It is an exciting time to be a Christian! God has blessed us with so many ways of supporting, keeping in touch, and blessing brothers and sisters in Christ around the world.
But this is also a very difficult time for many who claim Jesus as Lord. I realized this personally when one of our Elders and his wife were on a mission campaign with several other Christians to a country which was formerly part of the Soviet Union. One afternoon as he shared Gods word with a group of new Christians and those interested in Jesus, the secret police (i.e., the former KGB) came up and arrested him and took him to jail.
On what charge? the people asked.
We dont need to have a charge, they were told.
His wife and these young Christians were left to wonder about his fate. He was released only after the U.S. Embassy got involved. But the new Christians were sternly warned not to assemble in groups. Like in China, where faith is reason for imprisonment or even death, these new Christians have begun to meet in house churches in very small groups, communicating with one another in individual conversations. Incredibly, several of the people were convicted to call on Jesus as Lord and share his death burial and resurrection through baptism because they saw that this faith was like what they read about in the book of Acts and was not under the governments control. Praise God!
Reports from around the world remind us of radical groups that attack Christians, burn church buildings, and even murder believers in the middle of the night. While a world wide problem, it is especially acute in Africa where people have been so open to the Gospel of Christ.
We have read reports of a missionary imprisoned for months on trumped up charges that could cost him his life. In our own congregation we have a beautiful family who cannot return to their home country. They would be executed because of their faith in Jesus as Lord and because of their leadership in a Christian group.
At Heartlight, we are urging you to encourage your church leaders, your small group Bible study, your Sunday school class, and your friends to devote Sunday, November 16 to a day of prayer for all believers everywhere who profess their faith under threat of harm. Pray for Gods Word, grace, and love to triumph over hatred, brutality and death. Many centuries ago the saying was born: The blood of the martyrs is the seed of the Church. While true, lets pray that the Gospel can triumph without the loss of so much life in our time.
Gods Word is not chained!|
Those of us who can freely declare our allegiance to Jesus must give thanks and recognize that our blessings are given to us to bless others, especially those facing hardship because of their faith. Make a commitment personally to a specific nation where persecution now exists. Pray for it every day between now and the end of the year. Learn all you can about that country. Pray for the political leaders, the missionaries, the ministers, the church leaders, the Christians and their children by name. Ask Gods power and grace to triumph through them even through these difficult times.
The book of Acts ends with Paul imprisoned. Yet the last word of Lukes story is the adverb unhinderedly. Lukes point, not even persecution and the threat of death can hinder the liberating power of the Gospel. As Paul reminded Timothy (2 Tim 2:9), even though Christians may be imprisoned and in chains, Gods word is not chained! Lets pray that his people will not be either!