Monthly Archives: February 2009

My Revelation From “Fox’s Book of Martyrs”

Jane at Across Walk wrote the following comment on the last Swimming Upstream:

I’ve been trudging through Fox’s Book of Martyrs. It’s been on the coffee table, the shelf in the bathroom and is currently traveling to and from the place of employment in the back seat. The constant echo as I read on and on is “put a face on it.” The ongoing, endless, bloody tortures, one right after another, risk redundancy and an ultimate emotional shutdown, chilling further reactionary heartbreak over each disembowelment, decapitation, sawing, boiling, broiling, and burning at the stake. The little voice repeats itself over and over in my mind — put a face on her. Put a face on him, someone you know, someone you love.

Jane’s mention of Fox’s Book of Martyrs reminded me of my personal struggle with it many years ago. As I read the book, I became squeamish about being burnt at the stake. It made me nauseous to think that this could happen to me.

It bothered me so much that I prayed to the Lord about it. “Lord, if Your desire for me is to be a martyr, I volunteer for it. Chop off my head. Shoot me. Poison me. Knife me. Drown me. Put me in boiling oil. Stone me. Drop me from the Empire State Building. But please Lord, don’t burn me at the stake. I’m not sure that I will be an effective martyr for You if that method is used on me.”

At the time of this prayer, I was working for a motel chain. Mostly I was a maintenance man, but a couple days a week, I delivered the “Meals on Wheels” for three senior citizen centers.

One day, I was removing a large pan of meat from an oven. As I turned to put it on the counter, the pan shifted in my hand and scalding water poured over my hand. One hundred and seventy-five degrees. Two cooks ran to help. One told me to put my hand under the water; and the other was poised to call an ambulance.

I did not move. I just stood there looking at my dripping wet hand. It was red. There was pain. But yet, the pain was only on the surface of the hand, not on the inner part of the hand. It was bearable. In fact, it did not bother me that much.

Eventually, the cook grabbed me and put my hand under the faucet. I did it more to calm her down than to relieve my pain. Within seconds, my hand was back to normal.

This experience quieted my fears about being burnt at the stake or any form of martydom. I believe there is a special grace placed on martyrs to endure the suffering and still be the effective witness that the Lord needs for the people watching on.

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Swimming Upstream: “Pray For President Obama, But Don’t Bow Your Knees To Him”

First of all, then, I urge that entreaties and prayers, petitions and thanksgivings be made on behalf of all men, for kings and all who are in authority, so that we may lead a tranquil and quiet life in all godliness and dignity. This is good and acceptable in the sight of God our Savior who desires all men to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth. (1 Timothy 2:1-4)

Can you imagine what Timothy thought when he read the letter from the Apostle Paul containing the above verses? Maybe something like – Paul, you’ve lost it this time. Emperor Nero needs to be hung from a tree, shot at sunup, knifed in the back, pushed over a cliff and crucified. Prayers! Why waste them on this rogue?

But did you know that historians portray Nero as being extremely popular with the common classes of people? He supported the freedman class by vetoing laws enacted by the Senate. He cut taxes. He removed harsh tax collectors. He removed tariffs on imported food. His public relief effort after the fire consisted of heavy government spending on construction projects. He tried to reform the government. And oh yes, he was a great orator. People loved to hear him speak, especially when he promised them goodies.

Nero had a major downside; he persecuted Christians. Squads of soldiers were dispatched throughout the empire to inquire of people, “Do you swear allegiance to Emperor Nero as your lord?”

Sadly, Christians were backed into a corner with the question. They had one Lord, Jesus. When they answered negatively, they were whisked off to arenas where they were covered with skins of animals and offered as prey for hungry lions. Or they were crucified. Or they were mounted on poles, covered with wax and used as candles for lawn parties.

It was not a good time to be a Christian. And yet, Paul stated that believers needed to pray for Nero and that this was good and acceptable in the sight of God.

So fast forward to 2009,  we need to do the same for President Obama. Pray for him in every possible way. For Michelle. For Malia and Sasha. For his mother-in-law. For his aunt. For all of his administration. Why? So that we Christians can lead quiet and tranquil lives in all godliness and dignity.

But if President Obama steps over the line and asks us compromise our Christian principles, don’t bow your knees to him. Grab an animal skin and head for the lions’ den.

Swimming Upstream appears at this blog site on Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays. It’s  a little of this and a little of that, all written  to encourage and exhort believers in their Christian jouneys.

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Swimming Upstream: “So Long American Economy, It’s Been Good to KnowYou”

Do you have the feeling that President Obama, the Senate and Congress have studied economics at the feet of Bernie Maddoff? As in, let’s borrow more money to dig our way out of debt. And then, when that doesn’t work, let’s borrow even more money. And then, more borrowing.  And then. And then. Until finally:

The rich rules over the poor, and the borrower becomes the lender’s slave. (Proverbs 22:7)

So what are you going to do about it? Pull a Howard Beale, run over to your window, fling it open and scream, “I’m mad as hell, and I’m not going to take it anymore!”

Then what? Are you going to flop down on the sofa, pull a blanket over your head and hope all of this economic stuff will just somehow sort itself out and things will return to normal? You know, back when home investments were skyrocketing, stocks were soaring into the stratosphere, IRA’s had values and Social Security was something to look forward to.

Or maybe you think that God will raise up a Sarah Palin or someone like her who will come riding in on a white horse at the last possible moment to turn everything around? A modern Joan of Arc. You can almost hear the praise celebrations even now, right?

Well, like any good airline captain, I have some advice for you. “This is your captain speaking. All four engines have just flamed out. It looks like we’re going to have to make an unscheduled landing. I’m going to try and glide this jet to the nearest airport, but oh boy, that’s a long shot! So if I was you, I’d bend over and grab my ankles. Then while in that position, kiss everything goodbye.”

Here’s a bit of good news: God has a plan that will work. Seek Him, now!

Swimming Upstream appears at this blog site on Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays. It’s  a little of this and a little of that, all written  to encourage and exhort believers in their Christian jouneys.

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Swimming Upstream: “Following God…No Matter Where”

What if the Lord asked you to go to what looks like a garbage dump and minister to some of the poorest and neediest people in the world, would you go? No doubt, a tough question for most of us. One, we hope the Lord would never ask.

But Mark and Christine Pedder were asked just that, and they said, “Yes.”

The following is taken from Mark’s blog:

Mark and Christine Pedder, two Aussies living and working one of the largest slums in Asia, BASECO.

Around 60 acres of reclaimed land, with an estimated 16,000 families living on it in abject poverty. The average family size is mum, dad and 4-6 children, with extremes where families have more than 10 children. The largest family we personally know has 21 living children, our neighbor has 18. So even if you do the lowest possible estimate of our slum population, we have more than 100,000 people living in our slum.

Poverty, the poorest of the poor, disease, sickness, rubbish, lack of clean water, no sewerage, occassional pirated electricity… (See here)

Tired of reading, check out these photos and have your heart crushed. Mark’s blog. And their ministry.

One of my biggest fears is that one day soon I will stand before the Judgment Seat of Christ. There I will watch Jesus set a torch to all of my so-called works. What will the fire reveal? I fear there will be nothing but ashes left from my man-made wood, hay and straw works.  Nothing else. No gold, silver or precious jewels. Then, how will I will spend my eternity in heaven? Will I always lament my lost opportunities? Or is there enough grace to cover my shame?

Mark and Christine have challenged me with an opportunity. Now, what am I going to do with it?

Swimming Upstream appears at this blog site on Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays. It’s  a little of this and a little of that, all written  to encourage and exhort believers in their Christian jouneys.

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Raising People From The Dead – Are You Silly?

For those Red Letter Christians who really, really want to obey what Jesus said:

And as you go, preach,  saying, “The kingdom of God is at hand. Heal the sick, cleanse the lepers, raise the dead, cast out demons. Freely you have received, freely give. (Matthew 10: 7-8)

Now, if you think that raising the dead is no longer happening, then you need to check out Dave Hogan of Freedom Ministries. His ministry has over 400 people raised from the dead.

And for the rest of us, what’s our problem? Huh?

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Are Pulpits At Fault For America’s Present Dilemma?

We are sick, and the pulpits are largely at fault. It is certainly not because we lack great pulpiteers, personalities and promoters. What, then, is the root problem? Or, like the old commercial of a national fast food franchise, “Where’s the beef?”
Pastors must get back to putting the call to make disciples and teach the people “all that I have commanded you” (Matthew 28:18-20) ahead of church as usual. Preach the unvarnished Word of God rather than telling stories salted with a few Scriptures. Will it empty some pews? Undoubtedly. Will it make you more popular and a pop icon? Most likely not. Will it restore the power of God to the church and bring healing to our land? It always has.
We are at a point where thousands of pastors across America must take the challenge, honestly assess whether we are accepting the full mandate in every area shown above and providing the “offensive” leadership that the church so desperately needs. The cost of not doing so can already be measured in broken lives and a weak nation. (Dave Welch)

Are pulpits at fault for America’s present dilemma?  Yes.

Do I agree with the analysis by Dave Welch? No, absolutely not.

What’s my suggestion? Burn the pulpits. Sell the churches. Give the money to charity. Start a reformation. Begin anew.

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Swimming Upstream “Persecution Brings Power”

Do you want a powerful Church? Most believers would answer, “Amen, brother. Bring on the power.”

Are you willing to pray for the power to fall upon the Church? Once again, most believers would nod their heads and answer, “Amen. Amen. Let’s do it.”

Now, what if I tell you that in order to have a powerful Church, we’ll need heavy persecution; then how many of you are willing to pray for heavy persecution to fall upon the Church? This is probably where most believers head for the doors. Some might even throw a few choice words over their backs as they leave, such as, “Don’t you know that Jesus is the Prince of Peace?”

Well, I have good news for everyone. We don’t have to pray for heavy persecution to fall upon the Church. Why? It’s already here.

“Where? And how?” you ask with a raised, skeptical eyebrow.

President Barack Obama and the Democrat-controlled Senate and Congress are right now in the process of heaping persecution on the Church. It’ll be camouflaged as types of religious fairness doctrines or hate-speech crimes, all to protect innocents from us mean Christians.  But understand this, there will be penalties for disobeying these laws and mandates.

So, if you are still wondering why President Obama won the election, think of it like this. Jesus is building His Church. A little of this. A little of that. And whole lot of power to hold it together in unity.

The Church patronized is the Church paralyzed, therefore, the Church in peril. The Church persecuted is the Church prayerful, and therefore powerful. (G. Campbell Morgan)

Swimming Upstream appears at this blog site on Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays. It’s  a little of this and a little of that, all written  to encourage and exhort believers in their Christian jouneys.

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