Martyrs in America? Maybe

They died bravely in the first century. Will we in the 21st?

Being heard is not the same as having influence. Believers must reconsider the issues of being salt and light in a pagan culture.  We have tried a myriad of approaches in our evangelism, and we are not succeeding.  We have been maneuvered to the margins of society, and I fear that is where we will stay.

Several years ago, a believer directed a high budget movie, The Passion of The Christ, which shattered box-office records and sparked interest in religious films when it came out in 2004.  It was compelling and disturbing.  We saw Jesus beaten and whipped, but the splattering of blood did not translate well into spiritual change.  If perhaps anything, it inured people to a higher purpose– salvation.

We must use everything that is available to us as people to broadcast the gospel.  Art, both fine and popular, music and theater, movies and sports.  We need to squeeze out every venue, in every media to share the good news. Creativity is not a gift of the Holy Spirit, but it’s close.

But this is not enough.  We are engaged in a heated, spiritual struggle for truth and hope.  I believe that our methodology will consistently fall short of our ideals.  In the time of ancient Rome the only time Christians were in the limelight were as martyrs.  And the lions of the Coliseum made quick work of their witness.  But man, they succeeded in reaching thousands, and the pagan empire was brought to Christ, en mass!

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.  Church history would support this view.  It should come as no surprise.

martyrdomI remember witnessing once in UC Berkeley campus.  It is a very challenging place in a stronghold of intellectualism.  The people I encountered were 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”.  It was a flat-calm statement; stark and frightening, because I knew he meant it.

In this enlightened campus, there was a coldness and a bitterness that I never encountered in the “drug and sex” neighborhoods of San Francisco.  In contrast, this incident in Berkeley was a brazen and committed calculation against the Gospel. Perhaps persecution by core intellectuals will fuel this martyrdom to come.

We are in God’s hands.  Obedience is a die-cast, deliberate decision we must make ahead of time.  We can’t just hope to make it work, unless we change.  “Die before you die, and your dying won’t be death”, the old preacher wrote.  This could very well be our cue. Get ready. And “watch and pray.” And die now.

 

 

 

 

 

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

The Urgency of This Moment

 
“Johnny Quick”

 “We must quickly carry out the tasks assigned us by the one who sent us. The night is coming, and then no one can work.”

John 9:4, NLT

To be quick means that we move very fast; being slow often implies a reluctance or a mental delay.  To hesitate while doing God’s will for us suggests a degree of ignorance or stubbornness.  Our quickness is to be seen while doing “the tasks assigned to us.”

Urgency should be woven into our hearts.  We need to have wings on our feet, a fleetness and an alacrity.  A “double-eagerness” as we carry out His work.  It should be of no surprise that God sets before us an itinerary of work He wants us to do.

So many brothers and sisters sleepwalk through their salvation. They snooze when Jesus desires they “watch and pray” with Him.

Jesus was on a  timetable. He communicated a need of doing.  He is in tune with the work of God, and is involved in the urgency of his present moment.  Jesus knows this, and he clearly communicates the need to do.  We are not called to be manic for Jesus; we are expected to be alert and aware.

This is a cry for urgency to his disciples.

“The night is coming.”  It is getting late.  In response Jesus issues an order.  Work at what the Father has assigned you.  It is almost dark now.  There is a “principle of spiritual velocity” calling us to an alertness and an awareness of needful things to do before “the time is up.”

In Acts 9 the disciples show a holy zeal in their day’s work.  We can’t stop speaking what we have seen and heard.”  The Old Testament prophets carried this urgency–Jeremiah and Amos both declared to us this avidity placed on the believer.  Jesus desires that we factor in this concentrated awareness of the approaching night.

I recently read of an evangelist in the last century.  He had a watch made, and on the dial he had a picture of a setting sun.  And over it, the words, “the night comes.”  Everytime he would look at his watch he would be reminded of the shortness of life and the need of the performance of his duty.  That lesson should be transmitted to each zealous believer.

The key word I guess, in all of this, is zeal.  And often the older we get the more this word becomes diminished, and distant.  (I believe our Father understands this about us.) No matter what we do, He focuses His love on us.  There will never be a condemnation on us.  But we can still waste away our lives in a tragic way, which we will later regret. 

But we have to ask ourselves this, will I just be an admirer, or can I become a zealous disciple of Christ?

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Love Means You’re Really Real

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“Dear children, let us not love with words or speech but with actions and in truth.” 

1 John 3:18

 Often people will look at someone, and try to figure them out– they listen to their words or vocabulary.  They examine the things we say, and also the way we say it. But according to John, this a flawed way of discerning legitimacy.

Love, in his eyes, is most assuredly “doing.”  Speaking falls really short.  Our words, although important, are an insufficient way of proving authenticity.  When you listen closely, even the best fall short.  Love is not expressed by being profound or eloquent in our speech. We can shout out the truth and never show love at all.  That is disturbing, but when will we figure out that love is a verb?

“Actions and in truth.”  This standard propels us to another level.  To act and reveal, puts us on a sound and sure level of discipleship.  It means that we will not just say things that sound really good and wise.  But we would “do love” and not just be talking about it.

I can quite easily mimic the dialect of love.  I verbalize so much that is just plain goofy and nonsense.  My eloquent words simply fog and darken.  They are not real.  (If it were real, I would “do.”)

John is calling believers to a much more real kind of love. 

If we do adjust ourselves to this, it alters and shapes us into authentic believers.  Admittably, this can be frightening, and something that will disturb us deeply.  Even as mature believers, we will avoid it and try to “imitate” something else.  It’s not only easier, but less dangerous.

And to love is to be profoundly dangerous.

We are expressly called to do, and not to say.  No questions about our words, and speech–they are significant.  But our deeds, putting love into acts and deeds is vital, critically so.  Being a doer, and not just a speaker, is the descriptive essence of the real believer.

We must do, and then we can say.

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Teachability Rides a Chariot

We live out our lives making decisions.  Many are like ‘forks’ in the road.  They are made and they shunt us in another direction.  Some are dramatic, we see very quickly that the road is going to take us in a radically different path.

Sometimes, if we’re honest, we will admit to backtracking, retracing our route back to the point we turned.  A lot of time it is too late, and the moment has past.

I think I have been learning to receive correction and rebuke from others.  I’m thinking of the Ethiopian eunuch in Acts 8:30-31,

“So when Philip ran toward the chariot, he heard the man reading from Isaiah the prophet [on his Kindle]. Philip asked, “Do you understand what you are reading?”

 31 He answered, “How can I understand unless someone explains it to me?” Then he invited Philip to climb in and sit with him.”

We see here such a thoughtful humbleness– a ‘teachableness’ that this eunuch possesses.  He is confident enough in himself to acknowledge that he just doesn’t know.  He is so eager to be set on the right course that he invites Philip to a Bible study in the chariot.

We are responsible for our receptivity to truth.  It is our personal decision to either seek or not seek.  No one else can make this decision for us.  We come to a decision point and we go the way things seem to direct us.  And we learn; God and how we learn!

The book of Proverbs is saturated with ideas on being guided by our humility when it comes in contact with truth.  Furthermore, there are many warnings about receiving correction and reproof gracefully.  If we believe what we are reading, at that point all of a sudden our stubbornness and rejection become a very bad thing. And God loves it when we ask Him to teach us.

It seems that scriptural truth is almost always negative when it is first encountered.  It will not sit well, and I will try to shake it off.  But truth can be remarkably persistent.  ‘Forgive your brother’, the Holy Spirit says.  And you say right away, ‘Not a chance!’  But, give it time, and the Word will soften rock.  If you respond properly, humbly, you be able to make the right decision.

One more thing, Jesus told us in Matthew 18:3,

“I promise you this. If you don’t change and become like a child, you will never get into the kingdom of heaven.”

There will need to be a complete alteration in our hearts if we are to accommodate this command.  Becoming a child is more difficult as adults as becoming an adult is for a child.  It takes a great amount of brokenness to make the transition.

God fully intends to work with you on this.  He doesn’t seem to ever give up.  He is wonderfully persistent, and for some reason, He loves you. LOL.

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He Was at Home

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“A few days later, when Jesus came back to Capernaum, the news spread that he was at home.” 

Mark 2:1

You can’t hide the presence of Jesus.  There is a ‘built-in’ need for Him in the hearts of men and women.  You can’t keep it quiet, it is an open secret.  Believing people let it out in many ways.  You can see it in their faces, and hear it in their voices.  They become gentle and caring, where once was selfishness and anger.  Peace is present, and a wonderful new thing called joy.  They can’t help but share about their new guest, when they speak it spontaneously spills out.

Spring flowers can’t help their beautiful fragrance.  There is a fragrance that announces that He is present.  You might say that He takes over, just as a bright light takes over the darkness.  When Jesus is present, His brightness pushes through the cracks and shines out every window.  He cannot be contained or hidden.  Love itself is invisible.  But it has an effect on all who take it in.  The very presence of Jesus transforms us.

My heart is now His home.

People travel and gather great works of art.  They collect these things of beauty and culture.  They will go out of their way to search for paintings and statues of grace and elegance, and finding them they will spend a great deal of money to obtain them.  But no one or nothing can compare to having Christ as the honored guest. The poorest farmer can be the wealthiest man. No matter how quietly Jesus enters, His presence will soon make itself known.  Where Christ truly abides, nothing but good will be observed.

Then Christ will make his home in your hearts as you trust in him. Your roots will grow down into God’s love and keep you strong.”

Ephesians 3:17, NLT

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Why Are You Still Outside?

http://www.glogster.com

There are so many that are outside our walls.  Those who are blinded and confused by the Church and the gospel.

People are for the most part not this blatant or obvious in their pain.  But it is what they are asking that tunes us in. “Where?”

Humans have been created with a special spot inside them.  This place is designed by our Creator for his use only.  Life just doesn’t make sense unless he is the center.  Christians are just people who are trying to be fueled by God’s Spirit.

Answers abound to questions unasked.  Confusion is rampant and it seems no one can get a unified direction for his companions.  This is precisely why the Bible brings a piercing and clear call to the children of man.  Its promises are not dated, they are not obsolete.

They are many who have gone before us, thousands of generations who have found light and solace for darkened and wounded hearts.  They testify to us of the spiritual reality that can be found in God and in his Word.  We are not called to perfection, but a real obedience of faith and love.

At this throbbing moment in history, Jesus is calling so many to “follow”. 

He is populating eternity with beggars, the sick, the poor the addicted.  He loves “sinners”.  He loves the mentally ill.  The Bible tells us, “that he ever lives to make intercession for them”.

You have a purpose, and life does have clear meaning.  Don’t lose hope and don’t try to fill yourself with foolish and empty pursuits.  Come to Jesus, ask for forgiveness.  Find the people that will help solidify and confirm your decision.  Feel free to contact me about your decision to follow Jesus.

“Jesus told him, “I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one can come to the Father except through me.”

John 14:6

 

For more info on becoming a believer please contact 1-888-NEED-HIM.

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You Are Just a Prayer Away [Witness]

 

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An ‘open letter’ to my friend:

As believers in Him who passionately loves the world, we are on our knees asking that the Father would bring you salvation.  We lift you up in our prayers, so that you will have an immediate and definite contact with the Holy Spirit.  We have consecrated you to Him.  You are now marked and set apart, as we await further instructions from our Father. 

There is no happiness, no real satisfaction apart from Him.  Just stop trying, you are getting nowhere.  The pain and guilt are real, aren’t they?  There is in you a deep sadness–a grief.  But the Lord sees it, and absorbs it for you.  He sets you free, not for you to duplicate the sin, but to set you free from it.  His action on your life is meant to liberate you.

Dear one, you struggle so intensely and have so many issues.  We know this, but we have prayed, and we gathered you up to Him.  (You are now a real target, thanks to us.)  All of the issues you face from now on, have been initiated by God, and us who pray. I hope they won’t be too many. That you’ll respond to them, and turn to Him.

You are welcome to join us, we are indeed waiting just for you.

So enter into the grim arena.  Already we have stepped into its ugly locales.  You can meet us there.  We know that there is no one who can keep us from His Spirit.  You will find us standing against gladiator, and lion and sin.  You are welcome to join us, we are indeed waiting just for you.

And I am certain that God, who began the good work within you, will continue his work until it is finally finished on the day when Christ Jesus returns.”

Philippians 1:6

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