Tag Archives: Putin

When Putin Prays

This week, Russian President, Vladimir Putin shocked many by praying for America because of our moral degradation. So I started to write an article to thank him and to scold American Christians for our backsliding. There’s just one problem – Putin.

I simply can’t line up with those who are congratulating him. This is a man who is guilty of severe human rights violations. And the country he leads is responsible for promoting atheism, trying to stamp out religion, brutally murdering over 200,000 clergy and believers, and destroying over 40,000 churches, mosques, and synagogues. In light of his actions, his offer of prayer seems shallow and political.

But it did remind me of something I wanted to do a long time ago.

Once upon a time, I wanted to write an article called, “In Defense of the Pharisees.” Then I remembered that Jesus called them a “brood of vipers” and “whitewashed tombs.” So I came to my senses. But I am convinced that there was a time when the Pharisees had the right motivation.

You see, the Pharisee sect arose out of difficult circumstances. The Greeks were practicing Hellenization, (forcing every culture to accept Greek language, customs, and religion). And those who stood firm on God’s laws became known as the Pharisees. But their respect for the law soon grew into something vile.

Fast forward to today, Christians. After all, history should be used for our learning, and there is a huge WARNING sign posted: don’t be like the hypocrites!

Jesus confirmed that the teaching of the Pharisees should be followed carefully, but not their lives (MT 23:3). In other words, what we are teaching Biblically might be correct, and it should be followed. But there might be one big hindrance to people hearing God’s Word…us!

Will we avoid the hypocrisy of a Putin or the Pharisees? Paul reminds us that people are saved when we watch our teaching and our lives (1 Timothy 4:16). And if we do so, perhaps people will, once again, desire to ask us the reason for the hope we have within us (1 Peter 3:15).

Shirtfronting, Shawls, and Chewing Gum…Distracted Much?

APEC DramaIf you haven’t been following this year’s Asia Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC), don’t worry; you haven’t missed much. But what you did miss seems more like a soap opera than leaders of the world discussing politics and economics. Here were a few of the headlines: 1) Tony Abbott threatened to “shirtfront” Vladimir Putin; 2) Vladimir Putin was “hitting on” China’s President’s wife, and 3) President Obama’s Nicorette caused national disgrace.

Is it just the media, or is the whole world easily distracted by side stories, gossip, and pageantry? The real message and importance of an event is often overshadowed by nonsense. The Bible warns believers against engaging in foolish chatter (Titus 3:9), myths (1 Timothy 1:4), and ignorant speculation (2 Timothy 2:23). We are called to, “avoid worldly and empty chatter, for it will lead to further ungodliness” (2 Timothy 2:16).

Now, consider the truth behind those headlines:

  1. Australian Minister, Tony Abbott, had promised to “shirtfront” Putin, a term that comes from an illegal, midsection rugby hit. What Abbott really meant was that he would hit Putin hard on the illegal rocket launcher sales that downed Malaysia Airlines flight MH17 and killed 38 Australian citizens. Rather than focusing on illegal arms sales, downed planes, and loss of life though, headlines were about “shirtfronting.”
  2. In the cold air, Vladimir Putin placed a shawl around Peng Liyuan, the wife of Chinese President, Xi Jinping. This was a harmless act of kindness, but Chinese chat boards lit up with rumors of a Putin-Liyuan attraction. Chinese authorities immediately cleansed the Internet and shut-down anyone who mentioned it. Rather than reporting massive Chinese censorship, headlines fueled gossip about a possibly love affair.
  3. President Obama made headlines as he emerged from his limousine chewing gum. While this might not seem like a big issue, it is a cultural “no-no” in most Asian countries. It was, in the Chinese view, horribly embarrassing. Never mind that China has horrible pollution and human rights issues; the story of the day was Nicorette.

Don’t be fooled and distracted by the side stories. Keep the big picture in mind!

Focusing on a storm caused Jesus’ disciples to forget to have faith in Him; focusing on a weeping woman caused some to question Jesus’ status as a prophet; and focusing on temple pageantry distracted some disciples from His greater Kingdom.

What about you? Will you be distracted by the side stories or will you keep your eyes focused on Christ and the big picture? Don’t lose sight of the death, burial, and resurrection of Jesus. And never let name-calling, gossip, and pageantry carry you away from what matters most.