How to live if you are an Afghan Christian

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As it is written: “For your sake we face death all day long; we are considered as sheep to be slaughtered.” Romans 8:36 NIV

Followers of Christ in Afghanistan these days live with terror. All Afghanis must feel threatened, especially those who desperately want to flee Kabul.  But to be Christian in Afghanistan these days is to have a bulls-eye painted on your back with neon colors. As in other countries where believers are persecuted, neighbors know just who has accepted Christ and left the majority religious community, whether Islamic, Buddhist or Hindu.

Each morning as I read reports from Open Doors or hear the news, I try to imagine how I would feel. Just how I would deal with the pressure of impending death at the hands of the Taliban? How I would live with the fear that comes simply from being Christian in Afghanistan?

You’d have to live as though you were already dead!

That’s the only way I can think to reduce the tension, live with the stress.  Whether actual death comes today or tomorrow or next week, soon you’ll be with Jesus.  With that mindset, that you’re as good as dead, you’d have nothing to lose by helping other Christians, of spending yourself for neighbors, of even telling your executioners about Jesus.

We Christians SAY we believe that God sovereignly plans our birth and our death and everything in between, but I can’t say that I live that way, functionally.  I know I hold ‘my plans’ too tightly.

This morning I lingered over Psalm 31.  Verse 15 fit my reflections about the fall of Afghanistan to the Taliban.  “My times are in your hands…” NIV. I’ve read that the Hebrew word for ‘times’ can also refer to events or seasons.

Jesus knew this dual reality.  He considered himself dead to the world, and alive to his father.  How else can we explain his calm warmth during that last supper, the very night he was betrayed? Psalm 31: 5 proclaims, “Into your hands I commit my spirit” NIV.  Jesus gasped out these very words from the cross (Luke 23:46). And Stephen who was martyred likewise committed his spirit to Jesus.

I’m asking myself, “Maria, how would your life change if you gave back each day to the Lord, leaving it for him to do what he has planned.  Paul mentions, ‘not counting his life dear’ (Acts 20:24).

I’m not ‘there’ yet.  But thinking about the persecuted church, and especially Afghani brothers and sisters right now, challenges me.  And that is good.

If you try to hang on to your life, you will lose it. But if you give up your life for my sake, you will save it. Matthew 16:25 NLT

A bit of vulnerability

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Our Father is a very personal parent.  He treats each of us differently, according to what we need. In His holy judgment obviously. I like to think of His discipleship training course as an IEP, an individual education plan, in ‘educator speak’. 

This week has been no exception to tailor-made lessons for Maria.  Painful ones, yes, but kind.

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May the God of peace…(be) working in us that which is pleasing in his sight, through Jesus Christ….Hebrews 13:21 ESV

I woke up feeling blah today. Usually cheery, I checked the usual suspects (sleep, pain, problems).  Fact is, I didn’t sleep well and my body feels off. But the REAL issue is that my heart is cold.

Two days ago, I read an email from a ministry we support. Once a year, they launch a focused prayer season.  I didn’t print out the attached guide.  It just felt too much, to add something else to pray for every day.

Then yesterday, our pastor sent out his weekly email detailing the upcoming Sunday. This year, 2021, we’re back worshipping in person. And two other services are planned for Passion Week.  My reaction?  Not interested.

Now THAT is the real reason for ‘the blahs’.  God made me look fully into a picture of my unholiness, my sin.

But, God prompted a friend…..who just ‘happened’ to send the above verse. Firmly nudged by the Spirit, I made a ‘deal’ with God. “If that Good Friday service is during the day, I’ll go!”

I checked the email. Sure enough, it’s scheduled for noon.

*****

He Himself said, ‘It is more blessed to give than to receive. Acts 20:35 NASB

God’s timing, as always, was impeccable. I listened to an interview with a Christian comedian while cleaning yesterday. He described how his comedy improved once he changed the question (and purpose) from ‘How can I get people to laugh?’  to ‘How can I give people what they need?’

This morning I felt hurt when Anne texted, cancelling Spanish class for Noah because of her surgical appointment.  I have been longing for more contact with her.  So, not even knowing that she had scheduled a procedure stung.

I sat quietly with God, journal open.  Providentially, I had been on the cusp of writing down that comedian’s advice.  By grace, the Holy Spirit prompted me to ask, “What can I give Anne right now in this relationship?” Then I knew!  I can write her a newsy, encouraging card.

Immediately, I felt happy, hurt feelings dissolved. I had let go of “I’m not getting what I want” to something better and more freeing.

And you know what?  About an hour after I experienced the bigger blessing of looking at how I could serve this dear gal, she texted and suggested we face time tomorrow. A sweet smile from my Father.

No more stuffing feelings; adventures await!

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Hi Friends

It’s freeing to be able to share with Jesus each messy feeling and perplexing situation that come to me. With no reserve, not filtering out any detail.  And it’s Biblical.

Here are 2 entries from this past week.  What pleasure God gives me, to write daily, but no more than 175 words.  I love the limit!

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December 10

Cast your cares on the LORD and he will sustain you, Psalm 55:22 NIV

…..casting all your anxieties on him, because he cares for you 1 Peter 5:7

Mike grabbed his lunch, headed to the garage. He admitted, “I’m fighting anxiety about this morning’s meeting we prayed about last night.”

Spotting Satan’s tactic I encouraged: “Mike, don’t fight the anxiety!  Cast it on Jesus!  Spit it out; tell Him all the details. Then listen for His words!”

Don’t we all tend to tamp down those thoughts of fear, worry envy, shame, anger….?  We have heard Satan’s lie enough times to believe it: If you were really a good Christian, you wouldn’t be feeling X, Y, Z!

That’s not true!  Remember the father’s confession to Jesus about his son’s healing?  ‘I DO believe, help my unbelief!

What relief when we confess all to our good Father.  Jesus knows Satan’s tactics, the slight twisting of the Word.  He understands the temptation to accept the lies.

His response?  Life-giving words of Love, not of fear and condemnation. Let’s train ourselves to recognize His voice and trust Him.

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December 12

You should remember the words of the Lord Jesus: ‘It is more blessed to give than to receive.’ Acts 20:35 NLT

Spanish renders blessed as: ‘bienaventurado’.

I LOVE this word!  Separating bien from aventurado, you get well, good followed by adventurous, exciting! (Maria’s unconventional musing.)

So, when you GIVE, a great adventure with Jesus follows.  It’s way more fun than receiving a gift.

But, how much do we give? To whom? When do we give? So many questions left unanswered. Especially to one like me who finds it harder to give of my time than money.  Is Jesus calling us to do as He advised the rich young ruler? Sell all our stuff and give the proceeds to the poor? Or, in my case, dedicate all my time to the service of others?

We don’t have to guess, for Paul helps us in Acts 22:10 when he modeled the way: What should I do, Lord?

Jesus invites us to check in with Him, always. What a relief!

And what other great adventures with Jesus await? We can always check back to the Sermon on the Mount where He describes other circumstances, sure to be thrilling.

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What about you?  What do you hear Him say when you’re honest?

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