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When Christina and I were recently in Florida we visited Disney World for a few days. It was a great time though we did have a few interesting experiences. On the first day at Disney we awoke early to dine with several of the characters. After breakfast with Goofy we headed to Hollywood Studios to see some live productions of some of the boy’s favorite Disney shows. Then we headed to Wild Animal Kingdom so that Christina could get in the new Mount Everest roller coaster ride. Then, just when we were really getting warmed up – about 8 hours into our day – we decided to head over to the Magic Kingdom so that we could get Mickey Mouse’s signature in the boy’s character signature collection book. When we finally wrapped up our adventuresome day we headed for the bus station to catch a ride back to the Disney resort where we were staying. As it turns out we were not the only one’s who had taken advantage of the Caribbean Beach resort’s very good discounts that were being offered in the month of February! We waited for nearly an hour just to get on the bus to get back to resort after the park had closed. We and most everyone else on the bus I suspect had endured a very full day at the parks. I was the last person to get on the bus and as such I stood at the very front of the bus with a diaper bag slung over one shoulder, a collection of stuffed animals under the other arm, and a large double stroller to boot. Before the bus could leave the driver announced loudly enough for all to hear that anyone who was standing and holding a child or baby must be seated. The bus was completely full and of course this meant that some people were going to have to give up their seat in order for these people holding children to be seated for safety reasons. Perhaps you have already guessed it. Even after his saying this three times nobody budged.

Forget the fact that some of the people standing with children were mothers obviously exhausted from the day; the bus wasn’t going to leave until someone gave up their seat! One woman nearby buried her face further and further into her little hand held electronic device each time the bus driver said this while others obviously pretended not to hear; apparently assuming that surely someone else would do it. Finally a couple of people stood and rather grudgingly gave up their seats. Nearby where I was standing and Christina was sitting holding both our one year old and our three old, one woman stood to give up her seat and made such a dramatic event of it that I thought to myself, “what tragic persecution we must suffer and endure to give up our comfortable seat for another person on a bus!”

The American Church, I would suggest, has to a very large extent grown overly comfortable in our seats. The world is crying out all around us that it can not go on unless we get up out of our seats. The Apostles were fools for Christ. Should we be any different? The early Church was so full of the resurrection power of Christ that they were willing to abandon everything for the righteousness sake. Have we been called to anything less?

The truth is that we do not do well to measure our commitment to Christ by way of the level of persecution that we receive. We live in a land that was founded and so heavily influenced by the Church that it is not likely that any of us have or will have the kinds of stories of Christian persecution that come out of places like China, Northern India, or most of the Middle East.

The point is not that we ought to seek persecution. The point is that in our relative comfort let us not grow complacent. Our mission is to reflect the radical love and grace of the Cross to a world in desperate need of forgiveness, hope, and love!

When the Church is persecuted it grows. Why is this so; because the weight of persecution presses the church together, binding believers closer and closer to one another and to Christ! While we need not to seek persecution to test and strengthen our faith we do well, Dear Saints, to hear the voice of the martyrs crying out to us to live in the power of the resurrection of Christ.

I would also point out that in these increasingly secular times it is imperative for genuine followers of Christ to live bold lives which proclaim the truth that Christ is raised from the dead and reigns. The pressures on the Church of Christ is from scandals within to the rise of secularism from without, from the devaluation of the Bible within and a denial of the miraculous power of Christ to the increasing skepticism of any claims to truth from without.

These pressures are mounting and will likely continue. It is up to each one of us to live our lives as a witness to the power of Christ to impact, indwell, and infuse us with the radical grace and mercy of the Cross. “Blessed are those who are persecuted for righteousness sake, for theirs is the Kingdom of Heaven.” Blessed are those who live lives just as committed as those who are persecuted for righteousness sake for they can be used of God!

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