Friday, January 14, 2011

The Early Church

Recently I did some reading about persecution in the early church and I can't get it out of my mind. Roughly 30 years after Jesus's resurrection the Romans were led by Caesar Nero. He wanted to stir up hatred for the Christians and see them executed in horrible ways. Christ followers were arrested, jailed, and then given an opportunity to either deny their Savior or die a painful death. Some were covered in fresh animal skins and released into an arena with wild animals. Some were coated in wax and set on fire, being taunted about being the "light of the world". The lucky ones were the Roman citizens who were granted a quick death such as a beheading. How many of the people who call themselves Christians today would choose this death rather than deny Christ? Would you or I? The courage and faith of these early Christians inspires me.

What also amazes me is how God used Nero's plan against him. Nero wanted to wipe the Christians out. Yet after time, witnessing person after person choose Jesus, the world began to take notice. Who is this Jesus that people would sacrifice their lives to honor? These sacrifices became witnesses to the truth and aided the spread of the gospel. What man intended for evil, God used for good.

When I think of those early martyrs, I can hear them answering their captors with the chorus of this song...

Saturday, January 8, 2011

The Victorious Life

I started a new devotional this year that I received as a gift. It's a unique little book because the entries are written as if Jesus were speaking directly to you. And so far the words have been just what I've needed to hear.

I was getting discouraged around the holidays thinking about how I still struggle with the same issues. Yes, I've made progress, but I want the victory. So these words gave me much to think about: "You can achieve the victorious life through living in deep dependence on Me. People usually associate victory with success; not falling or stumbling, not making mistakes. But those who are successful in their own strength tend to go their own way, forgetting about Me. It is through problems and failure, weakness and neediness that you learn to rely on Me. - Jesus" (Taken from Jesus Calling by Sarah Young)

It reminds me of what Paul wrote in 2 Corinthians 12:8-10. He pleaded with God to take his "thorn" away, but learned to accept that when he was weak he was able to be strengthened through God's power. It kept him humble and dependent. So this year I want to learn to boast about my weakness instead of getting discouraged, remembering that His grace is sufficient for me and His power is made perfect in my weakness.