In what has now become “Part One” of “New Year-New Resolve-Part One” there was one item which I didn’t add, because I felt it was so important that I wanted to devote an entire writing to it:
To pray for our persecuted Brothers and Sisters around the world. I want to make sure that I pray, every day, for these men, women-and children-who are being persecuted for their faith in Christ Jesus. I want to encourage … but a much stronger word must be used … I want to urge you, to admonish you, to pray for these men, women, children … these families … who are, simply and only, persecuted, put in jail, and killed … only because they “are not ashamed of the Gospel of Jesus Christ” (Romans 1:16).
If you look at the definition of the word “admonish,” yes, it means “to tell or urge (someone) to do something.” But, if you look at the meaning of the word as used as a transitive verb (thank you Merriam-Webster!), it means “to indicate duties or obligations to.” And, that is exactly what, as fellow Christians, we are to do: “Remember them that are in bonds, as bound with them; and them which suffer adversity, as being yourselves also in the body” (Hebrews 13:3).
The numbers of Christians, around the world, who are persecuted is, simply, staggering. Here in the United States, we are so blessed … yet, because of the freedom(s) we enjoy, it is so difficult to realize how things are “everywhere else.” I know … I know … we have griped and complained about the price of gas we pay over here … I don’t mean to sound callous, but my response to these complaints is to remind those complaining how people in other countries have been paying 5.00 for a gallon of gas for years … I think the same mind-set can set in, when we think about persecution in “those other places.” Jesus was right (I just love to write that!) when He said/predicted that things won’t change … they hated Him … they will hate you: “And ye shall be hated of all men for my name’s sake” (Luke 21:17). Jesus said this many times.
In the great chapter of Hebrews 11, we see, from today’s perspective, that things haven’t changed: “And others had trial of cruel mockings and scourgings, yea, moreover of bonds and imprisonment” (Hebrews 11:36).
I must say that there are many great organizations which both carry the Gospel to far-reaching places and peoples around the world, and that minister to families and groups which are suffering for their faith. We are proud to support one such ministry, the work of “The Voice of the Martyrs.” Through their emails and printed materials, this is one way we can “keep in touch” with what is really going on around the world, in regard to persecution.
In December, here is part of a story about an outreach program which “The Voice of the Martyrs” was involved in:
“… more than 3,000 children in northern Nigeria received VOM Christmas Care Packs this year. Her pack included school supplies, a T-shirt, soap, pencils, a toothbrush, noodles, milk and an animated story book about Jesus. Christmas Care Packs were the perfect gift for these children, many of whom have experienced the horrors of Boko Haram attacks. The gifts showed Abua and the other children that they are loved. Children from many nations, including children of Iraqi families that have been exiled at the hands of ISIS, will receive Christmas Care Packs in this year’s distribution … in many of the more than 60 countries where we work. A VOM worker from Pakistan says the Bibles included in the packs often become the family’s favorite Bible since many parents cannot read.”
Here’s another small glimpse of how it really is “in other places” around the world:
“In Iraq, ISIS threatened to kill Abu’s family if they didn’t convert to Islam, but he still trusted God. In Nigeria, Boko Haram killed Micah’s wife and demanded that he renounce Christ, but he stood firm in his faith. Christians worldwide remain committed to Jesus despite the threat of imprisonment, torture and even death. In northern Iraq, ISIS spray-painted the Arabic letter ن, or “N,” on the homes of Christians. The property owners were publicly identified as Christ followers and given a choice to convert to Islam, pay a high tax, leave the country or die. Many courageous believers refused to deny their faith.”
I am reminded of the words Walter Cronkite would use as he completed his newscast: “And that’s the way it is …” Well, in a lot of the world today, this is “the way it is”:
“Iraqi and Syrian Christians stand strong in the face of ISIS. They have lost their worldly possessions, but they have joy in their eternal hope in Christ. Nigerian Christians love and forgive in the name of Jesus while Boko Haram terrorists kidnap and kill Christians, burning churches and homes in their ongoing rampage across northern Nigeria. Pastors in China remain faithful despite being imprisoned for years because of their faith. VOM is supporting believers like these throughout the 68 countries where we work … As persecution has continued to increase around the globe this year … we have distributed thousands of Bibles and other Christian materials in areas hostile to Christianity. In addition, VOM is supporting more than 40,000 front-line workers as they carry Jesus’ name into the world’s most difficult missions frontiers. We are grateful for all those who have remembered their persecuted family in prayer.”
Don’t worry: The crime of “Bible Smuggling” is still alive and well:
“We are blessed to serve alongside a network of more than 40,000 Front-Line workers that serve as today’s “Bible Smugglers.” Many risk their lives delivering the Bibles. Others journey for days to reach remote areas. All of them covet our prayers … in 2015, VOM delivered over 1.2 million Bibles … Front-Line workers are evangelizing, planting churches, and distributing Bibles on the world’s most difficult missions frontiers.”
Again, there are many worthy organizations which are doing this work around the world. “The Voice of the Martyrs” is just one of the organizations which we support. We have shared other ministries with you, but for this writing, we are using their (VOM) information exclusively.
We’ll close with this story from Columbia. Not too long ago, Carol and I were in South America, and we witnessed first-hand the difference between “here and there.” Working with children, and especially while I was working with young children (K-2), I’ll be honest … every time I read a story of violence toward children, I put “my kids” face in the story. I’m sure you know what I mean. Here’s “the way it is” for many children around the world:
Here’s the story of “Flor,” which also carried a picture of her … you’re right … Think of your children, our children, my children, and, after you get off your knees thanking God for the blessings of your children being raised in this country … think about this story, which was titled, “Her Father’s Killer Is Looking for Her:”
“Flor” still misses her father every day.
Her father, a pastor, was killed when she was just a preschooler, but his death left a huge hole in her world. Then the news came that his killer had been released from prison and was now hunting her family. Flor’s father pastored in a rural area of Colombia. When his killers delivered his body to the door of their home, VOM immediately helped Flor and her mom relocate to a safe house. VOM supported them as Flor and her mom restarted their lives, helping them begin an agricultural business. Eight years later, her father’s killer was released from prison. Neighbors warned the family that he was asking about them. Again, VOM immediately relocated the family to a safe place. Just last week, Flor called her VOM contact and asked to be picked up from school. She was struggling with grief and fear and needed some encouragement … the Families of Martyrs Fund supports believers like Flor and her family. This fund allows VOM to quickly relocate a family when there is immediate danger, and it also helps provide for them in the long-term with jobs, housing and education for children.”
Every day, let’s pray for our Brothers and Sisters in Christ, around the world, who are suffering persecution. That God will give them safety and protection.
Pray for those “in bonds,” those in prison/jail because of their faith. I pray two things, every day: For God to send an angel to them to minister to them … to strengthen them (just like in the Garden). That Jesus will personally visit them …
God can do anything. There is nothing too hard for Him.
Pray that God will make a way for them to be released. Because, God can make a way where there is no way. He can open doors which no man can shut. And, He can close doors which no man can open.
Pray for the families, churches, and organizations which are praying for their release.
Here is the picture I get every morning: Moses, standing above the Red Sea, staff outstretched … that these families … will “stand back and see the deliverance (salvation) of the Lord …”
Every person whom I have ever known … ever … who has been persecuted, has the exact, same request: To pray for those who are persecuting them.
I admonish you to pray for the “captors.” For those individuals, or groups, or factions, who are doing the persecution. Here is what I pray: For them to realize that the Messiah has already come … His name is Jesus … and He’s alive forevermore …
Back to Hebrews to encourage us more:
“For ye had compassion of me in my bonds, and took joyfully the spoiling of your goods, knowing in yourselves that ye have in heaven a better and an enduring substance” (Hebrews 10:34).
Blessings to you, and your family.
Richard. Vincent. Rose.
Here’s a direct link of Voice of the Martyrs
Voice of the Martyrs
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It is good to be reminded of others’ struggles…