Thursday, May 18, 2017

Persecution of Christians

Chuckle: What do they call pastors in Germany? German Shepherds.
Quote: “There is no place for fear among men and women who do not hesitate to humble themselves in seeking divine guidance through prayer. Though persecutions arise, though reverses come, in prayer we can find reassurance, for God will speak peace to the soul. That peace, that spirit of serenity, is life's greatest blessing.” --Ezra Taft Benson

"If you suffer, it should not be as a murderer or thief or any other kind of criminal, or even as a meddler. However, if you suffer as a Christian, do not be ashamed, but praise God that you bear that name. . . So then, those who suffer according to God's will should commit themselves to their faithful Creator and continue to do good" (1 Peter 4:15-16, 19 NIV).
I have been thinking about the current brutal merciless persecution of Christians by Islamic terrorists in Northern Iraq, Syria and other places. My thoughts led me to the Wikipedia Encyclopedia, which estimates 100 million Christians currently face persecution of some type worldwide. Thousands will be killed this year because of their faith, and many more will be imprisoned, tortured, and otherwise mistreated. In some countries it is illegal to be a Christian and believers are punished as common criminals for their faith and loyalty to Christ. Such treatment of Christians is not new -- they faced severe persecution in New Testament times. Jesus often spoke of the difficulties that would befall His followers. "If the world hates you, keep in mind that it hated me first. . . If they persecuted me, they will persecute you also" (John 15:18, 20 NIV).
When we think about persecuted Christians, we envision other countries whose populations are anti-Christian. We have been blessed in this country with relatively little persecution; however, I believe there is ample evidence to suggest that it will become increasingly more prevalent in the years to come. To date, our persecution has been mostly in the form of court decisions and legislation that restrict Christian observances, symbols, monuments, and practices. As our nation becomes less Christian, more secular, and more multicultural, we can expect the anti-Christian sentiment to grow and become more pervasive.
It's interesting that in the New Testament times Christians persevered most faithfully during times of severe suffering and persecution and the church actually grew. In a country where we suffer little for our faith, why is it that we are not more zealous and faithful to the tenets of our Christian faith? Have we had it too easy for too long? Are we taking our freedoms too lightly? What would you do if you were facing physical suffering for being a Christian? How would you react if you faced physical suffering for identifying with Christ and proclaiming the gospel message? Would we, as some are already doing, take the easy way out by denying our faith by our words and actions? Is our love for our Lord so shallow that we will not take personal risks for Him? Have we become lazy, fearful, and useless to our Lord?
In our first passage, we are told that even during suffering, we who are Christians should not be ashamed, but praise God that you bear that name. Think with me about these words of Jesus: "God blesses you when you are mocked and persecuted and lied about because you are my followers. Be happy about it! Be very glad! For a great reward awaits you in heaven" (Matthew 5:11-12 NLT). Let’s pray earnestly for our persecuted brothers and sisters in Christ.
Love, Jerry & Dotse


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