Archive for the ‘Pray for the Persecuted’ Category
Posted on November 21st, 2014 by Jonathan
Refiner’s Fire: Christians in the Kilns: In Pakistan’s Punjab district, 13 out of 19 brick kiln workers are Christians. They are effectively slaves, overworked and mistreated. Tragically, Christians Shahzad Masih and his pregnant wife, Shama Bibi, were killed by a mob in the brick kiln in which they worked earlier this month.
Advent of Unity: Peter Leinhart beautifully shows how the coming of Christ was the coming of unity. “Advent marks a ‘genesis’ because in Jesus the human race gets a fresh start. Advent celebrates the Advent of humanity’s reunion, the coming of what Paul calls ‘one new man.'”
8 Essential Components for Discerning God’s Will: “I know that some people maintain that God doesn’t have a will for our lives beyond our sanctification,” says David Sills, “but He does.” These are the eight biblical considerations he offers to those who are eager to discern their role in God’s global plan.
Finally, be strong in the Lord and in the strength of his might. Put on the whole armor of God, that you may be able to stand against the schemes of the devil. For we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the cosmic powers over this present darkness, against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly places. Therefore take up the whole armor of God, that you may be able to withstand in the evil day, and having done all, to stand firm. (Ephesians 6:10-13)
One of the fundamental rules of war is that you must know who your enemies are. That in mind, when it comes to spiritual warfare . . .
There’s good news, and there’s bad news.
The good news is we aren’t fighting ISIS. Neither are we battling ebola, abortion, atheism, poverty, religious persecution, or godless social agendas. We do not battle flesh and blood. That is to say, we are not at war with people or earthly trials. That’s the good news.
The bad news is that our actual enemies are far more sinister and powerful than ISIS. In the Ephesians 6 passage above, Paul describes them as cosmic powers over this present darkness and spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly places, the devil their leader schemer. Were he to stop there, we would have reason to lose hope.
Thankfully though, the passage doesn’t end with bad news. In the remainder of the chapter, Paul – taking into account both who is for us and who is against us – outlines a winning battle plan. Here are a few of the takeaways:
- We are fighting for the souls of men. With eternal destinations in the crosshairs of the cosmic powers, declaring the gospel in everything becomes our primary aim.
- We are quick to fall to our knees in prayer and slow to rise. We are not spiritual Rambos who carry victory on our soldiers, but weaklings facing formidable enemies, dependent on a mighty Lord.
- We first arm ourselves for spiritual battle, not physical or ideological. Prayer, the gospel, righteousness, faith, salvation, the Spirit . . . this is God’s armor.
Let’s not be distracted from the real war by flesh-and-blood skirmishes on the fringe. Let’s not let our emotions rule our reactions, either – seething with unrighteous anger toward the lost or cowering with inappropriate fear of man. In the end, though our real foes are menacing, our sovereign Friend reigns victorious. The way we fight should be determined by who we’re fighting AND who has already won.
Posted on October 29th, 2014 by Jonathan
We don’t normally think of persecution occurring in countries like Uganda, but it does. Susan’s story should remind us that each day, Christians all over the world face intense opposition–in the obviously brutal North Koreas and the deceptively “Christian” Ugandas. Whatever the context, unlike Susan, most of their stories go untold. This should compel us to pray.
For this reason, let me encourage you to participate in the International Day of Prayer for the persecuted church through a free and interactive webcast hosted by Open Doors on November 1st and 2nd. The first night allows for interaction with believers from all over the world, and the second night is designed as a time of worship together. Special guests include David Platt, Nik Ripken, and Selah.
This is a great opportunity for your small group or church to get together and pray. For suffering believers we know of, like Susan. For believers whose suffering is unknown to us. And for those under whose hand they suffer. May this webcast faithfully serve the persecuted church as it encourages you to give Christ’s name the honor it is due, wherever you find yourself . . . North Korea, Uganda, or the United States.
To participate in Open Doors’ free, interactive webcast, RSVP here.
Posted on October 7th, 2014 by Jonathan
It’s no stretch to say that believers suffering the atrocities of North Korean prison camps or ISIS invasions are being persecuted. They are in extreme situations that call for a proportionally extreme amount of prayer and attention. We may be left to wonder, though, how we should think about believers whose faith is being attacked in less horrific ways. Is it fair to classify anything less than outright violence as persecution?
This is where it may be helpful to think of persecution in a couple of different ways. Open Doors (OD) speaks of “smashing” and “squeezing.” Smashing is violent. When you think smashing, think ISIS and North Korea. But squeezing, OD explains, is more about pressure.
“While it would seem that smash is the most prevalent and invasive expression of persecution, it is often the squeeze that is most prevalent and invasive,” said OD on their World Watch List website. This is because squeezing pervades society, affecting the Christian’s whole life, and it can be imposed from a variety of different angles–social expectations, government, family, employers, etc. Additionally, when Christians are being squeezed, they are often suppressed to the point of total silence. If the goal of persecution is to silence witness, then it could be said that squeezing is often more effective than beating and imprisonment, because more overt hostility can sometimes serve as a megaphone for Christ.
But if you’re like me, you need some examples. To help us think through what squeezing may look like, turn your attention to the intersection of Europe and Asia: Turkey. Though Christianity in the 97% Muslim country is no longer illegal, many Turks make concerted efforts to undermine its spread (for example, by placing superfluous requirements on congregations looking to build). Though hard to measure, the social strain for Christians in Turkey can be overwhelming. When a Muslim decides to follow Christ, their friends and family often treat them with contempt because they feel betrayed. This is what our Turkish brother in Christ, Erman, experienced when his father died. As the eldest son, he was expected to pray at his father’s Muslim funeral, but as a Christian, his conscience would not permit him to. Erman was squeezed. There was pain, both for him and his family, and judgement from the community.
Now let’s come a little closer to home. A lot closer, actually. Many of you have probably heard about the turmoil surrounding Washington florist, Barronelle Stutzman. When so called same-sex marriage became legal in Washington state, a gay couple who Stutzman had been serving for close to a decade asked her to do their wedding. Although Stutzman agonized over the decision because of their friendship, her Christian convictions about marriage would not permit her to contribute to their celebration with her flower arrangements. Now, she is being sued for everything she’s worth by both the state of Washington and the couple whom she had served for so long. Watch the video below for a more complete picture of her story.
Though she isn’t in danger of being burned at the stake, her business is at stake, simply because she wanted to peaceably act according to her religious convictions. In the words of Denny Burk, “This [Stutzman being sued] is a great injustice, and I hope people will see this for what it is–persecution.”
It’s important that we realize such squeezing is, in fact, persecution, so that we are not ignorant and, subsequently, idle in situations that don’t reflect God’s justice. The opposition these forgotten sufferers are facing falls short of firing squads and torture, but they still deserve our attention. Plus, smashing persecution probably didn’t start that way. And though our response to situations like the ones facing Stutzman and Erman may be different than our response to the situations found in North Korea and Iraq, it ought still be marked by urgency, and it ought still be drenched in prayer.
Whether crushed or squeezed, persecuted Christians are just that: persecuted. Our recognition of this fact not only helps us to see that they are worthy of our attention, prayer, and active support… it helps us keep watch of our own horizon.
Posted on October 1st, 2014 by Jonathan
From Open Doors, may this serve as a healthy reminder that church bombings and Boko Haram kidnappings should not be viewed simply as intriguing headlines. They are real trials faced by real Christians just like you and me.
The International Day of Prayer (IDOP) for persecuted Christians is coming up, and Open Doors is hosting a free, interactive webcast. If you want to join in on November 1 and 2, RSVP here. But don’t wait to begin praying for the persecuted church. Let the stories from Nigeria remind you that, in many places around the world, hostility toward believers is real. And it’s happening now.
Posted on September 12th, 2014 by David Burnette
Kevin DeYoung posted the following prayer by Samuel M. Zwemer (1867-1952), an RCA minister and Princeton professor known as “The Apostle to Islam”:
“Almighty God, our Heavenly Father, who hast made of one blood all nations and hast promised that many shall come from the East and sit down with Abraham in thy kingdom: We pray for thy prodigal children in Muslim lands who are still afar off, that they may be brought nigh by the blood of Christ. Look upon them in pity, because they are ignorant of thy truth.
Take away pride of intellect and blindness of heart, and reveal to them the surpassing beauty and power of thy Son Jesus Christ. Convince them of their sin in rejecting the atonement of the only Savior. Give moral courage to those who love thee, that they may boldly confess thy name.
Hasten the day of religious freedom in Turkey, Arabia, Iran, Iraq, Afghanistan, and North Africa. Send forth reapers where the harvest is ripe, and faithful plowmen to break furrows in lands still neglected. May the tribes of Africa and Malaysia not fall prey to Islam but be won for Christ. Bless the ministry of healing in every hospital, and the ministry of love at every church and mission. May all Muslim children in mission schools be led to Christ and accept him as their personal Savior.
Strengthen converts, restore backsliders, and give all those who labor among Muslims the tenderness of Christ, so that bruised reeds may become pillars of his church, and smoking flaxwicks burning and shining lights. Make bare thine arm, O God, and show thy power. All our expectation is from thee.
Father, the hour has come; glorify thy Son in the Muslim world, and fulfill through him the prayer of Abraham thy friend, “O, that Ishmael might live before thee.” For Jesus’ sake. Amen.”
— Taken from Islam and the Cross: Selections from “The Apostle to Islam” (edited by Roger Greenway).
Posted on September 8th, 2014 by Jonathan
ISIS overrunning Iraq and Syria. Church buildings razed in China. Boko Haram bombings and kidnappings in Nigeria. Labor camps in North Korea. Imprisoned Christians in Iran. The persecution of Christians is on a tragic rise, but it is not a new phenomenon. In fact, each Fall, the International Day of Prayer has highlighted persecuted Christians, encouraging churches to pray for them as well as for their persecutors. Such prayer has always been important, but as this year’s headlines makes clear, the need for such prayer has never been more urgent.
In light of this, Open Doors is hosting a live webcast on November 1 and 2 to inform and encourage people toward this end. Special guests include David Platt and Nik Ripken, and worship will be led by Selah. The first night (Saturday, Nov 1) will give you the opportunity to interact with believers from all over the world. The second night (Sunday, Nov 2), there will be a time of worship geared toward churches. Such a webcast allows for the persecuted to hear directly from the people praying for them (and vice versa) as they worship their God together . . . and Open Doors is making the event completely free.
You won’t want to miss this. RSVP here so that you can have all the info you need participate and even get your church involved. But go ahead and begin praying for the persecuted. Open Doors has suggested five ways for you to get involved in the International Day of Prayer, and this is just one of them!
Posted on August 13th, 2014 by Jonathan
The following prayer was originally posted by Rick Phillips on Reformation 21.
Our Father in heaven, the sovereign and almighty God, the faithful covenant-keeper and Savior, we plead to you on behalf of our suffering fellow believers in Iraq. Cast your eye upon them and have mercy to uphold and defend your flock. Overthrow the evil of their persecutors and strengthen the faith of those suffering tribulation for the name of Jesus.
Father, as of old you caused the enemies of your people to destroy one another in answer to the plea of Jehoshaphat (2 Chron. 20:23), so now bring discord, division, and self-destruction to the jihadist slayers afflicting your people. Lord, as once you parted the Red Sea to make safe the way of Israel fleeing from Pharaoh’s host (Ex. 14:21-22), open a path to safety for your people fleeing in distress. Our God, your Word foretells that Satan will make war on the church, all the more because he knows that his end is near (Rev. 12:12). But as you promised, intervene supernaturally to provide a refuge in the wilderness for the church our enemy is seeking to destroy (Rev. 12:14-16). Cause your suffering people to conquer by the blood of the Lamb and by the word of their testimony; strengthen their testimony to Jesus, even under threat of death (Rev. 12:11).
Our loving Father, Jesus foretold that his people would be hated by all nations and delivered up to tribulation (Mt. 24:9), as we see happening to the saints of Iraq. Do not permit them to fall away or betray one another, and keep their love from growing cold (Mt. 24:10, 12). Hear the cries of Rachel in Iraq and Kurdistan, weeping for her children (Jer. 31:15).
God of grace, have mercy on our fellow sinners who persecute your people in the name of a false god. As once you turned the heart of Saul of Tarsus when he was the chief tormenter of your church (Acts 9:4-5), and as Jesus pled for you to forgive those who tortured him upon the cross (Lk. 23:34), now have mercy on those who crucify and behead the saints in Iraq. Reveal your grace and glory to them so that they might repent, believe, and be saved.
Finally, Lord, send your Spirit to inspire Christians who live in comfort and ease, that we might honor the martyrdom of our brothers and sisters by living boldly for Jesus, that we might abominate in ourselves the sins of hatred, lust, and idolatry that we see working so terribly against our brethren, and that we might live more soberly and prayerfully for the cause of Christ in this evil world.
Today, the Baptist Press (BP) released a statement urging people to take action on behalf of suffering Iraqis. Thousands of Christians have been forced to flee Mosul. The Islamic State (IS) is persecuting religious minorities of every variety, including the Yazidi people near Sinjar. Said the BP:
Most pressing is a situation the White House calls a “looming humanitarian catastrophe” unfolding on a mountaintop near the Iraqi city of Sinjar, home to the country’s Yazidi religious minority, where some 50,000 Yazidi refugees are trapped with limited food and water. On Aug. 3, Sunni extremists known as Islamic State or ISIS (Islamic State of Iraq and Syria) seized the city as Sinjar’s Yazidi population fled fearing massacre. Many Iraqis without transportation escaped to the nearby Sinjar Mountains, a barren heap of rock where daytime temperatures can top 120 degrees.
While the U.S. is dropping some supplies, there is no shortage of need. We would also like to urge you to act in two primary ways.
1. Most importantly, pray. God has ordained prayer, and He hears our pleas. Here are the prayer points released by the BP today:
- Ask the Lord to awaken the world to the humanitarian crisis unfolding in Iraq and to provide pathways for Christians and others to respond.
- Ask God to miraculously protect the Yazidis and other Kurds who fled into the mountains; ask Him to provide a means of rescue and temporary homes for the refugees.
- Pray that ISIS leaders and soldiers would experience the love of Jesus Christ and that their lives would be transformed.
- Ask God to preserve and embolden the small remnant of believers in Mosul and Kurdistan, so that one day through their witness, every Iraqi might have the opportunity to hear the Gospel.
2. Give. When it comes to crises like this, sufficient resources are critical.
BP: “Help respond to Iraq’s refugee crisis by donating to the International Mission Board’s general relief fund or by texting imbrelief to 80888, which will donate $10 to that fund. To give through Baptist Global Response, visit gobgr.org/donate or text bgr to 80888.” (More info here)
UPDATE: For questions about giving to the IMB’s general relief fund, you can call them toll-free at (800) 999-3113 or contact them via their online form. To find out more about giving to Baptist Global Response, go HERE.
Posted on August 7th, 2014 by Jonathan
The following is from an August 5th Christianity Today article.
Inside the Kremlin, Russian President Vladimir Putin plans to rebuild two monasteries and a church torn down by Stalin about 85 years ago. But as Russia rebuilds churches with one hand, with the other it’s been knocking them down.
While a campaign in China to de-Christianize city skylines has drawn the most international attention this summer, Pew Research Center recently calculated the world’s 34 countries with the most government destruction of religious property (as of 2012). Three countries topped the list, with 100 or more incidents: China, Russia, and Tajikistan.
For more on persecution, check out the Secret Church blog.
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