Martyrs in America? Maybe

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They died bravely in the first century. Will we follow Jesus when this happens to us?

Believers must reconsider the issues of being salt and light in our flourishing pagan culture. For instance, the Church has tried hundreds of approaches in evangelism, and I know of several first-hand. I’m afraid that most of them are rather stale. Sorry.

Sometime ago, someone suggested that I see,  The Passion of The Christ directed by Mel Gibson. At the time, it was shattering box-office records when it came out in 2004.  Personally I found it both compelling and disturbing.  We saw ‘Jesus’ beaten and tortured,  but it seems the splattering of blood did not translate well into spiritual change.  If perhaps anything, it may have hardened people to God’s Spirit. But who knows?

We definitely must use everything that is available to broadcast the gospel.  Art–both fine and popular, music and theater, movies and sports. I worked with a christian brother who wanted to put billboards up proclaiming “Jesus is Lord” along the highways. (He might be onto something.) I’m personally praying for a street artist like ‘Banksy’ who would witness for Jesus publicly. We need to squeeze out of every venue, in every medium every gift to share the good news. We must take it to the people. In order to do this must make the choice:

  • To be true. Endure. Continue to pray and witness.
  • To be prayerful. At least working on it. I know prayer is supremely powerful, linking my inadequacy with God’s capability.
  •  To be joyful. Sing often. Thanksgiving all the time. Our tormentors hate joyful hearts. It seems to disturb them.
  • To be real. Being faithful to Jesus. No lies, no illusions. Every aspect of our lives is to be the truth.
  • To be giving. Time or talent, it’s a stringent test of a believer’s maturity. Money is secondary.
  • To be convinced. We need to become fully convinced of the message of the gospel, and to be sure of His love.

In the time of ancient Rome, the only time Christians were in the limelight were as martyrs, front and center.  And the lions of the Coliseum made quick work of their witness. But they succeeded in reaching thousands by their witness, and a pagan empire was brought to Christ, en masse!

Die before you die, and your fear of death will die.

Perhaps martyrdom will be our path to reach America with the Gospel.  The New Testament word for “witness” is martyr.  It very well may be that our blood will be the seed for a new generation of believers. It should come as no surprise.

martyrdomI preached once on the UC Berkeley campus.  It’s a  challenging place; a condensed stronghold of a godless ‘intellectualism’ (if you can imagine that).  There is always a few people that for the most part bright and engaging.  But as I got ready to leave, I met a university professor.  He looked at me in his tweed jacket and sweater vest and said something I will never forget.  “Too bad we can’t feed you to the lions”.  That is all he said. It was a flat-calm statement; terse, cold and frightening, mostly because I knew he meant it. (It was eerie and quite weird.)

In this ‘enlightened’ campus, there was a coldness–a hatred that I never encountered in the areas of inner San Francisco–Polk Street. or the Tenderloin.’ The Haight/Ashbury neighborhood in SF can be a little ‘rough’ at times, where I once was punched in the face while preaching, but nothing like ‘Berzerkeley‘ (that’s what we called it.) In three years of full-time evangelism I never met another man that was as hateful to the gospel of Jesus Christ. This incident in Berkeley was a darkly brazen calculation against the Gospel. Perhaps persecution by hardcore intellectuals will be the catalyst for the martyrdom to come.

We are in God’s hands. Period.  Our obedience to Jesus should be a decision we must make ahead of time.  We can’t just hope to make the gospel work, unless we change.  “Die before you die, and your dying won’t be death”, the somebody once wrote.  This could very well be our cue. Get ready. And “watch and pray.” And prepare to die the death now.

 

 

Post art from The Christian Martyrs’ Last Prayer, by Jean-Leon Gerome (1824-1904)

 

Post art from The Christian Martyrs’ Last Prayer, by Jean-Leon Gerome (1824-1904)

Running the Good Race, [Endurance]

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23 “The Lord directs the steps of the godly.
    He delights in every detail of their lives.
24 Though they stumble, they will never fall,
    for the Lord holds them by the hand.”

Psalm 37:23-24, NLT

We are each on a journey, and when we start to get serious about our following, we feel His pleasure. In the movie, “Chariots of Fire,” a line is spoken by Eric Liddell: “I believe God made me for a purpose, but he also made me fast. And when I run I feel His pleasure.” The film resonated deep inside the bones of many who saw it.

Part of it I suppose was this runner had something called passion–  it is something we hardly hear about these days. (Perhaps we need some of that “fervor.”) There is also a point to made that we can really make God happy. And many of us don’t completely understand this. Or don’t believe it! What they end up living is a substandard life, and that is tragic.

“And let us run with endurance the race God has set before us.”

Hebrews 12:1

The pleasure we bring God is our profound purpose in life.

When we start moving out into that heart-intensity, we will discover that it is what we crave. All the pleasures of sin will never satisfy us. You might as well sort that out as soon as you can. You will only find satisfaction in running the spiritual race. Oh to grab hold of life with two hands and make it your own!

V. 24, paints a picture of a stumbling runner. Perhaps your feet slipped, or you tripped over a root or rock. Nobody goes out to race with the idea of falling on their hinder parts. The key idea though isn’t my falling, but by His proximity. He is holding your hand! To suggest otherwise is foolish and bad theology. He finds us— follows us—and holds us steady.

I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, and I have remained faithful.”

2 Timothy 4:7

As a mentally ill believer, my race is different than many.

I run with constant pain and clinical depression. I remember in boot camp a recruit had to carry around a thirty pound rock in his ruck sack for 48 hours. He ran with it, ate with it, showered with it.  He even had to sleep with it. Perhaps that rock made that recruit a future Command Sargeant Major?!

I still must run, and I’m not disqualified by my ‘rock.’. I still am a disciple and still must run my own particular race.  I think deep-down you know this; you see, everyone you meet today is running a challenging race, a profoundly hard race– so be kinder than you have to be. Grit your teeth and be kind.

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Understanding Schizophrenia

Symptoms

By Mayo Clinic staff,

There are several types of schizophrenia, so signs and symptoms vary. In general, schizophrenia symptoms include:

  • Beliefs not based on reality (delusions), such as the belief that there’s a conspiracy against you
  • Seeing or hearing things that don’t exist (hallucinations), especially voices
  • Incoherent speech
  • Neglect of personal hygiene
  • Lack of emotions
  • Emotions inappropriate to the situation
  • Angry outbursts
  • Catatonic behavior
  • A persistent feeling of being watched
  • Trouble functioning at school and work
  • Social isolation
  • Clumsy, uncoordinated movements

Schizophrenia ranges from mild to severe. Some people may be able to function well in daily life, while others need specialized, intensive care. In some cases, schizophrenia symptoms seem to appear suddenly. Other times, schizophrenia symptoms seem to develop gradually over months, and they may not be noticeable at first.

Over time, it becomes difficult to function in daily life. You may not be able to go to work or school. You may have troubled relationships, partly because of difficulty reading social cues or others’ emotions. You may lose interest in activities you once enjoyed. You may be distressed or agitated or fall into a trance-like state, becoming unresponsive to others.

In addition to the general schizophrenia symptoms, symptoms are often categorized in three ways to help with diagnosis and treatment:

Negative signs and symptoms
Negative signs and symptoms represent a loss or decrease in emotions or behavioral abilities. They may include:

  • Loss of interest in everyday activities
  • Appearing to lack emotion
  • Reduced ability to plan or carry out activities
  • Neglecting hygiene
  • Social withdrawal
  • Loss of motivation

Positive signs and symptoms
Positive signs and symptoms are unusual thoughts and perceptions that often involve a loss of contact with reality. These symptoms may come and go. They may include:

  • Hallucinations, or sensing things that aren’t real. In schizophrenia, hearing voices is a common hallucination. These voices may seem to give you instructions on how to act, and they sometimes may include harming others.
  • Delusions, or beliefs that have no basis in reality. For example, you may believe that the television is directing your behavior or that outside forces are controlling your thoughts.
  • Thought disorders, or difficulty speaking and organizing thoughts, such as stopping in midsentence or jumbling together meaningless words, sometimes known as “word salad.”
  • Movement disorders, such as repeating movements, clumsiness or involuntary movements.

Cognitive signs and symptoms
Cognitive symptoms involve problems with memory and attention. These symptoms may be the most disabling in schizophrenia because they interfere with the ability to perform routine daily tasks. They include:

  • Problems making sense of information
  • Difficulty paying attention
  • Memory problems
When to see a doctor:
People with schizophrenia often lack awareness that their difficulties stem from a mental illness that requires medical attention. So it often falls to family or friends to get them help.

Suicidal thoughts and behavior

Suicidal thoughts and behavior are common among people with schizophrenia. If you have a loved one who is in danger of committing suicide or has made a suicide attempt, make sure someone stays with that person. Call 911 or your local emergency number immediately. Or, if you think you can do so safely, take the person to the nearest hospital emergency room.

For more info, Mayo Clinic has much more on its website: http://www.mayoclinic.com/health/schizophrenia/DS00196/DSECTION=symptoms

We’re Inconsistent Rascals

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“Loving Father God, my heart is filled upon rethinking the greatness of your love and the completeness of your plan.  I want to please you, but how often my flesh folds under the pressure of temptation.  I thank you that you know my frame, and you remember that I am but dust.  And I thank you for the abundance of Grace and the gift of righteousness that you have made available to me through the cross of your son, the Lord Jesus Christ.  Thank you for receiving me back, my gracious Lord.   Amen. ” 

Jack Hayford

When my children do wrong I ache inside.  As a father I so want to hear their confession and see their repentance.  But I cannot imagine disowning them. Never, ever!  How much more is our Heavenly Father ready to receive us back, and hold us close to his heart.

This profound love turns us back to Himself. The very fact you feel the Holy Spirit’s tug is evidence enough that you haven’t been permanently forsaken and ‘cast aside.’ You’ll need to take a step of faith however. Always remember— proximity to Jesus is always a good thing. Stay close, and watch the enemy flee. He will, but only if you stand.

Become brutally real with yourself, but never despairingly. Confess your sin to the real God who loves you unconditionally. Let Him fill you with His Spirit again. Sin is not the ultimate place or condition of the true believer in Jesus–his love has the incredible power to bust through all of our disobedience and rebellion. And he is the only one who can do it–you can’t.

“After this many of his disciples turned back and no longer walked with him. 67 So Jesus said to the twelve, “Do you want to go away as well?” 68 Simon Peter answered him, “Lord, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life.”

John 6:66-68

Who else would take us? Jesus loves each one of us as if there were only one of us. Sink into that love, and have the assurance that He alone has the power to save us- We’re his; even when we’re rascals. And he has decided that we are now his friends. Isn’t that wild!

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