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Long-View Living in a Short-View World

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© 2019 Felix Koutchinski. All Rights Reserved. Unsplash.
Used by permission.

I am not a politician, though I did once run for public office, and seriously doubt I will ever do so again. It is too messy. I even got so far as to serve as the County Vice-Chair for a major political party. I have been unaffiliated for about ten years now. The more deeply one dives into politics, the uglier the environment becomes, regardless of affiliation.

It's no great secret that politicians often do not mean what they say, and do not expect to be believed, or taken seriously. By and large a candidate will say what must be said to secure the vote. A candidate can say "I hate glug, but love rapft" to a given crowd, then travel to the next town and say, "I love glug but hate rapft" without feeling the slightest bit contradictory.

Jesus was not, and is not a politician. He does not speak out of both sides of his mouth. He does expect both to be believed and to be taken seriously.

You have heard that it was said, 'You shall love your neighbor and hate your enemy.' But I say to you, Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, so that you may be sons of your Father who is in heaven. For he makes his sun rise on the evil and on the good, and sends rain on the just and on the unjust. For if you love those who love you, what reward do you have? Do not even the tax collectors do the same? And if you greet only your brothers, what more are you doing than others? Do not even the Gentiles do the same? You therefore must be perfect, as your heavenly Father is perfect. - Matthew 5:43-48, ESV

Jesus is not speaking rhetoric or hyperbole. He's serious! We are to love our enemies and pray on behalf of (not against) our persecutors. Jesus is so serious about this that he will say it again.

But I say to you who hear, Love your enemies, do good to those who hate you, bless those who curse you, pray for those who abuse you. To one who strikes you on the cheek, offer the other also, and from one who takes away your cloak do not withhold your tunic either. Give to everyone who begs from you, and from one who takes away your goods do not demand them back. And as you wish that others would do to you, do so to them. - Luke 6:27-31, ESV

I am convinced to the core of my being that Jesus, our Lord and Master, is speaking quite literally, and he expects to be taken seriously by his followers - by us. This command, direct from the mouth of God-in-the-flesh is ubiquitous in its application. There is none owning an exemption from the command, and there is none to whom its instruction does not apply.

Neither do I see any possibility of following through on Jesus' command if we stand in stubborn refusal to forgive our enemies. Through obedience to Jesus, our enemy, by definition, becomes our neighbor, and the object of our love. In his cursing, our enemy is granted our blessing. In his abuse, he is the object of our intercession before the throne of God.

How can Jesus ask this of us? How can he possibly expect us to follow through on such a lofty command?

Jesus can ask this of us because it is what Jesus offered us in himself.

But God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us. - Romans 5:8, NASB
Jesus did not wait for us to clean up our act. He did not instruct us to first purify ourselves. No. While we were eyebrows deep, mired in sin, at enmity with God, Jesus died, was buried, and rose for our forgiveness. How then can we deny anything less than active, loving engagement on behalf of those who live in enmity with us?

When we bless those who curse us, do good for those who hate us, pray for those who selfishly abuse us, it bleeds the bitterness out of our sentiment toward them, bending us to a posture of compassion. It is difficult to hate a man while I am praying for the blessing of God on his life.

When we behave in this way, we show ourselves to be children of the Father in heaven. We invest in the lives of men and women who need the grace of God every bit to the degree that we need it.

I believe this introductory look at a difficult call from Jesus is a steep enough challenge for this week. Next week we will take up our literary shovel and dig just a little more deeply into this astonishing command from the Lord and Master, Jesus.

Blessings upon you my friends.

Victoriously in Christ!

- damon

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© 2019 Clark Tibbs. All Rights Reserved. Unsplash.
Used by permission.

Last week I had an unexpected exchange of ideas with a handful of people in the comments section of my literary agent's blog. My agent, Tamela, had written a blog posting titled I Have No Plans to Write That Book. She was pressing us to write what it makes sense for us to write, while avoiding the enticement of topics that might be interesting to us, but outside our area of expertise and influence.

As always, Tamela ended her posting with a couple of questions, in this case, both of them asking what we blog post readers could, or should be writing.

I pondered Tamela's questions at length, and came close to moving on without responding because I could not come up with anything I believed to be a satisfying answer. I did eventually respond, doing so with that same sensation we have as students taking an essay test, when you know you have to write something, even if it is ignorant nonsense. One cannot simply leave the answer blank.

Here is what I wrote:

I faced down death twice in 2012, once in February and again in October, surviving a physical condition in a way that defied medical science, a condition usually diagnosed during the autopsy. When I questioned the doctors as to why I am alive, the only response they could give was, "You’re just lucky, I guess."

I concluded, rather, that there is something God wants me to do - some purpose I am to accomplish. My task, then, is/was to identify that task, that calling. So, perhaps the manuscript to write is one on how to identify your purpose or calling.

I haven’t researched it, but I suspect there is already a pile of such books available.

I thought that was the end of it. I had answered the essay question, and was now moving on.

Before the morning was half-over, my reply had received a flurry of responses from other blog readers saying, "Write that book, brother! Write that book! You should definitely consider doing so." One gentleman even suggested the title for the proposed manuscript, taken from my comment - Just Lucky, I Guess.

I was completely taken aback by the reaction to what I'd said, but then God often uses experiences like this to rattle our cage and get our attention. In response to this abrupt and unexpected experience, for the past few days I have been thinking about and interacting with others on this idea of "calling."

We Are Called

I therefore, a prisoner for the Lord, urge you to walk in a manner worthy of the calling to which you have been called, - Ephesians 4:1, ESV

The usual focus when analyzing this verse from the apostle Paul's letter to the Ephesian church is to elaborate on those ideas incorporated in "worthy," debating what does, or does not, constitute a worthy walk. Today, I would rather you note nothing more than that there is a call. You have been called with a calling! And we will look at that calling from the 30,000 foot level.

A Calling of Location

As Christ-followers, we have been "called out of darkness into his marvelous light." (1 Peter 2:9). We were "in" darkness, believing we see but not seeing, believing we understand but not understanding.

There were those who dwelt in darkness and in the shadow of death, prisoners in misery and chains. - Psalm 107:10, NASB

Our location has changed. We are no longer in darkness, but in light, and not just light, but "his marvelous light."

The people who walked in darkness have seen a great light; those who dwelt in a land of deep darkness, on them has light shone. - Isaiah 9:2, ESV

If we say we have fellowship with him while we walk in darkness, we lie and do not practice the truth. But if we walk in the light, as he is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus his Son cleanses us from all sin. - 1 John 1:6-7, ESV

A Calling of Quality

Our calling is characterized as "a heavenly calling" (Hebrews 3:1), and it is a calling we share. Much emphasis is given, I believe inappropriately, to the "personal" relationship with Chtist, to the neglect of the shared blessing of the entire body, or family of Christ. Here, the writer of Hebrews uses the term μετχος (metochos) to emphasize the shared, or mutual participation in that heavenly calling.

Our calling is an upward call, high and majestic. "I press on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus" (Philippians 3:14).

A Calling of Purpose

Our calling in Christ comes with responsibility. We do not come passively to a blessing party. We are not simply hanging out with Jesus. The much loved verse, Romans 8:28, makes it clear that our calling in Christ comes with purpose.

For starters, we are "called saints" (Romans 1:7), αγιος (hagios), holy, set-apart. Our purpose in being called in Christ, to be chosen in him, is a call to holiness as men and women of God. I recognize many translations render this something like "called to be saints" or even more closely "called as saints." It is literally two words, "kleitois hagios," called saints.

Our calling is not to be or to become saints. As the called of God, we are saints. We are made holy in that calling.

Immediately preceding this, Paul told the church at Rome that we are "called to belong to Jesus Christ" (Romans 1:6). Again, more literally, we are of Christ, certainly in the sense of being his possession (genitive), but almost as though we are of his essence, perhaps lending itself to the oft-seen phrase, "in Christ." We are the face of Christ to a lost and dying world.

Everything in our lifestyle should center around the reality that "we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them." (Ephesians 2:10).

A Calling to be Protected & Cherished

The apostle Peter urges us to give diligence and eagerness to confirming our calling, to make it a surety. We are told to “give diligence to make your calling and election sure” (2 Peter 1:10). Cherish and strive after that calling. Confirm it in your every waking moment, and guard it as a precious jewel.

Your life in Christ is no accident, cherished one. You are in Christ because you have been called there. Walk confidently and worthily in that calling.

Blessings upon you my friends.

Victoriously in Christ!

- damon

DamonJGray.org
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© 2019 Dakota Corbin. All Rights Reserved. Unsplash.
Used by permission.

Last week, I wrote about time, time-management, and noted how that is becoming increasingly difficult for me. For so many of us there is more to do than there is time to do it. We are required to prioritize and allocate time segments to those tasks that are most pressing or most deserving.

Demands on our time come from outside as others ask that we give of ourselves, our talents, our strength, our time. Volunteer opportunities and philanthropic organizations endlessly make their case for our beneficence. This has become a distinct phenomenon to such a degree that psychologists have given it a name - Prosocial Behavior.

Not all, however, are attuned to such a mindset. Just moments ago, I stood in line at Safeway with about a half-bag's worth of groceries in my cart. Just ahead of me was a young boy, roughly eight or nine years of age. He seemed concerned about the line to our right.

Parallel to me, in the line next-door stood a mother with an even younger boy. The mother had strategically placed the older boy in my line as a gauge for which line was moving the fastest. If need be, she would be able to lane-shift, since she had staked a claim in each line. As the family was reunited, she patted her son on the head and bid him, "Good job."

Rather than live narcissisticly and self-consumed, as did my Safeway friend, what if it were possible for us to reach a point of such self-denial that we gave not only our finances, our possessions, our comfort, our self-interest, and our time, but our entire being . . . our very essence to another. I cannot envision what that would look like or feel like. But I know it has happened.

Jesus gave not money, not time, not possessions. Jesus gave himself. His entirety. Everything he had, and everything he was, he laid that down for us.

He Gave Himself - x6

Six times, the New Testament tells us that Jesus "gave himself" for us. This week, we will look at those statements.

(1)
Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ, who gave himself for our sins to deliver us from the present evil age, according to the will of our God and Father, to whom be the glory forever and ever. Amen. - Galatians 1:3-5, ESV

We speak often of the "gift of salvation," freedom from our sin, and rightfully so. But in this passage the gift is not the salvation. That's the result or outcome of the gift, but the gift is Jesus himself.

(2)
I have been crucified with Christ. It is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me. And the life I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me. - Galatians 2:20, ESV

The reality of Christ living in me in exchange for me no longer living is a strange reality for our finite minds to ponder. But it is made possible only because Jesus gave himself for me. Without that, the former reality is not possible.

(3)
And walk in love, as Christ loved us and gave himself up for us, a fragrant offering and sacrifice to God. - Ephesians 5:2, ESV

Jesus' giving himself for us is prompted by his love, but the amazing thing about this verse is that his sacrifice for us was simultaneously a sacrifice of atonement to God.

(4)
Husbands, love your wives, as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her, that he might sanctify her, having cleansed her by the washing of water with the word, so that he might present the church to himself in splendor, without spot or wrinkle or any such thing, that she might be holy and without blemish. - Ephesians 5:25-27, ESV

Jesus gave himself for us to make us holy (hagios) and that he might cleanse (katharisas) us. This is where we get our concept of catharsis - a purging or discharge.

(5)
[Jesus] gave himself as a ransom for all, which is the testimony given at the proper time. - 1 Timothy 2:6, ESV

Jesus gave himself in an act of ultimate potency, a sacrifice that was a sufficient ransom for all sin. It frees us, not only from the penalty of sin, but from the power of sin over our lives.

(6)
[Jesus] gave himself for us to redeem us from all lawlessness and to purify for himself a people for his own possession who are zealous for good works. - Titus 2:14, ESV

Here, again, we see the catharsis - purify - and the purge results in a people who are zealots, eagerly chasing after good works, that whatever we do, we do it all to the glory of God (1 Corinthians 10:31, ESV).

Blessings upon you my friends.

Victoriously in Christ!

- damon

DamonJGray.org
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© 2019 Kevin Ku. All Rights Reserved. Unsplash.
Used by permission.

Between working in IT/Software Development, writing books, blogs, and articles, spending time with Alean, kids, grandkids, really, just living life, I find that time has become increasingly valuable to me. I am saying "no" more frequently than ever before, much more frequently than I want to. I am learning to multi-task, something Alean does naturally, but which come to me only with great effort.

Time. Time Management. Just thinking about it elicits a sigh of anxiety.

In the 1970s, the Steve Miller Band reminded us that "Time keeps on slippin', slippin', slippin' into the future." Because of time's linear nature, it always moves forward - never backward, and it never stops moving. Thus, time is a commodity which, once spent, can never be recovered.

Therefore let everyone who is godly pray to you while you may be found; surely when the mighty waters rise, they will not reach him. - Psalm 32:6, NIV-1978

The interesting thing about this verse from Psalm 32 is that it appears to indicate a time when God will not be found. The prophet Isaiah echoes this same sentiment: "Seek the LORD while he may be found; call upon him while he is near;" (Isaiah 55:6, ESV). Jeremiah offers the assurance that God will be found by us when we seek him will all our heart (Jeremiah 29:13, ESV). The call to seek demands an active role on my part, and the urgency to seek is amplified by time "slippin' into the future."

I have never been a fan of fear motivation, preferring rather to focus on the love of God than the wrath of God. Yet, wrath is a side of our God that we ignore to our own peril. Jesus spoke a great deal more about hell than he did of heaven. The Hebrew people were very fear motivated. See how that comes through in this passage.

All our days pass away under your wrath;
we finish our years with a moan.
The length of our days is seventy years -
or eighty, if we have the strength;
yet their span is but trouble and sorrow,
for they quickly pass, and we fly away.
Who knows the power of your anger?
For your wrath is as great as the fear that is your due you.
Teach us to number our days aright,
that we may gain a heart of wisdom.
- Psalm 90:9-12, NIV-1978

We see in this psalm the brevity of life and a call for us to "number our days aright" in light of that brevity. If we can number our days aright, or well, then it must also be possible to number them poorly and foolishly. We should seek God's guidance to number them well.

Elsewhere, David laments and cries out to God because he sees much of his life has been wasted. With his heart growing hot within him, David says:

Show me, O Lord, my life’s end
and the number of my days;
let me know how fleeting is my life.
You have made my days a mere handbreadth;
the span of my years is as nothing before you.
Each man's life is but a breath. Selah
- Psalm 39:4-5, NIV-1978
Having made his cry, David looks at the emptiness of our pursuits; the ways in which we waste our time and our efforts.
Man is a mere phantom as he goes to and fro;
He bustles about, but only in vain;
he heaps up wealth, not knowing who will get it.
- Psalm 39:6, NIV-1978

In describing the end of all things, the apostle Peter tells us that with God, a day is like a thousand years and a thousand years like a day (2 Peter 3:8). God lives outside of linear time, and we should neither doubt nor scorn his eventual return. He is coming, but is being patient with our efforts to spread the gospel (2 Peter 3:9).

But do not forget this one thing, dear friends: With the Lord a day is like a thousand years, and a thousand years are like a day. The Lord is not slow in keeping his promise, as some understand slowness. He is patient with you, not wanting anyone to perish, but everyone to come to repentance.

But the day of the Lord will come like a thief. The heavens will disappear with a roar; the elements will be destroyed by fire, and the earth and everything in it will be laid bare.

Since everything will be destroyed in this way, what kind of people ought you to be? You ought to live holy and godly lives as you look forward to the day of God and speed its coming. That day will bring about the destruction of the heavens by fire, and the elements will melt in the heat. But in keeping with his promise we are looking forward to a new heaven and a new earth, the home of righteousness.

So then, dear friends, since you are looking forward to this, make every effort to be found spotless, blameless and at peace with him.
- 2 Peter 3:8-14, NIV-1978

"Every effort" Peter says. Not just a pretty good try. And not "one of these days," or "someday." Now. Today! We have no promise of tomorrow. (James 4:13-17). Our lives are a brief mist that is here one moment and gone the next. Therefore, make now the most important time. Live now. Act now.

For he says, "In the time of my favor I heard you, and in the day of salvation I helped you." I tell you, now is the time of God's favor, now is the day of salvation. - 2 Corinthians 6:2, NIV-1978

Blessings upon you.

Victoriously in Christ!

- damon

DamonJGray.org
Medium.com
Facebook Author Page
Twitter - @DamonJGray
Bible Gateway Blogger Grid
YouTube Channel


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© 2019 Bob Dmyt. All Rights Reserved. Pixabay.
Used by permission.

This morning I was reading 2 Samuel 22:31, "As for God, His way is blameless; The word of the LORD is tested; He is a shield to all who take refuge in Him." (NASB) As I pondered the blamelessness of God, it reminded me of something I wrote several years ago, and I'd like to share that with you this week.

God is Not Fair

The concept of fairness permeates Western society. Westerners like conditions to be impartial and equitable. There is something innate to humanity, where fairness is concerned, that drives our moral and ethical compass. Young children are quick to cry out "Unfair!" when playing with one another, and it is possible that the cry has merit. It may be that one of the participants gained an unfair advantage by violating the established rules of the competition. It is equally likely that a child played the Unfair card because he or she lost, and knows that the accusation of unfairness is a powerful tool for getting a do-over, or for eliciting parental intervention.

Fairness and justice, though related, are not synonymous. Where fairness references impartiality, an even playing field, freedom from bias, or perhaps even the use of bias to bring about the aforementioned even playing field, justice is more concerned with giving each person what is their due. As far back as the Greek philosopher Plato’s Republic, the idea of fairness and justice has driven discussions related to ethical behavior. This same discussion continues with such strength and momentum that in 2015-2016, United States presidential candidate Bernie Sanders, an openly Socialist contender, made fairness the central theme of his run for the U. S. presidency, though his definition of fairness seemed to be focused more on equality of outcome than with equality of opportunity. What is truly amazing about the Sanders candidacy is that his message of fairness resonated deeply with the populace of a country that in very recent history largely despised the idea of Socialism. Sanders connected with a pain point in the voter rolls, and he played to his audience masterfully.

The notion of fairness, or the lack thereof, can be observed in numerous arenas in western culture. Just as the children cry "Unfair!" on elementary school playgrounds, that same objection is employed to gain attention wherever injustice, real or imagined, is purported to exist. Some assert unfairness from a racial perspective, believing one race or another has an unfair advantage in life. Others declare inequalities from a gender platform, believing that one gender is given preference over another in hiring practices or compensation for work performed. Still others bemoan educational inequities, whether at the elementary or secondary level, or in access to or preferences granted in post-secondary education.

Economic unfairness is an oft-heard protestation from those who object to the economic classes in society, something the Communists believe they can solve by mandating a classless society. They believe that giving all people equal status and opportunity will resolve any issues of unfairness, not realizing that those who dole out those determinations of status are, by default, placed in positions to abuse that power for their own benefit.

These and similar battles continue to generate heat and unrest, with some believing the government must legislate equality into each circumstance, while others believe the government should not be involved in the discussion at any level. The concept of fairness and justice, however, does not limit itself to the political, educational, or economic realm. Our concerns regarding fairness bleed into the spiritual realm where we struggle to understand the interaction of God with humanity, and to reconcile his love with the life-struggle drama being played out before us. Why did God let the tornado wipe out my town? Why did God let my child die? Why does God allow earthquakes? Why is my country filled with obesity when men and women in third-world countries can count their bones? This is not fair. God is not fair.

Grumbling Against God

At the risk of sounding a little cold, I will assert that what is truly fair is whatever God decides is fair. "But who are you, O man, to talk back to God? Shall what is formed say to him who formed it, 'Why did you make me like this?' Does not the potter have the right to make out of the same lump of clay some pottery for special purposes and some for common use?"1

In Matthew 20, Jesus related a story about a man who owned a vineyard, and hired several crews to work it.2 Early in the morning the landowner recruited workers for his vineyard, and negotiated a specific wage for a day’s work. About nine o’clock that same morning, the owner found more workers who were willing to work his vineyard, so he negotiated a wage with them as well and sent them to work his vineyard. The same thing happened at noon, and then again at three in the afternoon, in each case, the landowner negotiating a wage with the workers, and then sending them to work in his vineyard. Even later, at five in the afternoon, the landowner came across some men standing idle. He hired them and sent them into his vineyard.

At sundown, the landowner called the vineyard foreman, and directed him to pay all of the workers the negotiated rate, beginning with those who were hired last. For their brief time of labor, those hired last were paid a full-day’s wage. Seeing this, those who were hired first excitedly expected they would be paid more. When they also received the same full-day’s wage, they grumbled about it, saying it was unfair for them to work the full day, bearing the heaviest load of the work, right through the hottest part of the day.

But the owner of the vineyard was having none of this, essentially saying, "Your complaint is invalid. You agreed to a day’s wage and you have been paid what you agreed to. If I choose to give the same wage to someone who did not work as long as you did, it is my money and my business. So, take your pay and go."3

We look at our lives, and compare them to the lives of others, and we conclude that we are being treated unfairly, inequitably. Why is it that my nephew had to suffer brain cancer twice before he even reached the age of 20? That is not fair. Why was I born into a comfortable and loving home in Kansas while others are born into poverty in Somalia? That is not fair. Why do I live in a city where I can walk with little concern for my safety while others live in cities where they rarely leave the confines of their homes for fear of being mugged, raped, or shot? That is unfair.

Reexamining Fairness

If we measure fairness using a human-divined system of equability, it is true that everything above appears very unfair. In such a system, the cold reality is that life is grossly unfair, and nowhere do I find Jesus claiming otherwise. As soon as sin entered the human equation, selfishness was set free to run rampant in human relationships, and with selfishness, there is blatant inequality, unfairness, injustice, and evil. Selfishness is a ravenous beast whose hunger is never satisfied. Life is not fair. People are not fair. And God is not fair. God is not constrained to operate on a human system of merit despite the fact that we act as though we believe he should do so. However, if we examine our case more closely, I believe we will see the flaws in our argument regarding God’s unfairness, and feel a bit silly for making it.

God most certainly is not fair. It is not fair that the creator of all that exists should become one with what he created, only to be deeply despised and rejected by his own creation. It is not fair that Immanuel, God with us, should be beaten beyond human recognition4 and torturously fastened to a cross as a payment for my misbehavior. It is not fair that Jesus should die as a payment for my sin debt. No, God is not fair at all. But he is just.

God deals with us not according to what is fair, but according to the depth and breadth of his love for us. He deals with us according to his mercy and his grace. If we were to have our calls for fairness and justice heeded, not one of us would survive, because we are all guilty of sin.5 Justice and fairness would demand payment of our debt, and the wages of sin is death.6 God forbid that he should ever deal with us according to fairness. Thank you, God, that instead you extend to us mercy and grace. "For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith - and this not from yourselves, it is the gift of God - not by works, so that no one can boast."7

Many years ago, I was talking with another pastor about the death of his son. In that discussion, he said something so shocking, so matter-of-fact, and so profoundly true that I have never forgotten it. He said, "The question is not, 'Why did God let my son die.' The question is, 'Why does God let me live?'" The answer to his question is, "Because God is not fair." If God were fair, we would all be paying the price for ourselves, rather than relying on the death, burial, and resurrection of Jesus in our place, and on our behalf.

Why Is My Life So Hard?

Life is hard; it is difficult. That is just the simple truth of it. Jesus confirmed this in John 16, telling us, "In the world, you have trouble"8 – and indeed, we do. You and I have seen and known those who pretend to float from one victory to the next, and if we did not know better, we could look at ourselves and wonder what is wrong with us, or with our faith, that we don’t enjoy the trouble-free life that our disciple-in-denial friend pretends to enjoy. Life is hard. Consider these passages, and what they tell us about living life as a Christ-saturated man or woman:

Indeed, all who desire to live godly in Christ Jesus will be persecuted. - 2 Timothy 3:12 (NASB)
We are afflicted in every way, but not crushed; perplexed, but not despairing; persecuted, but not forsaken; struck down, but not destroyed; - 2 Corinthians 4:8-9 (NASB)
But beware of men, for they will hand you over to the courts and scourge you in their synagogues; and you will even be brought before governors and kings for My sake, as a testimony to them and to the Gentiles. - Matthew 10:17-18 (NASB)
Then they will deliver you to tribulation, and will kill you, and you will be hated by all nations because of My name. - Matthew 24:9 (NASB)
You will be hated by all because of My name, but the one who endures to the end, he will be saved. - Mark 13:13 (NASB)
They will lay their hands on you and will persecute you, delivering you to the synagogues and prisons, bringing you before kings and governors for My name’s sake … But you will be betrayed even by parents and brothers and relatives and friends, and they will put some of you to death, and you will be hated by all because of My name. - Luke 21:12b, 16-17 (NASB)
If the world hates you, you know that it has hated Me before it hated you. If you were of the world, the world would love its own; but because you are not of the world, but I chose you out of the world, because of this the world hates you. Remember the word that I said to you, ‘A slave is not greater than his master.’ If they persecuted Me, they will also persecute you; if they kept My word, they will keep yours also. - John 15:18-20 (NASB)
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)
I have given them Your word; and the world has hated them, because they are not of the world, even as I am not of the world. - John 17:14 (NASB)

Nothing in what Jesus and Paul said above offers any indication that, as Christ-followers, we should expect a life of sliding gleefully on the ice of blessedness. Quite the opposite. If what Jesus said above is to be believed, we should expect persecution, and think it strange if the persecution is not present. Pastor Greg Laurie said, "Righteousness, by its very nature, is confrontational. The very fact that you believe in Jesus bothers some people…"9 Jesus confirms this, and explains it by saying, "For everyone who does wicked things hates the light and does not come to the light, lest his works should be exposed."10

On January 16, 1983, I confessed Jesus as Lord, and submitted to a plunge into the watery grave of baptism. When I was pulled upward, out of that water, I was indeed a new creature,11 and I served a new master.12 But nothing in my physical world had changed. I was still a university student. I had to study, and my grades did not instantly become straight-A’s. I still had the driving record of my youth, and my automotive insurance reflected that reality. I still struggled with zits, and could never get my hair to lie just right. My body still became ill from time to time. Life was still difficult, but I now had a Long-View outlook that allowed me to understand my circumstances in a completely different way.

The belief and the teaching that all of the problems in my life expire when I become a Christ-follower is, at best, a misrepresentation of what Jesus taught his disciples. It flies in the face of the whole concept of counting the cost, of deciding whether or not my level of commitment will even allow me to be a follower after Christ. If the life of a disciple was nothing but endless bliss, Jesus would never have taught the way he did about the call to follow him. Peter would never have written about suffering for doing good.13 James would not exhort his readers to endure suffering with patience.14 The writer of Hebrews would never list his great roll call of faith.15 Life is hard, even a Christ-Saturated Life.

We do not become Christ-followers because it makes our lives easy. We become Christ-followers because it makes us clean before a holy God.

Blessings upon you.

Victoriously in Christ!

- damon

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1. Romans 9:20-21 (NIV - 1978)
2. Matthew 20: 1-16
3. Matthew 19:13-15
4. Isaiah 52:14
5. Romans 3:23
6. Romans 6:23
7. Ephesians 2:8-9 (NIV - 1978)
8. John 16:33
9. Laurie, G. (October 1, 2010). The Promise of Persecution. Retrieved 02/12/2016 from http://www.crosswalk.com/devotionals/harvestdaily/greg-laurie-daily-devotion-oct-1-2010-11638899.html
10. John 3:20, ESV
11. 2 Corinthians 5:17
12. Matthew 6:24, Romans 6:18
13. 1 Peter 1:6-7, 2:19-21, 3:14, 17, 4:1, 12-19
14. James 5:10-11
15. Hebrews 11:4-40


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Acts 17:28 - ἐν αὐτῷ γὰρ ζῶμεν καὶ κινούμεθα καὶ ἐσμέν