Christians Sentenced to Death – What Difference Does It Make to Us?

**Warning: This post may make you feel bad. ***Warning: That feeling may be appropriate.

There are moments in life that feel like a swift slap in the face.

No one courts that. No one wants to feel that pain. But, if it’s a slap that rearranges your priorities to align with God’s heart, then you will thank God even for that bracing offense.

I received that slap in 2014 when I read a report that Kim Jong-un had ordered the execution of thirty-three Christians reported to have been planting over 500 underground churches in North Korea. I receive the same slap when I read of the struggles of Syrian, Nigerian, Pakistani, Chinese, and Indian believers. Many struggle to literally hold onto life because they’ve chosen to follow Jesus. Continue Reading →

White Feather Fretting on a Week Day

We think we can be prepare for everything.

We can. Just, not the way we think.

Soldiers in boot camp ask veterans to tell them what it’s like to be at war. They never get enough of battle stories but old soldiers give their stories up sparingly. In boot camp, we think knowing what’s ahead will make us ready. Veterans know that being there is what makes you ready. All you can do in boot camp is practice the moves and learn to take an order without asking why. Readiness shows up on the frontline.

I live my life in boot camp. Rise with gratitude and praise. Put on the armor of the Lord. Make my confession, my petition, my intercession, and my amen. Serve the Lord through the day. Retire with gratitude, confession, praise, intercession, petition, amen. Continue Reading →

Holy Failure – and what happens next . . .

robin-1115934_640I have this idea that if I’m filled with the Holy Spirit, whatever task I’m about will not only succeed, it will succeed beyond all expectations.

This is true and yet, it’s not.

Sometimes, my expectations are built on false foundations.

My idea of success and God’s are at odds on every day of the week ending with a y. I’ve followed Him over fifty years and I still usually don’t get it. Continue Reading →

They’ll Be Dead by Morning (What Difference Will it Make?)

Caution

**Warning: This post may make you feel bad. **Warning: That feeling may be appropriate.

There are moments in life that feel like a swift slap in the face.

No one courts that. No one wants to feel that pain. But, if it’s a slap that rearranges your priorities to align with God’s heart, then you will thank God even for that bracing offense.

I received that slap when I read the Washington Times news item that Kim Jong-un had ordered the execution of 33 Christians reported to have been part of planting over 500 underground churches in North Korea. http://www.washingtontimes.com/news/2014/mar/6/kim-jong-un-calls-execution-33-christians/

I imagined thirty-three of my Christian friends executed for leading people to Christ, facilitating worship, praying, or offering praise to God. I would be horrified, sad, and angry – devastated – but I would also know that God has the last word on their lives not Kim Jong-un or the evil power behind him.

Still, I would want their deaths to motivate the church of Christ. I would want their deaths to galvanize other believers to put feet to their own faith, to fuel their passion for Christ, to remember to pray for those who suffer, to spread God’s word with more zeal, persistence, and creativity than ever before.

While we in the West argue over worship styles, sleep in when there’s a visiting preacher, bemoan having to endure a boring prayer request or off-key soloist, serve up the pastor’s sermon over lunch, or sit home and judge the church unworthy of our attendance altogether, there are other brothers and sisters gasping their way to every precious moment when they can gather, in hiding, with other precious believers and hear a whispered message from God, bathe in the reading of His word, and pray with passion and tears for strength to endure and the courage to continue speaking the truth under threat of death.

God placed us all where we are. He assigned us to our stations. There is no guilt in being born in the land of the free as opposed to a country under harsh rule. But there is guilt if we use our freedom to indulge our petty preferences, to pad our comfort, to drift through this dark world basking in our own light rather than using it to serve those who waste away in prison cells wondering if they’ve been forgotten or their families left to struggle alone with hunger, fear, and loneliness, or those serving the Lord in dark, dark places who need our prayers for their protection, deliverance, courage, and strength.

This blog is just a bunch of words. It costs me absolutely nothing to write. I am free here to say whatever I want without fear that it will cost me or my loved ones their lives. But the words I speak on my knees have the power to move forces in the heavenly realm and make a difference for those who know the names and faces of those 33 facing execution, to comfort those who know their touch, their dreams, the plans they had for this life that will end any minute now and to strengthen those who pick up the bloody batons these 33 will be forced to release and continue to build the kingdom of Christ in lands where the enemy of God rules.

Worship will be different for me with the report of 33 gunshots bouncing around the inner chamber of my soul reminding me that we aren’t home yet. You can have all this world, but give me Jesus.

**http://www.christianpost.com/news/north-koreas-kim-jong-un-reportedly-orders-execution-of-33-people-for-talking-with-christian-missionary-to-start-500-churches-115675/(another source for this story)

Are You a Coward?

Cowardice is a sin. Did you know that?

That shocks me every time I remember it. Maybe because I seldom hear it preached.

We modern American Christians are pretty soft. We think we’re being persecuted if someone looks at us funny because we have our Bible out at lunch time or if we catch someone rolling their eyes when we look up from saying grace. Our felt need for courage isn’t that great right now but it’s not like that in most every other part of the world.

In many countries, people kill Christians simply for being Christians. Do a quick Google search for modern martyrs and you’ll find a ready supply of men, women and children who have been beaten, imprisoned or murdered for identifying themselves with Jesus Christ – in China, Colombia, many Mid-Eastern countries and all across the globe.

The on-line dictionary says that a martyr is one who voluntarily suffers death as the penalty of witnessing to and refusing to renounce a religion; a person who sacrifices something of great value and especially life itself for the sake of principle; or a great or constant sufferer. They’re out there. Believers who experience daily the need for courage and who understand the price of cowardice.

God’s pretty serious about this bravery thing. When the Israelites were planning to march against the Midianite army under Gideon, God told Gideon his army was too BIG! He wanted Israel to know that their strength came from Him, not from their numbers so he ordered Gideon to send away every man who trembled with fear. The Bible says that twenty-two thousand men left while ten thousand remained.

Eventually God whittled Gideon’s army down to three hundred men and they defeated their enemy. The everlasting lesson being that three hundred brave men and God is better than thirty-two thousand men who quake with fear.

The Israelite leaders were actually under orders from God not to bring frightened men into battle. In Deuteronomy 20, God told them “When you go to war against your enemies and see horses and chariots and an army greater than yours, do not be afraid of them, because the LORD your God, who brought you up out of Egypt, will be with you. When you are about to go into battle, the priest shall come forward and address the army. He shall say: “Hear, O Israel, today you are going into battle against your enemies. Do not be fainthearted or afraid; do not be terrified or give way to panic before them. For the LORD your God is the one who goes with you to fight for you against your enemies to give you victory.” They were ordered to ask the soldiers: “Is any man afraid or fainthearted? Let him go home so that his brothers will not become disheartened too.”

Over three hundred and sixty-five times in scripture, we are commanded NOT to be afraid and in Revelation, first in the list of those who find their place in “the fiery lake of burning sulfur” along with murderers, idolaters and liars are the COWARDLY. Braveheart isn’t just a movie, my brothers and sisters; it’s the way of life for those who follow Jesus Christ.

There is no place for cowardice in the army of God because if we truly know who it is we follow into battle, we will not fear. We who experience the great freedom from persecution that we do in America or Europe should be in prayer for those who suffer in the rest of the world. I also believe we should make it a habit, a spiritual discipline even, to face whatever we fear and conquer it in the name of Jesus Christ.

I experience cowardice in the face of many things but through Christ, I believe I can renounce cowardice and train my heart for courage – even me whose heart beats faster just climbing the stairs from a dark basement. Life is good and it is a gift from God. I don’t believe anyone should seek out martyrdom unless they are called but I do believe we should train our hearts for courage so we are prepared should martyrdom show up on Main Street.

It’s not enough to simply give our lives over to Jesus, show up at church and give up obvious immorality. Are we satisfied with being merely defenders of the faith or are we ready to march into enemy territory and claim new ground, new hearts, new souls for the kingdom of God? We have to go deeper, all the time deeper with Jesus.

So, how about you? Are you content being a church mouse or are you ready to be a Braveheart? Will you be an overcomer, receiving a white stone with your own name from the Jesus Christ or will you be looking at a white feather knowing your name is Coward?

Yeah, that’s right, I’m calling you out.  I’m calling us all out.  I’m starting to hear hoofbeats – how about you?