The Best Way to Honor and Support Christians Dying For Their Faith

 

The headlines this last week have been gut-wrenching. ISIS ‘Systematically Beheading’ Children in IraqIraq: Hell has broken out here and nobody caresChristian boy “cut in half” as Islamic State invades Christian town .

The question on everyone’s mind has been, what can we do?

An article on Christian Today provided  five great things we can do to help. If you haven’t read it yet, please do. It is a helpful list.

But I would like to add one thing they left out.

I’d like to add a sixth thing we can and should do, not only to help those who are suffering, but also to honor those Christians who have been martyred.   In my humble opinion it is the best thing we can do for them.

What is it?

It is to die with them.

I am not talking about mass suicide or even taking up arms. I mean our willingness take up our cross and die with them.

Let us die to our need to be liked.

Let us die for our need to be normal.

Let us die to our need to stay hidden.

Let us die to our desire to fit in.

Let us die to struggle to keep up with our neighbors.

Let us die to our excuses.

Let us die to self-centeredness.

Let us each and every day take up our cross (whatever that might be) and die. With Jesus. For Jesus. In order to boldly proclaim  Jesus.

When we do this we will (in a small way) identify with them. We will remember to pray for them. We will be led to give what we can for them. And we will honor them.

Yes there is persecution of Christians in America…but let’s be honest, no one is going to kill us or our family for talking about Jesus. At the very worst they will give us a cold shoulder. Or maybe make fun of us.

But often that is not even the case. Most of the time a person will listen and talk with us politely.  If we are kind to others they are more often than not kind to us.

We must take advantage of this freedom!

This freedom may not always exist. There may be a time when sharing our faith will get us thrown in jail, or put us in danger of violence. And if that happens it will only serve to help us identify with our Christian brothers and sisters around the world who are daily going through the same things. Not to mention it will  further serve to help us identify with our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ, the innocent one who suffered brutally on our behalf.

But that time is not here yet.

So let us not waste the time and freedom we have been given. Let us honor the deaths of our martyred brothers and sisters by standing for and, if necessary, dying for the same Jesus they were killed for.

Imagine what our Christian brothers and sisters in Iraq would say to us who live in a country with such minimal threats. What would they have us do with our freedom?

I imagine the saints that have been martyred,  who are now in the presence of their King, would say one thing to us…

It  was worth it.

Do not hold back, do not be scared.  Jesus is with you.

He is worth living for. He is worth dying for.

You will not be disappointed. You will not be ashamed.

He is worth it. More than you could ever imagine.

Jesus is worth it.

 

 

Christian boy “cut in half” as Islamic State invades Christian town – See more at: http://www.biblesociety.org.au/news/christian-boy-cut-half-islamic-state-invades-christian-town#sthash.XKcsdfLn.dpuf
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Five Crazy Things You’ll Likely Do In Heaven

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The notion of eternity has always scared me to death. As a pastor, that is not exactly easy to admit, but it’s true. If I think too long about the idea of living forever I will literally start to freak out. I know I am not alone in this. Many times students in our church have shared with me that they don’t like thinking about heaven because when they think about eternity it scares them.

Eternity is scary, but only when our picture of heaven is vague.  So to help us overcome the fear, here are five crazy things I think followers of Jesus will likely do in heaven.[1]

1.       Flying (Acts 1:3-10)

After His resurrection Jesus met with his disciples to give them final instructions. After He had finished, the Bible says “ he was taken up before their very eyes, and a cloud hid him from their sight. They [the disciples] were looking intently up into the sky as he was going…” Like a scene out of Iron Man, Jesus flew up into the clouds. If His resurrected body could fly, then there is good reason to believe that when we receive resurrected bodies we will be able to fly also.  

 2.       Walking Through Walls (John 20:19-20, 26-27)

Before they knew Jesus was alive again, the disciples were in a home “with the doors locked” and yet Jesus “came and stood among them and said, ‘Peace be with you!’” Locked doors and solid walls could not stop the resurrected Jesus from appearing to his disciples inside the home. And we know that this appearance of Jesus was not just a vision or even just spiritual. Jesus talked to his disciples, he ate with them, and he even let Thomas touch his wounds. These are all signs that he was very physically present. By the power of the Spirit his new resurrected physical body was able to pass through material objects. I think our future resurrected bodies will, in reflection of Jesus, do the same thing.

3.       Running Faster Than A Horse (1 Kings 18:45-46)

“Meanwhile, the sky grew black with clouds, the wind rose, a heavy rain started falling and Ahab rode off to Jezreel. The power of the LORD came on Elijah and, tucking his cloak into his belt, he ran ahead of Ahab all the way to Jezreel” (1 Kings 18:45-46). God gave Elijah the power to run so fast that even though Ahab had left before him on a horse, Elijah was able run faster than Ahab’s horse, and arrived first. If the Spirit of God gave Elijah that power on earth, why would he withhold it from us in heaven?

4.       Walking on Water (Matthew 14:22-29)

It is a famous story that we all know. In the midst of a storm, Jesus walks on water, and then Peter wants to do the same thing. Sure enough, Jesus calls him out of the boat, and together they stand on water. Sure, Peter started to sink, but it was only because of his lack of faith. If Jesus allowed Peter do such a thing on Earth how much more when we too have resurrected bodies and unhindered faith in Jesus will we, like Peter, be able to walk on water with Jesus.

5.       Teleporting (Acts 8:38-40)

Philip was on his way down to Gaza. On the way he comes across an Ethiopian official with questions about the words from the prophet Isaiah. Philip explains how Isaiah was talking about Jesus, the official puts his trust in Jesus, and then he asks to be baptized. Philip baptizes the official, but then the Bible says the Spirit of the Lord “suddenly took Philip away…” and “… Philip appeared at Azotus.”  Azotus was roughly 19 miles away from Philip’s intended destination of Gaza. It’s therefore safe to say the Spirit of the Lord teleported Philip at least 19 miles in order to move him to Azotus. No matter what the distance was, what is clear is that the same Spirit, who lives in every believer, supernaturally moved Philip.  If the Spirit was able to move Philip on Earth how much more should we expect the Spirit of God to freely empower us to move in heaven?

I don’t know about you but when I think about flying, walking through buildings, running super-fast, walking on water, and teleporting all by the power of the Holy Spirit, as a reflection of Jesus, to the glory and enjoyment of the Father… well, now eternity just sounds fun.


[1] These activities are based on the following lines of thought:

After Jesus’s resurrection he was given a new body. When we are resurrected we will be given a new body like the body of Jesus. Therefore, what he was able to do with his glorious body, we will be able to do with ours in the New Heavens and New Earth.

-and-

All miracles are the result of the power of the Holy Spirit. In heaven we will be completely full of the Spirit (without sin to hinder His presence). Therefore whatever the Holy Spirit empowered people to do on Earth, He will empower them to do in Heaven.

Evil and Grace

Jesus on cross black and white

Why did God let a madman shoot up a school? Better yet, why did He let Adam sin? Better yet, why did He let Satan into the garden? Better yet, why did He let evil into Satan’s heart?

Why is there evil at all?

Sure it’s true that God Himself through Jesus Christ came to rescue sinners from evil and to redeem the world. But why should the world and the people in it need rescuing in the first place? Is God like a man who built a house, rented it out to tenants and then set it on fire so that He could later rescue them? And even if we say that, in God’s case, He did not actively set the house on fire, He just allowed it to happen, He is still the one that had the power to stop it and chose not to. Why?

Some say God did not stop evil because He could not; others say He did not stop evil because He chose not to. Among those who say He chose not to stop evil, there are those who say it is because God is evil, and then there are others who say it is because God wants to work good from the evil.  In either case, God still appears evil. Because even a God who allows the ends to justify the means appears to be a God who is simply a manipulator of creation, like someone just doing the best He can with what He has to work with.

But the God of the Bible is none of these things. So why then did YHWH allow evil into the world?

Imagine evil never existed. Imagine Adam and Eve never sinned. And not only did they never sin they never had the option to sin, because evil was nowhere in existence. What then could we know of God? We could know His power.  We could know His intelligence. But we could never know His Grace.

Grace–unmerited favor–cannot be known in a world without evil.  Grace does not exist in a perfect world because in a perfect world everything is merited.  Every reward is the natural consequence of the perfect action that preceded it. But in a world where there is evil, there are many actions that merit condemnation, judgment, and even wrath. And in that world there is now space for Grace.

In an evil world there is now an open place for favor to be poured out where it should not be. In an evil world Grace shines brightly against the just consequence of condemnation.

Grace…an unknowable quality of God in a world without evil. Could it be that the great I AM is interested in displaying all of who He IS?

In Grace we see a characteristic of God that is wholly unlike any other conceived divine being. In Grace we see the holiness of God (His otherness). In Grace we see the beauty of God. In Grace we see the love of God in a way that otherwise would not be possible.

The Cross, the great symbol of Grace, is not just about salvation from evil, nor is it just about Jesus conquering evil. It is even more: it is a glorious beacon brightly shining in the darkness of night, displaying who God IS.

Evil is necessary for Grace. Grace is an essential attribute of God. God desires to fully display His attributes. Therefore evil exists.

What are your thoughts?

Why pursue Jesus now?

Why not enjoy life now, do whatever I want and then pursue Jesus later…after I’ve had all my fun? This was the question we discussed last night at our high school group. It’s is a good question, one I  thought about in high school and have since thought about as an adult.  For most of us if we’re honest we’d admit that there are times when we see others “enjoying” life apart from God and we can’t help but think— why can’t I do that and then ask for forgiveness later?

But the question is usually asked when we’re not thinking about three things…

1.  I am not in control of when I die.

God says in James 4:13-14

13 Now listen, you who say, “Today or tomorrow we will go to this or that city, spend a year there, carry on business and make money.” 14 Why, you do not even know what will happen tomorrow. What is your life? You are a mist that appears for a little while and then vanishes.

No one has control over their tomorrow.  We can make plans but ultimately our life is in God’s hands.  My family became painfully aware of this truth last fall when my wife’s mother died unexpectedly of a brain aneurism.  She was healthy, full of life, and we should have had many more years with her. But instead our lives were turned upside and we were forced to come to terms with a new reality.

Medical emergencies, car accidents, and even school shootings are everyday reminders that we are not in complete control of our mortality.  So when we assume that we’ll have many tomorrows in order to turn our lives around we’re making a pretty foolish assumption.

2.  God has good things for me to do now

Ephesians 2:10  says, For we are God’s handiwork, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do.

This is one of the greatest promises of God.  If I have given my life to Jesus, then I can know that Jesus has prepared good things for me do. I can literally wake up every morning and say to God, “Would you lead me to the good things you have for me today”. My job, then, is simply to be faithful to where God’s leads me.  The reason I pursue Jesus isn’t just to avoid negative consequences, but rather to enjoy watching God do good things through me.

3.  In Jesus I have access to joy–all the time

This leads to the third truth, in Jesus there is joy—all the time.

Psalm 16:11- You make known to me the path of life; you will fill me with joy in your presence, with eternal pleasures at your right hand.

In the presence of Jesus there is joy.  Now what I didn’t know in high school was that this verse does not mean that Jesus will fill my life with joyful things.  Instead it means, despite the suffering that may come from external circumstances, there is joy when I acknowledge the presence of Jesus over all my life and chose to praise Him–no matter the situation.

This is actually an amazing experiment to try sometime. Wait till you’re angry, frustrated, sad, depressed, anxious, or stressed out of your mind…and then start worshiping Jesus. Seriously.  Start with the simple stuff, like “Jesus I thank you for giving me a mind, and thoughts, and the ability to think. Jesus I praise you for color and giving me eyes to see it. Jesus I praise for creating good flavors and the ability to enjoy food. Jesus I praise you for the trees outside that look like they are lifting their arms to worship you” …whatever comes to your mind.  As you do this you will literally feel your heart soften, and the beginnings of joy enter in. It is this secret of life that led the Apostle Paul to exclaim, Rejoice in the Lord always. I will say it again: Rejoice! (Philippians 4:4), while suffering in prison. Jesus is worth pursing now, because He offers joy now.

Life maybe short and unpredictable, but in Jesus we know that there are good things planned for us and joy in His presence–now and forever.

When have you been tempted to ask, why can’t I sin now and then ask for forgiveness later? How have you experienced the joy of Jesus’ presence? What has motivated you to pursue Jesus?