How Do You React When Persecuted?

It’s the holiday season and so it begins.  Many Christians complaining because people are saying “Happy Holidays” instead of “Merry Christmas.”  I hear claims that we cannot now say “Merry Christmas.”  But no one is stopping us from saying that.  A few employers may ask their people to use the “Happy Holidays” response to customers, but they still can wish a “Merry Christmas” outside their employment.

Is this persecution?  I don’t think so.

Last Sunday was the National Day of Prayer for the Persecuted Church.  Want to know about “real” persecution.  Read my post:

“Miracle Boy”

Now that is persecution!

Reading today from the book of Acts I was impressed again with the early church’s reesponse to persecution.

Ater the apostle were jailed for preaching about Jesus and warned not to do so again, they immediately went to the church and there was a prayer meeting.

Now, if that was us I think our prayers would be:

Lord, we are being so persecuted.  Please save us!  Please destroy the power of our enemies.  Protect us!

But that was not their prayer.

They prayed:

“Sovereign Lord, you made the heavens and the earth and the sea, and everything in them.  You spoke by the Holy Spirit through the mouth of your servant, our father David:  ‘Why do the nations rage and the peoples plot in vain?  The kings of the earth rise up and the rulers band together against the Lord and against his anointed one. Indeed Herod and Pontius Pilate met together with the Gentiles and the people of Israel in this city to conspire against your holy servant Jesus, whom you anointed.   They did what your power and will had decided beforehand should happen.  Now, Lord, consider their threats and enable your servants to speak your word with great boldness.  Stretch out your hand to heal and perform signs and wonders through the name of your holy servant Jesus.”

Consider their threats and make us bold to keep sharing your word.

Let’s stop worrying about whether others say and let’s just keep sharing the love of God.

 

 

Is Your Body Suffering?

Today I went to church.  I walked from my car in a public parking lot with my Bible in my hand and never once felt afraid.  Entering the foyer of my church, I visited with fellow worshipers in front of large windows without once looking to see if anyone was watching us.  When it was time for the service to start I joined with others as we sang loudly and our musicians played loudly without worrying that someone might hear us and report us to the police.  My pastor stood up and gave a sermon reading from the Bible without any fear of being dragged out of the church and off to jail.

For me the worst persecution I might face because of my beliefs is hearing some comedian make fun of Christians.  But I really know nothing about real persecution

Today was the National Day of Prayer for the Persecuted Church.  I wonder how many churches actually took time to pray for their brothers and sisters who face real difficulties because of their belief in Jesus Christ.

The book of 1 Corinthians compared the church to a body.  In that chapter it states:

“If one part suffers, every part suffers with it…”

One group who documents persecution in other countries has listed North Korea as the country with the worst persecution of Christians.  To be a Christian in North Korea is to be seen as an enemy of the state.  If someone is found to be a Christian they are treated as a criminal and sent to labor camps or even killed.  Their family also faces harsh treatment.  They cannot meet openly and it is very dangerous for them to gather in more than groups of two or three.  Because being a Christian is so dangerous, it is even hard to know if someone you meet is also a believer as everyone has to remain secretive about their faith.

In Afghanistan no expression of faith except Islam is permitted.  To become a Christian is seen as betrayal of the family, the tribe and country.  Anyone who becomes a Christian is exposing themselves to death even by the hands of their own family.  They are considered to have brought shame on the family and the family honor must be protected at any cost.

In India it is the radical Hindu nationalists who view Christianity as alien to their way of life.  Christians are often physically attacked and churches burned or bombed.

In Myanmar persecution of Christians (and other ethnic minorities) is backed by the army which leans toward Communism.  More than 100,000 Christians live in camps for displaced persons, deprived of access to food and health care.  Buddhist monks have taken over churches and made shrines to Buddha on the church property.

These are only a few of the places where the body of Christ is suffering.  The causes range from corrupt government to the various other religions of the world.

But today as fellow Christians are suffering, I have to ask myself if the body of Christians in America share in any way in their suffering.  Where are the prayers?  Where is the concern?

I believe a large part of the problem is we simply do not know how we can help.  Here are a few suggestions:

  •  Become informed.  There are several organizations that can help you gain more understanding of the persecution taking place around the world.
  • Pray.  We often under estimate the power of prayer.
  • Write letters to those who are in prison.   Many who have been released from prison have testified how much getting letters meant to them, giving them courage to endure.
  • Become a spokesman for helping the persecuted church.

The writer of Hebrews tells us to “Continue to remember those in prison as if you were together with them in prison, and those who are mistreated as if you yourselves were suffering.”

Here are a few organizations that work with the persecuted church.  Check them out and learn what you can do to help.

  1. OpenDoors: One of the most well-known ministries advocating for the persecuted church. (Write, Pray, Donate, Advocate, Learn)
  2. Voice of the Martyrs: Another well-known ministry that raises awareness and provides support for the persecuted church. (Write, Pray, Donate, Advocate, Learn)
  3. Samaritan’s Purse: Their ministry focuses on providing physical and spiritual aid to people around the world. They also provide opportunities to donate to the persecuted church. (Donate)
  4. PrisonAlert: Prison Alert is part of Voice of the Martyrs. (Advocate, Write, Donate, Pray)
  5. Be-a-Voice: Part of Voice of the Martyrs as well. It focuses on providing prayer points and writing letters to the persecuted church. (Pray, Write)
  6. icommittopray.com  (Pray)

Part of the body of Christ is suffering?  How does it effect you?  Are you suffering with them?

 

 

Do All You Can

Today’s devotion was the story of Jesus turning water into wine at a wedding in Cana found in John’s Gospel.  Every time I read this story I try to imagine how the servants must have felt when Jesus had them filled up the jars with water and then told them to take it to the guy in charge of the wedding feast.

Questions I have:

  1. Did they hesitate at all?
  2. Did they taste the water first to see how it tasted?
  3. Could they tell the change in the water by just looking at it?  I’m guessing that wine would look much different than water.
  4. Did they hang close by to see the man’s reaction when he tasted the wine?
  5. What stories they must have had to tell their family that night about this miracle!

My first few times reading the story I wondered why Jesus had them fill the jars with water.  Could he not just have spoken and had wine fill the jugs?

Of course the answer is open to anyone’s interpretation but here is mine.

  1. They could verify that the liquid in the jars had been water and that Jesus did not somehow find wine and put in the jars.
  2. More importantly, they would be a part of this miracle.  They could say “we filled the jars with water for Jesus.”

And my own personal take away from this is that I should not just sit and wait for Jesus to meet a need.  I need to be willing to do what I can.

My husband often says:

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When I have done what I can – God will do what I cannot.

Do not mean to imply that we do what we can before we ask God or trust Him.  But too often I think we tell someone we will pray for their need when we should also ask what we can do to help meet their need.

Often we are helpless.  But many times we can and should be the hands and feet of God to meet a need.

If someone has enough money to live well and sees a brother or sister in need but shows no compassion—how can God’s love be in that person?  Dear children, let’s not merely say that we love each other; let us show the truth by our actions.  1 John 3:17-18

 

 

 

 

With Awe and Reverence

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Great and holy God

awe and reverence

fear and trembling

do not come easily to us

for we are not

Old Testament Jews

or Moses

or mystics

or sensitive enough.

Forgive us

for slouching into Your presence

with little expectation

and less awe

than we would eagerly give a visiting dignitary.

We need

neither Jehovah nor a buddy—

neither “the Great and powerful Oz” nor “the man upstairs.”

Help us

to want what we need…

You

God

and may the altar of our hearts

tremble with delight

at Your visitation

amen.

Frederick Ohler

Two Questions – Two Different Perspectives

Reading the story of the Good Samaritan in Luke today I noticed the two questions in the story.

The first set of questions was from a young man who asked Jesus what were the requirements of obtaining eternal life.   Jesus said you could summarize the entire Law and Prophets with two basic commandments.

  1.  Love the Lord with all your heart, your soul, your strength and your mind.
  2. Love your neighbor as yourself.

At that, the young man then asked “Who is my neighbor?”

What follows is a story told by Jesus that has been retold over the years.  Anyone who has attended church for any length of time has heard about the “Good Samaritan.”  This story has been shared as a lesson to show us who our neighbor really is.  The idea is anyone we come into contact with that needs help is our neighbor.  Our neighbor is more than just the people who live next door to us.

While that is all well and good today I compared that young man’s question to the one Jesus asked him after He finished telling the story.  When we look at Jesus’ question I think we might get a different take on the point of the story.

Jesus asked the young man “Which of these three would you say was a neighbor to the man who was attacked by bandits?”  When he answered it was the one who actually took the time and spent of his own finances to help the man, Jesus told him to “go and do the same.”

From the young man’s perspective, the question was:

Who is my neighbor?

From Jesus’ perspective, the question was:

What kind of person do you want to be?

Have you ever stopped to think about that?  What kind of person do you want to be?

It’s not just about acknowledging that everyone is my neighbor, but actually taking time to determine just what kind of person we desire to be.

 

Once Upon a Time

A memory just popped up on my Facebook page where I shared a conversation I had with my granddaughter four years ago.  So funny!  Still brings a smile.

Zoe:  Grandma, tell me a story about Jesus.

Me:  When Jesus was a little boy.  (Quickly interrupted by Zoe.)

Zoe:  No, Grandma, say “Once upon a time.”

We All Need Some Quiet Time

My small group at church is reading the Gospel of Luke this month.  Taking it slow, not rushing through but looking carefully at the stories Luke tells.

One thing I noticed as I read is how often Jesus took some quiet time away from the crowd.  Three different times in the early chapters Luke tells us:

“Early the next morning Jesus went out to an isolated place.”

“Jesus often withdrew to the wilderness for prayers.”

“Jesus went up on a mountain to pray, and He prayed to God all night.”

If the Son of God needed quiet time, how much more do I?

I find myself surrounded by noise – TV, radio, cell phones.

I need that quiet time – time spent not only talking to God but taking time to allow His peace to be mine.

Today there is a lot of interest in “meditating” where we are encouraged to empty our mind.  But the quiet time I think Jesus calls us to is not emptying our mind but rather filling our thoughts with His word, His presence.

“Study this Book of Instruction continually. Meditate on it day and night so you will be sure to obey everything written in it. Only then will you prosper and succeed in all you do.”   Joshua 1:8

“Oh, the joys of those who do not follow the advice of the wicked, or stand around with sinners, or join in with mockers.  But they delight in the law of the Lord, meditating on it day and night.”

I realize finding quiet time is easier for me at this age of life.  I’m retired, children all grown.  My days are pretty much free to do what I please, when I please.

But for a young couple with small children or families with teenagers, finding that quiet time has to be a difficult thing to do.

As I have thought about taking more quiet time myself this week, I have asked God to help me spend more time praying for those single moms, busy families that they will feel God’s presence even in their “noisy” environments and busy lives.

Do you find it difficult to have quiet time?

What do you do to make that quiet time?