The Worst Thing I’ve Ever Seen

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

I took a picture a couple of years ago, and the object I was photographing nearly took my breath away with its subtle beauty. I looked at it again today, and it made me think of how easy it is to find beauty when you least expect it.

I also saw the image above, and it took my breath away, too. 20 men–all ostensibly believers–about to die for nothing more than believing in a God a large group of extremists hate with a violent passion.

I have seen a lot in my life. There has certainly been a lot in the News this year–plenty for Conservatives and Liberals to chew on, and get angry about. For my part, the image at the top is the most terrible thing I have seen all  year, and maybe all my life.

These men are Egyptian Christians. Taken captive by ISIS for more or less doing nothing other than worshipping what this group of individuals thinks is the wrong God. I think the terrorists called this video something like “A message signed in blood to the People of the Cross.” Erudite, these people are not.

I found the image online, as well as an article and an accompanying video I will never be able to unsee. I didn’t intend to watch it, but the article mentioned the men crying out at the end, and I felt compelled to bear witness to that. They are marched down a deserted beach, and made to kneel on the sand. The man in the camo with the knife gives his shpiel and  near the end, mentions who the men are (without naming any of them), and what’s going to happen to them. He tells them to cry out to their God. They do cry out here and there, and then are forced into a prostrate position, and their heads are sawed off with knives.

There was even a link to an article quoting Pope Francis that mentioned the men crying out to Jesus in their last few seconds.

They really did die for their faith. Scripture promises they will be raised up again in Revelation 4. After Jesus, I want to meet these people and others who died for the God they believed in (I am not numbering the multitudes of idiots who blew themselves up for Allah among them).

Anyway, that image really made me think–long and hard–about what’s coming. I know many of you don’t believe in a literal bible, and that’s your choice.

That doesn’t change what’s coming, for those who believe and those who do not. In the movie Return of the King, Aragorn says something to Théoden like “Open war is upon you, whether we would risk it or not.” And that’s where we are today. It doesn’t matter much what the President chooses to do (or more accurately, not do), I don’t think.

And I have been wondering all year, what would I do for my faith?

Will I die for it?

Would I cry out for Jesus as some jackal with a knife executes me?

I hope so.

And then I’ve been wondering where all the beauty in the world went off to? Is there any left?

Turns out there is, and it’s everywhere. The world is terrible and wonderful at the same time. And amongst all the strife abroad, or here at home, there are nuggets of beauty among the ashes. I will do my best to consider the beauty that still exists, and the God that has a hand and heart in everything. And I will wait for whatever is coming, knowing that I will not go through it alone.

The image at the bottom of this post is what I was talking about at the beginning. I took it on a patch of dirt and gravel, next to a pile of old and rusted metal and a dumpster.

Beauty amongst trash. It exists. And it’s comforting. It comforts me because to me, in my heart and mind–it is evidence that God also exists. I didn’t need it, but it’s wonderful to see.

And it makes the rest…more bearable.



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