Tag Archives: persecution

Carrying a Bible in Your Car? Weirdo.

Years ago, when I led the Single adult ministry at Harvest Bible Chapel, one Friday night a man named Dave showed up at our ministry. He was clearly hurting, and when I found an opportunity to chat with him before the night was out, he told a tale of woe – his fiancée Amy had just broken the engagement, leaving his heart was in tatters.

But when I drew out the story from him, I knew then what my pastoral heart couldn’t say in the moment: he had dodged a bullet. I knew this was the case because Dave related to me some of her words when she broke it off – among other things, she thought he was so “weird for carrying a Bible in his car. Who does that?” She queried.

Well, ahem…Christians…that’s who.

Now, of course you can be a committed believer without a Bible in your car, but that said, it’s perfectly normal for a Christian to carry one around with him. After all, it is the word of God.

But I’m sure that’s not what Amy thought. Surely, she assumed it was a bunch of religious stories…just the word of man…which of course would have made Dave a real weirdo. But Dave wasn’t weird; he was just a Christian.

So Paul wrote to the Thessalonians:

And we also thank God constantly for this, that when you received the word of God, which you heard from us, you accepted it not as the word of men but as what it really is, the word of God, which is at work in you believers. 1 Thessalonians 2:13 (ESV)

We know that one of the marks of a true Christian is a new view of Jesus (2 Corinthians 5:16), but going along with this is a brand new view of the Bible. Previously, we thought it was a religious book like all the others out there, but when God gave us the Holy Spirit, something changed, and almost instantaneously, we began to see it differently.

And with a new view of the Scriptures came something else: a hunger for it. We wanted to read it and learn about it and talk about it with others. So I remember coming to Christ at West Point – I had brought a Bible with me from home, not really intended to read it, I don’t think, but supposing that if I needed to bring a book or two, a Bible would be good. But when Jesus got ahold of my life, I couldn’t get enough of it. And to my roommates’ amusement, I began to sleep with it. Talk about a weirdo. That was me.

But then again, maybe I wasn’t so weird after all; for, going to sleep each night, I knew that I had in my arms…a book from God.

For tomorrow, Tuesday, August 18th: 1 Thessalonians 3


Posted by on August 17, 2015 in Uncategorized


Tags: , , , , ,

What God Told Paul When He Was Afraid

Talk about post-traumatic stress syndrome, I guess we should have expected this:  Paul was afraid.  And it’s no wonder. Who wouldn’t be?  Think about it – he was…

…stoned at Lystra

…beaten with rods and jailed in Philippi

…attacked by an unruly mob in Thessalonica

…mocked in Athens

…reviled in Corinth

It seems that almost everywhere Paul went he was either verbally attacked or beaten, and all the while he kept preaching and discipling, and yes, in his “free” time, supporting himself by making tents. So, when he finally made it to Corinth, he was surely tired…and undoubtedly downright fearful. Stoning and whippings and beatings and vicious verbal assaults amidst a heavy load of work will do that to you every time.

Frankly, I think it’s amazing he made it this far. But this was no ordinary man, and of course, he had an omnipotent God moving in his life.  And it was a vision of this Great God which enabled Paul to get up and keep going:

And the Lord said to Paul one night in a vision, “Do not be afraid, but go on speaking and do not be silent, for I am with you, and no one will attack you to harm you, for I have many in this city who are my people.” Acts 18:9, 10 (ESV)

It was this word that enabled Paul to dust himself off and keep going in the city of Corinth for another year and a half before sailing home and then doing it all over again.

But notice exactly what God told fearful Paul in this vision of the night: He told him what He has been telling His people since Abraham, a command followed by a promise:

  1. Do not fear.
  2. I am with you.

Psalm 234 [widescreen]God’s word to Paul followed a beautiful pattern in Scripture that we see again and again as the Lord’s remedy to help his children overcome fear…

  • When Joshua was about to take over leadership of Israel, the Lord said to him, “Do not be frightened, and do not be dismayed, for the Lord your God is with you wherever you go.” Joshua 1:9 (ESV)
  • When David was walking through the valley of the shadow of death, he purposed, “I will fear no evil, for you are with me.”  Psalm 23:4 (ESV)
  • When God wanted to comfort His people through the prophet Isaiah, He said, “Fear not, for I am with you…” Isaiah 41:10 (ESV)

Yes, the presence of God chases fear far away, for when He is near, so is His love, and that “perfect love casts out fear.” 1 John 4:18 (ESV)    And therefore the most important thing we can remind ourselves when we get filled with fear is that He is right by our side.  This may be also why we are commanded to pray when we fear (Philippians 4:6,7), because nothing brings us into His presence the way prayer does.

So I don’t know what you’re walking through right now – maybe it’s an upcoming exam, continuing unemployment or a wayward child.  Maybe it’s a scary illness, a bully at school or a difficult break-up…or divorce.  But whatever it is, if you have trusted in Jesus for salvation, then you are His child, and He has made a promise to you: “I will never leave you nor forsake you.” Hebrews 13:5 (ESV)

This means He has more than enough resources to provide for you, more than enough emotional strength to support you, and more than enough love to give you a strong sense that you will never ever be alone.  And on top of everything, perhaps the greatest reason not to fear is that He has promised to make everything work out…for your good. (Romans 8:28)

He is with you, and that promise goes all the way until He takes us to heaven at the end of the age. (Matthew 28:20)

So you know what to do, right?

That’s right…do not fear.


For tomorrow, Friday, March 6: Acts 19


Posted by on March 5, 2015 in Uncategorized


Tags: , , , , , , , ,

Persecution…Coming Soon to a Country Near You

Acts 1422 [widescreen] - CopyWhen the Apostle Paul’s life was winding down, he had a particularly poignant point to make in a last letter to his young friend Timothy. And it all began with remembering a journey he had made some 20 or so years before…

You, however, have followed my teaching, my conduct, my aim in life, my faith, my patience, my love, my steadfastness, my persecutions and sufferings that happened to me at Antioch, at Iconium, and at Lystra– which persecutions I endured; yet from them all the Lord rescued me. 2 Timothy 3:10-11 (ESV)

Sure enough – it’s Paul remembering his very first missionary journey with Barnabas, the very one Acts 13 and 14 tell us about. But, then again, how could he forget?

The Lord worked mightily all through this journey, but the Jews who had hounded Paul and Barnabas in Antioch of Pisidia and Iconium finally caught up with them in Lystra, stoning Paul and dragging him out of the city. Though many believed over the two years or so that they were gone, it was a painful recollection for the old man; and looking back 20 years later, Paul has a haunting word for Timothy and the rest of us:

Indeed, all who desire to live a godly life in Christ Jesus will be persecuted.  2 Timothy 3:12 (ESV)

Of course, the recent murder of Christians by ISIS is an obvious example of persecution, but it’s not hard to make application to our culture in North America today. Most believers in the U.S. (not including African American Christians, among others) have been living in a surreal world of welcome and praise over the last 200 years. Christianity was the “it” religion, and we Christians shared general agreement about morality with the rest of the culture.

But times are changing. One has only to consider the couple forced to close their bakery doors for refusing to serve a same-sex couple’s wedding. My impression is that these sorts of items are cropping up around the nation. And unless revival comes, we can assume events will only continue to move this way more and more.

But that’s okay. This was never “our” country in the first place; it just felt like it. And now, reality has struck: non-believers in America are beginning to act more and more like they acted in the Bible. Meantime, our role has never changed. We, like Paul and Barnabas 2,000 years ago, are called to proclaim the gospel to a lost and dying humanity.

And from now on, more than ever before, we can know if we are proclaiming this message well, because if we are…we will be persecuted.


For Monday, March 2: Acts 15

Leave a comment

Posted by on February 27, 2015 in Uncategorized


Tags: , , , ,

The Power of Pain

man in the gymI’ve been hanging out at Club Fitness in Waupun this winter, and a casual glance around the gym brings one great truth home: Pain causes growth.

Now, I’m a treadmill guy and don’t do the weights thing (I don’t want to surprise you, but that’s not me in the picture), but I know I really should, because I know how it works. You stress your muscles to the breaking point and then give them time to rest…and they come back stronger, and bigger too (As in my adolescent dream of being like Arnold S.)  But I’m sure this is nothing new to anyone who has ever heard the cliché: “No pain…no gain.”

This muscular principle of tearing down and rebuilding works in all the other areas too – physical, yes, but mental and emotional also. And of course, let’s not forget spiritual…

Before I was afflicted I went astray, but now I keep your word. Psalm 119:67 (ESV)


It is good for me that I was afflicted, that I might learn your statutes. Psalm 119:71 (ESV)

In other words, it’s amazing how much Bible study and subsequent repentance come out of cancer and divorce. Break-ups and bankruptcies have a way of showing us things we would have never seen anywhere else, and when we see things we haven’t seen before, we set off on new paths. You see, good things repeatedly come out of affliction. It’s certainly been true in my life, and yet that’s the irony of it all – when I stop and reflect on it, I would have to say that almost all of the greatest lessons of my life have come out of pain, yes, even self-inflicted pain. But while that is undoubtedly true, I still do just about everything I can to avoid pain. And I’m pretty sure that I’m not alone.  So how should we think about pain?

Well, first note that pain not only causes growth in the individual’s life – it works the same in organizations…like the Church of the Living God.  Chapter 8 of Acts is all about how the church came into great pain…which led to great growth:

…And there arose on that day a great persecution against the church in Jerusalem, and they were all scattered throughout the regions of Judea and Samaria…Now those who were scattered went about preaching the word. Philip went down to the city of Samaria and proclaimed to them the Christ. Acts 8:1, 4, 5 (ESV)

Pain brings growth, and persecution brings preaching. This great persecution apparently began with the martyrdom of Stephen, and it led to the scattering of the former Jerusalem-bound disciples throughout Israel. And then, wonder of wonders, these scattered disciples, Philip among them, began to preach the word of God, and many believed…

So the early church father Tertullian said, “The blood of the martyrs is the seed of the church.” It’s not what we expect, but it is what happens here in the early church and other places. The most famous example in recent history is the China missionary purge, where the government of China removed missionaries from the country, and western Christians surmised that all hope was lost. But not so – for apparently during the silent years, the church flourished and multiplied massively…under persecution. You see, pain causes growth…

And the direct result of growth? Joy!  Joy actually shows up twice in this chapter as a result of the initial pain. Luke reports, “…there was much joy in that city,” (verse 8) and again, the Ethiopian eunuch “went on his way rejoicing” (verse 39).

Which brings us back to the personal level. The application for this truth is not to seek out pain (unless you’re bodybuilding). No, the answer, according to the writers of Scripture, is in how we greet pain as it comes into our lives. I would never counsel someone to try to find pain, but I do think it’s appropriate to counsel a brother or sister to work hard to remember that when pain comes, it will do a good work. And at the risk of being glib, since the good work of pain will likely result in joy, we do well to greet it in the same way, as James reminds us:

Count it all joy, my brothers, when you meet trials of various kinds, for you know that the testing of your faith produces steadfastness. And let steadfastness have its full effect, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing. James 1:2-4 (ESV)


Tomorrow, Friday, February 18: Acts 9

Leave a comment

Posted by on February 19, 2015 in Uncategorized


Tags: , , , , ,

%d bloggers like this: