Monday, 29 September 2008
Friday, 26 September 2008
Be challenged and inspired by the secret believers found in many Muslim countries who pay a heavy price for being a follower of Christ. It is perhaps strange to some, especially in a post modern culture, to not only hear of Muslims choosing to follow Christ when they know they will have to suffer persecution if they are found out, but also that they love and revere the Bible as if it was the very word of God. I could imagine some of my Pomo friends telling them that if they stick with Islam and continue reading the Koran they will still, just as easily, get to heaven- they don't need to go through that suffering that comes with following Christ in a Muslim land. To me, what these secret believers have is a much more authentic New Testament faith than what we have in the West. The early Christians suffered severely- we do not. They, when they become a Christian know that they might well have to lose their lives for believing. In the West, we are offered all sorts of sweets to entice us -happiness, peace, prosperity,a good job,healing, happy marriage- then we easily give it up if we think we can get a better offer. When the Master called to the crowd he declared: If any man would come after me, he must deny himself, take up his cross and come follow me- that call prepared those who responded for execution more than for a happy self fulfilling life.AK
Tuesday, 16 September 2008
This is a powerful skit that I would encourage you to watch. Someone I know well told me that if they were not a Christian before they saw it, they would be drawn to Christ through its unspoken message. It speaks strongly of Christ's love for all, especially for those who have been drawn into the world and become broken and scarred by the enemy of all our souls. He may dress up cool and nice or even good, but he really comes only 'to steal and kill and destroy'.If you feel you are away from Christ now-do not give up.There is still hope for you now, no matter how badly you may think of yourself, no matter what you have done.He wants you back home.Feel free to email me if you would like to contact someone.AK
Wednesday, 10 September 2008
This is a great short story by Philip Yancey: like Jesus' 'prodigal son' it not only speaks of those who have physically left home and wasted their lives, but in a sense it is what we have ALL done spiritually.As in the parable of Jesus the ending portrays God's great love for the returning child.AK
“A young girl grows up on a cherry orchard just above Traverse City, Michigan. Her parents, a bit old-fashioned, tend to over-react to her nose ring, the music she listens to, and the length of her skirts. They ground her a few times, and she seethes inside. ‘I hate you!’ she screams at her father when he knocks on the door of her room after an argument, and that night she acts on a plan she has mentally rehearsed scores of times. She runs away.
She has visited Detroit only once before, on a bus trip with her church youth group to watch the Tigers play. Because newspapers in Traverse City report in lurid detail the gangs, the drugs, and the violence in downtown Detroit, she concludes that is probably the last place her parents will look for her. California, maybe, or Florida, but not Detroit.
Her second day there she meets a man who drives the biggest car she’s ever seen. He offers her a ride, buys her lunch, arranges a place for her to stay. He gives her some pills that make her feel better than she’s ever felt before. She was right all along, she decides: her parents were keeping her from all the fun.
The good life continues for a month, two months, a year. The man with the big car –she calls him ‘Boss’– teaches her a few things that men like. Since she’s underage, men pay a premium for her. She lives in a penthouse, and orders room service whenever she wants. Occasionally she thinks about the folks back home, but their lives now seem so boring and provincial that she can hardly believe she grew up there.
She has a brief scare when she sees her picture printed on the back of a milk carton with the headline “Have you seen this child?” But by now she has blond hair, and with all the makeup and body-piercing jewelry she wears, nobody would mistake her for a child. Besides, most of her friends are runaways, and nobody squeals in Detroit.
After a year the first sallow signs of illness appear, and it amazes her how fast the boss turns mean. “These days, we can’t mess around,” he growls, and before she knows it she’s out on the street without a penny to her name. She still turns a couple of tricks a night, but they don’t pay much, and all the money goes to support her habit. When winter blows in she finds herself sleeping on metal grates outside the big department stores. “Sleeping” is the wrong word – a teenage girl at night in downtown Detroit can never relax her guard. Dark bands circle her eyes. Her cough worsens.
One night as she lies awake listening for footsteps, all of a sudden everything about her life looks different. She no longer feels like a woman of the world. She feels like a little girl, lost in a cold and frightening city. She begins to whimper. Her pockets are empty and she’s hungry. She needs a fix. She pulls her legs tight underneath her and shivers under the newspapers she’s piled atop her coat. Something jolts a synapse of memory and a single image fills her mind: of May in Traverse City, when a million cherry trees bloom at once, with her golden retriever dashing through the rows and rows of blossomy trees in chase of a tennis ball.
God, why did I leave, she says to herself, and pain stabs at her heart. My dog back home eats better than I do now. She’s sobbing, and she knows in a flash that more than anything else in the world she wants to go home.
Three straight phone calls, three straight connections with the answering machine. She hangs up without leaving a message the first two times, but the third time she says, “Dad, Mom, it’s me. I was wondering about maybe coming home. I’m catching a bus up your way, and it’ll get there about midnight tomorrow. If you’re not there, well, I guess I’ll just stay on the bus until it hits Canada.”
It takes about seven hours for a bus to make all the stops between Detroit and Traverse City, and during that time she realizes the flaws in her plan. What if her parents are out of town and miss the message? Shouldn’t she have waited another day or so until she could talk to them? And even if they are home, they probably wrote her off as dead long ago. She should have given them some time to overcome the shock.
Her thoughts bounce back and forth between those worries and the speech she is preparing for her father. “Dad, I’m sorry. I know I was wrong. It’s not your fault; it’s all mine. Dad, can you forgive me?” She says the words over and over, her throat tightening even as she rehearses them. She hasn’t apologized to anyone in years.
The bus has been driving with lights on since Bay City. Tiny snowflakes hit the pavement rubbed worn by thousands of tires, and the asphalt steams. She’s forgotten how dark it gets at night out here. A deer darts across the road and the bus swerves. Every so often, a billboard. A sign posting the mileage to Traverse City Oh, God.
When the bus finally rolls into the station, its air brakes hissing in protest, the driver announces in a crackly voice over the microphone, “Fifteen minutes, folks. That’s all we have here.” Fifteen minutes to decide her life. She checks herself in a compact mirror, smooths her hair, and licks the lipstick off her teeth. She looks at the tobacco stains on her fingertips, and wonders if her parents will notice. If they’re there.
She walks into the terminal not knowing what to expect. Not one of the thousand scenes that have played out in her mind prepares her for what she sees. There, in the concrete-walls-and-plastic-chairs bus terminal in Traverse City, Michigan, stands a group of forty brothers and sisters and great-aunts and uncles and cousins and a grandmother and great-grandmother to boot. They’re all wearing goofy party hats and blowing noise-makers, and taped across the entire wall of the terminal is a computer-generated banner that reads “Welcome home!”
Out of the crowd of well-wishers breaks her dad. She stares out through the tears quivering in her eyes like hot mercury and begins the memorized speech, “Dad, I’m sorry. I know…”
He interrupts her. ‘Hush child. We’ve got no time for that. No time for apologies. You’ll be late for the party. A banquet’s waiting for you at home.’”
Tuesday, 2 September 2008
Let us not then be disturbed, neither dismayed, when trials befall us. For if the gold refiner sees how long he ought to leave the piece of gold in the furnace, and when he ought to draw it out, and does not allow it to remain in the fire until it is destroyed and burnt up: much more does God understand this, and when He sees that we have become more pure, He releases us from our trials so that we may not be overthrown and cast down by the multiplication of our evils. Let us then not be repining, or faint-hearted, when some unexpected thing befalls us; but let us suffer Him who knows these things accurately, to prove our hearts by fire as long as He pleases: for He does this for a useful purpose and with a view to the profit of those who are tried.
— from "Homily on the Paralytic Let Down Through the Roof," by Chrysostom (c.347–407)
— from "Homily on the Paralytic Let Down Through the Roof," by Chrysostom (c.347–407)
I don’t know whether you know this great story from the annals of Church history.It's a story that never fails to bring a sadness to my heart with the slaughter of an old man who should have been allowed to live his last days in peace.However,it is also a story that shows his tremendous courage and love for his Master which never ceases to inspire the reader. Polycarp was one of the great saints of the Church after the time of the apostles. He himself had known the apostle John. He was now eighty six years old and the government official who was judging him, recognising his age, didn't really want him to be burned or thrown to the lions decided to offer him a way out. If only Polycarp would blaspheme Christ he would let him go. But how could Polycarp do this? He had served his Master for so long and he only had a short time to live anyway. There was no question in Polycarp's mind that he should let Christ down- in today’s speak he was prepared,'to let them bring it on'. He therefore answered the official with the immortal words: 'Eighty and six years have I served him, and he never once wronged me; how then shall I blaspheme my King, Who hath saved me?' Polycarp was to suffer the torment of a cruel death, following in the way of Jesus, Stephen, Paul, Peter and James before him and the likes of Huss, Vanya and countless thousands of other faithful Christians after him. He died unashamed and unafraid -may God give us that faith and courage in the face of temptation and trial.AK
Three days before he was apprehended, as he was praying at night, he fell asleep, and saw in a dream the pillow take fire under his head, and presently consumed. Waking thereupon, he forthwith related the vision to those about him, and prophesied that he should be burnt alive for Christ's sake. The pursuers having arrived late in the day found him gone to bed in the top room of the house.
Hearing that they were come, he came down, and spoke to them with a cheerful and pleasant countenance: so that they were wonder-struck, who, having never known the man before, now beheld his venerable age and the gravity and composure of his manner, and wondered why they should be so earnest for the apprehension of so old a man. He immediately ordered a table be laid for them, and exhorted them to eat heartily, and begged them to allow him one hour to pray without molestation; which being granted, he rose and began to pray, and was so full of the grace of God, that they who were present and heard his prayers were astonished, and many now felt sorry that so venerable and godly a man should be put to death.
When he was brought to the tribunal, there was a great tumult as soon as it was generally understood that Polycarp was apprehended. The proconsul asked him, if he were Polycarp. When he assented, the former counseled him to deny Christ, saying, 'Consider thyself, and have pity on thy own great age;' and many other such-like speeches which they are wont to make.
The proconsul then urged him, saying, 'Swear and I will release thee; - reproach Christ.'
Polycarp answered, 'Eighty and six years have I served him, and he never once wronged me; how then shall I blaspheme my King, Who hath saved me?'
The proconsul again urged him, 'Swear by the fortune of Caesar.'
Polycarp replied, 'Since you still vainly strive to make me swear by the fortune of Caesar, as you express it, affecting ignorance of my real character, hear me frankly declaring what I am -- I am a Christian - and if you desire to learn the Christian doctrine, assign me a day, and you shall hear.'
Hereupon the proconsul said, 'I have wild beasts; and I will expose you to them, unless you repent.'
'Call for them,' replied Poplycarp.
'I will tame thee with fire,' said the proconsul, 'since you despise the wild beasts, unless you repent.'
Then said Polycarp, 'You threaten me with fire, which burns for an hour, and is soon extinguished; but the fire of the future judgment, and of eternal punishment reserved for the ungodly, you are ignorant of. But why do you delay? Do whatever you please.'
The proconsul sent the herald to proclaim thrice in the middle of the Stadium, 'Polycarp hath professed himself a Christian.' Which words were no sooner spoken, but the whole multitude, both of Gentiles and Jews, dwelling at Smyrna, with outrageous fury shouted aloud, 'This is the doctor of Asia, the father of the Christians, and the subverter of our gods, who hath taught many not to sacrifice nor adore.'
They now called on Philip the asiarch, to let loose a lion against Polycarp. But he refused, alleging that he had closed his exhibition. They then unanimously shouted, that he should be burnt alive. For his vision must needs be accomplished - the vision which he had when he was praying, and saw his pillow burnt. The people immediately gathered wood and other dry matter from the workshops and baths.
When they would have fastened him to the stake, he said, 'Leave me as I am; for he who giveth me strength to sustain the fire, will enable me also, without your securing me with nails, to remain without flinching in the pile.' Upon which they bound him without nailing him. So he said thus: - 'O Father, I bless thee that thou hast counted me worthy to receive my portion among the martyrs.'
As soon as he had uttered the word 'Amen,' the officers lighted the fire. The flame, forming the appearance of an arch, as the sail of a vessel filled with wind, surrounded, as with a wall, the body of the martyr; which was in the midst, not as burning flesh, but as gold and silver refining in the furnace. We received also in our nostrils such a fragrance as proceeds from frankincense or some other precious perfume.
At length the wicked people, observing that his body could not be consumed with fire, ordered the confecter to approach, and to plunge his sword into his body. Upon this such a quantity of blood gushed out, that the fire was extinguished.