Last night on the news, an anchor who professes to be Christian asked, "Will this be the end of Christianity in the Middle East?" And this has become the headline for some secular articles as well.
That bugged me all day, and was the first thought I had when I woke this morning.
Americans have become so comfortable in their Christianity...in just being American...that we've forgotten what a conviction is. The history of our belief has been full of persecution and martyrdom. In nearly every other country in the world, Christians still die for their faith. Tertillian wrote in his Apologeticum that the blood of martyrs is the seed of the church. Because this is God, the one true God that we worship, faith does not shrink in the face of persecution--it grows.
So I challenge Christians everywhere to pray for the martyrs who are losing their lives in the Middle East, for the families who are losing loved ones, and for those who fear for their lives every day. Let's not forget them. Also to strengthen the love in our hearts and increase our understanding for them, here's some further reading:
And consider a donation to one of the ministries that were created specifically to help the persecuted church:
Open Doors USA or The Voice of the Martyrs
Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God's will is--his good, pleasing and perfect will. (Romans 12:2 NIV)
Sometimes I do my best thinking when I'm trying to fall asleep or when I'm trying to wake up. I guess it's when my conscious thought is on break and my subconscious takes over. So my inhibitions and worries take a back seat to my truer self--the part of me that wears no mask. I had a hard time sleeping late last night/early this morning, so I kept waking, looking at the clock, and then falling back to sleep. But during that time, this verse came to mind, and I can't help but feel that it's a verse that I need to anchor myself to, embrace, and remind myself of frequently.
Unfortunately I've been too conformed to my eating patterns. I eat when I'm hungry, but it seems that I'm constantly hungry, even after I've just eaten. And because of this, I've ballooned up to a weight on the scale that I'd never seen before. I've been dieting and exercising, but I have difficulty sticking with it and as a result, I keep losing and gaining back the same ten pounds over and over again for the last year or so.
But I feel like I can see the bend in the road, and it's all because of this moment and this verse. I need to change my mind. Renew it and be transformed. It's the only way. But how? During this reflection on scripture, I determined that what I need to change my mind about is hunger. It's not as unpleasant a feeling as my eating pattern would make me believe. I need to embrace it as proof of my control and the conquering of my flesh.
Hunger's not so bad. It's a good thing. It's a sign of my victory and of my change. And my prayer today is that I continue on this path and overcome my sin. What do you need to overcome today? I pray that you find what is His will, and change your mind to align itself with God's word as well.
Against all hope, Abraham in hope believed and so became the father of many nations, just as it had been said to him, “So shall your offspring be.” Without weakening in his faith, he faced the fact that his body was as good as dead—since he was about a hundred years old—and that Sarah’s womb was also dead. Yet he did not waver through unbelief regarding the promise of God, but was strengthened in his faith and gave glory to God, being fully persuaded that God had power to do what he had promised. (Romans 4:18-21 NIV)
I am at a point in my life where I feel hopeless. There is a goal that I greatly want to attain, but no matter how hard I try for it, I fail miserably. Every time. To overcome my temptation takes more willpower and determination than I possess of myself. Have you ever been there?
Abraham was there.
No matter how hard he tried, he couldn't make a child happen with Sarah. At one point, they take matters into their own hands, and Abraham has a child with Sarah's handmaid, Hagar--and look at how that changed the course of history forever...
So I've been tempted lately to take matters into my own hands, and traverse the "shortcut" offered by the world. I know that it's wrong, and that it's not a solution, just a further complication. But it's hard to believe, when I'm in the middle of failure that I am what God says I am.
Who is it that overcomes the world? Only the one who believes that Jesus is the Son of God. (1 John 5:5)
So what am I to do to become an overcomer?
It's time to renew my focus. Not on the problem, but instead on the solution. I know that by God's strength I can overcome. I know that if I put my trust in Him, He will deliver. He has never failed me before.
So why is it so hard to do just what I need to do?
How is it possible to go to church every Sunday and not see Jesus?
Now that same day two of them were going to a village called Emmaus, about seven miles from Jerusalem. They were talking with each other about everything that had happened. As they talked and discussed these things with each other, Jesus himself came up and walked along with them; but they were kept from recognizing him. (Luke 24:13-16)
These two people had walked and talked with Jesus before the cross. They knew Him once. They heard of His crucifixion, and had even heard of His resurrection. He was standing right in front of them. And yet, they didn't know Him.
What kept them from recognizing Him?
[Jesus] said to them, “How foolish you are, and how slow to believe all that the prophets have spoken! (Luke 24:25)
Lack of faith.
They heard, and yet they didn't believe...much. They sort of believed. Likely, they wanted to believe completely, but reason held them back. So Jesus reasoned with them.
In the World, Satan has perpetuated his lies and made them the standard of intellect. He claims Christianity is not a reasonable faith. And yet it has more evidence to back it up than the "theory" of evolution. Although I am not an apologist, and cannot argue with an atheist nearly as effectively as C.S. Lewis or Ravi Zacharias, I can not hide my head in the sand, either.
How is it possible that someone can work side by side with me everyday and not see Jesus in me?
Am I ready?
Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have. (1 Peter 3:15)
Am I actively reading the word?
But the Advocate, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, will teach you all things and will remind you of everything I have said to you. (John 14:26)
How can I walk the walk and talk the talk if I'm not letting Christ rule in me? Being a nice person is not enough. I have to understand God's purpose in my daily life, in each and every moment. I need to breathe Him in so I can exhale Him out. Only then will people see Jesus in me. Only then can I give the reason for my hope by the words He gives to me. And I'm not talking about beating people over the head with my faith. I'd hope that anyone who knows me would know that I wouldn't do that. BUT I'd also hope that they know that I am a follower of Jesus.