Glimpses of grace seen in the everyday

Posts tagged ‘persecution’

The Mind of a Martyr

What is a martyr?

According to Islam, a martyr (Fedayeen) is one who kills infidels [that is, non-Muslims] and commits suicide as a means to that goal. He is “encouraged with liberal promises of earthy rewards in heaven, including food and sex.”   (TheReligionofPeace.com)

In Christianity, a martyr is “a person who suffers death rather than renounce his faith” (Collins English Dictionary).  His motivation is faithful commitment to his Savior and the hope of eternal life with Him.  However, Christians see life as a precious gift from God and they don’t seek martyrdom.  Neither are they seeking to kill anyone but rather they pray for God’s mercy on those who persecute them, as Stephen, the first Christian martyr did in Acts 7:54-60.

Meriam Ibrahim is a hero of mine.  A Sudanese doctor, devoted wife & mother, and faithful follower of Jesus Christ, she has been shackled in prison together with her toddler and baby girl born there in prison. And she has made it clear that she will not renounce her Lord even if it means suffering her sentence of 100 lashes and hanging!

She reminds me of the apostle Paul, also chained in prison, who wrote the verses I’ve been memorizing:

I eagerly expect and hope that I will in no way be ashamed,
but will have sufficient courage
so that now as always Christ will be exalted in my body,
whether by life or by death.
For to me, to live is Christ and to die is gain.  (Philippians 1:20-21)

When my time comes, I pray that I will have the courage and conviction of Paul, Meriam, and others like them.

Meriam, I pray for your release, but more than that, I pray that you will continue to have courage to honor Christ whether through freedom, suffering, or even death.

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Why the Fish?

Have you seen those fish emblems on cars or jewelry and wondered “Why the fish?”  It’s a an ancient and meaningful symbol.  I was delighted to recently purchase one for myself, which I consider an ID of my relationship to Jesus Christ.  Here’s what Wikipedia says:

ΙΧΘΥΣ (Ichthys) is an acronym for “Ίησοῦς Χριστός, Θεοῦ Υἱός, Σωτήρ“, (Iēsous Christos, Theou Yios, Sōtēr), which translates into English as “Jesus Christ, God’s Son, Savior”.  The first letters of these words, when put together, spell “fish” in Greek!

Photo of fish necklace

  • Iota (i) is the first letter of Iēsous (Ἰησοῦς), Greek for “Jesus“.
  • Chi (ch) is the first letter of Christos (Χριστός), Greek for “anointed”.
  • Theta (th) is the first letter of Theou (Θεου), Greek for “God’s”, the genitive case of Θεóς, Theos, Greek for “God”.
  • Ypsilon (y) is the first letter of (h)yios[4] (Υἱός), Greek for “Son”.
  • Sigma (s) is the first letter of sōtēr (Σωτήρ), Greek for “Savior”.
According to tradition, ancient Christians, during their persecution by the Roman Empire in the first few centuries after Christ, used the fish symbol to mark meeting places and tombs, or to distinguish friends from foes.
According to one ancient story, when a Christian met a stranger in the road, the Christian sometimes drew one arc of the simple fish outline in the dirt. If the stranger drew the other arc, both believers knew they were in good company.
Christianity Today, Elesha Coffman, “Ask The Expert”[2]

Do you suppose that soon Christ-followers will again be using the arcs to assess our personal safety as we maintain our loyalty to Him in an increasingly hostile world?

Maranatha!  Come, Lord Jesus!

Preparing for Persecution

This noon as I perused the news, I came across several articles where Christians are being persecuted—physically, economically, and verbally—in all parts of the world including the United States.  And it’s predicted to get worse.  A choice must be made:  One can either give up the faith, give in to fear, or give oneself over in trust and loyalty to Christ no matter what

Then it was time for my husband and I to do our daily Greek review.  As we had stopped yesterday in the middle of the Beatitudes in Matthew 5, here is what “just happened” to be next:

Blessed are those who are persecuted for doing what God approves of.
The kingdom of heaven belongs to them.

Blessed are you when people insult you, persecute you, lie, and say all kinds of evil things about you because of me. 

Rejoice and be glad because you have a great reward in heaven! 
                                                     (Matthew 5:10-12a, God’s Word translation)

May God give me and all His children commitment and courage to hang in there, endure suffering, and receive the blessing and reward that await at the end of the course.

Maranatha!  Come, Lord Jesus!

Are We Being Persecuted?

Persecution of Christians has taken many forms over the centuries and is found in various forms around the world in our time.  Where are we on this chart?  Generally, the progression will be from left to right.  Where is the breaking point for each of us?  If we withstand the milder forms, we are more likely to stand a more severe form—all by God’s grace.  If we cave under the milder forms, it will be very difficult to retain our integrity later on.  Think of Daniel taking his stand first against eating non-kosher food, which strengthened his resolve to resist pressure to worship idols later on. 

 

Chart

Chart from the blog of Rebecca Hamilton  http://www.patheos.com/blogs/publiccatholic/2013/03/degrees-of-christian-persecution-where-does-america-fit/

While Waiting—How to Live

I keep puzzling over how God’s people should live in this world that’s falling apart at the seams as we wait for His kingdom to arrive in all its power and put it all right.  This morning I read Matthew 24-25 which answers this very question.  Here is what Jesus says:

Don’t be alarmed when terrible things begin to happen.  24:6

Don’t be deceived by false messiahs (or teachings, etc.) 24:5-26

Hang in there, enduring faithfully to the end even when persecutions come. 24:9-13

Keep alert and be ready to meet him whenever He shows up (like a householder on the guard for burglars).  24:42-44

Keep working faithfully, not getting careless about sin (like an abusive manager). 24:45-50

Be wise; don’t slide into apathy or laziness (like the 5 foolish virgins). 25:1-13

Wisely use the resources God has entrusted to us during His absence. 25:14-29

Care, share, & serve others in need, as if they were Christ Himself!  25:31-45

With these assignments, there won’t be time for fussing, fretting, or fear!

How Shall We Live?

Imagine yourself living in Jerusalem during the last days before Nebuchadnezzar and his armies wiped it out.  As your world rushes toward oblivion, what is going on in this nation?

–Idol worship, with its immoral practices, is rampant . 
–Crime and violence are everywhere. (Ezekiel 7:23)
–God’s holy place is the site of blasphemous practices. (Ezekiel 8)
–Preachers assure the people that God won’t punish sin.  (Ezekiel 13:8-10)
–Parents are sacrificing their children. (2 Chron.  28:3 & 33:6)
–Bearers of God’s warnings are mocked and silenced.

What parts of this are not happening again today?  As our nation and the whole world hurtles headlong toward certain catastrophe, how do we live? 

Do we stick our heads in the sand?  Do we shrug our shoulders?  Do we drown it all out with false assurances?  Do we commit to being faithful to God regardless of the consequences?  Do we “stand up and raise [y]our heads, because [y]our redemption is drawing near”? (Luke 21:28)

Is God still in control?  Yes!  It’s all written in the book of Daniel.  All present (and future) human governments will be demolished as those in the past have been, and will be replaced by God’s glorious and eternal kingdom.   And the good news is that know I’ll be part of that!  You can be, too Smile.

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