This week, Life Groups at Real Life Church are talking about being a church that faces persecution. Many of you have faced “trials of many kinds” far more severe than anything I have gone through. Others have been tested in ways that, as the author of Hebrews says, “the world is not worthy of them”. I am NOT one of those people. But in studying for a message, God brought this outline together before my eyes and I thought it might encourage you as much as it does me.
How do we be a church that faces persecution?
- Desire godliness
- 2 Timothy 3:12 – “In fact, everyone who wants to live a GODLY LIFE in Christ Jesus will be persecuted.”
- We don’t desire persecution.
- We don’t go looking for a fight.
- Hebrews 12:2 – “Fix your eyes on Jesus”.
- We face persecution by desiring godliness.
- Don’t be surprised
- John 16:33 – “I have told you these things, so that in me you may have PEACE. In this world you will have trouble.”
- When don’t you have peace?
- Before getting on a roller coaster?
- When a child or loved one is very sick?
- When a job is up in the air? Or gone?
- Tax day?
- We don’t have peace when we don’t know what will happen.
- Jesus tells us what will happen. We WILL be persecuted.
- We face persecution with peace, because we aren’t surprised.
- Consider it joy.
- James 1:2 – “Consider it PURE JOY, my brothers, whenever you face trials of many kinds”.
- Persecution is a sign of our closeness to Jesus and the “prophets who were before you”. (Mathew 5:12)
- Do your Life Group homework to be inspired by the lives of people who know what it means to have joy in the face of persecution. (Or check out the Persecution Blog by Voice of the Martyrs.)
- We face persecution by considering it joy.
- Preach the word.
- Acts 8:1 & 4 – “On that day a great persecution broke out against the church at Jerusalem, and all except the apostles were scattered throughout Judea and Samaria….Those who had been scattered PREACHED THE WORD wherever they went.”
- What is the goal of our preaching? To produce more people who desire godliness… who will have peace… who will consider it joy… who will preach the word…
How do we face persecution? Desire godliness. Have peace because you aren’t surprised. Consider it joy. Preach the word!
It seems to be everywhere for me this week. God is reminding me over and over that he wants his people (specifically me) to obey him. Here is my Life Journal entry from today (9/8/09):
I have told you today, but you still have not obeyed the LORD your God in all that he sent me to tell you. — Jeremiah 42:21
(Read the whole chapter here. It is really good.)
Sometimes even with all the information, people still choose to ignore, disobey, and walk away from God. These Israelites came to Jeremiah and asked him to pray to God and find out what they should do. God answers them and is very clear on what he wants them to do. He is graphic in describing the consequences if they disobey. He reiterates that bad things will happen if they disobey. And they still – after asking for his instruction – choose to flat-out disobey God. (And I’m gonna guess that when the predicted consequences come to pass, the people will find a way to accuse God of abandoning them!)
Obey God. Do what he says. He makes it clear what he wants from me. He tells me what will happen if I don’t. It is up to me to obey him.
God, thank you for being true and faithful. Your Word is clear in telling me how you want me to live. You are love and I want to obey you. Help me to obey fully and completely and always.
What keeps you from obeying God?
Several months ago, our church began using the Life Journal and S.O.A.P. method for personal Bible study. I have always intended to post my journals from time to time. Today I’m finally getting around to it. Here is my entry from this morning:
Title: Seek the Lord
Scripture – “He did evil because he had not set his heart on seeking the Lord.” 2 Chronicles 12:14
Observation – In this case, the anointed king of Israel did evil by setting up idols and following false gods. He overtly disobeyed God. In the story in 1 Kings 13, a prophet did evil because he listened to another man, rather than following the instructions he had directly received from God. He let another man lead him off his course. He failed to set his heart on seeking God. And it resulted in evil.
Application – I have a calling from God, too. Maybe not a kingly anointing, but an ordination. And beyond that, a personal call from God himself to serve and obey and lead. To not set my heart on seeking the Lord by obeying his call would be to do evil. I don’t have to overtly do evil to disobey. I simply have to take my heart off of steadfastly seeking Him. This is so easy to do. My heart is so easily pulled from seeking God to follow other things. I justify them as good things. Important things. And many of them are. But if those things lead me away from seeking God first, I am off track.
Prayer – God, forgive me for taking my focus and my intent off of you. I get hung up on words like discipline and devotion and consistency. I’m not very good at those, so I use them as an excuse. But what you area asking for is greater than all of that. You are asking for all of me. My loyalty, my allegiance, my heart. And I want to give you all of me. Help me, God. And accept me. May I never do evil by not setting my heart on seeking You. Amen.
Reminded of some great song lyrics tonight. An oldie (okay, 1996) but a goody. The whole song is worth a read/listen, but for now, meditate for a few minutes on the chorus of “Oh, I Want to Know You More” by Steve Green:
Oh, I want to know You more!
Deep within my soul I want to know You,
Oh, I want to know You.
To feel Your Heart and know Your Mind,
looking in Your eyes stirs up within me,
cries that says I want to know You
Oh, I want to know You more.
Oh, I want to know You more.
That is my prayer tonight. I hope it is yours.
Our church is almost half-way through the One Month to Live Challenge, and it has been an interesting experience. I’ll be honest, I am not getting all the way into the “gimmick” of telling myself I only have __ days to live. I even put a countdown in my calendar (18 days left, as of today), and it still isn’t doing it for me. But I will tell you this – even without the “gimmick”, there is some REALLY GOOD STUFF in here. Whether or not I have 18 days left to live, I needed this challenge to live passionately. I am realizing that instead of accomplishing the dreams and goals God has put in my heart – things I SAY I CARE about, I have a list of excuses and a number of TV shows I know too much about.
The tag-line of this One Month to Live Challenge is “Thirty days to a no-regrets life”. While I am nothing-but-lucky to not have too many huge mistakes that actively cause painful regrets, I don’t want to end up with the passive regrets of being “comfortable” all my life and missing out the amazing joy that comes from passionately pursuing God. I don’t want the next 18 days or 70 years to be filled with the regrets of “probably should have” and “if only”.
So I need inspiration. What is something you “probably should have” …and then you did …and now you’re SO GLAD you did?
Hi, I’m Andy, and I am terribly inconsistent. I blog inconsistently. I read my Bible inconsistently. I pray with Amy inconsistently. I remember things inconsistently (or not at all). I call my parents inconsistently. Drink water inconsistently. Exercise inconsistently. Discipline my kids inconsistently. Balance the checkbook inconsistently. About the only thing I do consistently is feel bad about myself for being so inconsistent.
Sure, there are times I try to excuse it as just part of my personality. (ENFP if you’re playing along on Meyers-Briggs.) And I suppose part of that is true. I like spontaneity and change and all that. I switch from iCal to Entourage and back every couple of weeks. I like to move my office around. I drive a different way to work every day. I get a different kind of soda pretty much every time. Amy is all Dr Pepper all the time – that would drive me crazy.
But the truth is, there are things I want to do consistently and I just don’t. And I miss out on so much because of it. So I need two things, if you have a minute. #1 – someone please tell me I’m not alone. What do you struggle to do consistently that you actually, truly do want to do. And #2 – give me some tips. What have you found that has helped you get at least some consistency that maybe I could learn from? Maybe we can all learn a little bit from each other.
Had an interesting discussion with my son today. In trying to instill in him a love for sports, we were watching the Notre Dame game. (Win over Stanford, in case you missed it.) At one point, they were replaying a particular play trying to determine if “the nose of the ball broke the plane of the goal line” and I was doing my best to explain to Nathan what that meant – that in football, the ball only has to barely touch the line to be a score.
And it got me thinking – is following Jesus more like football or soccer? In other words, does Jesus want “break the plane” followers, or “whole ball across the whole line” followers? I believe, as in football, we are “in” when the “nose” of our faith “breaks the plane” of God’s amazing grace. But I also believe that living a life that pleases God requires more than that. I believe it is more like soccer.
You see, in soccer, for a goal to be scored, “the whole ball must be across the whole line”. In other words, the ball has to be fully across – fully committed – to count.
I want to follow Jesus soccer-style. I want my whole life to be fully devoted to living and loving like Jesus.
How about you – where are you on the line?