In fact, everyone who wants to live a godly life in Christ Jesus will be persecuted.
- (2 Timothy 3:12)
I was reading through Timothy last night with my girlfriend, and we came across this passage in 2 Timothy. To my surprise, neither of us had it underlined in our Bibles, which we promptly corrected.
I can’t lie, this verse scares me. To be sure, persecution is not something to naively view as pleasant, but that’s not what bothers me. What bothers me as that I can’t remember the last time I was persecuted for being a Christian. In fact, I can’t remember ever being persecuted at all. Sure, every once in a while if I’m downtown with some sort of youth group function then someone might accost us and be mildly rude, but if I considered that to be persecution then my life is pretty flipping easy. This raises a few questions: Am I truly leading a godly life if I’m not persecuted? I consider myself a Christian, but am I doing it wrong?
I’d like to think that I’m living a godly life, and I’m sure that in many areas I am doing rather well. But if I’m not being persecuted, then perhaps there’s something I’ve missed. I don’t want to live with any reservations. Whatever it takes for me to be a disciple of Christ, that’s what I want to give. I don’t know what that will entail, possibly giving my life someday. But I don’t want to have any reservations as to what I’m willing to give for Christ. If I have reservations, then I don’t really have faith, do I? “Sure, I’ll follow Christ, but when persecution comes I’ll just blend in with the crowd.” I don’t want to be like that. I want to be willing to give everything.
But I’ll never know if I’m truly willing to give everything until I am challenged to do so.
No, whatever just popped into your head is probably not true - I do not mean the above title in a political or nationalistic sense. Yes, I guess we’re still doing the whole War on Terror thing (dear goodness haven’t we finished yet?) but I’m not referring to war as the world knows it. I’m referring to war as only God knows it. I’m referring to a spiritual war that’s been waged ever since Adam and Eve first gave in to the temptation Satan offered them way back in Eden. I’m talking about the mother of all wars, and most people on this planet aren’t even aware of it.
I’ve heard the conflict between Heaven and Hell described as a war several times, but it never really clicked. Oh sure, I thought, it’s a war, there’s a casualty now and then, a few conflicts here and there, it’s probably important but not that big of a deal.
It just clicked for me yesterday, while I was reading C.S. Lewis’ work Mere Christianity. He helped me put it into a better perspective: that we, as Christians, are living in enemy territory so long as we live on earth, because Satan is the Prince of this world; that this war is a civil war, a rebellion, a coup, an insurrection, an act of defiance on the part of Satan and his angels, who are fallen from Heaven; that - as Christians - we are living in the territory of the Rebel himself, yet are called to resist him in every way we can; that God Almighty launched an invasion 2000 years ago on enemy territory (earth) when he chose to break through the front lines and plant his Son Jesus (as a vulnerable human being) deep behind enemy lines; and finally that at some ever-approaching time, the armies of heaven will launch a final attack on the battlefield of Earth, and shall be victorious once and for all.
So that said, I repeat: we are at war. It is intense, and deadly, and dangerous, and treacherous, and costly. Do try to understand that you are involved in this war, whether you want to be or not. By being human, you’re already in the war zone. And you have to pick a side.
Christmas is coming up, but I see Christmas differently now, so this will be a new experience: because contrary to the tranquil nativity scene so popular in our culture, the first Christmas was certainly not peaceful, at least not behind the scenes on the spiritual side of things. It was probably pretty similar to what we know as D-Day: an invasion of unfathomable scale, one of the most gruesome battles ever fought.
I don’t have much more to add. You can thank C.S. Lewis and John Eldridge for some of the imagery I’ve used to describe the war. Other than that, I encourage you to look around you and try to see some of the war unfolding around you. The increase in public shootings over the past few years - if it hasn’t occurred to you yet that Satan had his hand in it, you should start thinking about it now. The same goes for suicide jihadis in the Middle East, or for 9/11, or the Holocaust, or the millions of abortion deaths, or high divorce rates, or pornography, or whatever else you can think of. This is a spiritual war, but it is very tangible and certainly is manifest in the physical realm.
All of us have a part to play.
I was thinking about economy today, specifically how our economy is kinda in the dirt right about now. Whenever I hear people ranting about the economy, there are usually a number of predictable variables emphasized that will somehow magically change our dire circumstances. “If only we cut down on spending,” and “If only we increased/decreased taxes” are the most common things I hear, but there are plenty more. But I digress.
What occurred to me today is actually a bit extreme. Instead of changing one of the typical variables, what if we change something generally considered to be constant? One virtually universal “given” in economies is this: economy is overwhelmingly based on income. Economy is measured in how much someone gains, or spends (which is how much another person gains). It’s measured in terms of purchase, usually a thing for it’s monetary equivalent. So I had this idea.
What if we switch the basis of economy from income to outflow? Instead of accounting for how much people gain personally (which is generally considered quite desirable), what if the desirable economic transaction was to give, rather than receive? What if we had an entire economy based on giving? Not trading, not bartering, not selling - just giving. All of a sudden, everything changes. Debts are forgiven. The hungry are fed. The homeless and unemployed are provided for. The gap between upper and lower classes dissolves. Aren’t these all desirable qualities?
The problem is that it’ll never happen, so far as I can tell. This system would need the majority of a population to partake, otherwise it would never reach its full potential and would likely fail altogether. But there will always be those who would rather keep for themselves, who will never see the value in giving. But that doesn’t mean there’s no value in giving. “It is more blessed to give than to receive,” (Acts 20:35).
Admittedly, it’s probably a bit of a stretch to say the entire economy can be changed by an economy of giving, because there’s likely not enough people who would be willing to participate. But what if there were just a few people who decided they would rather give than receive? It would be their financial ruin, almost certainly, depending how far they were willing to go with the idea. But even if they took it and ran with it, went all the way, gave up virtually everything - who knows what blessings may befall them and those around them.
I must think about this. God’s economy is superior to ours, because our economy is limited, but his is limitless. And in a limitless economy, value is in the individual, not in the material possession. What could we be capable of if we chose to live a life without limits?
My engineering professor virtually cancelled class today. He didn’t mean to, it just kinda happened that way. At the beginning of every class he gives a devotional, some of which are long, others short. It just so happens that this devo ran the entire length of class.
The day that I write this is All Saints Day, but my prof called it by a different name. He called it Servant Day, a day when you choose to serve those around you in whatever way you can. For a while he talked about serving each other, and what we might do to change someone’s day for the better. And then we got onto the topic of serving God.
What does complete service to God look like? What would you be willing to walk away from in order to follow Christ? I know many people, myself included, who would readily say that we’d walk away from everything to follow Jesus. But until today, they were just words, and I hadn’t actually considered their full implications.
While I was sitting in class, I could feel the Spirit hovering in the corner of my mind, indicating to me that he might want me to do this one day: to abandon everything and live just for him. And it wasn’t a half-hearted “wouldn’t that be nice” kind of sentiment. It was very tangible. If God had so informed me, I would have been prepared to walk away from everything today, taking only what could fit comfortably in my backpack. I was that ready.
So maybe I won’t be doing it today, and maybe not for years. I have no clue when. But I suspect that someday what I felt today will become a reality, and I’ll leave virtually everything in pursuit of a more intimate relationship with Christ. I’d give up my residence, my possessions, my job, education, car, everything. I’d just leave. The only thing I’d really keep would be the relationships I have, or at least the most important ones. On that day, I’d even like to take some folks with me - for are we not designed for fellowship?
I look forward to the day when God calls me away from everything I’ve ever known. I hope some of my fellow believers can say the same.
A note: I’m not saying that in order to be an “authentic Christian”, you need to give up everything and go wherever the Spirit leads you. I’m not saying that, and I know there are many ways in which members of the Body are called to serve God. I’m just saying that for me personally, this may very well be what I’m called to do, and I’m rather excited about it.
Today is a good day. :)
I feel like I don’t really belong anywhere. I guess as a Christian that’s probably a natural feeling every now and again, since we long for our eternal home with our Savior. But for all the “free country” America is cracked up to be, I’m not entirely sure I have a place in it. Then again, I’ve always been pretty backwards when it comes to culture. Against the flow, as I like to think.
I value things that can’t be bought or sold: friendships, ideas, philosophy, theology, knowledge, eternity. And as for things that have price tags attached, I care very little about them. Fancy car, nice house, the latest gadget made by goodness knows who, a college degree. I guess I just don’t see the point. So where is my place in a nation filled with capitalism and consumerism? Everything seems to revolve around money. Spending, using, consuming, polluting, wasting, and restarting the cycle. What’s the point?
I know, I rant a lot about the accursed “System”, but how can it be that in a nation proclaiming diversity, we’re all so similar? Go to school, attend a university, graduate with at least four years of “higher education” under your belt, after which you get married, enjoy your career, raise fat children and retire. I just don’t get it. When all is said and done, none of these things are worth anything in eternity.
Maybe I’m just “in a phase” where I’m young enough to think I can still change the world. Maybe so. But doesn’t it make sense to live for things of more eternal value? And don’t get me wrong, I’m not trying to go “preachy” or anything, blindly opting to be spiritual rather than worldly. And while I suppose my conclusion is still the same, I’ve done my best to reason my way through it.
So with all of our grandeur and flair, our technology and “civilized” culture, I really think we’ve traded our values for more and more temporal things. At first glace, we have one of the greatest nations on the planet, but when I look deeper I see debt, suicides, broken marriages and families, homeless folk tossed aside by their communities, petty political rivalries, the murder of the unborn. Surely these things negate all potential good our nation can possibly have. Magnus Deceptio; the Great Deception.
I am a Reformer. I crave His presence but loathe the average church service.
- adapted from the Reformer’s Creed
How do I spark passion in a church? Without doubt everyone in this building would say that they “deeply love Jesus” or are “living for Him,” but why does church still feel so surface-level? I want to talk about the difficult things, to hear a call to action, to see the church give attention to more people than their own church members.
I want to see a church change the community around them. I want to see a church that faces opposition and persecution on account of living so similarly to Jesus Himself. I want to see pastors more concerned with being Christlike than they are with counting the offerings or offending a church member. I want to see Christians break away from “cool Christianity” and step out taking risks.
When I walk into a church for the first time, I want to know beyond the shadow of a doubt that their faith is greater than a two-hour commitment on Sundays. I want to see sincerity when church members greet me and ask how I am. I want to know that they care more about my soul than the size of my wallet - which, by the way, is empty.
So like I said, I honestly don’t know how to spark passion in a church. Because the cure to Christian mediocrity is not a new kind of church or a new denomination. The cure is awakening and revival, ultimately resulting in a new lifestyle altogether that transcends denominational and religious barriers.
So, church, what are you going to do? Because your music is nice, your building is ornate, and your seat cushions are comfortable and soft. But frankly, I’m becoming quite bored.
I dare you to be a church that captures my attention.
I don’t care about the things this world has to offer: money, social status, cool cars, women, college degrees, easy answers. I just don’t care. Now if you know me, perhaps that sounds a bit hypocritical, me currently being at college and all. But honestly, I have no expectation of graduating and even if I did, I have no clue what I’d use my degree for. It’s just a piece of paper acknowledging that you took a lot of hard classes that may or may not actually be useful in your career. It’s an expensive piece of paper. But back to the point.
I was in church today, just thinking. Honestly, I’m a horrible churchgoer. I don’t really sing the songs, and if you asked me what the sermon was today I couldn’t tell you much because I don’t really listen. Sucky, huh? But the reason I go to church is that, in addition to being able to fellowship with my friends, I’m able to just… think. Or meditate, if you will. I can push everything from my mind until it’s just me and God. And what I feel at that point, with everything else removed is … pure restlessness. At that moment, I don’t care about classes or bills or food or anything. I just hone in on the restlessness, the desperate desire to make a difference for the Kingdom of Heaven. That’s all I care about, and when it comes right down to it, that’s all that really matters. Everything else will fade away, but the Kingdom will stand.
I just wish I knew what my role was. All I know is that this world can’t offer me anything I want.
I was walking down the main drag of downtown, and I noticed this one guy sitting on a curb playing a harmonica. There were a lot of musicians downtown: guitarists, violinists, you name it. They all had a hat or something in front of them for coins and bills from those who appreciate the music. But the guy playing the harmonica said something that struck me as unique.
As I was approaching the area where he was playing, I heard him stop, clear his throat, and say, “Excuse me, sir…” Now, I was expecting him to say, “Could you spare some change?” or “Do you have a spare cigarette?” or something like that. But instead what he said was:
"Excuse me, sir. Do you have a smile to spare?"
A smile? I’ve never had anyone ask me that before, unless they were pointing a camera at me. But this guy definitely didn’t have a camera on him; I doubt he could afford a few days worth of food, much less a camera. Needless to say, his question surprised me.
"A smile?" I repeated, thinking perhaps I had misheard his inquiry. I guess in my surprise I had let a confused smirk ebb into my expression, and he saw it. It seemed to soothe him. He nodded.
"Thank you, sir. Have a nice day." That was all he said. He picked up his harmonica and kept playing. I don’t remember if I said anything as I kept walking. I was still processing what had just happened.
He never asked me for money, though I was ready to give him a dollar if he asked. He didn’t ask for a cigarette, or anything material. Just a smile. I can’t figure it out. Here’s this dude, clearly poor and scraping rock bottom, making music on the street for money. Yet he stops me and asks me for a smile. He could have asked for something of more material benefit, but for some reason he didn’t. He just wanted to see a smile.
Sometimes I wonder if men like him have more than I do. I attend a private college, I have some cash in my wallet, and I’m out hunting down a job for the summer. But I seldom slow down, just keep racing through life from one event to the next. But this guy has almost all the time in the world. He’s desperately poor, and who knows the troubles he’s seen. But I’ve never seen anyone take such pleasure in so simple a thing as a smile. I admire his ability to cherish the simple things. I wish I could do the same.
So here’s my holiday wish. And I’m going to ask that everyone who reads this helps. Don’t worry. It won’t be hard.
Twenty years ago I was homeless.
The worst part of being homeless isn’t what people think. It wasn’t trying to find a meal. I had friends and shelters and soup kitchens. It wasn’t trying to find a place to sleep. It wasn’t trying to stay warm when the weather got cold.
It was the way that when most people walked by me, they looked at me in a way that made me feel less than human. They looked through me, not at me.
I felt robbed of my humanity. I felt like something less than a person. When people look through you and ignore you, it’s a quick slide down.
You see, every person needs to feel like a person, a whole person worthy of the same dignity and respect and humanity as anyone else. Many of the homeless have lost that feeling. That’s why they live in a cycle of desperation and humiliation. They feel robbed of their value as a human, they go out into the world and the world only confirms how they feel.
So here’s my wish.
I wish that every person that reads this treats at least one homeless person as a real live, whole human being. I’m not saying give them your cash. I’m saying look them in the eye and give them a look of understanding and sympathy. I’m saying maybe, if you have a few dollars and a few minutes, get them a cup of coffee and listen. I’m saying treat them like people.
It’s a simple thing. It’s a simple wish. But simple acts of compassion and kindness have the power to change lives. You never know what the eventual ramifications will be from giving them back the feeling of being valued.