“Responding to Persecution, Criticism & Rejection” May 1

 

How to Respond to PersecutionPersecution, mistreatment, and rejection will come.

Sometimes it comes, not in ways that threaten our lives, but from our own family members and friends. It hurts to be left out of family events or called self-righteous.

Yes … persecution and mistreatment will come. How can we be sure that God will give us the grace, ability and right words to say when we’re faced with it?

First, we shouldn’t be surprised by it! Instead, let’s see it as an occasion for sharing our testimonies and the truth about God. Let’s see it as an opportunity to walk in love and leave justice in the hands of God.

 

Today’s Readings:
1 Samuel 4 & 5
Psalm 54.1-7
Proverbs 15.12-13
Luke 21.1-19

 

Responding to Persecution, Criticism & Mistreatment

 

1 Samuel 4 & 5:

God is Always at Work

 

Here we have another sad time in Israel’s history where God withdrew His immediate presence and protection from them because of their willful disobedience and idolatry. But this narrative leaves no doubt that even when people may not make the connection, God is always at work in the affairs of men.

That is true today, as well as, in Old Testament times. I once read that the word “history” actually means “His-story” and I certainly believe that’s true. So the question is, “What is God doing today?” How does everything that’s happening in our world—whether politics, wars, earthquakes, hurricanes, tornadoes, or other world events, play into His plan and purpose?

He is there in the blessing and protection, but also in the withdrawing of blessing and protection.

That leads right into our Luke passage, so we’ll go there next.

 

Luke 21.1-19:

He Is Coming

 

pointing to heaven

 

This portion of Scripture, like Matthew 24, Mark 13 and other passages, talks about many of the events that point to Christ’s eminent return. Many of these things appear to be happening today, pointing to the possibility that He’ll be coming back soon. So,  what can we expect and what did Jesus say we should be doing if that’s true?

 

 

A Time of Testing & Persecution

 

Verses 12-13, “But before all these things, they will lay their hands on you and persecute you, … But it will turn out for you as an occasion for testimony.”

We should expect to be persecuted, do not be surprised by it! Instead of being upset or complaining, we should see it as an occasion for sharing our testimony and the truth about God.

13 And who is he who will harm you if you become followers of what is good? 14 But even if you should suffer for righteousness’ sake, you are blessed. “And do not be afraid of their threats, nor be troubled.” 15 But sanctify the Lord God in your hearts, and always be ready to give a defense to everyone who asks you a reason for the hope that is in you, with meekness and fear; 16 having a good conscience, that when they defame you as evildoers, those who revile your good conduct in Christ may be ashamed (1 Pet. 3.13-16).

If that sounds scary and you think, “I don’t know enough” or “I might mess it up,” remember verses 14 and 15:

“Therefore settle it in your hearts not to meditate beforehand on what you will answer; for I will give you a mouth and wisdom which all your adversaries will not be able to contradict or resist.”

That should be comforting and extremely encouraging.

Expect opposition even from your own family:  Continue reading

“Loving Your Enemies” July 20

 

Loving Your Enemies - What do you value more—your rights when abused and mistreated or the eternal destiny of your abuser? Like Christ we are called to love our enemies.

What do you value more—your rights when abused and mistreated or the eternal destiny of your abuser? Like Christ we are called to love our enemies.

 

Today’s Readings:
Ezra 1 & 2
Psalm 86.6-10
Proverbs 21.15-16
Acts 21.18-40

 

Loving Your Enemies

 

Acts 21.18-40:

Paul’s Eternal Focus

 

What an incredible example of boldness in the face of intense persecution! Paul had just been beaten by a mob. It says they were, “seeking to kill him.” After he was rescued, he asked the soldiers if he could address his abusers and then he began to share his testimony and to prepare their hearts for the gospel.

Like Christ who died for us when we were His enemies, he was more concerned about their spiritual destiny than any harm done to him.

Love your enemies, bless those who curse you, do good to those who hate you, and pray for those who spitefully use you and persecute you (Matt. 5.44).

3 Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit. Rather, in humility value others above yourselves, 4 not looking to your own interests but each of you to the interests of the others (Phil. 2.3-4).

Like Paul and Jesus, we need to resolve to keep our focus, not on any wrongs done to us, but on others’ need for a Savior!

That doesn’t mean that those who abuse physically, sexually, or in any other way should be allowed to continue illegal or immoral behavior. But even when the right thing to do is to report a crime or in some other way allow the abuser to suffer the consequences of his actions, the focus of our hearts should be eternal, forgiving them, trusting God in our own lives, and praying for their salvation.

 

Today’s Other Readings:

 

Ezra 1 & Ezra 2:

God the Author of Human History

 

historyThe book of Ezra picks up where 2 Chronicles left off, with a pagan king named Cyrus sending the captives who wanted to return, back to Jerusalem to rebuild the temple.

Verse 1 says, “that the word of the Lord by the mouth of Jeremiah might be fulfilled …”

God was orchestrating the course of human events. History is His-story.

And just as God is in control of the events of human history, He is in control of our individual histories, as well.  Continue reading

September 6 “God, tattoos, and fashion”

tattoos

Does God really care how we dress or whether we wear jewelry or have tattoos?

Today’s Readings:
Isaiah 3 & 4
Psalm 105.7-22
Proverbs 24.26-27
1 Corinthians 15.1-28

Isaiah 3 & 4:

Comfort for the righteous

God had sent Isaiah to warn the nation of Israel of coming judgment and the consequences of that judgment. How discouraging it must have been to the righteous people who had not turned their backs on God.

So He spoke to them through the prophet, as well. Chapter 3.10-11:

10 “Say to the righteous that it shall be well with them,
For they shall eat the fruit of their doings.
11 Woe to the wicked! It shall be ill with him,
For the reward of his hands shall be given him.

Matthew Henry in his commentary says:

Some good people might fear that they should be involved in that ruin, and therefore God bids the prophets comfort them against those fears: “Whatever becomes of the unrighteous nation, let the righteous man know that he shall not be lost in the crowd of sinners. The Judge of all the earth will not slay the righteous with the wicked (Genesis 18:25) no, assure him, in God’s name, that it shall be well with him … and he shall be hidden in the day of the Lord’s anger. He shall have divine supports and comforts, which shall abound as afflictions abound, and so it shall be well with him.” When the whole stay of bread is taken away, yet in the day of famine the righteous shall be satisfied … they kept themselves pure from the common iniquity, and therefore the common calamity is not the same thing to them that it is to others. They brought no fuel to the flame, and therefore are not themselves fuel for it.

Table with old book, quill penDr. Henry was a Puritan pastor who lived from 1662-1714 so the language is a little foreign to modern day readers but the depth of his understanding makes it worth the effort. Think about some of his comments on this passage:

He shall be hidden in the day of the Lord’s anger. He shall have divine supports and comforts, which shall abound as afflictions abound, and so it shall be well with him.

Think about Daniel and his three friends. They were taken away as captives, but God gave them favor. He gave them wisdom and protected them from being forced to go against their consciences (Dan. 1). He intervened when they were condemned to death for refusing to worship idols instead of the One True God (Dan. 3, 6).

Before his life was over Daniel had served three kings, had been used to interpret dreams, had interceded for his people, and had impacted the kings and kingdoms he served.

When the whole stay of bread is taken away, yet in the day of famine the righteous shall be satisfied … 

Just as He feeds the birds of the air, God can sustain his children in the worst economic times.

… they kept themselves pure from the common iniquity, and therefore the common calamity is not the same thing to them that it is to others. They brought no fuel to the flame, and therefore are not themselves fuel for it. 

Or as Paul said in Galatians, “Do not be deceived, God is not mocked; for whatever a man sows, that he will also reap” (Gal. 6.7).

What a loving Heavenly Father we serve. He has promised to never leave us or forsake us (Heb. 13.5), to meet our needs (Matt. 6.25-34) to limit our trials (1 Cor. 10.13), and to give us wisdom (Jas. 1.5) and grace (Heb. 4.16).

immoral womanGod, tattoos, and fashion

God had been speaking in general terms in verses 10-11, but now He begins to address the women, in particular. Chapter 3.16-24:

16 The LORD says,
“The women of Zion are haughty,
walking along with outstretched necks,
flirting with their eyes,
tripping along with mincing steps,
with ornaments jingling on their ankles.
17 Therefore the Lord will bring sores on the heads of the women of Zion;
the LORD will make their scalps bald.”
18 In that day the Lord will snatch away their finery. the bangles and headbands and crescent necklaces, 19 the earrings and bracelets and veils, 20 the headdresses and ankle chains and sashes, the perfume bottles and charms, 21 the signet rings and nose rings, 22 the fine robes and the capes and cloaks, the purses 23 and mirrors, and the linen garments and tiaras and shawls.
24 Instead of fragrance there will be a stench;
instead of a sash, a rope;
instead of well-dressed hair, baldness;
instead of fine clothing, sackcloth;
instead of beauty, branding.

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