Therefore Stay Awake

I know people don’t like to think about–much less talk about–the Book of Revelation. It is difficult to read, and not just because of its many visions and prophecy. Because it’s about a huge checkmate. But I read it tonight, and it made me think about those 21 men–Coptic Christians–in Libya, and the countless others murdered in that area, by those extremists who claim to hold fast to the tenets of Islam.

“9. When the Lamb broke the fifth seal, I saw under the heavenly altar the souls of those murdered for holding fast to the word of God and their testimony. 10 They cried out in a great, singular voice.

Murder Victims: How much longer, O Lord, the holy One, the true One, until You pronounce judgment on the inhabitants of the earth? Until You avenge our blood?

11 Then they were each given a white robe and told to rest for a little while longer—soon their number would be complete. In a little while, more of their fellow servants, brothers, and sisters would be murdered as they had been”

Revelation 6:9-11 (The Voice)

I think there’s a couple of reasons why people are so intimidated by Revelation. I am, too. It’s a super intimidating read. It’s complicated, and abstract in many ways. Thematically, it’s challenging as well. I think most of all, though, it’s because it talks about the end of things, and is specific about what’s coming. I know what you’re thinking: he’s gotten all “end-timesy.”

No, I haven’t. But I can see why people would think along those lines. The world is clearly falling apart. It’s not starting here in the U.S. It hasn’t directly touched me or my family. No one in Yuma has been seriously persecuted, or beheaded for their witness or testimony, or faith. No one probably ever will be, not in this little border town.

I think our whole country has been fortunate that way for a long time (I know you’re thinking of 9/11, but I don’t believe that was an attack on anyone for their faith–probably more so for their politics and idealogies, and for trying to bring democracy and governance by the people to places where there are clearly a great many people who don’t want to give up their thrones. Whether or not those more liberal than myself want to admit it, a great big portion of the Middle East is controlled by a radical Islamic oligarchy. It’s just obvious, and true, whether or not people are afraid to say it. There are a lot of Copts in Libya, and they’re in a lot of danger.

What’s all this about tonight? I think we have to start preparing ourselves. Because Mark 13:35 is all kinds of true.

“Therefore stay awake—for you do not know when the master of the house will come, in the evening, or at midnight, or when the rooster crows, or in the morning.” (ESV)

Clearly, I didn’t know any of those men killed Saturday in Libya. But I saw the stills online of the ISIS “fighters” walking them down a beach in Tripoli to their deaths and it made me sick to my stomach. Yet I felt I needed to bear witness somehow to their martyrdom.

So I thought I would watch the video.

I saw the part where they are walked down the beach and made to kneel. I saw the very western-sounding jihadi pointing a knife and threatening to take Rome. I didn’t get much farther than that–only as far as the black-clad murderers throwing the Copts on the sand and preparing to kill them. Right as that happened, you can hear some of the men–perhaps all–crying out something in their language. All at once, just as the knives began their work.

It took a little more research, and some remarks by Pope Francis to learn they were crying out to Jesus. They weren’t delivered on Earth, but I believe they opened their eyes in Heaven. These men knew Earth was not their home.

That’s going to keep happening, I believe. ISIS may be stopped. They could even all be killed. But it won’t really stop anything. Someone could shoot the sun–which rises and falls on the righteous and unrighteous alike–and the end would still eventually come.

I get why nobody likes to talk about that. Who wants to think about it, for that matter? That line of thought could change a person’s life–or at least the way they live their life, and to whom they present their fealty and service.

I am certainly no end times scholar, and do not claim to be. My remarks are from my perspective, though they are prompted by scriptural evidence I believe to be true. I know many many people don’t believe scripture to be literally true, and follow Jesus only in the “spirit” of true faith (pun intended). I felt that way, too.

It’s just becoming more and more clear to me what’s coming. Sometime. Maybe soon, maybe not so soon.

“Therefore stay awake—for you do not know when the master of the house will come, in the evening, or at midnight, or when the rooster crows, or in the morning.”

I would rather live the rest of my alloted days believing the truth of scripture and find out I was wrong than the opposite.

This ISIS stuff–if you look at it carefully regarding scripture–really does make a good case FOR the truth to be found in scripture. I’m not going to exhaustively point out scripture here, but it’s something worth looking into.

I don’t know, man. I don’t have all the answers. But I know where I can go to look for them. Or at least to look for how to deal with what comes.

It may be that eventually, there will be walks down the beach here in the US like there were in Tripoli over the weekend. Maybe for just “regular” people like us. I read the men killed Saturday were just workers (albeit Coptic Christian workers) who’d been kidnapped by ISIS. With the world as it is today, really anything can happen.

“Therefore stay awake—for you do not know when the master of the house will come, in the evening, or at midnight, or when the rooster crows, or in the morning.”

Still image from video shows men purported to be Egyptian Christians held captive by the Islamic State kneeling in front of armed men along a beach said to be near Tripoli

When is Enough Enough?

I don’t always agree with the things said by Glenn Beck, but this seemed an apt enough way to describe those crazy kids of the Islamic State, especially after their latest adventure:

“It is time to wake up. This is the enemy of all mankind. Make no mistake, this is a global jihad and it has everything to do with “their” religion and their fundamental interpretation of the Koran.

Jews, gentiles, straight, gay, black, white, western, eastern, atheist, Christian or Muslim — it is time you recognize what you are up against, look it square in the eye and call it by its name: evil and a plague on mankind”

Burning a man alive–a fellow Muslim, I might add–in a cage is brutality of a level not easy to comprehend. I have heard people say IS is no different than any other persecution done in the name of a god. Often, the crusades are mentioned as a way to take Christianity to the same level as ISIS.

Not possible, I don’t think. And one big reason why is THEY’RE DOING IT RIGHT NOW. The Crusades happened nearly a thousand years ago. IS is employing every means at their disposal to get their message out–their comprehension and use of “Western” media outlets is extraordinary.

But it doesn’t legitimize their cause, or their desire for an Islamic caliphate. Sure, the methodology of the Islamic State is not representative of all Islam. They are radicals, without a doubt. Yet I would submit to you that “mainstream” Islam needs to not only issue strongly worded statements, but take strong action against these folks.

I’ve read recently that people are criticizing Chris Kyle for referring to insurgents as “savages,” but I would say to you that if anyone at all is deserving of that label, it is the members of IS.

Savages.

And the enemy of all mankind.

This is probably going to get a lot worse before anything changes. I don’t know what the answer is, but I am fairly certain it will involve the use of many different projectiles and combustive materials.

I think in this instance, force will need to be applied until there is no more resistance. Problem is, the specifics of this are difficult. How to distinguish one group of people who hate Westerners from another. Perhaps the answer lies in those people of Islam who do not wish to be lumped in with these beasts.

Words are not enough. There needs to be action as well, because talk is very cheap.

Think of me what you will. Yes, in this matter I am decidedly conservative. Perhaps even right wing.

I’m just not interested in turning the other cheek anymore in the sense that pretending the upscaling savagery of these people’s demonstrations of hate and evil are anything but that.

Evil.

The religion of peace, in my opinion, needs to crap or get off the pot. These IS folks need to be destroyed. It’s what they understand.

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On Weight, and Crushing Your Larynx

Many years ago, I worked out for a time at the Bally’s gym in Mission Valley—for about a year, I think. For three of those months, I worked with a trainer named Andre, who I began to call Andre the terrible after a while. He was sort of like a Latino version of Stone Cold Steve Austin from the WWE, and I remember the first day I came in he asked me what level of motivation was I comfortable with.

I asked him what he meant, and he said how hardcore did I want him to be with my training. I told him somewhere in the middle would be OK, because I knew he didn’t want to see a grown man cry. He told me it happened more than I would think. It wasn’t that comforting.

Usually, I would show up for my sessions and he would weigh me in, and then proceed to cardio before weights. One time, I showed up and there was another guy there, too. Andre wanted to know if I would mind working out with another guy because he was double booked. I said ok.

I don’t remember the other guy’s name, but he whistled when I stepped on the scale. Jerk.

The cardio went well enough, and then we went to the weights. Andre put me on this butterfly machine, I think it was called. Something like that. The other guy went over to the free weights and started loading up a bar.

Andre stood behind me and barked in my ear while I struggled to bring my arms together in front of my chest. After about 30 seconds, I heard my workout partner yell “f—-!!” from the other side of the weight room.

The man had a barbell with what looked to be over 200 pounds pinning him to the weight bench like an insect.

“Are you trying to F—— KILL YOURSELF?!” Andre screamed at him. “What did I tell you about f—— free weights!?”

“Uh…”

“Use a spotter with that much weight! What if that f—— barbell crushed your larynx?”

I was thinking about that day this morning when I went to the Roadrunner for some caffeine. Andre was clearly no poet, but he had a really good point.

If the weight is more than you can handle alone, you need a spotter.

I thought about that today in the context of all the messing up I’d done over the course of my life. All the mistakes I’d made. All the sins I’d committed. All the people I’d hurt. I spent–no, wasted–so much time trying to get by on my own strength, when it was obvious that wasn’t enough.

Now, when it’s my tendency to dwell on the past and all the bad, it occurs to me the weight I’ve accumulated could crush me if I let it. I can’t lift it alone. I never could.

For most of my life, instead of looking for a spotter, I just loaded the weight on my barbell without thinking too much about it. There were times when it felt like the weight was indeed about to crush my “f—— larynx.”

I’d think about my past, and everything that entailed and I would quickly convince myself of my worthlessness due to how I’d always seemed to find stupid ways to get myself in trouble, and hurt people and even myself without giving it much thought in advance. I would do things because I felt it would benefit me in some way. Or because it would feel good, or make my life easier. Sometimes it even did for a time.

I was able to move past those times, thank goodness. Yet I would still think about them, and it would almost paralyze me when I thought what a f— up I’d been. Still was, sometimes.

And that was one of the most important things I learned about God. He’s a really good spotter. When you’re holding that loaded barbell over your chest, his will be the hands hovering over the bar in case you drop it.

He won’t just yank it out of your hands and lift for you. Not without asking, anyway. But when the bar gets too heavy—when the weight of sin and years and pain feels is so much your arms start shaking and you know it’s only a matter of time before you drop the thing—there’s help.

You don’t have to lift all of that weight yourself.

It isn’t always going to be some ethereal hand reaching down to yank 250 pounds off your chest. Sometimes the help comes in the form of a bald-headed, angry Latino personal trainer. The point is, when you’re dealing with a lot of weight, it’s a good idea to take a partner.

Use a spotter. That probably looks a little different for anyone.

Over the course of my life, I’ve been to a few AA and FA meetings. One of the first things they’d tell you to do is call your sponsor when you needed help.

I didn’t want to at the time, but I get it now.

Sometimes you don’t need to be touching that bar at all when you’re alone. I would think I was just going to lift this crap off my chest, when really I was on the way to crushing my larynx.

Maybe that’s happened to you, too.

Use a spotter when you’re lifting heavy weight. Maybe that’s a pastor. A sponsor. Or even simply a friend.

The weight of a lifetime of garbage can really pile up fast. Sin, mistakes, all the things you’ve done or been part of.

It’s heavy, man.

Ask for help. Being a tough guy doesn’t mean a thing if your neck has a barbell through it.

I think you’ll find that everyone, everyone needs a spotter sometimes.

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