Tag Archives: Jesus Christ

A life worthy of persecution

comfort

Chinese government authorities have begun pressuring house churches to register with the government and join the Three-Self Patriotic Movement (TSPM). Officials have approached key leaders of many house church networks in recent weeks and delivered an ultimatum: Register with the TSPM within the next two months, or else. House church leaders, who oppose joining the TSPM, believe their only option is to create awareness of their situation and ask Christians around the world to pray for them. (Taken from icommittopray.com).

Have I ever been in this position?  No.  I live in the United States.  I have complete religious freedom.  I can stand on my street corner and shout (so long as it’s not to the point of disturbing the peace) the praises of my Lord Jesus Christ.  On a trip to Washington, D.C. a couple of years ago, I witnessed a man standing outside the gates of the White House, proclaiming through a bull horn, his distaste for what was currently going on in our country.  We are free.  There is no question about it.  In the past few weeks, my church youth ministry has been focused on the persecuted church.  We have read countless stories, watched videos and learned about what it’s like to be persecuted.  In some countries, it’s atrocious.   People are dying, everyday, because they profess their faith in Jesus Christ.  Dying.  Everyday.  According to a study by the Center for Studies on New Religions (CESNUR), over 90,000 Christians were killed in 2016 for their faith.  That’s 1 person every 6 minutes, that lost their life for simply publicly living for Christ.  It doesn’t say what they were doing, specifically.  Some may have been leaders, spreading the gospel message.  Many were simply converts, that refused to renounce their new faith.  Again, I have never faced this.  In fact, I couldn’t recall a time when I faced any form of persecution for my faith, and that disturbed me.

In the past few months, I have found my world challenged.  I don’t feel comfortable anymore just sitting idly by and not doing anything with my faith.  It’s not enough to attend the regular meetings at church, participate in outings, and be a “facebook Christian.”  I blame…rather give credit to God.  I prayed, one night, a couple of months ago and asked God to give me the strength and the courage to give all of me to Him. Everything.  Move me where you want me.  Give me the thoughts you want me to have so I can do what you created me to do.  It was a scary prayer, and the excitement and fear that I have felt since then, prove that God will use you and move you if you are willing to give him control.  But last night, I just thought about that question – have I ever been persecuted for my faith?  I couldn’t say that I had.  So why does that disturb me?  It’s simple.  Jesus explains that anyone who follows Him…I mean really follows Him will face the same treatment He faced.  Blessed are those who are persecuted because of righteousness, for theirs is the kingdom of Heaven.  Blessed are you when people insult you, persecute you and falsely say all kinds of evil against you because of me. (Matt. 5:10-11).  Jesus says we are blessed when we face persecution.  Why?  We are blessed because of the key part of that verse, we are living for Him.  We are living out our faith.  We are living a life of righteousness.  In fact, everyone who wants to live a godly life in Christ Jesus will be persecuted (2 Tim. 3:12).  So, again, I ask the question, why am I disturbed and downcast because I haven’t felt persecuted?  It’s a simple answer, and one that I am ashamed to admit.  I haven’t been living a life worthy of Christ.  My faith hasn’t been radiant to those around me.  God’s word promises that when we live a life for Christ.  When we are out there – we will be persecuted.  Does that mean that I will have to give my life?  Probably not in this country.  That adds a whole new round of guilt and shame.  I live in a country where the worst I have to be afraid of is someone not liking me, or someone talking about me because of my faith.  Yet, I hide it.  There are people in this world that are dying, horrible deaths, because they utter the words, “I believe in Jesus.”  Yet, here I am, with no fear of physical pain or death, and I don’t say a word.

I want to challenge, myself and anyone else that comes across this.  Be intentional.  Lay down any fears and reservations about what people may think of you and be intentional in living for Jesus Christ.  Our fear should not be of our peers perception of us, but in how Jesus sees us.  “Whoever is ashamed of me and my words, the Son of Man will be ashamed of them when he comes in his glory and int he glory of the Father and of the holy angels” (Luke 9:26).  That verse should be committed to memory and thought of often.  I have said often, I am non-confrontational.  I don’t like conflict and that bleeds over into my spiritual life and how “out there” I am.  I don’t want to upset anyone.  You may be reading this and think – if I get out there and live like that, I’ll run everyone off and that’s not what Jesus wants.  I believe that if we live as and for Christ, we won’t run everyone off.  We may challenge them, but they will be drawn to us because we are different and genuine.

Are you living a life worthy of persecution?

Lord, I have failed.  Until this point in my life, I have never even thought about living a life worthy of persecution for you.  I pray, today, that I will be bold in my faith and unashamed of your name.  Stoke the flame in my heart so that your radiance shines brightly and unmistakably.  May I live a life that leaves no doubt where my heart is.  In your name I pray, – Amen.

Sometimes God says…No

prayerHands

“Praise the Lord for answered prayer”

I have heard this so many times in my life, and I have often typed / said those same words when I heard about something miraculous that my God did in my life, or in the life of someone I know.  My God is in the business of miracles.  He never fails.  He CAN’T fail.  God is perfect.  A few years ago, my youth group engaged in a Character of God study and it was truly fascinating.  I have long known that God is perfect, but what does that perfection look like?  Among many things that describe his character, his omniscience is one of my favorite.

He is Omniscient

God knows all things.  He encompasses all knowledge – ever.  Seems pretty simple.  He knows all.  But looking a little deeper we truly understand what that means.  Psalm 147:4-5 talks about  God knowing every single star and calling them each by name.  How many stars are we talking.  According to a quick google search, an Australian study, a few years back, claimed that we can observe about 70,000 million million million stars.  (7,000,000,000,000,000,000,000).  Perspective?  That’s more than all the grains of sand on all the beaches in the world.  He knows them each by name.  Not only does he know everything, but he knows everything about me.  God knows every single cell, every single hair, every single thought  (scary to fathom), he knows it ALL.  He also knows exactly how I fit into his perfect plan.  Not just his perfect plan for me, but His PERFECT PLAN.  He can see how all the pieces fit together, and because of that, he knows the perfect answer to make sure the puzzle comes together.

So when I think of God answering prayers, I have to admit that his answer isn’t always going to be what I want to hear.  I can only see a small fraction of the puzzle, which is my life and all that is in that life.  I am human and I pray for what I want.  I have been saved by the grace of Jesus Christ and through that salvation, I have the holy spirit living in my heart, directing me in my prayer life and so forth, but I can pray for what I want.  I am selfish.  I will almost always choose to pray and ask God for those things that I think will make my life better.

Why am I going down this road?  Well, my family is in the middle of a trial.  My 11 year-old son developed a swollen lymph node that wouldn’t go away after antibiotics and time.  Almost three months after it showed up, he was sitting in a surgeons office talking about next steps, when the doctor said the words lymphoma or leukemia.  As parents, I don’t know any worse words for a living child than the possibility of cancer.  Over the next couple days we researched, and prayed.  Two days later, he had a biopsy of the lymph node and we helplessly watched him be as tough as he could while they obtained core samples.  Then it was time to wait.  We were told it may be as long as a week or so to get the pathology report back.  That waiting time is agonizing.  You can’t keep your mind from going to the worst case scenarios and you stress and stress and you PRAY.

Today we learned that the initial testing revealed no abnormal cells, no cancer.  A moment of elation, we breathed again.  There are follow-up things and second opinions, but the initial prognosis looks great.  That is what triggered this reflection today.  I got the answer, to my prayer, that I wanted.  But if I truly believe in God, and I truly want to submit to His will and plan, I have to be ready to accept a no answer in my prayer life.  Even for things as serious as this, I have to be alright with no.  I can tell you that in the past few days, I have experienced a deeper sense of “I can’t do this alone”.  God has humbled me and helped me see there is more to life than what I was letting in and what I was taking part in.  I won’t always get it right, but I see that spending a few more minutes with my kids is more important than a few more minutes with a report.  Truly spending quality quiet time with God is more important than rushing through it.

It’s easy to write this today, because God answered yes.  But I have to realize that God always answers yes as it fits into His plan.  He loves me and he’ll never leave me or let me down.  He can’t fail me, He is perfect.  What may seem like a no through my small vision, is always a yes when looking through the eyes of the Father.

God, today I praise you and thank you for your blessings in my life.  I thank you for the opportunity to know you each day.  I thank you that you are a personal God and while all-knowing and ever-present, you never forget the little details, you never miss any opportunity to be in direct fellowship with your creation.  I thank you for helping me to remember each day that you have this and I don’t have to try to handle things.  Thank you for bringing me to a deeper trust in you and your plan.  I pray for continued good news regarding my son and that through this I’ll be able to show him how we are to depend on you and how we can trust you with our entire life.  In your name I pray, Amen.

 

 

Powerball Odds

lotteryOdds

1.5 billion dollars.  That was the estimated jackpot for last night’s drawing.  How much is a billion?  Here are some facts:

  • 1 billion dollar signs, printed side by side, 1000 per page, front and back would fill up a 500,000 page book!
  • 1 billion seconds is 31 years
  • If I sat down to count from 1 to 1 billion (by one’s) I would be counting for nearly 95 years.
  • About 1 billion minutes ago, the Roman empire was flourishing (1 billion minutes – 1900 years

A billion is a lot.  Naturally, the hype was elevated at the thought, the mere chance of winning that prize.  While most people get in on the hype with the joyful attitude of you never know, fully not expecting to win the prize, planning to go about life normally tomorrow morning, there are equally as many people who literally hinged their entire life on that possibility.  I would venture to say that there were folks who were putting all they had (heart and soul) into those odds as the way to fulfill their life, make it worth something, ease their pain, etc.  I admit, I found myself thinking about the possibilities with that much wealth.   What I could do for others, and how I could help this effort or that one.  Great ambitions aren’t they?  I wonder how many other folks think they would do nothing but noble and good with their new fortune?  I spent time in prayer this morning asking God to forgive me for letting my mind run wild with the thoughts of greed.  I am saved by his grace and promised eternal life with him in heaven one day, what more could I possibly need in this life?

I started to think about that fact that I am provided for and assured that he’ll never forget me.  I might face hardships and I may have to deal with earthly consequences to my choices, but in the big picture, I will always have what I need.  I compared that thought with the thought that there are those out there that felt better about the odds of winning the lottery and that the wealth would be what they needed to fulfill their life and have purpose than they do about submitting their life to Jesus Christ and putting their faith in his finished work on the cross.  The odds of winning the powerball jackpot are 1 in 292 million.  The odds of Jesus Christ saving a repenting sinner…1 in 1.  Every time.  Will you instantly be happy?  Maybe not by the world’s standard, but I guarantee (and so does his word) an immediate peace and a feeling of belonging and purpose.  I can still remember the Sunday, many years ago, that I gave my life to Christ.  I went down on my knee lost and destined to spend eternity in pain and torment, forever separated from God.  I came up from that floor, born again and with purpose.  My problems were still there.  My life was still in disarray, but I wasn’t alone.  I had purpose.  I had a knowledge and a peace that God would walk with me through whatever I was dealing with and that I would come out on the other side.  I was filled up with his love and grace and in that moment, I didn’t need anything else.  I found the missing piece to what made me whole.  That’s what Jesus is…that missing piece that we are all searching for.  He is also the true treasure and jackpot.  All the money in the world, won’t fill us up or fill that need that only a life in Christ can fill.  We’ll always want or need more.  We’ll always be searching for how to make it stretch just a little bit farther.  Christ fills us up instantly, to the point of running over, an ever-flowing fountain that never goes dry.

I started a study in the book of Romans today and the first verse used to introduce a chapter is familiar, but it fit right in to what I was thinking about today.  For the wages of sin is death, but the free gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord. – Romans 6:33 (ESV).  Break that down and think about it today…the wages of sin, the cost of sin is death.  Not 1.5 billion dollars, not all the money in the world. The cost is greater than anything we can attain.  It is death.  But the free gift, not just a gift we have to earn, but the free gift from God is eternal life, no death, no separation, but an eternity to live.  How do we get it?  Is it for sale?  Absolutely not.  You can’t buy your gift, it isn’t a gift if you pay for it.  You get it by betting on those 1 in 1 odds.

Lord, today I thank you for the eternal gift of God, my salvation through you and only your finished work on the cross.  Thank you for not requiring anything of me, or holding me accountable to what I owe.  Thank you for making it free and willing giving it to anyone, regardless of whether we deserve it or not.  Thank you for the gift of your word so that I can have hope in the truth.  I pray you would keep my mind focused on and help me to always rejoice and trust in what you provide.  In your name I pray – Amen