Saturday, April 23, 2011

Between Friday and Sunday

The Saturday between Good Friday and Easter Sunday is often lost in the shuffle. As Followers of Jesus, we rightfully contemplate, repent, and think about the enormity of the Cross on Friday. We are struck by the magnitude of God’s grace and mercy upon us, and of the great sacrifice of Jesus. Then on Sunday we spend time in celebration, thankfulness, and joy because the “grave could not hold Jesus”. Without Sunday, Friday doesn’t matter. Without Sunday, we have no hope.

Given the huge role both the death and resurrection play in our faith, no wonder we get caught up in the Friday and Sunday events and what they mean. But the Saturday, the “in between” time is actually of extreme importance as well. Between the death and resurrection of our Savior is a time of deep waiting, yearning, darkness, and anguish.

I often try to put myself in the disciples shoes during this time between death and resurrection. Would I have lost hope? Would I have turned away and ran? Would I have cursed God? Would I have went on with my life as if nothing happened? I am not sure. But I do know one thing, I am thankful in many ways that I didn’t live during that period of time because, frankly, I am afraid that my seemingly little faith would have been my undoing.

But here we are 2000 years removed from this world changing event and we know the outcome of this “in between time.” But as I think about how this “in between time” can still have meaning to me as a Follower of Jesus here and now in the 21st century, my thoughts quickly turn to those who don’t have the same hope we have, the same knowledge we have. The majority of the world still would have many of the doubts, questions, uncertainties, etc. that I posed above that many, if not all, people would have had in the 1st century. Therefore, as Christians tasked to take the Good News to the world, the Saturday in between Good Friday and Easter is actually of the utmost importance to us.

The Word tells us that after Jesus died on the cross that He, “preached to the spirits imprisoned...” (1 Peter 3). While there is debate as to what this means, to me, what is clear is that Jesus was apart from God (utter darkness) during this time. Knowing this we can easily see that temporarily He was like the majority of the world today: apart from God. But He also “preached”….something meaningful for us to know about the “in between” time as well and impart in our lives.

The “in between” time is actually in many ways the time we are living in now. We are between the time of the incarnation, life, death, resurrection of Jesus and the full realization of the Kingdom of God (second coming). And we have but one task given during this “in between” time: make Him known to the world.

During this “in between” time, this particular Saturday:

Over 400 Followers of Jesus will be martyred for their faith

25,000 people will die from preventable causes (i.e. hunger, disease)

155,000 (roughly) will die today in the world, of which roughly 2/3 don’t know Jesus.

Many will be trafficked. Many will die from violence. Many will be abused. Many will be forgotten. Many will not have a chance to start life.

Our faith has everything to do about Saturday. Spend some time this Easter season thinking about that…and doing something about it…May we always spend time in reflection over the enormity of the Cross and Resurrection. May we thank God for His provision and love. But may we also be a people who actively and passionately have something to say to the world that suffers and dies apart from Jesus in the “in between” time.

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

Lent 2011: Week 5, Speechless

In this week’s story, a Cambodian girl finds herself utterly “speechless”: no one listens to her pleas for mercy, no one ever responds to her cries for help, and absolutely no one cares about her rights to freedom and respect as a human being. Here's Ka's story.

REFLECTION: Ka faced some horrible experiences that oppressed her ability to determine the course of her own life. Do you know what it is like to be speechless? SUGGESTIONS FOR THIS WEEK’S EXPERIENCE: • Give up your personal decisions / opinions for a week—choose a friend to make all those decisions for you • Give up electronics that are not critical for school or work—isolate yourself from all forms of communication and means of contacting the outside world. • Do not speak about anything not critical to school or work. A variation of this can be to duct tape your mouth shut every day. Feel free to modify these suggestions as you feel fit, and if none of these suggested experiences work for you, we encourage you to come up with your own creative way of experiencing the lack of control over your own life. Remember, girls like Ka often go without being heard for years, if not their entire lives. This week, try to appreciate every time you are allowed to voice your opinions and be heard. Pray for girls like Ka to find freedom in Christ.

Sunday, April 10, 2011

Lent 2011: Godless Conclusion

We’re now at the end of Week 4 of Relentless Acts of Justice! This week came with a twist: we put aside our resources (such as Bibles) to identify with the godless. Instead of walking through Scripture, we reflected on the story of Shimelis and what is means to suffer and ultimately advance the Gospel through persecution. We thought about what it might look like to know God in different ways than solely through the Bible, and prayed for those who are being persecuted. Read the continuation of Shimelis' story.

Take some time to reflect back through your week. What was it like to go through your week without your typical resources and routines? Was there any particular day or prayer topic that stood out to you? How did you feel God move or hear Him speak throughout the week?

Consider learning more or responding in one of these ways:

Voice of the Martyrs and the VOM blog
Watch this video on persecution by Open Doors
• Read
Tortured for Christ by Richard Wurmbrand

• Look at the
Restricted Nations map on the Voice of the Martyrs website and pick a nation to pray for regularly
• Visit the
Voice of the Martyrs or Open Doors website and find out how you can help under the Get Involved or Ways to Give links.

Saturday, April 09, 2011

Lent 2011: Godless, Life Without Spiritual Resources

In previous weeks of Lent 2011: Relentless Acts of Justice, we’ve connected with individual stories by exploring related Gospel passages. This week, as we experience what it’s like to do without the spiritual resources we normally depend on, we are simplifying our daily devotions. Try to spend some time reflecting on the following thoughts.
  • Reflect on how followers of Christ can rejoice and grow through the suffering of persecution as they receive comfort. Pray that those who are being persecuted would have joy as they grow into a deeper, more intimate relationship with Jesus.
  • Write a journal entry about what you are experiencing so far as if you were at risk for persecution by refraining from using words like Christ, Church, God, etc.
  • Reflect on how persecution advances the Gospel in light of the way the persecuted suffer with Jesus, suffer together as a church, receive comfort from Christ, and rejoice and grow through their sufferings and lack of resources. Pray that the Gospel would advance not only in spite of a lack of resources for the persecuted church, but because of their deep love and boldness for Christ and His deep love and comfort for them.

Monday, April 04, 2011

Lent 2011: Day 27, Godless Suffering

In previous weeks of Lent 2011: Relentless Acts of Justice, we’ve connected with individual stories by exploring related Gospel passages. This week, as we experience what it’s like to do without the spiritual resources we normally depend on, we are simplifying our daily devotions. Try to spend some time reflecting on the following thoughts. Today, reflect on what suffering with Jesus looked like for Shimelis. Pray that those who are suffering with Jesus would feel His presence. Read the story here.

Sunday, April 03, 2011

Lent 2011: Week 4, Godless

World Vision: This week of Lent 2011: Relentless Acts of Justice we will step into the lives of the godless, the persecuted church, through the story of Shimelis Hapte. He became a believer in Christ at about the same time that the socialist government in Ethiopia began persecuting Christians. All of their Bibles, musical instruments, and religious books were taken away as the government tried to “destroy” Christianity. Here's his story.

Read the "GODLESS" story here.

This week we will put away our resources and freedom to worship publicly as we experience what it’s like to be “godless” with the persecuted church.

• Hide or put away all signs and symbols of religion in your room, including your Bible
• Hand copy a page of the Bible and use only this page as your Scripture for the entire week
• Don’t attend any religious services or meetings for the week

As always, you can adjust these experiences or come up with your own. Commit to one, remembering that we are trying to step into what it would feel like to be unable to have access to spiritual resources (in Shimelis’ case, it was lack of the resource of freedom to be a Christian and worship).

Also, listen and ask God to speak to you in new ways this week as you leave behind some of the normal means through which you might hear Him. Consider how believers all over the world have a life-changing relationship with Christ even though they may not have Bibles, worship bands, and public meetings. Ask God to challenge and grow your knowledge of Him and faith in Him as He does theirs.

Saturday, April 02, 2011

Lent 2011: Responsibility and Role

What is our responsibility as Christians?

My commandment is this: Love each other as I have loved you. --John 15:12

What are some ways that God has shown His love for you? And how can we love one another in the same way?

Also, it is written in Mark 12:31 that one of the greatest commandments is to “love your neighbor as yourself.” Unfortunately, Sokha didn’t experience that love from her neighbors. How are some ways that we love ourselves? How can we show this love to others?

What is our responsibility as followers of Christ when it comes to matters of social injustice? Why should we care about things that are happening halfway across the world? Journal about how God has called us to love one another as you love yourself.

What is our role on this Earth?

You are the salt of the earth…You are the light of this world…Let your light shine before men, that they may see your good deeds and praise your father in heaven. --Matthew 5:13-16

What actions can we take to right the wrongs that we have learned about? Did our perspectives change enough for us to care? Are we compelled to spread the word about AIDS? Why is it important for us to not only do something, but make it known to everyone around us?

Friday, April 01, 2011

Lent 2011: CARELESS, Persecution and Suffering

For the third week of Lent 2011: Relentless Acts of Justice, we are experiencing the life of a young girl, Sokha, whose life has been dramatically affected by AIDS. Here's her story.

Life is very lonely for Sokha, who faces ridicule and isolation due to the stigma of AIDS. Sokha lost her father due to the disease and must care for her own mother in her illness; who is there to care for Sokha? Through no fault of her own, Sokha faces much of the hardships of her life alone. It might seem hard to imagine if you’ve grown up with one or two (or more) caring family members, but many children in today’s world lack that guidance and care. This week, we will be taking time to experience and understand that reality.

• Wear a piece of clothing every day that will make you stand out in a crowd - something unflattering that will definitely make people take notice.
• Go without any contact/communication with your closest loved one.
• Go without any contact/communication with your typical group of friends.

Please feel free to come up with your own experiences for the week. Commit to something that will allow you to experience the “careless” treatment of Sokha by her community by feeling ostracized.

As a Christian, I often find that my views and opinions are unpopular among my peers at college. We can often feel persecuted for being a follower of Christ in such a secular world. But I know the ridicule that we sometimes experience, similar to what Sokha encounters, is not in vain.

"Blessed are you when people insult you, persecute you and falsely say all kinds of evil against you because of me. Rejoice and be glad, because great is your reward in heaven." --Matthew 5:11-12a

Spend the next five minutes asking God for the strength to stand strong when faced with persecution. Thank God for using these seemingly negative events to shape you into His creation.

Sokha felt like she couldn’t sink any lower. Have you ever felt like you’ve hit rock bottom? If there’s one thing I’ve learned, it’s that God has a reason for everything, including all the bad things that happen. As followers of Christ, we are set apart from the world. This applies to our reaction to suffering: we should rejoice!

We also rejoice in our sufferings, because we know that suffering produces perseverance; perseverance, character; and character, hope. And hope does not disappoint us, because God has poured his love into our hearts by the Holy Spirit, whom he has given us. --Romans 5:3-5

Spend the next five minutes offering up your trials and struggles to God, and thanking Him for His perfect plan and will for your life.