Ajith Fernando, “Six Biblical Responses to Sri Lanka’s Easter Bombings”

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I first heard of Ajith Fernando when he was the morning Bible expositor at Urbana ’93, which I attended when I was a college student. Since that time, his writings have continued to be an influence in my life and ministry, whether his books The Supremacy of ChristReclaiming Friendship, or Jesus Driven Ministry.

When the bombings occurred this last Sunday in Sri Lanka, after reeling from the devastation of these events, I wondered to myself, “What does Ajith Fernando, as a native Sri Lankan, have to say about all of this?” Thankfully, it did not take long for Christianity Today to reach out to Fernando, whose important reflections are posted on their website under the title: “Six Biblical Responses to Sri Lanka’s Easter Bombings.” I would encourage you to read the entire article, but here is a quick summary.

I have thought of at least six necessary responses from Christians to what has happened:

1) Lament Loss
Christians must join the nation in lamenting and mourning over our losses. Protestants have been somewhat lacking in espousing a theology of groaning (Rom. 8:23) that opens the door to lament (though that seems to be changing)….In addition to Easter time, April is New Year in Sri Lanka and most Christians have cancelled their usual festivities because of what has happened.

2) Condemn Evil
The Bible is loaded with condemnation over the wrong that takes place in a nation, and the ministries of the prophets are a good example of this. Where possible and appropriate, we need to strongly condemn—with no reserve—the barbaric acts that have happened. Like the prophets, we may also need to denounce the failure of our national leaders to take appropriate steps to protect the people in response to intelligence reports.

3) Alleviate Suffering
Part of the Christian answer to the problem of evil is action to alleviate suffering, as people made in the image of a God who works. The Bible is loaded with advice to care for those who are wounded and vulnerable. We must look for opportunities to help. Some of these are more formal projects done in an organized manner by groups—Christian or general community efforts….Visiting people in the hospital, donating blood, transporting the needy, providing meals, keeping people in our homes—these should be standard Christian practices which become part of the Christian lifestyle.

4) Leave Vengeance to the Lord
In our hearts we must apply the principle of God’s “holy-love” as we think through the situation. The Bible is clear that our holy God punishes wrong. The reason we are to “never avenge [ourselves]” is because we “leave it to the wrath of God, for it is written, ‘Vengeance is mine, I will repay, says the Lord’” (Rom. 12:19)….We must let justice take its course. But even if it doesn’t take place on earth, we know that it will at the final judgment….

5) Don’t Bear False Witness
The Bible is severe in its condemnation of false accusation and harming the innocent. Racial, ethnic, and religious prejudice often comes from lumping large numbers of people alongside a few radical members of the group they belong to….in Sri Lanka, for centuries we have lived harmoniously with Muslims. I often feel that my Muslim neighbors are better neighbors to me than I am to them. If we lump all Muslims under the category of terrorist sympathizers, we do many of them a huge injustice which is abhorrent to God….

6) Pray
While it may seem foolish to spend time praying during a crisis when there is so much to do, this is the most powerful thing God’s people can do in a national crisis (1 Kings 19). We need to mobilize individual and corporate prayer among Christians. Leaders must take the lead in calling for prayer….

Praying for Deliverance [30 Days of Prayer]

Summer of Prayer Ads_Banner“And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from the evil one.” (Matthew 6:13)

Within many cultures, and particularly here in North America, we seem obsessed with discovering who we are. Many times, it is suggested that in order to find ourselves we must leave behind all limits and throw aside all rules. The key, many say, is to give ourselves to the full range of experiences and desires, and by doing so we will find out who we truly are. In that approach to life, words like “temptation” and “evil” lose their meaning, unless interpreted as the temptation toward an evil of resisting our desire for anything that helps us become ourselves.

Jesus’ life, however, presents a different way. His public ministry begins with a season of self-denial marked by intense temptation in remote, solitary places (Matthew 4:1-11; Mark 1:12-13; Luke 4:1-13). Three times in that story, Jesus resists temptation. It is the temptation to become less than God intends for Him by giving into various forms of desire. Each time, Jesus resists a very real enemy, Satan, and does so by the power of the God’s Word. Reaching out to God for victory as He quotes Scripture to the devil, Jesus walks through the time of trial and into God’s deliverance and care. Jesus models for us the great truth that we are more than our desires, and that the pathway to the kingdom of God involves denying what we often see as our very self.

Within Jesus’ teaching on prayer here in the Sermon on the Mount, He reminds us that we must call out to God to save us from temptation and also to deliver us when we find the evil one coming against us. If it is true, as the Apostle Peter points out, that “the devil prowls around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour” (1 Peter 5:8), then the related truth is that we must “be alert and of sober mind” so that we might “resist him, standing firm in the faith” (5:9). The strength for this sober alertness and resistance of faith comes when God fills us with power by the Holy Spirit. As God strengthens our will to resist temptation, He will also reveal that there is a way out of temptation (1 Corinthians 10:13).

May our prayers rise up to God so that we might resist temptation and find deliverance from God in the midst of a world set against Him and His ways.

Save us, Lord, from temptation,
and deliver us from evil.
All around us, Lord, we know
the snares of the evil one
and his minions are gathered.
Truly he is like a prowling lion,
hungry for the sweet taste of human suffering.
Lord, embolden us to resist him,
even to flee from him,
as we run into Your embrace.
Give us eyes to see the darkness around us
and the way out from temptation.
Also, grant us Your strength to stand firm
when the day of evil comes.
Lord, if we should fall, quicken us
by the grace of Your Holy Spirit
to turn around with holy repentance
and find forgiveness at Your throne of grace.

[This post is part of the “30 Days of Prayer” devotional. Read other posts here.]

The Bramble King: Abimelek (discussion questions)

Flawed Heroes Series Gfx_App SquareHere are the discussion questions that accompany my message, “The Bramble King,” from this past weekend at Eastbrook Church. This message continues our series, “Flawed Heroes” from the book of Judges. This week we looked at the life and demise of Abimelek in Judges 9.

Discussion Questions:

  1. Answer one of these two questions:
    • Who would you describe as one of the greatest leaders of the last 100 years, and why?
    • Who is someone that you know personally that you respect as a leader, and why?
  2. This week, as we continue our “Flawed Heroes” series, we look at one of the lowest points of the book of Judges with the character of Abimelek in Judges 9. There is a lot to learn here, so take a moment to prepare your heart, asking God to speak to you through His word. After that, read the entire passage out loud.
  3. The story of Abimelek is connected to the story of Gideon (also known as Jerub-baal) in Judges 6-8. What do we know about Abimelek, the end of his father’s life, and the attitudes of the tribes of Israel at this time (see especially Judges 8:22-35)?
  4. What happens in Judges 9:1-5? What does this tell us about Abimelek’s character and the character of the leading citizens within Shechem? (Note: the word translated ‘citizens’ of Shechem in the NIV has the sense of ‘lords’ or ‘leaders’; see the ESV, NASB and NLT.)
  5. Jotham, the youngest son of Gideon, survives the massacre of his siblings and offers a prophetic message against Abimelek couched in a parable in 9:7-21. When he describes Abimelek as a thornbush seeking to shade the other trees, why is this both ridiculous and foolish?
  6. Have you ever sought to find refugee or help from an untrustworthy person or source? What happened? How might Jotham’s words guide us here?
  7. The uprising against Abimelek is guided by God (9:22-24). What does this tell us about both the power and character of God?
  8. The rebellion by Gaal son of Ebed (9:25-41) is short-lived and ends poorly for all involved. Why do you think the people of Shechem were drawn to Gaal?
  9. As Abimelek’s wrath is poured out on Gaal and his army, then the people of Shechem, and the neighboring town of Thebez, we see an ironic answer to Abimelek’s promise in 9:2. What does this tell us about appearances and empty promises?
  10. Abimelek’s death is a dishonorable finish to a dishonorable life. Judges 9:56-57 serve as a commentary on the life and wickedness of Abimelek and Shechem. There’s a saying that people get the leaders they deserve. What does Abimelek’s story tell us about true leadership? What are the spiritual issues underlying the disasters of this chapter?
  11. What is one thing that God is speaking to you through this study today? If you are on your own, take a moment to write it down, pray about it, and then commit to sharing that with one person this week. If you are with a small group, share your answers together and then pray for each other.

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||40days|| week three: turn from evil

When I say the word ‘evil’ what comes to your mind: a scene from a horror movie, vile dictators, your boss? ‘Evil’ is not a word that’s bandied about very easily anymore and is considered by some to be an outmoded concept that doesn’t apply to life anymore.

Still, most people would recognize evil in the world around us when we encounter stories of mass graves in war-torn lands or children killed in their schools by rampaging psychopaths. It is hard to call those things by any other name.

If we look a bit closer at our own lives, however, we will see the impulse to evil within our own souls. Evil is not only such radical, mind-blowing acts. Evil is also the will to act in ways that are morally reprehensible or bring misfortune to others. In the biblical world, evil is personified by Satan, the devil who opposes God’s goodness in the world and the lives of individuals. The word ‘evil’ appears throughout Scripture to name actions and ways that reflect idolatry, sin, harm to others, and more. As with sin, evil can grab hold of our lives in dramatic ways that are hard to shake free. Read More »