Persecuted Church

Blessed are you when people insult you, persecute you and falsely say all kinds of evil against you because of me. Rejoice and be glad, because great is your reward in heaven, for in the same way they persecuted the prophets who were before you. Matthew 5:11-12

Many of our brothers and sisters around the Christian world face persecution daily. And we hear stories of how they’ve held up under some very intense and brutal persecution! Hallelujah!

Perhaps you’ve heard the saying,”The blood of the martyr is the seed of the church.” Simply put, it means that the church seems to thrive and blossom under persecution. When people are killed because they are Christians, the church grows. It’s clearly an upside down way of thinking.

Fortunately we haven’t experienced persecution as our Brothers and Sisters in the East has. Certainly we are insulted for our beliefs in the West but we haven’t been beaten because of them.

Pray right now for strength and boldness for these dear people in China, Sudan, and North Korea. Of course, there are other countries that mistreat Christians. Those three countries have been in the news quite a bit lately. Pray that God will continue to do a mighty work in those lands!

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Envying Sinners

Do not let your heart envy sinners, but always be zealous for the fear of the Lord. Proverbs 23:17

I think Proverbs is pretty clear about associating ourselves with those who we might consider sinners. There seems to be a phenomenon in our nation of “Star worship” or “Stargazing.” Many flock to Hollywood to see the Rich and the Famous, and buy those national magazines that assault us in the grocery store lines. Entertainment Tonight! is huge.

But you say, “Eh. They’re just movie stars. Give ’em a break.”

Occasionally we get a glimpse into their private lives and thoughts. I would venture to say that the majority of the Hollywood stars think directly opposite to what we think on most issues. They’re not in our camp, so to speak. And yet, we hang on their every word.

Look for a moment at their private lives and you’ll see why we shouldn’t be envying them.

Why should we envy the numerous divorces that he has or the decadent and loose lifestyle that she has? Do you think we meet eye to eye on abortion with them? They have it all: glamor, riches, and fame. Are they really that happy as a community? Drugs, booze, sleeping around, abortion, immoral behavior. It’s all there, and yet we tend to glamorize what it would be like with all of that fame and fortune. Think we would be any different?

Radio talk show host Dennis Prager reminds us that Hollywood does the rest of the world a great service: they show us that you can have it all and still be very empty.

That’s something to consider next time we (secretly) wish we had more money than we know what to do with and are recognized in every restaurant we go into.

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A Different Hunger

Jesus called his disciples to him and said, “I have compassion for these people; they have already been with me three days and have nothing to eat. I do not want to send them away hungry, or they may collapse on the way.” Matthew 15:32-38

When we look at the story of feeding of the 4000, we get to see Jesus’ compassion and power to transform small things into much larger things. But within that story is a part that gets overlooked. Why did Jesus have to feed all those people? The text tells us. “They have already been with me three days…” These thousands of people were there to hear Jesus teach for three days.

Think about that.

For three days they were hungering for the truth, hungering for what was real, hungering for God, no doubt hanging on his every word. They wanted what he had so badly that they either forgot about eating or couldn’t break away. The Master was teaching them, and obviously what He had to say was important.

I can learn from that.

But ultimately I have to ask the questions: when was the last time that I truly hungered after God? When was the last time I was willing to sit at his feet for something other than a few minutes at a time? When was the last time I forgot about food and just basked in Jesus’ teaching? Sadly, I don’t remember.

Perhaps a deeper question for me is, why has it been so long?

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Michael who?

“…Others tested him by asking for a sign from heaven.” Luke 11:16

I find it incredibly conceited that the Creation asks the Creator for a sign from heaven, don’t you? I make no claims at all to deity but if I were Jesus I might have said, “come again?” Actually, my response would have been quite harsher than that, which is why I make no claims to deity!

Imagine this scenario. Fast forward forty years. A youngster comes up to Michael Jordan and says, “I’ve heard you were a basketball player fifty years ago. I don’t believe them. Show me a sign that you were one because up until a few minutes ago, I’ve never heard of you.” Do you really think Michael Jordan would have to prove himself when he’s in his 90s and can barely walk?

Well, we have thousands of years of recorded history where God has proven himself over and over and over again. Look at a sunrise or a sunset. Every single one is different. And yet I doubt.

My doubt goes something like this, “God, if you’re real and who you say you are…” That’s almost laughable. The Creation asking the Creator.

And yet, it’s a very real prayer. It may well be where I’m at. Perhaps I need a sign when my entire world is falling apart around me. Maybe I need a sign when the stress is overwhelming and I can’t take it anymore. Perhaps I need a supernatural touch from God that only He can give.

Perhaps, just perhaps, if my prayers were this kind of real I wouldn’t have to pretend that I have it all together.

Now that is an interesting thought.

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You’re Holding Your Nose

A favorite passage of Scripture for many is Jesus walking on the water in Matthew 14:22-33:

He was walking on the lake, and they thought he was a ghost.
They cried out, because they all saw him and were terrified. Immediately he spoke to them and said, “Take courage! It is I. Don’t be afraid.”
“Lord if it’s you, tell me to come to you on the water.” [that would be Peter]
Seconds later after Peter had actually walked on water and began to sink, Jesus reached out his hand and caught him.
“You of little faith,” he said, “why did you doubt?”

My wife tells the story of her and her girlfriend swimming at a public pool. They too truly believed that they could walk on water and took turns demonstrating their “faith.”

Then my wife’s friend said, “you don’t really believe, do you?”

“Why not?” she asked.

“Because you’re holding your nose!”

Faith is a difficult thing to teach and an even more difficult thing to learn. Why? Because we’re so hard headed. And even though we believe that the God of the entire Universe is on our side and cheering us on, it’s hard to articulate why we can’t trust him.

Usually, though, the “faith thing” comes in bits and spurts. Normally we aren’t asked to do extraordinary things for God. Instead, He encourages us to take small steps of faith. Baby steps, if you will.

So, let me ask you, when was the absolute last time you took a step of faith for God? Ask God to help you take those itty bitty steps of faith regularly and watch your faith grow strong!

Oh, and be careful not to hold your nose. It’s only a small step but it will reap great rewards.

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