Archives For persecution

Are you willing to die for your faith? Have you ever even considered it? Would you hold fast to Jesus if someone had a knife to your throat demanding you choose to deny Christ or die? While it seems like an extreme scenario to many of us, thousands (perhaps millions) of believers live with this as their reality every day. Recently I learned before you can become a member of the church in Iran, you must sign a paper agreeing to lose your property, be thrown in jail, and die for your faith.

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If that sounds radical, consider the Church in Iran is one of the fastest growing evangelical communities in the world. The Church is expanding because they are willing to die. Contrast this with the Western church which is shrinking perhaps more than any other reason because we are not willing to die.

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Regular readers know I love the teachings of A.W. Tozer. I love the way he pulled no punches and possessed deep insight into the character of God. It’s uncanny how often his writing seems so relevant for today, but in truth was mostly written fifty or more years ago. Here’s something from him which I read recently: “There is something better than being comfortable, and the followers of Christ ought to find it out-the poor, soft, overstuffed Christians of our time ought to find it out!

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There is something better than being comfortable! We… have forgotten altogether that there is such a thing as discipline and suffering.” Along the same lines, he also wrote,” We do not want the cross. We are more interested in the crown.” To put it in simple terms, one could say Christians are “all crown, no cross”.

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This is a topic I revisit every so often, but probably not often enough. We need to remember the persecuted around the world. Every day while we enjoy the comforts and freedom of our lives, our brothers and sisters in Christ are facing unspeakable torture and persecution. Throughout the New Testament, Paul urged all believers to be united as one (Ephesians 4:1-16). Jesus prayed His followers would be as close as He and His Father are (John 17:21).

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To be united, to stand as one, we must continuously pray for and identify with our fellow believers around the world. Allow me to throw down a challenge to you in the form of a question: how much time are you spending in prayer for our brothers and sisters in chains?

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There is no better cure for discouragement than gratitude. We often become so consumed with our personal problems that we lose sight of all the blessings in our life. Taking the time to reflect on all that we have can be a remarkably healing and refreshing exercise. Remembering what God has done for us empowers us to face the next challenge. We who profess to be followers of Jesus have no excuse to feel hopeless and unworthy. The Creator of the entire universe and everything in it – including you – sacrificed His own life to prove how important you are to Him. He created you, and He died for you. If you can think of nothing else for which you are grateful, then just start with those two facts!

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Persecuted church, consumerism

I recently heard Francis Chan recounting his experience during a trip to China. Chan took his 15 year old daughter to a meeting of Christians to allow her to experience firsthand what it was like to worship Christ in a country where it is illegal to do so. He himself was to speak to the gathered believers about standing strong in the face of persecution. Rather than encountering a somber, sober group as he had expected, Chan found the assembly to more resemble a fellowship dinner as the people were joyful and happy to be in each other’s presence.

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I recently saw video of Christians in India being beaten because of their faith in Jesus Christ. With fists and sticks they were pummeled simply because they refused to deny their Savior. The buildings in which they were meeting were set on fire even as the believers were still inside. A couple of days later I received a magazine with a girl on the cover whose face had been badly disfigured when someone threw acid on her; the reason for such a heinous crime? She was a Christian. All over the world, every hour of every day, our brothers and sisters in Christ are harassed and tortured. I think that the word “persecution” has lost much of its sting as we have numbed ourselves to the atrocities occurring around our planet. These are real people, just like you and me, subjected to real torture. As I write this, I continue to debate how far I should go in describing the horrors these brave and courageous saints are experiencing. I want to be sensitive to the varied ages of those who read this blog, while at the same time not shy away from the gravity and urgency of the situation.

In a large number of countries in our world, converting to Christianity is illegal. Christians are not allowed to gather together and must meet in secret. Most of us have never experienced anything like this in our entire lives. We read the stories and are scarcely moved. The depth of our faith is of pitiful size when compared to that of these believers. Many travel long hours at night just to reach a place where they can talk with other Christians under cover of darkness. If they are caught, they will be arrested, beaten, tortured and often killed. The brutality of their attackers is unimaginable to many of us. Yet our brave brothers and sisters consider the risk acceptable for the sake of honoring their savior. They do not shy away from the pain, but rather embrace the suffering, knowing that they endure it all for the sake of Jesus. Their lives are lived within the tension of telling others about Christ and wondering if today will be the day they are killed for that same witness.

In contrast, Christians in America and throughout the West live lives of relative comfort and ease. We don’t worry about a knock on the door or being attacked on the street simply because of our faith. We are free to worship in any manner we choose. Every weekend we drive to our places of worship and gather with other Christians without fear of reprisal. Occasionally we’ll hear mention from the pulpit of those Christians in other nations who live in constant peril, and we might even take up an offering and offer a prayer for them; but there is little connection between our lives and theirs. Our biggest problems tend to be if we have enough Sunday school space for a certain age group; this becomes such a devastating issue that we determine the need to spend millions of dollars to rectify the problem. Meanwhile the Church outside, the bride of Christ, is huddling in dark forests to avoid detection; they seem not to be bothered by their lack of facilities. While we vacillate over proper parking and Christmas decorations, the Bride outside is being mutilated and slaughtered. We are blind to the plight of God’s chosen people and we are numb to their needs. We are so concerned and obsessed with our own growth that we neglect the things that are of true value to God. How can we sit idly by and let this happen?

Who will stand in the gap and cry out to God in a loud voice? Who will stand in the face of oppression and declare the justice of the Lord? If not His people, His Church, then who? We are admonished in Scripture to come together in unity as one people (Ephesians 4:1-6), but we have set a dividing line between “us and them”. We who are blessed with so much are blessed so that we might serve those who have so little. We have taken the gifts of the Master and buried them in our own land so as not to lose what we have, rather than taking those gifts and investing them in the lives of those in need. What must God think as He looks down on our lavish buildings and busywork programs and then looks out at those who are starving, beaten and killed even as they gather under a single tree for the sole purpose of worshipping Him? We are responsible for the condition of the Church, and that goes far beyond any walls we might construct. The unity of the Church must be achieved so as to prepare the Bride for Christ. Refuse to sit back any longer; engage your pastors and everyone you know. Implore them to lead in a way consistent with the Gospel and to serve the needs of the entire Church rather than just their congregation. It is time for each of us to mobilize and become the hands and feet of Jesus. Pray for our brothers and sisters who are in chains and torment for the sake of the Gospel. Give all you can to relieve their pain. Stand up and be heard, be a voice for those who cannot speak. Write to your newspapers and your congressmen. God is a God of justice and we are His people. Work for justice and do not rest. Repent with me over what we have allowed to happen on our watch. Linger here no longer, but rather in the name and power of Christ, go out into the world proclaiming His truth and His salvation. Stand in the way of ruthless men and break the chains of injustice. This is our calling and mission as followers of Christ. Stand in unity with your brothers and sisters and prepare the way of the Lord.