Category Archives: Middle East

“My Enemies are Men Like Me”: A Dialogue

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This is probably the song that set men against Webb’s political push through song. The tune itself is slow and contemplative – a good fit for the song. By virtue of this, the words are that much more poignant and bruising. In light of the wars in the Middle East – in which the United States is the scapegoat by all those who oppose war, this song hits hard.
I have been thinking about our position in the Middle East – as pertains to war. In so many ways the wars in the Middle East are like hog-tying. We know there is an objective – stop the terrorists. Yet, how do we define the terrorists? What is more how does a nation differ from the mandate to forgive your enemies?

(vs. 1)
i have come to give you life
and to show you how to live it
i have come to make things right
to heal their ears and show you how to forgive them

(pre-chorus)
because i would rather die
i would rather die
i would rather die
than to take your life

Not much to say here other than the bitter irony of the cross. Jesus came to give us a more abundant life by being slain at the hands of Roman soldiers. The abundance does not come by way of Lexus or gold. The benefits rendered by the Cross would be diminished if they were equated with such paltry wealth. The blood of Jesus is trampled upon by men like Creflo Dollar and cronies who make the Christian life a parade of materialism rather than a procession of death (2Cor 2.14-16).

Let it be said that the Christian life is much more than majority evangelicalism in the United States lives. It is more than being good throughout the week – if good is defined by avoiding sin merely. The Christian life is going out to the highways and by-ways and compelling the drunkards and prostitutes to come to the banquet spread for them – though they have done nothing to deserve it. It is realizing that we are not the physicians. We, indeed, are sick men who must have an intravenous supply of Christ welling up in our hearts through his Holy Spirit. Broken vessels we are. Fragile clay pots.

What is more…a Christian realizes that God has every right to take his life. He is not his own. Not only did God have every right to smite us with sickness – due to our rebellion. But also, God continues to bear that right since we were bought at a price. Those who belong to Jesus realize that he died in our place. On the cross, our sin was crucifixed with/in him.

(chorus)
how can i kill the ones i’m supposed to love
my enemies are men like me
i will protest the sword if it’s not wielded well
my enemies are men like me

As Christians we must protest the sword if it is not wielded well. The Lenin-Soviet Union, Hitler’s Reich, Mao’s Massacres. Yet, the sword is still in the hands of the government. When Jesus commanded his disciples to turn their cheeks, he was speaking of forgiveness – not a literal turning and invitation to smite again. Jesus himself did not offer the other cheek in such a staunch interpretation. He rebuked the one who slapped him: “Why did you hit me?” He had done nothing wrong. We must forgive. How? More on that in another post (I want to write another post that explains how and upon what basis Christians forgive).

We are to kill the ones we are supposed to love when they kill. That is, I don’t kill by my own vigilante justice. Rather, the governing bodies above me dictate where justice should be meted out. This is due to sin that reigns in men’s bodies. God has given us institutions like government as a gift of common grace to guard from hell-ward justice.

(vs. 2)
peace by way of war is like purity by way of fornication
it’s like telling someone murder is wrong
and then showing them by way of execution

Not exactly. Peace is brought about when injustice is squashed. The wars we see are foretastes and foreshadowings of the final battle that will cleanse the earth of sin and distribute perfect justice. True righteousness will only reign when God’s enemies are decisively put underneath King Jesus’ feet. In other words, without men being given justice in this life we can expect no peace.

Imagine, if you will, the Hussein brothers being asked to stop raping and torturing women. Ridiculous! They were representations of evil in this world. The only way to bring about beauty is by wiping off the filth.

(bridge)
when justice is bought and sold just like weapons of war
the ones who always pay are the poorest of the poor

This is sadly more true than I would like to believe. Economically speaking, the rich get richer. Venture capitalists and middle class Americans who love cheap gas are the ones who love to hear of wars and rumors of war.

This is why the church must be more than a country club. If it is true that the poor get poorer. The church must come alongside these poor and show them how to make ends meet. If we are the church constituted by the Lord Jesus, and evidenced in the book of Acts, we will share with all those who have need.

May God grant us the grace to live life like Christ…

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Friday Foto


East & West

Taken in Lebanon this summer.

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Photos of a Temple to Ba’al


While on my trip to the Middle East, we went to Ba’albek, Lebanon. This is one of the most impressive archaeological sites in the world. It is a massive center with three temples: Ba’al (converted to a temple to Jupiter after the Romans took control of the area), Bacchus (Phoenician god of fertility), and Venus. Check out my photos of this site here. Also peruse the other albums as I added more photos to them (since they pertain to those respective subjects). You can also subscribe to my flickr account to see when I update it. I spent a little more time making comments on the photos in hopes that it will help with your study of archaeology and biblical history. For more information go to this site.

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Some More Photos of My Trip to the Middle East


For those of you who have enjoyed the fotos I have put up, you can go here to view some more from someone who was in my group. There are definitely some beautiful shots of the scenery…and a few of me mooching some chips off one somebody. Enjoy.

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A Political Rant

Okay, more of a question. I like to throw out some political stuff every now and then because I figure by doing so I can:
1) Learn more humility by revealing my inability to discuss such matters
2) Get some feedback from others to see where my thinking is off
3) Hopefully get at some essential issue to theology and its place in this matter
4) Learn more humility

I was listening to Anderson Cooper tonight as he interviewed a Republican from Georgia (not very articulate, but passionate) and Kucinich from Ohio. Kucinich made a pretty good point in the fact that Iraq made no attack on the United States. Therefore, according to international law, the USA should not have initiated war with Iraq.

With that said, my question has to do with the fact that don’t we (as an able-bodied people) have some obligation to right wrongs in other countries. That is, it is a known fact that Saddam Hussein was tyrannical and torturous to his own people. A horrible dictator. It reminds me of Nazi Germany in many ways. They were exterminating people within their own political boundaries. World governments were criticized for not doing something earlier than they had.

Does this not fit the same mold? Some may say: Why not go after North Korea? Why not a number of other countries? The United States just wants oil?

First, the third question delves into the area of motives. Who are you to judge a man’s motives. You have to deal with what is actually done and said. It is thin rationale, indeed, to say that you “know” that the reason for x is based on someone’s motive (when that has not been stated…ever). Second, who is to say that other countries will not be held accountable by the other world governments. Third, granted, I do not like the fact that the troops in the Middle East are predominantly from the USA. But does the fact that a few countries are pushing this ahead preclude the necessity of those with the means to do something about it?

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Some More Fotos From Damascus


Here are a couple of my favorite places I visited in Damascus…

PS – I think I am becoming a flickr fan. Please feel free to leave comments!

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Fotos from Damascus

I just uploaded some fotos from my trip to the Middle East. I will try to post updates in chronological order. For now visit my Damascus Album and I will be posting more when I get time. Feel free to make comments on my flickr site.

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He’s Back!!

“The best part about traveling is coming home.“ Someone said this on the trip the night before leaving Greece and I have to agree. It is good to be home. Seeing my wife has been the highlight of being home. A good cup of coffee this morning with blueberry breakfast cake and good conversation, what more could you ask for?

I got in last night a little after 10pm. Slept like a baby, as I didn’t do so on the flight from Athens to Paris to Atlanta.

Cut my hair (although I am thin up top, there is plenty of wild growth around the edges), took a second shower to get the traveling film off my body, a second load of laundry is washing, papers are sorted and books are calling me to be read. (I start classes in a couple of weeks.)

Thank you to the faithful who have checked in while I was gone. Blogging was not as easy as I had thought while overseas. Internet wasn’t always available and when it was I was beat up by all the traveling we were doing. We stayed in a new place almost every night. Needless to say, I have plenty to reflect on. Three weeks in the Middle East, visiting archaeological digs and dialoguing with folks of many different persuasions makes for good thoughts. I will be posting thoughts and fotos as I get the time. (The trick will be to label all this stuff.)

Again, it is good to be home!

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Gulf of Aqaba

We have just landed on the Gulf of Aqaba this afternoon. It is a nice solace from what we did this morning. We got up at 1:30am, hopped on a bus, hopped on a camel, rode up 2/3 the way up Mt Sinai (aka Mt Horeb), hiked up the rest of the way, and watched the sun rise over the mountains. Spectacular.

This Sinai peninsula is beautiful. When we think of Israel wandering through the wilderness, you should think of dry rocks. It’s not exactly what you would think of as “desert” (although it could be classified as that) and it’s not exactly mountains…morph the two and you get “wilderness.” It makes it even more amazing that the Israelites shoes did not where out and they did not cease to have bread and water. Have 100 degree weather beating on you and sustenance takes a whole new meaning.

We also went to St Katherine’s Monastery, a Greek Orthodox monastery which housed the Codex Sinaiticus. It was removed from there and taken to Russia, not to be returned.

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Gulf of Aqaba

We have just landed on the Gulf of Aqaba this afternoon. It is a nice solace from what we did this morning. We got up at 1:30am, hopped on a bus, hopped on a camel, rode up 2/3 the way up Mt Sinai (aka Mt Horeb), hiked up the rest of the way, and watched the sun rise over the mountains. Spectacular.

This Sinai peninsula is beautiful. When we think of Israel wandering through the wilderness, you should think of dry rocks. It’s not exactly what you would think of as “desert” (although it could be classified as that) and it’s not exactly mountains…morph the two and you get “wilderness.” It makes it even more amazing that the Israelites shoes did not where out and they did not cease to have bread and water. Have 100 degree weather beating on you and sustenance takes a whole new meaning.

We also went to St Katherine’s Monastery, a Greek Orthodox monastery which housed the Codex Sinaiticus. It was removed from there and taken to Russia, not to be returned.

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Alive and Well…in Jordan

That’s right, I am in the country of Jordan and the call to prayer has just sounded. I didn’t think it was possible to take so many pictures. And I loathe the fact that I am not a good photographer like van.diesel. We just rode about 6 hours from Syria into Jordan. We stayed in the beautiful city of Palmyra last night (I believe it was my favorite place on the trip so far).

We were in Damascus. And while it is touted to be the “oldest continuously inhabited city in the world” by locals, I found out that Antioch makes the same claim! In any case, I wish I would have more money to buy all the things that I am seeing. We went to Crak de Chevallierres, which is a castle constructed by the Crusaders in the 11th and 12th centuries. It is amazing. Although I took tons of pics, I also got hit with some kind of 24-hour virus and was not able to enjoy it to the full. I was laid up for pretty much the whole day. I made myself get out of the bus for my childhood love of castles. I used to spend hours drawing them and planning secret passageways and elaborate drawbridges.

I can’t wait to post pics. I did not bring my computer as I figured it would be more of a hastle. And, the program is keeping us pretty busy. At the border today, the patrol officer invited me to sit in his office and chat while we waited for our passports to get stamped. Very friendly fellow. After some small talk, I asked him what the people of Jordan thought of North Americans. I was grateful for his honesty. I am starting to understand a little of what other countries see when they see our government and way of doing things. I will write more on this later – as I have time to develop thoughts and articulate them a little more. For the time being, I am even more convinced that there are many sides to a story.

In case you’re wondering, the currency here is the dinar (1 US = .7 Jordanian dinar).

Correction: The above city should read “Aleppo” and not “Antioch”.

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Alive and Well…in Jordan

That’s right, I am in the country of Jordan and the call to prayer has just sounded. I didn’t think it was possible to take so many pictures. And I loathe the fact that I am not a good photographer like van.diesel. We just rode about 6 hours from Syria into Jordan. We stayed in the beautiful city of Palmyra last night (I believe it was my favorite place on the trip so far).

We were in Damascus. And while it is touted to be the “oldest continuously inhabited city in the world” by locals, I found out that Antioch makes the same claim! In any case, I wish I would have more money to buy all the things that I am seeing. We went to Crak de Chevallierres, which is a castle constructed by the Crusaders in the 11th and 12th centuries. It is amazing. Although I took tons of pics, I also got hit with some kind of 24-hour virus and was not able to enjoy it to the full. I was laid up for pretty much the whole day. I made myself get out of the bus for my childhood love of castles. I used to spend hours drawing them and planning secret passageways and elaborate drawbridges.

I can’t wait to post pics. I did not bring my computer as I figured it would be more of a hastle. And, the program is keeping us pretty busy. At the border today, the patrol officer invited me to sit in his office and chat while we waited for our passports to get stamped. Very friendly fellow. After some small talk, I asked him what the people of Jordan thought of North Americans. I was grateful for his honesty. I am starting to understand a little of what other countries see when they see our government and way of doing things. I will write more on this later – as I have time to develop thoughts and articulate them a little more. For the time being, I am even more convinced that there are many sides to a story.

In case you’re wondering, the currency here is the dinar (1 US = .7 Jordanian dinar).

Correction: The above city should read “Aleppo” and not “Antioch”.

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Happy and Sad

Some of you are aware of this already, but I wanted to let others know that I am on my way to the Middle East to travel with what is called the Middle East Travel Seminar (METS). It is a three week trip where I will travel with seminarians from other schools to travel throughout the Middle East, visiting archaeological sites and exchanging ideas regarding the church, the Bible, and Christianity. I feel extremely blessed to be able to be on this trip and plan on blogging about my time over the next few weeks. I don’t think I’ll be able to post pictures, but if I can, I will.

We leave tonight for Damascus – one of the oldest cities in the world. Rich with biblical significance, this will be an opportunity to see and smell the city.

My prayer is that I will grow in my understanding the biblical story so as to help the people God entrusts to my care as a pastor. Please pray for my wife and me as we will be apart for these three weeks. We thought we got all our crying out on Friday night, but found we had more tears on Saturday morning when I flew out to ATL for briefing time. Please pray we would love Jesus more, trust him more, and grow stronger in our marriage and devotion to God.

One thought I want to share already is the fact that although it is beneficial to visit the biblical sites, the New Covenant floors us with the truth that the temple of God dwells in those who have built there life on the chief cornerstone – Jesus Christ. He holds us together by the word of his power. While I will definitely be blessed with my time with others and seeing the sites, as a Christian pilgrimmage is no longer “necessary” in the sense that it is a discipline we must complete. This is the beauty of the fact that Jesus became flesh and dwelt among us – “tabernacling” among us. We rejoice in the fact that the Temple is now the people of God. Wherever they go, they take the sweet fragrance of Christ with them. Pilgrimmage is not a spiritual discipline. Yes, it is a blessing to visit. But tranfers of grace do not accumulate in my storehouse of faith. I may touch the Wailing Wall, and may even pray there. But God will not hear my prayers any better there than he did this morning when I was eating breakfast in the hotel.

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Happy and Sad

Some of you are aware of this already, but I wanted to let others know that I am on my way to the Middle East to travel with what is called the Middle East Travel Seminar (METS). It is a three week trip where I will travel with seminarians from other schools to travel throughout the Middle East, visiting archaeological sites and exchanging ideas regarding the church, the Bible, and Christianity. I feel extremely blessed to be able to be on this trip and plan on blogging about my time over the next few weeks. I don’t think I’ll be able to post pictures, but if I can, I will.

We leave tonight for Damascus – one of the oldest cities in the world. Rich with biblical significance, this will be an opportunity to see and smell the city.

My prayer is that I will grow in my understanding the biblical story so as to help the people God entrusts to my care as a pastor. Please pray for my wife and me as we will be apart for these three weeks. We thought we got all our crying out on Friday night, but found we had more tears on Saturday morning when I flew out to ATL for briefing time. Please pray we would love Jesus more, trust him more, and grow stronger in our marriage and devotion to God.

One thought I want to share already is the fact that although it is beneficial to visit the biblical sites, the New Covenant floors us with the truth that the temple of God dwells in those who have built there life on the chief cornerstone – Jesus Christ. He holds us together by the word of his power. While I will definitely be blessed with my time with others and seeing the sites, as a Christian pilgrimmage is no longer “necessary” in the sense that it is a discipline we must complete. This is the beauty of the fact that Jesus became flesh and dwelt among us – “tabernacling” among us. We rejoice in the fact that the Temple is now the people of God. Wherever they go, they take the sweet fragrance of Christ with them. Pilgrimmage is not a spiritual discipline. Yes, it is a blessing to visit. But tranfers of grace do not accumulate in my storehouse of faith. I may touch the Wailing Wall, and may even pray there. But God will not hear my prayers any better there than he did this morning when I was eating breakfast in the hotel.

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Abdul Rahman and You


A good friend of mine sent this e-mail to me today. It was very stirring and I wanted to share it with you. I will link to the article mentioned below with some excerpts…

What would we say to this Afghan man, who has been open with his faith in Jesus Christ; or, at least has not openly denied his faith in Christ? Is he a fool? Or, has he been wise? Surely he is both. He is a fool in the eyes of men, but wise in the eyes of the Lord.

We do not know the whole story. Take a moment and read this short article. It will remind you again of the ‘real war’ we (and all God’s children) are in as God’s heralds/ambassadors and servant leaders in his Kingdom.
This Afghan man represents many in the nations who are daily faced with the question of “openly following Jesus Christ,” or “quietly following Jesus in order to sustain their lives and societal peace.”

This article does not represent all Muslims. That is, some Muslims might suggest this man should not be killed. But, I believe this article shows the nature, character, and rootedness of Islam. Islam is in a crisis, and has been.

What will we do in these days? Will we be like the Malaysian government, which is afraid to disagree with the unconstitutinal mandates of the Islamic courts in its country?

Will we, and the missionaries we send, be prepared to suffer and equip others to suffer like this man?

The people of Islam need to hear and see the love of Christ. That is a love which lays down its life for its enemies. May the Lord help this Afghan man (Acts 7:54-60), whether he lives or dies, in Christ, he belongs to the Lord.

Let us consider the “Sermon on the Mount,” a great message of the Kingdom life/person:

“Blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called sons of God. Blessed are those who are persecuted for righteousness’ sake, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. Blessed are you when others revile you and persecute you and utter all kinds of evil against falsely on _my account._ Rejoice and be glad, for your reward is great in heaven, for so they persecuted the prophets who were before you. You are the salt of the earth…You are the light of the world…You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall love your neighbor and hate your enemy. _But I say to you_, Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, so that you may be sons of your Father who is in heaven…And when Jesus finished saying these these sayings, the crowds were astonished at his teaching, for he was teaching them as one who had authority, and not as the scribes. (Mt 5: 1 – 7:29, selections)

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