The popping of the bubble wrap

What has been taken from you because you are a Christian?

Your house, your child, your income, your career, your possessions?

What has ever been threatened because you are a Christian?

Have you been slandered, taken beatings, been thrown in jail for the name of Jesus?

Our constitutional freedoms as Christians have been in bubble wrap for nearly 250 years.

But times are changing. The bubble wrap is being squeezed and I can hear the pop, pop, pop of our constitutional Christian comforts being threatened.

American Christians have not suffered persecution. We have never been placed in a position of choosing Jesus over our job, our comforts, our possessions or family.

We have not been threatened, or beaten or died for the name of Jesus.

“Tolerant” American culture is moving away from Christian tolerance and speeding towards hostility.

I believe our constitutional protections will end someday. I also believe it will be sooner than later.

Jesus promised trouble and persecution to believers in the beatitudes.

10 “Blessed are those who are persecuted for righteousness’ sake, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.

11 “Blessed are you when others revile you and persecute you and utter all kinds of evil against you falsely on my account.

12 Rejoice and be glad, for your reward is great in heaven, for so they persecuted the prophets who were before you. – Matthew 5:10-12

Paul guaranteed persecution.

“Indeed, all who desire to live a godly life in Christ Jesus will be persecuted” – 2 Timothy 3:12

The Hebrew believers suffered persecution.

33 sometimes being publicly exposed to reproach and affliction, and sometimes being partners with those so treated.

34 For you had compassion on those in prison, and you joyfully accepted the plundering of your property, since you knew that you yourselves had a better possession and an abiding one. – Hebrews 10:33-34

We are not greater than our Lord. If he suffered we will suffer too.

When the bubble wrap is gone how will the American Christian respond?

We counted the cost and will continue onward as a good soldier.The faithful are called to endure and we will be rewarded.

What about the rest? When the music fades and all is stripped away what will they do?

When persecution comes the true church will rise the rest will leave.

Jesus said that faith will be tested.

16 And these are the ones sown on rocky ground: the ones who, when they hear the word, immediately receive it with joy.

17 And they have no root in themselves, but endure for a while; then, when tribulation or persecution arises on account of the word, immediately they fall away. – Mark 4:16-17

Plastic faith will melt under fire. True faith is refined and made pure.

When all the air in the bubble wrap is deflated and the American Christian is pressed to choose- Who and what will you choose?

Something to ponder now before the last bubble bursts.

Grace and peace

Mike

Black Beauties: A commentary on Hidden Figures

Take One

I was born on the day that senator Robert Kennedy was shot by the hands of Sirhan Sirhan. On June 5th, 1968 I came into a world of terrible social injustice and hatred of black Americans. Two months prior to my birth on April the 4th, 1968 my Christian brother and fellow American Dr. King was shot and killed by James Earl Ray.

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I am not old enough to remember segregation because I was born in the era to end it. When I see the historical images of the prejudice, hatred, segregation and oppression I am shocked by the America that preceded my birth. I am a white man in rural white northern Michigan without a context to understand those times.bobby

I was reminded of this America in a vivid way last Saturday evening. I rocked back in my theater seat enjoying my popcorn with my wife and friends as the struggle of the 1960’s was masterfully presented to us. We came to see the film Hidden Figures and it did not disappoint. Last Saturday many women assembled nationwide to be heard in Washington DC as I watched a movie about how black women changed American prejudice in a much different way. It may shock you to hear that it was done in a manner that was very quiet and very Christian.

Jesus was from Nazareth, a northern Galilee hick town with a bad reputation. No one significant ever came from there. But Jesus, the oppressed and unjustly hated Jew became the most significant and single most influential person ever to walk this earth. In the face of injustice, prejudice, mocking and eventual murder he overcame it all and turned our world upside down. Nothing in our world would ever be the same after he gave his life.

In many ways these black beauties working for NASA overcame similar injustices. The film beautifully pays tribute to the manner in which they defeated racial and sexual discimination. What stuck out to me most in Hidden Figures is that these obscure no name women responded to oppression the same way Jesus did. Through humble service and meekness they dramatically changed their world and the world of those who followed in their wake.

Take two – America first

The women were driven by a higher purpose than themselves. America was in the space race and nothing else mattered except getting John Glenn on the moon before the end of the decade. Despite the oppression and injustice they put their noses down and did their jobs making themselves invaluable to the mission. There was never a more unjustly oppressed man than the sinless Son of God yet despite this he set his face towards the cross to accomplish his Father’s mission. In a similar way these black beauties were selfless and driven for something greater than themselves. This is truly a dying spirit in America I am afraid.

The women suffered in the workplace but overcame the cruelty in a very Christian way. These black beauties were humble, respectful, and gracious in the face of ugly oppression. There was a Christian principle they followed throughout the film, it reads like this-

Servants, be subject to your masters with all respect, not only to the good and gentle but also to the unjust. For this is a gracious thing, when, mindful of God, one endures sorrows while suffering unjustly. – 1 Peter 2:18 ESV

The hidden figures suffered wrongfully but were never presented as harsh and retaliatory. These ladies had an internal beauty that was obvious to God and all who observed their good conduct. (1 Peter 3:1-6 ) They followed the example of Jesus in refusing to speak evil against their oppressors, nor did they pursue vengeful retaliation as Dr. King taught them.

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For to this you have been called, because Christ also suffered for you, leaving you an example, so that you might follow in his steps. He committed no sin, neither was deceit found in his mouth. When he was reviled, he did not revile in return; when he suffered, he did not threaten, but continued entrusting himself to him who judges justly.- 1 Peter 2:21-23 ESV

My take

True Christianity rejects moral relativity and the culture is growing increasingly more intolerant and hostile to absolute truth and Christianity. Opposition and intolerance are the embers of persecution and the fire has already started in America. Will the American Christian stand up and march, or will we humbly follow Jesus as these African-American women did? We are getting a slight taste of persecution, injustice, oppression and what will our response be? Perhaps American privilege has caused us to forget our higher calling to suffer joyfully for the name of Jesus.

As the credits rolled I thought that these women shined as examples of the Christian faith in the face of terrible injustice. I am not sure if they were confessing believers but their life sure reflected it. The film inspired me to follow the example of Jesus and of these women to persevere in the faith whatever the cost.

Live godly in a godless culture and you will suffer persecution. But the benefits must never be forgotten by those who desire to live this way. There is the benefit of grace and glory for all who suffer wrongly for doing all the right things. Jesus suffered and the Christian will suffer because of his name as well. Remember, and be encouraged by the words of Peter the persecuted apostle on how to defeat the roaring lion.

Resist him, firm in your faith, knowing that the same kinds of suffering are being experienced by your brotherhood throughout the world. And after you have suffered a little while, the God of all grace, who has called you to his eternal glory in Christ, will himself restore, confirm, strengthen, and establish you. To him be the dominion forever and ever. Amen. 1 Peter 5:10-11 ESV

I am not a film critic, I am just an American Christian. I give this movie a five-star rating and two thumbs up despite my lack of credentials. I recommend it as a must see!

Christian persecution; understanding hatred of God

Not everyone who says to me ‘Lord, Lord’ shall enter the kingdom of heaven. But he who does the will of my Father in heaven. Many will say to me in that day, ‘ Lord, Lord’, have we not prophesied in your name, cast out demons in your name, and done many wonders in your name? “And then I will declare to them,’I never knew you; depart from me, you who practice lawlessness.” (Matthew 7:21-23)
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On February 5th, 1996 this passage was cutting through my very soul. As an unbeliever I was pondering the Jesus described here and I was terrified of him. If the many religious people will be turned away from his presence what chance did I have as an indifferent church attendee? I did not want to meet Jesus in this way, I was afraid and rightfully so. For Jesus himself said, “And do not fear those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul. But rather fear Him who is able to kill both soul and body in hell.” (Matthew 10:28) On that night, in a classroom, on my knees I pleaded with God for mercy and from that moment my life would never be the same. I met Jesus that winter evening and he warmed my cold heart with his grace, mercy and peace. I am no longer afraid to meet Jesus but I am one who eagerly waits for, and loves his appearing.
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In this passage I was one of “the many” people who was on the broad road that leads to destruction. (Matthew 7:13) They cry Lord, Lord in terror pointing to their own good deeds that they did in the name of Jesus, but to their great shock the Lord judges them, condemns them and sends them away. This is why I was afraid to meet the Jesus in this passage. I couldn’t even put myself into the class of religious people who were doing good things in his name. What chance would I have in his courtroom being an indifferent Jesus watcher in the back row of a church? Oh sure, Jesus had been sprinkled into my life for my entire life. I was a church attendee and participated in youth group activities. I was raised in a Christian home and had Christian education, Jesus was everywhere around me except for the most important place, he had no place in my heart. I had no understanding that my passive stance actually put me in the enemies of God camp even though I never felt I was hostile towards him. Jesus leaves no neutral ground for men to stand on, he said you are either for him or you are against him. (Colossians 1:21-22)
My problem was the same problem as these Jesus professors in line waiting to meet him. What is their problem? There was no intimate fellowship with Christ from the heart in their religious profession, they did not know him. They offered lip service and religious activity to Jesus but lacked a heart for him. Jesus who sees their heart observes only sin within it. Why? Because a confession that trusts in ones own polluted righteousness while rejecting the perfect righteousness of Christ always falls short of a faith that saves. (Romans 3:23) Without this faith that  God offers through his Son it is impossible to please him, regardless what we say or do in his name.
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Many church people like the Jews of old (and today) are seeking to establish their own righteousness by dead works that have no power to save or any redeeming value. They are very zealous for God while ignorant and stubborn at the same time. Paul says of his own people, “For they being ignorant of God’s righteousness, and seeking to establish their own righteousness, have not submitted to the righteousness of God.” (Romans 10:3)  Paul was once ignorant (of God’s righteousness by faith) and zealous (for his own righteousness by works) but was confronted by Jesus (like me in the classroom). When he met Jesus he chucked all his religious credentials and considered it manure, exchanging it for the righteousness of Christ by faith. How come Paul? “That I may gain Christ and be found in him, not having my own righteousness, which is from the law, but that which is through faith in Christ, the righteousness that is from God, through faith.” (Philippians. 3:8-10) We must all come the same way.
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The apostle was zealous for God but not according to knowledge, he was opposed to the gospel of grace and became the greatest persecutor of Christians. Paul was an enemy of the cross of Christ, he hated Christians, he could have been the leader of ISIS today. This is the same evil and deadly spirit that controls all those who speak the God and Jesus lingo but their heart is far from him. Isaiah spoke of this and Jesus affirmed it in Mark 7:6-7, “Well did Isaiah prophesy of you hypocrites, as it is written: This people honors me with their lips but their heart is far from me. And in vain they worship me, teaching as doctrines the commandments of men.” Religious actors have empty worship and a heart far from God, they supplant man’s teaching and religious traditions for the word of God. All the violence ever dispensed on Christianity has come from the hands of the religious who hate Jesus. I might add that all who are on a crusade to destroy other faiths in the name of Christianity are not Christians at all. True Christian’s follow Jesus the Good Shepherd into paths of righteous for the sake of his name.thorns
The persecution of Christian’s comes as no surprise to a Christian. Jesus said it would happen, “These things I have spoken to you, that you may not be made to stumble. They will put you out of the synagogues: yes the time will come that whoever kills you will think they offer God service.” And exactly why will they do these things? “And these things they will do to you because they have not known the Father nor Me.” (John 16:3) The haters of God are on the rise, persecution is in the news more and more. Why? Jesus says again, “But all these things they will do for my name’s sake, because they do not know him who sent me. If I had not come and spoken to them, they would have no sin, but now they have no excuse for their sin. He who hates me hates my Father also.” (John 15:21-23) Persecution of Christians is an evidence of hatred for God and his only Son Jesus, all this is done in the name of God. They cannot kill the living Christ, so they kill those who follow him and know him showing themselves as sons of hell. (Philippians 1:28)
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Is an open confession of Jesus sufficient to give a person entrance into heaven? Is calling him Lord and reminding him of the works they had done in his name sufficient to him? No, they are not. Is an open confession of Jesus as Lord important? Absolutely! But the confession must come from a transformed heart, true salvation is two-sided. Paul affirms this, and it is simple to understand; it is the word of faith which we preach (the gospel), “That if you confess with your mouth the Lord Jesus (side 1) and believe in your heart that God has raised him from the dead (side 2), you will be saved. For with the heart one believes to righteousness, and with the mouth confession is made to salvation.” (Romans.10:9-10) 
These people described for us in Matthew 7 had an open confession but what did they lack? They lacked a heart that believed in the perfect atoning work of Christ and their need to trust in his righteousness alone, by grace alone, through faith alone. They despised his grace and established their own righteousness in which they could boast, but the boasting before men is only temporary for there will be no boasting of personal righteousness before Jesus. They will meet Jesus and sadly it will be the Jesus they never wanted to meet. I am so thankful to have met the Lord in that classroom so many years ago. For it was on that day that I first understood that, “When the kindness and the love of God our Savior toward man appeared (Jesus), not by works of righteousness which we have done, but according to his mercy he saved us, through the washing of regeneration and renewing of the Holy Spirit. (Titus 3:4-5) To God be the glory, great things he has done!
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When he opened the fifth seal, I saw under the altar the souls of those who had been slain for the word of God and for the testimony they held. And they cried with a loud voice, saying, “How long, O Lord, holy and true, until you judge and avenge our blood on those who dwell on the earth?” And a white robe was given to each of them; and it was said to them that they should rest a little while longer, until both the number of their fellow servants and their brethren, who should be killed as they were was completed.” (Revelation 6:9-11) How were they killed? They were beheaded for Christ. (Revelation 20:4) These are the martyrs at the end before Jesus returns to take back his earth; its going to get worse. Are you ready to meet him?