Unto Death

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The life of a Christian is not for the faint of heart. We are outcasts in a fallen world. We are counter-cultural no matter what culture we are surrounded by. We are a minority in the world and always will be. We don’t drift with the ever-changing tide of society. Because of that, we are shunned, rejected, disliked, and even hated and killed. According to a worldwide ministry called Open Doors, every month around the world 345 Christians are killed for faith-related reasons, 105 Churches and Christian buildings are burned or attacked, 219 Christians are detained without trial, arrested, sentenced and imprisoned. That amounts to an average of at least 11 Christians being killed every single day. Even in the wake of all of that hate and discrimination, there are still over 2.3 billion people in the world who identify as a follower of Christ. It is the largest and fastest growing faith in the world.

Here in the United States, we are being labeled as bigots because we stand for sexual purity and the God-given identities of every human being. We are called misogynistic because we value the life of every pre-born child and stand against abortions. But even in the face of the rise in discrimination, we have not had to claim Christ even unto death. It is always important for believers who are outside of the shadow of death, to pray for those who constantly live there. Our brothers and sisters around the world need us to link arms with them and wage spiritual warfare alongside them. One day, it may be you and me who are in the shadows. Will we stand firm, even unto death?

And pray in the Spirit on all occasions with all kinds of prayers and requests. With this in mind, be alert and always keep on praying for all the Lord’s people.

Ephesians 6:18 NIV

The following is a story from Voice of the Martyrs:

In Albania, the first self-declared atheist state in the world, a young Christian by the name of Valerii Nasaruk was arrested for boldly tattooing a cross on his hand. He wanted everyone to know from the first handshake that he stuck to his faith in God. Valerii was frustrated, however, by not being allowed to verbally tell others about God’s love.

At the trial, the judge told Valerii’s mother, “Tell your son to change his ways so he can go free.” She thought for a while before responding through tearful eyes, “Valerii, my advice to you is to stand firm and not deny Christ, even if it means your death.” In a subsequent letter to the underground church, she wrote, “I attended the trial, which was so hard on me. I wished I could have taken his place. The hardest thing was when they asked me in court to advise Valerii to change his ways, but I could not do it. The world accuses us, his parents, for his being sentenced, saying it is the result of our influence. Even some Christians can’t understand why I did what I did, but then I remember that Jesus was misunderstood. When I struggle with depression, I am reminded that Peter advised Jesus about saving his own life. God gives me the power to bear everything. Please pray for me.”

Can you imagine being Valerii’s mother and making that statement to your child? Can you imagine facing death simply for what you believe? All too many people around the world can.

May I never boast except in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ, through which the world has been crucified to me, and I to the world.

Galatians 6:14 NIV

Cleaning with a dirty rag

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I’ve been blessed these last five years to have a Window Washing business that provides my family with a little extra well-needed cash throughout the year. I’ve cleaned a lot of different types of filth off of windows during that time. You’d be amazed at what people allow their windows to look like…During one window job I had an epiphany. I know what you’re thinking: how enlightening can washing windows really be. Well on this occasion it happened to be very inspiring so I’d like to share it with you.

On this day I happened to be doing the windows on this gigantic house. If I lived in a house this size I wouldn’t want to clean my windows either. We’re talking like a 5-6 hour job here with professional equipment. So as the job went on I noticed that it was becoming more and more difficult to get the windows streak and smudge free. I would clean out my gear fairly regularly to ensure that I wasn’t transposing dirt from one window to the next, but after a while that didn’t seem to help. It began to be frustrating. I was getting so close to the end of the job but I wanted to make sure my last window got as clean as my first. It was starting to take a long time just to complete each window.

Then it hit me. I had a super stubborn smudge that would not come out no matter which part of the shammy I used. Each wipe just spread the smudge in a different direction. I just cleaned this shammy too so why wasn’t it doing the job it was designed for? Then a spiritual bomb got dropped on me. “A dirty and used rag, no matter how clean I try to get it, will never be good enough. The rag has to be new.” If you’re familiar with the teaching of Christ you probably have an idea of where this is going.

If you’ve ever used a shammy to clean before you know that no matter how much you clean it, there is still residue from previous uses. There are stains that won’t come out no matter the method of cleaning. Shammies are designed to suck up moisture and clean better than most anything else. They work so well that this can be their downfall as well. My point is, that people and shammies are very similar. We have been designed by our Creator to be so efficient, creative, intelligent, strong, funny, and so much more. Psalm 139:14 says that we have been fearfully and wonderfully made by God and Ephesians 2:10 tells us that we are God’s workmanship (handiwork/masterpiece). God made each of us for a purpose and equipped us to carry out that purpose way more so than a shammy. But the similarities continue. We are all stained from life…from choices…from sin. And no matter how much we try to clean ourselves, those stains remain. Many of those stains are outwardly obvious and others are below the surface just like the ‘stuff’ held in the fibers of the shammy. We try to purify ourselves by being good, following lists, avoiding bad things, believing in ourselves, reading self help books, listening to motivational speakers, achieving high accomplishments, making money, buying nice things, keeping a smile on our faces, and so much more. All of these things are simply a facade without heart surgery. No matter how good we are in life, our goodness is like a filthy rag compared to the pure holiness of God. Our scars/stains will always affect those around us as well just like my dirty shammy was just smearing the glass. The only way for me to get those windows clean…the only way to be clean ourselves…is to be made new.

Second Corinthians 5:17 tells us that everyone who is in Christ is a new creation. Jesus Christ removes the deepest stains in anyone’s lives. God promises to erase any stain and purify anyone who calls on His name and receives forgiveness through Christ. Just check out Isaiah 1:18. God goes on to tell us in 2 Corinthians 5:21 that Christ, the Holy and Perfect One, died so that we might have the righteousness of God. So our filthy rag becomes a spotless garment pure as the driven snow. So my plea to anyone reading this, who battles with deep seeded scars, struggling to mask pain and hurts from life, if you don’t know Jesus Christ, today is your day. In Him is healing…in Him all things become new…in Him is rest and peace. No formula in life will ever work outside of Christ. Everything else is just cleaning with a dirty rag. And lets be honest, every day we get our shammy dirty in some way and Jesus is the only way to remove it.

“The steadfast love of the Lord never ceases; his mercies never come to an end; they are new every morning; great is your faithfulness.”

Lamentations 3:22-23 (ESV)