Posts tagged ‘Paris’

The Rebuilding of Notre Dame and the Resurrection of Jesus Christ

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The world watched in horror as a medieval Gothic treasure was wrecked last Monday when flames ripped through Notre Dame Cathedral in Paris.  Parts of the building, the construction of which began in 1163, still stand.  But much of the roof, which was made out of timber and original to the structure, along with the cathedral’s grand spire, also made out of wood and iron and rebuilt in 1844, is no more.

Reports indicate that many of the cathedral’s priceless relics, including what is claimed to have been the crown of thorns Jesus wore during His crucifixion, were rescued from the blaze.  Other relics, like a supposed piece of Jesus’ cross, may not have been so fortunate.  Its status is still unknown.  Parisians, Catholics, Protestants, and countless others across the world are still coming to terms with how a landmark as staid and majestic as Notre Dame – which withstood everything from the French Revolution and its virulently anti-Theist cult of reason to Hitler’s invasion of Paris and his order, thankfully disobeyed by one of his generals, to trigger explosives placed inside the grand façade – could come crashing down due to an accidental fire, likely triggered by an electrical short circuit.

The French president, Emmanuel Macron, vowed to rebuild the cathedral under an ambitious timeline. “We will rebuild Notre Dame even more beautifully and I want it to be completed in five years,” the president said in an address last Tuesday.  This is indeed a highly aggressive timeline and one of which many experts are skeptical, suspecting that the rebuilding may take decades instead of years.  When the structure was first built, it took 182 years to complete.

Jesus, as He began His public ministry, gazed upon the temple in Jerusalem, which would have been the ancient Jewish version of Notre Dame, and declared, “Destroy this temple, and I will raise it again in three days” (John 2:19).  Apparently, President Macron’s ambitious building timeline has nothing on Jesus.  The temple had already been rebuilt once after being destroyed by the Babylonians in 586 BC.  Herod the Great had begun a restoration and expansion of the temple in 20 BC, which continued into Jesus’ day.  So, you can imagine the incredulity of those listening when Jesus declared that He could rebuild the temple from the ground up in three days.  This is why the people responded, “It has taken forty-six years to build this temple, and You are going to raise it in three days” (John 2:20)?  But, of course, there’s a secret that the people listening to Jesus do not yet know or understand that John happily lets us in on: “The temple He had spoken about was His body” (John 2:21).

Yesterday, Christians all over the world celebrated the truth that Jesus’ building project was a stunning success.  He did at the end of His public ministry precisely what He said He would do at the beginning of His public ministry.  His body was crushed on a cross.  But in three days, He was not only rebuilt, He was resurrected.  Because of Him, even as the storied nave of Notre Dame sat sadly empty yesterday as a house of worship, hearts across the world were full of joy in celebration of the One who is to be worshiped.

When Notre Dame burned, the world lost a precious space.  But Christians did not lose their Christ.  And Christ did not lose His Church.  In the words of the old hymn:

Built on the Rock the Church doth stand,
Even when steeples are falling;
Crumbled have spires in every land,
Bells still are chiming and calling,
Calling the young and old to rest,
But above all the soul distressed,
Longing for rest everlasting.

Work on Notre Dame began 856 years ago because of this promise.  May work begin again on this grand old lady for this same reason.

April 22, 2019 at 5:15 am 1 comment

Why ISIS Cannot Win

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Credit: Yann Caradec | Flickr

When I drove into work last week, I noticed our flags flying half-staff. Our red, white, and blue was lowered in honor of France’s blue, white, and red and those who lost their lives in the terrorist attacks of two Fridays ago.

Of course, it didn’t take long for these attacks to ignite plenty of red-hot political and geopolitical wrangling. As it turns out, one of the ISIS terrorists allegedly masqueraded as a Syrian refugee to gain entry into France. This begs the question: should Western countries – including the United States – continue to grant asylum to these refugees when their ranks could be infiltrated by ISIS operatives? Then there is the question of how to address ISIS as an organization. French President Francois Hollande declared that “France is at war,” explaining, “Terrorism will not destroy France, because France will destroy it.”

All of this has spawned an understandable – and also predictable – reaction from many across this country and across the world: fear. Even children are afraid. The touching video that has gone viral showing a father allaying his son’s fears in the wake of the deadly attacks demonstrate just how pervasive the emotional devastation has become. People are scared. They want to know: are ISIS operatives planning an attack against this country? Just how powerful is ISIS? What can be done to prevent ISIS from attacking again? What will happen next?

I cannot answer what will happen next with ISIS. I wish I could. I wish I could say that all future ISIS attacks will be thwarted. That is certainly my prayer. But I cannot make it my prediction. But even though I cannot predict what is next for ISIS, I can be sure of what is last for ISIS. What’s last for ISIS is defeat. Of this I am confident.

I am confident of this for two reasons.

First, ISIS is a sectarian actor and sectarian actors, historically, tend not to thrive. ISIS doctrine requires that:

All Muslims must associate exclusively with fellow “true” Muslims and dissociate from anyone not fitting this narrow definition; failure to rule in accordance with God’s law constitutes unbelief; fighting the Islamic State is tantamount to apostasy; all Shi‘a Muslims are apostates deserving of death; and the Muslim Brotherhood and Hamas are traitors against Islam because they compromise with the non-caliphate political process (e.g., democracy).[1]

In short, ISIS believes that anyone who is not part of its cloistered caliphate is not only not a real Muslim, but not even worthy of life. This would be tantamount to Presbyterians wanting to destroy Baptists. This is the ultimate case study in sectarian insanity.

Certainly, Christianity has its own share of hate-filled sectarian groups. The Westboro Baptist Church comes to mind. Historically, Christian sects like the Encratites and the Docetists were rejected because of their abysmal doctrine. Considering ISIS endorses and outright enshrines ritual rape while the rest of the Muslim world stands steadfast on sexual purity, it is not difficult to see how ISIS is not only doctrinally aberrant even among Muslims, but humanitarianly repugnant. And doctrinally aberrant sects tend to collapse – or, at the very least, remain severely segregated – under the weight of their own idiosyncrasies and offensiveness. ISIS may be growing – for now – but sectarian doctrine and practice is not a recipe for longevity or continued growth.

Second, I do not think ISIS will last because of what I believe as a Christian. When Joshua is preparing to go to war against the kings of northern Canaan, God gives to him a curious command: “You are to hamstring their horses and burn their chariots” (Joshua 11:6). Strategically, this does not seem smart. Wouldn’t horses and chariots be helpful for future battles? Aren’t these the kinds of weapons that could benefit Israel’s national security?

God commands Joshua to destroy these tools of war to remind him that it is not he and Israel that will gain victories as they march into the Promised Land, but the Lord. He is the one who is fighting for Israel. No horses or chariots are needed.

ISIS fights with rifles, suicide bombs, and IED’s. But they cannot win, just like the people of Canaan could not win. Why? Because they are fighting the wrong battle using the wrong weapons. They are fighting for a false faith – even by most Muslim standards – with despicably deployed terrorizing weapons of war. As Christians, however, we fight for the true faith using divinely distributed saving weapons of war. ISIS may have a roadside bomb. But we have the sword of the Spirit (cf. Ephesians 6:17). And the sword of the Spirit trumps a terrorist’s bomb every time.

ISIS may manage to pull off some attacks here and there, but they will not last. Because they cannot last. God has promised otherwise.

And so, ISIS needs to be put on notice: there is coming a day when swords will be beaten into plowshares and spears will be forged into pruning hooks (cf. Isaiah 2:4). There is coming a day when your weapons will no longer terrorize nations because your weapons will no longer be around. But the Spirit’s sword will continue to stand.

So, as Christians, let’s stick with that weapon. And let’s find our comfort and confidence in that weapon. After all, it’s a guaranteed winner.

____________________________

[1] Joe Carter, “9 Things You Should Know About Islamic State,” The Gospel Coalition (11.14.2015).

November 23, 2015 at 5:15 am 4 comments

Pray for Paris

Paris Eifell TowerI first heard the news on the radio when I was driving home from work Friday night. Phrases like “breaking news” and “continuing coverage” caught my attention. As more and more details of the ghastly attacks trickled in from across the Atlantic, I knew it was going to be a long night for the people of Paris. 129 dead. 352 injured, 99 critically. And ISIS was claiming responsibility for the coordinated attacks that hit six targets at once. After opening fire on their victims, all but one of ISIS’s operatives blew themselves up when police approached, hoping to kill even more people with suicide bombings.

Considering these attacks came just days after ISIS was suspected of downing Metrojet Flight 9268 over northern Sinai as it was on its way from Sharm el-Sheikh to St. Petersburg, it is quickly becoming apparent that ISIS will stop at nothing to intimidate the world. As of now, their tactics are working. Many, many people are very, very scared.

As Christians, we know we are commanded to be not afraid. The words of Psalmist come to mind: “God is our refuge and strength, an ever-present help in trouble. Therefore we will not fear, though the earth give way and the mountains fall into the heart of the sea” (Psalm 46:1-2). Logically, we also know that fear does us little good at a time like this. It solves nothing. It changes nothing. It only paralyzes us and clouds our judgment. But at the same time we are called not to fear, we are also called to be in prayer. Indeed, the apostle Paul addresses both fear and prayer when he writes, “Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God” (Philippians 4:6). At a time like this, when the world is fearing, we should be praying.

As this tragedy continues to unfold, allow me offer four things for which I think we can and should pray. My hope is that God will not only comfort you as you pray these petitions, but that He will use these petitions to help you process what has happened. After all, what has happened affects not only the city of Paris or the nation of France; it affects the world. Nous sommes tous les Parisiens.

On to the prayers.

Pray for Paris.

In one way, this goes without saying. And, thankfully, it is already happening. A quick check of my Twitter account shows #Prayers4Paris is trending. So pray for the grieving. Pray for the fearful. Pray for the people of a city who are trying to pick up the pieces of an illusion of safety that has just been shattered. Pray for Paris.

But let me take this a step farther. Because as Christians, to pray for Paris means to pray for all of Paris – even for those who support and sympathize with the attackers. Jesus admonishes us to pray not only for those with whom we share a kinship, but even for our enemies: “Pray for those who persecute you” (Matthew 5:44). So pray for ISIS operatives in Paris and, for that matter, all over the world. Pray, yes, that any further plots would be thwarted. But also pray that their hearts would be changed. A changed heart stops evil much better than even the most sophisticated international intelligence operation.

Pray for sobriety.

The shock and sadness of yesterday’s attacks will soon dissolve into political posturing and raw outrage. Rash responses will be given. Foolhardy decisions will be made. We need to stay away from all such impulsiveness.

If history is any indication, I am especially concerned that many will fall into what logicians refer to as the fallacy of composition. This fallacy asserts that if something is true for the part, it must also be true for the whole. So in this instance, if a few radical Muslims who are part of ISIS are terrorists, then it is reasonable to be wary of any Muslim because he or she might be a terrorist.

Don’t fall for – or propagate – this fallacy!

I have many friends who own firearms. They are, of course, very responsible and cautious with their weapons. But every time a mass shooting happens – in Roseburg, in Charleston, in Fort Hood, in Sandy Hook – many of them openly worry that the actions of a few deranged lunatics will affect all firearm owners. They worry that people will take the actions of a few and use it to stifle the whole. And so they lobby not only for their rights as firearm owners, but also for their character as people.

What firearm owners do for each other, Christians can and should do for Muslims. Let’s not lose our ability to think soberly and clearly not only about these attacks specifically, but about Muslims generally. The vast majority of Muslims are people who hold much in common, especially ethically, with Christians. They love their families. They despise promiscuity. And they support traditional values like honesty, hard work, and generosity. Let’s be willing to vouch for the character of Muslims. And let’s be willing to support and love them as people.

Pray for governments.

The French government, the U.S. government, and many other governments across the world have some difficult decisions to make. ISIS must be stopped. Thankfully, God has given governments the authority to do just this. The apostle Paul explains:

He who rebels against the [governing] authority is rebelling against what God has instituted, and those who do so will bring judgment on themselves. For rulers hold no terror for those who do right, but for those who do wrong. (Romans 13:2-3)

Paul says that those who rebel against good order arranged by good governments will bring judgment on themselves. For good governments will seek to avenge and deter – often with force – evil events. The terrorists, then, have every reason to be terrified.

As governments across the world try to discern how to respond to these attacks, pray that their responses would be decisive, measured, and Godly. In short, pray that world governments would act in ways that thwart evil while honoring God’s Word.

Pray, “Come, Lord Jesus.”

Ultimately, we know that governments, though they can do much to suppress evil, cannot stop evil. Only God can do that. In fact, shortly before Paul writes his words concerning government, he writes about God’s final judgment: “Do not take revenge, my friends, but leave room for God’s wrath, for it is written: ‘It is Mine to avenge; I will repay,’ says the Lord” (Romans 12:19). God’s vengeance is the only vengeance that gives victory.

When does God avenge evil? On the Last Day. Then and only then will evil be wiped out once and for all. Until then, attacks will happen. Lives will be lost. Evil will rear its head. And we will “groan inwardly as we wait eagerly for our adoption as sons, the redemption of our bodies” (Romans 8:23). Considering that none of this is pleasant or good, the final prayer of the Bible can be our prayer today: “Come, Lord Jesus” (Revelation 22:20). “Come and wipe out evil. Come and make everything – including those hurting in Paris – new.”

And He will.

November 14, 2015 at 4:05 pm 4 comments


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