January 29, 2020
Dear Praying Friends,
Rachel and I appreciate your prayers for the prodigals and for revival each Wednesday. The Lord values and hears each one.
The words of Jesus in the Sermon on the Mount are completely counter-cultural and in that place, so many years ago, He taught about the great blessings (which He called beatitudes) of the Christian faith. The word, beatitude, means supreme blessedness, exalted happiness, or perfect happiness, and in Luke six there are four, with a more comprehensive list in Matthew five. The one which caught my attention today says, “Blessed are you when people hate you and when they exclude you and revile you and spurn your name as evil, on account of the Son of Man! Rejoice in that day, and leap for joy, for behold, your reward is great in heaven; for so their fathers did to the prophets” (Lk. 6:23-23).
I don’t profess to understand this fully, but it is true none-the-less. Jesus is speaking about a willingness on our part to be associated with Him, a rejected person, and taking the heat for it. No one likes to be hated, excluded, reviled, spurned as evil, naturally speaking. But if it comes because of our link with Jesus we should rejoice and leap for joy because He will reward us in heaven. It reminded me of Paul’s words, “For the sake of Christ, then, I am content with weaknesses, insults, hardships, persecutions, and calamities. For when I am weak, then I am strong” (2 Cor. 10:12).
So how can we live like this? How can we be linked with this rejected person and find victory? The answer is in the words above—in our weakness, we find power, not our own power, but the strength that comes from God's overwhelming love.
A friend sent me a paraphrased excerpt from the book, Strong In The Storm, by Rose Publishing:
Coming out of a Muslim extremist group in Egypt, "Issa" was converted to Christ in his early twenties. He soon began to lead a church for Muslim converts - illegal in Egypt. The police arrested him and threw him in prison where he endured torture, whippings, and worst of all, confinement. He was crammed into a stone box no larger than five square feet. For a month he remained there, being fed every few days through a small slot in the door. While this kind of treatment causes many prisoners to go insane, he survived. In this deprived and weakened state, he found his most fulfilling moments with Christ. He shares his experience from despair to victory: In great suffering, you discover a different Jesus than you do in normal life. Normally we are able to hide from ourselves who we really are and what we are really like. The ego is well-defended. But pain changes all that. Pain and suffering bring up to the surface all the weak points of your personality. you are too weak to mount the usual defenses and you just have to gaze at what you are really like. I was a wreck in that cell. I was reduced to tears all the time. Crying, weeping, sobbing, and wailing in the never-changing darkness. I came face to face with how awful I really was. I saw all the horrible things I had done, all the horrible things I was. I kept seeing myself again and again in the crowd shouting, "Crucify Him!" But just as I was about to collapse into complete despair and self-loathing - and probably die - an incredible realization burst into the cell like an exploding star. It was this: Jesus loved me even right then, as I sat in my own filth, weak, helpless and broken, empty and sinful. Even in that state, He loved me, and Christ rushed in and filled me, and the filling was so great because I was so empty. Seeing our failures clearly and the wrongs we have done can be a devastating feeling. We think we have messed up our lives so much that God could not possibly want us anymore. But it is only then, when we come face to face with our broken and weak selves, that we begin to really understand just how much God deeply loves us.
We need to pray for those in severe persecution, but we too need the power of God to live in boldness and daily associate ourselves with Him.
Love in Christ,
Bryan and Rachel