Get Over Yourself, Ya Big Whinin Baby!

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Oh, poor little me!

The apostles left the Sanhedrin, rejoicing because they had been counted worthy of suffering disgrace for the Name.  Day after day, in the temple courts and from house to house, they never stopped teaching and proclaiming the good news that Jesus is the Messiah, (Acts 5:41-42, emphasis mine).

This passage always blows my mind, how the apostles rejoiced because they were persecuted.  This was in today’s reading in my “read through the New Testament in 1 year” reading on Bible Gateway.

The first time I wrote about this passage was 2 years ago during my Faith Trip (recounted day-by-day in my book Look, Listen, Love).  At the time I had been waiting for over a week in a nice apartment by the beach in Abruzzo—oh poor little me, right?  Well, it was a struggle for me because I was anxious to go join Jesus is the Answer in Romania.  I had stayed overnight with JITA in Tuscany a few weeks previously in one of their containers.  They travel throughout Europe (and other parts of the world) in tricked-out containers, sharing Jesus under a big circus tent through street entertainment or compassion work (depending on the area).  In Tuscany it was largely entertainment evangelism, but in Romania it would be compassion work.  I wanted to get out and share the Gospel, which I had thought was important for the Faith Trip.  But God wanted to do some interior work on me, which was the true objective of the Faith Trip.  Since the Faith Trip had been His idea, and since He’s, well, God!, obviously, He got his way.  But meanwhile I cried and whined like a big baby.  It’s embarrassing!

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAHome Sweet Container!

So God used this passage from Acts to give me some true perspective.  I thought I was suffering for my faith.  No, darling, here’s what true suffering looks like, and here’s how a saint endures suffering: rejoicing!

Blessed are you when people hate you, when they exclude you and insult you and reject your name as evil, because of the Son of Man.  Rejoice in that day and leap for joy, because great is your reward in heaven. For that is how their ancestors treated the prophets, (Luke 6:22-23, emphasis mine).

Since that time I’ve gained more understanding about persecution.  Last year I read Tortured for Christ by Richard Wurmbrand—right before visiting southern Hungary.  I heard Pastor H. Koraćs Gėza speak in a church while I was there.  Pastor Gėza had been a pastor under Communism, and having just read Tortured for Christ, I felt moved to apologize for the fact that my country had done nothing to help the situation of Christians under Communism.  Pastor Gėza responded that Christianity had actually flourished under Communism.  He said that the Church faces a far more dangerous enemy today: complacency.  I realized that he’s right.

I’ve heard of missionaries who told an underground Chinese house church that they’re praying for democracy.  The Chinese told them: “Please stop!  The church is growing under persecution.”

In fact, throughout church history, Christianity has always thrived under persecution.  It wasn’t until Christianity was legalized in the 3rd century under Emperor Constantine that the gifts of the Holy Spirit began to decline.

Even before that, all throughout the book of Judges, you can see that when they enjoyed prosperity, Israel forgot about the Lord.  Then God allowed trouble to come, the people repented and sought the Lord, and the Lord blessed them.  And the cycle started all over again.

So today’s Bible reading was a reminder that when the going gets tough, Christianity thrives, even if Christians are experiencing temporary difficulties, trouble, or persecution.  If we take a moment to consider, everything that happens in this life is temporary.

This morning I got a message from a dear friend who is right in the middle of persecution by people around her and attacks from the enemy, as well.  Here’s what I wrote to her (hope it helps you, too!):

There are 2 times when the devil attacks believers:

  1. When he sees that God has blessed you and used you mightily; and
  2. When he sees that God is about to bless you and use you mightily.

The first comes after the blessing, and the other comes before the blessing.  So when the enemy attacks you, start to praise God for those blessings that have been or are coming.  Nothing makes him back away from you like praise.  And praise salted with tears is precious to the Lord.  He will bless you even more for praise that comes from your brokenness.  Why?  Because praising God in your brokenness takes faith!  Without faith it is impossible to please God.

And remember, it’s all temporary!  Oh, yes, and God is good!

Dreaming Truth

Day Seven

I had a dream that faded almost as soon as I was awake.  All I remember of it were impressions: I had something embarrassing happen to me, but I don’t know what.  The devil tried to make me feel ashamed for the embarrassment, I don’t remember how.  I shrugged off embarrassment, and the Lord told me (the only thing that I remember clearly): “Where pride is absent, grace abounds.”  Perhaps that means that hurt pride results in shame.

I don’t always dream about the devil, but when I do, I tend to remember it.  A couple of times, I’m sure that’s because he was actually there.  I will tell you about them, not because we should be fixated on the devil—not at all!  But I think these particular dreams are instructive.

The first time I dreamed about the devil I was 17 years old, born again, and newly filled with the Holy Spirit.  However, I didn’t really know or understand how to walk with the Lord.  I had been raised in the Episcopal Church, and made my decision to follow Jesus the night before my Confirmation.  But I just didn’t know that we could pray spontaneous prayers, so when I had a need (sick relative or whatever), I looked it up in the Book of Common Prayer and prayed from the book.  But when I was 17 my parents started going to a Charismatic Episcopalian prayer group.  They invited me, too.  I had never heard people pray like this, and I loved it.

A man from the prayer group was involved with the Full Gospel Businessmen, and invited us to come to a meeting.  The man who preached talked the whole time about the Holy Spirit.  I was fascinated.  We Episcopalians always called Him “The Holy Ghost.”  And He was the mysterious member of the Godhead.  But this man talked like he actually knew the Holy Spirit.  At the end of his sermon, he invited anybody wanting to receive the baptism of the Holy Spirit to come down front.  I had no idea what that was, but I wanted it.  So I went down front.  I hadn’t known it at the time, but my parents were right behind me.  The man laid his hand on my head and immediately I had strange words in my mind.  I hadn’t known what to expect, nobody had told me.  But the man said, “Speak those words.”  So I did.

The first devil dream came shortly afterwards.  I dreamed that I was in my bedroom, with everything exactly in place, just as I had left it before going to sleep.  He entered my room by the door and walked around to the side of the bed where I was laying.  In the dream, my skin jumped up to goosebumps and I was very scared.  Then he grinned and sat down on the bed beside me.  I felt the mattress compress under him.  That’s when I woke up, and I could still feel the mattress compressed where he had sat.  I was very frightened and completely weirded-out.

Now, I understand why the devil visited me in that dream: he was trying to catch up with God as usual, but he was too late.

He showed up at other times in dreams through the years, doing scary things like walking around my bed in my new house.  The floor in the bedroom was linoleum, and although I didn’t see him, I could hear his hoof-steps on the floor.  Another time I saw my Bible get pulled out of the bookcase by invisible hands and put in backwards (spine inward).  But sitting on my bed was the scariest thing of all.

This winter while I was home visiting my family for Christmas break I had the first devil dream I had had in a many years.  Again, in my dream I could see my room exactly as I had left it before going to sleep.  I saw the devil standing by my window, backlit by the landscape lights outside.  Immediately, I turned my back to him and in my dream went right back to sleep.  A few weeks later I heard about how Martin Luther handled the devil’s nighttime visits.  He wrote:

When the devil comes at night to worry me, this is what I say to him: “Devil, I have to sleep now. That is God’s commandment, for us to work by day and sleep at night.”

Ha!  Just what I did, but I didn’t talk to him.

A week or two later, I had another devil dream, and this one paralleled the first one.  My room was exactly as I had left it before sleep.  The devil came in the door and walked around the bed to where I was sleeping and sat down on the bed.  Again I felt the mattress compress under him.  But this time instead of fear, I got angry.  I told him to get out of my room.  And I woke up.

As I observed above, I believe that the devil is just trying to catch up with God.  But he can’t.  I heard a Joseph Prince sermon recently that I wrote about in I Will Make You Know.  Basically he pointed out that where you see the devil interfering, God has already been at work blessing you.  Therefore, give God praise and thanksgiving for blessing you in the area where you see trouble.  You can read it in more detail by following the link.

Just imagine the trouble we could give the devil if only we really understood our inheritance as God’s children.  We were made to live as more than conquerors, so why are we living ordinary lives?  In the movie Superman II (1982), Superman gives up his superpowers for love.  Very romantic, and not so much different than God becoming a human because of love for us.  But many Christians are living Clark Kent lives that are excruciatingly ordinary, when we have been given the right to live the supernatural lives we were made to live.

This is day 7 of my fast for understanding of these End Times, and how better to prepare for what’s ahead.  I believe that living in God’s supernatural empowerment is key.  God is good!