BLOG site of Amy R. Maxwell

I am the wife of B.J. Maxwell (married August of 1997) and mother of our four adopted children.
I am blessed with the awesome privilege to care for & love my husband, invest in & love our children, and keep our home.
May I steward these gifts well, for the glory and praise of Christ Jesus our precious Lord & Savior!

Jesus, Jesus, Jesus . . . sweetest name I know!

Tuesday, May 08, 2018

Persevere Dear Saints

Significant Christian persecution followed the death & resurrection of Jesus. Under the leadership of emperors Nero, Domitian, and Trajan many brothers and sisters in Christ were killed. In fact, Emperor Trajan made it a capital crime to be a Christian. (A capital crime is one punishable by death.) One of the dear saints who lost his life under Trajan was a man named Ignatius (bishop of Antioch, AD 35-108). Tradition identifies Ignatius, along with his friend Polycarp, as disciples of John the Apostle. It has also been speculated that he may have been one of the small children that Jesus Himself held in His arms and blessed. Sentenced a criminal, Ignatius, when being thrown to the lions in the great Colosseum in Rome, responded:

I am God's grain,
to be ground between the teeth of wild beasts,
so that I may be a holy loaf for the Lord.

In the midst of heart wrenching trials and persecution, may this also be our prayer.

The apostle Paul said,

And working together with Him, we also urge you not to receive the grace of God in vain— for He says,

At the acceptable time I listened to you,
And on the day of salvation I helped you.”

Behold, now is “the acceptable time,” behold, now is “the day of salvation”—  giving no cause for offense in anything, so that the ministry will not be discredited,  but in everything commending ourselves as servants of God, in much endurance, in afflictions, in hardships, in distresses, in beatings, in imprisonments, in tumults, in labors, in sleeplessness, in hunger,  in purity, in knowledge, in patience, in kindness, in the Holy Spirit, in genuine love, in the word of truth, in the power of God; by the weapons of righteousness for the right hand and the left, by glory and dishonor, by evil report and good report; regarded as deceivers and yet true; as unknown yet well-known, as dying yet behold, we live; as punished yet not put to death, as sorrowful yet always rejoicing, as poor yet making many rich, as having nothing yet possessing all things.  2 Corinthians 6:1-10

Come quickly, Lord Jesus.

Tuesday, February 06, 2018

Nero Minded

Recently the kids and I did a study on Nero (Roman emperor from 54 to 68 AD). He was a brutal man and "one of the most evil Roman emperors that ever lived". Our study was gut wrenching as well as sobering. Two things have stayed with me since our study . . .

First, Nero (though remembered mainly for his persecution of Christians) was a man just like you and me. At just 17 years of age, Nero became emperor. How? Well, through some manipulation by his mother! (Family drama, anyone?!) In the beginning of his rule he "showed genuine humility as a young leader. When told that a silver and gold statue would be built in his honor, Nero shyly asked that it not be done. And when it was requested that he sign his first death sentence for a criminal, Nero said with great reservation, 'Would that I had never learned to write.' He was also bothered by the Roman gladiator system in which men were forced to fight to the death." This young leader sounded promising - a humble ruler who revered life! So, what happened?

Sin happened.

You see, Nero was also a man of great indulgence. (The love of money is the root of all kinds of evil. 1 Timothy 6:10) He loved to party - sleeping most of the day and carousing at night. Pursuing this kind of lifestyle, he quickly developed a selfish, cruel, and even paranoid disposition. In fact, out of paranoia he had his mother, wife, half brother, and one of his chief officers (to name a few) killed. (You shall not murder. Exodus 20:13) He eventually became unsatisfied with Rome, and began spending more time indulging his fancies in Greece. (He who loves pleasure will become a poor man. Proverbs 21:17)

In A.D. 64 the city of Rome went up in flames for almost a full week. To many Romans, Nero appeared quite guilty of starting this catastrophic fire. Nero had publicly whined about the layout of Rome. (There was little room for him to build new palaces.) And during the fire Nero is said to have nonchalantly played the lyre while gazing out his window at the smoke and debris. It all seemed too coincidental. However, to keep himself from looking suspicious, Nero set up relief stations for the homeless, and he quickly found a person (or rather people) to blame - a new religious sect growing in Rome, the Christians! After all, they were rumored to be "cannibals" (drinking blood and eating human flesh, i.e. communion). Needless to say, as we already know, many Christians died at the hand of Nero suffering terrible deaths.

As I mentioned early, the life of Nero is quite interesting for the fact that he began his rule (and step into adulthood) with great promise and "humility". Then, sin happened. Anyone of us, when enticed by the world, are mere steps away from living like Nero. Sin is crouching at our door ready to devour and use us for the shame of the Gospel. EVERY day we must denounce sin - big or small.

I love John Piper's assessment on sin:
The human heart hates a vacuum. We never merely leave God because we value him little; we always exchange God for what we value more. My definition of sin is this: any feeling or thought or action that comes from a heart that does not treasure God over all other things. The bottom of sin, the root of all sins, is such a heart—a heart that prefers anything above God; a heart that doesn’t treasure God over everything else, and everyone else. Sin is the deepest, strongest, and most pervasive problem in the human race. In fact, once Paul has made clear the essence or root of sin (Rom. 1–3), he goes on to make clear in the following chapters the magnitude of its power in us. He speaks of sin reigning like a king in death (5:21); holding dominion like a lord (6:14); enslaving like a slavemaster (6:6, 16–17, 20) to whom we’ve been sold (7:14); as a force that produces other sins (7:8); as a power that seizes the law and kills (7:11); as a hostile occupying tenant who dwells in us (7:17, 20); and as a law that takes us captive (7:23).
That is powerful and convicting! Dear believer, do not exchange God for the fleeting pleasures of this world. Those pleasures will NEVER bring the fulfillment and joy your heart craves. Never. In fact, courting sin will only enslave you and turn you (and me) into Nero. We are just a heartbeat away from that kind of brutality.

Praise God for the power of the Gospel. Christ died for sinners! He rescued us from the pit of wrath and destruction!

Another historical fact that penetrated my heart, as we studied the reign of Nero, were the many Christians that hid in catacombs to worship. As I was showing the kids pictures of ancient Roman catacombs my heart was full of sorrow, guilt, and shame. Early Christians, fearing for their lives, gathered to hide and worship in underground burial chambers (catacombs)! These chambers were only about 10 feet wide and 6 feet high, but they extended for miles underground. They were a perfect location for worship and prayer.

So, let's just let that sit on your mind for a minute . . . Christians were gathering around dead bodies, underground, to pray and worship.

The more I allowed my mind and heart to "go there", the more I was filled with a cascade of emotions. Can you imagine worshiping next to a dead body, believing that this may very well be your fate within the next 24 hours? Can you imagine the smells and sights of gathering with your family to worship in a burial ground? And here we are - our fat American chapels of gold - worried if the seats are cushioned enough, the coffee hot enough, or the air cool enough . . . O Lord, what have we done?

BJ recently preached from the book of Revelation. One of the things he brought to light (and even wept over) was the fact that our children (or grandchildren) may very well look us in the eye and say, "Grandpa, you didn't tell me living for Jesus was going to be this hard!" Between that and the imagine of Christians in catacombs, my heart has been pleading for mercy (for my own selfishness and easy Christianity) and begging for wisdom to equip our children to labor hard for the Gospel. There WILL come a day when Christians will be persecuted severely for their faith. The Bible is very clear on the fact that the world hates Christians. (See my previous post, Grace & Peace) Persecution is inevitable, and endurance is the sure mark of a believer.

Heavenly Father, my heart is heavy. I long to live and love like Jesus, yet when faced with trials of every sort, I run and cry for relief. The pain and heartache You have allowed to pass through my life is yet a small drop of affliction compared to my brothers and sisters that have gone before me. Help me to remember the sight and smells of death all around me. Help my heart to remain solely focused on my eternal home as I love and serve. Help me to be more like Jesus. I fail daily and need Your endless, unmeasured grace. Thank you for the HOPE of the Gospel. You alone are good. Holy, Holy, Holy is Your name.

Historical reference: The Mystery of History, Volume 2 (Linda Lacour Hobar)

Wednesday, January 31, 2018

Grace and Peace

“To all who are beloved of God . . . called as saints: Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.” (Romans 1:7)

Oh, how my soul needs grace. It longs and cries out for peace.

Have you ever been reviled? Misunderstood? The object of slander and gossip? Treated unfairly? I have. My darkest hours have been found in that kind of pain. I shake my fist and question God’s justice. I start believing that the only escape (the only way God can fix that kind of pain) is through either changing my situation or silencing the aggressors. But is that truth? Should my grace and peace with God fluctuate in suffering?

Truth: The world is going to hate and reject those who obey and follow Jesus. Why? Because the world first hated and rejected Jesus. (Matthew 10:22, Mark 13:13) The Gospel is offensive. It is a stumbling block and foolishness to those who are perishing. (1 Peter 2:7-8, 1 Corinthians 1:18) Therefore, that necessarily means that the world does not love Christians.

But what happens when it is other brothers and sisters in Christ that hate, reject, misunderstand, and persecute? THAT kind of persecution hurts. (Personally, it sends me into a spiraling depression.) Often these believers end up hurting other believers because they have not sought or spoken truth. They get caught up in gossip (social & "news" media FEEDS that kind of cancerous sin). They react to a situation quickly and angrily. They even uphold ideals (worldly wisdom) that is simply NOT Scripture. Pride gets in the way of love. Hate gets in the way of sharing one another's burdens. Hypocrisy gets in the way of being compassionate, gentle, and patient. Sin gets in the way of living in obedience to the Word of God. Recognizing this kind of persecution (from other believers who are responding sinfully) is important, but also very difficult. Though we should always humbly consider the rebuke of other believers, we must carefully weigh that rebuke in the light of Scripture. Rebuke (faithful wounds of a friend – Proverbs 27:6) is not the same as persecution for the sake of the Gospel.

We often view persecution in the sense of imprisonment, punishment, or death. Many brothers and sisters that have gone before us have met that kind of fate. But what if persecution came in the form of something less obvious? What if persecution was perfectly tailored to personally attack and destroy our souls (our complete joy and peace in Jesus)? We could spend our whole lives preparing to lose jobs or religious freedom for the sake of the Gospel, but are we prepared to uphold Jesus and rest in His promises when the religious (in their ignorance) cry out, "Crucify them!"? What if the religious forever deem you guilty for sins that have already been forgiven and paid through Christ? The enemy is cunning and crafty. He prowls around like a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour (1 Peter 5:8). Whether it be the Jesus haters of the world or other believers reacting sinfully, persecution can hit our hearts like a sledge hammer. It can easily rob us of our peace. But, we must remember that trials, suffering, and hatred are inevitable for those who love and follow Jesus. We are called to suffer faithfully (Romans 12:12) believing Jesus will, and is, making ALL things right. He has the final word.

My soul longs daily for grace and peace. When the recorder in my head starts replaying all the jeers and loops of hate, I need truth . . . JESUS . . . to erase those voices and images. His song of salvation is the only remedy to sweep through the corridors of my restless heart. His grace and peace are NOW and ETERNAL. Jesus is a precious, sympathetic Savior. He understands the shame, loss, and heartache we endure from persecution.

Dear Christian, in Jesus we are FULLY forgiven, FULLY loved, and FULLY accepted. Our souls can finally and forever rest because it is anchored in perfect, abounding peace. Jesus is our peace (Ephesians 2:14).

Psalm 5:11-12:
“But let all who take refuge in You be glad,
Let them ever sing for joy;
And may You shelter them,
That those who love Your name may exult in You.
For it is You who blesses the righteous man, O Lord,
You surround him with [peace] as with a shield.” Psalm 5:11-12

Grace and Peace (Sovereign Grace music):
Grace and peace, oh how can this be
For lawbreakers and thieves
For the worthless, the least
You have said, that our judgment is death
For all eternity
Without hope, without rest
Oh, what an amazing mystery
What an amazing mystery
That Your grace has come to me
Grace and peace, oh how can this be
The matchless King of all
Paid the blood price for me
Slaughtered lamb, what atonement You bring!
The vilest sinner’s heart
Can be cleansed, can be free
Oh, what an amazing mystery
What an amazing mystery
That Your grace has come to me
Grace and peace, oh how can this be
Let songs of gratefulness
Ever rise, never cease
Loved by God and called as a saint
My heart is satisfied
In the riches of Christ
Oh, what an amazing mystery
What an amazing mystery
That Your grace has come to me
Oh, what an amazing love I see
What an amazing love I see
That Your grace has come to me

John 1:14:
“And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us,
and we saw His glory,
glory as of the only begotten from the Father,
full of grace and truth.”

Jesus, You alone are grace and peace.