buildingbodies4christ

building on the foundation of Jesus Christ

Archive for the tag “persecution”

The Lesson

This past week I listened to a couple of messages – one on health and the other was a sermon – both on the spiritual battle that we all face in our minds. They were both on fear. The first message was from Caroline Leaf, PhD.1 She is a brain researcher and lecturer. She has been studying the brain for over twenty years. In her talk, she related that there are two emotional roots tied to our memories – faith and fear. Each memory has emotional components to them. In the brain, there is a place where memory is stored for long-term. When visible seen, the memory storage area looks like trees. The faith-based memories (aka good memories) will look like lush green trees. The fear-based memories (aka bad memories) will look like thorn bushes. Fear creates little thorn growths on the outer edges of our memory trees. (The fear-based emotions cause harm to the body.) I was fascinated with these ideas.

The next message was from Andy Stanley on the N Commandments2– the commandments that Jesus instructed the disciples in order to carry on with His movement. This first commandment in this new series is, of course – “Do not fear.” Jesus was telling His disciples all the time “do not be afraid!” He told them not to be afraid when persecution comes (and it would come). Do not fear man or what man can do to you, but fear the One who has control over life and death eternal. Fear God. We are to respect God. He has authority over life and death; He conquered death through Jesus’ death and resurrection.

In the early years of this new movement, they didn’t have a Bible; they didn’t have great instructions to live by – except what Jesus spoke and was passed along. The disciples followed Jesus for three years. They listened; they saw; then they were given the instructions to go to the world and preach the good news. Jesus told Martha when Lazarus was dead in the grave for four days (John 11:25) – “I am the resurrection and the life. He who believes in me will live, even though he dies; and whoever believes in me will never die.”

When Jesus was resurrected, they believed. Because of their belief, they no longer feared death or feared sharing the good news of Jesus’ death and resurrection no matter the consequences of the persecution they would face. They would go before governors and kings; they would be flogged and thrown out of synagogues, but they had confidence in the One who sent them. They became fearless and spoke with the authority that Jesus gave them – no matter what.

One of my own struggles is fear. I needed to hear these messages this past week. For the past couple of weeks, I have been in the place of fear because of my circumstances. But what I realized in the last day or two, if everything was gone and I had nothing – is this life or death? Why am I afraid that I will have nothing? God said He would take care of all my needs. I see persecution happening all over the world today. People are leaving everything behind and fleeing to safer places. They are facing executioners and standing firm until the end. They have nothing in the end, except the One who can save them from eternal damnation. That’s enough – nothing else matters. It’s time to release the fear and know that God is enough!

My pastor concluded his message on Sunday on the wisdom from Solomon found in Ecclesiastes 12:13 – Fear God and keep His commandments (Solomon reminded us that everything else is meaningless). Voids in our lives cannot be filled by stuff or people – God made us incomplete so that we can find our sufficiency in Him alone. Nothing else matters. When fear starts to creep in, I have been recalling a new song I heard recently – “You are a good, good Father – it’s who you are. And I am loved by You, that’s who I am. You are perfect in all your ways.”3 When I remember this, I remember a good Father takes care of His children – no matter what. We are precious in His sight.

“Don’t be afraid of those who want to kill your body; they cannot touch your soul. Fear only God, who can destroy both soul and body in hell. What is the price of two sparrows—one copper coin? But not a single sparrow can fall to the ground without your Father knowing it. And the very hairs on your head are all numbered. So don’t be afraid; you are more valuable to God than a whole flock of sparrows.” Matthew 10:28-31 (NLT)

1Caroline Leaf, PhD, “My Body, His Temple” teaching series by Life Today

2Andy Stanley, the N Commandments series, Part 2

3“Good Good Father” by Housefires II, 2014

What Now

For the last few weeks, God has been instilling His plan in my heart. I know; it should be very evident this is what He wants done. Last year, my church started a training program to help us disciple others. I got it. I understood this is the great commission – we are told to go to the ends of the earth to teach others about Jesus. But what about going next door? Yes, I should go there too. I struggle with getting out of my comfort zone. I am perfectly fine sitting here in my nice quiet little house typing away on my computer. I may reach a few with my postings. However, my neighbor may never know that I write these blog postings. They may never come to the place of understanding that God loves them so much that He sent Jesus for them. Jesus came to redeem them – to set them free from their bondage to sin. Oh, we don’t talk about sin anymore – from our mistakes; the mistakes that we commit over and over.

God’s plan. He introduced the plan way back in the garden. He set things in motion until the right time. Then He sent Jesus to finalize the deal. Jesus did what God asked of Him. He suffered and died on a cross so that we could live in His resurrection power. He came to give us life everlasting. Jesus came for the lost. He came to end our suffering. The suffering we no longer endure is the suffering related to our sins. We give the weight of those burdens to Jesus. We now suffer for a different cause. We suffer for the sake of Jesus’ name. We take on His task of spreading the good news around the world or next door. Jesus said that we will have persecution because of Him. We will suffer for His cause if we choose to accept the challenge placed before us. It’s a matter of if we choose obedience or not.

I recently started another Bible study from the book of Jonah. This one is by Priscilla Shirer. This is a powerful study about God’s plan to reach the lost. Jonah had the task of reaching people he cared nothing about. He ran in the opposite direction. He didn’t accept the challenge until God put him in an uncomfortable place, then he did it reluctantly. About the time I started the Jonah study, I read about the persecuted church in the book by Nik Ripkin called The Insanity of God.

We truly don’t understand persecution in this country. It’s a foreign concept to us. But in the first century church, they understood it well. Persecution was like the stamp of a foot that scatters dust; persecution drove the people further into the world to reach the lost. Persecution scattered the Body of Christ. For those of us who are not under persecution, we are 30% of all the believers around the world. The rest of the believers are enduring persecution. Believers in persecution are willing to risk it all for the sake of Jesus’ name being known. They stand up in the oppression for the things we take for granted. They risk death for the sake of the resurrected Jesus. Those seeking will travel miles on foot to find people who know Jesus. They find Bibles miraculously in order to increase their knowledge. People in some areas only have a portion of Scripture, and they memorize every word.

I am perplexed by this concept of persecution. I take for granted all that was done for my sake to know Jesus. I have multiple Bibles. I can worship openly. I can talk openly about Jesus. Yet, I do not have the compulsion to go next door. What do I do with the words contained in the Bibles I have around my house? Something is wrong with this picture. So what now? How do I change my comfort zone to include others who do not know Jesus? It starts with knowing Jesus so well; to be willing to die to myself in order to gain the passion (suffering) of Jesus. It’s the plan that began so long ago. It’s in my hands (and yours). We are the torchbearers of this generation. What will you do with the knowledge that you possess?

Then he opened their minds so they could understand the Scriptures. He told them, “This is what is written: The Messiah will suffer and rise from the dead on the third day, and repentance for the forgiveness of sins will be preached in his name to all nations, beginning at Jerusalem. You are witnesses of these things. Luke 24:45-48

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