Sunday, May 29, 2005

Three Little Words

Often, the shortest statements we make, are the ones that are the most profound and fundamental to who we are. They are also the ones that can cause us the most bother. Take the following statement:

"I love Jesus."
Three little words, three powerful words. Yet even as we speak, some 200 million Christians worldwide suffer for saying those very words, or demonstrating a belief that represents that statement.
200 million...
that's a lot...
To put it in perspective, that's roughly two thirds of the US population... all suffering for professing Christ as their saviour.

I'm not talking about here in the UK, or in Europe, or North America, or Australia. In these places, most of the time the hassle you are likely to receive will largely just consist of hard hearted words, scorn, ridicule and/or individual hostility.... or just people taking the rip out of you.
No, I'm talking about countries that are hostile to the Gospel message; where it is illegal, or culturally frowned upon. Places where if you worship Jesus you face the very real prospect of imprisonment, beatings, torture, abuse, rape, mutilation, slavery and even murder. Just for saying those three little words. Three little words we take for granted, but which for some people mean the very difference between life or death... in a world where those words can literally cost you everything.

We had a visit today from the Open Doors foundation. You can find a link to them somewhere on my page. They have existed for 50 years, and they have been supporting oppressed Christians in many ways. They have given financial aid, theological training to leaders, and most famously they are Bible smugglers. They take the Word of god into countries where it is banned. That is cool!

However the speaker today brought a message to our Church, not requesting help on any of those fronts. This is unusual, because most organisations who come ask for financial aid to further the good work they do.
No, we were merely asked to pray for these people... because that is the gift we offer that our persecuted brothers and sisters value the most. It encourages them to know that we who are not oppressed, remember them in our prayers. They draw real strength from that... and they have every reason to, in many circumstances they have no-one to rely on for provision but the Lord.

In fact, they pray for us. They know being a Christian in the decadent world has its own trials. They pray because there are so many distractions, such as financial worries, materialism and the busy nature of our lives that can take up valuable time.
I praise God for their faith, and I am ashamed at some of the basic things that can cause me to lose heart some times.
So, if you have the time to spare. Go over to the Open Doors website (link on my page). If not, perhaps you would pray the following prayer which we said this morning for persecuted Christians:
Petition for Persecuted Christians
I pray:
  • you will stand strong in your faith and steadfast in persecution.
  • your persecutors may come to know Christ.
  • God will supply the needs of your family.
  • you will have your own Bibles in your own language.
  • you will enjoy freedom to preach the Gospel.
  • you will be able to teach your children about the Christian faith.
  • you will be free to worship and meet other Christians.
  • you know you are not alone - the Lord is with you now and always.
  • we can all work for justice, that truth and righteousness will prevail.

Amen

Finally let us remember...

"The King will reply, 'I tell you the truth, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers of mine, you did for me.'" ( Matthew 25:40)

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