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Persecution, Martyrdom, the Love of Christ…. and a hard lesson in prayer

Crucifix

Crucifix (Photo credit: LeChinchi)

 11  They have triumphed over him by the blood of the Lamb and by the word to which they bore witness, because even in the face of death they did not cling to life. Revelation 12:11 (NJB)

 43  ‘You have heard how it was said, You will love your neighbour and hate your enemy. 44  But I say this to you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you;  Matthew 5:43-44 (NJB)

 23  Do you think I enjoy seeing evil people die?” asks the Sovereign LORD. “No, I would rather see them repent and live. Ezekiel 18:23 (TEV)

The news again has horrible stories of terrorism in the headlines.  The situation in the Kenyan mall, and the two churches in Pakistan that were hit by suicide bombers.

This time, the targets weren’t just political – but they were specifically religious. They were after my brothers and sisters in Christ.   And there are new entries to the list of martyrs that extends through the centuries, and is growing day by day.

I want to be mad, I want to think about how to get revenge, whether its the President or some other official pushing a button and the merciless terrorists being zapped like vermin.

Yet I hear the words of my sermon yesterday, the quote from St Paul to a young pastor echoing in my mind, “I urge you – pray for ALL men, ask God to help them, intercede for them, and give thanks for them….”

Uhm God, is there an exception clause for this?   Can we strike out terrorists of body, and those who terrorize the soul?

My mind cries out that I can’t love them, that it is illogical and stupid and asking for more pain to forgive them.

Gosh I dislike that passage in Matthew 5.

This week I preach on that passage from Revelation 12, and iti s in my mind as well – how much do we cling to life?  Why do we do anything and everything to avoid death?  We don’t like to talk about it, we spend billions on hiding it and our aging (growing toward it) in our culture… and we hate anyone or anything that threatens it.   The Blood of Christ?  Sure  – we know and talk of that, our testimony about the Logos – the Word of God – Jesus?  yes definitely!

But… death?  Especially the death caused because of our witness to Christ?  You see that is what a martyr is – one who testifies in view of death.  And will embrace it because of that truth.

That is where I find the grace to even thik about praying for terrrorists, to hear the words, “pray for all people” and to know it includes those who encourage suicide bombers, shooters and others who are so full of sin and hatred that this is the answer they look for in life.

And then I remember those words from Ezekiel, those words that point to Jesus on the cross so clearly… for there we saw the truth of it.

God wouldn’t take pleasure in the deaths of terrorists, or those who indoctrinate or teach them.   Not for a second.  Anymore than He takes pleasure in any death, for at one time, we were all enemies.. and still Jesus died… we’ve sinneds, murfering people in our hearts, just as surely as others have done it physically.

And He loves us and pursues us and calls us… and prayerfully we hear and realize He forgives us and marks us as His.

This is perhaps the hardest and most blessed truth…. God loves and died for the terrorists as much as He did for the martyrs…..and weeps over the deaths of all.

Now… in this day – you have had some who’ve irritated you, you’ve had those people and those moments were you were just pissed off, you may have been betrayed, even brutally so…

So read those verses again – think through them… and ask God to touch those who’ve done you wrong…even as you rejoice in His bringing you back to Him.

And when its hard…to do this… cry Lord Have Mercy!

 

 

 

 

Redeeming the time…

Devotional/Discussion Thought of the Day:

2 Corinthians 5:19-20 (NLT) 19 For God was in Christ, reconciling the world to himself, no longer counting people’s sins against them. And he gave us this wonderful message of reconciliation. 20 So we are Christ’s ambassadors; God is making his appeal through us. We speak for Christ when we plead, “Come back to God!” 


“At times, fifty per cent of the work is lost because of in-fighting stemming from a lack of charity, and from tales and back biting among brothers. Furthermore, yet another twenty-five per cent of the work is lost by constructing buildings which are unnecessary for the apostolate. Gossip should never be allowed and we shouldn’t waste our time building so many houses. People will then be apostles, one hundred per cent.” (1)

I did a study a few years back, as our church was asked if we could provide space and time for another church – what would be the third congregation that would use our facility.  How much would it cost, what wre the implications.  At the time, we still had our elementary school, which was struggling, a chinese afterschool program, our preschool, and two congregations.  When we added the third congregation, and their midweek services, it ended up that we were using our facility over 70 percent of the time available between 8am and 10 pm.  That was amazing.   It made me think- what percentage of the classrooms, sanctuaries and offices are used in our churches and chapels and cathedrals around the country?  How much empty time is there?

The epistle reading above, focuses our ministry, our message.   And I do question – will we plead with others, on God’s behalf, begging them to be reconciled to God.  is that the focus of our ministries, is it the reason for our buildings?  Is the message  of Christ reconciling us to the Father, no longer counting our sins against, so incredible – we pity those who havent’ heard, and break into tears for those who do?

Or are we so busy fighting among ourselves and building kingdoms, that we cannot focus enough on the apostolate – on the mission, the task given us by God?  What would it look like, if only we could be focused on the gospel with our lives, our ministries, our facilities – both physical and mental, both human and buildings?

If we could deal with gossip – and use the resources we already have… focusing ministry where they exist – making the sacrifices necessary… would our church look different?  Can we, with Paul, realize the precious gospel

Lord have mercy on us.

(1)Escriva, Josemaria (2011-01-31). The Forge (Kindle Locations 3396-3399). Scepter Publishers. Kindle Edition.

Morality and Adoration

Devotional thought of the day:

As I wander through the updates of Facebook, I see two basic reactions to immorality.

The first encourages and defends it, asserting that no one has the right to interfere with another’s choices.  It doesn’t matter what is immoral, whether it be greed, or lust, or envy.  Dare you challenge someone on an immoral act, and you will find great opposition, even to the extent that you will be demonized for opposing that which they have every right (incurring free speech) to do.  Result, immorality proposers.

The second is an attempt, rather than dealing with immorality on an individual basis, to legislate it, to prohibit and publicly protest it.  We see this all the time, as Christians attempt to sincerely make a difference, or at least try to appear like they are making a difference.  In trying to legislate the morality of a culture that is patently immoral, we easily become crusaders or compromisors, willing to give up on this issue, to make a stand on that issue,  Eventually, we simply make token stands, like the one church leaders made last year – protesting the requirement for mandated coverage for abortion for those whose work is affiliated with religious ministry.  ( Don’t we trust our own people enough that they won’t take advantage of such, but they will come to us for assistance in crisis?  For that matter, do we doubt the moral fiber of those we shepherd to not get “into trouble” in the first place?)

So what do we do about morality and immorality?  What will radically change the behavior of our country?  What will help people not only be able to distinguish what it moral and beneficial to themselves and society, but see a desire to live morally, and to seek remedy and assistance when one fails, (as we all do)

There is an easy answer.

Adoration.

Simply put, when we find ourselves in the midst of a Holy, Righteous, Perfect God, who welcomes us, cleanses us, loves us, we find ourselves in awe, and that awe transforms to joy and that joy into adoration and love.  And the more we fall in love with the God who loves us, and blesses us, and makes our life a masterpiece, that awe grows.  And as that awe grows, the more the moral fabric of our lives changes.

Look at the stories of the “big-time” saints.  St. Paul, St Augustine, St Francis, or the great revivals like the Great Awakening, or the Welsh Revival.  In each life, in each revivial, the moral fabric changes, even without being addressed.  Like Zacchaeus, an encounter with God leaves us wanting to change, and more than that – seeing the changes created inside us, impelling us, transforming us, renewing and re-creating us in all of His glory.

Some theologians will disagree with me, they will point to the natural law, and the “civil use” of the law.  I’ll deal with that some other time  – the answer is simple – found in Romans 2-8.  But you cannot deny, someone madly in love with God, who is responding to God’s love for them being revealed – they will be transformed, and the more they dwell, the more they live in the presence of His love, the more they will be unable to tolerate sin, and immorality.  Within themselves, they will rush to forgiveness, to the places it is promised.  They will meditate on their Baptism (see Titus 3:2-8), they will feast on the Body brokem and the Blood shed for the forgiveness of sins, they will confess their sins and hear that they are cleansed of them and all unrighteousness.   ANd they will see their brother, their neighbor, those those still fighting for freedom to sin, and they will fight to free them from sin, not simply restrict the ability to.

Adoration result in morality, not as a primary result, but simply as a side affect.

But if it is a moral society you really desire… desire instead the presence of the One who accounts us moral, and righteous, and beloved.

Your Mission for Today, for you’ve been chosen to accept it….

Devotional/Discussion thought of the day.

“Looking on the immense panorama of souls who are awaiting us, and being struck by the wonderful and awesome responsibility before us, you may at times have asked yourself, as I have: “Can I contribute anything, when the task is so vast? I, who am so puny?” It is then we have to open the Gospel and contemplate how Jesus cures the man born blind. He uses mud made from the dust of the earth and saliva. Yet this is the salve which brings light to those blind eyes! That is what you and I are. Fully aware of our weaknesses and our worthlessness, but with the grace of God and our good will, we can be salve to give light and provide strength for others as well as for ourselves.” (1)

I sit and my desk and wonder.  What if the church was as diligent, as determined, to spread the gospel of Christ as it is to see a candidate elected who they assume shares their moral beliefs?  Why don’t we?  Why do we look at a world where as many as 6 billion people do not understand God’s love, who can’t comprehend God’s mindest towards them?  How can we put one mission – that of a political and economic cause, above the mission where everyone becomes a child of God, where true peace is found, as mercy and peace rule?

If Romney wins, the bulk of the world lives in the darkness of sin andin fear of death, and are oppressed by Satan.  If Obama wins, the bulk of the world lives in the darkness of sin, in fear of death, and are oppressed by Satan.

Is the reason we don’t take our call as the people of God, as the servant-priesthood of all believers more seriously?  Do we see the incredible  task before us, and think it is too big?

It is time for the church to step up, not to get involved in politics of the earth, or even politics of the church, and reflect Christ’s light to the world.  But the church isn’t our buildings.  It is you and I, people who have begun to see Christ’s work in our lives, healing our brokenness, cleansing us from all sin and all injustice.  This is our life  – to bear witness to light, following in the footsteps of fisherman and tax collectors and rebels.  It’s not in travelling the world for most of us, but simply in bringing hope to the hopeless, sharing peace with those who are riddled with anxiety, showing mercy to those who cannot conceive of anything but cold justice and retribution and revenge.

Today my friend, you are called to be God’s child – to be like Christ to a world that is lost and broken.  It starts in your workplace, and your home.

Look to Him, reflect His love… you will be amazed at how local your task is.. and how immediate.

(1) Escriva, Josemaria (2011-01-31). The Forge (Kindle Locations 1454-1460). Scepter Publishers. Kindle Edition.

Super Heroes….always serve

Devotional Discussion thought of the day…

As I am sitting home sick, I’ve been catching up on superhero movies – reliving my childhood one would say… except the superheroes are far more technological, their challengers even more vicious, the battles far more …. critical, than the ones Adam West and Boy Robin faced. or Chris Reeves.

What they have  in common, these heroes of my youth and the heroes of this day.. they don’t become lords, they don’t govern, they simply serve…they work to bring health to their communities and peace, and indeed to protect them from evil.  Whether it is a global threat – or a child needing to be rescued from a tree, they are there.

There is something at a sub-conscious level that resounds and gets excited by the superhero concept, and I believe it is because we believe we are also threatened.  Threatened by a darkness that would consume us, enslave us, ruin us.  Sometimes that darkness is an external threat ( we often project this on… let’s say – a presidential candidate?  That is why we must vilify them, rather than just base it on issues) Sometimes it is an internal threat – the superheroes today often battle internal demons, (Dark Knight/Batman, the Hulk, Ironman etc) and the difference between Villain and Hero is slim, razor slim.

We have heroes in our midst, the apostles and ministers who reflect light into the darkness.  I don’t capitalize either of those words for a purpose – I am not talking about pastors and priests, bishops and other clergy.  I am talking about the people who are sent by God into the darkness of this world, to reflect the light,t he glory that envelops them, for they have found hope in Jesus. They are more than superheroes – for in Christ, they have become children of the Father, they have been united in Christ’s death and resurrection.  As they live normal lives, they become our heroes, as they pray with their kids, as they sing in the choir, as they help their neighbor and their neighbor’s family as they approach death, as they simply listen to that co-worker, whose life is broken, just as their lives were.. It’s the lady who teaches Sunday School, the musicians who arrive early, the people that greet with smiles and hugs.   They have been “apostled” sent into the place to serve, to minister, on God’s behalf.  Without thought of reward, but to give hope to the hopeless, to bring healing where there is pain, to bring love where there is hatred and apathy…

to bring Jesus, His mercy, His love, His glory….

Who are these superheroes?  Come to church on Sunday, and I will introduce you to some… and we’ll help you see that you are one as well….

Government and Faith….

Discussion/devotion of the day….

It is amazing to me, how much we get caught up in the intrigues and plots and plans of government.  How much anxiety, how much sin, how much pain is created when we look to our governments, when we look to our candidates to provide that which can only come from God.  (somehow we also do this with athletes, which is even more perverse…)

Do we really think that the problems caused by sin will be overcome if our guy wins?  Is there any proof that if our opponent wins, that somehow he can override the will and work of God?  How much of God’s peace can be stolen from us by politicians?  How much of what really matters can be overcome?

A survivor of the Spanish Civil War, which was brutal on both sides, which had believers on both sides, which had pastors and priests killed by both sides, wrote this,

“The measures taken by some governments to ensure that the faith in their countries dies out reminds me of the seals set upon the tomb of Jesus by the Sanhedrin. He was not subject to anybody or anything, and despite those seals, he rose again!” (1)

It isn’t rocket science to realize that in this day, people have turned politics, like so many things, into a form a idolatry.  Can we, for a moment, for a day, trust in God more than we trust in the war for “right” or “wrong” in the elections?  Can we find our unity in the one who didn’t run for office, but ran to the cross for the joy set before Him?  Or will we be like the Israelites, who forsook God’s reign, to have a king…

Lord Have Mercy on us!   Help us to look to you for the peace that the world and its governors and kings and presidential candidates cannot deliver…

(1)Escriva, Josemaria (2011-01-31). The Forge (Kindle Locations 1084-1087). Scepter Publishers. Kindle Edition.

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