Imagine it: Whiteheart’s big hits album, Christian 90’s contribution to faith ballads belting out ‘Flame passes on’ through the stereo.
It takes me to a place that in some ways I’m glad I was never born into, yet I regret that I haven’t lived faith like the Christians persecuted by Rome:
Fire on the arena floor, swords drawn, lions, a bloodthirsty mob of pagan Romans baying for the flowing of Christian blood. Entertainment like you’ve never seen, better than HD.
And yet in the midst of this time when it seems like the Church is in danger of winking out, the flame passes on, and we see an ‘unbroken line of Believers building a human chain’.
It’s because of Christians like these that we are here today and the gates of Hades have not prevailed. People with extreme guts, where a comparison with sophisticated, philosophical, fatigued me would serve my brand poorly. My observation said with a Cockney accent, picked up from all the movies I’ve watched: “I aint all that and a packet of chips”.
Just as I was getting to appreciate Nabeel Qureshi’s stuff, his life and ministry, he passed away on Saturday, 16 September 2017. Not having to deal with rapacious lions and being a human torch for the satisfaction of Nero, Nabeel contended with stage IV stomach cancer, a longer lasting and perhaps more painful conclusion to his life. As a convert with a faith walk of but 15 years, his star shines brighter than mine.
I’ve been thinking about Nabeel a fair bit, and his place in that unbroken line of believers in a human chain. I know its unbroken because there are Christians today and I’m confident that there will yet be more Christians in the future. Touched by his life, and other ordinary Christians, including – by His grace – believers who go by the name of Sean, live in Cape Town and support the Sharks at every opportunity. I hazard a guess that I’m not the only one.
Humour aside, I remember my earliest encounters with Christians, at the Montclair Methodist Church, hanging out in the kitchen after the ‘altar call’, doing business with God. That congregation isn’t going anywhere, like a limpet on a rock, it is planted firm and I’m sure being that lamp on a stand. I remember the ‘Lord’s place’ in Brickhill Road in Durbs, and after the ‘altar call’ being led in prayer by a sweaty, ordinary guy whose name I can’t remember if I tried, and who mentioned that being a Christian is far from easy, but very worth it in the end.
I find it ironic and supremely appropriate that the name of the empire that opposed the church lent its name to the book of Romans, where we find the ‘Roman Road to Salvation’ a sort of A,B,C to show the unbeliever a basic picture of the gospel:
23 For everyone has sinned; we all fall short of God’s glorious standard. (chapter 3, NLT)
23 For the wages of sin is death, but the free gift of God is eternal life through Christ Jesus our Lord. (chapter 6, NLT)
9 If you confess with your mouth that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved. 10 For it is by believing in your heart that you are made right with God, and it is by confessing with your mouth that you are saved. 11 As the Scriptures tell us, “Anyone who trusts in him will never be disgraced.*” (chapter 10, NLT).
It may seem like the world doesn’t want the good news in Scripture, but I can guarantee you that they will try everything else and still not be satisfied. The most unexpected people may have their names written in the Book of Life and I want to be ready to fit into that human chain, passing on the eternal flame.