Ezekiel was called to speak truth to a hard-hearted and rebellious people, but God gave him the strength he needed and told him, “Do not be afraid of them!”
We live in a time when people have similar attitudes and responses to truth. Sometimes we suffer persecution, not just for what we say or do, but for who we are. Darkness hates the light. Sometimes our persecutors can be people close to us, even our own family members.
What can we learn from Jesus about persecution? And what did Peter, who once denied his Lord, learn that can help us trust God and have the strength to do what He’s called us to do? Continue reading →
Christians, throughout the centuries, have been persecuted, rejected and martyred for their faith. What are some of the reasons why the world hates us? Paul Nyquist in his book Prepare: Living Your Faith in an Increasingly Hostile Culture lists 3 reasons.
14 Now thanks be to God who always leads us in triumph in Christ, and through us diffuses the fragrance of His knowledge in every place. 15 For we are to God the fragrance of Christ among those who are being saved and among those who are perishing. 16 To the one we are the aroma of death leading to death, and to the other the aroma of life leading to life.
As Christians, we represent Christ to a dying world. For those who respond to the Gospel in saving faith leading to a changed life, we are “the aroma of life leading to [eternal] life” (emphasis added).To those who reject Christ we are the “aroma of death” because instead of responding to the truth and light we offer with repentance, they respond in rejection and anger.
This should help us understand why even those we care about can become so hostile when we commit our lives to Christ and begin to share what He’s doing in our lives.
Christians, throughout the centuries, have been persecuted, rejected and martyred for their faith. As Americans we have been somewhat insulated from that truth, but as I discussed yesterday the culture we live in is changing rapidly. More and more believers are experiencing job losses, harassment, persecution and even arrest for standing on biblical principles.
One of the more difficult truths for us to grasp is that the world hates us. The world doesn’t tolerate us— even though toleration is a supposed value of our society. It doesn’t like us. No, it hates us. Jesus makes this plain in John 15:18– 27.
He goes on to say:
As relational creatures, that truth can gnaw at us. We crave acceptance. We long to be loved. We desire to be esteemed, valued, and respected. We can yearn for those things from the world. But Jesus says that acceptance will never happen. The world doesn’t love us. The world doesn’t even like us. The world hates us.
Jesus lists three reasons the world hates us in John 15. Nyquist explains them this way: Continue reading →
We are living in a world that is becoming more and more dangerous and a culture that is increasingly hostile to Christ and Christianity. Religious freedom and tolerance have been replaced with intolerance and, even, hatred. Christian organizations that support the traditional family and are pro-life have been listed as “hate groups” along with the Ku Klux Klan and neo-Nazis.
Earlier this week Amy Barrett, a highly qualified nominee for a judgeship on the 7th Circuit and a devout Catholic, was questioned about her religious convictions by two well-known Senators, even though the Constitution prohibits any kind of religious test to hold public office.
And we’ve probably just begun to experience the hostility and persecution that the Bible tells us will come.
Paul Nyquist in his book, Prepare, says the following:
Get ready. An exciting, yet terrifying era is beginning for American believers. As cultural changes sweep our country, we’ll soon be challenged to live out what the Bible says about confronting and responding to persecution. For nearly 250 years, Christians in America were able to live in relative freedom from persecution. We escaped because our society historically embraced and promoted biblical values. Our founding fathers penned a Constitution esteeming religious freedom and establishing that rights come from God, not the government.
But we’re witnessing an epic change in our culture— a spiritual climate shift threatening to reshape life as we know it. Hostility and intolerance are replacing toleration. Rejection and even hatred are pushing aside acceptance.
John S. Dickerson, in his well-researched book The Great Evangelical Recession, writes, “In the coming decades United States evangelicals will be tested as never before, by the ripping and tearing of external cultural change— a force more violent than many of us expect. Evangelicalism in the United States has stood strong through centuries of difficulties and setbacks. She has not seen anything quite like what she will see in the next fifty years.”
More and more often, Christians will be forced to choose between saying and doing what’s pleasing to God and what’s acceptable to those around us. And those opposed to biblical values are increasingly bold and vocal about their opposition and loathing.
Just this week, two well-known Senators challenged a judicial nominee about her ability to carry out the law because of her Catholic beliefs.
According to The Washington Post:
Amy Barrett, a nominee for a judgeship on the 7th Circuit, has spoken often of her Catholic faith and drawn opposition from liberal groups, which argue that she’d place it above the law. Feinstein, the ranking Democrat on the Judiciary Committee, echoed those concerns Wednesday at a confirmation hearing, telling Barrett that “the dogma lives loudly within you, and that’s of concern …”
Here is the full context of Feinstein’s comments:
Why is it that so many of us on this side have this very uncomfortable feeling that — you know, dogma and law are two different things. And I think whatever a religion is, it has its own dogma. The law is totally different. And I think in your case, professor, when you read your speeches, the conclusion one draws is that the dogma lives loudly within you, and that’s of concern when you come to big issues that large numbers of people have fought for years in this country.
It’s clear what Feinstein, a stalwart defender of abortion rights, is getting at here, given that her questioning of Barrett focused heavily on Barrett’s views of Roe v. Wade. But her use of the word “dogma” has plenty on the right alleging that she’s applying a religious test to Barrett’s nomination.
The Constitution, of course, prohibits religious tests, saying that ” … no religious test shall ever be required as a qualification to any office or public trust under the United States.” Some on the right now say Feinstein is violating that, too.
How to Prepare
Persecution has always been a reality for believers in Christ. It may vary in degree in different cultures and time periods, but Jesus warned us to expect it (Jn. 15.20). The Apostle Paul said, “everyone who wants to live a godly life in Christ Jesus will be persecuted” (2 Tim. 3.12).
In fact, in spite of the fact that it flies in the face of some current teaching, the Bible says persecution is good for us. James said:
2 Dear brothers and sisters, when troubles of any kind come your way, consider it an opportunity for great joy.3 For you know that when your faith is tested, your endurance has a chance to grow.4 So let it grow, for when your endurance is fully developed, you will be perfect and complete, needing nothing (Jas. 1.2-4 NLT).
Persecution, when responded to rightly, develops Christian character, helps us mature in Christ, draws us closer to the Lord, and is a testimony to the world. So how do we prepare to face it when it comes? Continue reading →
Ahaz was one of Judah’s wicked kings. Can you imagine a king so evil he would sacrifice his children as burnt offerings to false gods?
Yet … children are still being sacrificed to the false gods of fear, inconvenience, and greed in abortion clinics today.
The idea that abortion solves “a problem” is a lie. It doesn’t solve a “problem;” it creates a much bigger one. Abortion, not only ends the life of a pre-born human being created in the image of God, it also leave scars on the heart and soul (and sometimes the body) of the mother, and often the father, as well.
Conception is more than an “unplanned pregnancy,” more than an inconvenience, more than an accident. It is the beginning of a new life and ordained by God no matter what the circumstances. But what should those of us who believe it’s wrong do?
In chapter 28 we read about another of Judah’s ungodly kings, a man by the name of Ahaz.
1 Ahaz was twenty years old when he became king, and he reigned sixteen years in Jerusalem; and he did not do what was right in the sight of the Lord, as his father David had done. 2 For he walked in the ways of the kings of Israel, and made molded images for the Baals. 3 He burned incense in the Valley of the Son of Hinnom, and burned his children in the fire, according to the abominations of the nations whom the Lord had cast out before the children of Israel. 4 And he sacrificed and burned incense on the high places, on the hills, and under every green tree.
Because of his evil behavior, God allowed them to be defeated on every side. We should always keep in mind that while God held Israel’s and Judah’s leaders responsible for their leadership, the people followed their wicked leaders into sin and idolatry. So God’s judgment was neither unfair nor indiscriminate.
Sadly, instead of turning around, Ahaz went farther into sin and idolatry.
22 Now in the time of his distress King Ahaz became increasingly unfaithful to the Lord. This is that King Ahaz. 23 For he sacrificed to the gods of Damascus which had defeated him, saying, “Because the gods of the kings of Syria help them, I will sacrifice to them that they may help me.” But they were the ruin of him and of all Israel. 24 So Ahaz gathered the articles of the house of God, cut in pieces the articles of the house of God, shut up the doors of the house of the Lord, and made for himself altars in every corner of Jerusalem. 25 And in every single city of Judah he made high places to burn incense to other gods, and provoked to anger the Lord God of his fathers.
Child Sacrifice & Abortion
Verse 3 said, “He burned incense in the Valley of the Son of Hinnom, and burned his children in the fire …” Can you imagine a king so evil that he would sacrifice his own children to false gods! And yet, it still goes on today! Children are sacrificed at the abortion clinic to the gods of inconvenience, selfishness, fear and greed.
Some are sacrificed to cover up another sin as David tried to do about his sin with Bathsheba. Some are sacrificed because their conception is inconvenient or simply unwanted. Sometimes young girls and their babies are preyed upon by greedy abortion purveyors.
You may think that I bring up abortion too often. I do so NOT to put condemnation on anyone who has had an abortion in the past:
“There is therefore now no condemnation to those who are in Christ Jesus, who do not walk according to the flesh, but according to the Spirit” (Rom. 8.1).
The blood of Christ covers ALL our sins when we come to Him in saving faith. But I do believe abortion is possibly the greatest evil of our day and we must be willing to stand up against it no matter how unpopular it makes us!
The lie that abortion solves “a problem” permeates our society. But conception is more than an “unplanned pregnancy,” more than an inconvenience, more than an accident. It is the beginning of a new life and ordained by God no matter what the circumstances (Gen. 29.31, 30.22).
Abortion doesn’t solve a “problem;” it creates a much bigger one. Abortion, not only ends the life of a pre-born human being created in the image of God, it also leave scars on the heart and soul (and sometimes the body) of the mother, and often the father, as well.
If you or someone you know is contemplating an abortion or has had one in the past, I want to encourage you to contact a crisis pregnancy center in your area. They offer help and counseling to those who are pregnant and post-abortive counseling to those who have had an abortion in the past. Many offer counseling to fathers, too. If you live in El Paso you can contact Pregnancy and Fatherhood Solutions.
If you are being pressured to have an abortion, you have rights, no matter what your age. LIFECALL can tell you how to protect your baby and your rights. They can even provide an attorney free of charge. God loves YOU and YOUR BABY. Continue reading →
How should we respond when we’re falsely accused or mistreated? How should we respond to the ordinary, every day hurts that come from living life with other sinners? How can we fight back without sinning?
What a great story! Here are Paul and Silas in pain, mistreated, falsely accused and still praising God!
And as they did, God opened the prison doors with an earthquake. Fearing his prisoners had escaped the jailer prepared to commit suicide, but Paul and Silas cried out to stop him! Romans 2.4 says that it is the goodness of God which leads men to repentance. The goodness of God working through Paul and Silas led the jailer to repentance and he and his whole family were saved!
What If We’re Mistreated or Falsely Accused? How Should We Respond?
We live in a fallen world and there will be times when we suffer. Sometimes we suffer as a result of our own sinful choices and sometimes because of the sins of others. Sometimes we complicate our unfair suffering by our sinful responses.
Other times we suffer because we are doing good and because of the light in us.
1 Peter 3.13-17:
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. 17 For it is better, if it is the will of God, to suffer for doing good than for doing evil.
We live in one of the most blessed and prosperous nations in the world. We have every kind of entertainment, all kinds of “toys,” and yet, instead of finding satisfaction, we often find ourselves asking, “Is this all there is?”
In this portion of the psalm, the psalmist talks of the people’s dissatisfaction with God’s provision. It’s easy to point our fingers and shake our heads when we read passages like this, but how like us they were!
Proverbs 27.20 says, “Hell and Destruction are never full; so the eyes of man are never satisfied.”
We are living in one of the most blessed and prosperous nations in the world. Even those of us living relatively modest lives are abundantly blessed compared to many other nations, and yet, it is so easy to look around and want more, to look around and say “why does God seem to be blessing her and not me.” Or “if only I had such and such” life would be so much better.
We have every kind of entertainment, all kinds of “toys,” and yet, we are easily bored. “Is this all there is?” has been the theme of numerous books, movies and songs.
Psalm 90.14 in the American Standard Version says:
“Satisfy us in the morning with your steadfast love, that we may rejoice and be glad all our days.”
We need to pray regularly that our hearts will be satisfied in God, the only true source of satisfaction, and not look to the world for it!
The chronicler continues to recount the story of David’s reign. In today’s reading he emphasizes God’s promise to David that his son would sit on the throne after him. It had a near application in Solomon and a messianic application, as well.
Are you inside God’s circle of blessings or have you put yourself on the outside? When we put ourselves outside of God’s circle of blessings, we risk shortening our lives and opening ourselves to God’s discipline.
What about your children? Are you teaching them how to stay inside that circle of blessings?
Verse 16, “He who keeps the commandment keeps his soul, but he who is careless of his ways will die.”
The Puritan Pastor Matthew Henry said about this verse, those who make it a lifestyle to keep God’s commandments, “secure their present peace and future bliss, and provide every way well for themselves.”
It made me think of a very simple illustration we use when counseling children. We call it the “Circle of Blessings” based on Ephesians 6.1-3:
¹ Children, obey your parents in the Lord, for this is right. 2 “Honor your father and mother,” which is the first commandment with promise: 3 “that it may be well with you and you may live long on the earth.
When children obey and honor their parents, things tend to go well with them and God promises a long life, but the opposite is also true. When they put themselves outside of God’s circle of blessings, things, generally, don’t go well with them and they risk shortening their lives.
You can quickly draw this out on a piece of paper or a white board as you talk about Ephesians 6.1-3. This is a simple illustration that helps children understand the passage, but the same principle is at work in our lives. When we keep our Heavenly Father’s commandments and honor Him, things tend to go well with us. When we reject the commandments and wisdom of God, we put ourselves outside of God’s circle of blessings. We, too, risk shortening our lives and opening ourselves to His discipline.
If you think of the Bible as being written chronologically, today’s reading and much of what follows may seem confusing. But the Bible is not put together chronologically, as far as the various books go. And at times, as in Chronicles, it repeats things that were previously recorded with a slightly different perspective.
It may help to remember that Chronicles was probably written by Ezra. He was a priest who came back to Jerusalem after they had been in Babylonian captivity for 70 years. So he was writing from the perspective of the return and how life was so dramatically different from how it was during the reigns of David and Solomon. This portion covers the genealogy of the people who were returning and emphasizes the reign of David.
The last two verses of chapter 10 are worth meditating on:
13 So Saul died for his unfaithfulness which he had committed against the LORD, because he did not keep the word of the LORD, and also because he consulted a medium for guidance. 14 But he did not inquire of the LORD; therefore He killed him, and turned the kingdom over to David the son of Jesse.
Even though Saul committed suicide, God had allowed the situation in which he found himself (about to be captured and probably tortured) as a consequence of his sin. Notice the sins delineated all involved his lack of trust in the sovereignty of God. He refused to believe that doing things God’s way was best and sought to know the future apart from waiting on God to reveal it at the proper time.
“I Will Remember”
The psalmist starts out “This is my anguish …,” but turns his thoughts to God and begins to remind himself of God’s faithfulness in the past, “I will remember,” “I will also meditate,” and “I will talk of Your deeds.” Then he recounts the great things God has done.
Have you ever tried writing your own psalm? This would be a great way to spend some of your devotional time if you’re struggling with discouragement of any kind.
Importance of the Ministry of Helps
This passage points to the importance of the ministry of helps. When others use their gifts, it frees those who are called to the five-fold ministry, such as pastors and teachers, to do what God has called them to do—that is pray and study God’s Word.
Facing Religious Persecution
But there are other great truths contained in this portion of Scripture. Let’s look at verse 15:
“And all who sat in the council, looking steadfastly at him, saw his face as the face of an angel.”
Stephen faced the anger and persecution of an angry religious mob, with a peace and calm that demonstrated his complete trust and reliance on God.
Jesus said in Matthew 10.18-20:
18 You will be brought before governors and kings for My sake, as a testimony to them and to the Gentiles. 19 But when they deliver you up, do not worry about how or what you should speak. For it will be given to you in that hour what you should speak; 20 for it is not you who speak, but the Spirit of your Father who speaks in you.
What a great promise!
What about You? Questions to Ponder or Journal:
Have you ever faced religious persecution? How did you respond? How would you like to respond in the future? I hope you will share your story with us.
Read several of the Psalms, then try writing your own. After you’ve shared your honest emotions with God, turn your attention to other times when God has shown Himself faithful. Use a concordance or go to Bible Gateway and look for verses that speak to your situation. Share your experiences and insights in the comments section at the end of the blog.
Where are you in regard to the “Circle of Blessings”? Are you inside that circle or have you put yourself outside?
Special Offer for the month of June only: If you sign up for “Christian Living” posts and “Bible in a Year” posts here and here (you must click both links and add your email address), I’ll send you a Kindle version of “Help, I”m Depressed” by Life Line Mini-Books.
Does this sound like you? “Troubling thoughts flood my mind. I lie in bed alone, beseeching God on behalf of my three children. The tears come as I wonder why the Lord seems so far away and why prayers remain unanswered. Life seems so unfair. Why is it so hard? In the “depths of despair” I know I have a choice to make. Am I going to allow these feelings to destroy me?”
Here in Acts 4 Israel’s ungodly leaders threatened Peter and John telling them they were no longer to preach about Jesus (vv. 17-18). Instead of making them and the other disciples afraid, as John MacArthur says, “it exhilarated them.” Though God may allow men to criticize or persecute us at times, we can rejoice in the fact that He will turn it to our good and His glory at the right time!
Once again I’m amazed at how often our Old and New Testament readings fit together. (See today’s reading in Psalm 76.7-12.) Remember, it is all one continuous story written by the same Author! Should we be surprised?!
The disciples even quote an Old Testament passage here, (Ps. 2.1-2):
“Why did the nations rage,
And the people plot vain things?
The kings of the earth took their stand,
And the rulers were gathered together
Against the LORD and against His Christ.”
Here in Acts 4 the ungodly leaders of Israel threatened Peter and John telling them they were no longer to preach about Jesus (Acts 4.17-18). Instead of making them and the other disciples afraid, as John MacArthur says, “it exhilarated them.” They just had a prayer meeting!
Verse 24, 29, 30, “So when they heard that, they raised their voice to God with one accord and said. ‘Lord, You are God, who made heaven and earth and the sea, and all that is in them.’ … Now, Lord, look on their threats, and grant to Your servants that with all boldness they may speak Your word, by stretching out Your hand to heal, and that signs and wonders may be done through the name of Your holy Servant Jesus.'”
Persecution, 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.
1 Samuel 4 & 5
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.
He Is Coming
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.
Today the battle for truth and religious liberty is raging. Truth has become relative. God’s Word carries no authority for the majority of the people in our nation and much of the Western World.
Christians are being denied jobs or realizing they can no longer work in their chosen fields without compromising their religious convictions. Those who speak up for what is morally right are called bigoted, intolerant or worse.
We need to be careful about putting our hope in any changes in government or leadership to protect us. While there might be a temporary slowing of the process, I believe in the long run these trends will continue, perhaps faster than we think possible. Just look at how things have changed in the last five years.
So what can we do to prepare ourselves for the continuing battle?
Verses 1-2, “Now it happened on one of those days, as He taught the people in the temple and preached the gospel, that the chief priests and the scribes, together with the elders, confronted Him and spoke to Him, saying, “Tell us, by what authority are You doing these things? Or who is he who gave You this authority?”
Today the words may be different, but the heart attitude is the same.
“What right do you have to impose your religious beliefs on me? I can live anyway I please!”
“Who do you think you are? You have no right to refuse your services to me!”
The Battle for Truth & Religious Liberty
Today the battle for truth and religious liberty is raging. Truth has become relative. Much like what we just finished reading in the book of Judges, everyone believes they’re free to decide what’s right for them. God’s Word carries no authority for the majority of the people in our nation and much of the Western World.
Christians in the scientific community and in the world of academics have been discredited, marginalized, refused positions, and fired for expressing their beliefs.
Christians are now being attacked and made an example of in the market place. There have even been attempts to intimidate pastors who speak out about homosexuality and gay marriage. Sadly, I believe we can expect these trends to continue in the long run and pick up speed.
If you’ve listened to the news in recent months, you know even free speech itself is being attacked in the very institutions that have traditionally stood for the free exchange of ideas. Students on university campuses are rioting to prevent the expression of opinions and ideas with which they disagree. And those who oppose them are afraid to speak up for fear of becoming targets themselves.
What If It’s Us?
How should we respond if (or perhaps, more accurately, when) we find ourselves in the cross hairs of this intolerant culture? The book of 1 Peter has some things to say on that subject. Continue reading →