Good Morning Brothers…
We all have heard the story many times, of the Muslim woman, or man, who gave their life to Jesus over in Iraq somewhere…despite knowing what their family’s reaction would be. They are either marked for death, or completely cut off from the family, considered an enemy of the faith, and used as an example of a false believer to the faithful. We, as Christians, admire their courage and say things like, “God is good,” and “May God be praised.” We need to understand that this kind of courage is a supernatural thing. The Muslim woman is not looking for some way to dodge pipe bombs and threats in the marketplace so she decides to follow Jesus, her faith is not about needing more adrenaline in her life. Her faith is about falling in love. I officiated a wedding last weekend and a section of the vows read like this, “I will go where you go, your people will be my people, your God will be my God”…that, my friends, is love.
Let me tell you about two of the most courageous men I’ve ever met. Both of them our Pastors, both of them serve local bodies of believers and also serve groups of believers which are not local. To understand the foundation of their faith, we have to understand that denominational understandings and interpretations of faith vary greatly. Rather than spend a bunch of time comparing the two, I will just say that their foundations were different. Even though they both grew up in a denomination that preached Jesus Christ crucified for the sins of the world, the way each of them said that is (apparently) more important than the actual belief, therefore, these denominations would be at odds with each other. Along their faith journey, they assimilated some stuff, and they rebelled against some stuff, but most importantly…they learned how to listen and discern. Eventually, both of these men found themselves leading churches which seemed successful. Attendance was up, contributions were steady, God seemed to be moving within the ‘body’ and amazing things were happening. There was great joy.
Then God flipped the script….
Sometimes when God steps in, His request shakes the very core of who you thought you were…in Him!! This was certainly true for these two men. They were not only leading a congregation, but now, they had to relearn the “how” and the “why’s” of their faith. Not because their former practices were evil, but because God needed them to move for whatever the reasons God determined. Even though both of these men lived, worked, and ministered to “church” people…change will always be painful. The congregations of both churches suffered greatly if attendance is the measuring stick for success. Both Pastors were called ‘false teachers and prophets’ by the former members and did a great job of slandering their names and churches on social media. With one, his parents excommunicated him and broke off all contact with their grandkids. With the other, his name was promoted from ‘false prophet’ to ‘Antichrist’ in the local Christian High School by the teachers, in which his daughter was a student. Church people trapped by theology are more dangerous to the message of the gospel than anything Satan can do. I’m sure Satan sits back and laughs when church people tear each other to pieces over the meaning of a word, or the frequency of a ceremony. Despite the hail of bullets coming from the pews and the bell towers, these two men continued to discern the Spirit’s voice, continued to love their enemies, and continued to seek the kingdom. They weren’t always perfect, they didn’t always answer the bell gracefully, but they stayed true to their calling. They showed courage in a humble way.
I thank the Lord that I have been able to bear witness to, and walk some with, these two men. They have not become hardened, or callused, to the insults and snide remarks. If anything, they have learned to shield themselves. They are better men than me, I still have too much linebacker in me from my youth. I still get mad when I see church people attack church people. I feel sad when I see church people walk around with theological blinders on. I just shake my head when I receive emails, or text messages, explaining how I am a false prophet and the lake of fire is reserved for me. I take comfort in knowing that Jesus Himself, was also known to church people as a false prophet. These two men that I admire are not so different from the Muslim. They heard God’s call. They recognized that answering the call would be hazardous to their life. They chose to follow Jesus anyway.
Ever notice how FOXNEWS doesn’t tell us which denomination of Christianity reached the Muslim isolated in Iraq…? They don’t tell us by God’s grace I think. They don’t tell us because we need to admire the supernatural courage in the ones God has called for special operations, and not get hung up on which branch of Christianity they responded too. When God calls us to special operations, it will be painful. Not only for us, but for the faithful around us. Not sure you believe that…ask:
- Abraham (uprooted his family to lead them to someplace he has never been)
- Moses (called back to a life he left 40 years ago, to speak, and do, the impossible)
- Peter (was transformed from loud mouth fisherman to the foundation of the church)
- Paul (took 3 days of blindness and being alone to convince Paul his theology wasn’t the absolute truth)
- Constantine (first Roman Emperor to respond to God’s call and change the culture of abuse toward Christians)
- Martin Luther (challenged the authority of the Church, which started reform)
- Pope Francis (reforming the enforcement of church dogma, which has many questioning his catholicity)
All of these men, including the two I know personally, have answered God’s call, and it was, or still is, painful. Sometimes when God steps in, His request shakes the very core of who we thought we were…in Him!!