Lent

Giving Up Comfort

Last week, I mentioned a book I was reading called Killing Christians by Tom Doyle.  I cannot even begin to describe some of the painful, UNcomforable things the believers shared about their lives.  I have been challenged to pray for these brothers and sisters who have no option but sacrifice when they decide to follow Jesus.  I think what astounded me most was that in literally every single story anyone who was still alive at the time of the publication of the book said something to the effect of: “I’m still alive, but I know that my death will come soon.”  Even more incredible is that every sentence like that is almost inevitably followed up with, “But don’t worry about me.”

Being a Christian isn’t just a label for these people.  It’s not one of many options of how they might spend their time on a Sunday morning.  It’s literally life and death, every single day.  It’s fathers and uncles hunting them down to kill them for “dishonoring their family” by following Jesus.  It’s hiding in coffins to smuggle Bibles into their country.  It’s anything but a comfortable life.

When I say that I’m giving up comfort today, let me be clear, I am not asking to have to experience the things these people went through.  I actually pray I never experience them as I pray that the suffering would be ended for them and those around them.  However, I’ve realized that I can’t just keep turning my eye to the reality of things like this.  To be honest, it would have been much easier to never pick up this book, or to put it back down a few pages in.  Ignorance is bliss, right?

God may someday call me to make some life or death decisions in regards to following Him or to suffer because I bear His name. If that day comes, I pray for strength and courage to point boldly to Him.  Like Paul wrote:

I want you to know, brothers, that what has happened to me has really served to advance the gospel, so that it has become known throughout the whole imperial guard and to all the rest that my imprisonment is for Christ. And most of the brothers, having become confident in the Lord by my imprisonment, are much more bold to speak the word without fear. (Philippians 12-14)

But whether or not a day like that ever comes, today, I can give up the comfort of ignorance and avoidance.  I can stop being an apathetic Christian. I can “sacrifice” time to pray for my brothers and sisters who are suffering things greater than I can imagine.  I can “sacrifice” some of the things that bring me comfort in this life and invest that money or other resources into things that last eternally.  It’s a scary, scary, prayer to pray, but today I ask that God would help me give up comfort that I may live passionately for Him.

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Lent

Giving Up Going Through the Motions

I am currently reading the book, “Killing Christians: Living the Faith Where It’s Not Safe To Believe” by Tom Doyle.  I’ve had it on my “to-read” list for a while, but recently have had a few extra reasons to actually get it out and get started.

This book is good, but hard.  It tells the stories of Christians around the world who truly live in places where believing in Jesus could cost them their early lives.  Sometimes the things they endure and live through perhaps even seem worse that dying.

Here is one small example:

“The sober joy of their decisions to remain in Syria brought them to a point of business few believers ever have to discuss.  The men agreed to pool their funds and buy a plot of land, preparing for what would certainly come.  It would be the graveyard where they would bury each other.” (Page 40)

I’m not exactly sure what to say after that.  Thankfully, at least at the publishing of the book, they were glad to say that their graveyard it still empty, but the reality that people have to make decisions like that is many times completely foreign from my experience as a Christian.

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This book, combined with a few other current experiences in my life, is changing me.  I realize that our world, even our American culture is and will continue to become more and more difficult to live in as a Christian.  Since the United States was started, Christianity had been the “norm”… but that is no longer the case.  The fact that it had been the norm is really the exception to what it typically the case.  Again and again, throughout Scripture we see and are reminded that we shouldn’t be surprised when hard things happen to us as Christians, or even because we are Christians.

One of those places is John 15 which I’ve been trying to memorize.   Repeating verses like this over and over and over to try to get them in my brain does not really allow for a “going-through-the-motions” kind of faith:

“If the world hates you, know that it has hated me before it hated you. If you belonged to the world, it would have loved you as its own.  As it is, you do not belong to the world, but I have chosen you out of the world. That is why the world hates you. … If they persecuted me, they will also persecute you.” John 15:19-20

So today, I pray that God would help me to stop going through the motions of my faith.  While I am thankful, beyond thankful, to live in a place where I don’t face extreme sacrifice and persecution for what I believe, I want to live as if my faith were life and death.

In the book a man name Farid, one of the men who purchased that graveyard” said this:

“Is your life about Jesus and nothing else?  When you may die at any moment, it has to be that way, but we’re all called to live only for him, no matter what.” (Pg 42)

Jesus, help me give up a life of going through the motions and truly live 100% for You no matter what!  Give me faith. Give me grace. Give me strength. Give me perseverance for whatever that looks like.  This is a scary prayer to pray, but I trust you Jesus! In Your Name I Pray, Amen