Donald Trump and the Salvation of the World

Victor Chininin Buele

This is not a pro-Trump article. I’m not a fan. This is not a “Trump is our Savior” article either.

I cannot properly describe 2017. It has been an emotional rollercoaster. To put it mildly.

But I can describe my excitement at seeing the world move forward in a number of very important and massive ways. A simple perusal of a year-end magazine retelling the headlines could, in your eyes, prove this excitement quite wrong. But bear with me.

Relative arguments are not so relative after all. For years, we have been indoctrinated and indoctrinating the world on the “fact” that there is no truth. Well, except the truth that there is no truth, if you follow that rabbit hole down its crazy path. For years, we have been saying that there is no normative standard of what is right and wrong. And then, Donald Trump comes into the picture and shows us all to have never been relativists at all. I have heard no one say credibly, “Donald Trump is right for them.” “Donald Trump’s actions are acceptable to him.” “Donald Trump’s ideas are true to them.” All arguments have been absolute.  The headlines speak loud and clear.

This is an apple, not a banana.  CNN has spent a significant amount of air time assuring us that facts matter. Thank you. Sincerely. I’ve been trying to do that for years. Facts matter. They have an ad that shows us an apple on the screen and tells us the ways people will try to persuade us that it is in reality a banana. (They even say banana in a very Trumpesque voice). Yet they’ll turn and righty honor as the Hero of the Year a wonderful person who works with those with Down syndrome.  The first line in CNN’s story? “‘My children are not broken,’ Amy Wright insists.” This is straight from the CNN site even as they in parallel radically voice opposition to legislation protecting the unborn with Down syndrome. Thanks to Donald Trump, people are now all of a sudden concerned about fact checking, even though they can’t quite always see their own redefinitions of facts.

We worship sex. It took an incredible amount of filth for people to start taking sexual abuse seriously. When a society makes sex its idol and defines the core of a human being’s identity the way sexuality is practiced, the metaphysical power of the sexual union is vilified and when that is lost, as it has in 21st century America, the beauty, wonder, and blessing of sex is tragically lost.  Thank you, Mr. President, for clearly highlighting to the world that the powerful have always abused the weak. So-called locker room talk included. Jesus said that all lewd locker room talk is adultery and worse even if it didn’t become physical abuse. I may be paraphrasing.

We seem to care about life after all.  We are now seeing the practical effects of Roe v. Wade. For decades now we have cheapened human life, and we have sold congressional seats, senate seats, even the presidency, to normalize, magnify, and exalt our national act of human sacrifice to the god of sex. If we are saying every day that a little girl is not a human being at all, why are we surprised when a grown woman is treated as a disposable artifact of personal use by the rich and powerful? We daily condone and affirm the less famous Matt Lauers who drop off their former objects of pleasure with a few hundred bucks to “get it taken care of.”

The love of money is the root of all evil.  We have seen a lot–cabinet secretaries abusing their power by using taxpayer money for what looked like extravagant trips, millions of taxpayer dollars used to secure the Winter White House and pay rent at Trump Tower for the Secret Service.  But if you are honest, aren’t you thankful that it’s at least clear now that money is indeed the root of all evil? The love of money is the appropriate label for things like not being transparent when it comes to taxes, the stretching of US law to maximize profit, the giving of what appears to many to be tax breaks only to the rich while eventually betraying the poor. It’s greed. The thing you hate in Trump is greed. And you hate it because you see its seedlings inside your own heart. Secretly perhaps you long to hear Trump say to you, “You all just got a lot richer.”

Humility wins every time.  Aren’t you a little Donald Trump as well?  Perhaps more cleaned up and respectable in the eyes of others. But don’t you see in you the same things you hate in him?  After all, in part that’s what got him elected. Don’t you love to “one up” people at parties? Don’t you embellish stories? Don’t you #humblebrag your life every time it’s possible? Don’t you loudly boast of your accomplishments to others? I’m convinced that the reason Trump’s ego and pride hit you so hard in the gut is because you know deep inside that you long for the humility of Jesus. And this is as far from that as you have ever imagined.

Bid Thou Our Sad Divisions Cease. For years, I have been on the receiving and the giving end of inequality. I became a US citizen just this year after a long story that included 15 days as an official undocumented immigrant thanks to the laziness of a lawyer and a very overwhelmed government system. I have been humiliated in interviews where I was assumed guilty of immigration fraud even though I have followed the law at every step of the way. I have also seen a generation of white Americans struggle with my mere presence and apparent success in this land. It hasn’t been pretty. But because of that ridiculous idea of the big, big wall, we at least are talking about it now. We weren’t before. For years, politicians hid the immigration challenges because it was politically and economically advantageous to ignore the problem. The dreamers didn’t become an issue during the Obama administration. This was brewing for a while. And we refused to listen. We are guilty, too.

We can’t keep riding on borrowed capital forever.  Of course I am not a proponent of the “America is a Christian nation” theology, but a significant bit of our public law and practice did originate with natural law and Christian theology (what has been called Judeo-Christian values) — in the embodiment of the joy of Christians by the power of the Holy Spirit into cultural artifacts, widespread blessing, lasting institutions, and orderly structures.  The appointment of insanity into such institutions and the ways that these systems have been tricked and abused has been another way in which President Trump has shown to us that the day of reckoning is going to come soon.  These cultural artifacts and governmental structures can’t really exist without the joy of Christ actually being present behind them.  If you don’t believe it, just wait until the victories that you think you have won are turned on you one day.  The oppressed always have a great temptation to become the oppressors of tomorrow.

So, we have much to be thankful for in this age of disarray.  Economically it may result in a massive success, “so much winning,” or it can be the biggest disaster yet, compounding our already dire and declining economy and society with crazy decisions and legislation. If the CBO estimates are right (which they often aren’t), we are in for quite a ride in 2018.  It could be worse than the estimates assume. It could be better.

Sure, the man Donald Trump is quite something.

But aren’t you as well?

The main question is, will you turn? Will you turn away from your sin and trust in Christ? Will you be in him? Will you receive the one who humbled himself to enter this earth to save you?

Surrender.  The best is yet to come.

Cristo Ya Viene

Victor Chininin Buele

Yo crecí respirando política. Me fascina. No soy un politólogo profesional ni doctor en ciencias políticas. Pero algo muy profundo y nostálgico me sobrecoge cuando recuerdo esas notas re-si-si-si-do-si-la de las cuñas de la Izquierda Democrática.  Aprendí a leer muy temprano y los amigos de campaña de mi papá no creían que yo podía leer las pancartas y lo que los periódicos decían acerca de Rodrigo, nuestro amigo, el pueblo está contigo.

La verdad es que para un niño de menos de cinco años recorriendo las polvorientas carreteras de la vieja república en buses con alto olor a diesel o batallando contra el mareo en carros prestados a los amigos de mi papá, una cosa era muy clara: una vez que Rodrigo gane, nuestra vida cambiará.

Todos somos políticos.  O como yo prefiero decirlo, todos somos teólogos.

Mi padre es un político excelente, nunca ve el lado negativo de la vida y es un trabajador incansable.  Yo honestamente creo que él puede hacer ganar a cualquiera, aunque no tenga ninguna experiencia, y algunitos cuyos nombres el honor no permite que comparta en público lo saben muy bien.  No es una broma decir que mi esposa y mi madre tienen terror a las palabras Chininín Presidente porque ellas saben muy bien que mi padre lo puede hacer una realidad y que el linchamiento mediático estaría listo contra este vendepatrias, gringo wannabe, pastor cristiano, y eso solamente para empezar.  Quién sabe qué se inventarían para no dejar trabajar.

Rodrigo.  Rodrigo no hizo nada por nosotros.  Excepto permitir una de las vergüenzas y desilusiones más grandes de mi niñez.  Una revisión de Diario El Siglo de aquellos tiempos les puede decir a qué me refiero. La verdad es que como muchos de quienes trabajan más duro en las campañas probablemente los del grupo de los dirigentes nunca pusieron el nombre de mi papi en las famosas ternas.  Rodrigo quizá nunca supo quién era mi padre.  Pues si él en verdad hubiera conocido al hombre… Pero la verdad es que aunque supiera quien fue, nosotros nunca íbamos a comprar nada.

Esa es la patria del pasado.  Pero también la de hoy.

Es por esto que nunca he protestado contra la Revolución Ciudadana de Rafael Correa a pesar de tener serias y profundas divergencias con su ideología y política.  No lo he hecho por tener miedo sino porque solamente Correa con su personalidad fuerte pudo hacer muchas de las cosas que los cobardes del pasado no pudieron.  Mi coronel Gutiérrez también fue un Cristo para mi país.  Tal como Rodrigo lo fue para mi.  Yo pensé que un hombre recto, un militar, sin ninguna experiencia política en la podredumbre de aquel socialcristianismo fingido podría darnos esperanza.  Pero lo que muchos no dicen es que más allá de los memes que hacen de él, Lucio verdaderamente intentó gobernar sin la partidocracia.  Pero se dio cuenta que sus tentáculos eran tan poderosos que solamente León podía dar las órdenes para que se abrieran.

La verdad es, Ecuador es ingobernable sin los tentáculos de la partidocracia.

Pero el Mashi lo hizo.

Y ese es su lugar en la historia ecuatoriana.  Me saco el sombrero.  Batalló contra la ineficiencia, la falta de desarrollo, las trabas a todo, la burocracia, la partidocracia, la oligarquía.

Pero, como su hasta-hace-poco fiel compañero de batalla dijo un día, no pudo ganar el corazón de los ecuatorianos.  No pudo cambiar nuestra manera de ser.

El Mashi ya viene ha sido el tono de las últimas semanas.

Ha vuelto el Mashi.

Lo siento profundamente por su familia.  Lo siento profundamente por su salud y su felicidad.  Rafael Correa no vuelve a Ecuador como el Cristo en Domingo de Ramos.  Rafael Correa vuelve a Ecuador a enfrentar un monstruo.  Y a enfrentarse a sí mismo.

Para nosotros, la gentecita común y corriente, no es fácil discernir quién nos está mintiendo:

Puede ser que Vidrio sea Glas, un hábil corrupto, mentiroso y ladrón que utiliza el legado de Rafael Correa para manipular a las masas haciéndonos creer que es inocente.  Un hombre que utilizó los sectores estratégicos para estratégicamente llenar sus bolsillos.

O

Puede ser que Glas sea en verdad un hombre de cultura intachable, un caballero, el único en la historia que ha enfrentado a la justicia con confianza fiel en la veracidad y la honestidad.  Un hombre que sirvió a su patria y manejó los sectores estratégicos para darle la espalda a la vieja república.

Puede ser que Lenín sea el más vil traidor, doble cara, el Caballo de Troya de León que aun gobierna desde la tumba.  Puede ser que Lenín sea ese Judas que besó y traicionó a su señor a cambio de unas miserables monedas que no tienen valor eterno.  Puede ser que él no se haya dado cuenta que es el próximo Lucio, quien no se dio cuenta que para los de la partidocracia el presidente no es más que el papel higiénico con el cual deshechan sus desperdicios.

O

Puede ser que Lenín sea el más valeroso soldado contra la corrupción que ama profundamente al país y que no quiere que seamos borregos siguiendo ciegamente a un concepto mítico de una revolución que parece ha hecho todo a medias y al apuro.

Pero la verdad es que un pobre don nadie como yo nunca sabrá la verdad.

Pero yo si sé esto:

  • Somos traidores.  De los más viles.  ¿O acaso ninguno de ustedes no le ha traicionado a su pana de toda la vida para ganarse a la chica o el puestito?
  • Rafael Correa no es Cristo.  Rafael ha vuelto.  Debemos orar por él, por su familia, por su protección, por su salud, por su libertad, por su vida.  Pero Cristo ya viene.
  • Por más que Rafael haya transformado al Ecuador, él no es el Mesías.  No podemos confundir a un hombre que ha dado todo por nuestra nación por Aquél que dio todo para que una persona tan corrupta como yo, un traidor tan vil y mentiroso como yo pueda tener vida eterna.
  • Todos somos corruptos.  Hacemos lo que no debemos.  No hacemos lo que debemos.  Todos somos ladrones y mentirosos.  ¿O no se han comido un pedacito de algo que no es suyo o no se han llevado algo que era de alguien más?
  • El juicio a Jorge Glas debe hacernos temblar de miedo.  Si Glas ha sido honesto su futuro es brillante por toda la eternidad.  Pero si no, su juicio nos recuerda que el día ya viene cuando Cristo como justo juez nos mostrará nuestra culpabilidad, no solamente la de esos.

Y solamente la justicia de Cristo, su santidad y honestidad prevalecerán.  No hay nada, absolutamente nada que pueda justificarnos.  Puentes, carreteras, sectores estratégicos, honestidad, obediencia a la justicia, sacrificios económicos, familia, lucha contra la corrupción.  Nada de eso servirá.

Correa nos ha recordado desde aquél lugarcito en Bélgica que “todo lo desleal y mediocre será efímero” y en eso él tiene toda la razón.  Sea quien sea que sea el mentiroso en este juego de política, Dios es juez y Él no se puede comprar.

Mientras tanto, Él protege a nuestro país y a nuestras almas.

Y nos llama.

“Ven”

Ven. traidor, ven a Mi y ten vida.
Ven, mentiroso, ven a Mi y ten vida.
Ven, ladrón, ven a Mi y ten vida.
Ven, asesino, ven a Mi y ten vida.
Ven, adúltero, ven a Mi y ten vida.
Ven, corrupto, ven a Mi y ten vida.

Porque sabemos que en ese momento en el que la pantalla está apagada, las luces están apagadas, los de la fiesta del barrio ya se durmieron, y los gallos aun no cantan… sabemos que nosotros somos el peor ejemplo de esas cosas.  Necesitamos salvación.

Y la verdad es:

¡Cristo ya viene!

The God of Life Overcomes All Evil

As we come to the close of the book of Genesis, we see all of the natural outworking of just about any family reunion: some descendants are blessed, others are rebuked, some family members meet for the very first time, and others confront one another under the weight of great interpersonal conflict.

That is all part of natural family interactions, but before leaving Canaan, Jacob/Israel received a visitation and blessing from the Lord.  “Behold, I will make you fruitful and multiply you, and I will make of you a company of peoples and will give this land to your offspring after you for an everlasting possession,” God told him.  This is the same promise God made to Adam, Noah, Abraham, and Isaac – all of whom were sinners.

There are a few things you should remember when you evaluate all that takes place in the book of Genesis: First, God shaped the people He chose, He didn’t choose well-shaped people.  Second, He did it this way to show how utterly broken we humans are without the constant care and kingship of God.  And, finally, God is not defeated by the sins and failures of His people.  We don’t stain or tarnish God’s character or reputation in the same way you cannot stain a ray of light by flinging mud right at it.  God overcomes all of the evil this world spews forth.  In fact, it’s His very presence that allows us to recognize evil for the filth it is.

If this is the first time (or the first time in a long time) that you have read (and thought and fought) through Genesis, I hope you didn’t miss that God does not change or follow along with current trends.  His wants to see people blessed as they work purposefully and spread out to share that blessing with all the people of the earth.  God is the beginning, middle, and end of that mission.  All imaginings of a Utopia can’t hold a candle to God’s great and original command to “be fruitful and multiply.”

The God of Life is not outdated, cruel, or chauvinistic.  He is the only good God.  He is worthy today of all glory, honor, and praise.  He will come again as Judge.  My friend, I encourage you to turn yourself in and seek mercy now.  He is merciful, but He is not blind.  If you cling to evil, He will overcome you on that day, too.

The text referenced in this entry can be found in Genesis chapters 48-50.

The God of Life Is Not Limited By Our Perception

After Joseph detained Simeon as collateral, he sent the other brothers to bring Benjamin back before establishing further trade between Jacob’s family and the Egyptians.  He sent them with the grain they had purchased, but he also secretly returned their payment as well.  In this way Joseph was able to bless his brothers, however, because the brothers could not fathom that the gesture was intentional blessing, they were terrified as they imagined that they would be accused of having cheated and stolen from the Egyptians.  Because of their fear, likely caused by the guilt they carried from their sin against Joseph, they cried out, “What has God done to us?”  Did you catch that?  Verse 25 says the returning of their money was something that was done for them, but they saw it as something done to them.

Do you sometimes think circumstances in your life are like a curse or a punishment because you fear one possible outcome?  Well, in the case of these brothers, and in your case, I’m glad the God of Life is the one who writes the end of our stories, and His children never have to fear the end of the story.

As it turned out, the brothers returned to Joseph with their youngest brother after they had fretted a good bit and eaten through the grain they purchased on the first trip.  They took twice the payment as before and were ready to grovel for mercy as they explained the “mistaken” returned payment to the steward of Joseph’s house.  He told them, “Peace to you, do not be afraid.  Your God and the God of our father has put treasure in your sacks for you.  I received your money.”  The brothers met Joseph again, ate as his guests, and were prepared for their return trip, but this time Joseph’s slight-of-hand was a test, not just a blessing.

Joseph had his steward frame the youngest brother, Benjamin as a thief, and when Joseph made the accusation, the brothers protested that none of them would steal from him, but that if any were found to be guilty of the crime, they would surrender to punishment of death.  Well, once the “stolen” property was discovered in Benjamin’s possession, the brothers all lost it.  They pleaded with Joseph for mercy for the sake of their aged and bereaved father.  Maybe it was this very compassion on Jacob, which was not a concern for these same brothers when they staged Joseph’s death all those years before, that fully broke Joseph.

Joseph revealed his identity to his brothers, forgave them, absolved them from shame, exalted God’s sovereignty, begged them to receive the blessing of his provision during the remaining years of famine, and showered them with affection.  Honestly, if this all happened within a matter of minutes like the text seems to suggest, I feel bad for those overwhelmed brothers!  They had willfully committed some heinous sin, it’s true.  But they had lived in the darkness of shame and fear, slaves to Satan’s accusations for more than a decade.  Then, all of a sudden, the lights of love and forgiveness were switched on, and did they ever blaze with God’s glory!  That must have been a completely overwhelming moment for them.

In the end, Jacob was told the incredible story of Joseph in Egypt, and he even made the journey to see his long lost son for himself.  The whole family was resettled closer to the food stores in Egypt and worked as shepherds over the flocks of Pharaoh.  It became clear to those who once scoffed at the dreams once told by the young Joseph that such dreams  were actually a promise of blessing, not a threat of domination.  And that, my friends, is the goodness of this God of Life.  His authority is over all, and His generosity is beyond anything you can imagine.

The text discussed above can be found in Genesis 42:26-47:12.  I apologize for not including it in its entirety here, but I encourage you to read it directly from God’s Word.

The God of Life Enables And Requires Us to Forgive

Who has hurt you most?  Do you see him or her at home, work, or in the community?  Do you find that the very sight of this person sends you into a tailspin of revenge fantasies?  I will tell you that is a common response, but I will caution you that it is not a good response.  Many times people who hurt us are in some sort of authority over us, which is how they have the power to “get away with” hurting us.  Because of this, we might think that, if only we were able to gain authority over the one who caused us harm, we would have the opportunity to exact revenge – to make them pay.  Again, this is common, but this is not good – for you, actually.

I know of at least two people who were mistreated by people in authority over them, who suffered quite a bit because of the mistreatment, who were strongly tempted to exact revenge when the tables were turned, and who were given grace by God to fear God and to forgive those who did them harm.  The first person is named Joseph, and the other is me.  We’ll address Joseph’s forgiveness of his brothers today, but if you want to hear my story, well, that will have to wait for another day.

Joseph’s brothers left him for dead in a pit, then sold him into slavery.  He later was falsely accused of rape and sent to prison.  When God prompted Pharaoh to pluck Joseph out of prison and set him as Governor over all of Egypt, he was overwhelmed with praise for God.  For a number of years, he enjoyed privileges that must have been hyperbolic relief from the previous decade plus of great difficulty.  Then, when the famine hit, Joseph began to receive desperate visitors who pleaded to buy grain for survival.  Imagine the moment when Joseph saw the faces of the very brothers who sold him into slavery appear before him, ready to beg.

We can imagine that Joseph was tempted to forget God’s continuous mercy to him and try to make his brothers pay for what they had done.  We see in the text that he spoke roughly to his brothers after he recognized them.  He certainly could have been “playing the part” as they did not know with whom they were dealing.  However, we later see that he accuses them of being spies and incarcerates them for three days.  His demeanor changes abruptly when he observes the brothers lamenting mournfully among themselves in their own language.  God softened Joseph’s heart, and he wept at their confession of guilt toward him.  He later secretly blessed his brothers by returning their money to them after granting them the food they requested.

All acts of kindness and mercy are powered by grace from God, not by the human heart.  The human heart cannot love the person who has harmed them, but God’s heart is different.  God is love.  God’s own Son, Jesus pleaded with the Father to forgive his murderers before they had even completed their violent act.  You can both be forgiven of your sins, and you can forgive those who have sinned against you, but this is only possible through the fear of Holy God who has the right to invoke wrath and yet continually shows patience and mercy to His people.

“When Jacob learned that there was grain for sale in Egypt, he said to his sons, ‘Why do you look at one another?’  And he said, ‘Behold, I have heard that there is grain for sale in Egypt.  Go down and buy grain for us there, that we may live and not die.’  So ten of Joseph’s brothers went down to buy grain in Egypt.  But Jacob did not send Benjamin, Joseph’s brother, with his brothers, for he feared that harm might happen to him.  Thus the sons of Israel came to buy among the others who came, for the famine was in the land of Canaan.

“Now Joseph was governor over the land.  He was the one who sold to all the people of the land.  And Joseph’s brothers came and bowed themselves before him with their faces to the ground.  Joseph saw his brothers and recognized them, but he treated them like strangers and spoke roughly to them.  ‘Where do you come from?’  he said.  They said, ‘From the land of Canaan, to buy food.’  And Joseph recognized his brothers, but they did not recognize him.  And Joseph remembered the dreams that he had dreamed of them.  And he said to them, ‘You are spies:  you have come to see the nakedness of the land.’  They said to him, ‘No, my lord, your servants have come to buy food.  We are all sons of one man.  We are honest me.  Your servants have never been spies.’

“He said to them, ‘No, it is the nakedness of the land that you have come to see.’  And they said, ‘We, your servants, are twelve brothers, the sons of one man in the land of Canaan, and behold, the youngest is this day with our father, and one is no more.’  But Joseph said to them, ‘It is as I said to you.  You are spies.  By this you shall be tested: by the life of Pharaoh, you shall not go from this place unless your youngest brother comes here.  Send one of you, and let him bring your brother, while you remained confined that your works may be tested, whether there is truth in you.  Or else, by the life of Pharaoh, surely you are spies.’  And he put them all together in custody for three days.

“On the third day Joseph said to them, ‘Do this and you will live, for I fear God: if you are honest men, let one of your brothers remain confined where you are in custody, and let the rest go and carry grain for the famine of your households, and bring your youngest brother to me.  So your words will be verified, and you shall not die.’  And they did so.  Then they said to one another, ‘In truth we are guilty concerning our brother, in that we saw the distress of his soul, when he begged us and we did not listen.  That is why this distress has come upon us.’  And Reuben answered them, ‘Did I not tell you not to sin against the boy?  But you did not listen.  So now there comes a reckoning for his blood.’ They did not know that Joseph understood them, for there was an interpreter between them.  Then he turned away from them and wept.  And he turned to them and spoke to them.  And he took Simeon from them and bound him before their eyes.  And Joseph gave orders to fill their bags with grain, and to replace every man’s money in his sack, and to give them provisions for the journey.  This was done for them.” – Genesis 42:1-25

 

 

You’re Gonna Hear Me Roar: A Plea for a Hymnody to Open Eyes

Victor Chininin Buele

Every Sunday morning, I scan through the local radio stations on my way to church.  Sometimes, it’s oldies that catch me; sometimes it’s our Mexican radio station; other times it’s NPR; most often it’s random stuff, even boy bands from the 90’s.  If you know me at all, you would know I have a bit of an aversion for the Christian radio stations and you would also know why and why I’m trying to actually listen to them from time to time.  Suffice it to say that part of it is because I often need only two or three chords to realize I am listening to the Christian radio station.  And yes, it’s stereotypical, and it paints with a very broad brush the efforts of Christian men and women throughout the world to reach the world, but that’s not what I’m writing about today.  That will be for another time.

Last Sunday morning, a song came up twice:

I got the eye of the tiger, a fighter
Dancing through the fire
‘Cause I am the champion, and you’re gonna hear me roar
Louder, louder than a lion
‘Cause I am a champion, and you’re gonna hear me roar!

I realized why I was so attracted to the song.  This was a hymn.  A very religious song.  A song very much like the ones I was driving to go play to lead the congregation of the saints to sing.  This post is not about or against feminism or women’s rights or anything remotely close to that.  That may be another time.

And immediately my heart broke.  I could picture a girl, driving away on a Sunday morning, getting on the same interstate on which I was driving.  But she would be leaving a strange bed, perhaps not even a decent bed, broken and betrayed, once again empty and without the affirmation and the affection she craved for the night before.  Or the months before.

I could picture a girl, desperate and afraid, ashamed of what’s to come.  I could picture another girl, determined to make it to the top and fully persuaded that she was making the right choice.  I could picture them both on a different day driving to our local Planed Parenthood.

I could picture these girls listening to this song.  I could see this song’s power to pump them up, to affirm their choices, to transcend their circumstances, and to tell them that they are the roaring champion.

We are all broken.

I stood for nothing, so I fell for everything

This is the line.  It’s not the hook.  This is the line.

Where were we, Christian musicians?
Where were we, when this poor broken woman was led to realize that she stood for nothing and fell for everything?
Where were we, that we were not able to minister to this poor woman, pushed to the breaking point?
Where were we, to give aid to this woman, held down for a long time?
Where were we, that we missed the moment when she was brought to her knees and realized she’s had enough, enough of the nonsense?
Where were we, to tell her a different story?  Don’t we know the true Champion?
Where were we, to point her to the Maker of the thunder?  To the Avenger and Protector of the tired and broken?
Where were we, to point her to true freedom that transcends floating like a butterfly because of the stripes of a Savior who died so that she wouldn’t have to deal with the heartache and pain of attempting to be her own hero?
Where were we, like C. S. Lewis, to give her the story of the Roaring Lion?

The Lord Jesus spoke to Paul, and we have the account of that in Acts 26:12-ff.  Pay close attention to verses 17-18.  Jim Wilson makes the point in his excellent book Taking Men Alive: Evangelism on the Front Lines that Jesus told Paul that he must do three things: 1) open their eyes, 2) turn them from darkness to light, and 3) turn them from the power of Satan to God.   He gives the analogy of a dark room where a person is with her eyes closed.  She cannot see.  What happens if you turn the light on? Nothing! Because “light does not cause sight.”  What if she opens her eyes while the light is still off?  “Open eyes do not cause sight, either.”  “When we have our eyes closed, we naturally want darkness.  But if we are in a dark room with our eyes wide open, we long for light.  Closed eyes want darkness.  Open eyes want light.  Open eyes are hungry for light” (p.13, ff)

Why are we not writing a hymnody to open eyes?

Listen, there is a ton of explicitly Christian music for us to use on a Sunday morning service.  Too much, perhaps.  Only a fraction of the songs that are produced today will endure the test of time.  Just because we have a guitar or a piano and thirty minutes on a Saturday, that doesn’t create the next In Christ Alone.  What are we using our talent and resources to produce?

Don’t you see?  Katy Perry would not make a dime unless there were broken women who opened their eyes in a dark room.  They are hungry for light.  And instead of Light they are given cheap fireworks that will last only but a second and will not even give that good of a bang.

The opportunity is there, will we be content writing average or even below-average songs that will do nothing but pad our ego?  Most likely, you are not Beethoven, Stuart Townend, Bob Kauflin, Mozart, or Taylor Swift or her cowriters.  But know this, the opportunity is there, and we are missing the jeep to take us on the safari to see the Great Lion, who as that wise man once said, isn’t safe, but He is good.  “He is the King, I tell you.”

The God of Life is The Answer to Man’s Need

After Joseph interpreted Pharaoh’s dream, revealing a seven year period of abundance to be followed by another seven years of famine, he also advised Pharaoh how to navigate the coming devastation.  He directed the ruler of Egypt to appoint a manager over the whole land to prepare for the collections and distributions that would be required to survive the years to come.

This unsolicited, yet vital, counsel that Joseph offers is the last piece of the puzzle that brings to fruition the dream from Joseph’s youth.  The boy who told his brothers that he would one day rule over them, was about to do just that.  Pharaoh, upon hearing Joseph’s advice, realizes that a man in such a position would need to have the Spirit of God.  Since Pharaoh has never seen a more clear example of the work of the Spirit of God than the interaction he just had with Joseph, Pharaoh understood that Joseph was the man for the job.  With that, Joseph went from despised little brother, to slave, to prisoner, to Pharaoh’s right hand man.

I want to make sure you understand how that happened.  There are no bootstraps here.  This was not Joseph’s success.  God showered Joseph with grace in the midst of great trials, and it was God who led Joseph where he needed to be–who empowered him to face those challenges with peace and faithfulness.  While the world cries, “self-made-man,” Joseph knows he is God’s grace-carried man.  Are you being carried by grace or are you strangling yourself by trying to pull yourself up by the bootstraps?

“This proposal pleased Pharaoh and all his servants.  And Pharaoh said to his servants, ‘Can we find a man like this, in whom is the Spirit of God?’  Then Pharaoh said to Joseph, ‘Since God has shown you all this, there is none so discerning and wise as you are.  You shall be over my house, and all my people shall order themselves as you command.  Only as regards the throne will I be greater than you.’  And Pharaoh said to Joseph, ‘See, I have set you over all the land of Egypt.'”  – Genesis 41:37-41

“Before the year of famine came, two sons were born to Joseph.  Asenath, the daughter of Potiphera priest of On, bore them to him.  Joseph called the name of the firstborn Manasseh.  ‘For,’ he said, ‘God has made me forget all my hardship and all my father’s house.’  The name of the second he called Ephraim, ‘For God has made me fruitful in the land of my affliction.'”  – Genesis 41:50-52

 

 

 

The God of Life Is Not Silent in Human Suffering

We’ve all surely heard it asked or asked it ourselves: “If God is good, why does He allow massive tragedies to happen?”  It’s a valid question, but it also misses the point.  Because we have already seen that the darkness of the sin in each human heart is brought about by disobedience to God, we know that sin (and pain and brokenness) are constantly present in this world.  We see heartache and it upsets us because we were made to enjoy rightness in the world.  However, the rebel soul wants to enjoy that rightness in all things without being subject to the King of Righteousness, Jesus.

So whether the question of God’s goodness arises from true curiosity or from a heart of resentment, the answer is the same.  God will allow the painful consequences of sin to affect us (some admittedly more than others), but we must remember three things.  First, God shows mercy, and we do not suffer all that we possibly could suffer.  When Pharaoh had the dream, God did not have to have Joseph on hand to give warning of the coming famine.  If he had dismissed the dream when his magicians couldn’t help him interpret it, he would have had no preparation for the massive loss of life to follow.  Did God prevent the famine?  No.  But he gave warning of it, and that was mercy.

Another thing to remember is that when we do suffer, we are being given the opportunity to see the big picture in a way we can’t when we coast along through life.  Crisis puts us on high alert, and that is what often saves our lives in an emergency.  What if the same is true of heartbreak putting us in a state of alertness to God that our souls might be saved?

Finally, God sometimes allows us to suffer great pain, but He never enjoys our pain.  That’s not the way God works.  God doesn’t create so that He can destroy.  Destruction is Satan’s area of expertise and delight.  If you or someone you know is suffering, God knows about it, and He is an ever-present help in times of need.  He takes no joy in either seeing His faithful persecuted or in seeing the fool persist in rebellion.

So if you want a new question to ponder, maybe it should be: Why does Satan insist on destroying everything that God creates as beautiful?

“After two whole years, Pharaoh dreamed that he was standing my the Nile, and behold, there came up out of the Nile seven cows attractive and plump, and they fed in the reed grass.  And behold, seven other cows, ugly and thin, came up out of the Nile after them, and stood by the other cows on the bank of the Nile.  And the ugly, thin cows ate up the seven attractive, plump cows.  And Pharaoh awoke.  And he fell asleep and dreamed a second time.  And behold, seven ears of grain, plump and good, were growing on one stalk  And behold, after them sprouted seven ears, thin and blighted by the east wind.  And the thin ears swallowed up the seven plump, full ears.  And Pharaoh awoke, and behold, it was a dream.  So in the morning his spirit was troubled, and he sent and called for all the magicians of Egypt and all its wise men.  Pharaoh told them  his dreams, but there was none who could interpret them to Pharaoh.

“Then the chief cupbearer said to Pharaoh, ‘I remember my offenses today.  When Pharaoh was angry with his servants and put me and the chief baker in custody in the house of the captain of the guard, we dreamed on the same night, he and I , each having a dream with its own interpretation.  A young Hebrew was there with us, a servant of the captain of the guard.  When we told him, he interpreted our dreams to us, giving an interpretation to each man according to his dream.  And as he interpreted to us, so it came about.  I was restored to my office, and the baker was hanged.’

“Then Pharaoh sent and called Joseph, and they quickly brought him out of the pit.  And when he had shaved himself and changed his clothes, he came in before Pharaoh.  and Pharaoh said to Joseph, I have had a dream, and there is no one who can interpret it.  I have heard it said of you that when you hear a dream, you can interpret it.’  Joseph answered Pharaoh, ‘It is not in me; God will give Pharaoh a favorable answer.’  – Genesis 41:1-16

Pharaoh proceeds to retell the dream to Joseph.

“Then Joseph said to Pharaoh, ‘The dreams of Pharaoh are one; God has revealed to Pharaoh what he is about to do.  the seven good cows are seven years, and the seven good ears are seven years; the dreams are one.  The seven lean and ugly cows that came up after them are seven years, and the seven empty ears  blighted by the east wind are also seven years of famine.  It is as I told Pharaoh; God has shown to Pharaoh what he is about to do.  There will come seven years of great plenty through all the land of Egypt, but after them there will arise seven years of famine, and all the plenty will be forgotten in the land of Egypt.  The famine will consume the land, and the plenty will be unknown in the land by reason of the famine that will follow, for it will be very severe.  And the doubling of Pharaoh’s dream means that the thing is fixed by God , and God will shortly bring it about.  Now therefore let Pharaoh select a discerning and wise man, and set him over the land of Egypt.  Let Pharaoh proceed to appoint overseers over the land and take one-fifth of the produce of the land of Egypt during the seven plentiful years.  And let them gather all the food of these good years that are coming and store up grain under the authority of Pharaoh for food in the cities, and let them keep it.  That food shall be a reserve for the land against the seven years of famine that are to occur in the land of Egypt, so that the land may not perish through the famine.” – Genesis 41:25-36

 

 

The God of Life Works in the Lives of All Kinds of People

Joseph, still incarcerated, and yet seeming to have some degree of authority over other prisoners, diligently performs his duties, even asking what might be bothering other inmates.  He shows no competition, resentment, or indifference.  On the contrary, he is quite happy to involve himself in their lives in ways that bless them (well, one of the men who learned the dark interpretation of his dream might not have felt like he was blessed).  Joseph does plead with the cupbearer, in return, to remember his (Joseph’s) kindness when the man once again enjoyed his freedom.  Unfortunately, Joseph’s request was not honored in a very timely manner, and it seemed that Joseph had been mistreated once again.

However, when we consider that God gave those men dreams so that Joseph would be able to give testimony to God being the Author of all interpretations, we can imagine that Joseph, the poster child for hard knocks, was encouraged to see the hand of God at work around him.  God giving those men dreams provided Joseph with additional opportunities for blessing those around him (that is, after all, the purpose of the chosen people of God, to be a blessing to all the earth) and to remind Joseph that God is with him, even in dark seasons.

So, maybe you’re not a Christian, and maybe you don’t like the Christians you know.  I can’t change that.  But there is something you can’t change either: God is at work in your life, and He does bless you through that work–and through His people.  Are you sure that’s not something that intrigues you just a little bit?  God’s people blessing those around them and not cursing them when they are mistreated in return?  What are you waiting for?  Open the Bible.  Call up that Jesus-follower friend of yours.  It’s time for a prison-break!

“Some time after this, the cupbearer of the king of Egypt  and his baker committed an offense against their lord the king of Egypt.  And Pharaoh was angry with his two officers, the chief cupbearer and the chief baker, and he put them in custody in the house of the captian of the guard, in the prison where Joseph was confined.  The captain of the guard appointed Joseph to be with them, and he attended them.  They continued for some time in custody.

“And one night they both dreamed, the cupbearer and the baker of the king of Egypt, who were confined in the prison – each his own dream, and each dream with its own interpretation.  When Joseph came to them in the morning, he saw that they were troubled.  So he asked Pharaoh’s officers who were with him in custody in his master’s house, ‘Why are your faces downcast today?’  They said to him, ‘We have had dreams, and there is no one to interpret them.’  And Joseph said to them, ‘Do not interpretations belong to God?  Please tell them to me.’

“So the cupbearer told his dream to Joseph and said to him, ‘In my dream there was a vine before me, and on the vine there were three branches.  As soon as it budded, its blossoms shot forth, and the clusters ripened into grapes.  Pharaoh’s cup was in my hand, and I took the grapes and pressed them into Pharaoh’s cup and placed the cup in Pharaoh’s hand.’  Then Joseph said to him, ‘This is its interpretation:  the three branches are three days.  In three days Pharaoh will lift up your head and restore you to your office, and you shall place Pharaoh’s cup  in his hand as formerly, when you were his cupbearer.  Only remember me, when it is well with you, and please do me the kindness to mention me to Pharaoh, and so get me out of this house.  For I was indeed stolen out of the land of the Hebrews, and here also I have done nothing that they should put me into the pit.’

“When the chief baker saw that the interpretation was favorable, he said to Joseph, ‘I also had a dream:  there were three cake baskets on my head, and in the uppermost basket there were all sorts of baked food for Pharaoh, but the birds were eating it out of the basket on my head.’  And Joseph answered and said, ‘This is its interpretation:  the three baskets are three days.  In three days Pharaoh will lift up your head – from you!- and hang you on a tree. And the birds will eat the flesh from you.’

“On the third day, which was Pharaoh’s birthday, he made a fest for all his servants and lifted up the head of the chief cupbearer and the head of the chief baker among his servants.  He restored the chief cupbearer to his postion, and he placed the cup in Pharaoh’s hand.  But he hanged the chief baker, as Joseph had interpreted to them.  Yet the chief cupbearer did not remember Joseph, but forgot him.”  -Genesis 40:1-23

The God of Life is Always With His People

Unfortunately, when many think of Joseph’s story, the first thing they notice is how much he was mistreated by people.  While he did suffer a lot of injustices, what really stands out to me in this passage is God’s constant care for Joseph.  You see, God doesn’t prove His faithfulness to us by always allowing us to avoid hardships.  Sometimes God makes more of an impression on us–and on those around us–when He allows us to go through the awful stuff–with Him right by our side!

In this chapter, we read four times that the Lord was with Joseph; three times that anything Joseph did, the Lord made successful; and twice that the blessing of God on Joseph directly benefited Joseph’s bosses.  All of this, of course is while Joseph is a servant and a prisoner.  So is Joseph’s life difficult or abundantly blessed?  Yes, and yes.

As a servant, Joseph was of the highest caliber.  He basically ran the show.  But he kept away from his master’s wife because he refused to dishonor his master and to sin against God.  Joseph knew God was always with him and that God’s blessed presence is always better than an entanglement with sin.

“Now Joseph had been brought down to Egypt, and Potiphar, an officer of Pharoah, the captain of the guard, and Egyptian, had bought him from the Ishmaelites who had brought him down there.  The Lord was with Joseph, and he became a successful man, and he was in the house of his Egyptian master.  His master saw that the Lord was with him and that they Lord caused all that he did to succeed in his hands.  So Joseph found favor in his sight and attended him, and he made him overseer of his house and put him in charge of all that he had.  From the time that he made him overseer in his house and over all that he had the Lord blessed the Egyptian’s house for Joseph’s sake; the blessing of the Lord was on all that he had, in house and field.  So he left all that he had in Joseph’s charge, and because of him he had no concern about anything but the food he ate.

“Now Joseph was handsome in form and appearance.  And after a time his mater’s wife cast her eyes on Joseph and said, ‘Lie with me.’  But he refused and said to his master’s wife, ‘Behold, because of me my master has no concern about anything in the house, and he has put everything that he has in my charge.  He is not greater in this house than I am, not has he kept back anything from me except yourself, because you are his wife.  How then can I do this great wickedness and sin against God?’  And as she spoke to Joseph day after day, he would not listen to her, to lie beside her or to be with her.

“But one day, when he went into the house to do his work and none of the men of the house was there in the house, she caught him by his garment, saying, ‘Lie with me.’  But he left his garment in her hand and fled and got out of the house.  And as soon as she saw that he had left his garment in her hand and had fled out of the house, she called to the men of her household and said to them. ‘See, he has brought among us a
Hebrew to laugh at us.  He came in to me to lie with me, and I cried out with a loud voice.  And as soon as he heard that I lifted up my voice and cried out, he left his garment beside me and fled and got out of the house.’  Then she laid up his garment by her until his master came home, and she told him the same story, saying, ‘The Hebrew servant, whom you have brought among us, came in to me to laugh at me.  But as soon as I lifted up my voice and cried, he left his garment beside me  and fled out of the house.’  “As soon as his master heard the words that his wife spoke to him, ‘This is the way your servant treated me,’ his anger was kindled.  And Joseph’s master took him and put him into the prison, the place where the king’s prisoners were confined, and he was there in prison.  But the Lord was with Joseph and showed him steadfast love and gave him favor in the sight of the keeper of the prison.  And the keeper of the prison put Joseph in charge of all the prisoners who were in the prison.  Whatever was done there, he was the one who did it.  The keeper of the prison paid no attention to anything that was in Joseph’s charge, because the Lord was with him.  And whatever he did, the Lord made it succeed.”  – Genesis 39:1-23