Thursday, October 4, 2012

Times are a Changin'

Times are a Changin’


“Now brother will deliver up brother to death, and a father his child; and children will rise up against parents and cause them to be put to death.  And you will be hated by all for My name’s sake. But he who endures to the end will be saved.  When they persecute you in this city, flee to another.” – Matthew 10:21-23

Bob Dylan said it well when he wrote “The Times, they are a Changin”.  A father kills his children and ex-wife, and all relatives present on Christmas day.  One man is killed over a balloon at a local gas station.  A young girl gets pregnant and her mother takes her for an abortion, and waits as her unborn grandchild is murdered.  A young man becomes a father not once, not twice, but three times before graduating high school.  Young children are captured on our streets and thrown into a life of prostitution, and hired out to pedophiles.  And yet, Christians become more and more silent in fear of what the people they live to please would say.  We huddle together in our churches shocked at how the world has become so evil.
Jesus told us that a lamp was not to be hidden under a basket.  He told us that we were the light of the world.  Yet, we refuse to let that light shine because we don’t want to endure the little bit of persecution that could come our way.  We want all the benefits of being a child of God, but we don’t want to pay the cost.  We are free-loading children.

Jesus told the disciples in Matthew 10:21-23 that “you WILL be hated for My name sake”.  Should it come to a surprise to us now that Christians are the subject of jokes and rude comments?
Jesus also said “WHEN they persecute you in this city, flee to another”.  Should we be surprised that terrorists want nothing more than to see us dead?

Is the one that would be saved eternally by our boldness not worth the persecution?
Jesus Christ himself warned us of the price we have to pay to truly follow Him, to be that city on a hill, the light of the world.  But we want to focus on the benefits, and not the cost.  If Christianity was a job with a weekly wage, I fear many of us would be fired before Friday.

In the early years of Christianity, persecution was far worse than today and yet these early Christians were willing to pay the cost.  In Rome, a Christian and their entire family could be beheaded and their heads placed on posts around the city, or dipped in wax and made into a human candle.  For entertainment, a Christian would be placed in an arena with a lion, and the audience would watch as the lion tore the child of God to pieces.
During this time over 600 miles of catacombs (tunnels) were dug under Rome.  They wound and circled under the city like the paths of a band of ants underground.  Many early Christians were buried in the underground graves in the catacombs.  When persecution was so severe, they would often meet to worship in these catacombs.  And on the walls of the catacombs were artwork and carvings depicting scenes from the Bible, and the names of apostles.  But throughout the 600 miles of tunnels, engraved on the walls, the Icthys symbol, which resembles a fish was found.

This symbol was used by early Christians as a secret way to identify each other.  A Christian would draw an arc in the sand, and if the other person was a Christian, they would complete the symbol. 
The symbol has meaning in the Greek language based on the letters in its Greek spelling that make up the word.  The first letter, Iesóus,  means Jesus.  The second letter Christós, means Christ or “Anointed One”. The third letter, Theoú, means God.  The fourth, Hyiós, means Son.  And the last, Soter, means Savior.  All together, the meaning of Icthys is “Jesus Christ, God’s Son, Our Savior.”  When traveling through the Catacombs, this symbol and the direction in which it pointed gave a road map of the tunnels.  And yet today, we’ve made it nothing more than a symbol on the back of our mini vans.

We STILL have the opportunity to worship openly and freely. 
We STILL have the ability to pray in public. 
We STILL can meet in coffee shops and restaurants for Bible Studies. 
We can STILL gather in auditoriums and sing praises to our God. 
We can STILL wear shirts with Bible verses and Christian meanings. 

And the only persecution most of us face is that of ridicule and being called names like “Church Lady” or “Holier-Than-Thou”, and yet, it’s not worth it to us to stand boldly as Christians?  I suppose the only good news is that when the trials for Christians come again, and they will, many won’t have enough evidence that they are Christians to be convicted! 

Don’t complain about the world going to hell in a hand basket if you’re not willing to step up and be the light of the world. 

“Come gather 'round people
Wherever you roam
And admit that the waters
Around you have grown
And accept it that soon
You'll be drenched to the bone
If your time to you
Is worth savin'
Then you better start swimmin'
Or you'll sink like a stone
For the times they are a-changin'.

Come writers and critics
Who prophesize with your pen
And keep your eyes wide
The chance won't come again
And don't speak too soon
For the wheel's still in spin
And there's no tellin' who
That it's namin'
For the loser now
Will be later to win
For the times they are a-changin'.

Come senators, congressmen
Please heed the call
Don't stand in the doorway
Don't block up the hall
For he that gets hurt
Will be he who has stalled
There's a battle outside
And it is ragin'
It'll soon shake your windows
And rattle your walls
For the times they are a-changin'.

Come mothers and fathers
Throughout the land
And don't criticize
What you can't understand
Your sons and your daughters
Are beyond your command
Your old road is
Rapidly agin'
Please get out of the new one
If you can't lend your hand
For the times they are a-changin'.

The line it is drawn
The curse it is cast
The slow one now
Will later be fast
As the present now
Will later be past
The order is
Rapidly fadin'
And the first one now
Will later be last
For the times they are a-changin'.” – Bob Dylan

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