Thursday, December 21, 2017

Advent 2017 #21: When Persecution Hits a Little Too Close to Home

Today's blog post was almost finished when I read back over it, hit save, and closed the document. I intended to tell you about a pastor I know who's going through a tough time of persecution, to paint a word picture that would drop you right in the action and let you feel the fear, the uncertainty, the agony of opposing the government for the cause of Christ.

I started over because I'm afraid my words might make things worse for him and his family. Instead, I thought, I'd write about how I felt, but I was present for some of the government "attention," and that, too, might make things worse.

This is my third attempt to write a blog post today. Though I wanted to write a cayenne pepper kind of article, I'm blinking back tears and choosing vanilla to protect those I love. 

This morning, Isaiah's words spoke directly to my heart:

How lovely on the mountains
are the feet of Him who brings good news,
who announces peace
and brings good news of happiness,
who announces salvation... 
Isaiah 52:7 nasb

My friend and his wife have lovely, lovely feet because they are among those who bring good news of happiness and announce salvation to all who will listen. They're in the midst of relentless persecution and they refuse to deny Christ and His call. They press on regardless of the cost.

I want to help, but all I can do for now is pray and ask you to join with me. Please pray for my dear friends to be brave for the cause of Christ, to keep going as the government pressure increases, to be faithful no matter the cost. 

Even as I type those words, I dread the price they will pay for obedience, and wonder if I would be willing to serve as they serve.

Persecution is like fuel to the gospel fire. I want it to spread, but I didn't want such hardship to breathe life to the flames. The difficult times have come, and, somewhere down the road, I'll rejoice over the strong and vital church that was birthed in this adversity. I'm not there yet.

I'm begging God to make their suffering count in such a way that even the officials will want the faith they see in my friends. Please pray that, too.

Their situation is just one of many. According to the website, 322 Christians are killed for their faith every month, 3,864 per year. Between now and Christmas (four days from now), more than 40 people will die because of their faith in the Savior, whose birthday we celebrate. That doesn't include the hundreds more per month who endure violent treatment ranging from beatings to rape to forced marriages. 

Eleven people every day until Christmas (and after) will be murdered because of their response to the Christ child. Would our celebration of His birth give adequate evidence of our faith to endanger our lives for Him? 

Selah. Let's pause and ponder this for a moment. 

Our religious freedom in the U.S. is rare and must not be wasted. We can share Christ, and we must. We can serve, and we should. If we refuse, we will be called to account one day.

Please pause a moment in the midst of holiday parties, shopping, and family gatherings to pray for our eleven brothers and sisters around the world who will die today because of their faith, and for their families. 

Pray for my friends.

"If one member suffers, all suffer together..." 1 Corinthians 12:26 nasb

"Remember the prisoners, as though in prison with them, and those who are ill-treated, since you yourselves also are in the body." Hebrews 13:3 nasb
Here are links to a few articles about persecution you might find informative:
3) Christians: A Persecuted Minority?
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In case you missed yesterday's post, here's the link:#20: God's Promise is Worth the Wait

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