The story of Israel and Judah is mostly a sad one. King after king rejected God, with disastrous consequences. David’s example of passionate obedience became the “gold standard” against which all the future kings were measured—and most were found wanting.
Solomon, with all his wisdom, still married foreign wives, who brought their pagan idols into their marriage and into the popular culture. It’s therefore no surprise that his son Rehoboam became an idolator. Consider 2 Chronicles 12:
Reading the news this morning, it would be easy to be depressed. Evil seems to be winning. I know the media tend to focus on bad news, but this latest set of headlines seemed worse than usual. As I prayed over some of the various issues, the word that kept coming to mind was “darkness.” We live in a world filled with deep darkness.
The people walking in darkness have seen a great light;
on those living in the land of deep darkness a light has dawned.
As I mentioned last week, Pete and I have decided to buy a new house. This move is part of our determination to simplify our lives—a smaller house on a significantly smaller lot means less to maintain. Instead of a 2,000 square foot veggie garden, for example, I’ll be planting in two raised beds. After keeping hens for the past twenty-plus years, we’ll be buying eggs at the market. I’m looking forward to investing my time in new ways, or at least getting a bit more sleep!
Of course, there’s more to downsizing than simply moving into smaller quarters. If we bring all the stuff we’ve accumulated in 35 years of marriage, cramming it into a smaller space will mean more work, not less. So, after the fun of choosing a neighborhood and a floor plan, we’re now focusing on eliminating many of our belongings.
But godliness with contentment is great gain. (1 Timothy 6:6)
Hopefully you’ve enjoyed both your Thanksgiving feast and your relatives, and are now happily munching on turkey sandwiches. It’s time to move on from being thankful to shopping for gifts intended to make one another even more thankful next year. After all, if we appreciate having some possessions, then we’ll appreciate have additional possessions even more.
Pete and I have been praying about downsizing for several years now, but hesitated to market our house in the languishing economy. Well, one morning last month we both woke up sensing it was time to take some steps. We spent our next couple of “date days” looking at model homes, driving up and down new neighborhoods, and doing due diligence on several prospective builders. Finally we picked out a “good enough” house we liked, and a “good enough” lot owned by a “good enough” builder in a nice new development. We were ready to sign on the dotted line.
After reading scores of stories describing how my Christian brothers and sisters are suffering and dying for their faith, I had to stop and ask, doesn’t God see this? Doesn’t God care? How can the good, loving God I know let such horrors happen to His chosen people?
I was having a hard time getting around these thoughts when I came across an article written by a contributor from the Middle East, and adapted for INcontextMinistries by Mike Burnard. (You can see the original adaptation here.) That article has provided the inspiration for some of my thoughts here.
We in the West are too comfortable. We have a hard time acknowledging that our God might ask us to suffer social ostracism, ridicule, or insult. Even more abhorrent is the idea that we might suffer physical loss for following Jesus. “Sacrifice” means getting up Sunday morning and going to church instead of lying around in bed reading the newspaper. (And our pastor had better finish the sermon in time for the afternoon football game!) While we hope that we would be willing to die for our faith, in reality we suspect that that level of commitment will never be put to the test. Thus, our theology can’t accommodate the true suffering of others.
Last week I promised you some specific prayer points as we intercede for the persecuted church. While I will highlight several situations, please remember that persecution is worldwide. The Open Doors website prominently displays their map showing the fifty nations where persecution is the worst.
I’ve elected to share a few facts and stories from different parts of the world, not because these are the most popular or most important, but as a way to relate more personally to our brothers and sisters being tested so severely. I hope these stories galvanize you to seek further information and pray more fervently. The “One With Them” website provides more individual stories, or just Google “persecuted church.”
Sunday, November 9, is the International Day of Prayer for the Persecuted Church. In fact, the entire month of November has been set aside as a time to remember and pray for our suffering brothers and sisters around the world. Therefore, I’m focusing on persecution this month.
We’ve all read stories about Christians in the U.S. being disrespected, Christian values being mocked, and Christian “rights” being denied. Currently, a couple of Idaho pastors are facing fines and jail time for their unwillingness to marry gay couples. The city of Houston wants to censor sermons. And in California, all health plans, including those purchased by churches for their employees, must now cover abortion.