Faithful Unto Death

For anyone who has been monitoring the news, the events of Afghanistan have been horrifying to watch. We see mad rushes at the airport of those trying to leave. The people are so desperate to leave the terrors of the Taliban that they would rather hang on to flying jets than stay in Afghanistan and face certain death. Mothers are handing over their babies to the American military, in hopes that they might find a better life in America. To be sure, many are getting out. But many will be left behind. It is all heart-breaking.

However, there is a group of people that few in the media are talking about: the Christians in Afghanistan. They have no ties with the West. They didn’t work as translators. They weren’t trained by the U. S. military. They have no hope of leaving. But now, with the Muslim Taliban taking over the country, their lives are at great risk. The Muslim Taliban consider Christians to be infidels and worthy of death. I anticipate that many of these Christians will be killed over the next few weeks/months/years.

It is sad. It is difficult. It is heart-wrenching. Their deaths will come, not because they committed a crime, but because they embraced a Savior. The words of Jesus to the church in Smyrna are applicable. “For ten days you will have tribulation. Be faithful unto death, and I will give you the crown of life” (Revelation 2:10).

These Christians are like Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego, who refused to bow to the idol that King Nebuchadnezzar had set up. Their punishment was to be cast into a burning fiery furnace (Daniel 3:6). When called to give account before the king, they said, “Our God whom we serve is able to deliver us from the burning fiery furnace, and he will deliver us out of your hand, O king. But if not, be it known to you, O king, that we will not serve your gods or worship the golden image that you have set up” (Daniel 3:17-18). God spared Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego. They were able to walk through the fire, without as much as a single hair on their head being singed (Daniel 3:27).

These Christians are like the disciples of Christ in the first century. Saul of Tarsus was so enraged at those who followed Jesus that he went house to house, dragging of the men and women off to prison (Acts 8:3), hoping that they would be sentenced to death (Acts 9:1). Saul persecuted Christians in Jerusalem and other cities. But God spared the disciples in Damascus. When Saul was traveling to Damascus to arrest the followers of Christ in that city, he saw a vision of Jesus, which forever changed his life. Rather than persecuting the Christians, he joined them in Damascus.

The Lord is able to save the Christians in Afghanistan. He can hide them in plain sight. He can grant favor in the eyes of the Taliban. He can bring about the conversion of some of the Taliban soldiers to Jesus. But if not, we must pray that they would be “faithful unto death.”

My Book!

MyBook

For the past few weeks we have been taking care of a two and a half year-old boy through Safe Families, a great organization that seeks to provide temporary homes for children without foster care or the courts. His mother is looking for a job to support her family, which is difficult to do while caring for a such a young child. As we have taken this boy in our home, the mother has been freed up to find a job. We are praying for her to find a job, and be united with her family.

This little boy has a very sweet disposition and we have enjoyed bringing him into our family for this short time. And for the most part, things have gone quite smoothly. Last night, however, we had a bit of a run-in.

One of the things that this boy really appreciates is bedtime stories. We have set out about twenty books that my wife pulls from to read with him shortly before putting him down for the night.

Well, last night, my seven year-old son happened to be in the room around reading time. He began looking at some of the books that were going to be read in a few moments. I think that this little boy felt threatened. He began taking the books from my son’s hand and yelling at him, “No!” He said, “Mine!”

Now, I have great compassion for this little boy. He’s alone, apart from his mother and family, and in our house, not his own. These books have probably become a sense of security and joy for him. And when my son began to look at them, he was justifiably upset.

However, he was wrong. These books weren’t his. In fact, they are my son’s books, that he has willing let this boy use during his stay with us. So, we took this little boy into the bathroom and tried to explain this to him.

As we were talking to him about these books, I thought of how I often respond in a same way toward God. Everything that we have is His gift to us. “The earth is the LORD’s and all it contains” (Psalm 24:1). He gave us life and breath and all things (Acts 17:25). The apostle Paul rightly asks, “What do you have that you did not receive?” (1 Corinthians 4:7). And yet, many times, I am possessive of “my things,” not realizing that they are really the LORD’s, which I am using for a brief time.

May we all hold our possessions loosely.

Customer Surveys

One of the things that has made Apple a wildly successful corporation is their innovation. They have made products that the consumers didn’t even know that they wanted (or needed).  Steve Jobs once said, “It is not the customer’s job to know what they want.” As a result of this philosophy, Apple corporation isn’t too keen on customer surveys.

The same is true in the spiritual realm. Non-Christians don’t even know what it is that they need. They are blind to spiritual truth (1 Corinthians 2:14). They are dead in their sins (Ephesians 2:1). Christians don’t need to survey non-Christians to see what they want. Rather, we need to tell them what they don’t even know that they need. We need to tell them that they need their sins to be forgiven by believing in Jesus Christ. They need to repent and turn to Christ (Acts 3:19).

Wanting to Give

My five year-old son has another friend who turned five years old today. We purchased a little present for his friend. My son was so excited to give him the present that he carried the present around the house and repeatedly asked, “When can I give it to him? When can I give it to him? When can I give it to him?” Our son’s questions were so overwhelming that we finally had to put the present away, so that the barrage would stop.

As I reflected upon my son’s desire to give, I thought how this ought to reflect our heart as well. We ought to be desirous to give, especially when we know that Jesus said, “It is more blessed to give than to receive” (Acts 20:35). We ought to see the greater blessing. So, develop a heart that wants to give.

 

Today’s Gift


I have heard several people say, “Yesterday is history.  Tomorrow is mystery.  Today is a gift.  That’s why it is called the present.”

This is a thoroughly Biblical perspective of life.  We cannot change the past.  “You do not know what tomorrow will bring” (James 4:14). God “gives to all mankind life and breath and all things”(Acts 17:25).

So, live like today is a gift.

Responding with Grace

When others sin against us, it’s often easy to sin in response. It’s only natural. We want to defend ourselves and hurt those who have hurt us. There are several examples of those in the Scriptures who have responded differently. Their example is powerful. May these examples encourage our hearts to respond with grace toward others as well.

Jesus, while nailed to the cross (think great pain and agony), cries out, “Father, forgive them; for they do not know what they are doing” (Luke 23:324). Stephen, while being pelted with rocks which brought about his death, cried out with a loud voice, “Lord, do not hold this sin against them!” (Acts 7:60). Paul, having been deserted by all of his friends in Asia during his greatest hour of need, writes, “May it not be counted against them” (2 Timothy 4:16).

Beware of Thyself

In Herman Melville’s classic, Moby Dick, captain Ahab is a crazed ship captain, obsessed with one thing: to kill Moby Dick (the white whale), in order to avenge the loss of his leg. At one point in the story, Ahab is exerting his power irrationally, which caused his closest companion to warn him, “Let Ahab beware of Ahab; beware of thyself, old man” (chapter 109).

Such is the temptation of all in leadership: exerting their power irrationally. To the elders of Ephesus, Paul warned them, “Be on guard for yourselves” (Acts 20:28). To Timothy the same advice was given, “Pay close attention to yourself” (1 Timothy 4:16). It’s no wonder that a spiritual leader in the church must not be self-willed (Titus 1:7).