Table in Sky
Helpful Tidbits for Organic Church Life                                           March 31, 2008
In This Issue
How Some of the Early Christians Suffered and Died
My Reflections
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Interesting YouTube Videos
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As a follower of Jesus I sometimes struggle with suburban life. For example, while watching my ten-year-old son Keith play baseball a few nights ago in what seemed like a Norman Rockwell setting I became sick to my stomach. In the spirit I could see Satan's stronghold on the community, most parents seemingly more interested in their child's performance than in the unseen spiritual battle presently at work steadily sowing the seeds of self-love, self-preservation, and self-centeredness [admittedly, this is an assumption on my part...admittedly, this is sometimes my struggle, too].
In this week's excerpt(s), I'm reminded that we are in a battle and that, frankly, most Christians choose to sit on the sidelines - where it's safe.

THIS WEEK'S QUESTION/TOPIC: We risk missing the point of organic church life if we play it safe.
How Some of the Early Christians Suffered and Died 
Excerpts from The Untold Story by Frank Viola 
  • Untold StorySpring 62: Before the Sanhedrin, Ananus accuses James [Jesus's half-brother] of blaspheming the Law. James is brought to the pinnacle of the temple, thrown down, and is clubbed and stoned to death.
  • Spring 65: Nero's massacre of the Christians begins. Over the next three years, Nero will brutalize the Christians is such unspeakable ways that the romans themselves have sympathy for them.
  • June 29, 67: According to early church tradition, this is the day that Paul is beheaded in Rome during Nero's reign. Around the same time, Peter is found confounding the magic of Simon Magus, who is favored by Nero. Peter is imprisoned and leads a captain of the guard to Christ, along with many others. Peter is scourged, then crucified upside down because he does not feel worthy to die as did his Lord. Aristarchus from Thessalonica, Erastus from Corinth, Trophimus from Ephesus, Joseph Barsabbas from Jerusalem, and Ananias of Damascus, along with many other Christians, are all martyred under Nero's reign.
  • A.D. 68: Andrew, the apostle and brother of Peter, is crucified in Patras, Greece on an x-shaped cross. Luke is crucified with him. After preaching the gospel in India, Armenia, Southern Arabia, and Ethiopia, Bartholomew (also called Nathanael) one of the Twelve, is beaten and crucified in Albanopolis, Armenia. John Mark brings the gospel to Alexandria, Egypt. While there, he enrages a mob by telling them that the pagan god, Serapis, is worthless. Mark is dragged with a rope around his neck through the streets by horses and then imprisoned for the night. The following morning, the same ordeal is repeated until his death.

Following the death of the apostles and their coworkers, the light and glow of the first-century church begins to fade. Man-made systems and humanly-devised traditions slowly evolve to replace her glory and dim her light. Yet God does not give up on His eternal purpose...

My Reflections

Rightly or wrongly, somewhere along the way I learned the connotative difference between aggressive and assertive. Whereas aggressive connotes domination, assertive connotes confidence. The Encarta dictionary, however, in one of its definitions (#3) actually makes use of the word assertive when defining aggressive: "assertive: characterized by or exhibiting determination, energy, and initiative."

About a year ago I co-presented at a Greenhouse (organic church planters' workshop) with a friend of mine. At the conference I said something to this effect: We need to earn the right to share the gospel with our friends. My friend assertively (and perhaps aggressively) disagreed.
Upon reflection, I think I know what my friend was getting at: followers of Jesus must be aggressively assertive, even unto death. If we are confident that Jesus is risen and if we are equally confident that a life without Jesus is death, then there's no way to get around it - there's a lot at stake. The martyrs knew that.
The question is Do we? Today, if I were to err, I'd err on my friend's side (thank you friend). Again, there's no way around it. We are in a battle. The question is, Can we see it?
[For the record, enjoying a baseball game is absolutely okay. At the same time, our Lord asserts, Make the Kingdom of God your primary concern (Mt 6:33)].
Hope this was of some benefit to you.

Traver Dougherty
The Banqueting Table