Tuesday, April 27, 2010


Ever seen the bumper sticker or t-shirt that has the religious symbols that form the word "coexist"?  Something about that stirs something in me.  I hate that logo passionately.  I hate what it represents; the notion that it doesn't matter what you believe, as long as we all get along, everything will be ok in the end.  I hate the lie that has been sold to countless souls, sending them to an eternal torment and inconceivably and aweful damnation.  Most of the faiths in this logo don't even proclaim the existence of a hell or have any notion of the demonic forces they toy with.  Worse, the whole thing smacks of religion which is not what faith is about at all.  My salvation is not a work of religion but an overwhelming act of a loving Savior and my resultant relationship with him and the Father. 

Further, the cross on this logo is reduced to one of several religions.  I am NOT a religious person.  At times I almost hesitate to say I am a christian as this term in modern vernacular has become so diluted and polluted.  When the term was originally issued to early church believers, they didn't come up with it for themselves.  Rather it was their persecutors and the world around them that called them "little Christs".  Today we've turned it into a label, a brand that somehow includes roughly 1.6 billion souls walking this planet.  That's 1.6 billion IF you include those who claim to be "christian" by political, social, or cultural mapping standards such as the United States which claims to be a christian nation and very many of the western European and Latin nations.  Sadly the vast majority of these will stand before our Savior and hear the words "depart...I never knew you."

Back to my bumper sticker.  Why do we think that we can bring so many divergent philosophies together and "get along"?  Why do we think we can continue to each go our seperate way, doing as we please without rules or consequence and not injure someone in the process, not cross someone else's truth?  The whole falicy of "coexist" is that this works fine...unless someone introduces absolute truth with absolute standards for right and wrong.  Then we've encroached on other's freedom of thought and right of expression.  Then we've imposed our beliefs on others.  I wonder how that argument would work in court.  "The officer then imposed his desire for traffic flow at 55 mph on me, while I was innocently enjoying the right to freely travel 80 mph.  I then accelerated to 100 mph just before the crash which involved the other vehicles, at which time I was wrongly mistreated by being arrested for killing the family of five in the minivan".  The world of "coexist" doesn't bring peace or unity or harmony.  It admonishes negligence and blindness, because that's what it truly seeks.  You turn a blind eye towards what I'm doing and leave me alone and I won't critique what you are doing and everyone gets along, even when what I'm doing hurts you or myself. 

On most of the stickers I've seen, three of the seven letters are formed by the symbols of Islam, Judiaism, and Christianity.  Christianity does have its tarnishes thanks to the crusades, the Inquisition, and even more recently scandals of faith of the past few decades.etc.  Looking back we see these things were done outside of the will of God and apart from his Word, we see the absolute falicy of men and their imperfect and very often self centered natures.  True Christianity still boils down to the two most important commandments as Jesus stated "love your God with everything in you, love your neighbor as yourself".  Reckless LOVE.  Our Jewish brothers have been the punching bag of almost every culture and God's blessing still resides upon them.  Many follow the Torah and still need to come to know Jesus, but God's covenants still hold true.  Islam is as bloody as Christianity has been and is on the rise in violence and persecution against both the Jew and the Christian with no sign of letting up.  There is an obvious absence of unity here among these even these, the most established of faiths.

In Ephesians 4:1-6 Paul writes

"1 Therefore I, a prisoner for serving the Lord, beg you to lead a life worthy of your calling, for you have been called by God. 2  Always be humble and gentle. Be patient with each other, making allowance for each other’s faults because of your love. 3 Make every effort to keep yourselves united in the Spirit, binding yourselves together with peace. 4 For there is one body and one Spirit, just as you have been called to one glorious hope for the future. 5 There is one Lord, one faith, one baptism, 6 and one God and Father, who is over all and in all and living through all." 

In speaking to the believers, we see here that the Lord desires that we work at cultivating unity among ourselves, making allowance for each other's imperfections and character flaws.  But this is unity among believers, among those who call Him lord.  Can there be unity among believers and non-believers, among Christians and those who refuse Christ?  2 Corinthians 6:14-18 puts it pretty plainly. 

"14  Don’t team up with those who are unbelievers. How can righteousness be a partner with wickedness? How can light live with darkness? 15 What harmony can there be between Christ and the devil? How can a believer be a partner with an unbeliever? 16 And what union can there be between God’s temple and idols? For we are the temple of the living God. As God said: "I will live in them and walk among them.  I will be their God, and they will be my people.  17  Therefore come out from among unbelievers, and seperate yourselves from them and separate yourselves from them, says the Lord.  Don’t touch their filthy things, and I will welcome you. 18 And I will be your Father, and you will be my sons and daughters, says the Lord Almighty.”  (New Living Translation)

Here we are not called to isolate ourselves from the world around us, but to stand up and stand out and stop pretending to be part of a fallen race.  This isn't a call to turn our back and "shun" the world but to stop immitating it and be who God called us to be - his holy, set-apart, children who will proclaim and walk out His love and grace and set the nations free through the testamony of their lives and word of their mouths.  Boldy and, when necessary, fiercely taking back from the enemy what he has stolen from all of humanity through abuses and deceptions and drugs and famine and disease.

Jesus never promised to bring peace to the earth.  As a matter of fact, he promised to bring division and strife.  In Matthew 10 where he sends out the 12 for the first time to evangelize and do real work in his name, he warns them the work he is sending them to do is divisive.  People will hate them for it.  In verse 34 he very bluntly says "I didn't come to bring peace. I came to bring a sword."  That sword is the sword of the Spirit as described in Ephesians 6:17, his Word, his gospel, and it is alive and powerful and divisive as described in Hebrews 4:12.  It seperates and cuts away sin just as our witness and the Word we proclaim will seperate us from the culture around us that is so rapidly deteriorating.  Men will despise us for it, darkness cannot abide the light and there is light within the believer who is passionately pursuing Christ and his directive to "go into all the world".  That world starts at your door step and circles 360 around this globe.  So from this world, we can expect the opposite of unity to the message of Salvation and the total grace of God's love, but it is only under the operation of God's love can total unit be achieved.  Because of this, men strive in vain to "coexist".

Thankfully those in Christ do not.  Thankfully those in Christ are new creations - transformed - capable of love and unity beyond the scope of our natural born tendencies by the indwelling of his Spirit.  Humility and gentleness follow after those who are bearing the fruit of the Spirit and in that fruit we are able to preserve peace and remain united.  The world will never know this unity.  They want to, so very badly they want to.  They try to manufacture it, particularly with every calamity and disaster that strikes at the heart of men they band together to generate it.  But they cannot sustain it because it is of men and not of God.  We have this unity forever because we are all of the same body, Christ's body and we are One.

Monday, April 26, 2010

One Check

I heard something in church yesterday that I needed reminded of badly, one of those things that makes you go out from church 50 pounds lighter than when you came in.  No matter how much I'd like to deny it, I had been focusing great attention to the "mountains" in my life.  There are currently several of them, seemingly lined up in a row like the Rockies all in front of me.  Yes I am a faith person.  Yes I believe the grain of mustard faith will cast them flying into the sea (at least I confess I do).  But this wasn't getting it for me.  Wasn't changing the circumstances.  And there is the problem.  Circumstances.

I was trying to change circumstances.  My attention and focus was on circumstances.  My mountains are comprised of circumstances - almost like pyramids constructed of building blocks of circumstances.  Each of them are monolithic and massive to me but each of them have been formed by an intermingling of circumstances to cause them to sit squarely in my way, in opposition to where I desire to be.  What's wrong with knowing the circumstances?  What is wrong with being informed about what you are dealing with?  Nothing.  What was wrong with Peter knowing that the waves wouldn't logically support a man when he stepped on them?  Nothing.  But when he took his eyes off Jesus and focused on the waves he sank.  Jesus was the Living Word.  We have the Word and when we take our focus off of it and put it on the circumstances we can expect very little to move in our favor.

One of the mountains I am looking at is finances right now.  We have a particular situation that we are praying over and there are tens of thousands of dollars involved.  To us, this is Mt. Everest.  I'm not a millionaire, so this is not play money.  This is on the order of college savings, retirement accounts, etc.  This is enormous, right?  Here's something our pastor said yesterday that struck me in the chest.  "One check can change your circumstance, but the Word of God does not change or falter".  WOW!  I've been mulling this one since he said it and he is right on.  This Everest to me is a pimple to the One who holds the cosmos in his palm and yet loves me enough to know how many hairs are on my head. 

This Everest, or any other mountain for that matter, is nothing to the one who commanded the suns to burst into being, and yet clothes the flowers of the field and feeds the birds.  He designed the water molecule with intricate precision so that ice would not be too heavy and sink to the ocean floors causing the earth's waters to freeze over.  He calculated the proper amount of iron in the earth's core to generate a magnetic field to repel the harmful electromagnetic bombardment from our own star while still absorbing its life giving warmth.  He designed the intricate colorings of the thousands of petals of the spring and the fragrances of each and simultaneously keeps in check the galactic churnings of violent gravaties that consume suns and planets through black holes and balance the galaxies.  Is my tens of thousands of dollars too great a mountain for this God?  Is cancer too great for this God?  Is death too great for this God?

I happen to like a song on Christian radio right now that has a phrase in it that states "we're all just one phone call from our knees" because this is true.  No matter how strong our walk, how close to God, or even how "successful" we've become in our own or everyone else's eyes, every one of us is just one word from devestation.  Life on this orb is uncertain because this is a fallen planet.  Sin was introduced and has been running rampant since the garden.  Order was broken and chaos ensued.  Jesus changed all of this for us, however.  We don't have to live victim to chaos and circumstance.  Certainly chaos and disorder occur all around us, but they do not have to move us if we are founded on Him.  If we are rooted in His Word.  This is what he was telling us with the mustard seed faith.  This is what he taught Peter on the stormy lake. 

Circumstance does not dictate, because circumstance changes.  The only immutable unchangeable in all of existence is this Word, this God, this Holy Spirit.  Only here is there dependability, trust, something that you can build upon and remain firmly grounded.  When the stock markets are falling and housing starts are nil and inflation is uncontrollable and the news is spouting global problem after global problem such as why oranges are going to be more expensive this year and bombings in Pakistan and earthquakes in Asia - circumstance after circumstance, wave after wave - we have Jesus.  We have the Word.  Listen to how our God is described in Ephesians 3:20:

"Now to Him Who, by (in consequence of) the [action of His] power that is at work within us, is able to [carry out His purpose and] do superabundantly, far over and above all that we [dare] ask or think [infinitely beyond our highest prayers, desires, thoughts, hopes, or dreams]" (Ampliphied)

That power that is at work within us is HIM.  His Word within us, His Holy Spirit.  Dig in - entrench yourself.  Having done all to stand, stand.  These are the principles that cause the circumstances to change.  It is not us changing the circumstances but our holding fast to what the Word says that forces the cirucmstances to come into line with our faith.

What's your mountain?  Health?  Relationships?  Finance?  All of these are subject to change because all of them are comprised of circumstance and God is big enough to wipe all of them out with one check.

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

It Starts With Love

Ephesians 3:18-19 "And may you have the power to understand, as all God's people should, how wide, how long, how deep his love is.  May you experience the love of Christ, though it is too great to understand fully.  Then you will be made complete with all fullness of life and power that comes from God."

I've heard this passage many times, even sang the "deep and wide" sunday school song as a kid.  but I'm beginning to realize something. It is not until a person begins to tackle the awesome nature of God's love towards them that change within them effectively occurs.  Think about it.  Think of a sin that you've wrestled with, maybe for years, that you've gained victory over.  Did you gain victory over it because the Bible said "thou shalt not".  Did conviction alone gnaw at you night and day to stop your harmful habbit or slandering lips or other stumbling block?  Or was it the empowerment that came when you realized how much your Father loved you, cherished you, was there day-by-day, moment-by-moment with you?  Were you moved to repentance by the width, the lengths, and the depths to which our Lord went to ransom you from that sin so that you could stand before a sinless and holy God, completely justified and without blemish as one of his own.

In truth, every sin we commit can be answered by this love.  It is this love that moves the lost to him, not our cute t-shirts or bumper stickers or even tracks.  People need this love, need to know it is available to them.  I love how the verse above tells us to "understand" the width, depth, and height of God's love - you'll spend the rest of your days pursuing this goal.  But in searching it out, you'll be completely transformed, for in seeking its depths it will reform your own capacity to love.  Your compassion for others will be expanded, your ability to look upon this planet's masses and be moved to action as Jesus was will be increased. 

This is something that God is growing me in daily.  The more I grow the more I realize I have just scratched the surface.  I mention it in previous posts, but I am not by nature and upbringing a tremendously compassionate person.  The most terrible thing about this statement is that I am beginning to realize that I was not too different from the majority of the people around me.  I was content to turn the blind eye, ignore the plight of others, and justify my well-being above others suffering as earned rewards for poor choices.  How judgemental and how loveless did I walk?  I still do.  This is how I was brought up. 

When I was growing up, we had a wheelchair bound town drunk that we used to make jokes about.  He never bathed, was unkempt, long haired, and would literally wheel himself miles to the bars for drinks.  I recall one night my father picked him up between two towns about 8 miles apart in the dead of winter during a snow storm.  He was wheeling away on the side of the road in sub-zero temperatures to get between towns for his next drink, which was obviously more important than his life or safety.  He thanked my dad and I remember my dad recounting how he let him have it.  He laid into him as to how foolish it was for him to be out there, how he surely would have died in the elements, what was he thinking?  That man did later die in the elements some years later, alone and in his disease.  Thinking back to him, I recall his face, the dirt that always seemed to cling to him and the tears come readily forward because I know I did nothing to bring love into that man's life.  Sure, I have the excuse that I was merely a teen, but what of the community of 700 people in which he resided?  Was there not one person who could have averted that man's course, not one who could have saved him from eternal seperation from God?  How many scoldings like my father's did he get?  How many verbal beatings was he exposed to, further driving him to the conclusion that he was worth very little so there was very little incentive to live, very little reason to exist but for the warmth of the liquor.

God's invitation isn't just for those of us who grew up in church, or have been blessed to find him.  He aches that every single person would know the height, the depth, the width of this love.  That they would spend the rest of their days searching this out.  They'll never have this opportunity if you and I don't give them that chance.  I am confident that I am called to do this on multiple fronts - Jesus said "go into ALL OF THE WORLD"  This means I need to be actively figuring out ways to send this word not only into the hearts and minds of the people I am around daily through the witness of my walk, my actions, and my speech but I also need to be active in getting this word into the hands of people around this world.  Some are called to physically bring this word.  Some are called to help them get there.  Regardless - we all have a part to play.

Recently, at the Voice of the Martyrs conference, I was struck by how those standing before me could endure such terrible persecutions, witness such hateful horrors and still desire to continue.  It became quickly evident - it was not strength of character that held these people, these souls who except for circumstances were not that different from most of us aside from birth in other nations.  What distinguished these individuals was love.  Their love for their Savior overwhelmed their concern for themselves.  Their love for His commands to spread his gospel, to heal the sick, to minister to the needy.  Their love for him was so great as to desire just one more to know this magnificent Savior, even at the cost of themselves.  It was love. 

Paul states it in the "love chapter", 1 Corinthians 13, that without love all of your best works are noisy and brash and useless.  How many efforts are just that before God today?  How many churches are throwing up dischord and brash noise.  How many of us are creating noise and disharmony?  On the outside our efforts and our smiles indicated goodwill and genuine concern but in our hearts another story is told, one which God reads all too clearly.  God's love is perfect.  His word states that he IS love.  We will never achieve that perfection on this earth but we are to search it, to pursue it.  God wants us to know the width, the depth, the height, wants us to experience the fullness of his love - and yes his love does fill.  It fills to overflowing.  When we are filled with his love, we cannot walk this earth and view others the same, even those who seek to hurt you because we then realize as Ephesians 6:12 states, it is not against people that we are wrestling/contending in this world, but against spiritual forces.  We see past the person's faults and love them.  You might just be the first person in their life to do this and this might be the key to unlocking their heart as the Holy Spirit has been preparing it.  It all starts with love.

Tuesday, April 13, 2010

Levels of Sin

Question:  Does God judge sin differently based on severity of the offense?  It's a simple question but one that is difficult for most Christians to answer with honesty.  Most would say no, sin is sin, but most of us are not being honest with ourselves, even after we've uttered this pat answer.  I know I'm not.  We seem to have some sliding scale for offense in which we internally measure what is acceptibly tolerable and what is shamefully intolerable. 

One end of the scale might include "minor offenses" such as lending your two-cents worth at the morning gossip session or the course joking in the break room or taking that regular extra few minutes on your lunch because you put so much more into the job than most of the others anyway.  Sometimes its simply the thought " I should really help out with..." and deciding not to.  Minor things, almost negligible.  Ok, yeah, there's a twinge of guilt associated with them, but a quick "sorry Father, please forgive me" and we're on our way.

Certainly these things should in no way be catagorized with the guy who spends hours in front of the computer staring at pornography, or the attict stealing money from her family so she can push the needle in one more time, or the drunken father exploding into a rage for no good reason with fists of fury.  Worse still, the criminal who harms or murders the child, or kills another adult, or the rapist, or the sex offender, or the drug trafficker pushing his product with full knowledge of what it is doing to the lives and community into which he sells, certainly these people deserve to feel hell-fire licking their heels far more than the paper-clip pilfurer, right?

Certainly these latter offenders are subject to criminal laws based on severity of offense, but that is based on trespass against other people.  What about trespass against a holy and sinless God.  One who doesn't measure on a sliding scale, or a curve, but measures against one thing only - the pure and perfect standard of himself.  What does sin look like to a being such as he who is without it and cannot be touched by it?  In the whole Bible, there are essentially two words for sin that are primarily used, one hebrew and one greek, one for the Old Testament, one for the New Testament. 

In the Old Testament, the word primarily used is the word "chata" and it means "to miss the goal or path, to incur penalty, to endure loss, to bring guilt, condemnation, and punishment, to miss oneself, to lose oneself".  I love this definition.  For one, it characterizes what the people of those times lived and dealt with when confronting the issue of sin.  Romans states all have sinned and this was true of the people before Christ as well, but not being under the grace of the cross, I imagine they took sin a bit more seriously than we do today.  After all, they had to sacrifice animals, blood had to be shed, and there was a sense of condemnation and fear of punishment.  I wonder how differently we'd behave today if we had to think twice about so many of our actions based on the fear of condemnation or blood sacrifice.

Unfortunately, as is evidenced in the numbers and types of opposition Jesus faced, this system also produced a legalism lacking in grace, mercy or love one for another.  Note how ready the religious were to discard the adulterous woman's life just to see what Jesus would do and say about the situation.  One commentary I read indicates that when Jesus stooped in the dirt, he was writing every major sin the men present had committed detailed with names and that this was why they disbanded.  They legally had every right to press this issue and kill the woman but the words Jesus put in the sand had them so cornered with guilt and shame they had no where to go but away from him.  It was only in this light then did Jesus ask her "where are you accusers?" and follow with "neither do I condemn you". 

In the New Testament greek, the word for sin is "harmatia" which translates "to be without a share in, to miss the mark, to err".  I love this definition as well because we get from it that sin causes us to lose out, to lose our share.  Between these two we see that we are missing out and enduring loss and even losing ourself when we sin - losing who God created us to truly be.  God has a plan for us, his word says so and he has countless good works already planned out in detail for us to be involved with - things that will bless us and grow us and his kingdom.  But sin cheats us out of this, it causes us not only to miss the mark with him, but to miss out to lose our share in that plan.  There are no levels of missing out either.  There's just missing.  Either you hit the target or you don't. 

The man who complacently failed to follow whole heartedly after Jesus and was "luke-warm" though he went to church and gave in the offering will find himself right along side the murderer, rapist, sex trafficker, and pornographer when told to "DEPART".  Why?  Because sin still was permitted to permeate and allowed to comfortably reside.  Sin had hold when co-workers slandered, sin had hold when poker-night language turned crude, sin had hold when witnessing was less desirable than reputation, sin had hold when self was more important than time given to family.  Hebrews 12:1 urges us to cast off this sin that so easily entangles because it doesn't matter if it is what one would consider one of the "minor" offenses or something truly horrendous, our savior had to be ripped and torn open and brutally executed in an agonizing manner for all of it.

God doesn't see levels of sin.  He simply sees sin.  He hates it.  It is repugnant to him because it cost him the one he cherishes and those he loves most.  Because of it, very many (billions) of his children will suffer in eternal torment and seperation apart from him - not because he wants them to, but because regardless of his every effort, his giving of everything he has including himself, they have chosen to turn their back upon him, to reject him, to deny his love in their lives.  We have a loving God who aches for us but who is also a perfect God and a just God.  For us to be so arrogant as to ask him to tolerate sin for our sakes is to ask him to lower himself and become less than he is for our selfishness.  But this is what so many demand of him with questions such as "how can a loving God send people to hell?"  It's akin to asking my wife to somehow permanently disfigure herself so I could feel less guilty about cheating on her.

God's love for us is total and beyond our ability to record even in all of the volumes of books in all of time.  His complete sacrifice cast his grace so far beyond our sin with a recklessness as to whom it fell upon that we cannot wear it out.  But that grace, rather than granting license to sin, brings even greater power to triumph over sin.  Jesus echoes this in statements like "you have heard it is wrong to commit murder, but I tell you....to hate is the same as..."; or "you have heard it is wrong to commit adultry, but I tell you to look at another lustfully is the same as..." - just to have it in your heart is "...the same as" under this grace.  This demonstrates that this grace covers but it also empowers to live a much higher calling.

This is why God so desperately wants us to get this sin off ourselves when we commit it.  I've done it.  I've sinned, felt bad about it, held onto it for days and days and THEN finally came to the Lord with it.  This is so far from what God wants.  1 John 1:9 shows us that he simply wants us to come to him with a repentant heart, confess it - get it out, and he takes care of the rest - it's done, gone.  This isn't a license to jump right back into it.  He wants a heart change.  Repentance is about turning the opposite direction from whatever it was you were embroiled with and walking towards God and staying on that path.  But once this is done, there's no continual self bashing, no continual condemnation.  It's done.  Grow past it and go on! 

It doesn't matter what it is, God wants your repentance so that he can move you back into his blessing, his path, so that you can be a partaker again of the life and plans he has for you.  His son died horribly for you to be able to come to him for this very reason.  Certainly some actions have earthly consequences based on man's laws.  If I murder someone, I can expect jailtime, regardless of how right I make it with God.  But my life may just become the most effective tool for Christ in that prison.  It's not an end-all based on man's definition of sin, but on God's definition of redemption.  It's not about levels of sin.

Sunday, April 11, 2010

Bound With Them

This entry is a heavy one, I'll warn from the start.  I imagine I'll read and reread it many times in the future to reconnect, re-anchor because the content and message is so fundamentally important to my obedience to my Lord that it will shape my very Christian walk from this day hence. 

It starts by my having attended a conference.  We've all done it - particularly as youth/teens, maybe even went to some as adults.  Remember the exilaration?  Coming home fired up for God.  Gonna make those changes, gonna read that Word daily, pray an hour daily, be that light at school/work/etc.  No fear.  Bold.  Joy and courage flooding the heart.  Truly the epitome of the mountain top experience.  Did you stay there?  Hopefully some alteration in your path did actually occur.  Hopefully some change in the way you were living did truly happen.  I have lost track of the number of times that for me, it did not.  I cannot recall how many of those experiences I've encountered God only years later to look back on with vague rememberence.  Memories of "wow, I was really on fire for God back then", wondering what happened.  Wondering how I grew "lukewarm" or even cold.

Yesterday was not a "mountaintop".  It was more like staring into the chasm of my own innaction, one that afforded me a poor night's sleep and kept me tossing and turning and prompted my early awakening to pray.  I attended the Voice of Martyrs Conference and left repentant and challenged.  Repentant to have been complacently sluggish for so many years, innactive in the body of Christ, coasting.  Challenged to become a viable and alive member of this body, this faith, this church that exceeds the building I weekly attend but rather is comprised of people around this globe, many of them risking abuses and injury willfully to gather together to simply praise our Savior, to spread word of his love to their neighbor, the very ones who seek to harm them. 

Yesterday I gained a true sense of this "body of Christ" like I've never had before, and it is hurting.  There is so much hurt in the body and we cannot sit idly by, content to engage only our own families and work weeks and home church activities.  We are called to more than a passing gift to the missionary who speaks in our churches once every few months.  Hebrews 13:3 says "Remember those in prison as if you were there yourself.  Remember also those being mistreated as if you felt their pain in your own bodies."  This obviously speaks of the persecuted church in Paul's day and I'm sure many of us are aware that somewhere out there, around the world in distant nations, someone is imprisoned for their faith, for handing out biblical literature, for witnessing.  But that's the problem, in our minds, it's out there - away from us - half a globe away. 

This scripture is telling us to remember these saints as if it were US!  If you were beaten by a metal cable such that your back was bloodied and bruised, would you pray once or twice month or even a year for deliverance?  If your spouse and children were murdered by locals while you were away because you witnessed to a family who's father did not approve, would you be content to accept a one time prayer of support or would you ache for daily strength through the uplifting of others?  We don't seem to get it here in the U.S. that we are ONE BODY with those who are suffering these things.  We have tremendous freedoms that everyone around this globe can only dream of but we do nothing with them except enjoy them.  We have at our fingertips tremendous technologies and resources and we are/will be held accountable for our use of those gifts. 

This is obviously a very condemning statement and I believe there are a very good number of precious people who God is rising up to make a difference, who are answering the call to make the difference, to stand in the gap and to meet the needs through prayer, support, finance, and getting the Word into the hands of the people.  I am so grateful for organizations such as Voice of Martyrs, Children's Hope Chest and locally the work of Known to Me as those who have orchestrated these projects/efforts have answered the call to do more, to stand in the gap, to bring awareness, to call the wake-up alarm.  There are brothers and sisters in the Lord in these and a few other organizations that I am just starting to know that I feel so blessed to have come across because they have heard this call and they are broken by it.  Broken enough to to be moved to action and to work to bring others to this awareness.

For me, however, I find myself having not done enough.  I certainly have not lived out Hebrews 13:3.  To be honest, I've ignored my brothers and sisters in prison.  You can't change the whole world, right?  You can't take on all of the problems.  I subscribed to VOM email alerts about a year ago and I am ashamed to say that when they have come, some of them I've given a coursory scan with good intent to further study, good intent to further pursue, further write to encourage but never gotten around to it.  Sometimes, two or three will come a week and I simply have too much email the way it is so "sorry, I don't have time for this now"....delete.  That was person being beaten who needed encouragement...delete....or a family in which the father/pastor was just killed for his faith...delete...

We don't like to think of a persecuted church because we don't like to think about persecution period.  But persecution is on our doorstep.  We have no concept of it here and I think if we all honestly thought about this we'd agree.  If we'd spend time with these men and women who have been shot at, had their churches bombed, been hauled off to unknown darkened locations in the night and beaten, watched their own newly converted, newly baptized congregations slaughtered while praising the whole time...we'd all agree we don't even know what persecution is.  To us, persecution is worrying if someone will "not like us" or if we will be "uncomfortable".  But persecution is coming to America.  This nation is becoming increasingly God-less in its leadership, laws, and direction and furthermore - here's the big one - JESUS PROMISED IT!

We don't like this but we cannot ignore what Jesus said in John 15:20 "if they persecuted me they will also persecute you".  Paul in 2 Timothy 3:12 states that everyone who wants to live a godly life will be persecuted.  Again - it is promised to each of us.  I don't think he was referring to the rude "snicker" behind your back because that's not where it stopped for him.  This does not mean that I need to go out and foolishly seek martyrdom, but neither should I be surprised when as my walk and my witness become more ferverent and outspoken, so too will resistance to the light within me.  This is such a foreign concept to the American believer because we have never suffered for our faith, truly suffered.  And why is suffering for our faith desirable?  Because it purifies our intents and desires for God.  It causes tremendous growth and brings tremendous reward to our lives.  Jesus also said in Matthew 5 that those who are persecuted for righteousness' sake, their's is the kingdom, great is their reward. 

I had the privilege to speak to a pastor from Ethiopia and another from Pakistan, both speakers at the conference.  On the stage they were amazing speakers and captivating to behold.  Certainly their testamonies were enthralling and many around were drawn to tears as they recounted not only the horrors they had witnessed but the profound joys of serving our Lord in the midst of such unspeakable hatred against His Name.  When face to face with them however, I felt their spirits, I felt their radiance, their peace, their joy.  Truly, fear had no hold on these men and they could rejoice in the face of whatever the devil threw at them.  Their lives could be taken the next minute and they walked in the knowledge of a God so loving they would willingly and gladly give everything they had, their lives, their children's lives, if just one more person could come to know him. 

I think many people left the conference staring at the same "chasm" I was - the chasm of shame.  Shame at our own innaction, but also repentant for that innaction and thankful for the Word they had received and motivated by it.  For it is the Word that lays our path and we cannot afford to ignore any part of it.  We cannot afford to fail to share any part of it.  Our next breath may be our last.  So many around the world are purposefully placing themselves in harm's way to spread this Word, this life, knowing that their next breath may be their last, may actually be taken from them in hatred against what they are trying to do in love.  Hebrews 13:3 cannot be forgotten, it is the very least we can do for we are one body, one church and we are bound with them.