Thursday, November 25, 2010

The Ring of Anger

Ring of anger Anger is self-perpetuating if we allow it to.  It is like a flame that is unquenched that becomes a forest fire.  There are at least four ways that anger is handled that keeps the anger alive and growing: Pretending not to be angry, verbal expression of hostility, spreading it to others, and physical violence against person or property. 

Stuff It

I was speechless and quiet; I kept silent, even from speaking good, and my pain intensified. My heart grew hot within me; as I mused, a fire burned.
Psalms 39:2-3 (HCSB)

When we pretend to not be angry we often feel that we are doing something good.  Most people are brought up believing that anger is a bad thing.  So if expression of anger is an evil then pretending to not be angry must be a good somewhere between mildly annoyed and not being angry at all.  Unfortunately it does not work that way.  My observation of people who regularly engaged in stuffing their anger is that they eventually become depressed or at some point erupt with rage and sometime they do both. I like the analogy of a pressure cooker.  Eventually the pressure will have to come out somewhere.  

Say It Hurtful

A fool gives full vent to his anger, but a wise man holds it in check.
Proverbs 29:11 (HCSB)

Words can be destructive.  I recall hearing the saying, "Sticks and stones may break my bones, but words will never hurt me."  Harsh words, hostile words, hurtful words are plainly destructive to the soul and wellbeing of the person receiving end of such verbal abuse.  The level of hurt is directly tied to the level of trust that existed prior to the careless words.  However, even a taunt from one's worst enemy can be hurtful.  Verbal attacks seem more desirable than physically hurting somebody, but great psychological pain can be inflicted and embedded with words.  When we give "full vent" to our anger it is foolish.  It destroys the very things that we hold dear.  I tears down the ones we love.  It alienates us from others.  A wise man never has to apologize for being angry, because he chooses wisely when to speak and when he speaks he carefully chooses his words.

Spread it (I am angry and you should be too)

An angry man stirs up conflict, and a hot-tempered man increases rebellion.
Proverbs 29:22 (HCSB)

Misery loves company and so does anger.  There are two types of spreading anger: provocation and passive aggressive. 

Those that provoke others to anger are often angry themselves.  This provocation is either to join them in some angry cause (mob mentality) or to get someone so angry at them that they either look the fool or make the first attack justifying retaliation.  In either case it increases rather than diminishes anger.  It increases the likelihood of violence. 

Passive Aggressive on the other hand is more subtle.  It is the action (or inaction) of a person that is hurtful to the other, but without a direct expression of hostility or violence.  Most commonly it is failing to act or failing to act in a timely fashion.  "Why are you angry with me?  I got it done after all!"  However, by doing it in a delayed fashion it punishes the other person by having them wait or resisting the expectation to have it done.  It can also be the removal of kindness or intimacy as a way to "punish" the other person.  It can be engaging in activities that are known to be annoying toward the other person and then being surprised when they are annoyed. 

Slam It

A quick-tempered man acts foolishly, and a man who schemes is hated.
Proverbs 14:17 (HCSB)

Physical violence against person or property can have the most dire consequences of all expressions of anger.  When anger and rage reaches a point that acting violently is the only choice then anger has controlled the man.  These acts are often illegal.   The most common act of violence is assault.  It is estimated that 4.8 million women and 2.9 million men are assaulted physically or sexually in the US every year1.  1 in 5 women and 1 in 17 men will experience assault from a spouse or in a dating relationship at some point in their life.  The impact of this violence is staggering not the least of which is the effect it has on children.  Aggression is best predicted by previous acts of violence and being exposed to violence as a child seems to result in greater potential for violence when one is older. 

Aside from the obvious damage to the victims of violence, there tend to be significant consequences to the perpetrator even when the victim has not been seriously hurt.  I have counseled several couples in which one of the partners ended up in jail after police responded to a domestic violence call.  In some cases for just throwing an object at the other person even though the other was not hurt.  I don't say this to excuse low threat acts of assault.  No quite the opposite.  I say it to point out the seriousness of the problems that violence causes. 

In short, stuffing it, saying it hurtful, spreading it, and slamming it are four ways that keep anger going, fails to resolve the issue that triggered feelings of anger, and often results in greater consequences for all involved.  We have to learn how to better manage this powerful emotion in order that we avoid the inescapable consequences if we do not. 


1) Extent, Nature, and Consequences of Intimate Partner Violence: Findings From the National Violence Against Women Survey

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Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Anger: The Story of Esther

Esther or Odalisque

Image via Wikipedia

Esther is a story of a person that rises above her circumstances to become a powerful influence for the common good.  The subtext though is a story of anger unchecked.  Let's take a look at the subtext and see if there is anything we can learn from this amazing story. 

On the seventh day, when the king was feeling good from the wine, Ahasuerus commanded Mehuman, Biztha, Harbona, Bigtha, Abagtha, Zethar, and Carkas, the seven eunuchs who personally served him, to bring Queen Vashti before him with her royal crown. He wanted to show off her beauty to the people and the officials, because she was very beautiful. But Queen Vashti refused to come at the king's command that was delivered by his eunuchs. The king became furious and his anger burned within him.
Esther 1:10-12 (HCSB)

As we jump into this story we right off the bat see vice that is so often associated with anger.  Alcohol has  been well researched and implicated in aggressive behavior.  Alcohol is involved in half of all murders, rapes and assaults by some estimates1.  The Bible describes alcohol as a brawler (Prov 20:1).  So King Ahasuerus went from feeling good buzz to being angry very quickly. 

The second vice here is sexual provocation.  The king was not interested in treating his wife as a beautiful fine vessel, but rather as a crude display of sexuality for the entertainment of his guests.  He sought to dishonor her by making her into a sex show. 

Queen Vashti appropriately refused.   However the king's pride was wounded and he became angry that she did not obey his command.  His anger was fury and burning.  This is the third vice: Prideful anger. 

As the story continues we learn something else about anger.  Often anger is an expression of the desire to control others in a relationship. 

For the queen's action will become public knowledge to all the women and cause them to despise their husbands and say, 'King Ahasuerus ordered Queen Vashti brought before him, but she did not come.' Before this day is over, the noble women of Persia and Media who hear about the queen's act will say the same thing to all the king's officials, resulting in more contempt and fury.
Esther 1:17-18 (HCSB)

The root of misogynistic anger is the desire to control women.  The Bible unfortunately has been used to perpetuate this sin against women, but this story stands in testimony against such actions.  Anger is often the response when a person has a misplaced desire to control others.  It is an expression of emotional immaturity in that "I want it, you have it, so give it to me."  It is almost as if the individual never learned while growing up that in order to get along a person has to give a part of themselves contrary to the selfish desires of the flesh.  Notice the perversion of respect here.  My wife dishonored me, by refusing to dishonor herself at my command.  What is more there is a cultural hatred toward women as his wise men are threatened to the point that they want to make an example of the queen. 

The result was that the king deposed the queen and sent a message through out the kingdom announcing his judgment in order that women would "honor their husbands (Est 1:20)."  This is the message then, "My wife refused to be sexual entertainment at my party.  I was angry with her for dishonoring me in this way so I removed her from being queen.  So women you better listen to your husbands and do what they say." 

After a while the King then goes through a drawn out process to select an new Queen.  That person is Esther.  Esther's uncle who raised her is Mordecai. 

During those days while Mordecai was sitting at the King's Gate, Bigthan and Teresh, two eunuchs who guarded the king's entrance, became infuriated and planned to assassinate King Ahasuerus. When Mordecai learned of the plot, he reported it to Queen Esther, and she told the king on Mordecai's behalf. When the report was investigated and verified, both men were hanged on the gallows. This event was recorded in the Historical Record in the king's presence.
Esther 2:21-23 (HCSB)

We do not know what these two eunuchs were angry about, but notice out of their anger hatched a plot to kill the king.  This anger came to the attention of Mordecai who took quick and decisive action to warn the king. 

Next we are introduced to Haman.  Haman is elevated to a high position in the kingdom.  He is very pleased to have others bow down and pay homage to himself.  Mordecai is not pleased to do this and refuses. 

THE JACKASS IN OFFICE

AN Ass carrying an Image in a religious procession, was driven through a town, and all the people who passed by made a low reverence. Upon this, the Ass supposing that they intended this worship for himself, was mightily puffed up, and would not budge another step. But the driver soon laid the stick across his back, saying at the same time, "You silly dolt! it is not you that they reverence, but the Image which you carry."

Fools take to themselves the respect that is given to their office. 2

Haman's character was soon to be revealed to the king, but notice his reaction to Mordecai's supposed offence. 

When Haman saw that Mordecai was not bowing down or paying him homage, he was filled with rage.
Esther 3:5 (HCSB)

His rage spilled over into the ethnic hatred that had existed between Haman's people and Mordecai's people.  Haman, a likely descendent of Agag, king of the Amalekites who were the enemies of the Jews (See Est 3:1; 1 Sam 15:8; and Ex 17:8-15), developed a plan to wipe out the Jewish people because Mordecai had refused to bow to him.  He used the King to bring about his plot by getting the king to agree to kill off the Jews because they followed different laws. 

Next Mordecai finds out about the plan.  He goes to Esther to warn her and ask her to talk with the King about this plan.

If you keep silent at this time, liberation and deliverance will come to the Jewish people from another place, but you and your father's house will be destroyed. Who knows, perhaps you have come to your royal position for such a time as this.
Esther 4:14 (HCSB)

Esther agrees to talk with the king and asks that the people to fast while she seeks audience of the King.  She plans a banquet for the king and asks that Haman attend.  Meanwhile...

That day Haman left full of joy and in good spirits. But when Haman saw Mordecai at the King's Gate, and Mordecai didn't rise or tremble in fear at his presence, Haman was filled with rage toward Mordecai. Yet Haman controlled himself and went home.
Esther 5:9-10 (HCSB)

Haman could not let it go so he and his wife plotted:

His wife Zeresh and all his friends told him, "Have them build a gallows 75 feet high. Ask the king in the morning to hang Mordecai on it. Then go to the banquet with the king and enjoy yourself." The advice pleased Haman, so he had the gallows constructed.
Esther 5:14 (HCSB)

The king could not sleep.  He was reading through some records and realized that Mordecai had never been honored for saving his life.  He calls Haman to ask him how he can honor.  Haman seeking to ask the king to hang Mordecai thinks, "Who could the king want to honor but me."  He describes an elaborate plan to honor this person.  The king then orders Haman to bestow this honor on Mordecai.  Haman's anger is turned to bitterness.

He then attends the feast prepared by Esther.  Esther reveals the plot to kill the Jews to the king and then exposes Haman as the author of the plot.  Again:

Angered by this, the king arose from where they were drinking wine and went to the palace garden. Haman remained to beg Queen Esther for his life because he realized the king was planning something terrible for him.
Esther 7:7 (HCSB)

The king returns finding Haman lying on the couch with Esther.  Haman was prostrate begging for his life.  The king however thinks that Haman is attempting to have sex with her.  Wanting to defend her honor and repay for the treachery against the Jews the king decides to hang Haman from the very gallows that Haman had built for Mordecai. 

They hanged Haman on the gallows he had prepared for Mordecai. Then the king's anger subsided.
Esther 7:10 (HCSB)

As the story continues the King gives the Jews the legal right to take up arms and defend themselves.  The crisis of pending genocide is averted and Esther becomes a Jewish national hero. 

What are we to learn from this account?  Anger is a passionate and destructive emotion.  It drives to take action, but that action is not always tempered with sound judgment.  In this case anger led to broken relationship, misogyny, plotting murder, violent racism, and eventual death of one of the angry person.  On that last one the king is believed to be Xerxes I of secular history.  If that is the case then the King was murdered (Matt 26:52).  I believe that we can learn to watch out for anger.  Great evil can come about in our lives if we do not.  We also can learn how Esther in great wisdom handled this angry king in great power of gentleness.  It reminds me of the proverb.

A gentle answer turns away anger, but a harsh word stirs up wrath.
Proverbs 15:1 (HCSB)

One of the most important things to learn from this account is that anger is ultimately destructive to the person themselves.  Anger unrestrained overpowers the angry man. 

Refrain from anger and give up your rage; do not be agitated-it can only bring harm.
Psalms 37:8 (HCSB)

A fool gives full vent to his anger, but a wise man holds it in check.
Proverbs 29:11 (HCSB)

Don't let your spirit rush to be angry, for anger abides in the heart of fools.
Ecclesiastes 7:9 (HCSB)

Let us walk wisely as we discern what to do with this power passion and emotional we call anger.  God Bless You.

 


1) http://alcoholism.about.com/cs/abuse/a/blacer030616.htm

2) An argosy of fables
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Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Judgment (God's Anger, Our Fear)

Lower center of the The Last Judgement by Mich...

Image via Wikipedia

Indignation is anger based on the unworthiness of the object of displeasure.  In the spiritual realm God indignation is roused by sin in our lives.  To be sure God is loving, compassionate, slow to anger, merciful, and gracious.  However His indignation cannot be quenched forever.  This is especially true when we (His children) do not make the decision to remove those things that are evil from our lives.

The fear of the Lord is this: wisdom. And to turn from evil is understanding.
Job 28:28 (HCSB)

Fear and anger are kin emotions.  One leads to attack the other to running away.  We trample on the sovereignty of God in our modern sensibility.  We exchange the truth "there is none righteous no not one" (Ps 14:1-3; Rom 3:10-12) for the lie "men are basically good."  What is even more astounding is that it is a senseless lie.  Just open your eyes to see that evil is alive and well in human activity.  Listen with your ears to hear heart wrenching stories of the defenseless falling pray to evil.  What then can we say?  Often we will push the evil away by declaring it to be some form of psychopathology.  "Bad people have bad brains" has become the new form of "The devil made me do it."  Well if that is the case then we all have bad brains to one degree or another.  Does that excuse evil then?  Certainly not.  Yet what about our sense of justice.  Can we legitimately hold a person that has killed multiple times accountable if he has a "bad brain"? 

My take is this, that we would find differences in the brain of a person who is a serial killer is not particularly surprising.  Not anymore surprising than say finding out that a musicians brain is different from the norm.  You see our brain is a collection of learning experiences.  A serial killer has unique experiences from the rest of the population.  One would expect that there would be a difference.  Defining evil in terms of faulty biology though is really dangerous.  It may be hard for us to empathize with a serial killer, so what about an adulterer, drunkard, thief, liar,  gossip, and so on.  What if some day we discover they all have "bad brains" as well.  Does it make them any less culpable for their sin?

My point is this.  Righteous indignation is rooted in God's righteousness.  God has provided a standard for living in the conscience of all of us.  Every day our conscience convicts us regarding moral issues.  This conscience can become so seared from repeated violations that it loses its effect, yet it stands in conviction of our selves.  We are self-condemned with regard to morality.  Further, God's standard for living is also recorded in the Bible.  I would focus in particular to the section found in Jesus' Sermon on the Mount (Matthew 5-7).  In these three chapters we find a life long work to achieve the righteousness of God.  Yet even if that were possible to achieve you would have no way to erase the mistakes that you have already made up to this point. 

Justice demands payment for wrong doing.  It is embedded in the very consciousness of our mind.  Certainly our sense of justice can be distorted, but we do not tolerate well when that sense of justice has been violated.  We become indignant and demand our rights or the rights of others be up held.  We demand that perpetrators be brought to justice.  The criminal offences be punished and civil offences lead to restitution.   If we in our feeble ways and imperfection can demand justice then how arrogant is it to suppose that God in is almighty ways and in his perfection is some how evil when he judges? 

Fear God indeed.  We ought to pay attention.  The righteous anger of God is being stored up against the ungodly and unrepentant.  We too ought to be gravely offended when we see the justice of God being perverted whether within the church or outside.  Anger is purifying if it is according the the righteousness and justice of God.  This is fiery rhetoric to be sure, but God's anger is a consuming fire. 

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Friday, November 12, 2010

Why Do They Hate Christians

 

Audio Version

Text Below:

This morning I will be sharing from Matthew Chapter 10:21-25.

On Sept. 19, Islamic extremists broke into the Philadelphia Pentecostal Church in Sharif Town, Karachi City, Pakistan, and set fire to Bibles, hymnals, a musical instrument and a table, according to The Voice of the Martyrs contacts.

The church, which is led by Pastors George Rakha and Peter Shahzad, was established six years ago and is actively involved in Muslim evangelism. "At 4 a.m., some fanatics broke the lock of the church door and entered the church," VOM contacts reported. "They burned three crosses, nine Bibles, five books of worship songs, a table and a musical instrument Tabla [local drum]."
Source: Voice of the Martyrs

Why do people hate Christians?

You will be hated by everyone because of My name. But the one who endures to the end will be delivered.
Mt 10:22

Then they will hand you over for persecution, and they will kill you. You will be hated by all nations because of My name.
Mt 24:9

Then many will take offense, betray one another and hate one another.
Mt 24:10

And you will be hated by everyone because of My name. But the one who endures to the end will be delivered.
Mk 13:13

You are blessed when people hate you, when they exclude you, insult you, and slander your name as evil because of the Son of Man.
Lk 6:22

You will be hated by everyone because of My name,
Lk 21:17

The world cannot hate you, but it does hate Me because I testify about it--that its deeds are evil.
Jn 7:7

If the world hates you, understand that it hated Me before it hated you.
Jn 15:18

If you were of the world, the world would love ?you as? its own. However, because you are not of the world, but I have chosen you out of it, the world hates you.
Jn 15:19

If I had not done the works among them that no one else has done, they would not have sin. Now they have seen and hated both Me and My Father.
Jn 15:24

I have given them Your word. The world hated them because they are not of the world, as I am not of the world.
Jn 17:14

Do not be surprised, brothers, if the world hates you.
1Jn 3:13

Why then are we surprised, shocked, or otherwise aghast when we discover that the world hates Christians. One reason is that we have lived insulated lives. We have not felt the heartache of losing a loved one for the faith. We have not felt the sting of a whip against our back. We have not known true poverty because no one will give us work or buy our goods due to our faith. I don't think we would know what to do if we felt the full weight of the hatred the world has for us. We have been lulled into a slumber in our faith. Wake up! Church wake up. If we knew these things. If we woke up to the attempted terror against the faith then we would not be surprised to find out that the world hates us. This hatred takes three main forms: Division, persecution, and slander.

Division is the first form of hatred that a Christian can endure. This division is created the moment that we give our lives to the Lord. As we become more and more like Christ and as we deepen our walk with Him then this division grows. For some it is a gulf. For some it leads to persecution, but the division is there. At times we as Christians act as if the division does not exist. At other times we try to "build bridges" to overcome the division. We use things like "Blessed are the peace makers" as the the banner of reconciliation. Do not get me wrong. We are to reach out and minister to the hurting. We are to heal the sick, bind up the wounded, give drink to the thirsty. The divisions will come. They cannot be avoided. They cannot be undone. If you have any inclination to pretend that there is not a division let me just share this with you. You are choosing to dwell in a spiritual no man's land. For those of you who do not know what a no man's land is: it is the space that exists between two warring troops in a battle field. The reason it is called no man's land is that it is either not occupied or it is so dangerous that no man would dare venture into it. And yet to live as if no division exists between Christians and unbelievers is foolish. You will get caught in the crossfire. I will talk in a moment about our reaction to this division, but let us not be so foolish as to say it does not exist or that we can wish it away like some silly notion. It is a fact of our walk with God that there will be division.

The second item is persecution. This persecution comes in many forms. The essential quality of persecution is that you are being chased. That is to say someone is actively seeking your harm. We must not be caught up in the so called persecution complex. That is to say we are being persecuted merely because something does not go our way. This may be the result of the natural division that exists between the believing and unbelieving world. But, to be persecuted is to be pursued, chased, and harassed by those that would harm you. This harm can be legal, physical, financial, familial, social, and political. There is growing concern that we will see persecution in the United States. In some respects we have seen the early stages of persecution to come into our lives. Around the world though persecution of Christians is in full force. Every three minutes somewhere in the world a Christian has paid the ultimate sacrifice for their faith by giving their life in martyrdom. That means that from the beginning of this service until I finish my sermon it is likely that 20 Christians will have been martyred. Listen dear friends. We are so caught up in our trivial and minor discomforts in our lives. 20 Christians will have given their lives up for Christ. Think about that. 14,000 plus people die a month to name the name of Christ. Hundreds everyday giving their last breath and committing their souls to God in heaven. I do not say this to offend, horrify, or harass you. I say this because we are a-s-l-e-e-p ASLEEP! Wake up, persecution is here in our time. Our thoughts of persecution for ourselves are phantoms of the real thing. Why are we so relaxed in this day an age when nearly 500 of our brothers and sisters in Christ die in the hands of a world that hates them. Yet the Word of God says do not be surprised when this happens. The world hates Christians! The Hatred is growing. Over the last two thousand years over 70 million Christians have been martyred. A staggering figure. Yet nearly 46 million of those died in the last 100 years. That is 65% of the total number of Martyrs occurring in the last century.

A member of an underground Christian movement in Somalia has been murdered by Muslim militants in a continuing campaign to eliminate converts from Islam. Area sources said al Shabaab militants entered the house of Osman Abdullah Fataho in Afgoye, 30 kilometres from Mogadishu, at 10:30 the night of July 21 and shot him dead in front of his wife and children. Fataho was a long-time Christian deeply involved in the activities of the small, secret Christian community, sources said. Area Christians said they suspected someone had informed the militants of Fataho's faith. The assailants abducted his wife and four children, later releasing her on the condition that she surrenders the little ones to be trained as soldiers. "We know they have taken the children to brain-wash them, to change their way of life from Christian to Muslim and to teach them the Koran," said one source. Abducted were Ali Daud (5), Fatuma Safia (7), Sharif Ahmed (10) and Nur Said (15).

A Christian leader who attended Fataho's funeral on July 22 said that one of the slain man's relatives noted that the militants had targeted him because he had left Islam. The incident has spread fear among the faithful in the lawless country, much of which lies in the grip of ruthless insurgents' intent on rooting out any person professing Christianity. Leaders of the Christian underground movement have been forced to flee their homes to avoid being killed by the insurgents, said one leader who, along with seven others, has temporarily moved to an undisclosed area. (Source: Compass Direct)

http://www.persecution.net/arch3.htm

Do not be surprised when the world hates us for Christ has told us ahead of time that this would happen.

The third way that Christianity is hated is slander. I would say that this is the most common form of hatred that Christians in the United States experience. There is no shortage of people to verbally attack the faith and the faithful. We are portrayed as foolish backward people with morals and values of a long past dying religion. Countless attempts are made to make Christianity look foolish. We are also not doing Christ any favors in our actions. Our misdeeds become ammunition in this word assault on Christians.

Do not be surprised when they speak evil of us. In fact do not be surprised when they make up lies about us. We are hated. They will hate us.

Pentecostal pastor Ilmurad Nurliev faces criminal charges of "large-scale swindling," according to Forum 18 News.

The charges carry a maximum penalty of five years imprisonment and possible confiscation of property. Pastor Nurliev was arrested at his home in southeastern Turkmenistan on Aug. 27. Three women who previously attended Nurliev's church wrote statements stating the pastor took money from them. Nurliev's wife and other church members vigorously deny these charges, saying police pressured the three to write the statements and that they now regret doing so. Another church member was threatened that if she does not testify against Pastor Nurliev, her husband, who is not a church member, will be fired from his job.

We may not face the harsh reality that we could lose our job for our faith, but it is certain that there are those that want to marginalize, put down, and silence the Gospel message. That is the reality of following Christ. Do not enter into Christian faith expecting to win a popularity contest. Especially if you plan to uphold the Bible and it's teachings. The world hates God, the world hates Christ, The world will hate us.

In the face of such great hate what is it that we as Christians are to do?

Generally we are called to love others consider:

You have heard that it was said, An eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth. But I tell you, don't resist an evildoer. On the contrary, if anyone slaps you on your right cheek, turn the other to him also. As for the one who wants to sue you and take away your shirt, let him have your coat as well. And if anyone forces you to go one mile, go with him two. Give to the one who asks you, and don't turn away from the one who wants to borrow from you. "You have heard that it was said, Love your neighbor and hate your enemy. But I tell you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you..."
Matthew 5:38-44 (HCSB)

Loving others will lead us to take three actions: endure, spread the Gospel, and conform to Christ.

You will be hated by everyone because of My name. But the one who endures to the end will be delivered.
Matthew 10:22 (HCSB)

So often I must admit my endurance is lacking in the Christian walk. In fact it often seems that my endurance is for those things that are pursuit of my own happiness and my own pleasure. I know that I am not alone in this. Endurance requires us to set our hearts in the right place. It takes a full commitment to finish strong. Too often we start out with the best of intentions, but quickly fall into bad habits and poor choices. Endurance on the other hand requires that we set these all aside and run the race set before us.

Therefore, since we also have such a large cloud of witnesses surrounding us, let us lay aside every weight and the sin that so easily ensnares us. Let us run with endurance the race that lies before us, keeping our eyes on Jesus, the source and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy that lay before Him endured a cross and despised the shame and has sat down at the right hand of God's throne.
Hebrews 12:1-2 (HCSB)

We see in this passage several points that will lead us into endurance. First recognize that we are not alone in this race. We have people here on earth and those that are in heaven, and most importantly we have the Holy Spirit in us as a witness. Trust in these. Rely on these. Set your mind on these. Loneliness is a sure way to sap your endurance. Second lay aside the things that are getting the way of enduring. This means that any evil sinful and selfish way that gets in the way must be set aside. What is more it could mean that some very good things need to be set aside if these things get in the ay of enduring. Third we have to keep our eyes upon our Lord Jesus Christ. Remember he was disposed and shamed, but endured the cross on our behalf. Your eyes are a window to your soul. Setting your eyes on Christ brings light to your life.

To endure is not enough. We are not called to live separate lives from unbelievers. Don't get me wrong we are to separate ourselves from the world's sinful ways. But we are to be in the world that we might spread the Gospel. Jesus pointed out in this passage that hatred from unbelievers actually moved the Gospel along. When we come across those that do not hear us and actively chase us with persecution it is time to move on. You see God prepares the heart, God gives the message, God gives the faith, God convicts the heart. The only part a sinner has is to repent and believe in Jesus Christ as their Lord and Savior. We are but messengers. The Commander in Chief our Lord has said if they will not received the message they have not rejected us, but rather they have rejected Him. This means that we are to continue on to the next town. All to often we are surprised when we are rejected and so we give up sharing the message. Do not lose heart. Call upon God with a pure heart and seek where God would have you go next. We are to share this message with all who will hear it.

After endurance and spreading the Gospel comes the hardest of all the tasks that we are to accomplish in the face of the world's hatred. We are to conform to the image of Christ. We already talked about loving others. In this way we become like Christ. When we recognize the needs of others and then minister to that need we conform to the image of Christ. When we preach the Kingdom of Heaven in the face of great opposition we conform to the image of Christ. When we walking in purity of heart and sincerity of motive and gentleness of spirit we conform to the image of Christ. In short if the world hates us because we have done something wrong then we have received a just reward. On the other hand if the world hates us because we conform to the image of Christ then we have something to celebrate.

In the end there will come a judgment. Jerusalem was judged for not recognizing Christ in the Day of her visitation. This destruction occurred some 40 years after the death and resurrection of Our Lord. Leading up to that day the Gospel was going forth throughout Israel. In fact the persecuted Church spread the gospel throughout Asia Minor. Even today it continues. It seems that the surest way for the world to encourage the spread of the Gospel is to persecute Christians. This will continued until the end of the age and will culminate in the Gospel being preached to every nation every tribe. To God be the Glory! Amen.

So what should we say in conclusion. Well first we need to recognize that a world that hates Christianity is to be expected. More often than not Christianity divides families and friends, is persecuted, and is slandered. As we consider this let us not lose sight of those brothers and sisters in Christ around the world that are on the front-lines of this persecution. Let us keep them near our thoughts so as to lift them up in prayer and in our support. When we respond to those that hate us we must always remember Christ's command to love our enemies. Really love is the path forward for endurance, spreading the Gospel, and conforming to the image of Christ. Let us pray.

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