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”
First of all, I don’t believe there is ‘so little persecution in the United States of America’.
The first reason known to me, and the one still primary in my thoughts, is this one: Jesus told us the world would persecute us. America is part of the world – not meaning the wholesome and very good creation of God, consisting of stars and suns and trees and flowers and human persons and so much more, but the construct and society and systems and worldviews, of which nations, at least as we know them, are a part, the domain of the Enemy, the Darkness which is not the pure darkness out of which God created or which is of the good night He made, but the Darkness of fallen and corrupted light. America, being part of the ‘world’ in this sense, the world that crucified our King, cannot be friends with Christians, or refrain from persecuting us who are called to be the light of the world because the Light of the World shines in our hearts and must shine through us.
For this reason, when first I heard that Christians were not persecuted in America, or persecuted only rarely, I found the statement extremely strange. Continue reading “Why is There So Little Persecution in the United States of America?”
“If we died with Him, we will also live with Him. If we endure, we will also reign with Him. If we disown Him, He will also disown us. If we are faithless, He remains faithful, for He cannot disown Himself.”
“But do not worry about what you are to say or how you will answer, for it will not be you who is speaking, but the Spirit of your Father who is speaking through you.”
“For no one can say ‘Jesus is Lord’ except by the Holy Spirit, and no one speaking by the Holy Spirit can say ‘Jesus is cursed.’”
The Christian’s very confidence is that Jesus Christ is the Faithful and the True. It is because Jesus Christ is faithful that we can confess Him and not disown Him, not because of any faithfulness in ourselves. Continue reading “The Faithfulness of Christ: Why You Don’t Have to be Brave or Strong to be a Witness (Martyr)”
The Book of Philippians is a good illustration of what the Church is; of what Christian unity and fellowship is. The Apostle Paul writes that it is right for him to feel great affection and love for the Philippian believers, since he has them all in his heart, for in his imprisonment and all his other circumstances, they are with him servants of Christ Jesus and partakers of the grace of God. He writes about being of one mind with the bond of love in the unity of the Spirit. He writes of living for their progress in joy in the Gospel, and of having joy in hearing of their conduct in Christ, whether he comes to see them or only hears of them in his absence. Again, he writes that, even if he is poured out like a drink offering on the service of their faith, he is rejoices with all of them, and they too should share his joy.
There is One Church: the Universal (that’s what the word ‘Catholic’ means) Church. The Church is all believers, all who are in Jesus Christ. As it says, over and over again, our unity is Jesus Christ. Our bond of love is the Spirit. We are all children of one Father, and therefore brothers and sisters. We are all members of the body of Christ, and therefore joined to one another. We are members of one another, because we all partake of the one loaf that is Christ. Continue reading “The Universal Church: Christ’s People Never Abandoned”
This article is probably not what you might expect from the title.
There is a very real sense in which all Christians understand all other Christians. Most truly and most importantly, we live the same life, which is Christ. We were baptized with one baptism into one body. We are indwelt by one Holy Spirit, children of one Father, God, with one Lord, Jesus Christ, and one faith. We, who are many, are one body, because we partake of one loaf, which is the Lord Jesus, and one cup, which is His blood. This is truth, and it evidences itself.
Each of us is alone before God. We stand naked before Him, not merely as a member of a group but as one person, and some day we will realize our nakedness before Him: hopefully, we realize it more and more as our lives go on. We are in His presence as we can never be in the presence of any other.
Both these truths are evident in the Christian life. You will read the writings of some other Christian, and often enough you may think to yourself, “Oh! I know I don’t understand all he meant. I also know that I understood more of what he meant than even he could put into words!” Continue reading “One Body, Many Members or Together and Alone”
“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”
I closed my eyes and waited. Today was the day we would die in the arena. Not long ago, I had been asked to throw incense to Caesar and call him that which no mere man was… call him a god. But, Jesus was Lord. Jesus is always Lord. He never changes. Caesar was a mere mortal, a son of man who would wither like the grass. By the grace of God, we who confessed Jesus as Lord would not die; rather, we who die with Him will also live with Him.
Only God knew what awaited any of us in the arena. Sometimes, it made my blood run cold. But, I knew Jesus was with me. Continue reading “The Day I Would Die”
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?”
A while ago I was reading a book where the following was recounted, in more detail: a man is preaching about Jesus to a group of people who’ve gathered to listen. Another man shows up and tells him to stop. He ignores the man telling him to stop until he notices that the man is a police officer, at which point he perceives his demands to be authoritative and complies.
I don’t wish to criticize the individual in question. I don’t know the particulars of the situation; maybe he was blocking a route and it really was appropriate for him to move. What really bothered me about the story was actually where and how the writer told it; he was using it to illustrate the weight of authority. As such, it is singularly unhelpful and even harmful. Continue reading “Authority: Romans 13 in the Context of Life in America”
I was just reading an interpretation, which I can’t let go, of that part in Acts where the believers are praying for Peter and then can’t believe his release in a Bible Study guide a friend received. The interpretation, which I have seen in more places than I can count, was that that the believers didn’t really expect God to answer their prayers; they’d seen James killed and they were desperately praying for Peter’s release but they didn’t really believe that God could or would answer their prayers.
I’m going to be honest. I can’t stand that interpretation. That’s why I’m writing this article right now. I don’t think the believers were praying for Peter’s release at all. They’d seen God deliver Peter from prison before; Continue reading “Why The Believers Were Shocked by Peter’s Release: It Wasn’t What They Were Praying For!”