A Time to Flee

Matthew 10:23   (NLT)   When you are persecuted in one town, flee to the next. I tell you the truth, the Son of Man will return before you have reached all the towns of Israel.

There’s a time to stay, and there’s a time to flee. Protecting our lives, ensuring our safety isn’t wrong. It can be more fruitful, not just in self-protection or family-preservation, but even in fulfilling our mission.

Matthew 10.23 - A Time to FleeWe don’t need unnecessary or avoidable martyrdom—that’s a waste of life. Life is precious—even the physical and temporal. Although it’s far less valuable compared to our eternal spiritual existence, it is important nonetheless. That’s probably one of the reasons why self-preservation and survival is innate in each of us. That doesn’t change for us who have been born again—who have received and are assured of eternal life; we just have a much better and proper perspective of them.

Dear God and heavenly Father, Giver and Sustainer of life, we thank You so much for Your gift of life—both the temporal and the extremely more important eternal life. Please give us wisdom and discernment when a time comes for us to flee. But help us do so not in cowardice, but in obedience to your leading. Lead us to a mission-minded escape when it becomes necessary, and only when it’s necessary and more beneficial to our calling and mission. It’s not always easy to explain such action; there will always be those not open to reason. But we pray that if ever we flee, it’s because the persecution is real—not imagined. And as we go, lead us to better grounds where we can sow the seed of the Gospel, where it will have a greater yield and harvest—in Jesus’ Name, amen.

Lambs Among Wolves

 Luke 10:3   (KJV)   3 Go your ways: behold, I send you forth as lambs among wolves.

We are to go share and spread the Good News of salvation to the lost, and to make disciples of all those who believe. Each has a calling; each has a race to run; each has responsibility. But we all are sent to the same hostile world. We are sent out as lambs luke-10-3-lambs-among-wolvesamong wolves. There’s no mandate to change our nature; we’re not called to be like wolves. Our difference will be obvious; it’s natural for wolves to try to hunt, attack, and devour us, but we are to stay our course.

Hostility is real; persecution is real, but God’s presence is more real. He promises to deliver us all the time. He may deliver us from them; He may deliver us through them, but He will deliver us. Others may question this. Martyrs abound. Where is God’s deliverance in this? These are legitimate questions, especially when asked from a perspective void of the eternal. Praise God for His light that shines in our understanding. We see better; we see clearer; we see more.

We’re aware of the supernatural and the eternal. This helps navigate through the world of the wolves better. We reach out to them without becoming like them. Many times they mistreat us. I remember a Middle Eastern sister in the Lord who was asked by some fanatical religious zealots to vacate their house at 12 midnight that same day, or they will be killed. They left everything they worked so hard for. That in itself was difficult, but even their journey of leaving their home became a dangerous escape attempt. They had to take unfamiliar paths because death also waited along the main thoroughfares. She shook as she shared the experience.

Some of us aren’t spared. That doesn’t spell failure on the part of God. He never fails. Death for us in the grand scheme of things isn’t tragic; it isn’t the end; it’s a passageway ushering us into an indescribable, incomparable, most blissful experience ever—right in the presence of our Father—He Who loves us most, He who we love most. That’s why although we fully appreciate God’s earthly blessings; we’re not attached to them; we understand that our real citizenship is dual: temporal and eternal, and our eternal home far outweighs what we now have.

So we go—lambs among wolves, lovingly, carefully, fearlessly, faithfully, empowered by God, changing this world, while longingly waiting for the next.

 

The Honor of Suffering

Philippians 1:29   (KJV)   29 For unto you it is given in the behalf of Christ, not only to believe on him, but also to suffer for his sake

It is an honor and privilege to believe in our precious Lord and Savior Jesus. Another honor and privilege is one that’s unique; it may take time for some of us to wrap our minds around it, more so, experience it: it’s our inevitable suffering as believers. With all the philippias-1-29-honor-of-sufferingenjoyable blessings we receive is this seemingly odd insertion that many of us may not find too appealing. Pain isn’t always easy to equate to something positive.

But it’s regarding this very issue that I was very recently reminded of my humbling shortfall. Depending on where you’re reading this from, your experience will most probably dictate the weight of your conviction. As for me, it was a rude awakening, yet one I highly receive and value. I almost wish that it’s just my memory that doesn’t serve me well, but, as far as I can remember, the worst suffering I’ve ever experienced in connection with me being a believer has to do with personal insults: mockery, indifference, rejection, loss of friends. They hurt, and although it may be hard to accept, those experiences may have caused me some kind of intimidation that’s why I don’t share the Good News as frequently as needed.

What brought me some kind of godly “shame” are the sufferings of other believers. The Apostle Paul was imprisoned several times, whipped so many times—he lost count, faced death repeatedly, lashed several times, beaten with rods several times, stoned almost to death once, shipwrecked several times, was always in danger of death, and finally—beheaded. Add to this the prophets before him. One was sawed in two; some were struck with the sword; they left their homes and wandered in deserts and mountains and lived in caves and holes in the ground. Add to this the other apostles: thrown down from a high edifice and smashed with a club, struck with a spear, beheaded, crucified upside down… we get the idea. Add to this our brothers and sisters living in other countries who are under a continuous threat of persecution, imprisonment, torture and even death.

Should I add mine on the list, I can’t help but feel that my share of this “honor” looked anything but pathetic. I know that we’re not competing with each other as to who suffers the most, but I humbly admit,  there’s a need for me to step up a notch in the way I live and serve our Lord—and not to be intimidated into silence by these very small share of sufferings I may potentially add to my honors.

Suffering Saints

mark-6-27-suffering-saints

Mark 6:27   (KJV)   “And immediately the king sent an executioner, and commanded his head to be brought: and he went and beheaded him in the prison”

How many of our brothers and sisters throughout history have suffered because of their commitment to Christ? The mental torture of knowing you’re about to be killed, the physical pain–these combine together in horrible persecutions of the faithful. There are those of us who have it so comfortably in living out our faith, but this doesn’t diminish the truth that many of our fellow believers don’t have it so easy. They are under attack.

Day after day, Christians are under a tremendous amount of terrifying threats and situations in so many parts of the world. People who know not God the way we do ask, “Where is God in all this? How can He allow His people to undergo such suffering? Why doesn’t He rescue them everytime they’re in trouble?” Those questions are understandable, especially when born out genuine concern. But there are of course people we continue to pray for because they ask those questions out of spite for God who many of them claim they don’t believe anyway.

But those questions rise from more need of knowledge and understanding about our God. He’s a very good Father to His children, a very good Master to His servants. There’s no question about His rescuing power; He’s done it so many times–many of them in absolutely amazing miraculous ways. He can. But God never promised us a suffering-free life. The opposite is true: with all His blessings, rewards, grace, aid, and mercy, He declared that suffering is a part of Christian experience. And unless He comes, we will still experience physical death. The righteous suffers, the wicked prospers–this is a fact of life. But God’s ways can’t be contained in a box. There are also righteous people who prosper and wicked people who suffer the consequences of their wickedness. The sense in all this is found in the right perspective–not the earthly temporary sphere, but the spiritual eternal reality.

We don’t run after it, but suffering for our Lord is a joyful honor for us, and death is sweet; it’s a blessed experience–even in the Lord’s sight. Our suffering results in glory that far outweighs our suffering; our death is a transition from the imperfect, trouble-riddled temporal world, to the perfect problem-free eternal life. As for the pain involved; I pray that when/or if it happens, our sights and thoughts will be captured by the glory of the Lord as we see Him standing at the right hand of the Father, preparing to usher us into out eternal home.

Of Peace and God

Psalm 46.10

Psalm 46:10    (KJV)   10 Be still, and know that I am God: I will be exalted among the heathen, I will be exalted in the earth.

God is God. He’s the one true all-loving, all-powerful, all-wise, all-present, just, holy, unchanging, righteous, immanent, and transcendent Creator and Father. People’s belief or unbelief doesn’t change this truth; it doesn’t change Him. It’s obvious: there are a lot more people in the world who don’t believe Him. But there will come a time when everyone will. Every person, every family, every nation will bow their knees before Him and honor Him for Who He really is. When people or nations rise up against Him, we’re not troubled; He is God, and that’s more than sufficient assurance.

People come and go; kingdoms rise and fall; God is still on His throne: He reigns, and He will reign forever. There are plenty of unbelievers. There are even people who don’t believe His existence but spend so much of their energy trying to fight Him. I pray for them; it’s not easy to kick against a rock.  Those who hate God or the concept of God also hate His followers. It’s understandable why our precious Lord Jesus told us that we are sent out like sheep among wolves. We get persecuted, and these persecutions have come in varying degrees. Some are tortured; some are killed. Amazingly, we can be still; we have peace; God is here; He is our very present help in times of trouble.

It’s because of this inner peace that we are people of peace. We can disagree yet love those we disagree with. God is love, and we who are born of God love everyone. We even love our enemies. Calamities of any form don’t scare us. Earthquakes may come; mountains may crumble; people may riot; nukes may fly–and we would rather not have them, but when they come, our peace doesn’t leave us. God is among us; He is our strength; He is our shield; He is our shelter in the time of storm and chaos. This doesn’t mean passivity. We prepare for potential dangers, but we have peace even in preparation. We live wisely. Our preparation covers the eternal facet. We live honorably before God and men; we love; we care; we do well; we walk righteously; we pursue peace.

So yes, troubles may come, and evil may increase, evil people may rise, but we are still; God is God.