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Balaam's Donkey and Persecution

Mike, one of our pastors, has a second job. His employers, Christians, forbade him to tell clients and staff that he’s a pastor. He could say he works with children for a “benevolent organization” in the North End but that was it. He finally found this so difficult that he began to ignore the rules. Eventually they let him speak, but warned him that if he did, some would hate him.

Hatred. The Church often deserves the hatred it receives. Through the ages Christians have done some terrible things in the name of Jesus. But sometimes we are hated simply because we love and follow God. Jesus warned that this would happen but we are still surprised when it does.

Our text today was from Acts 13 and 14, the story of Paul and Barnabas, first in Antioch and then in Iconium. In each city, they preached to the Jews. After all, it was the Jews who had been promised Messiah. Some accepted the good news Paul and Barnabas brought but most were angry and drove them out of town.

Frances Shaffer wrote, “I believe that pluralism in the long run is a more deadly poison than straight forward persecution.” Paul and Barnabas told new believers: “It is through many persecutions that we enter the kingdom of God.” (Acts 14:22—not sure of the translation Mike used.) This verse seems to imply that we can't get into God's kingdom unless we've been persecuted. It’s a shocking thought and one I have never considered before.

Persecution. We understand the persecution the early disciples endured. We understand the persecution people like Voice of the Martyrs report—beatings, imprisonment, torture and death—but we have a hard time believing there’s any persecution here in North America. Yet Mike’s experience in the workplace is not unique. Many have had such experiences. Even children do.

One little boy told Mike (who’s the children’s pastor) that he can’t talk about church at school. If he does, he’ll be sent to the office. We offend others (even some who call themselves Christian) when we insist that Jesus is the only way to God. There is persecution in the Western World. It simply has a different face.

Mike says he had a harder time telling his Christian but very conservative parents that he was pastor at a Vineyard church. He said it would have been easier if his admission to them had been that he’s gay (he’s not).

What can we do? We can be like Balaam’s donkey. Balaam kept beating his donkey for not doing what he was told but the donkey saw an angel and chose to stop as the angel said, even though it angered Balaam.

I can think of times when I’ve experienced hatred and rejection because of my Christian convictions, beliefs and behaviours. What about you?

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In My Prayer Room

Oh God
You surround me with your love,
with memories
of who you are
of what you've done
of promises you've made
of who I want to be
of who I am because of you.

You give me hope and joy,
peace and gratitude.
You convict me
and teach me
encourage me
and remind me
of what it means to follow you.












You listen to my prayers
and grant my requests
in your time.
You give me insight
and knowledge
and words to write
to share your presence
your goodness
your love
your admonition
with others.























You expand my love
to pray for friend and foe
near and far
family and stranger
people as pins on maps
clustered and scattered
who know you and reject you
for those in need
and those too full to need.


















You draw me close
and then release me
to bring you close to others
to serve
and love
and give
all I have received.

You fill my heart with joy
that warms
and glows
and bursts
into laughter,
song
and even dance.

You wrap me in your arms
and tell me
"You are mine"
with intensity that burns
and smoul…