Pray For Our Persecuted Brothers and Sisters

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[Editor’s Note: the following story is true.  While this event did turn out alright, there are countless more reports of persecution of Christians that do not end so peacefully.  As you read, try to imagine yourself being there and taking the place of our Christian brother and being on trial for your faith in Jesus.]

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“You will have to stand trial.” Alim (not his real name) sat in a chair, his hands sweating, as his brother continued, “They will come get you in the morning.”

What followed was a public trial in which Alim and another man were forced to answer to the local religious authorities for their belief in Christ. “Tell me, what have we done?” Alim asked. “Have we stolen from someone? Have we murdered somebody? If we have done wrong, we are willing to be judged, but tell us what we have done.” Much like Christ’s trial 2000 years ago, they were then faced with contradictory charges from false witnesses. Eventually, the man presiding over the trial held up his hand.

“I see no reason to condemn these men. They are moral men. They have faith in God. And they are willing to stand up for their convictions. If anyone stands condemned, it is you who dragged them here and are trying to condemn them with lies.” With that, he dismissed the charges and Alim and his friend went free.

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When I met Alim, he was sitting at a cafeteria table at a college campus in North Eurasia eating dolma and sipping tea. He and a few dozen other men and women from various countries in the former Soviet Union had come to hear a few men and women from Pioneer Bible Translators share about Bible Translation and Mother Tongue Ministry. Many of them were the only people in their families who knew Christ. Many had faced persecution from relatives and governments. Yet all of them radiated a peace and joy that I find uncommon.

During the week-long conference, they listened intently and asked many questions. They shared out of their hearts and their lives. They discussed the challenges they faced as they sought to reach their communities with the Gospel. They also responded to the challenge that my colleagues and I issued to realize that God has placed them in a position to reach people that we as Americans will never be able to.

In response to this challenge, they issued a challenge of their own. In different words and different ways, they said, “Come. Serve with us. Help us. Yes, we are here. This is our home. We have no choice but to be here. But we cannot do this alone. Teach us how to be translators. Teach us how to take the Gospel to different cultures. Pray with us in our streets. Live with us in our houses and see what God is doing and join in the work with us. Please do not be like so many others who have not seen us as equal brothers and sisters but have treated us like incapable children….”

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I feel like I learned far more than I taught at this conference. But the learning did not stop there for me. I spent the next couple of weeks in another country, the one my wife and I will be serving in. I was able to meet with brothers and sisters from other agencies to see what God is doing in the area. I heard others sharing things that fell in line with what I had heard at the conference.

Though the church is small and persecuted, it is none-the-less alive. They are a small but growing flame in a land of darkness. It even seems that the latest trials they have faced have been serving to unite them and strengthen their resolve to make disciples of every nation. They have already started to raise up and send their own people out across cultural lines, but they are asking for help. 

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In Matthew 10:21-22 we read these sobering words, “Brother will betray brother to death, and a father his child; children will rebel against their parents and have them put to death.  You will be hated by everyone because of me, but the one who stands firm to the end will be saved.”  It is hard to imagine that one of our own blood family members would turn against us and sentence us to death, just because we professed having a love for Jesus in our heart.

But such is the stronghold of some of the other religions of the world.  In those religions, they demand complete obedience to the laws and customs of that religion, or face the possibility of certain death.  It would be very hard I think to find a large percentage of our North American Christians who would be willing to stay true to Jesus under the threat of death.

And yet, in many other countries of the world, this is exactly what our Christian brothers and sisters face on a daily basis.  And not only are they challenging our faith today, to stand up strong for our belief in Jesus, but they are reaching out to us asking us for our help.  What can you do you say?  First and foremost, we must pray for our persecuted family members.

And we must also find and financially support reputable mission agencies that are committed to sending out their people to live among these spiritually impoverished people groups and bring them the Word of God.  Pioneer Bible Translators is such a mission.  Will you partner with us as we go out ministering to the last unreached people groups for Christ around the world?  Drop me a “Reply” message and let me hear from you.

Sunset Cross

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Persevering With God’s Help

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The following devotion comes from my friend, Pastor Jim

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I am sitting at the desk in the office when the noise makes me jump. I should be used to the familiar “pop” on the window, but I am not. Another bird has collided with the window glass.  I wonder what it must be like to be flying along and all of a sudden the world ahead of you slaps you in the face.  It looks like the path ahead is clear, but just when we begin to think it is smooth sailing, “POP”!  We are knocked to the ground.

I do not have to wonder very long before I realize that so many of us know what that experience is like.  As Christians, we often face trials, but as James 1:2-4 says, “Consider it pure joy, my brothers, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith develops perseverance.  Perseverance must finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything.

These trials may be tests of God, the work of Satan, or just life. These have the potential to make us better individuals.  We add fertilizer to our fields and gardens so we may yield a better product. Our suffering is like fertilizer – it feels horrible, smells terrible, and we cannot wait to wash it off.  [NW – as a city person, this sounds disgusting, but I know from talking to farmers and those who grow plants and small back yard gardens, that this is true.] 

I remember the very first time I sat on top of a horse.  I was in second grade and needed my dad’s help climbing into the saddle.  Her name has escaped my memory, but I remember she was beautiful and, in the mind of a young boy, she was huge.  I sat in wide-eyed wonderment as she took a couple of steps.  I was unsure of my place in the saddle, but then she took a couple more gentle steps and the thrill of riding hit me.  I have not had another opportunity to ride since that summer, but the memories of it are still in the forefront of my mind.

The term meek has been a difficult word for me to grasp, but I can now relate it to a broken horse; power and strong will that are directed for a purpose.  When we face stressors and crises, we do not have to feel like we are alone and spiraling out of control as we attempt to fight our situation using only our own strength.  When we are meek, we realize that God is in control.

When we humbly decide to take our place in His plan, then we too will be placed among the meek.  We can be pillars of example to the world as we overcome our difficulties by the grace of God, and not our own strength.  These words are easier to write than live.  I pray my will and strength are like that gentle horse I rode as a child.  May I be meek, focused, and reliant on God.

As we grab a hold of the reins of Christianity, we cannot help but realize we do not always understand God.  How can we?  As finite beings, we are nothing compared to His infinity.  If we can remember to simply pray that we do not lose any of the benefits of our trials, then we will grow.  We will become better apprentices of Christ with a better grasp on the reality of our station in life.  But, equally as important, we will become better examples to the world.

Sympathy and empathy are powerful tools to be used to nurture others.  If we do not persevere through our suffering, not only do we lose out on an opportunity for growth, but so do the people around us.  When I pray for others, I ask above all else that God be glorified through the situation.  May His will not be lost as He carries us through our trials.  May we recognize the situation as belonging to Him – being under His magnificent power – and use it for His glory and honor.

One of God’s many ministers,

Jim

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In this devotional thought, Jim provides us with two very good illustrations.  What I gained from this was that our lives can be hardened and unproductive (or meaningless) unless we allow the Farmer (whom I take to be God) to break up the hardened soil, and even allow Him to use the difficulties and trials of life to be sprinkled (fertilized) into our lives, so that our lives will be able to produce a harvest of good fruit.

The second illustration talks about us riding through life, as on the back of a horse.  If we try to pull hard on the reins of our lives, or try to force our animal (our lives) to be directed by our own brute force, we are more than likely to end up galloping off in the wrong direction, or worse, we are dumped onto the ground and our lives end up quite ruined and possibly seriously injured.

No, what we must do is to give the reins of our lives over to Jesus, submit to His Lordship, and He will tame the wild animal of life that we ride on and through His power and divine direction and providence, we find ourselves being led to the place of security, rest and spiritual nutrition.  As Jim mentions above, that takes a spirit of true humility, meekness and trust.  But know this, our God will never fail to give us what we need, if we entrust ourselves wholly to Him.

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