Welcome and thanks for participating in day 20 of the ARISE fast and devotional blog. If you haven’t read the previous days, please go back and read them before reading todays, as these thoughts will build off of one another

I am utterly struck how, 300 years after his execution, Christianity became the official religion of the Roman Empire. – Peter Jennings

 One of the most celebrated ancient wonders is the Roman Coliseum. People come from around the world to marvel at architecture, history and story of the great structure. Ada & I (and a small group from our church) had the opportunity to visit the coliseum in 2013. It did not disappoint…

 The Coliseum was originally known as the Flavian Ampitheater. Construction began in AD 72 during the reign of Emperor Vespasian and was completed in AD 80 by his son Titus. After Titus died, his brother Domitian became emperor and continued to add to the already incredible structure.

 The Coliseum has four levels. It can hold over 50,000 spectators, and has an amazing maze of passageways that were once used to hold the wild animals, slaves, hunters, criminals and Christians who would be the entertainment for the crowds above. 

 Is impossible for us to Fathom the gore that covered the floor of this ancient Arena. Titus celebrated the opening of the Coliseum with a hundred days of games. “Games” in which thousands of animals and humans would die. It is said that on the final day of Titus’s games 5,000 wild beasts were killed alone.

 Of course, the Coliseum was not the first Roman Arena designed for the glorification of Gore. Within walking distance of the Coliseum is the site where Nero’s circus once stood.  It is there, just a few years before the construction of the Coliseum, that the first state-sponsored persecutions of Christians took place. It was in Nero’s Circus that Christians were first fed to lions and forced to fight wild animals. According to tradition, it was in Nero’s Circus that the Apostle Peter was crucified. 

 There were 80 entryways into the coliseum, but the most important was the emperor’s gate. It was the special VIP entrance. It was directly across from the Gladiator’s gate, where the entertainment would enter, and therefore offered the best views in the house.

 The Coliseum stood as a symbol of the might of Rome. It was a symbol of the great power of its emperors and their constant lust for power and disregard for life. Especially, the life of the weak…

 Gazing at the grand structure amidst the landscape of Rome I couldn’t help but imagine the many Christians who were slaughtered, fed to animals and tortured inside the arena. It was both sad and surreal. Rome held all the power to do as they pleased to these early Christians. What they pleased to do was the worst types of persecution.

 But wait…

 Rome “held” the power… Held… as in past tense…

 Perhaps the Roman Coliseum is the greatest example I can share with you of the power of a movement… 

 You see… if you were to go to the Coliseum today and walk through the famed Emperor’s Gate – the gate that some of the most powerful men in ancient history walked through – do you know what you would find?

 A cross.

 There was a battle between a Kingdom and an empire on the floor of that arena. The might of Rome verses the Love of God. And while the winner wasn’t immediately obvious in the first few centuries…

 The Roman Empire is no more… The Coliseum is a tourist attraction…

 A cross now stands in the place where the highest power once entered…

 Love won… The movement prevailed… We are here… Rome is not… 

 The movement I’ve been calling you to join these last 20 days is not a fad. It’s not just a good idea. And it’s so much more than a catchy saying.

 Without a revolt or rebellion, and amidst bloodshed and persecution, the movement of Christianity toppled Rome. It changed the world with love. Later it became institutionalized. Then politics, greed and pride began to dilute the original New Covenant commandment of loving God and one another. But the root of this movement is still alive and well in the hearts of many Believers today. And it’s time we re-awakened the movement that Jesus started. 

 The Coliseum wasn’t closed because Christians protested. It was closed because the movement of Christ had so swept across the empire that attendance at the games slowly disappeared as love filled the hearts of men instead of violence.

 A movement built on the foundation of Christ’s love that is strong enough to defeat the blood lust of Rome… or the lust for power of the American people. 

 Before we can change the world, we must change ourselves. To defeat hate, we must model love. To defeat selfishness, we must model Christ’s selflessness. To defeat hopelessness, we must model hope. 

 The Jesus movement is coming alive again…

 It’s time you JOIN THE MOVEMENT.

 Esse Quam Videri,

 Pastor Brent

 *And by the way, Pope Benedict XIV put the cross at the Emperors Gate in the eighteenth century. At the time the Coliseum had fallen into disrepair, had been looted and vagrants were living in the lower levels. City leaders were planning to demolish the Coliseum as a safety measure. To keep this from happening, Pope Benedict declared the Coliseum a sacred monument. As part of the dedication he commissioned the cross that now stands at the Emperor’s Gate. In what has to be the greatest change of power in history, a Christian actually prevented the destruction of the place and protected the location that was once used to kill the weak and powerless Christians (amongst others).

 Meditate and reflect on this verse and questions: 

 “These men who have caused trouble all over the world have now come here…  They are all defying Caesar’s decrees, saying that there is another king, one called Jesus.” Acts 17:6-7

1. Have you been implementing the things shared in these devotions? If not, why? If so, has it been hard?

2. Will you allow the Lord to use you to start a movement in your family, church and community?

3. How will your life be different going forward? 

 Pray: 

 – Pray that God allows you to BE the movement in your family, church and community. 

 – Pray that God reveals to you what it looks like to leave institutional thinking and become the movement Jesus started.