Skip to content

1

 

Exclusive CNN images capturing the homes of Christian families forced to leave the city by ISIS

By Benjamin Nelson

How do you react when you see headlines like:

“Facing fines, conversion or death, Christian families flee Mosul” ~ CNN

Or this:

“ISIS burns 1,800-year-old church in Mosul” ~ Al Arabiya News

Or you read openers like this:

Just days after the militant group the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria said they killed hundreds of Syrians, dozens of Iraqi Christian families are now fleeing the ISIS-controlled city of Mosul, hoping to avoid a similar fate. ~ CNN

How are you supposed to feel? [Read More...]

Is a Holocaust on the Horizon? | Comments on Christianity.

5

Many Waters - SoS header

I said a few weeks ago that Song of Songs Chapter 5 was about the testing of the maiden’s faith and not her failure to answer to Master’s call.

Let’s look at the road she is now asked to walk.

I have taken off my dress,
How can I put it on again?
I have washed my feet,
How can I dirty them again?

My beloved extended his hand through the opening,
And my feelings were aroused for him.

I arose to open to my beloved;
And my hands dripped with myrrh,
And my fingers with liquid myrrh,
On the handles of the bolt.

I opened to my beloved,
But my beloved had turned away and had gone!
My heart went out to him as he spoke.
I searched for him but I did not find him;
I called him but he did not answer me.

The watchmen who make the rounds in the city found me,
They struck me and wounded me;
The guardsmen of the walls took away my shawl from me.

Song of Songs 5:3-7 NASB

Let’s break this down a bit:

I have taken off my dress,
How can I put it on again?

She has taken off the filthy rags He found her in – He dressed her in righteousness, but her clothes were what Jude calls ‘garments, polluted by the flesh.’ In her place of rest in Him, she has removed these remnants of her past, and is resting secure in His arms.

I have washed my feet,
How can I dirty them again?

She is washed head to toe by the blood of the Lamb, and the daily filth washed off her feet by the washing of the Word. She is reluctant to leave the wonderful place of intimacy.

Yet she hears His call and sees His hand at the door.

When she goes to the door and touches the place His hand had been, her hands begin to drip with myrrh. Myrrh is used as a symbol of death, specifically Christ death. This call to her is the call that comes to each of us as we rise up and follow Him. He calls us to come and die.

More than that, I count all things to be loss in view of the surpassing value of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord, for whom I have suffered the loss of all things, and count them but rubbish so that I may gain Christ, and may be found in Him, not having a righteousness of my own derived from the Law, but that which is through faith in Christ, the righteousness which comes from God on the basis of faith, that I may know Him and the power of His resurrection and the fellowship of His sufferings, being conformed to His death; in order that I may attain to the resurrection from the dead. - Philippians 3:8-11 NASB

We love the idea of the resurrection, but you can’t have resurrection with out death. We are called to reckon all that we have – even that which He has given us – our righteous robes – this new life  - all of it, as His to do with as He sees fit.

We count it all as loss, as refuse, so that we might have a righteousness that can only be gained  by faith – trusting Him with our honor – with our reputation.

This is where the Shepherd King asks the maiden to walk today. He leaves the myrrh to draw her out and face those who will hate her and use her despitefully. He leads her by His own death - to walk the road marked with suffering.

As Jesus was preparing to leave the disciples and walk to the cross, He told them in no uncertain terms that they would face the hatred of men because of Him. (See John 16) It was not a punishment for them. No – it was actually a form of fellowship with Him, what Paul calls the fellowship of His suffering.

I opened to my beloved,
But my beloved had turned away and had gone!
My heart went out to him as he spoke.
I searched for him but I did not find him;
I called him but he did not answer me.

She is tested in the same two areas where she first pursued Him.

Draw me after you and let us run together! - Song of Songs 1:4 NASB

She is called to leave the place of intimacy, and left alone in the place of ministry, in the place outside the chamber. Of course He never actually leaves us, but there are times when the sense – the feeling of His presence is not felt, and so we seek Him and He is not found.

So out she goes – into the streets – and the city guards abuse her.

The watchmen who make the rounds in the city found me,
They struck me and wounded me;
The guardsmen of the walls took away my shawl from me.

They beat her – they abuse her – they strip her shawl away – they ruin her reputation. She is insulted. She is wounded. She is broken and crushed.

But as we will see next week, in more detail – she is more in love with Him now than ever before. Somehow trials only increase faith. Persecutions separate the wheat from the chaff. It is the heat of the sun of trials that tests the roots of the good seed in your life. [Tweet This]

How have trials deepened your faith?

BN Writers Page 150Thanks for coming by today.

Come back next week and see how fellowship of His suffering impacts the maidens faith.

Ben

The Sower - Van Gogh

Today I want to walk through the 2nd soil in the parable. I think you'll find a surprise in the Word today. For the rocky soil, we are going to read both the parable portion and the explanation. Again I have interwoven the scriptures (see notes below.) The differences are minimal but interesting.

Rocky Soil

And others (seed) fell upon the rocky places (ground, soil), where they did not have much soil; and immediately they sprang up, because they had no depth of soil. But (as soon as it grew up) when the sun had risen, they were scorched; and because they had no root (it had no moisture), they withered away.

And the one on whom seed was sown on the rocky places, this is the man who hears the word, and immediately receives it with joy; (they believe for a while) yet he has no firm root in himself, but is only temporary, and when affliction or persecution arises because of the word, (and in time of temptation)  immediately he falls away. Matthew 13:5-6,20-22, Mark 4:5-6,16-17, Luke 8:6,13

You get this, I am sure, from the natural perspective. There is nowhere for the roots to go, so though the plant springs up quickly, it withers and dies when the sun comes daily, and it has no where to go for moisture.

Most of us love a sunny day. When the sun is bright and beating down on me, especially this time of year, when you step outside and feel the warmth of the sun, even in the dead of winter, it is a wonderful sensation.

Jesus seems to have another idea about sunshine.

What constitutes the sunshine in Jesus' story? Affliction, persecution, and temptation! (Kind of put a twist on those old songs, “You Are My Sunshine” and “You Are the Sunshine Of My Life”)

Sunset in the Poconos
Sunset in the Poconos

So let’s just think about this for a couple minutes.

Sunshine is completely necessary for growth. It is in fact a very good thing. Therefore affliction, persecution, and temptation are also good things, necessary for our growth. Without them you will never flourish as a believer.

But if you do not have a root system that can supply water to bring the nourishment to meet the sunlight, you might just burst into flames. [Tweet This]

Jesus said it this way

Blessed are those who have been persecuted for the sake of righteousness, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. (Matthew 5:10 NASB)

But if I am going to burst into flames, it does not sound like a blessing.

It is only a blessing when you are in a Beatitude state of mind with:

  • A poor spirit
  • Mourning over your sin
  • Meek, and submitted to the will of God
  • Hungry to see righteousness prevail
  • Quick to show mercy
  • Pure in heart
  • Helping others to find peace with God

These are the ones who will find joy, maybe not giddy happiness, but unshakable joy, in the face of affliction, persecution, and temptation.

BenThanks for coming by today.

Tomorrow we will look at a thorny subject.

See you then

Ben

For more on the Beatitudes check out my series walking through them here.

* The 3 passages have been interwoven using colors to show which passage each word originates from. I have not added anything, just pulled from the NASB in each case. Red text is from Matthew, green from Mark and blue from Luke.

Rejoice, and be glad, for your reward in heaven is great, for so they persecuted the prophets who were before you. (Matt 5:12)

As we come to the end of this beginning (the Beatitudes) we see clearly the upside-down nature of the Kingdom of God. Jesus tells us that the proper reaction to persecution, insults, and harm done to us in His name is rejoicing!
I feel like – OK Lord, it is one thing for me to expect it, and be prepared for it, but rejoice? WOW – HOW!
As I mull this, I think how did Jesus demonstrate this? Hebrews 12:2 (I know, I know, I have used this one in my blog before – your thinking this guy only knows like 8 verses – probably so)

“…fixing our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of faith, who for the joy set before Him endured the cross, despising the shame, and has sat down at the right hand of the throne of God.” (Heb 12:2 NASB)

It says He endured the cross with His eye on the prize, and that is what He tells us to do. Rejoice because of the “Great Reward.” Let’s think about this a bit.
Somehow Christians have in their collective heads (ok – that may be a broad brush stroke - forgive me please) that spiritual pursuits cannot be reward driven. Like somehow if we are doing something with a reward in view, it is unspiritual at best, or at worst sin and selfishness. Not so!
Think about this for a minute. Why were the disciples always arguing about who would be the greatest? Was it just testosterone driven machismo? Or could it be that Jesus often taught about how to be great. He would says stuff like “He who would be greatest in the kingdom of heaven…” or “…your reward in heaven is great.” It may seem paradoxical, but Jesus actually encourages us to strive for greatness, as He defines greatness. That definition is for another post.
Have you read what David said, before he decided to go after that Philistine Champion Goliath. He asked, “What do I get if take this bozo down? No more taxes and a beautiful wife! I’m in!” (my paraphrase)
So why is it OK – wait – let me fix that – why is it imperative for a Christian to pursue reward? Think of the snapshots we get of heaven. What is going on? People, saints, God’s children, assemble before His throne, and those who have received rewards have the privilege of presenting those rewards to the Lord. The more you have received from Him, the more you can give back.
So what will you have to present to the Lord? If you sit back and fall through your life, you will have nothing to present to your King. We pursue spiritual reward so that we have a tangible way to honor our King when we stand before Him. This is the stuff that will make it through the fire. This is the stuff that you can take with you!
Excellence in your walk before the Lord will net you persecution, but with that is great reward.
Thank you for visiting today. I appreciate you taking your time to read my ponderings.
Ben

Blessed are you when men cast insults at you, and persecute you, and say all kinds of evil against you falsely, on account of Me.” (Matt 5:11)

When I read this I think, didn’t we just talk about persecution, why is Jesus repeating Himself? Since Jesus is doing it again, I am drawn to the difference or as they say in France “vive la différence” (though they are probably thinking of something else entirely.)
So what is different? Actually there are a number of things that set this apart. Lets look at a few.
  • ·      Blessed are YOU… This is so personal. Jesus has been addressing the group and talking more or less 3rd person. Blessed is this guy and blessed is the one who is like this or does that. Now He says YOU are blessed! One thing I love about Jesus is how personal He was with those He touched. Obviously, as we have been reading, He preaches to crowds, but much of the time He deals with individuals. I think of Peter and his tax question – Jesus was like, take some money out of my ATM (Automatic Tilapia Mouth) and pay the taxes for YOU and me. I love that!!!! Or how about when He looks on the rich young man with compassion, and tells him exactly what he needs to hear in order to break the power of the enemy in his life.
  • ·      …when men… This is not about your character, but actions taken against you. Every other one of these items are issues of character and your reaction to life. This, on the other hand, is about men attacking you.
  • ·      …on account of Me. This is not even your fault. These things are happening to you completely because Jesus has changed your life.

 

Jesus does not seem to have a clue about self-help systems. Doesn’t he understand that nobody wants a system of steps that take you from a vaguely guilty conscience to life on the receiving end of insults, accusations, and if you are really good at it, maybe even stones. Or does He?
What I hear is this “I am with you in this. I know what YOU are going through, and you are not alone.” We have left off principles and promises, and now we see Christ in You – specifically – no generalities, no group think here. I hear Jesus speak directly to me – I, Jesus, your master, your friend, your husband, I will personally bless you, Benjamin, when people mock you, or bad mouth you, or lie about you, or think you’re an idiot because you are walking in these things.
Jesus is saying, the abuse you are receiving is because of the stand you are taking for me, and I am taking personal responsibility for your blessing as well. Such great assurance!
Know this, whatever the cost to follow Jesus, He is in it with you personally every step of the way. Remember He says, “As much as you have done it to the least of these, you have done it unto me.” (For more on this check my blog on the subject.)
Have you known this personal touch of the Lord in your life? Perhaps you have heard His voice of comfort or direction at a key time in your life. Share it with us please <smile>.

Thanks for stopping in today.

Ben

Blessed are those who are persecuted for righteousness’ sake, For theirs is the kingdom of heaven. (Matt 5:10)

Welcome to following Jesus, now die! What a crazy way to climax this amazing set of character builders.
Just for fun, did you notice that we have had 7 Beatitudes before this? 7 is God’s perfect number, the number of completion. God rested on the 7thday because He was done, not because He was tired.

So why do the beatitudes keep going?

Well, I think the first 7 of these steps on God’s stairway to heaven are pretty complete. (See my comments in What Peace?)
I feel like Jesus is saying “Welcome to the first day of the rest of your life! I died for you, now you get to die to yourself, every day!”
It is important to know that Jesus promises persecution to Christians. There are a number of references, but my favorite is probably “They will make you outcasts from the synagogue, but an hour is coming for everyone who kills you to think that he is offering service to God.” (John 16:2 NASB) Did you hear that – Jesus said they would throw you out of church, and the guy who kills you will think he is doing God a favor. (kind of reminds me of a guy named Saul of Tarsus)
OK, so I have a question for you. What does it mean if you never feel any persecution? [Tweet This] Is this a cultural thing that no longer is in effect? Is this statement just idle words? Is Jesus just prepping the few who will get in big trouble for His name’s sake, and we don’t take the heat because we live in “Christian” America?
Nope, that’s not it. If you don’t ever feel any persecution, you might want to go back over the steps. Make sure you have not jumped to the conclusion that you are a Christian, because of some outside factor. You can only become a Christian, by being changed from the inside out. Jesus said the He and His Father would come and take up residence in you. 
Today, the point I am making is that persecution is not a something unlucky Christians face, but rather it is evidence that Christ is living in you. And let me be clear, No Christ inside – No kingdom of heaven!
These words might seem a little harsh today, but don’t be offended by me being obnoxious. If it is God word that offends you, I beg you, go back to step one – humble yourselves before the hand of Almighty God! Do it today. Ask Him if you are His. Don’t wait – do it now.
Thanks for reading this my friends.
I remain, Ben
Hey – if you are curious about the Kingdom of God check out my post from a couple weeks ago on the topic called "Kingdom".
%d bloggers like this: