Tag Archives: persecution

Our Place in the Culture Wars

About that time Herod the king laid violent hands on some who belonged to the church. He killed James the brother of John with the sword, and when he saw that it pleased the Jews, he proceeded to arrest Peter also. Acts 12:1-3

persecutionThere is a fair amount of debate these days over just what the accurate number is of Christians in this world who are being persecuted for their faith. A lot of that debate has to do with how we define “persecuted for their faith” and which genocidal numbers should or should not be included in that count. There is actually a pretty decent description of those numbers and that debate from this Christianity Today article last year. Our struggles here in the U.S. do not yet rise to the level of “persecution”. Indeed, I am embarrassed that we sometimes use that label to describe our culture wars here in this country, when our brothers and sisters around the world are being tortured, dismembered, and killed by political entities. Still, for our purposes here, suffice it to say, genuine followers of Christ are finding the journey more and more difficult.

I am struck, then, when I read about the early church’s responses to political persecution. And I am convicted when I compare their response to our response today. From the account of Peter’s miraculous rescue in Acts 12, here are a few observations about the natural tension between Christ followers and the world in which they are called to be salt and light:

  • The battle is the Lord’s and, as with all battles He fights, He wins in the end. OK, we don’t necessarily learn that from this particular passage. In fact, this account takes place as the culture wars are only just getting started. But still, you

Gospel Centered Worldview: God’s Plan for His Church

In hope he believed against hope, that he should become the father of many nations, as he had been told, “So shall your offspring be.” He did not weaken in faith when he considered his own body, which was as good as dead (since he was about a hundred years old), or when he considered the barrenness of Sarah’s womb.No unbelief made him waver concerning the promise of God, but he grew strong in his faith as he gave glory to God, fully convinced that God was able to do what he had promised. Romans 4:18-21

“…and on this rock I will build my church, and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it. I will give you the keys of the kingdom of heaven, and whatever you bind on earth shall be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven.” Matthew 16:18-19

This is the next in this series of posts for church leaders about a “Gospel Centered Worldview”, and how we must lead God’s people from that frame of reference. Today, we look at how that worldview informs our perspective on the future of the church.

killing christiansMaybe you heard, ISIS is killing Christians. Social media has raised much awareness of it (which, by the way, is perhaps furthering the terrorist’s agenda more than our own agenda). But, in case your own Facebook page is not exploding with those images and stories, I recommend your checking out (and supporting) Voice of the Martyrs, a ministry which does an amazing job of helping us know how we can be praying for the persecuted church all around the world. I also strongly recommend Nik Ripken’s The Insanity of God for a deeper understanding of the spiritual privilege of being persecuted for righteousness’ …

Pastor Sisyphus’ Bad Day

“If you have raced with men on foot, and they have wearied you,
    how will you compete with horses?
And if in a safe land you are so trusting,
    what will you do in the thicket of the Jordan?  Jeremiah 12:5

sisyphus

Church leadership, especially the pastorate, can feel a little like the plight of Sisyphus…forever pushing that boulder up the hill with little or no results to show for it.  They won’t pray…they won’t listen…they won’t volunteer or help…they won’t commit.  But, oh, how they will complain! Sometimes you just feel like giving up.

I think every pastor who feels oppressed and burdened and stressed to the point of giving up should take a break and study Jeremiah’s ministry…really try to crawl around in Jeremiah’s skin. I promise, you will feel much better about your own circumstances!

Jeremiah spent 40 years obediently delivering a message nobody wanted to hear. Nobody. At all. He pushed and he pressed. He obediently spoke, again and again. He was ridiculed, beaten, imprisoned, and his own family scoffed at him. And through it all, to the very end, he was so very, very alone. And at the end of 40 years of these tireless efforts, he had not a single conversion to show for it. None. Jeremiah prayed and he begged God to change his assignment. He cried and he pled. He wished he had never even been born. And at one particularly low point of his depression, God’s response to him was something along the lines of “You think this is bad? The hard part hasn’t even started yet!”

But Jeremiah’s plight teaches us something important about how we measure our “success” in answering God’s call (and, just as importantly, how we should NOT measure our success). Maybe there will be amazing results to …

For Heaven’s Sake!

Tuesday Re-mix –

Therefore, my dear brothers and sisters, stand firm. Let nothing move you. Always give yourselves fully to the work of the Lord, because you know that your labor in the Lord is not in vain.  1 Corinthians 15:58

“So what?”  That is a question I always ask when I study the Bible.  I just need to know why the writer is telling me this…why it is important to me.  Nobody in the Bible answers that question better than Paul.  In 1 Corinthians 15, there is a fascinating discourse from Paul about the reality of resurrection.  Paul spends this longest chapter of all of the epistles laying out a brilliant apologetic for the doctrine of the resurrection, logically laying out the facts of the gospel, the hope of the faith, and the description of what is yet to come.  The perishable becomes the imperishable, the seed becomes the sprout.  Verses 1-57 beautifully spell it all out in what would be as complete a sermon as anyone would ever want on the subject of the resurrection.  It is so complete, in fact, that one could easily end the lesson there.  But I will not.  Here’s why…

More than any writer I know, Paul uses the word “therefore” to signal a very important bottom line for him.  In fact, even after a long diatribe so beautifully laying out facts and arguments such as he does in 1 Corinthians 15:1-57, you can rest assured that Paul has not yet said what he really came to say until after the “therefore”.  That is how Paul signals that he is about to answer the question, “So what?”

In this case, he goes to great lengths to address those in the Corinthian church who were not convinced there would be a resurrection for Christ’s …

Like Moths to a Flame: How We are Killing the Church

Tuesday Re-mix –

I’ve never actually seen a moth burn up as a result of being drawn into a flame.  But I’ve seen them buzzing around my back porch light enough to get the idea.  It is a great illustration for how we are often drawn into the very things that will ultimately destroy us.  That has been the experience of the church in America.  We fight to obtain the very things that will ultimately weaken us and make us wholly ineffective.

I believe that the spread of Christianity in the early church was attributable primarily to two God-ordained circumstances: (1) persecution from outside the church, and (2) conflict from within, due to the differences among them.  Take away the oppression of the Roman government and Christianity does not have a reason to spread beyond Jerusalem except by mere happenstance.  Take away the vast cultural differences within the early church, and Christian doctrine never really gets tested and grown and purified, it never develops any of the Spiritual “immunities” to false teaching which it currently enjoys.

It is always funny to me, then, when we in the church spend so much time and energy trying to rid the world of both of these catalysts.  The church in America is actually fighting  for two things that will kill us: (1) political favor from the outside and (2) homogeneous culture on the inside.  I spoke to the second item in my recent post here.  I will only summarize that post by saying that, contrary to what many of us seem to believe in the church, diversity is actually our friend, i.e., our strength…not our enemy.  But what about the first catalyst?  What about persecution from outside the church?  History tells the story best.

Historically, Christianity has always grown stronger in the …

The Principle of the Spirit

Meanwhile, Saul was still breathing out murderous threats against the Lord’s disciples… As he neared Damascus on his journey, suddenly a light from heaven flashed around him. He fell to the ground and heard a voice say to him, “Saul, Saul, why do you persecute me?”

“Who are you, Lord?” Saul asked.

“I am Jesus, whom you are persecuting,” he replied. Acts 9:1, 3-5

The Principle of the Spirit: There is only one head of the church and He is in us all.

That Christ indwells every believer should change some things about how I see myself and how I see other believers.  It should change the way I listen to other believers and it should change the way I treat them.  Paul, who had busied himself with throwing Christian men and women into prison and persecuting people who were followers of “the way”, learned this lesson the hard way.

He saw the threat posed by this band of rebels who had been disciples of Jesus.  He recognized the damage they were doing to his church.  He saw the potential damage yet to come, and he responded.

But haven’t you done the same thing?  Haven’t you ever felt the need to “protect your church” by being mean and ugly to someone?  That’s all Saul (Paul) was doing…protecting his church.  The problem, of course, is this: when we perceive that our church is at stake, hasn’t history proven that we (Christians) are capable of all manner of bad behavior (ever heard of the Spanish Inquisition)?  When we have demonized a person to the point that we now believe he/she is a threat to the church, and when we take it upon ourselves to be the defender of Christ’s church, we are only one very tiny step away from inflicting great pain …