Tuesday, May 20, 2014

Christian Persecution: Not Just In Bible Days!



Brothers and sisters in Christ, you may probably be aware of the situation of Christians outside the US and Western Europe. You read about it from one end of the Bible to another, the treatment of the faithful. The media rarely cover it, with a few exceptions. And I would not be surprised if this is a topic that your Pastor does not cover in his sermons or your Bible teachers in Bible study. Why would they keep silent about it? It is convicting, it challenges our cultural notion that God wants us to "live our best life now" and they may think it will "offend" us and make us uncomfortable. It may.

I'm talking about global, severe persecution of our brothers and sisters in Jesus. In many parts of the world, it is very much a reality.

If you have been following the news, you may have recently hear the case of a wife and mom, Meriam Yahia Ibrahim, who was sentenced to death in Sudan. A South Sudanese Christian, Meriam is currently pregnant with her second child. She was sentenced to death row simply for "turning her back on Islam," refusing to deny her faith in Christ, and marrying a Christian man (considered "adultery"). A Change.org petition was set up for Meriam, and at the end of this post I will link to it. You may have probably heard about genocide in Sudan. Another wife and Mom, two years ago, was also sentenced to death. Asia Bibi, A Christian in Pakistan, was sentenced to death for "blasphemy" because she was counted as a "traiter" because she defended her faith. She remains in prison to this day. The Voioe of the Martyrs has mounted a petition for her on their own platform, and at the end of this post, I will link to it. Sudan and Pakistan are just two countries in the Muslim world, which have Sharia Law, which makes converting from Islam to any other religion, including Christianity, punishable by death. According to the late Richard Wurmbrand, who suffered unimaginable tortures in former Iron Curtain prisons, over 500 Christians in Muslim-dominated countries die for their Christian faith--daily! That figure does not include Christians who die for Christ in Communist countries like China and North Korea.

Many years ago, I had read the late Richard Wumbrand's TORTURED FOR CHRIST, which descibes his extreme persecution and imprisonments. That book, available in an updated edition, discusses the Christian Church behind the former Iron Curtain and brings basic awareness to global persecution of Christians in Asia, much of Africa, the Middle East, and parts of South America. Back then when I first read the book, while I believed the account, I was not yet "all in" for Christ and did not want this kind of life for myself. I admired those Christians. As time went on and I became a serious Christian, I learned about Voice of the Martyrs, a nonprofit that has been dedicated to Christians in dozens of restricted countries. They provide many different, practical ways to help such Christians and I'll link this post to that nonprofit at the end of this post. When I began using Facebook, I soon became aware of Asia Bibi and the story of her death row imprisonment for being a Christian. I would be puzzled as to why my frequent shares of the petition for her seemed not to get much support from those in my social networks. I wonder if that can be traced to the psychological term, "the circle of limited tears." This term refers to our ability to readily sympathize with those whom we identify with, whom we see as "ourselves in other circumstances" (getting cancer, grief, becoming a victim of abuse or crime). We have difficulty identifying, and hence having empathy for, those whom we see as simply "other" (those suffering atrocities worldwide, including severe persecution simply for being believers). I think that this may explain the limited "likes" and "shares" that I have seen from my Facebook friends, of Asia Bibi's petition. Before we entertain any notion that such persecution cannot touch us in the West, may I break the news to you?

You may or may not have studied the Book of Revelation in the Bible. I don't want to get into disputes about doctrine here, but there is nothing in Scripture about some secret "Rapture." I was taught about that as a teen when I was involved with the Charismatic movement and some "Jesus People." Scripture clearly teaches about a Tribulation which will come upon the Earth, where Christians will face horrible persecution death for their faith. Years ago, I read in a book that Corrie ten Boom had a vision that God revealed to her that severe persecution will be coming to the US. I don't think she was having an apparition and I believe that she was very credible as she and her family suffered great persecution in a Nazi death camp, for hiding Jews during that era. Whatever the case is and when this takes place, isn't it wise to submit to God and let Him form us into people who will be ready for such persecution? If you, as I have, done research on the lives of severely persecuted Christians, you will see that severe persecution normally purifies them rather than destroys them. Persecution, as is often pointed out, separates those who are Christ-followers from those who are Christians in name only. I wonder, if severe persecution came to the US today, how many members of our congregations would be weeded out?

Here is the West, global religious persecution is usually seen as a religious freedom and human rights issue. And it is! In Scripture, persecution is seen as a "necessary evil" for Christians, a "rite of passage," and a purifying agent. This is because severe persecution, in forcing Christians to choose for OR against Christ, precludes lukewarmness. It serves as a built-in mirror, showing our sin to us. In this way, severe persecution purifies Christians. It clarifies priorities, as such persecuted Christians often face losses such as hunger, thirst, homelessness, and are forced to depend on God completely. Like it or not, being in a state of total dependence on Him is where God wants us. Yet God also has a role for those of us who are not facing severe persecution; He has called us to "Be a voice for the voiceless" and severely persecuted Christians do not have a voice. WE must advocate for them. You may be aware of these persecutions and the overwhelming scope of global religious persecution. It's way too huge for any of us, but not for God. Below, I'll link to resources which will give you practical ways to show support for our severely persecuted brothers and sisters in Christ. Will you help?

Please Sign the Petition To Free Christian Wife & Mom Asia Bibi.

Please Sign the Petition To Free Christian Wife & Mom Meriam Ibrahim.

The Voice of the Martyrs. This nonprofit is a treasure trove of information and updates about global Christian persecution. They serve severely persecuted Christians in dozens of restricted countries and in many different practical ways, including advocacy. Please check out their website; if you cannot afford to give, you can set up an account there and post prayers about specific prayer needs. We all can help in some way.

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