Monday, August 1, 2016
“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.” Hebrews 13:3
Iraq, Eritrea, Iran, Sudan and Somalia are at the top of the persecution watchlist, along with North Korea. There are many other countries where Christians face persecution to varying degrees. Christians have lived in Iraq for 2,000 years but today, because of the group known as ISIS, they are being murdered or are fleeing for their lives. They are on the verge of extinction.
These are our brothers and sisters--how can we live up to the command of Hebrews 13:3? We are to identify with their suffering as if we were experiencing it ourselves. I think most of us leading comfortable lives are shocked when we hear of the torture or murder of Christians. But we quickly forget. God wants us to feel their pain, to imagine how it feels to be hated because of Christ, to empathize with their families who live with fear and uncertainty.
I know of two organizations that serve those being persecuted for their Christian Faith. On their websites, you will find ways to pray for and support our brothers and sisters in Christ.
Voice of the Martyrs (persecution.com)
Open Doors (opendoorsusa.org)
Friday, July 1, 2016
"Then you will be handed over to be persecuted and put to death, and you will be hated by all nations because of me." Matthew 24:9
If you are a Christ Follower, North Korea is the worst place to be in terms of persecution. According to Open Doors, an organization that serves persecuted Christians worldwide, this Communist dictatorship tops the list of places most hostile to Believers. There are 300,000 Christians in a population of 26 million. Like most Communist countries, North Korea views Christianity as "opium for the people" and they despise Christian beliefs because they are so closely linked to the West. Christians there try to hide their faith to avoid being arrested and sent to labor camps with horrific conditions. Most parents do not even share their faith with their children for fear that the little ones might accidentally give their secret away to someone in authority.
Yet God is there. Pray for courage for your brothers and sisters in Christ. May His church continue to grow in North Korea--not in spite of the persecution, but because of it.
Monday, June 13, 2016
“The righteous perish, and no one takes it to heart...” Isaiah 57:1
Christ Followers in many parts of the world are dying for their faith. Some meet secretly, knowing that their government would put them in prison for worshipping the One True God. Others are viciously attacked because they are not ashamed to name the name of Jesus. What do we in America know of such sacrifice? We whine and complain when the Ten Commandments are taken down at the courthouse, or the Nativity display is removed from the public square. Lawsuit is a word we understand. Persecution is not. Most of us live as if those things could never happen to us. Not only that, but we are ignorant and unconcerned about those who are suffering and even perishing for Christ’s sake. These are our brothers and sisters in Christ--shouldn't we have a burden for their condition? What are we doing to ease their suffering? Above all, pray for them, but pray for us, too--that we will repent of our self-centered lack of concern. Pray that we will get up from our comfortable place and speak out when we see our brothers and sisters being oppressed. Pray that our lives will bring honor to the name of Jesus whether we are persecuted or free.
Saturday, May 14, 2016
“For I will pour water on the thirsty land, and streams on the dry ground; I will pour out my Spirit on your offspring, and my blessing on your descendants.” Isaiah 44:3
This is God talking. Revival is God’s idea--not man’s. Man cannot choose the time, the place, or the instrument. But He does give man the burden to pray. The other necessary component--desperation. See what God is doing in a small town in West Virginia. May God give us all the burden to pray with desperation!
Friday, May 6, 2016
“But mark this: There will be terrible times in the last days. People will be lovers of themselves, lovers of money, boastful, proud, abusive, disobedient to their parents, ungrateful, unholy, without love, unforgiving, slanderous, without self-control, brutal, not lovers of the good, treacherous, rash, conceited, lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God—2 Timothy 3:1-4
These verses describe our world today. This is how we know we are truly in the last days. We are not surprised when the world acts this way, but do any of these behaviors describe the church? Or you personally? Our only hope of being an effective witness for Jesus, in these last days, is to show the world we are different. Are you a lover of self or a lover of God? Do you spend your day doing what pleases you, or doing what pleases God? Time is running out--for our friends, our family, our neighbors--for all those who don't know Christ. May we all sense the urgency and be lovers of God in these last days.
Monday, April 4, 2016
“Son of man, your people talk about you in their houses and whisper about you at the doors. They say to each other, 'Come on, let's go hear the prophet tell us what the LORD is saying!' So my people come pretending to be sincere and sit before you. They listen to your words, but they have no intention of doing what you say. Their mouths are full of lustful words, and their hearts seek only after money. You are very entertaining to them, like someone who sings love songs with a beautiful voice or plays fine music on an instrument. They hear what you say, but they don't act on it! But when all these terrible things happen to them—as they certainly will—then they will know a prophet has been among them." Ezekiel 33:30-33
Are we like these people of Ezekiel’s day? The prophet was a topic of conversation behind closed doors. The people looked on him, and the message he delivered, as a source of entertainment. Their hearts were corrupt and they had no intention of putting the LORD’s message into practice. Maybe this is a good time to examine our own hearts--do we want to be entertained when we meet together, or do we want to hear from God? Do we judge our experience by whether or not we enjoyed the music? How short the message was? What do we do with the information we receive--put it into practice or forget it?