A Rainy Evening in Narnia

Hey all!

I’m thrilled to announce that I officially have my Master’s from Seminary!  It was a tough journey, but I made it, but not without the support and prayers of great friends, a great church, and a great family.

I was a part of another play.  This time it was C. S. Lewis’ The Lion, The Witch, and The Wardrobe, a classic tale and battle between good and evil.

Lamp Post

If you’re not familiar with the story, here’s a crash course:

The four Pevensie children stumble upon a wardrobe in the professor’s house that leads to the land of Narnia.  They encounter creatures of every sort such as talking beavers, fauns, and werewolves.  They meet the great lion Aslan and the terrible White Witch who makes it always winter in Narnia, but never Christmas.  A large battle eventually ensues and Aslan is victorious.

I was going to talk about my role in this production as the Centaur, but there is a situation that happened that I want to bring to attention.

Edmund and Centaur

I got you, Edmund.  The White Witch won’t come after you while I’m around.

We performed this show outdoors for one weekend, so we prayed and prayed for good weather.  We only got rained out for one practice.  Everything was going according to plan, even with one day predicting a forecast of rain, but it didn’t arrive.  The final performance was the “problem.”  While we were setting up, we heard thunder and saw clouds starting to roll in.  The rain came despite our prayers.  Those who were waiting had to return to their vehicles until the rain let up.

We waited in the Green Room for a while hoping for the rain to stop, but it showed no sign in breaking.  We decided to move the show to a small, quaint chapel on the end of the property.  We braved the rain and moved our props and costumes there.

More “problems” arose.

  • The chapel was small and could only fit a fraction of the intended audience. Some people ended up leaving because there was no room.
  • The “stage” of the chapel was probably 1/8 of the space of our original stage.
  • There was no air conditioning in the chapel. It was stuffy and hot.
  • Due to the small space, we had to work with minimal props and some of the scene details were cut.

I’m going to get a little transparent with you guys.  I did not think it was going to work.  How could we put on this show with these sudden changes and uncertainties? What was God thinking? Why would He allow this?  Why didn’t He answer our (my) prayers (the funny part was that it stopped raining as we started the show.  It didn’t rain for the rest of the evening).

But guess what?  The show was a success!

God revealed to me another piece of my heart, the part that likes to blame God whenever an inconvenience comes my way, usually stemming from moments when a plan I’m involved in suddenly explodes and falls flat in front of my face.

But what if a prayer goes unanswered or what if He said “No” because He has a bigger plan in mind?

See, as God’s children, we are to grow and walk in love as we imitate the Father (Eph. 5:1).  God grows, disciplines, and shapes us into His image as we go through the continuous process of holiness; sometimes meaning that He says “No” to the things we want.  Yeah, it hurts in the current moment, but think of the everlasting joy that happens as a result!

The shake-up on the final performance brought out people’s gifts and talents; others may have seen or used their gift or talent for the first time.  The Stage Manager and her assistant formulated a plan and prop list for the limited stage.  The Director helped guide us to what we needed to do. Fellow cast members pulled together to improvise and change up fight and dance choreography.

This happened all while I was freaking out.  That was convicting, yet encouraging.

Take this lesson from me, friends. When you are inconvenienced or when God says no to your prayer, don’t blame or run from Him.  Instead, take a look around and ask God to be glorified in and through you and the people with you.  Ask Him to reveal your heart to you and watch as He opens your eyes to what He is doing in your life and in the lives of others.

Now to Him who is able to do far more abundantly than all that we ask or think, according to the power at work within us, to Him be the glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, forever and ever. Amen — Ephesians 3:20-21 (emphasis mine)

And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to His purpose. — Romans 8:28

Until next time, remain hidden in the shadow of His wings and long live the true King!

— Jon Pannell

The Struggle and the Blessing

I just had a very wild first half of Spring semester.  I just finished and passed my online class while still going through two residential classes; I am also working part time and I was a part of a local community theatre’s production of Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat. To say I was stressed out is a little bit of an understatement, but it was an adventure.

Spring Break has just ended and our production finished its run.  I breathe a sigh of relief, even though being a part of the performance was a huge blast (more on that in another blog).

I was cast as Napthali in Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat, one of Joseph’s 11 brothers.  I wore that name with pride.  Looking into the Scripture, Napthali is the sixth of Jacob’s children.  Rachel speaks of him:

With mighty wrestlings I have wrestled with my sister and have prevailed. – Genesis 30:8

I would spend a lot of time giving you background on the story, but I trust you are reading your Bible.  Background scripture is Genesis 29-30.

Napthali is understood to mean wrestling, strife, or fight.  When I look back over the past two years of my life, I have been going through a lot of wrestling, though not physically.  I had been battling stress, self-worth, anxious thoughts, worry, “conflicting” theology and how God and I viewed each other.  Priorities were competing with my life: God, work, school, friends, productions, and other things were all vying for my devotion.  Yes, I put God as one of the things competing for me; that’s not a mistake.

I’ve struggled spiritually, but God is forever gracious and patient with me.

God has a tendency of adding pressure in our lives and allows us to struggle; not so He can take pleasure in seeing us flail and fall, but to show us that we are imperfect beings, that He is jealous for us and that He wants us to turn to Him in these moments.  He knows, and He has the best solution.  After all, He is God.

Beloved reader, God blesses us in the struggle.  We cannot fight on our own power; we will fail every time unless we call on Him.  Fights begin and continue until someone is victorious.  If you’re fighting against the world, cling to God.  Seek His face and direction.  If you lose the fight, get back up, breathe, and come back another day.

Jacob would later wrestle with God; he would not let go until God blessed him, which He did (Gen. 32: 22-32).  I submit to you that it’s perfectly fine to wrestle with God; just don’t give up the fight as He wants to bless you.  When you give up the fight and walk away, you miss out on what God has in store for you and a deepening of your relationship with Him.

May we in the same way cling to God as we wrestle with Him and the world around us, never letting go until He blesses us.  Fight, but ultimately submit to God; remember, He is for you, not against you.

The Lord will fight for you, you need only to be still. – Exodus 14:14

Consider him who endured from sinners such hostility against himself, so that you may not grow weary or fainthearted.  In your struggle against sin you have not yet resisted to the point of shedding your blood.  And have you forgotten the exhortation that addresses you as sons?

“My son, do not regard lightly the discipline of the Lord, nor be weary when reproved by him.  For the Lord disciplines the one he loves, and chastises every son whom He receives.” – Hebrews 12:3-6

Submit yourselves therefore to God.  Resist the devil, and he will flee from you.  Draw near to God, and He will draw near to you. – James 4:7

Until next time, stay hidden in the shadow of His wings.

– Jon Pannell

Disclaimer:  God blesses us and provides what we need, not what we want.  If we are contending and fighting for the wrong things or with the wrong motives, He will say no.

Prayer in the Midst of Politics

Alright folks, let’s cut to the chase.

Election Day is on November 8, and this is the day we exercise our right to vote and make our voice heard.  I don’t care if you’re jaded to politics or if you’re deeply passionate about politics.  I don’t care if you want to Make America Great Again or if you say “I’m With Her.”  It doesn’t matter if you’re Republican, Democrat, Green, Libertarian, Independent, or part of the Pizza Party, you have the responsibility to vote.

If you’re like me, you’re probably sick and tired of all the political posts and arguments on social media and like me, you’ve thought at least 1,000 times a day to deactivate all your social media accounts until a month after Election Day.  You know through my posts on this blog that I hate politics with the passion of a thousand suns and I especially hate the fact that we have frivolous and petty arguments that lead to unfriending, unfollowing, and blocking our former friends and acquaintances.

We just want peace, not strife.  Unity, not division.

I want to share 1 Timothy 2:1-5 with you.

First of all, then, I urge that supplications, prayers, intercessions, and thanksgivings be made for all people, for kings and all who are in high positions, that we may lead a peaceful and quiet life, godly and dignified in every way.  This is good, and it is pleasing in the sight of God our Savior, who desires all people to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth.  For there is one God, and there is one mediator between God and men, the man Christ Jesus, who gave Himself as a ransom for all, which is the testimony given at the proper time.

The Apostle Paul writes this letter to Timothy around AD 62-64 in regards to instruction and conduct in the early Church.  This was during the reign of the Emperor Nero and before the Great Fire of Rome in AD 64.

In this passage, Paul urges the Church to pray and intercede and be thankful for all people, especially those in places of authority.  Read the first sentence in that verse.  Slowly.  Multiple times.  Meditate on it.

Regardless of who is and who will be the President, we as the Church need to pray and intercede and give thanks.  It doesn’t matter if you don’t like Obama, pray for him.  If you hate Trump or Clinton, it doesn’t matter; pray for them.  People in authority that you respect and/or dislike?  Pray for them.  No exceptions, no excuses.

When you pray, it takes your focus off the worldly and engages you with the heavenly.  This world is not your home, and your Heavenly Father is available 24/7; why not pray?  Feel hopeless? Pray.  Need someone to talk to? Pray.  The next time you want to blast someone or complain about politics, use that energy to pray.

Prayer leads to a “peaceful and quiet life, godly and dignified in every way.”  Think of it as a diagnostic; a prayerless life leads to an absence of peace, a life full of loveless shouting, ungodliness, and a lack of respect or dignity to yourself or towards others.  How is your life right now?  I’m going to be honest; my spiritual life isn’t that great, mainly because I haven’t been living a life of prayer.  As a result, I’ve been stressed out and I haven’t had much peace (be praying for me).

Praying for the authorities pleases God.  And guess what?  Prayer is the driving and aligning force of His will.  He desires all people to be saved and to come to truth.  God can open Heaven on the people and situations you pray and intercede for.  Plus, God is God; He can do whatever He pleases and will even work despite your disobedience.

Think about it.  What would happen if instead of fighting with each other and complaining on social media, we prayed and lived a peaceful life instead?  We could possibly see those in authority figures come to know Christ as their Lord and Savior!  Sounds crazy, right?  Imagine if Trump or Clinton or anyone else came to know Jesus!

Jesus is still saving and transforming people.  What are we doing to encourage or hinder that?

AD 64 was the Great Fire of Rome.  All fingers pointed to Nero, but he instead blamed it on the Christians, leading to intense persecutions and horrific martyrdoms.  And guess what?  The Church still grew as her people prayed and lived peacefully.  I would submit to you that they even prayed for Emperor Nero as they were persecuted.

If our religious liberties are taken away, we must know that God is still good and on His throne, that we should still pray for the authoritative figures in our lives.  But seriously, you act as if the next Presidential candidate is going to put an end to Christianity.  Have you forgotten who really is in charge here?  God is not tied to a political party. He doesn’t take sides; He’s here to take over.  He wants to be glorified in the things we say and do.

Church History tells of what happens when Christianity becomes non-persecuted and protected by the State.  But that may be a post for another day.

So here’s my challenge to you.  If you have burned someone with your words and actions, repent and seek forgiveness.  If you have been burned, know that there is healing through Jesus Christ.  And pray, pray, pray for those in authority of our nation instead of complaining and debating all the time.  Live a peaceful and quiet life, and be clothed in dignity and godliness.  Now go and pray.  Hang out with Jesus.

Let every person be subject to the governing authorities.  For there is no authority except from God, and those that exist have been instituted by God. — Romans 13:1

Be still, and know that I am God.  I will be exalted among the nations, I will be exalted in the earth! — Psalm 46:10

If I speak in the tongues of men and of angels, but have not love, I am a noisy gong or a clanging cymbal. — 1 Corinthians 13:1

Love one another with brotherly affection.  Outdo one another in showing honor. — Romans 12:10

Until next time, remain hidden in the shadow of His wings,

Jon Pannell

The Otherworldly City

Hello reader!

I ask that you would pray for me as I am going through this semester.

The media has been talking about injustice and protest lately, and the stories seem to be dividing us more and more each day.  Also, the current election season is more bizarre than ever (the first presidential debate was like watching a train wreck.  Loaded with fireworks).  But of course you know that this is a tactic of Satan, to have us living and getting used to continual darkness.

Division is profitable, but to whom?  Think about that while I continue this discussion.

Church, I’ve reminded you in the past to be like Jesus.  Now, I want to tell you this:

You are a Christ follower first, American (or other nationality) second.

You are first a citizen of Heaven, then an American (or other nationality) citizen second.  Don’t let patriotism get in the way of your mission (the Great Commission of Matthew 28:18-20).  Smash that idol to pieces.

Turn with me to Matthew 5:14-16.  I pulled from this chapter in one of my previous posts:  The Salty Christian.  In that post, I said that we are salt.  We are to have a zesty, flavorful life, and even preserve and heal with the truth.  Now, I want to focus on Part Two:  We are light.

You are the light of the world.  A city set on a hill cannot be hidden.  Nor do people light a lamp and put it under a basket, but on a stand, and it gives light to all in the house.  In the same way, let your light shine before others, so that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father who is in heaven.

You are the light of the world.

You read that right.  We, as Christ-followers, are light.  The day you received Christ meant the end of your life in darkness.  Let that sink in for a moment.  In a world where darkness is all around us, we are called to be the light.  Darkness is exposed by and flees from the light.  As a matter of fact, Miles McPherson said that the only thing faster than the light was the darkness running away from it.

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Most children are afraid of the dark; they sleep with nightlights, or they do what I do, which is cut off the lights and then run to the next room with light.  Light gives us a sense of comfort and security.  It shows us what’s in front of us or around us.

We as sons and daughters of the King of kings, this is our charge, to shine the light given to us into those dark places.  This is not an option; this is who we are!  We get the opportunity to show others the light we have by the Gospel!  For we were once citizens of darkness, but Christ broke through and shown us the light.

A city set on a hill cannot be hidden.

A city set on a hill is noticeable to everyone in the surrounding areas.  We Christians, the Church, are that city.  We are seen and heard.  Are our actions prompting people to come and move in or do they stay away from the city?  Does our city flow with love, hate, or indifference?  How do the neighbors of this city interact with one another?  How do they respond in a crisis?  These answers reflect the city’s reputation.

Don’t fail this city.  (I just put in an Arrow reference because I can!)

city

Nor do people light a lamp and put it under a basket.

If I was in the woods with only my flashlight in the dead of night, I would first question my life choices leading me to that moment.  Also, I wouldn’t dare turn my light on, then cover it.  It would be a waste of both battery and time.  I need the light to guide me through the twists and turns of the forest.

In the same way are we to let our light shine around us.  I honestly think a lot of us are afraid to shine our light.  We don’t want to see what’s hiding in the darkness.  We are scared of people’s reactions to the light.  We also don’t want persecution on us as that would risk having our light snuffed out.

Think of it this way:  Why would you turn on a light, cover said light, then complain about why it’s so dark?  In the same way, why would you become a Christian, hide that fact, then complain about why there’s so much sin in the world and “waiting” for Jesus to come back?

A flame requires oxygen to survive.  Keep the flame under a concealed container and it will go out within seconds.  If we cover up our light, the darkness will still prevail and we will also burn out.

Let your light shine before others, so that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father in heaven.

Christians shouldn’t just be vocal, they must also be practical.  James said that faith without action is dead (James 2:14-26).  If you pray, go and do something about it.  Be examples of Christ in this world.  Don’t be jerks.

Shining your light also includes your behavior on social media.  Do people online see the love of Jesus, or do they only see drama, discontentment, resentment, division, etc.?  How do you respond to stories, posts, other people’s opinions?  In real life, how do you respond to rulings, protests, politics, differing beliefs and other people (whether as a customer or employee)?

Christ followers, people are observing your every move and listening to every word you speak (and I don’t mean the NSA).

Your good works bring glory to the Father.  This is what God wants, for the people He loves to love and glorify Him.

“What is the chief end of man?  Man’s chief end is to glorify God and to enjoy him forever.” — Westminster Shorter Catechism

Church, be the city that glorifies God.  Shine your light.

Here is joy that cannot be shaken.  Our light can swallow up your darkness; but your darkness cannot now infect our light. — C. S. Lewis

This little light of mine, I’m gonna let it shine.

Let it shine! Let it shine! Let it shine!

“I will give you the treasures of darkness and the hoards in secret places, that you may know that it is I, the Lord, the God of Israel, who call you by your name.” – Isaiah 45:3

Until next time, stay hidden in the shadow of His wings,

– – Jon Pannell

Questions?  Comments?  Let’s talk about it.

To the Student Who Didn’t Finish Strong

I see you.

You’re the one who has the support and prayers from friends and family to finish the semester strong.  You try to crack down, writing one more paper, doing one more presentation, staying up one more hour to study for one more exam.

But something happens.

There’s an issue with family or friends; a death or a falling out.  You become overwhelmed with outside projects.  Work becomes a priority.  You’re beyond stressed.  Depression, illness, and/or anxiety relentlessly consume your soul.  Suddenly, there doesn’t seem to be enough hours in a day for you to complete your needed tasks.

Your assignments start coming in late, then later, until you’re finally not turning them in at all while other projects accumulate.  Life seems to give you beat down after beat down without any signs of letting up.

You almost mentally, physically, and even spiritually check out for the semester, if you hadn’t done so already.

You drop or withdraw from class after class.  Or you try to finish your classes, but end with failing grades.  You thought you were at the finish line, only to find it was further away than you thought.

You couldn’t make it.

It’s difficult.  It’s painful.  I know.  I’ve been there.

And I empathize with you.

Personally, this semester was the worst I had ever been through.  I picked up so many projects and work shifts that I lost focus on my schoolwork.  I only completed one out of my four classes this semester.  I was so stressed out every day that twice I almost physically and mentally shut down.  My assignments and tasks were coming in late until I couldn’t do the assignments.  My spiritual life tanked.  Instead of running toward God, I ran away from Him (conflicting theologies, overthinking Him, thinking I can come to Him whenever I have “free time”).

I see you. And it’s okay.

Maybe you didn’t get to graduate on time.

Maybe you needed to change your major.

Maybe you had a personal crisis.

Friend, it’s all good.

Life has a way of throwing us curveballs, and oftentimes we are unprepared to take the swing.  We strike out time after time.  Sometimes we just want to give up and wonder what is the point.

But here’s the thing, friend.

This game that Life plays has multiple innings.  We don’t know when it will be our last, so we must always be prepared for whatever Life has for us.

Sure, you have been beat down by this semester.  But you get back up.

You may have failed, but you get back up.

Alfred J. Pennyworth said this in Batman Begins after Ra’s al Ghul and the League of Shadows burned down Wayne Manor and Bruce was lamenting over how he tried, but failed, to save Gotham:

Alfred:  Why do we fall, sir?

Bruce:  …

Alfred: So that we can learn to pick ourselves up.

You may have felt like a failure this semester or school year.  You may feel like Bruce Wayne in that moment.  But friend, here’s the thing about failure.

You can stay down, completely shut down and have an eternal pity party where no one is invited, or you can get back up, dust yourself off, and jump right back in with a newfound wisdom and passion to continue pursuing your goals.

Failure is NOT your destiny.  Failure shows your humanity and helps you become wiser if you let it.

It’s going to take some time to recover.  Don’t rush the process; take all the time you need.  Who knows how long it may be before you can continue?  But the important thing is that you continue.

bruce

You may seem to be a letdown to your friends and family.  You may seem to be a letdown to God.  Your enemies might gloat and enjoy your pain as they refresh themselves with your tears (I don’t know who does that, honestly).

I’m telling you here:  DON’T. GIVE. UP.

If your friends and family don’t believe in you, guess what?  I believe in you.

I have family and friends who believe in me, who will pray for and support me when I can’t see, hear, or think clearly.  You need a good support system to keep you going through the hard times as well as the good times.

A friend loves at all times, and a brother is born for adversity. – Proverbs 17:17

Like the verse above says, you need friends who will love you at your messiest, at your worst, and you need people in your life who will lead you through difficult times, like this.

I want to challenge you with this:  Take some time and reflect on your goals and what went wrong this semester.  Have a friend or group of family and friends to help you out.  Also, take some time off.  Breathe.  Exercise.  Do fun things with people.  Get refreshed, refocus, and jump back in.  May you have someone in your life like Alfred to Bruce:

Bruce:  You still haven’t given up on me?

Alfred:  Never!

Friend, get back up, step back up to the plate, and get ready to hit that next curveball out of the park!  You only have one shot to play in the game of Life; make it a good one.

Until next time, stay hidden in the shadow of His wings,

 

– Jon Pannell

Pre-Gifted: The Gifts of the Wise Men

Merry Christmas! Happy Hanukkah! Happy Kwanzaa! Happy Solstice!  Season’s Greetings!  Happy Whatever-You-Celebrate-In-December!

I want to wish you an awesome holiday season full of joy, peace, and good tidings, and hopefully no fruitcake.  I don’t think anyone likes fruitcake.  But that’s beside the point.

Social media has become a place where the loudest argument wins, where we have the option to hide behind the safety and security of our screens and proceed to rip apart every statement that comes our way, even if it doesn’t concern us.  We react violently instead of responding gracefully.  We get offended by everything.  We would rather unfriend and unfollow someone instead of discussing our differences over food and coffee.

The truth?  It’s one huge distraction.

This month of December is a time where we are supposed to celebrate the birth of Jesus.  This season is supposed to be a time of cheer and selflessness, Christmas caroling, Kevin saying, “Merry Christmas you filthy animal,” and Buddy the Elf shouting out “SANNTAAAA!”   But I hardly see that nowadays.

Buddy

Yep, I put that here because reasons.

Call me an idealist (ironically I’m an INFP), but we’re missing Jesus.

I was involved in this year’s Annual Virginia Christmas Spectacular by Thomas Road.  During our Nativity scene, I had to introduce the band of scholars, the wise men, who followed a star until it led them to Jesus.

Turn with me to Matthew 2.  After Jesus was born, the wise men (Magi) were summoned by King Herod to find the child so that he could worship Him (Spoiler alert:  That wasn’t Herod’s intention!)

When they saw the star, they rejoiced exceedingly with great joy.  And going into the house they saw the child with Mary His mother, and they fell down and worshipped Him.  Then, opening their treasures, they offered Him gifts, gold and frankincense and myrrh.

I want to talk about the three gifts here:  Gold, Frankincense, and Myrrh.

Gold – Jesus as King

Born a king on Bethlehem’s plain,

Gold I bring to crown Him again,

King forever, ceasing never over us all to reign.

Gold is a precious metal and is often used as a status symbol for those in royalty.  It’s dense and very weighty.  The elements of the tabernacle mentioned throughout Exodus and Solomon’s temple in 1 Kings 6 has elements created from pure gold or overlaid in gold.

Gold is incredibly valuable, but it’s also very soft.  It can be bent, twisted, and beaten down, but that doesn’t change its identity.

Christ the King lived a life that we couldn’t live.  He experienced good times and bad, joy and sorrow, trials and temptations.  He was beaten down, attacked, and broken, but His identity as the Son of God never changed.  He who knew no sin became sin so that we could become His righteousness.

Here’s the thing.  There is no amount of gold that can even compare to the kingship of Christ.  His kingdom will never end.  His love and justice has the final word.  You can mock Him, claim He doesn’t exist, challenge Him, but He is still God.

Christ is King forever and ever!  Hallelujah!

For to us a child is born,
to us a son is given;
and the government shall be upon his shoulder,
and his name shall be called
Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God,
Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.
Of the increase of his government and of peace
there will be no end,
on the throne of David and over his kingdom,
to establish it and to uphold it
with justice and with righteousness
from this time forth and forevermore.
The zeal of the Lord of hosts will do this. — Isaiah 9:6-7

Frankincense – Christ as God

Frankincense to offer have I

Incense owns a Deity nigh.

Prayer and praising all men raising, worship Him, God on high.

Frankincense is a high quality composition.  Some of you burn incense in your homes and it gives off a distinct fragrance.  During Old Testament times, incense was burned daily and nightly as a constant offering to God.  It accompanied sacrifices and was burned by the High Priest in the Holy of Holies on the annual Day of Atonement.

Incense represents the prayers and intercessions of people to a spiritual power.  In this case, it’s the saints (Christ followers) to the Almighty Father, with Christ as the mediator.  We offer our incense to God whenever we pray to Him.  Did I mention that prayer is a weapon against the enemy?  When you pray, God is working on your behalf.  He will guide you, protect you, sustain you, but only if you call out to Him.

O Lord, I call upon you; hasten to me! Give ear to my voice when I call to You!

Let my prayer be counted as incense before you, and the lifting up of my hands as the evening sacrifice! — Psalm 141:1-2

And when [the Lamb] had taken the scroll, the four living creatures and the twenty-four elders fell down before the Lamb, each holding a harp, and golden bowls full of incense, which are the prayers of the saints. — Revelation 5:8

Myrrh – Christ as Sacrifice

Myrrh is mine: It’s bitter perfume

breathes a life of gathering gloom.

Sorry, sighing, bleeding, dying, sealed in a stone-cold tomb.

Myrrh served a few purposes.  It was an ingredient in anointing oil, it was also an embalming agent, and a perfume.

Well, if myrrh seems like a good gift, then why is it associated with death per the last verse?

Take a look at Mark 15:23.  This is where Jesus is being crucified.  The sinless Son of God whom the Pharisees demanded His death is being forced to carry the cross to Golgotha (Place of a Skull).  They nail Him to a cross.  The suffering is excruciating.

Look up Roman crucifixion in your spare time.  That’s what Christ went through for you and I.

And they offered Him wine mixed with myrrh, but He did not take it.

According to Jewish custom, those sentenced to crucifixion were given this mixture of wine and myrrh to deaden the senses, to make the pain more bearable.  Jesus didn’t take it.  He went through hours of pain with the weight of the sins of the world upon Him.  When He died, they laid Him in a tomb, embalmed with spices and myrrh (John 19:39-42).

But that’s not the end of the story.

Three days later, the tomb is empty and Christ has risen in glory!  The Son of God conquering death so that all who would believe would be born again!  He has given us the task of spreading the good news of the Gospel, that He died for us, killing our sin, so that we can live with and for Him in this world and for eternity (Matthew 28:19-20, John 3:16).

The wise men’s gift of myrrh was a prophetic indication that He would be the great Sacrifice, the one who would give His life as a ransom for many (Matthew 20:28).

Wise Men

Glorious now behold Him arise,

King and God and Sacrifice

Alleluia, alleluia!

Earth to heav’n replies

For this Christmas season, remind yourself.  It’s not about Santa Claus, the presents, or the jaded commercialism.  Instead, it’s about one night in Bethlehem that changed the course of history; a prophecy hundreds, if not thousands, of years in the making.

The Baby Jesus, born of a virgin in a manger because there was no room in the inn.

The angels heralding of Christ’s birth to nearby shepherds.

The wise men a time later presenting their gifts to the future King, God, and Sacrifice.

Reflect on that, my friend.  Read the stories for yourselves.  Slow down and appreciate what God has done for you and I on this one particular, holy night.

Since then we have a great high priest who has passed through the heavens, Jesus, the Son of God, let us hold fast our confession.  For we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but one who in every respect has been tempted as we are, yet without sin.  Let us then with confidence draw near to the throne of grace, that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need. — Hebrews 4:14-16

Until next time, stay hidden in the shadow of His wings.

Merry Christmas and an awesome New Year!

-Jon Pannell

Disagree?  Let’s talk!

Help! Help! I’m Being Repressed…in America!

It’s been a while since I last wrote as life continues to come at me with uncertainty after uncertainty.  But I think I’ve embraced it.  Life is full of surprises and unexpected turns, but trust God in the process and everything will be great!

Now, to the matter at hand.  I’m going to talk about a word that American Christians tend to, in my opinion, overuse:

Persecution.

Unless you have been living under a rock for the past few weeks, we come to the story of Kim Davis, a lady who refused to give out wedding licenses to same sex couples in Kentucky.  She was therefore sentenced to jail, but was later released.

The world of social media was split in its judgments.  One side called Davis a hero for standing up for her beliefs, the other side called her a religious bigot and attempted to dredge up her past, while a third side said that jail time was justified as she was breaking the law.  Oh, I forgot to mention that a fourth side wondered why she didn’t quit or get fired.

Whatever your stance is on the matter (there will be no debate on this here), I want to talk about the definition and reality of persecution. Now, I have to be careful here as I do not want to water down or compromise what persecution really is.

Turn to Matthew 5:10-12.  This is shortly after the beginning of Jesus’ three year ministry.  He speaks to large crowds and He calls His first disciples.  In this passage, He preaches the Sermon on the Mount, starting with the Beatitudes.

Blessed are the poor in spirit, the mourners, the meek, those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, the merciful, the pure-hearted, the peacemakers.

I want to focus on the last two Beatitudes:

Blessed are those who are persecuted for righteousness’ sake, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.

Blessed are you when others revile you and persecute you and utter all kinds of evil against you falsely on my account.  Rejoice and be glad, for your reward is great in heaven, for so they persecuted the prophets who were before you.

Blessed are those who are persecuted for righteousness’ sake…

Persecution in the Greek is διώκω (dioko), meaning to pursue in a hostile manner.  It means being forcefully dislocated or relocated on some basis.  In this case, Jesus says you are blessed if you are being pursued because of your righteousness (which comes from believing and having a relationship with Him) and it results in you having to forcefully leave your current location.

We see the perfect example of this in the early church of Acts.  We see Stephen, one of the first deacons, performing signs and wonders among the people (Acts 6).  The religious elite of the day argued with him, but they couldn’t stand against his God-bestowed wisdom.  He was put on trial and he gave them an earful, even calling them stiff-necked people who resist the Holy Spirit.  They sentenced him to death by stoning.

After this execution, Saul passionately persecuted the church, having men and women who followed The Way dragged off into prison (Acts 8).

**Side note:  Notice that there are two types of people who can persecute you:

  1. Those who hate the name of Christ and will do whatever they can to eliminate any mention of Him.
  2. The religious elite, who believe that the traditions of men are immeasurably better than a relationship and belief in Jesus Christ.**

Was that the end of the church?  Of course not!  The people of the church spread the Gospel and preached the Word, even as they were scattered.  The church kept growing, and multiplying.  Christians have been martyred for their faith.  They were put on trial, tortured, whipped, beaten, and killed for believing in the lordship of Christ.

True persecution is when you are forced out of your current location to another location and spreading the Gospel during that time.

Look here, just because persecution is alive and well, that does not mean that you stop sharing the Gospel.

…for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.

Ah, this is such a refreshing promise from Jesus.  If you are persecuted, guess what?  You get the kingdom of heaven!  That is your inheritance as a son and daughter of God!  Let this be an encouragement to you!

For to me to live is Christ, and to die is gain. – Philippians 1:21

Blessed are you when others revile you…

The word “revile” in the Greek language is ὀνειδίζω (oneidizo), meaning reproach, dishonor, or showing disapproval or disappointment.  This can come through insults, loss of friends, and threats.

Now notice that being reviled is NOT the same as being persecuted.

Being unfriended or unfollowed on the basis of faith or disagreement. Reviled.

Being ripped apart on social media. Reviled.

Having articles written about you in a negative light. Reviled.

…and persecute you…

Receiving death threats and being forced to move for your faith.  That’s persecution.

Someone physically chasing you and possibly giving you a physical beatdown on the basis of your faith.  That’s persecution.

Having your church or house burned down or closed on the basis of your faith.  That’s also persecution.

Here’s my point.  A lot of American Christians got it mixed up.  Yes, Christianity is unpopular, but that has always been the case.  Christians were persecuted and reviled all the time in the early church, but that caused the church to grow and multiply.  When Christianity was recognized through Constantine’s Edict of Milan in 313 AD and therefore stopped being a persecuted religion, that was when Christianity started to become stagnant.

If you look around the world and witness churches being destroyed and Christians being killed by the hands of terrorist organizations like ISIS, you will realize that you are still blessed to be in this nation.  Trust me, friend, it’s not as bad as you think it is!

Inigo

Don’t get me wrong.  There’s always the opportunity for Christianity to become truly “persecutable” in America.  I just don’t think it’s that bad now.

…and utter all kinds of evil against you falsely on my account…

It’s going to happen.  If you’re a Christian and hold on to the Word of God as the authority of your life, you basically have a large target on your back.  People will say things about you.  It will hurt.  It will suck.  It will cause you to question yourself.  But it is also a mark that you are a disciple of Christ.

If you are living righteously through Christ and no one can dig up any dirt on you, people will make stuff up to put you in a bad light.  It’s called slander, libel if it is published.  It happened to Stephen (Acts 6:9-14), Naboth (1 Kings 21), and Jesus.

Notice that I said if you are living righteously:

He has told you, O man, what is good; and what does the LORD require of you but to do justice, and to love kindness (mercy), and to walk humbly with your God? – Micah 6:8

Keep your conduct among the Gentiles honorable, so that when they speak against you as evildoers, they may see your good deeds and glorify God on the day of visitation. – 1 Peter 1:12

Here’s my next point, and I’ll draw this from 1 Peter 4:14-16:

If you are insulted for the name of Christ, you are blessed, because the Spirit of glory and of God rests upon you.  But let none of you suffer as a murder or a thief or an evildoer or as a meddler.  Yet if anyone suffers as a Christian, let him not be ashamed, but let him glorify God in that name.

I’m going to tell you something really quick.  If you suffer, are persecuted, and reviled for the name of Christ, you are blessed.  However, if you suffer because you are an unloving jerk, then you deserve it.  End of story.

Folks, being persecuted and being reviled are two different things, but they yield the same result.  Both of them, if done for the sake of Christ, will give Christ glory and will remind us that we are not of this world.  Most “persecution” in American culture is mainly being reviled if even that.

Persecution

In essence, don’t be a jerk in the name of Christ.

If the world hates you, know that it has hated me before it hated you.  If you were of the world, the world would love you as its own; but because you are not of the world, but I chose you out of the world, therefore the world hates you. – John 15:18-19

Rejoice and be glad, for your reward is great in heaven…

This is the promise for those who suffer by other people in the name of Christ.  You’ll have a great reward in the next life!  Isn’t that awesome?  At your lowest point, when Satan and others get you down and it’s hard to keep a smile on your face, know that you have a hope, your story is still being written, and that this world is not our home!  Keep preaching and presenting the Gospel, and don’t be a jerk about it!

(the apostles after being beat and charged not to speak in the name of Jesus)  Then they left the presence of the council, rejoicing that they were counted worthy to suffer dishonor for the name.  And every day, in the themple and from house to house, they did not cease teaching and preaching that the Christ is Jesus. – Acts 5:41-42

Until next time, stay hidden in the shadow of His wings,

Jon Pannell

Got questions, comments, or concerns?  Let me know.  Let’s talk.