Leadership Character

trust

“Now the overseer must be above reproach, the husband of but one wife, temperate, self-controlled, respectable, hospitable, able to teach, not given to drunkenness, not violent but gentle, not quarrelsome, not a lover of money.” 
1 Timothy 3:2-3

With this being an election year, the American people are looking for a leader. But what exactly is a leader? A leader is someone who not only is effective in positively influencing others, but who also demonstrates the character of a leader. People want  leaders they can trust to do what they say.  One’s character is what makes trust possible.   This is true for all leaders, whether they are political, business or church leaders.

I believe that there are 5 basic characteristics of a leader:

First, they must have integrity. It means they say what they mean and do what they say. Too often leaders lose credibility because they do not follow through on their commitments.

Second, they must have wisdom. This is more than knowledge and reflects a leader’s ability to analyze information and make positive and correct choices and decisions. Leaders lose influence when they make poor decisions or bad choices.

Third, they must have humility. Leaders must put the needs of others above themselves. Nobody likes a self-serving leader. Leaders lose support when they focus on their goals instead of the needs of their followers.

Fourth, they must encourage others. Leadership is not about the leader, but it is about the followers. Leaders who serve and encourage their followers are more successful than those who don’t. Leaders lose followers when they focus on themselves.

Fifth, they must empower others. Leaders who won’t delegate or develop other leaders restrict their own potential and that of others. Leaders lose momentum and growth when they don’t tap into the capabilities of others.

The conduct of a leader is also reflective of their character. There are 7 ways a leader ought to conduct themselves according to 1 Timothy 3:2-3 above:

1. Be above reproach – no one doubts their character
2. Be self-controlled – they are disciplined
3. Be respectable – people look up to them
4. Be hospitable – they are open and welcoming
5. Be able to teach – they instruct and educate others
6. Be gentle – they respect others and are not harsh with their words
7. Be a servant – they focus on people, not money

These qualities from the Bible define the conduct of a true leader. We must always endeavor to look for them when following leaders or electing them.

Barry signature

American Perception of Christians

Looking Glass

“No one can serve two masters. Either you will hate the one and love the other, or he will be devoted to the one and despise the other.”

Matthew 6:24

In America today it seems that Christians and Christianity are under a relentless attack.  The ACLU has been fighting for years to have the Ten Commandments and any other Biblical or Christian symbols removed from public display. Christians are sued for not baking cakes for gay weddings. In Houston, the mayor tried to demand that local pastors turn over their sermons to her for review for potential hate speech. And many Americans feel that Christians have no right to express their religious beliefs politically.

Christians today are perceived as bigoted, out of touch, homophobic, intolerant and a danger to society.  A recent Barna Research report found that the majority of Americans see some Christian activities as extremism, such as handing out tracts or praying in public (Five Ways Christianity is Increasingly Viewed as Extremist, February 23, 2016 release, www.barna.org). These are very recent trends and it would have been hard to imagine this happening even 10 years ago.

But this is the America we now live in.  Our nation has not only turned its back on God (as I wrote in my book About Face),  but it is now looking to destroy or marginalize any aspect of Christian values or beliefs in our society. Today, Christians are the enemy!

How did this happen? Where did all of this anti-Christian sentiment come from? What did we do to deserve such a backlash from our own countrymen and women?

I believe that the answer to that question can be found in two reasons.

First, our society has become more socialist.  Many Americans have come to believe that capitalism does not work anymore.  President Obama declared this in Kansas back in 2011. The government has grown much larger in the past 10 years and many Americans are looking to the government for answers and help. As a result, we are seeing more people on government support programs and calling for free healthcare and free college educations.  One candidate for President, Congressmen Bernie Sanders, is a self acknowledged Socialist and is campaigning on all of these issues. And there are many Americans who are supporting him for President, especially young people! These Americans want the “state” or government to run and control our society and economy.

Why does this matter? Because Christianity is the enemy of the State! Christianity places God above man, and therefore our allegiance to God above allegiance to the state. The state cannot tolerate this because it must make everyone stay in line with the secular program. No exceptions are allowed.  History show us what happens when the state gets this kind of control – it produces the Soviet Union, Nazi Germany, and North Korea, just to name a few.  Anytime we give more power to the state we will lose more of our freedom. The two go hand in hand. So as more Americans call for more government action and put their faith in the State, it is inevitable that Christianity, and Christians, will be viewed as the enemy!

Second, our society has become more accepting of individual rights with virtually no limitations. That includes the right to have sex with whomever one chooses regardless of the dangers or consequences, the right to have free healthcare, the right to marry anyone or anything, and the right to kill innocent babies for their own convenience. All of these behaviors are against God’s Word. When Christians stand up and call some of these behaviors sinful, harmful, or evil, they are viciously attacked in the media, on social media, and in political activities.

Why does the culture respond this way? Because Christian values (and God) are a threat to them doing whatever pleases them regardless of the dangers to society or others. Again it is placing man’s desires above God’s desires. And these two desires will always be in conflict. The Apostle Paul wrote in Galatians 5:17, “For the sinful nature desires what is contrary to the Spirit, and the Spirit what is contrary to the sinful nature. They are in conflict with one another so that you do not do what you want.” In other words, they are mutually exclusive. You cannot have both! So one must be eliminated. So for Americans who only seek man’s ways, God’s way’s will always be a threat to them and they must not be allowed at all!

I don’t believe that the Christian Church has changed much at all in the past 10-20 years, at least not in their teaching or presentation of the gospel. What has changed is the attitude of many Americans towards Christians, the Church, and Christianity due to the 2 factors mentioned above. Many Americans have developed what God calls a hardened heart.

But we should not really be surprised about this. It just means that we now have to work that much harder to overcome this “hardness of heart” in our culture today by continuing to share our faith and the gospel despite the resistance. We must also recognize that it will be the Holy Spirit working in us and through us as we seek to influence America with the Word of God that will bring about any change.

I want to encourage you with the words of the Lord to Joshua in Joshua 1:9, “Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous.  Do not be terrified; do not be discouraged; for the Lord your God will be with you wherever you go.”

So let us not worry about how we are perceived by anyone other than God. Let us continue to “fight the good fight, finish the race, and keep the faith” (1 Timothy 4:7) and leave the results up to Him!

Barry signature

FaithLife Has Moved!

Moved

FaithLife Ministries announces the move of its ministry offices to Cumming, GA effective February 17th, 2016.  Our new mailing address is as follows:

6170 Crescent Landing Dr.

Cumming, GA  30028

All of our other contact information remains the same. Please use this new address for all correspondence and donations by mail.

Thank you!

Barry Voss, President

FaithLife Celebrates 15th Anniversary

Celebration

Today, January 22, 2016, FaithLife Ministries celebrates its 15th anniversary of ministry. We are amazed at what God has done in and through us these past 15 years, where he has led us, and how He has provided for us and used us to minister to church leaders around the world! This was never our plan, but God indeed had a plan for us! It reminds me of Proverbs 19:21 where it says, “Many are the plans in a man’s heart, but it is the Lord’s purpose that prevails.”

When we began this ministry in 2001, we simply had a vision to take Americans to the mission field to experience the joy of serving our brothers and sisters in other nations. God has blessed America, and Americans, and we have so much to offer the Body of Christ in other parts of the globe. God has blessed us with education and financial resources, two resources in short supply in many nations. We just wanted to be obedient to God’s command to share what we have with others less fortunate (Hebrews 13:16“And do not forget to share with others, for with such sacrifices God is pleased.”)

But little did we know what God had in mind! We have seen this ministry grow quite rapidly in the past 5 years, primarily when we followed God’s leading to establish a global trainer network. This has enabled others around the world to join us in this mission and vision, and thus multiply our efforts and our resources. Today, our training has reached 48 nations and we have 49 Trainers in 25 nations involved in our network teaching others what we have taught them! Wow! We are now halfway to our goal & vision of seeing our training reach 100 nations.

Additionally, so many of you have contributed your financial resources to help us train and equip these leaders. And others have gone with us to help us train them. We could never have done this on our own. There is power when God’s people work together for the benefit of others! Thank you so much for your partnership with us in this ministry!

God is so good and we praise, thank and acknowledge Him as the source and reason for whatever has been accomplished in this ministry! As it says in 1 Peter 4:11, “If anyone serves, he should do it with the strength God provides, so that in all things God may be praised through Jesus Christ.”

To God alone be the glory!!

 

Managing Information

  Information

“Wise men store up knowledge.”

Proverbs 10:14

One of the most overlooked resources of the church is information. This may be information on church members, or information about its ministries, activities or available resources.  There is also a wealth of information available from outside sources to help churches do the ministry they are called to and it is important to know where that information is or how to access it.  Church information must be collected and stored by the church, especially information on its members and their activities or giftedness, etc.  These will not be available unless it is gathered. Other information may be available on the internet or at a library or bookstore.

With the advent of the internet the amount of information available to us is enormous. With one click or one google search we can find out the answer to virtually any question we might ask.  The internet also enables us to find information very quickly but we must be discerning about its accuracy.  The point is, we have information at our fingertips today that we did not have 25 years ago.

However, in order to access or assess the information we need to plan or make decisions in a timely and accurate fashion, we must have it readily available or know where it is to be able to use it.  This is the process of managing information.  A computer or smart cell phone comes in very handy for doing this, but you don’t need a computer to store or manage information.  Paper files and other methods can be just as effective.

Why is managing information so important you might ask? Well, the Bible says in Proverbs 13:16 that “every prudent man acts out of knowledge.” Having knowledge is essential for making better decisions, developing strategic plans, and assessing the ministry opportunities that a church may have. Not having accurate or timely information could lead to poor planning, wasted time, and misuse of the valuable church resources that God provides us with.

There are a few principles of managing information that are helpful to know:

1. Collect and store only the information you will need or use. This would be information about your church members or activities that are necessary for decision making, planning or running the church. Avoid gathering information that is nice to know but not useful.
2. Update information on a regular basis.  Information ages very rapidly so it must be kept up to date. When was the last time your mailing address, work location, email address or cell phone number changed? For many people one of them has changed within the past year. Have a process in place to update information each year.
3. Protect personal information. Do not publish or print personal information (address, phone number, offerings, etc.) without permission from the individual.
4. Store information so that it can be accessed easily.  Use a computer or file system that is organized and cataloged. Remember to bookmark useful websites and save reports and documents to your computer or file for quick access.
5. Have a plan for using the information. Don’t just collect information but know the purpose, the process, and who is responsible for collecting it.
6. Manage the information.  Make sure information is being collected, stored and updated.  Do not assume that it is. Evaluate your data needs every year.

Finally, it is a good idea to give someone the responsibility for managing your church’s information.  This will ensure proper management and maintenance of this valuable church resource.

If you are interested in learning more about Managing Information, or our other Management for Church Leaders training topics, please visit our website or contact us at 770-492-4903.

What Non-Christians Miss Out On

Left Out“However, as it is written: No eye has seen, no ear has heard, no mind has conceived what God has prepared for those who love Him.”

1 Corinthians 2:9

As we enter into this Christmas season where Christians celebrate the birth of God’s Son, Jesus, and the good news of mercy, grace and salvation for ALL of mankind that He brings, I can’t help but think about what His life means to me. Christmas is not only a time of joy, giving and celebration, but it is also a time of reflection on what God has given to me and to everyone who would believe in His Son, Jesus. Christmas to me is not about decorated trees, parties and gifts. It is about a time when God entered into our humanity in the form of a baby boy who would grow up to sacrifice His holy and sinless life for yours and mine. God did this solely because He loves us so much (John 3:16)!

Those who do not know God or believe in Him or His Son Jesus therefore miss out on this incredible FREE gift that God offers to every human being. It’s like having a multi-million dollar winning lottery ticket in your hand and either not knowing it’s a winning ticket or simply refusing to collect on it! Those who reject Christianity, or who attack Christians and our beliefs, are often unaware of what God is really offering them. They only see an institutionalized church, sinful & hypocritical behavior by those who call themselves Christians, or an attitude of condemnation and self-righteousness by Believers. They only see a blank lottery ticket. They desperately need to see God for who He is and not see us for who we are! They need to know that He is their winning ticket!

I would like to share 7 things that I believe non-Christians miss out on by rejecting God’s gift of His son Jesus:

  1. Joy – There is a joy in knowing God and Jesus that cannot be explained. It can only be experienced. It is a daily contentment in all that God has done and continues to do in the life of every believer. It is not a temporary happiness but a deeply felt joyfulness!
  2. Confidence – There is a confidence in knowing that God is in control of everything and that His promises to save us, protect us and walk with us every day are assured. Despite anything that happens to us in this life, God is always there to lift us up in our time of need!
  3. Knowledge – God left us His Word and His wisdom to help us navigate this life that we live. Without the knowledge that our Creator provides we turn to our own knowledge and wisdom which is unreliable and often wrong. Trusting in man’s wisdom instead of God’s wisdom will always leave us worse off.
  4. Perspective – Believing in God and His Word gives us a perspective on our world and our place in it that cannot be found anywhere else. It enables us to see what sin and evil are, how our behavior impacts our lives and those of others, and helps us understand how to relate to others and our world in a positive way.
  5. Fellowship – Belonging to the body of Christ means we will never walk this life alone. As a Christian, we have brothers and sisters all over the world who will pray for us, help us in our time of need, or simply walk beside us in times of trouble. We are part of a larger family that gives us purpose, support, and love.
  6. Power – As Christians, we have the power of the Holy Spirit living in us that is available 24/7. It is the power to overcome, to do the impossible, or to endure the trials that this world has to offer. It is a power like no other. And it costs us nothing while it cost God everything – His only Son Jesus! Faith in Jesus is all we need to gain access to that power!
  7. Love – While most humans experience human love from family and friends, nothing on this earth can compare to the unsurpassing and unconditional love that the Father God has lavished upon us! (1 John 3:1) It is a love that goes to our inmost being and tells us that no matter who we are or what we have done, God loves us with a passion and depth that is beyond our human understanding!

So how can non-Christians experience these 7 incredible blessings that those who follow Christ know, feel, and appreciate? It is only when we share the gospel message of Christ with them (and what Christmas really means) and they allow the Holy Spirit to convict them of the truth of His Word and His Son Jesus! Metaphorically speaking, we need to show them that their lottery ticket is valid, worth millions, and absolutely real!

So this Christmas, let us not just celebrate the birth of our Savior, but let us tell others about the birth of their Savior! “So let us now grow weary of doing good, for at the proper time we will reap a harvest if we do not give up.”Galatians 5:9

Developing Leaders

Developing Leaders

So the Lord said to Moses, “Take Joshua, son of Nun, a man in whom is the spirit, and lay your hand on him. Have him stand before Eleazar the priest and the entire assembly and commission him in their presence. Give him some of your authority so the whole Israelite community will obey him.”

Numbers 27:18-20

With church or ministry leadership comes a huge responsibility for completing the ministry work that the Lord has called us to. More often than not, we assume that as a leader we need to be intimately involved in every aspect of our ministry if we are to lead it effectively. But the reality is we can’t. We cannot lead every meeting, oversee every detail or make every decision. As leaders, we need to enlist the support and abilities of others if we are to meet the goals God has given to us. That means that we need to identify other people who are potential leaders and develop them so that they can lead, act, and manage according to our objectives and authority. Just as Moses laid his hands on Joshua, you too will need to identify other leaders who are “in the spirit,” and commission them to act on your behalf, and with your authority.

The first thing we must do is to determine what a leader is according to the Bible. I believe there are 4 factors that describe a leader from a Biblical perspective:

  1. A leader knows their identity is in Christ (1 Peter 2:9)
  2. A leader acknowledges that they are to help others employ their spiritual gifts (1 Peter 4:10)
  3. A leader understands that their job is to be salt and light (Matthew 5:13-16)
  4. A leader is committed to spreading the gospel (Acts 1:8) and making disciples of Christ (Matthew 28:19)

Knowing how to develop other leaders is extremely important for the growth and success of any ministry. If there is only one leader then that leader will be the “lid” on the ministry according to John Maxwell in his book, The 21 Irrefutable Laws of Leadership. In other words, the ministry will not grow beyond the leader’s own abilities. Enlisting the help of other leaders enables a ministry to multiply and to go places where one leader alone cannot go by themselves. It also unleashes the power of the Holy Spirit as it works through more people!

The first step in developing leaders is to identify those who have potential. Often in our culture, churches rely on secular criteria, such as education, experience and personal references. But the Bible says there are only 3 criteria we should use:

  1. People of character (1 Timothy 3:2-3)
  2. People of faith (1 Timothy 3:9)
  3. People full of the Holy Spirit (Acts 6:3)

Failure to use these criteria often results in bad leaders. And removing bad leaders is one of the most difficult things to do in ministry. The only way to avoid that is to choose wisely and use God’s criteria for a leader and not the world’s criteria. If a potential leader exhibits the Biblical criteria, then we can use education, experience and references to select the best candidate. I would add that it is also good to select people with a passion for the ministry, people who are trainable, and people who have the appropriate spiritual gifts to ensure the best fit for the position.

Once a potential leader has been selected the development process begins. It starts with discipleship and making sure their faith is mature and that they have the knowledge to lead. Next they should be given a responsibility to see how they handle it. The leader should also clearly communicate their expectations to them and hold them accountable to complete the tasks they are assigned as agreed to. Start with small tasks and then gradually increase the level of complexity. After they have proven their capability and knowledge and as their leader you are comfortable with their leadership, release them into ministry by assigning them a responsibility. This is what Jesus did with the disciples when he sent them out in Matthew 10.

Raising up other leaders is one of the most gratifying accomplishments of any leader. But be sure to do it according to Biblical criteria, take your time in selecting the leader, and pray for God’s wisdom to make sure you have the right leader!

By  Barry D. Voss

Good vs. Evil

Good & Evil

“Hate what is evil; cling to what is good.”

Romans 12:9

I think most people would agree that there is evil in the world today. Whether it is ISIS, mass shooters, drug cartels, corrupt governments, or greedy businesses, there appears to be no shortage of people who are intent on harming others or seeking power and domination. There has been evil in the past and there will be evil in the future. This is nothing new or unusual. But is evil only limited to the obvious? Does evil exist elsewhere that we are perhaps not aware of until it is too late?

Well, we first must understand what evil is. The dictionary defines it in two ways. First, it says it means morally bad or reprehensible, sinful, or wicked. Second, it also defines it as causing harm to someone. In other words, it is anything that is not of God, since God is good (“taste and see that the Lord is good”Proverbs 34:8) and God is love (“love does no harm to its neighbor.”Romans 13:10)

When evil is viewed from a Biblical perspective we begin to recognize that evil is far more pervasive than we might normally think. Thus, common behaviors in our culture that many people often consider as personal choices can be classified as evil. This includes things like abortion, prostitution, lotteries, fornication, homosexual behavior, gay marriage, drug abuse, divorce, gossip, cheating, gambling, drunkenness, dishonesty, arrogance, pride, gluttony, laziness, and the list goes on. These are the things that draw us away from God and are therefore evil. The Apostle Paul also gives us a list in Galatians 5:19-21 when he says, “The acts of the sinful nature are obvious: sexual immorality, impurity and debauchery, idolatry and witchcraft, hatred, discord, jealousy, fits of rage, selfish ambitions, dissensions, factions and envy, drunkenness, orgies and the like. I warn you, as I did before, that those who live like this will not inherit the kingdom of God.” So evil is not just found in horrific atrocities, but rather is found in many of the everyday activities of this life and culture we live in.

So why do we not recognize these things as evil? Simply put, it is because we do not know God. The person who loves God and follows Jesus can more easily recognize evil, because they are walking in His truth and light (1 John 1:7). Those who do not have a close relationship with God or Jesus are therefore unable to distinguish evil from good because they are walking in darkness (Proverbs 4:19). They are blinded and just can’t see it. When we read Scripture and begin to know God more and more our eyes are opened and we become offended at what offends God – sin and evil! And that will often bring us into direct conflict with our world/culture and with Satan, the great deceiver.

You see, Satan is the Prince of Darkness and works to deceive everyone about who he is and what is evil. He packages things in such a way as to make us desire them, even though they are not good for us, or are against God’s commands. He also masquerades as an angel of light (2 Corinthians 11:14) in order to deceive the world as to his true intention – which is to lead people away from God and His Light that is Jesus! And once we believe Satan’s lies and deceit, we are hooked into accepting evil as good.

So how do we deal with Satan and the evil that is all around us in our culture? First, Romans 12:9 tells us to “hate what is evil and cling to what is good.” Secondly, Romans 12:17 says that we should “not repay evil with evil.” Finally, Romans 12:21 goes on to say that we should “not be overcome by evil but overcome evil with good.” So we are not called to fight evil with evil, but rather to overcome evil by God’s goodness. That means that we must continue to draw closer to Jesus, to study His Word so we will know the truth, and to reach out to the lost, and our enemies, in love. That’s the deal and the only way it will work. To quote Edmund Burke, “the only thing necessary for evil to triumph is for good men to do nothing!” To be a good men/women means we must know God and His truth and live accordingly.

So let’s commit ourselves to being good by seeking God and His ways and then walking in His Light. Only then we will be able to see the evil around us, overcome it by His goodness, and become “more than conquerors.” (Romans 8:37)

Managing Conflict

Conflict

“Blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called sons of God.”

Matthew 5:9

Every church or ministry leader should know that conflict is inevitable in any organization. It is even more likely in the church, because the church is about people, and whenever there are people there will be conflict.  Since Jesus calls us to be peacemakers, church leaders should be prepared for it and have a Biblical way of dealing with it. So learning how to manage conflict is important for every church leader because it exists in the church, causes problems and divisions, and often results in ministry stagnation.  Confronting and dealing with conflict effectively will enable a church to move forward.

There are also sources, reasons and causes for conflict, and leaders must understand the difference.

Sources of conflict are related to the different people groups in a church.  They arise between individual church members, between the pastor and church members, between generations, between genders, and between ministries. In many churches people group together according to their preferences, interests or abilities. Some examples include worship style, home fellowship groups, children’s ministry, or choirs. They are like special interest groups whose participants have a greater concern about their particular part of the church ministry. When special interests collide, there is conflict.

Reasons for conflict are related to the actions or in-actions of a church.  They arise when there is no vision or goals being pursued, there is no strategic plan in place, there is inadequate discipleship, there is poor communication, or when the church does not deal with problems. In other words, poor leadership. When the people are not sure of what the church is trying to do then they will generally decide for themselves what is best, and hence conflict will ensue. As it is stated in Judges 21:25, “In those days Israel had no king; everyone did as he saw fit.”

Causes of conflict are related to spiritual forces that are at work (Ephesians 6:12). There are 3 underlying causes for most conflict: Satan, our sinful nature, and our sinful world. The Bible teaches us in 1 Peter 5:8 that “the devil prowls around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour.” That’s Satan at work trying to cause us to sin or pit us against each other. In Galatians 5:17 Paul writes that “the sinful nature desires what is contrary to the Spirit.” Our own humanness is always working against us and against God’s will. And finally, the Bible says in 1 John 2:16 that “everything in the world – the cravings of sinful man, the lust of his eyes, and the boasting of what he has and does – comes not from the Father but from the world.” So the world in which we live is corrupt and always trying to corrupt us and lead us away from God. As a result, these 3 causes drive most every conflict. So we must be careful not to hate those whom we are in conflict with, but rather to recognize the underlying cause and to hate it instead. “Hate what is evil, cling to what is good.” (Romans 12:9)

Most conflict is obvious, such as  emotional outbursts, written complaints, or gossip. When a leader sees them they can deal with them.  But some conflict is not so obvious, like withdrawal from church activities, project delays, or no communication. Leaders must be mindful of these and often explore them for their hidden conflicts so they can be dealt with as well.

How are we to resolve conflict? Fortunately, Jesus gives us the answer in Matthew 18:15-17 where he outlines a process for dealing with conflict and sin between people.  It is based on repentance and forgiveness. Jesus also says in Luke 6:42 that we are to “first take the plank out of our eye, and then you will see clearly to remove the speck from your brother’s eye.”  So first, we go to the person and try to resolve it between us by first repenting of our sin and asking forgiveness. If there is no repentance or forgiveness from the other person, then we are to gather 2-3 witnesses and try again. And if that does not work, we are to take the issue before the entire church.  Church leaders are also sometimes called in to mediate a conflict. In that case, it is important for the leader to get all the facts, to encourage both sides to repent and forgive the other, and to follow the process that Jesus has outlined.

The key to resolving conflict, therefore, is found in humility and forgiveness. Both of these are very powerful spiritual tools that when used can overcome Satan, our sinful nature, and the sinful world, and lead to peace.  But remember, we are only responsible for our own actions. We cannot force others to forgive nor can we change their hearts or attitudes.  Only God can do that.

So let us all seek to be peacemakers through our spiritual actions of humility and forgiveness!

Christian Persecution

Persecution

“In fact, everyone who wants to live a Godly life in Christ Jesus will be persecuted.”

2 Timothy 3:12

 

In the past couple of years, ISIS has brought the issue of Christian persecution to the forefront of the world with their release of videos showing the be-headings of Egyptian Christians on a beach in Libya and the vicious attacks on Christians in Syria and Iraq. But there have been other attacks on Christians that have gained the world’s attention, including the kidnapping of 200+ Christians girls in Nigeria by Boko Haram and the murder of 70+ Christian college students in Garissa, Kenya. There have also been many lesser known attacks on Christians worldwide as documented by Open doors International that include church destruction and the incarceration of Christians. I am also personally aware of church bombings in Pakistan and the intimidation of Christians in India through our network of contacts. These are horrible atrocities that we Christians here in America are shielded from and have rarely, if ever, faced ourselves.

But does that mean that Christians in America are not persecuted? Hardly.  While we rarely face imprisonment for our faith, it happened just recently when Kim Davis, the Rowan County Clerk in Kentucky, was jailed for not issuing marriage licenses to gay couples because of her faith. Then there is Aaron & Melissa Klein, who own an Oregon bakery, who refused to put a celebratory message on a wedding cake for a gay couple and was sued and ordered to pay $135,000 in damages. There are blistering attacks on Christians who share their beliefs on the internet and in the media as well as the continual erosion of respect for the rights of Christians to express their faith in this nation. While these may pale in comparison to what is happening in the rest of the world, it is deeply troubling that it is now happening in America!

We Christians in America have been living a blessed life for many years, owing to the faith of our founders and forefathers in this land. But the culture in America has changed radically in the past 50 years and has become more secularized.  America has turned its back on God and began doing so long ago. And yet we should not be surprised. The Bible says in 2 Timothy 3:12 that “In fact, everyone who wants to live a Godly life in Christ Jesus will be persecuted.” Additionally, Jesus said in John 15:18, “If the world hates you, keep in mind that it hated me first.” And again in John 15:20 he said that “if they persecuted me, they will persecute you also.”  So it is clear that persecution goes along with being a Christian!

And that should be obvious, because the world is against God and has been corrupted by satan since the fall of man (Genesis 3). Paul writes in Galatians 5:17 that “the sinful nature desires what is contrary to the Spirit, and the Spirit what is contrary to the sinful nature. They are in conflict with each other.” So as a Christian develops a deeper faith in Christ they should expect more persecution. The more we become like Christ the more the world will hate us and persecute us. That’s why Jesus was crucified, because he was a threat to the ways of the world (and people doing what they want instead of submitting to God).

Ah, but wait!  There is good news!! Jesus said in John 16:33 that “in this world you will have trouble.  But take heart! I have overcome the world.” Jesus went to the cross for you and me, and even those who killed him. But God raised Him from the dead for all to see.  He did this to save us! Why? Because our God is a loving God and does not want anyone to perish but to come to repentance (1Peter 3:9) and to experience eternal life with Him!! He did this so we might have everlasting joy and the assurance of eternity with our loving God and Savior Jesus Christ.

So no matter what happens in this world, Christians know that there is a better world waiting for us. We should not fear death nor should we fear persecution. But as it is written in 1 Peter 4:13, “Rejoice that you participate in the sufferings of Christ, so that you may be overjoyed when His glory is revealed.” And again in  1 Peter 4:16, “However, if you suffer as a Christian, do not be ashamed, but praise God that you bear that name.”

So c’mon world, bring it on! My God is bigger than your hate!!