Living as a disciple of Jesus Christ is increasingly dangerous in the world today. The image below was taken from the Open Doors website.
Further on that article cites a Chinese church leader, who spent 23 years in prison. He is reported to have said this to Christians who did not face persecution:
“I was pushed into a cell, but you have to push yourself into one. You have no time to know God. You need to build yourself a cell, so you can do for yourself what persecution did for me—simplify your life and know God.”
Entering 2015 I suggest that in addition to the time that will be spent building your own cell that you sacrifice another 5 minutes praying for those facing horrific situations of persecution. For those sitting comfortably remember that a time might come when you need the prayers of those who are currently being persecuted in just the same way that they need ours at this time. If you are stuck for ideas or information, the video below should help.
“Everything in our service for the Lord is dependent on His blessing. The meeting of need is not dependent on the supply in hand, but on the blessing of the Lord resting on the supply.”
Watchman Nee as quoted here. The article goes on to summarise Psalm 146 as saying,
To experience God’s blessing, always praise Him and always trust Him.
Two quotes I heard on this short video clip,
Neil Cole said,
Ultimately each church will be evaluated by only one thing. Its disciples. Your church is only as good as its disciples. It does not matter how good your praise, preaching, programs or properly are: if your disciples are passive, needy, consumerist, and not moving in the direction of radical obedience, your church is not good.
“The more abundantly the benefits of civilization come streaming our way, the emptier our life becomes. With all its wealth and power, it only shows that the human heart, in which God has put eternity, is so huge that all the world is too small to satisfy it.”
I mean that not in a soppy sentimental way that many Christians seem to use when thinking about Jesus. Nor in the, “I just love Jesus,” type comment that often comes when Christians cannot explain or give good reason for their faith.
I mean that Jesus is brilliant because he genuinely is brilliant in the best meaning of the word. After all he is the Creator of the Universe, the universe we are struggling to explain and understand, the universe that seems staggeringly complex, amazingly beautiful and delightfully diverse. He made life, we, for all of our scientific brilliance, struggle to copy (or clone) it. He heals with a word, delivers in a moment, saves eternally, loves unconditionally.
Jesus truly is brilliant.
The title of this post comes from the preface that Richard Foster wrote to Dallas Willard’s The Divine Conspiracy. This is the full quote,
Perhaps this is because he takes Jesus seriously as an intelligent, fully competent Teacher. He writes, “Jesus is not just nice, he is brilliant.“
I admire David Platt’s boldness and passion for Jesus Christ. Living and working in the USA he might be tempted towards being cautious in his approach, yet in the video below he boldly asks direct questions including the validity of asking Jesus “into your heart.”
Recently I was looking for the wonderful and famous quote from Count Zinzendorf,
“I have one passion; it is Jesus, Jesus only”
As we approach December 25th when traditionally the birth of Jesus Christ is celebrated it is a quote worth considering and meditating upon.
However in my browsing I read one article about the Moravians it described their personal motivation for mission. In the same Spirit of mission that enabled God to “send his Son” their motivation was described as follows.
The Moravians beautifully explain their motivation for missions in the following 1791 evangelical report. “The simple motive of the brethren for sending missionaries to distant nations was and is an ardent desire to promote the salvation of their fellow men, by making known to them the gospel of our Savior Jesus Christ. It grieved them to hear of so many thousands and millions of the human race sitting in darkness and groaning beneath the yoke of sin and the tyranny of Satan; and remembering the glorious promises given in the Word of God, that the heathen also should be the reward of the sufferings and death of Jesus; and considering His commandment to His followers, to go into all the world and preach the gospel to every creature, they were filled with confident hopes that if they went forth in obedience unto, and believing in His word, their labor would not be in vain in the Lord. They were not dismayed in reflecting on the smallness of their means and abilities, and that they hardly knew their way to the heathen whose salvation they so ardently longed for, nor by the prospect of enduring hardships of every kind and even perhaps the loss of their lives in the attempt. Yet their love to their Savior and their fellow sinners for whom He shed His blood, far outweighed all these considerations. They went forth in the strength of their God and He has wrought wonders in their behalf.”
There are some things I don’t expect to read in The Spectator, this is one of them,
“everywhere gay marriage has been introduced it has battered freedom, not boosted it. Debate has been chilled, dissenters harried, critics tear-gassed. Love and marriage might go together like horse and carriage, but freedom and gay marriage certainly do not. The double-thinking ‘freedom to marry’ has done more to power the elbow of the state than it has to expand the liberty of men and women.
There are awkward questions the ‘freedom to marry’ folks just can’t answer. Like: if gay marriage is a liberal cause, how come it’s been attended by authoritarianism wherever it’s been introduced?
Consider France. Hundreds of thousands of French people — or ‘bigots’, as the gay-marriage lobby brands anyone who disagrees with it — marched against the legalisation of gay marriage in 2013. And they were beaten and tear-gassed by riot cops. Parisians in t-shirts celebrating traditional marriage were arrested for holding ‘unauthorised protests’. In the words of Parisian writer John Laughland, critics of gay marriage were turned into ‘ideological enemies’ of the French state. It’s a funny expansion of freedom that so violently pummels the right to protest.
Consider America. The authorities there haven’t had to whip out their truncheons because non-state mobs have policed the opponents of gay marriage on their behalf. In the words of the author Damon Linker, asupporter of gay marriage, Americans who raise even a peep of criticism of gay marriage face ‘ostracism from public life’. We saw this with the medieval hounding of Brendan Eich out of his job at Mozilla after it was revealed that — oh, the humanity! — he isn’t a massive fan of gays getting married. Linker says the gay-marriage brigade has created a menacing climate, where the aim seems to be to ‘stamp out rival visions’. Americans who fail to bow at the altar of same-sex hitching, from wedding photographers to cake-makers, are harassed and boycotted and sometimes put out of business. The ‘freedom to marry’ clearly trumps the freedom of conscience.
Consider Britain. One of the first things gay campaigners here did when they won the right to marry was demand Catholic schools be forced to teach that gay marriage is as good as straight; even though they don’t believe this. Screw you, freedom of religion. Perhaps Catholic schools should bring back ‘priest holes’ to discuss their beliefs free from the watchful stare of the gay-marriage lobby, which, in Linker’s words, demands ‘psychological acceptance’ of gay marriage from all.
We live in a day where freedom of speech is increasingly being governed by the intolerant – especially those intolerant of people who hold views that for the last few centuries would have been considered mainstream. I believe in freedom of speech – even when I disagree with it. I listen to atheists and to those who hold sociologically and politically differing views to mine – if I didn’t then I am no better than those who castigate all who disagree with them and refuse to allow them the right to voice their opinion.
I spoke to a friend on Sunday morning – he is nearing the completion of his M. Div. studies – I asked him why I should go to church today, his response…
It is Sunday…it is our tradition.
…and that was it.
I love church. Well maybe I should say I love functioning church, where, for example on a Sunday…
– preaching is not only biblical but also inspired, challenging and dynamic
– you can delight in God as you praise, sing, pray and worship
– the world is not ignored but seen as an essential part of our coming together
– intercession is made not just prayers prayed
– the voice of God is listened for and opportunity is given for that to be brought before the congregation
– fellowship is real without every conversation having to be “intense”
– the Bible can be studied, questioned, and delighted in (but not worshipped)
…and there is so much more I want to say – many other things that might constitute doing and being church for the rest of the week. If the Lord ever calls me to plant or pastor again I am pleased to say the list above, and much more, will be a focus
I wrote a few notes for a simple Bible study to use with my Spoken English class. Because I don’t want them to have to rustle through the pages of their Bible, or sit staring at it on their phones, I put the text on a presentation and we shall study from there – I hope that in this way they can think more about the questions and the English they use.
SE6: Psalm 146
For anyone (like me) who isn’t great at understanding people, this looks like the sort of film (I) you should watch – forget that preachy psychobabble stuff.: This just looks like it will be a great film to watch.
A few final odds and ends from the spoken English course.
SE Session 5: Bits and bobs