Category: Uncategorized

“God isn’t fixing this” – Breaking down the headline

In the US, in the wake of the tragic San Bernandino shootings, the Daily News has gained significant attention from its headline “God isn’t fixing this” accompanied by various tweets by conservative politicians referring to prayer for the victims’ families.

The argument goes that it is “meaningless platitudes” to call for a religious response to the tragedy when these very men could take steps towards launching a political response that dealt with the perennial issue of gun control. Why pray to God for help when you can do something about the problem? God clearly isn’t doing anything to resolve the issue of gun violence, so politicians should take responsibility and do something instead of just praying.

The issues at play in America are not directly relevant to us in our part of the world, but in a globalised society, these matters, along with the commentary and headlines, will be discussed and debated to some extent here. So I wanted to look at where this headline gets it right and where it misses something very significant.

Where they get it right

1. If by “God isn’t fixing this” the editors of Daily News mean that God will not miraculously intervene to stop future gun violence from happening – they’re probably right. I’d be willing to bet that more events like this week’s shooting will take place in the United States in years to come. There will be times where God won’t miraculously prevent these events from happening by jamming the weapons, causing the perpetrators to be foiled or discovered, or appearing to the would-be killer in a terrifying, life-changing dream. This is because God does allow evil and suffering to exist in this fallen world that is tainted by humanity’s sin.

The reason He doesn’t prevent every disaster that could happen from taking place is because He’s allowing humanity to face the consequences of living in a society that rejects divine authority and rule and attempts to take power into the hands of the individual, tribe, party or army, as we see fit. So yes, there is a sense in which it is true that God isn’t going to deal with gun violence by reducing people’s capacity to do evil or their access to weapons in the same way a legislature might be expected to act.

2. When it comes to the question of whether it is hypocritical to appeal to God to resolve something we’ve been given responsibility to do something about – the criticism could be valid. James 2:15-16 says: If a brother or sister is poorly clothed and lacking in daily food, and one of you says to them, “Go in peace, be warmed and filled,” without giving them the things needed for the body, what good is that? It is a hollow or hypocritical faith that expresses warm sentiment, or even prayer or blessing towards someone in need, when it lies within one’s power to alleviate the problem they are facing.
If we say to a poor person “I’ll be praying for you to find food and shelter” when we have the means to help them with these problems, something is very wrong. So if politicians are praying for people whose problems have arisen as a result of the policies the politicians have supported, or because the politicians have failed to regulate to keep them safe – they could be susceptible to criticism that they are spiritualising an issue they are responsible for resolving themselves (and therefore if they are to ask God for help, it should be that He would help them do what they need to do). However…

Where the headline misses something important

1. The politicians in question are not specifically praying regarding gun control, but for the comfort and well-being of those affected by the attacks. While they may have a case to answer for their alleged inaction on gun control (an issue I won’t be delving into any further here), it needs to be recognised that they are arguably praying with respect to something they have no capacity to address. A handsome, well-dressed, silver-tongued politician cannot bring deep healing and comfort to those who have been terrified, wounded, maimed or bereaved by a horrific gun attack. And even people with a vague notion that there might be a God or Higher Power often recognise in times when loved ones face a critical health situation that prayer for divine assistance or even miraculous healing is well worth giving a go. People who have a consistent, active commitment to faith in an omnipotent and merciful God should not be unfairly castigated for praying in a situation where only such a Being can be relied upon to provide emotional restoration and even physical salvation from life-threatening injuries.

2. Most importantly, “God isn’t fixing this” is a half-truth at best, because God is in fact fixing the issues behind gun violence, terrorism and a whole host of other evils, in a way that U.S. Congress, law enforcement and counter-terrorism could not begin to imitate.

God is dealing with the evil in the world that manifested itself through Syed Farook and Tashfik Malik and He’s going about it in such a way that will soon see it removed forever.
Death and suffering are part of the curse we all face for our membership of a race in rebellion against the Lord and Giver of Life. While we don’t know all the intricacies behind why evil exists, Christians can be confident that God’s justice and mercy are both perfectly displayed as He unfolds His plan to defeat evil, death and destruction forever through the person and work of His Son Jesus Christ.

Christ died on the cross in response to the great evil and rebellion in world. He bore the punishment for sin on Himself so that God’s justice and mercy might both be displayed.
So that many who are not only victims of great evil, but guilty of evil themselves, might have a way of escape when God judges all evildoers throughout history. Jesus’ resurrection from the dead points to a future where death is no more for God’s children, because the evils of the world that lead to death have been dealt with and vanquished.

And when Jesus returns in glory and power, God promises to judge the world in righteousness through Him. All who have trusted in Jesus and had the wickedness of their rebellion forgiven will experience eternal life and live under God’s rule where no evil thing shall ever bother or harm them again. But all who appear before God’s judgement seat clothed in their own wickedness will face eternal condemnation, as part of God’s plan to renew creation and put the world right.

God IS fixing this – if by “this” we mean the evil behind this tragedy and others. Perhaps the right prayer for Christians in response is the short, but powerful “Maranatha” – “Come Lord Jesus,” “Come quickly.”


No mistake – we’re at war (Pt. 3)


Before reading please check out the two previous posts (here and here), which give the relevant background. 

We’ve seen that Christians in Australia are in a state of war. Spiritually, we’re called to constantly resist the evil one through the resources God has given us, notably prayer and the gospel (and especially prayer for the gospel, see Eph 6:18-20). People of whatever political or religious alignment are not our true enemies, but the spiritual forces behind them. And we do not wage our warfare as Christians through physical violence.

Yet, politically, we live in a nation-state that is engaged in physical military combat with an armed, flesh and blood enemy force. As citizens of the Commonwealth of Australia, we can say that the artists-fraudulently-known-as Islamic State are our country’s enemies. We can even go further and say that their actions have made them enemies of humanity – the foes of any person or people who have not ingested their vile, poisonous and extreme form of ideology.

There are plenty of ways in which we need to keep our spiritual enemies and our country’s enemies in separate categories. As I’ve already explained, the Christian’s real enemy will always be the spiritual forces behind the extremists. The Church’s priority should be wrestling “against the rulers, against the authorities, against the cosmic powers over this present darkness, against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly places,” without getting distracted by perceived human enemies. The State’s priority should be fighting legitimate combat operations against hostile elements that threaten peace, security and stability – yet it is powerless to stop the spiritual forces behind them.

But is there a meeting point between these two aspects of warfare we find ourselves touched by? I want to propose that there is.

In the last post I suggested we pray: “for the decline of radicalised Islam as a spiritual evil in our community and around the world – that it would lose its grip on the hearts and minds of those it controls.” That is part of our responsibility as Christians: it’s appealing to God to address the spiritual evil behind the physical atrocities and injustice. Better yet, we can pray that our Heavenly Father’s name would be hallowed in Iraq and Syria and His Kingdom would come there and His will be done there as it is in Heaven. Islam, particularly this form of it, is a demonic tool to keep people made in God’s image bound under spiritually oppressive control. Only God’s rule coming through the gospel can replace that – otherwise we may see something not unlike Jesus’ description in Luke 11:24-26 come to pass in these countries.

But we should not only pray for the fall of radicalised Islam and the triumph of the gospel. I believe we should be praying for the military defeat of ISIS and all its affiliated groups. I do not say this out of malice towards a particular race or creed, but because of my conviction that this abominable destroyer of children, women, the elderly, the marginalised, Yazidis, non-compliant Muslims and Christians must neither be allowed to continue perpetrating its hideous attacks on innocent people, nor given any further opportunity to indulge in the delusion of a caliphate or state by holding onto the territory it has captured.

We should pray for the success of the Australian military and their allies and for our leaders to have the courage, conviction and tenacity to do whatever is necessary to stop this wickedness from terrorising the region.
We should pray not out of blind support or fervent patriotic pride, but out of compassion for those who have been butchered, raped, assaulted and subjugated to the barbaric rule of the monstrously inhumane fanatics that have conquered the land of thousands of people. We should pray not out of a bloodthirsty desire to see our enemies shot and blown to pieces, but out of a thirst for justice and a demand that the blood of the weak would no longer be spilled.

And we should pray that ISIS can be stopped and rendered inoperable with as little loss of life possible – especially the lives of non-combatant Iraqi and Syrian civilians, and our own military forces that are acting to protect them. My greatest hope is that many of the young men involved with ISIS will become disillusioned with Islam and begin to disband, so that its power disintegrates. As a Christian, I’m not adverse to the idea of those guilty of bloodshed facing justice for their crimes in this life, whether on the battlefield or in the courtroom. But I do hope that God in His mercy might prolong the lives of many guilty jihadists that they might have an opportunity to hear a clear presentation of the gospel and repent of their sins to gain eternal life in Christ.

Of course this brings us to the heart of the contentious issue at hand: to pray for mercy (i.e. the mass conversion of ISIS militants) or pray for justice (i.e. the mass defeat of ISIS militants)? That is the question.

Because both are so important, I think our prayer must simply be for God to act. For surely like God we must take no pleasure in the death of the wicked (Ezekiel 18:23) and desire all people to be saved and come to a knowledge of the truth (1 Tim 2:4). But with the Psalmist we must ask God to break the arm of the wicked, call them to account, help the afflicted, fatherless and oppressed and end the reign of terror by evil men (Psalm 10:15-18) and with the martyrs we must long for the day when God avenges the blood of the innocent and righteous upon the wicked (Rev 6:10) – even if that day is someway off.

The Sovereign God is able to show mercy to whom He wishes to show mercy, while leaving others to face justice for their sins against Him – either now or at the day of judgement. So let us pray for Him to act, trusting that He will save many of the perpetrators and victims of the crimes against Heaven and humanity that are occurring in Iraq and Syria, through the cross of His Son, the Lamb of God who takes away the sins of the world. But at the same time allowing for Him to display His justice in this world by destroying the lives of those who continue to rebel against Him despite His daily long-suffering and kindness towards them.

It may be a hard reality to live with. But then war tends to have that effect…

No mistake – we’re at war (Pt. 2)



Following on from the previous post, which you can read here – how should we respond to what transpired in Paris this month, as people who recognise we’re involved in a spiritual war, while our country is caught up in a military conflict with a very wicked organisation?

Here are some of the things I’d invite you to join me in praying:

We need to pray for our own hearts – that we wouldn’t be corrupted by fear, prejudice or just plain apathy in response to the things that are occurring in our community and in our world. Much of the spiritual war we’re involved in concerns the struggle for control of our hearts and minds and those of our brothers and sisters in the family of God.

We need to pray for those who have lost their loved ones – that they would find true comfort and restoration in the loving arms of Christ and that God may bring good to them out of this horrific evil. May we pray the same for the hostages that survived as they seek to recover from trauma and injuries they may have occurred as a result of the siege.

We need to pray for the decline of radicalised Islam as a spiritual evil in our community and around the world – that it would lose its grip on the hearts and minds of those it controls.

We need to pray against the spiritual evil of racism and religious vilification that simmers below the surface of respectable society in our nation. Pray that God would keep our Muslim neighbours safe and protected by the authorities and their fellow citizens now and into the future. And pray that you and I would have the courage to confront outbursts or violence related to race or religion if we see it taking place in public.

Pray for the police, intelligence agencies and others who work tirelessly to protect their fellow citizens.

Pray that world leaders would act wisely in their ongoing response to the situation. [Not only the military/counter-terrorism aspect, but also the humanitarian/refugee crisis etc;].

Pray that this Christmas more people would grasp the angels’ message of “Peace on Earth and goodwill to men” – because of the Lord Jesus Christ.

And pray that we would be willing to work for the advancement of God’s Kingdom in our community by sharing the hope we have in Christ with people from all religious and ethnic backgrounds.

There is also a junction where the two wars I’ve talked about intersect and I’d like to share my thoughts on that with you in one final post over the next few days…We’ll look at how knowing about our involvement in a spiritual war and seeing what happened in Paris this month and Sydney last year, might lead us to pray in a certain way about the current situation with ISIS in Iraq and Syria.

But for now, let’s be aware there’s a war raging all around us. And let us respond to the call to action and fight the evil in this world by praying, loving our neighbours and proclaiming the good news of Jesus that shines like a light in the darkness around us.

[1] Jordi Bernabeu Farrus  “Tercer premi en la categoria Individual de Notícies d’Actualitat al World Press Photo. BULENT KILIC / AFP” (CC BY 2.0) Flickr.

No mistake – we’re at war (Pt. 1)


The recent attacks in Paris have again got Christians talking about an appropriate response to the separate, yet related matters of terrorism/extremism, Islam as a religion and Muslims as people and neighbours. Over the next few weeks, I plan to publish several posts that interact with these issues. I originally published the first two parts of this series of posts 11 months ago, immediately following the “Sydney Siege”, on the website of the church I was co-pastoring. I thought it might be beneficial to revisit some of these themes in light of what’s been happening in Paris and around the world since that event… 

While the outcome of the crisis that ended at Martin Place in Sydney yesterday could have undoubtedly been much worse than it was – it marks the day that the extremist violence of the kind we’ve witnessed so much around the world since September 11, 2001 has finally violated the sacredness of human life and public safety on Australian soil. [Likewise Paris has reminded us once again how destructive these attacks can be].

It also serves as a clear and sharp reminder to us all that we are at war.

Around 9/11, I heard people talk ignorantly of waging “a war against Muslims.” Rest assured, that’s not what I’m talking about. God forbid that we should ever be involved in or condone an armed conflict or persecution against any general population of a particular religion. It’s critical that we heed the calls to show kindness and support to our Muslim neighbours during this sensitive time and denounce any show of violence or hatred towards them.

But it’s also critical that we recognise that we are nonetheless involved in a war and that maybe we’re more involved than we’d like to be.

One one level, Australia [along with France and other Western nations] is effectively engaged in warfare against a pernicious militant group known as ISIS or Islamic State. While the actions of Man Haron Monis did not represent the sentiments and intentions of the mainstream Islamic community in Australia [likewise regarding the actions of the terrorists in France], they seem to have had a lot to do with the conflict against ISIS in Iraq and Syria.

While the exact motives behind the attack are not currently known, it is clear that Monis wished to identify himself and his actions with ISIS and thus it is fairly safe to conclude that part of the message he wished to send our nation and the world was ISIS-related. The attack happened in the context of our government’s decision to send military assistance to those in Iraq who are resisting the brutal advances of this atrocious group that slaughters those who do not agree with its extreme interpretations of Islamic religion.

But for Christians, this tragic event is a reminder of the war you and I are caught up in every day of our lives in this world: the spiritual battle being waged amongst humanity in unseen realms without pause. Our struggle, we’re told, is not against the visible, human perpetrators of conflict, hatred and violence but against the invisible influences that drive and enable much of the wickedness we see in the world. “…against the cosmic powers over this present darkness, against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly places” (Ephesians 6:12b). Our weapons are never the physical blades and bullets used to destroy human bodies but are spiritual weapons, for a spiritual war (see 2 Cor 10:4-5, 2 Cor 6:7, Eph 6:13-18) – not for harming people but for attacking the very things that harm their souls.

What happened in Sydney [and now in Paris] was driven by spiritual forces of evil. It robbed people of their lives and families of their loved ones. It disturbed public order and spread fear through the community. It has incited more extremism – providing fertile ground for anti-Islamic sentiments and copycat or retaliatory attacks by radicalised people in the community. All of this is evil and the work of our true enemy the devil.

So how do we respond to events such as this, as those who are aware of our involvement in a cosmic struggle between spiritual forces of good and evil that is affecting the lives of every single human being in our society?

The most important thing we can do in this situation is to use our God-given spiritual weapons – prayer and the proclamation of the Gospel to the world.

How can we do this? Firstly, I’d invite you to do some reflection of your own and pray in response, but tomorrow I’ll share some suggestions for how we can pray and act in a way that takes this situation of war we’re in seriously.

[1] Image credit: Flickr user: Devar “RAAF Airshow: Counter Terrorism Response Group” CC BY-NC-ND 2.0