accuracy. Everything from the sanctity of human life to the family is being threatened. There was a time when the most popular and most enjoyed television shows would scarcely, if ever, even elude to sex. Now it is not uncommon to see homosexual relationships being openly portrayed on popular shows during prime time on regular network television. Reality shows and many so called "talk shows" have introduced our children to many warped perversions that should shock us, but many have become desensitized to this dangerous evil.

We are truly living in a time when nothing is considered sacred, and it is also becoming increasingly difficult for an individual in our society to define what is sacred to them. Just this week there was an outcry from veterans in Houston, TX who are upset (and rightfully so) that their funeral services are being so closely monitored by the Department of Veterans Affairs that they have to submit their prayers for approval before they can pray them at the memorials for their fellow veterans. They are being told that they cannot use the words "God" or "Jesus" during these services. I read that news article and could not believe that what I was reading was happening in America! Something that should be sacred is being stifled by the government, and all this is being done in the name of not offending someone who doesn't believe that anything is sacred.

The family should be considered the most sacred institution in our society, but the family is being undermined on nearly every front. Many public school systems are attacking the relationship parents have with their children, and much of this is unknown to the parents. Without going into too much detail, many schools are teaching graphically detailed sex education curriculum to relatively young children, and in some cases they are doing so without the parents' consent. There was even a case recently where children less than twelve years old were being asked to take part in very explicit surveys on a variety of sexual topics, and the parents found out after the fact.

As the war against the family wages, the enemy has tried hard to smear the very identity and definition of the family. According to the Bible, when the Lord created the human race, He designed the family very specifically. He intended for a marriage to involve one man and one woman. It may not be the popular position, but this is God's position. He intends marriage to be between one man and one woman. However, there is a growing movement to redefine marriage, and the lines that the Lord clearly established are being blurred. Five states, Connecticut, Iowa, Massachusetts, New Hampshire and Vermont, along with Washington D.C., have legalized gay marriage, and it will become legal in New York in just a few weeks. It might sound insensitive, but homosexuality is a perversion, and allowing these marriages is decaying our society. I believe we should love everyone, pray for everyone and provide the same physical protection to every citizen, but I do not believe these marriages should be recognized. I believe a crucial step toward victory in America's biggest battle is to officially recognize and define marriage to be in accordance to the pattern the Lord set.

There is much more to be said about the war for America's morality and purity, but let me close with this. One of the greatest evils presently in the world is being welcomed into many American households. Millions of people, young and old, are participating in what has become a billion dollar a year industry, and it is quickly decaying our society. It has found its way into our homes and into the hands of our children through magazines, books and now is easily accessible on the internet. I am talking, of course, about pornography. This abominable practice used to be fairly taboo, but it has now become so common and widely accepted that most people fail to recognize the addictive power it has. It has gone from being considered dirty and extremely inappropriate to being widely accepted and winked at by many. However, let me be clear: pornography is anything but harmless. It is very dangerous, and nothing good has ever come from it. It destroys marriages, corrupts minds and hearts and this is what it will continue to do as long as it is tolerated. We need to have a zero tolerance policy for pornography in our homes and in our personal lives.

I believe America in many ways is standing at a crossroads. In the 1700's, our crossroads was whether we would remain under English control or if we would form our own nation. In the 1800's, our crossroads was whether or not we would allow our nation to be torn in two. In the 1900's, we faced a crossroads of civil rights, among others. Today, one of the major crossroads we are facing as a nation is whether we will continue down the path of perversion and decay, resulting from the undermining of the family, the termination of unborn lives and the willful acceptance of immorality. This post is intended to sound an alarm. Thankfully, there are many sounding this alarm, and there are many who have heeded its call. We need to pray that many more will hear the calling of the Lord to repent and return to Him. We cannot give up and lay down our armor. We have been brought here for this very hour, and we are the ones who can turn the tide. America's best days can be ahead, but this will only come if we turn back to our Creator and once again raise the standard of righteousness and purity. As we celebrate our freedom and independence this year, let us return to the One Who gave us these gifts.