Message of the Beatitudes – Eight – Persecuted

 “Blessed are those who have been persecuted for the sake of righteousness, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.  Blessed are you when men cast insults at you, and persecute you, and say all kinds of evil against you falsely, on account of Me.”  Matthew 5:10-11. 

When I met Earl, he had already been in the ministry 12 years, he had 3 children (10, 12 & 14 years old), and was pastoring as an abandoned single parent in a church that had about 10% of the city residents, (600 of 6,000).  I was in my mid 30’s he was in his early 40’s.  I had 2 children of my own (10 & 16 years old).  But I didn’t think twice about dating and eventually marrying a pastor.  I had been a Roman Catholic growing up, became a Baptist at 28 and didn’t see any issues with becoming a Presbyterian when I married Earl at the age of 36.

After 13 years of marriage bliss – 🙂 – I have since discovered how life in the ministry can be.  My husband has had all of the 8th beatitude negatives hurled at him at one time or another in his ministries, from insults to persecution to loss of larger church calls because he wouldn’t compromise his beliefs, and to having all kinds of evil said against him falsely on account of his belief in the Jesus as presented in the Bible.

I remember a church that would have called him, but told him that he would have to leave all his controversial sermons in his filing cabinet.  Needless to say, he didn’t take the call.  Over the years, I too, have had derogatory and untrue comments said about me.  Those have really hurt especially since I have been very actively involved at many levels in every church that we have served. 

     I would highly recommend to all church sessions, leaders, staff and church members, the book, “What Pastors Wish Church Members Knew” by Denise George.  This book says it all and then some. 

     If you take the time to read the book mentioned above, you will actually see the real world of a pastor’s life and the far-reaching effects upon his family.  Jesus warned that all those who made the decision to follow Him would be persecuted, they would be afflicted, and they would be oppressed.  In  1 Thessalonians 3:4-7, Paul writes that he advised the church that he was going to suffer affliction and then by verse 7 he states, “In all our distress and affliction we were comforted about you through your faith.”

     A pastor and his family know that according to the Scriptures, ministry is going to be difficult.  Jesus promised that it would be.  That is part of God’s call, and I am not really complaining.  But Christians need to recognize that sometimes they can be used, usually without their awareness of it, to damage a good ministry and to discourage someone who has been graced by God to shepherd and benefit the church.  With this knowledge and with a lot of prayer, forgiveness, and the strength of God, a church family and a pastor’s family can be victorious through all kinds of trials.  We can all bear much more fruit for Jesus Christ when we stop insulting and discouraging pastors and start praying for them and supporting them and respect the fact that God may be working through them.

When I read God’s Word, I am in awe of the prophets who have stood in time past and had been persecuted.  I never compare my life with theirs, but I can understand just a little better some of the dynamics and trials of their lives.  To be persecuted because of your belief in Jesus Christ is like a badge of honor because when this happens to us, Jesus reminds us of His promise, “Rejoice, and be glad, for your reward in heaven is great, for so they persecuted the prophets who were before you.”   (Matthew 5:12)   At least when we are persecuted on account of Jesus, we know that we are on the right side!

One of the most important and holy acts of kindness a church family and shepherds can do is to be in continuous prayer about their shared ministry together.  Jesus tells us to love our enemies and pray for those who persecute us.  Churches that have done exactly that have seen the positive results of the Holy Spirit working in the lives of those who have had a God-change of heart.  Blessings abound for all involved when we do as Jesus directs rather than taking matters into our own hands and reacting cruelly, hurtfully or in an un-Christ like manner.

Unlike many minister families who may be experiencing more severe issues, Earl and I are doing relatively well.  I did not write this blog to imply that we are always experiencing persecution.  But some pastors and churches are going through such trials that we should not only be praying for them, but also teach and proclaim that it shouldn’t be the church that persecutes its own – even if the world does.  Many times churches and shepherds can experience great love, prayers and support for each other.  And this is how our witness should be to our culture.  But in this ministry as a pastor’s wife, I have learned what God’s call upon my life is.  As Earl ministers to our church family, I am to minister to him.  For his days are long and hard out in the ministry field.  The very least that I can do is to minister to him and attempt to make his divine call as easy to bear as possible.  We are in this ministry of Jesus Christ together – for better or for worse.

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Reborn to be Free

I would like to take a moment to introduce you to Maggie Mae.  Maggie is our 16 month old Great Dane, and she is a brilliant dog.  She is always surprising us with her cleverness.  We got Maggie when she was 7 weeks old.  Earl took four hours deciding, while watching all the puppies in the litter before finally picking Maggie.  It was her natural curiosity that tickled Earl.  Now, Earl and Maggie are inseparable.  She loves and adores him and will protect him from me at all costs, including hugs and kisses….oh the dog’s life I live.

One day when I was getting ready to start work in my home office, I found Earl and Maggie watching the old 1966 movie “Born Free”.  Maggie does not watch TV normally, but on this particular morning she was so engrossed in the film, it was comical.  It was the end of the movie, where the lioness, Elsa, had been training for weeks to learn to hunt and kill for herself, so she could be set free in the wild and be able to survive on her own. 

Now Maggie has her big dog stuffed toys: a moose, a cow, a turkey and her squirrel.  Each day Maggie is let outside to spend the day in the great wild of our backyard.  As I passed the kitchen window, I happened to see Maggie running past with a squirrel in her mouth.  My thought was “How did she get her toy squirrel outside?” and so I went to go and get it when I noticed her toy squirrel on the living room floor.  My jaw dropped.  I went racing for the window only to see Maggie outside frolicking with a real squirrel, dead in her jaws.  I cannot figure out how Maggie, this huge 140 pound Great Dane managed to kill a squirrel.  Then, I believe as a gift for Earl, she left it on the back porch. 

But in remembering her total immersion in the Born Free movie, I saw her acts as analogous to those of Christians.  When we totally engross ourselves in God’s Word, and we allow Him to teach us His ways, we will actually take what we’ve learned and apply them to our everyday lives.

We are set free to serve God in the capacity to which He appoints us.  Just like Elsa, she went into her natural habitat and after learning how she was to hunt, she applied herself.  When we are set free in Christ, we break the chains of slavery to this captured world of evil and we are given new life.  In Galatians 5:1 “It was for freedom that Christ set us free; therefore keep standing firm and do not be subject again to the yoke of slavery.”  We are to walk away from our dependency on what the world has to offer and immerse ourselves in the world that God has to offer us.

We were born to be free in Christ.  It is only through being born again that we taste and live that freedom.  1 Peter 1:3 “Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who according to His great mercy has caused us to be born again to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead”.  It is through this hope that we are assured of a new life both here on earth and later in an eternal life with Christ.  For in John 3:3 “Jesus answered, “Truly, truly, I say to you, unless one is born of water and the Spirit, he cannot enter into the kingdom of God.”

Where Maggie saw Elsa and learned how to hunt to survive, we should see The Lamb and learn how to love, to have compassion, to give to those in need, to worship and glorify God and to live an abundant life in Him.  For once we learn His way of life we are born again, to be free.

“If therefore the Son shall make you free, ye shall be free indeed.” John 8:36

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