Saturday, November 02, 2013

Will you pray?

"If the average American Christian can’t explain why they should care about all the members of their own local church, why would they ever care for their brethren around the world?" -- Steve Meister

The International Day of Prayer for the Persecuted Church is designated Sunday, November 3rd in some countries and Sunday, November 10th in others. A "day of prayer" is easy to understand, but what of "the persecuted church"? Many write about this but don't clearly define it.* The "persecuted church" is basically a shorthand term to refer to Christians in any country that restricts their worship, in which they pay a price for obeying God rather than men. Some might gather secretly, even avoiding singing for fear of being heard and reported. Some might be arrested and imprisoned. Some are even put to death for naming the name of Christ.

Many use the entire month of November to highlight the existence of persecution of Christians around the globe. The persecution of Christians is real, unrelenting and often horrific. Todd Nettleton of Voice of the Martyrs says there are over 60 countries where Christians face some major form of harassment or persecution. Our minor discomforts and annoyances pale in comparison. Yet most of us are not activists, and at times may be overloaded with all the other tasks we've taken on.

What can we do? We can educate ourselves and others to the problem. Some may want to support groups like the Barnabas Fund, Christian Solidarity International, Open Doors, Rescue Christians, and Voice of the Martyrs.** We can urge our government to exert influence when and where it can. Write appropriate officials. Some may want to write persecuted Christians to encourage them.*** Some might be led to volunteer in some capacity, and a few might even be able to travel to meet persecuted Christians. We all can pray.

Will you pray?
Pray for relief for and peace of persecuted Christians. Pray for stable governments that are conducive to peacefulness (Cf. Jeremiah 29:7).
1 Timothy 2:1-2 I exhort therefore, that, first of all, supplications, prayers, intercessions, and giving of thanks, be made for all men; For kings, and for all that are in authority; that we may lead a quiet and peaceable life in all godliness and honesty.

Pray for release of the imprisoned (Cf. Philemon 22).
Acts 12:5 Peter therefore was kept in prison: but prayer was made without ceasing of the church unto God for him.

Pray for the furtherance of the gospel in the midst of trials (Cf. Colossians 4:3).
2 Thessalonians 3:1 Finally, brethren, pray for us, that the word of the Lord may have free course, and be glorified, even as it is with you:

Pray with empathy for our brothers & sisters, doing for them what we would wish for us in the same circumstances (Matthew 7:12; Romans 12:15).
Hebrews 13:3 Remember them that are in bonds, as bound with them; and them which suffer adversity, as being yourselves also in the body.

Pray, and then do as enabled (Cf. James 2:15-16).
Matthew 25:35-36 For I was an hungred, and ye gave me meat: I was thirsty, and ye gave me drink: I was a stranger, and ye took me in: Naked, and ye clothed me: I was sick, and ye visited me: I was in prison, and ye came unto me.

Further reading
* 3 Things that are NOT Persecution -- "...I have continued to see similar behaviors and activities crop up in the lives of some Christians. They act rudely at work, irresponsibly in their neighborhood, arrogantly with their family, and when people react negatively to their behavior, the Christian chalks it up to “persecution”."
* 9 Things You Should Know About Persecution of Christians in 2013 -- "With the exception of four official state-controlled churches in Pyongyang, Christians in North Korea face the risk of detention in the prison camps, severe torture and, in some cases, execution for practicing their religious beliefs."
* A Global Slaughter of Christians, but America’s Churches Stay Silent -- "Christians in the Middle East and Africa are being slaughtered, tortured, raped, kidnapped, beheaded, and forced to flee the birthplace of Christianity. One would think this horror might be consuming the pulpits and pews of American churches. Not so. The silence has been nearly deafening."
* Do American Christians care about persecuted Christians? -- "If the average American Christian can’t explain why they should care about all the members of their own local church, why would they ever care for their brethren around the world?"
* Killing Christians With Impunity? -- "When I was a child, I somehow picked up the notion that persecution against the Christian church basically ended with the collapse of the Roman Empire."
Prayer: Taking Sides -- "Some Christians refuse to listen to the stories of the persecuted church. From the physical perspective, they say such stories are depressing."
* The Myth of the Persecuted American Church -- "It's not that Christians are not occasionally persecuted in America. There are instances—such as an incident this summer in which Evangelical Christians were labeled as "extremists" in a Pentagon training session—that we ought to take seriously."
* The persecuted church and the distracted church -- " eyes were opened wide to two types of Christians: those who face the fires of affliction for their faith in their hostile homelands and those who enjoy the freedom to worship Christ openly as citizens of the United States. Both face testings. Both are under attack by the evil one. But the points of assault are distinct."
* The Persecuted Church, Prayer, and the Book of Revelation -- "One of the main emphases of Revelation is the persecution and martyrdom of fellow believers in Jesus Christ, and the encouragement to stay faithful in the midst of persecution, as well as to pray for those who are suffering persecution."
* What is persecution? -- "...persecution as a term needs to be understood in its biblical sense. Persecution in the Bible manifests itself within a broad spectrum ranging from mildly hostile to intensely hostile actions."
Both/And: Fight Persecution Abroad and At Home -- "Those who profess to follow Jesus should be able both to fight religious persecution abroad and oppose religious repression here at home."

Some Related Bible verses
Matthew 5:10-12 Blessed are they which are persecuted for righteousness' sake: for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. Blessed are ye, when men shall revile you, and persecute you, and shall say all manner of evil against you falsely, for my sake. Rejoice, and be exceeding glad: for great is your reward in heaven: for so persecuted they the prophets which were before you.
Luke 6:28 Bless them that curse you, and pray for them which despitefully use you.
John 15:18-21 If the world hate you, ye know that it hated me before it hated you. If ye were of the world, the world would love his own: but because ye are not of the world, but I have chosen you out of the world, therefore the world hateth you. Remember the word that I said unto you, The servant is not greater than his lord. If they have persecuted me, they will also persecute you; if they have kept my saying, they will keep yours also. But all these things will they do unto you for my name's sake, because they know not him that sent me.
Acts 5:29 Then Peter and the other apostles answered and said, We ought to obey God rather than men.
Romans 8:16-18 The Spirit itself beareth witness with our spirit, that we are the children of God: And if children, then heirs; heirs of God, and joint-heirs with Christ; if so be that we suffer with him, that we may be also glorified together. For I reckon that the sufferings of this present time are not worthy to be compared with the glory which shall be revealed in us.
Romans 8:35-39 Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? shall tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or peril, or sword? As it is written, For thy sake we are killed all the day long; we are accounted as sheep for the slaughter. Nay, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him that loved us. For I am persuaded, that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor powers, nor things present, nor things to come, Nor height, nor depth, nor any other creature, shall be able to separate us from the love of God, which is in Christ Jesus our Lord.
Romans 12:14 Bless them which persecute you: bless, and curse not.
2 Timothy 3:12 Yea, and all that will live godly in Christ Jesus shall suffer persecution.
James 5:11 Behold, we count them happy which endure. Ye have heard of the patience of Job, and have seen the end of the Lord; that the Lord is very pitiful, and of tender mercy.
1 Peter 3:12 For the eyes of the Lord are over the righteous, and his ears are open unto their prayers: but the face of the Lord is against them that do evil.

* The Cornerstone Church of Mabank, TX made a stab at defining "persecuted church" this way: “The Church, made up of people who have professed faith in Jesus, living in a restricted country, experiencing intense forms of persecution ranging from local violence and exploitation to the extreme, death.” To designate a particular category of people as a church is biblically and theologically problematic. We might also contend that the biblical views of some of these people are unbiblical. All this notwithstanding, we support both our brothers & sisters scattered around the world who are suffering persecution as well as the right of all persons to approach God in their own manner without fear of human intervention, persuasion, and persecution.
** This should not be considered an endorsement of any of these groups.
*** Unless you know someone specifically (and maybe even if you do) this usually needs to go through a third party to maintain security and anonymity.

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