Martyrs in America? Maybe

martyers
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)

What Are You Ashamed Of?

“We all carry about in our pockets His very nails.” –Luther
 

“I am proud of the good news! It is God’s powerful way of saving all people who have faith, whether they are Jews or Gentiles.”  

 Romans 1:16, CEV

 “For I am not ashamed of the gospel, for it is the power of God for salvation to everyone who believes, to the Jew first and also to the Greek.”

Romans 1:16, ESV

What is it, that holds us back?  Is there a significant issue–a new boat or your next vacation to Disneyland?  Would that keep you from following Him?  Would you trade Him, for that?

So many of us are chicken when it comes to witnessing for Jesus Christ. We ‘cluck and duck’ when the subject of God or religion is raised. We hope no one is looking when we ask God to bless our food in a public place.  Honestly, most of the time the issue for us is the fear of rejection. (It’s funny but some have never really gotten past the intimidation we experienced in High School.)

The saints who watch us from heaven, have got to be astonished. (Heb. 12: 1.)  They look and wonder at the way we act, when so many of them have suffered deeply.  They have been repeatedly, and deliberately hurt. We argue about padded pews and the color of the carpeting in our sanctuary.

“For whoever is ashamed of me and of my words in this adulterous and sinful generation, of him will the Son of Man also be ashamed when he comes in the glory of his Father with the holy angels.”

Mark 8:32, ESV

 I suppose we need the spirit of the saints who are suffering for the sake of the Gospel. This very minute they are in prisons, in torture, in abuse all because they profess a love for Jesus Christ.

Could it be possible that God is calling you to leave your comfortable Christianity behind and tell someone that Jesus loves them and wants to save them. Will you do it, or will you be too ashamed? Let this be the year you bring the light of Christ to your dorm, your neighborhood, your apartment building, your baseball team, or  wherever God has placed you. Let Him use you for His glory!

Your faith will activate God– your fear activates Satan.

*

ybic, Bryan

We Are Hated

“If the world hates you, remember that it hated me first. 19If you belonged to the world, it would love you as it loves its own. But I have chosen you out of the world, so you don’t belong to it. That is why the world hates you.

John 15:18-19, NCV

There is a concentrated sense of evil that is directed at us.  There is an awareness of a hatred that is unreasonable.  Jesus however, predicted it, and warned us to anticipate this brutality.  We are spiritually linked to Him.  The evil that came against Him, has now been shifted to you and I.

The world hates us, and we must accept this.  We don’t belong.  We are the monkey in the wrench.  Our presence ‘shorts out’ a smooth transition, that the Dark one has ordained.  We confuse and misdirect the black forces of darkness, most likely more than they do to us. The issues that we now face have become mutant and a bit perverse, to be honest.

“Behold, I am sending you out as sheep in the midst of wolves, so be wise as serpents and innocent as doves.”

Matthew 10:16

This is perhaps the most profound truth.  What can sheep do, against the wolves? We become their dinner. The predator overwhelms its prey, and we have to learn to walk in the dark.  Our faithfulness is considered to be an amazing feat, and we definitely let it work in our hearts.

“Wise and innocent.”  As we step into this caustic environment, these are two issues that will keep us safe.  “Serpents and doves.”  Both are received as positive concepts which will help us to manage the dark.  We have an awareness that He has directed us to walk through this ambush.  But we walk in a protective shield.

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