Persecution

What is persecution?

Simply, persecution is oppression and war waged against believers either openly or privately with the sole purpose of punishing the believers’ faith in Christ.

There are many in America that are blind to persecution because of our open and tolerant society where all religions and faiths are accepted and practiced.  It also helps that we are a majority self-identified Christian nation and founded based on Biblical principles as I have written about before.  Does this mean that we are immune from persecution here?  Not at all.  Persecution will always exist.  If you are willing to profess belief in something radical, and Christ’s promises and challenges for us are definitely radical in the eyes of the world, then you will be attacked for this belief.

When lots of Christians think of persecution today, they think of Christians being herded into coliseums in the Roman Empire for slaughter.  They think of missionaries attacked in the field by the very people they came to teach the Gospel.  They think of things that have happened in the past where the lens of time provides a clear picture of how and why something happened so we can easily label it persecution.

You can look about a list a host of countries where Christianity is not just scorned, but openly attacked.  Pakistan, Iran, Iraq, Syria, Saudi Arabia, Yemen, Nigeria, China, Kenya, Kyrgyzstan, North Korea, Russia, India, Cuba, Tanzania, and Indonesia are just a few of the examples where being a Christian can open you up to public ridicule, public arrest and punishment, or even death.

With Christmas coming soon, I think you’ll see a form of persecution in this country, and possibly in your own town.  Put up a manger scene.  Will it be defaced?  Will it be burned to the ground?  Will it be stolen?  Will it be protested?  If it is on public land, will it be the target of a lawsuit?

Blessed are you when people insult you, persecute you and falsely say all kinds of evil against you because of me. Rejoice and be glad, because great is your reward in heaven, for in the same way they persecuted the prophets who were before you.

Matthew 5:11-12

I even heard a ministry team member state yesterday that he was thankful that we are safe in this country from attack while we worship.  I don’t often disagree with the pastoral staff at my church, but on this point I disagree. Christians are not safe anywhere while they worship and to think otherwise is foolish and short-sighted.  The statistics say that it doesn’t matter how you worship in the US – the illusion of safety within a church is just that, an illusion.

I plan on diving into this topic all week because how thankful can we really be unless we have the right perspective?  Tomorrow – in the face of persecution, what can and what should we do?

 

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Beauty

What is beauty?

It is such a subjective thing really.  What is beautiful to me could be offensive to someone else.

A baby’s smile.

A sleek horse at a full gallop.

The sun gleaming against the clouds as it sets.

A perfectly manicured lawn.

An ice cold beer on the hottest day of Summer.

The first tulip of Spring.

An eagle soaring above the tree-tops.

What do you find beautiful?

Thank the Lord for beauty.  This world may be fallen, but these little blessings are there for us to see and experience.

Just a thought on this Wednesday to help remind everyone that it is all just a matter of perspective.

How do you see the Son?

A short time back, I wrote briefly about how we perceive God the Father.  God exists in three uniquely bound instances as Father, Son, and Spirit.  This attribute of His nature is hard to comprehend because our emphasis on the differences of each individual means that our own perspective on His attributes fall short.

I have always thought that the perceptions of Jesus Christ never lived up to my own.  Most people picture a gentle-looking man, a bit skinny, and in some cases somewhat effeminate.

I think this “gentle Christ” persona is based in Scripture, but again, as I said before, it fails to live up to what I picture in my mind.  Christ is gentle, compassionate, and loves us.

The Lord is not slow in keeping his promise, as some understand slowness. Instead he is patient with you, not wanting anyone to perish, but everyone to come to repentance.

2 Peter 3:9

This is good and please God our Savior, who wants all people to be saved and to come to a knowledge of the truth.

1 Timothy 2:3-4

But what is always left aside is the other aspect to Christ.  Christ is The conquering King.  He is The Warrior.  He is The Commander in Chief.  He is the Undisputed Heavyweight Champion of the universe.

I saw heaven standing open and there before me was a white horse, whose rider is called Faithful and True. With justice he judges and wages war. His eyes are like blazing fire, and on his head are many crowns. He has a name written on him that no one knows but he himself. He is dressed in a robe dipped in blood, and his name is the Word of God. The armies of heaven were following him, riding on white horses and dressed in fine linen, white and clean. Coming out of his mouth is a sharp sword with which to strike down the nations. “He will rule them with an iron scepter.”He treads the winepress of the fury of the wrath of God Almighty. On his robe and on his thigh he has this name written:

king of kings and lord of lords.

And I saw an angel standing in the sun, who cried in a loud voice to all the birds flying in midair, “Come, gather together for the great supper of God, so that you may eat the flesh of kings, generals, and the mighty, of horses and their riders, and the flesh of all people, free and slave, great and small.”

Then I saw the beast and the kings of the earth and their armies gathered together to wage war against the rider on the horse and his army. But the beast was captured, and with it the false prophet who had performed the signs on its behalf. With these signs he had deluded those who had received the mark of the beast and worshiped its image. The two of them were thrown alive into the fiery lake of burning sulfur. The rest were killed with the sword coming out of the mouth of the rider on the horse, and all the birds gorged themselves on their flesh.

Revelations 19:11-21

This passage in Revelation fulfilled one of the first statements about Christ’s role from Genesis.

I will put enmity
    between you and the woman,
    and between your offspring and hers;
he will crush your head,
    and you will strike his heel.”

Genesis 3:15

So we have a dual image of Christ. One is compassionate and gentle, overflowing with love.  The other is of a Conqueror and Champion.  Is this a paradox?  Not at all, He is both.

 “Be strong, do not fear;
your God will come,
    he will come with vengeance;
with divine retribution
    he will come to save you.”

Then will the eyes of the blind be opened
    and the ears of the deaf unstopped.
Then will the lame leap like a deer,
    and the mute tongue shout for joy.
Water will gush forth in the wilderness
    and streams in the desert.
The burning sand will become a pool,
    the thirsty ground bubbling springs.
In the haunts where jackals once lay,
    grass and reeds and papyrus will grow.

Isaiah 35:4-7

My lovely wife and I were talking the other day about the dichotomy and how C.S. Lewis managed to really nail it with Aslan in his Chronicles of Narnia series.  Aslan was both caring and conquering.

Attributes

As a father, I have to wear multiple hats with my children.  I am a teacher, a rule-maker, an enforcer, a protector, and a comforter.  My roles stretch from playing and bonding with them as only a father can with his sons, to disciplining disobedience and bad behavior.

With my oldest rapidly approaching four years old I have had to do more of the latter than I would have expected when he was just learning to crawl and walk.  I have learned a few very illuminating lessons about life as a result.

Lesson #1: Daddy has to be scary.

If my son did not fear punishment, then he would disobey me at every turn.  My oldest has a very strong will, which means that when I mean business, I have to come down hard and stomp, metaphorically, on the disobedience.

Both parents have to discipline equally with each other, but there needs to be more fear built in to the discipline that comes from the father.  I think this speaks to our God-likeness.  God, the Father, must be strong and just and exercises his power often in the Old Testament to teach His children lessons on how to live and behave.  As a father, I can not be any different.  I must be firm and unshakable… if that makes me scary to my preschooler, then so be it.  As a second element of this attribute, I have to be constant – I can’t discipline something one day and then let it slide the next unless the only thing I want to obtain is confusion on the parts of my sons.

Lesson #2: Sons’ whole world revolves around their father.

I have always heard that girls will look to their father as an example of the ideal man.  This will impact who they befriend, date, and eventually marry.  This is no less true for boys.

I have chosen him, so that he will direct his children and his household after him to keep the way of the Lord by doing what is right and just. 

Genesis 18:19

Fix these words of mine in your hearts and minds; tie them as symbols on your hands and bind them on your foreheads. Teach them to your children, talking about them when you sit at home and when you walk along the road, when you lie down and when you get up.

Deuteronomy 11:18-19

Start children off on the way they should go,
    and even when they are old they will not turn from it.

Proverbs 22:6

As a father, I have to be the example of a man to my family.  My sons will learn from how I act, how I behave.  They will look to me for direction.  They will mimic me.  Their principles will be shaped by mine.  They will take their cues on how interact with others based on how I interact.  They will either learn to treat people with respect and to act of love, or they will do the opposite, but it will be as I do.

Lesson #3: Men are made for war.

This is an odd lesson to be learned from my kids as neither are old enough to really understand death, war, etc… but there is something deeply ingrained in boys that cause them to look at a stick and say “That would make a mighty fine sword.”

It also means that my boys are all about rough-housing and playing hard with me.  As a result, my oldest already knows how to tackle someone bigger than him and catch a full-sized football.

Lesson #4: I am woefully inadequate.

I had so many great father examples to observe growing up, including my own, but all of the observing in the world cannot prepare you for the moment that you look down and see those little eyes looking back up at you expecting you to solve all of the world’s problems in the next three minutes.  As a result of this, my prayer life has greatly benefited and I have a closer relationship with my Father in heaven as a result.

Lesson #5: Perspective

It’s funny how people joke about how once people have kids that their free time is eaten up and they no longer can come “hang out” or do impromptu activities.  It’s funny because they lack the perspective that having kids gives you.  I enjoy getting to kick back, goof off, and do my own thing every now and then.  I also enjoy wrestling with my boys,   teaching them about sports, science, God, and whatever else happens to be interesting to them that day.

It’s not that I’ve changed, but my priorities have.  These are extremely valuable years where I can really lay the groundwork for my sons to mature into remarkable men.

Being a father is not easy.  It is hard to have the patience sometimes to deal with a bratty preschooler and a clingy toddler.  How much more difficult for Our Father then because we are all, at times, bratty preschoolers, rebellious teenagers, clingy and whiny toddlers toward Him, yet He loves us anyway.

My son, do not despise the Lord’s discipline,
    and do not resent his rebuke,
because the Lord disciplines those he loves,
    as a father the son he delights in.

Proverbs 3:11-12

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