Guest Post

“…and others were tortured, not accepting their release, in order that they might obtain a better  resurrection.” (Heb. 11:35)

When we read the Bible, we see a recurring theme appear. In my opinion, Jesus says it best in John 16:33  where he tell the disciples, “These things I have spoken to you, that in Me you may have peace. In the  world you have tribulation, but take courage; I have overcome the world.” Right there, in plain simple  English, Jesus promises that in this world, we will have trouble. His church will be persecuted.

Now most if not all of the readers of this blog live in countries that guarantee freedom of religion for their  citizens. However, even a cursory look at world affairs will reveal that this is not true the whole world over.  You’ll read of girls kidnapped in Nigeria, children stolen in Sudan, pastors arrested in China, wives  divorced and sometimes martyred in Afghanistan, and churches destroyed in Egypt.

Unfortunately, our typical American Christian response is to heave a big sigh, look mournful for a moment  or two, then continue along our ordinary lives, as oblivious to the sufferings of the church in Africa and Asia  as the next guy. And even more unfortunate, even as I write this, I continue to do so on a daily basis.

What are we missing? Why do we fall to the same apathy that the world does? Well, I think there are  several reasons. But one pivotal reason is that we fail to see our relationships with the persecuted church  overseas.

That pastor shot while standing at his pulpit, that’s my brother. And that girl kicked out of her Muslim  family and left destitute on the streets, she’s my sister. We don’t get that. If we did, we’d live like it.

If you told me today that my sister was destitute on a street in Iraq, I would drop everything. I would sell  whatever I needed to, I would do whatever necessary to get me to her. I would do whatever in my power to  rescue her, to provide for her, to protect her, and to shelter her. Why? Because I love her! Because she’s  my sister!

Yet when I read that a young Christian girl has been kicked out of her Muslim home, what is my initial  response? Is it to drop to my knees and pour out my heart in prayer to God for her? Is it to give,  sacrificially, to rescue her? Sadly, no. If I’m honest, I’m much more likely to feel regretful, even sorrowful  for her, for a moment, before moving along with my life, forgetting she ever existed. Maybe I’ll offer up a  prayer or two for her every once in a while, but if I am honest, I do not love her like a sister. I don’t live or  pray like she is my family, and I am hers.

When we hear stories of the persecution going on in other countries, of children kidnapped for child  soldiers or girls kidnapped for slavery, our hearts should break. Notice I didn’t say we should be noticeably  disturbed for a day. No, our hearts should break for the broken. If we love like Jesus loved, we see these  people not as strangers in Africa or yet another number or statistic on a page but as a soul, a precious  soul, who is of infinite value to the Father.

Rom. 12 is a part of Romans where Paul is describing what dedicated service to Christ looks like. Here is  where he describes the church as a body, dependent on one another and on the head for life. But he also  includes another verse that we too often read as nice poetry or a pretty slogan in v. 15. “Rejoice with those  who rejoice, and weep with those who weep.”

Now, I’m going to jump off onto what appears to be a rabbit trail, but don’t worry. It comes back to my  original point. When you stub your toe, what is your first reaction? Is it to very solemnly and soberly stand  there, keeping very good posture, and say with a clear, enunciated voice, “Ouch. That really hurt.”? Is that  your first inclination?

If so, you’re a better person than me. My first inclination is to clutch my foot to my midriff with my hand, and  bounce around very actively on my good foot, while growling, moaning, groaning, and screaming, “Ow, ow,  ow, ow, ow!” Maybe I’ll even add an “owie” in there for good measure!

But when I felt the pain of my stubbed toe, what was my body’s first reaction? Was it my brain’s reaction to  tell my toe, “Hey, suck it up! It’s just a stubbed toe, man. Calm down!” No, it was for my entire body to jump  into motion to protect the toe! My hand reaches down to cup it, my mouth instantly starts voicing it’s  complaints, and my good foot takes full responsibility of holding up my body.

What’s my point through this whole story? What we in America do right now in regard to the persecuted  church is much more akin to my first option than my second stubbed toe story. We tend to glance down at  the injured toe, the persecuted church, and say, “Oh, that must hurt a lot. Oh, gotta go now.” And we walk  out the door, turning our backs to the needy and putting them out of our minds in favor of our mental  comfort.

But what’s Paul’s take on that? Does he sympathize with our stand – off approach? What does he tell us to  do? Weep with them. When their heart is broken, our hearts should be broken with them. When they hurt,  we hurt. When they’re persecuted, we’re persecuted. We are one church, one body, with one Lord. And  when one member of the body is hurt, we all hurt.

What we’re missing is the weeping with those who weep. We prefer to stand stiffly alongside and pretend  we didn’t see. We tend to act as if it’s not there, as if it’s a different story and someone else’s responsibility  to weep with them and love them.

No, it’s ours. It’s our job to pray, to weep, to love them. It’s our job to remember them, to intercede for  them, to pour out our hearts for them. That our job. I’m tired of standing off to the side while others hurt. I’m  tired of pretending it’s not happening or imaging the hurt isn’t there.

Now, I read some of your thoughts. I realize this blog is geared toward teens. Most of the readers are  teens. You don’t have an endless supply of money that you can go and help, even if your going did help.  But if you notice, Paul’s command was not to go help them out. Sure, that’s great if you can! Please do!

But that’s not what he said. He said to weep with them. Basically, don’t ignore them! Face the truth, face  the situation, and weep! Allow your heart to be broken over the pain of our brothers and sisters, and pour  out your hearts in prayer for them.

It’s time we stopped pretending. There are a whole lot of people in the church today who prefer the easy  way out. It’s easier to ignore them. It’s easier to put it off for someone else to do. It’s easier to stand there  like a stone wall rather than allow yourself the openness of sympathy and love. And sadly, you can pretend  they don’t exist. That’s a viable option, one thousands of Christians across the free world take every year,  every day in fact. You can pretend that they aren’t suffering, that they are not in pain, and that you will  never face God.

But I hope that that’s not us. I hope that we are a part of that generation that God has raised up for such a  time as now. I hope we are the guys and girls who will stand up, accept the vulnerability of loving our  brothers and our sisters, and pray for them. Allow our hearts to be broken. That’s your sister in the mud in  Nigeria. That’s your brother in a prison in China.

—————

Taylor B. at Grace Did Much More Abound

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Poem

Afraid? Of What?
To feel the spirit’s glad release?
To pass from pain to perfect peace,
The strife and strain of life to cease?
Afraid – of that?
Afraid? Of What?
Afraid to see the Savior’s face
To hear His welcome, and to trace
The glory gleam from wounds of grace?
Afraid – of that?
Afraid? Of What?
A flash, a crash, a pierced heart;
Darkness, light, O Heaven’s art!
A wound of His a counterpart!
Afraid – of that?
Afraid? Of What?
To do by death what life could not –
Baptize with blood a stony plot,
Till souls shall blossom from the spot?
Afraid – of that?

– E. H. Hamilton

Surrender Your Dreams

Of course, right when I’m the most busy, I suddenly get inspiration for posts (however short)! I’m supposed to be studying for a test as I write this, but my mind can’t focus, and I can’t make myself pay attention to every unimportant fact about the Northeast’s geographic features. Solution – I focus on a post instead! I think I’ve got this procrastination thing nailed down…

Anyway, to my post. I’ve already shared my desire to go to Africa for mission work one day; missions has been an interest of mine since I was little. But I’ve been dreaming about Africa a lot lately, and it’s gotten me discouraged. I really want to be in Africa right now. Really bad. I’ve reached a point in my life where I’m really desiring to honor, serve, and glorify God with my whole life, and I’ve got a long way to go. I believe God has laid it on my heart to serve Him in Africa one day, and I really wish I could be there, though I’ve never been to Africa in my life. (In fact, the “Africa” section of my geography book is a major distraction I keep flipping to – not good for a restless mind needing to study the States!) But I can’t be there now, for many obvious reasons. I’ve been wanting to go on a trip to Africa for a year now, and haven’t been able to for financial reasons. I’m discouraged.

I was sharing my disappointment and discouragement with a friend a few days ago, and they told me a point that gave me a new perspective on my ambition. They told me to surrender my dream to God, to give it up completely. Heard it before? Not a revolutionary phrase? It was for me. I’ve heard it before; “Give God your dreams”. But I hadn’t considered that in light of this dream of mine. I mean, I’ve viewed my desire to go to Africa one day as “from God”, so why would I give it up if it was from Him? Why would I surrender my dream of doing what I believe God desires me to?

It’s not my dream. It’s not my vision. It is a dream God agave me, for the purpose of His glory. He did not give it to me and say, “Go; use it well, and use it wisely.” He says, “Here is this dream; I will show you how I want you to use it. I will use you where I want to use you. I will use you when I want to use you. I will open the doors, make the path, make a way – only, leave it up to me. Don’t take it upon yourself. Apart from me, you can do nothing.” How many times do we take our future, our goals, our dreams, our ambitions, into our own hands? How many times do we think we’ve got it under control, or stress out trying to figure out what happens next? He has a plan for us, to give us hope and a future and for us to prosper, He’s not going to give you a dream and turn you loose to figure out what to do with it. He doesn’t always make the way crystal clear, but He’s not going to just abandon you and leave you to go it alone. He gives us dreams to give us a direction and a passion for doing it all for His glory. He did not give us dreams to do with as we please, and to use for our own selfish gain or interest. He gave us dreams, that we might glorify Him through them.

If God wants me in Africa one day, then for crying out loud He will make a way one day! Instead of gazing off into space, daydreaming of another place I can’t be used in now, I need to focus on how I can be used where I am now.

Surrender your dreams. Give them up. That doesn’t mean to kill your dreams; it simply means give up your “right” to them, your “ownership”. Your dream does not belong to you; it is not yours. Give your dreams to God, and allow Him to show you how they can be used for His glory.

Now, off to go study for a test!

Friendship with Expectations

I am sensing something very wrong going on in my heart-of-hearts, a very disturbing thing I’ve allowed to creep in and set roots. I probably let it enter in by some other name, cleverly concealed under the disguise of a good motive. Perhaps it even started as a good motive, that was twisted into a corrupt mindset. Anyway, it’s here, and now I have to deal with it. And that is this. I have been living as if people live for me.

“What!” I hear you cry. “The one who blabs about selfless love and self-centeredness actually thinks people live for her?” That’s certainly how I’ve been acting lately.

I think I take friendships too seriously.For the past 5 years, I’ve been hurt and abandoned by even those I once called a “good friend”. I’ve wanted a true friend that won’t abandon me, who will be loyal, true, supportive, and caring. I’ve had a few icky situations happen over the past few years that have been caused by friends, and caused friendships to die. Anyway, if a friend now tells me that they’re there for me, and are willing to talk, I get a little too excited. If a friend hurts me, I grieve. If I see a friend is struggling, I want and try to help them. I’m starting to fear that I’m a little too deep that way. If I commit myself to you, I will be there. I will care. You may hurt me and I will grieve, but if I have made an effort to love you and try to be a true friend to you, I will forgive you and still be there for you.

But this is where I begin to falter in my thinking. I am right to try to be a friend to you and love you, but my natural expectation is that if I commit myself to you, you should commit yourself to me. My immediate expectation is if I invest in you, you should invest in me; if I care about you, you should care about me; if I make time for you, you should make time for me, etc. Ladies and gentlemen, this is wrong. These expectations are unfair and are ruining friendships. We all have expectations from people; my expectations may be different from yours, but we all have automatic expectations nonetheless. People don’t play by our rules, and we don’t set the standards. Friendships involve two people, going both ways; not one person dictating and the other failing to meet the expectations set. The sooner we get rid of our expectations in friendships, the sooner we will enjoy them to the fullest and have a blessed friendship.

I have been living as if my friends existed solely for me. As if they only breathed to be there for me, to pray for me, to encourage me. This past week, such an example occurred. I was in a place where I had to say final goodbyes and see people for the last time. I was feeling extremely alone, and was dying for someone to come up and talk with me, but for a long time no one did. Eventually, I got to talk a little bit with a couple friends and tell them goodbye, but my expectations got the best of me. I expected people to think of me and come and talk to me. I expected people to spend time with me. My expectations weren’t met, and therefore I was disappointed. Seeing the flaw in my attitude? People don’t live for me! (Duh!) When you go on as if they do, it not only creates a selfish mindset, attitude, and heart, but brings many disappointments. I don’t exist for you. You don’t exist for me. We exist to glorify our Creator and share His glory with all the nations… How are we supposed to do that when we’re busy focusing on how So-and-So didn’t do such-and-such like we had expected them to? Our expectations are ruining our friendships, and the sooner we get rid of them, the happier we will be.

I take friendships too seriously. Not everyone has the same definition of “friendship” that I do – in fact, I am pretty sure that most (if not all?) of my friends have a different definition. But that’s okay. If I give selfless love, invest in them, show I care, and do it all with no expectations and no selfish interest, I’ve glorified God in the process by showing love to others. Everything is for His glory, right? Be the friend to others you want others to be to you.

Christ Is Our Healing

I know, I know, you’re probably tired of hearing from me. I promise, last post for a little while. I probably won’t be able to post on Monday, so you get off easy this time! Anyway…

I am finally learning one of those duh lessons. But when it’s something you’ve lived for so long, has been a seeming comfort, and has been something you’ve so heavily relied on, reality comes as a slap in the face. I am learning that Christ is our only refuge, the only person who loves us unconditionally and despite ourselves, the only friend who will never leave us, and the only source of true comfort, rest, and peace.

This is one of those obvious things, right? Haven’t we ALL heard this whole thing before? But if you’ve sought refuge, untarnished love, loyal friendship, and comfort from any mortal being before, then this final realization is both a hurt and a healing.

It hurts to finally realize that people aren’t perfect. People in your life will come and go. They will break their word, abandon you, lie to you, deceive you, let you down, disappoint you, and hurt you. They will pretend to be someone they’re not, just for you. They might be there for you for a time, giving you the comforting words you want to hear, being a friend to you for a season. (Please note, I’m not saying all people are like this at all! I’m speaking generically, for the sake of the unity of the post.) But people come and go, all the time. You can’t expect someone to stick around and be there for you for forever!

This is why Christ is our healing. When we are hurt by the world, we find He is our healing. He is perfect. He will never let us down, abandon us, deceive us, or hurt us. He is the only refuge, comfort, friend, and love that will never fade away. He doesn’t change. He is always there for you, no matter what. I know it seems like an elementary concept, but just think about it. He is almighty, unchanging, unfailing, unconditionally loving, and He is there for me. And He’s there for you.