Tag Archives: persecution

2 Kings 4-6; Matthew 5

I wonder which would be more difficult: to fill many empty jars with oil from one flask or to offer my other cheek to be slapped again by an enemy? In the one situation, a widow is about to have her two sons taken away from her to fulfill a debt. In another situation, one is advised to stand before an enemy and not only take the blow, but ready oneself for the next without striking back or defending oneself. Really: which would be more difficult?

Elisha speaks miracles–many of them just by telling people what to do. He doesn’t do it for his own glory. He doesn’t even accept payment. He does it out of relationship with God and obedience to him. It is an act of trust and faith. God is the source of power, holiness, and ability, and Elisha knows it. And when others witness these things, they know it too.

Lord, do my words and actions support my belief that you are the source of power, holiness, and ability?

Elisha gives the word to a soldier to dunk himself in the water to heal his leprosy–he doesn’t need to be there. He eats in a famine. He sees the Lord’s vast army through the window when others can’t.

Imagine holding a flask of oil that continues to flow beyond its measure.

In Matthew 5, Jesus teaches his disciples about blessing, effectiveness (saltiness), the law, adultery, divorce, vows, revenge, and love for enemies. This isn’t teaching for other people; it’s guidance for all people. So, what is more difficult: to be mocked, persecuted and lied about for being a Christ follower or to shine like a light from a hilltop for even your enemies to see, unhidden? To actively reconcile with someone where there is deep tension or to love (in deed) people who are not friends?

It’s easy to think metaphorically, easy to comply when one isn’t in the heat of a conflict, “Offer your other cheek. Give your coat too. Go the extra mile.” But what if an enemy literally struck my cheek, would I stand in God’s strength and offer the other cheek? And what if I was fined payment of something I used daily (the shirt), could I also offer something I used in emergency (the coat)? And if, in oppression, I was told to carry something, would I go above and beyond?

Am I like the “tax collectors and pagans” loving only those who love me, showing kindness to only my friends? Do I shine my light in the safe places, only to those who already know God, or do I hold him up in the company of unbelievers?

Or am I a flask that continues to flow beyond its measure? Could I do what Christ suggests without fear, without complaint, without resentment because I know there’s more (in me) where that came from (because of God)?

10 God blesses those who are persecuted for doing right,
    for the Kingdom of Heaven is theirs. (Matthew 5:10, NLT)

Father God, you are the source of all. If you call, you will equip. And in the impossible, you make it possible. Oh, this is freedom, to live a life poured out for you, flowing from your abundance. You give sunlight and rain to both the evil and the good because there is no shortage of grace and goodness in you.

44 But I say, love your enemies! Pray for those who persecute you! 45 In that way, you will be acting as true children of your Father in heaven. (Matthew 5:44-45a, NLT)

Courtney (66books365)

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Amos 1-3; 2 Thessalonians 1; Psalm 80

Father God, you are just. You notice wickedness and wrong-doing, and You promise that it will not go unpunished. You defend what is good. Behind Your mighty words, there were people broken by injustice: those sold off in slavery, those holding broken promises, those chased down and slashed relentlessly in anger by relatives–merciless. Oh, you will send down fire (Amos 1-3).

Paul, Silas and Timothy write encouragement. What follows is a big block of copy–and my heart craves brothers like them who would stand and pray on my behalf in my walk with the Lord, to remind me and encourage me to persevere well, to speak of Kingdom and focus and purpose. I take these words and hold them close.

We proudly tell God’s other churches about your endurance and faithfulness in all the persecutions and hardships you are suffering. And God will use this persecution to show his justice and to make you worthy of his Kingdom, for which you are suffering. In his justice he will pay back those who persecute you.

And God will provide rest for you who are being persecuted and also for us when the Lord Jesus appears from heaven. He will come with his mighty angels, in flaming fire, bringing judgment on those who don’t know God and on those who refuse to obey the Good News of our Lord Jesus. They will be punished with eternal destruction, forever separated from the Lord and from his glorious power. 10 When he comes on that day, he will receive glory from his holy people—praise from all who believe. And this includes you, for you believed what we told you about him.

11 So we keep on praying for you, asking our God to enable you to live a life worthy of his call. May he give you the power to accomplish all the good things your faith prompts you to do. 12 Then the name of our Lord Jesus will be honored because of the way you live, and you will be honored along with him. This is all made possible because of the grace of our God and Lord, Jesus Christ (2 Thessalonians 1:4-12, NLT, emphasis added).

An enemy would tear down and destroy, to pronounce worthlessness and abandonment upon the persecuted. But the Lord takes what was meant for harm to call one worthy for His kingdom.

Lord, You are defender, provider, protector. You are sovereign and mighty. You are just. Help me to keep my eyes on You and not to be deceived by an enemy’s words of worthlessness. Thank You that You give me power to do what is right–help me to always keep a Kingdom focus.

Courtney (66books365)

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Ecclesiastes 10, 11, 12; 2 Corinthians 11:16-33

Are they servants of Christ? I am a better one—I am talking like a madman—with far greater labors, far more imprisonments, with countless beatings, and often near death. Five times I received at the hands of the Jews the forty lashes less one. Three times I was beaten with rods. Once I was stoned. Three times I was shipwrecked; a night and a day I was adrift at sea; on frequent journeys, in danger from rivers, danger from robbers, danger from my own people, danger from Gentiles, danger in the city, danger in the wilderness, danger at sea, danger from false brothers; in toil and hardship, through many a sleepless night, in hunger and thirst, often without food, in cold and exposure. And, apart from other things, there is the daily pressure on me of my anxiety for all the churches. Who is weak, and I am not weak? Who is made to fall, and I am not indignant? If I must boast, I will boast of the things that show my weakness. 2 Corinthians 11:23-30

As a believer living in a country that still allows religious freedom, I know that I am blessed to be able to attend worship services, pray for people in public, carry my Bible (on my phone), listen to Christian music on the radio, etc. I know that I can do all of those things to worship and serve my God without fearing for my life.

I also know, that before I began spending time in a country that doesn’t offer the same freedoms, I didn’t really even think, other than peripherally, about the persecuted church. I never quite understood having to hide my faith or having my life threatened for standing up for my belief in Christ.

I am always amazed by the stories of persecution that I hear from the native missionaries and pastors that my husband and I work with in India. And, I am amazed by their strength, found in Jesus, to carry on and make a stand in the face of death.

Some stories of persecution are horrific; the outcome is martyrdom, told by survivors. They are stories of stabbings on the street side, beatings, being held hostage in their home only to be burned to death. But many stories become testimonies to God never-failing mercy.

One story hit close to home for me. Many years ago, my husband experienced one of these life or death situations. As he preached the Gospel in a remote village, some Hindu extremists threatened him, told him to leave their village and never come back. They never gave him the chance to stay away as they began trying to beat the life out of him. They smashed his face in and battered his body; then left him for dead. A good ‘Samaritan’ took him to the hospital, where by God’s grace his body healed and he was able to continue being a witness from his bed and eventually go back into the villages to share the stories of Jesus’ sacrifice, despite the threats that are continually issued by deceived men.

Another story gives me courage every time I go into a village to share the message of hope. Native missionaries, Ambika and Susilla, in their old age, would go into the villages every day to conduct children’s ministry and pray for the people. One day as they were walking from one area to another, a drunken man accosted them. He began screaming at them, threatening their lives with a machete. All of their faith was in their Lord and Savior; they stood strong in Christ and told the man that they would never stop telling people about, even if he killed them. He was even more angered that they were not daunted by his threats and lunged at them. God’s hand protected them, and when he came nearer to them, his whole demeanor instantly changed. He lowered the blade and was sobered. Instead of killing them, he instead asked them to pray for him.

Just like Paul, there are countless Christians who are continually faced with making the choice between their lives and their faith. Those believers who stand in steadfast regardless of the consequence are testaments to the goodness of God and the strength that He offers in times of need.

Yesappa, Thank You for always being there, by my side; for giving me strength when I am weak. Thank You for offering courage, for supplying protection for my spirit. Help me stand strong for You and the sacrifice that You made for me, in the face of persecution as the end days draw nearer and nearer. In Jesus’ name. Amen.

 

Blessings – Julie (writing from the U.S.A.)

 

Unless otherwise indicated, all scripture quotations are from The Holy Bible, English Standard Version® (ESV®), copyright © 2001 by Crossway, a publishing ministry of Good News Publishers. Used by permission. All rights reserved.

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Job 7-9; Acts 7:44-60

Job was a good man whose life was turned upside down. I get to listen in on his thoughts, weary from a battering attack on everything he knows.

“My life passes more swiftly than a runner.
    It flees away without a glimpse of happiness.
26 It disappears like a swift papyrus boat,
    like an eagle swooping down on its prey.
27 If I decided to forget my complaints,
    to put away my sad face and be cheerful,
28 I would still dread all the pain,
    for I know you will not find me innocent, O God.
29 Whatever happens, I will be found guilty.
    So what’s the use of trying?
30 Even if I were to wash myself with soap
    and clean my hands with lye,
31 you would plunge me into a muddy ditch,
    and my own filthy clothing would hate me. Job 9:25-31, NLT

His friend tells him: you weren’t good enough. Or your kids weren’t good enough. This wouldn’t have happened to you if you were good enough.

***

Stephen is a good man whose life is cut short by an angry mob that doesn’t like what (Stephen) tells them. They cover their ears from his words and vision, drag him off and stone him to death.

Saul was there that day. Perhaps he was a bad guy–the one who persecuted Christians. The accusers laid their coats at his feet. He stood there watching Stephen’s death. Approving. God was about to turn Saul’s life upside down too.

***

Job was always a confusing book to me, but the more time I spend in it, the more I see present day parallels. Who hasn’t felt like their world was crashing down? Who hasn’t been tormented by thoughts during the day and nightmares at rest? Who hasn’t lost a loved one and wondered why? Or a fortune? Or health? Who hasn’t examined their life looking for the key that unlocked destruction?

And friends–I know lots of folks who strive to be good enough. And don’t we all want to be good enough on some level? I know I can never be good enough to earn salvation, but that doesn’t stop me from trying to be good enough in other aspects of life. Whose approval am I really trying to earn?

What I know of God just from these scriptures:

  • He is the provider.
  • Whatever is lost, he can restore.
  • He can take a man like Saul and turn him into Paul–any life can be transformed powerfully by the very power of the Holy Spirit than any power of man.
  • Nothing escapes his notice.

Because of Christ’s death on the cross, I am good enough. He is my mediator, so that God’s love is not kept from me–he hears every prayer, sees everything. I don’t have to earn God’s love; he loved me first, before I even knew him.

Lord, may I seek to be everything you’ve made me to be for your delight. Thank you for the power of the Holy Spirit to bring about change. Thank you that you hold all things together, even when it seems they’re falling apart.

Courtney (66books365)

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Exodus 39-40; Matthew 24:1-22

A few years ago, there was something going around about what would you say to your seventeen-year-old-self if you could go back. I had a lot of things I’d want to tell myself. But one thing is this: Be you. Be everything God made you to be; delight in him and serve him wholeheartedly. I’d say it in all seriousness, despite sounding cliche.

Today I’m standing on the sidelines and watching Bezalel weave worship into garments. His care and attention are poetic, like a song, and I feel joy. He is beautiful, even if I don’t know what he looks like.

A repeating refrain reminds at least eight times in Exodus 39: just as the Lord commanded. (Be you. Be everything God made you to be; delight in him and serve him wholeheartedly.)

A tabernacle is built, and this is a holy dwelling place, where fire lights the night for all to see.

***

I listened to a sermon by Andy Stanley on comparison this past week–and it sticks with me, even as I read today’s passages. I read of excellence in preparing a place for the Lord in Exodus–doing a God-wired job. And in Matthew’s pages, I read of persecution and hatred for being Jesus followers. That we would be hated for following Jesus, and perhaps for following his command on our lives–being whoever it is he has wired us to be. This is where jealousy and comparison come in and kill relationships. Is this such a stretch: the placement of excellence in the Old Testament, jealousy/comparison, and the reality of hatred in the New Testament? Maybe it is, but it’s what I’m trying to work out.

“Then you will be arrested, persecuted, and killed. You will be hated all over the world because you are my followers. 10 And many will turn away from me and betray and hate each other. 11 And many false prophets will appear and will deceive many people. 12 Sin will be rampant everywhere, and the love of many will grow cold. 13 But the one who endures to the end will be saved. 14 And the Good News about the Kingdom will be preached throughout the whole world, so that all nations will hear it; and then the end will come. Matthew 24:9-14 NLT.

Jesus is talking about end times and physical death. Hatred is a precursor to death. I have witnessed among believers and unbelievers, the relational ruin of comparison and jealousy. One either hates another, or hates himself.

I can’t go back in time to that girl of seventeen, but I remind myself still and today, “Be you. Be everything God made you to be; delight in him and serve him wholeheartedly.” Hatred and dislike are stumbling blocks thrown on a path–why would we do this to each other? This is not love.

Endure. The Spirit of God is a light that lives inside the heart of believers. Shine in the darkest places, so that the Good News of the Kingdom will be preached throughout the whole world. Whatever the gift, may it be used to glorify God.

Courtney (66books365)

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