This week there was a shooting in my city. It wasn’t a drug deal gone bad. It wasn’t domestic violence. A man was sharing his faith in Christ and was rewarded with a bullet to the face. This man was a faithful servant in the house of the Lord and a regular at Saturday morning prayer. He mentored young, fatherless boys. And he shared his faith. This week it cost him a great deal to be a Christian.
He lived through the shooting and had reconstructive surgery to his face. While he will almost certainly be scarred, he will survive.
In America there has not been much risk involved with being a Christian. But the world is not as friendly towards the followers of Christ as it used to be. Seems that it might be a good time to begin counting the cost. Looks like it may soon begin to really cost us something.
I have been thinking of all the things that I am thankful for. There are the things that make the list each year: Salvation, Bible, family, job, etc….
But this year there is something new to be thankful for – my new church.
For 12 ½ years I went to the same church. It would be considered a mega-church, with over 10,000 members. In June of this year, after a series of remarkable confirmations from the Lord, I joined a much smaller church. It would be difficult for me to explain what a blessing this church has been to me. I’ve seen such love and compassion from this group of people who are committed to prayer and missions and making Jesus Christ known.
It has been quite an extraordinary change and I’m loving every minute of it.
So this year I am thankful for the body of Christ in a way that is much more personal than I have ever known. Thank you Jesus, for your people.
Several weeks ago in our Sunday night prayer meeting, one of the men opened the service with a passage of Scripture. Quoting Hebrews 2:3 from memory, he said “How shall we escape so great a salvation.” He immediately corrected himself, inserting the words “if we neglect”. But it was too late. I had already grabbed onto what he had originally said. My heart seemed to almost burst with joy as I thought about a salvation so great that we couldn’t escape it. Trapped by grace! Oh, He has caught me in His snare of love!
Anyone who has ever wandered from the Lord for any period of time knows the truth of this – He is too wonderful to stay away from. What a great salvation we have! What a great Lord we serve!
O generation, see the word of the Lord! Have I been a wilderness to Israel, or a land of darkness? Why do My people say, ‘We are lords; we will come no more to You’? Jeremiah 2:31
The JFB commentary says that it is better to translate the phrase “we are lords” as “we ramble at large.” Behind most castings off of the Lord is this desire to be unrestrained and unhindered in the pursuit of our desires. They didn’t see the Lord as One who loved them or protected them or provided for them, but One who thwarted them in their quest for pleasure.
“We are lords. We are in control. We don’t need You anymore, for we are quite capable of taking care of ourselves, thank You very much.” This is what their actions said to God.
And many times, so do ours today.
I pray that daily the Holy Spirit would enable me to submit more completely to the lordship of Jesus Christ in my life.
Last Sunday I was able to go to Angola State Penitentiary with my church’s prison ministry group. I didn’t find out until about 2 hours before it was time to leave that my name was on the approved gate pass list. When the phone call came informing me that I was approved, I was elated. Then followed 2 hours of frantic prayer, as I felt totally unprepared for what I was about to be a part of. Frequently repeated phrases were:
“Oh help me God!”
“Please help me not do anything stupid”
“I need You, need You, need You Lord.”
You get the idea.
For 2 ½ hours we worshiped with a small group of inmates. The rest of the brothers and sisters that came from my church had a message to share or a song to sing. I sat there on the bench wishing I had something to give.
When the service was over, the inmates made their way to each of us, thanking each for their message or music. And when they reached out to shake my hand, they said “thank you for coming”. It was enough that I was there.
“….I was in prison and you came to Me.” Matthew 25:36
Nevertheless even among the rulers many believed in Him, but because of the Pharisees they did not confess Him, lest they should be put out of the synagogue. John 12:42
Jesus’ lived in a religious society. Religion was not only accepted, it was expected. Those who were learned in religious things were held in high regard by all. However, when Jesus showed up on the scene, with His “new” teachings, upsetting everyone’s apple cart, He was not accepted by the religious authorities. But our verse tells us that there were some who believed in Him. We need to think on that for a minute. These people were experts in Scripture and they knew that Jesus made claims to diety. And they believed in Him. They believed that He was the Messiah, the Son of God. Let that sink in for a minute. But they were secret disciples, afraid to identify with Jesus openly because He was unaccepted by their peers. Afraid to be known as His disciples lest they should be put out of the synagogue and lose their place in the current religious system.
The world that we live in today is not unfriendly to the religious, but it is increasingly intolerant of Christ followers. When the name of Jesus Christ is introduced into conversations, many times you can see a physical reaction in people. They don’t mind our religion, but they cannot tolerate our Christ.
For each of us who follows Christ, there will come a day when you are presented with a “lest” moment, when it will cost you something to be counted among His followers. It could mean the loss of position, loss of esteem of those you care about, or even a loss of possessions. What is the thing you are most afraid to lose? And if the loss of that thing was threatened for the sake of Christ would it cause you to hide your faith in Him and become a secret disciple? What is your lest?
A couple of months ago a Hospice chaplain who attends my church gave me the name and number of a lady who had been in Hospice care and had partially recovered. Rebecca required physical therapy and was not able to get around very well. She had no family in town and had always welcomed the chaplain’s visits. She was not hostile towards the gospel, but had not received Christ. I was hopeful that I would be able to meet her, show her the love of Christ, and share the gospel with her. We had several telephone conversations and I made several attempts to schedule a time to go visit her. Each time, the plans had to be abandoned. My life became a bit chaotic and I lost touch with Rebecca. I thought about her occasionally, wondering how she was doing. I’d make a mental note to get in touch with her and try again to go visit. But life does have a tendency to get busy, and I forgot.
At church Wednesday, this Hospice chaplain told me that Rebecca was in the hospital. He said she was dying. For some reason, it didn’t really sink in. All the people he deals with are dying, and most of them suffer from some type of terminal illness and they linger for some time. I made plans to go visit Rebecca in the hospital Friday after work.
I got a call Friday morning – Rebecca had died sometime during the night. There was no indication that she had turned to Christ before her death.
This was a sobering reminder that tomorrow doesn’t always come.