Stop Wondering What It’s Like to Be Persecuted or if You Would Deny Jesus

I’ve never been able to understand the way in which many people in America think about persecution and martyrdom. I might literally shiver with fear, but the way of thinking about persecution I knew was that of the Apostles when they “went forth from the presence of the Sanhedrin, rejoicing that they had been counted worthy to suffer shame for the sake of the Name” or that with which the Christian writings from the era of the Roman persecutions seeps: the crown, the victor’s palm, the fulfillment of martyrdom. They counted torture for the sake of Christ a joy. There is a line, descriptive of the whole tone which meets one in their writings and in the accounts of their deaths, in the autobiography of St. Therese of the Child Jesus, about martyrs who watched their brothers die, “consoling themselves with the thought that perhaps they were being kept for greater torments.” Not that I understood all of this all, or even most, of the time. But it was the way Christians thought. I was an abnormal Christian when and because I didn’t think and feel this way, never when or because I did. Continue reading “Stop Wondering What It’s Like to Be Persecuted or if You Would Deny Jesus”

Free to Live and Free to Die

“We who are free to worship and serve the Lord must never forget those who are not.” At first glance these words seem, at least to me, to be saying that Christians should remember, pray for, and preach the Gospel to those who do not know that God sent His Son to be the sacrifice for our sins. They appeared, though, in a context of remembering our brethren who are persecuted (which is clearly commanded in the Bible)! I believe they were attributed to Chuck Swindoll. However, who said them does not matter. What matters is not even that anyone said them. What matters is many Christians think that, in persecution, Christians are not free to worship and serve the Lord; to be more careful, many who think they are Christians think this, and many Christians think that they think this. Continue reading “Free to Live and Free to Die”

(Part II) Who Are You That You Fear: I, Even I, Am He…

“I, even I, am He…”

Doesn’t that sound a lot like “I AM?” That’s followed by “who comforts you.” It sounds a lot like, “YHWH is my Shepherd.”

“I, even I, am He who comforts you. Who are you that you fear mortal men, the sons of men who are like grass, that you forget YHWH, your Maker?”

“YHWH is my Shepherd. I will not lack. He makes me to lie down in green pastures, He leads me besides quiet waters… Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death I will fear no evil.”

A lot of what I am going to say may apply to very different sins and struggles than that of fear; sin is sin; all sin flows from and to idolatry, from and to death; sin leads to sin. Pride – fear – hatred – at the bottom, they are all the same; they are all opposed to God, to salvation. They are all the opposite of faith; instead of being the gaze of the soul upon God – “One thing I have asked of YHWH, that I shall seek… to gaze upon the beauty of YHWH” – sins are the turning of the soul towards self, the setting of attentions and vision not upon God, but upon self and other selves. “Who are you that you… forget YHWH, your Maker?”

The remedy is beautifully depicted in this verse from Galatians: Continue reading “(Part II) Who Are You That You Fear: I, Even I, Am He…”

(Part I) Who Are You That You Fear: Introduction and the Idolatry of Fear

“You shall not fear what they fear, nor be in terror of what terrifies them. YHWH Himself shall be your terror and your fear; then He will become a refuge, but to the houses of Israel a stumbling stone and a rock of oppression.”

“Do not fear their reproaches, nor be in terror of their slander, for they will all wear out like a garment; the moth will eat them up, but My salvation is forever and My righteousness for all peoples.”

“I, even I, am He who comforts you. Who are you that you fear mortal man, the sons of man who are like grass, that you forget YHWH, your Maker, who stretched out the heavens?”

Fear is not right in the life of a Christian. People have said to me, “You’re only human; of course you’re going to be afraid. Those “fear not” verses are just meant to be a comfort and an encouragement; not a command.” I read in a book once, on that passage where Jesus said not to fear those who can kill the body, but after that can do no more, but to fear Him who can destroy both body and soul in Gehenna, something to the effect of, “If somebody walks into your bedroom in the middle of the night with a knife and says ‘I’m going to kill you,’ are you going to be afraid? Of course you are. He’s going to kill your body. Continue reading “(Part I) Who Are You That You Fear: Introduction and the Idolatry of Fear”

How Should We, as Christians, Respond to ISIS?

How should we, as Christians, respond to ISIS?

For most things, clarification and disentangling of different meanings present in a word is helpful. I believe that by ISIS we generally mean two things at the same time which together form one thing; namely a group of people who do certain types of despicable things. Firstly, we mean the actions of ISIS. Secondly, we mean the individuals in ISIS. We do not have to feel the same way about both (besides the fact that we could not, even if we wanted)! In order to determine how we should respond to ISIS we are going to try untangle how and why we feel the way we do, why we do not have to, why ISIS is what they are, and how we (being who we are) should react to them (being who they are).

Our Fear of ISIS

I am not, here, interested in the probability of ISIS doing certain things or the power of ISIS to do these things. In some ways, I think, this is simple enough. We are afraid of ISIS and, since fear is a horrible emotion to feel, we try to dull it with hatred. Further, the actions of ISIS are, in fact, completely worthy of hatred. First, why are we afraid? What exactly are we afraid of? Continue reading “How Should We, as Christians, Respond to ISIS?”