Resurrection People 2
What a wonderful joining of readings for today. From the Acts of the Apostles: “Saul, still breathing threats and murder against the disciples of the Lord.” Then, from the Revelation of John: “I heard every creature in heaven and on earth and under the earth and in the sea, and all that is in them, saying, ‘To him who sits on the throne and to the Lamb be blessing and honor and glory and might forever and ever!’ And the four living creatures said, ‘Amen!’ and the elders fell down and worshiped.”
Sounds like the situation in which we live today. It appears there is much ‘breathing of threats and murder against the disciples of the Lord’. From the idiotic to the terrifying, Christians are under attack.
“The Boss” just canceled a concert in North Carolina because the State did the most horrible thing possible – it stated legislatively that chromosomes matter – requiring people tested as xx to use the women’s restrooms and those tested xy to use the men’s restrooms. That is really vile, right? But there are multiple calls to boycott North Carolina because it deems biology to be a science and not mutable – not even necessarily a Christian position, but is being called right-wing Christian transphobia. Even after the American Academy of Pediatrics deemed gender reassignment procedures for children to be child abuse, and “A person’s belief that he or she is something they are not is, at best, a sign of confused thinking,” the liberal (read socialist) agenda ignores the science and heads immediately into the realm of feelings and made-up “rights.” This is part of the idiotic.
A Knights of Columbus report highlighted the deaths of 1,131 Iraqi Christians between 2003 and June, 2014. From all reports, the list is rapidly expanding. Douglas Bazi described how he's suffered at ISIS' hands: He was kidnapped, had his teeth bashed in with a hammer and watched as his church was bombed. His church is known at the “church of the martyrs” or the “church of the blood,” there have been so many attacks and murders by ISIS. This is part of the terror.
Breitbart News (1/3/2015): The year 2014 saw more global persecution of Christians than any other year in recent history, and can only be compared to the first centuries when Christians were hunted down as criminals in the Roman Empire. The policy of the Emperor Diocletian, in fact, who reigned from 284-305 AD, was remarkably similar to that taken by the Islamic State and Boko Haram: “Convert or die.” This is part of the terror.
Open Doors, which serves persecuted Christians worldwide, says that each month: 322 Christians are killed for their faith; 214 churches and Christian properties are destroyed; 722 forms of violence (beatings, abductions, rapes, arrests, & forced marriages) are committed against Christians. This is part of the terror.
Is everything lost? Is Saul still 'breathing threats and murder against the disciples of the Lord?' But what happened to Saul? - while on the way to gain even more power to persecute the Church, Paul was unilaterally chosen by Jesus to take his message to the Gentiles. Paul accepted Jesus, was baptized, and spent the rest of his life and death proclaiming the Gospel message of Jesus. Through his writings, billions of people have found the Way to salvation. God takes what is means for harm and uses it for his good. The terror is broken!
The reading from John's Revelation gives us the end of the story, even more strongly than the conversion of Paul could do. It makes no difference what appears to be happening - the world, Satan, and all his crew, will not overpower the Church, the living body of Christ, preparing to be the bride of Christ. That will not happen. The terror is broken!
The other day on Facebook I saw something that said that God spoke 365 times, "Do not be afraid" or words meaning the same thing. That's one time for each day. My first thought was how generous is our God. When he speaks, his words never return to him empty, so telling his people once not to fear would actually have been adequate. But he knows his creation, and now badly we are damaged, so he didn't stop at once, or twice, or even a dozen times, or 70 x 70 times. God assures us again and again, at least 365 times reported in Scripture, that we have no reason to fear. The terror is broken!
My second thought was, then why is are we still so afraid? Many people – including many who claim to follow the Way – live so fearfully, especially when it comes to death. We can see the results of this fear all the time – it explains much of the anger, brutality, carousing, and other “acting out” instances we see. Fuel it with the urging of the enemy and we live with the danger that is all around us.
But… John says, I heard I heard every creature in heaven and on earth and under the earth and in the sea, and all that is in them, saying, ‘To him who sits on the throne and to the Lamb be blessing and honor and glory and might forever and ever!’
What is there to fear? Death? That’s the only thing that makes sense to fear, but as followers of Jesus, as his brothers, as adopted sons and daughters of the Father, death is the new beginning, not the end. I don’t necessarily look forward to any pain in the dying process. I certainly don’t look forward to the struggle to breathe that might accompany my dying, but what shall I fear? Certainly not going home. The terror is broken!
If you are having a problem living with fear, please see me, talk with me. God doesn’t want that, Jesus doesn’t want that, the Holy Spirit certainly doesn’t want that – neither do I – there is a better way to live, a better way to die. The terror is broken! God bless you all. Pastor Tere