“WORLD WATCH LIST 2019”
PERSECUTION –ANOTHER MYSTERY THAT MAKES NO SENSE!
I have another riddle for you:
A doctor and a bus driver are both in love with the same woman, an attractive girl named Sarah. The bus driver had to go on a long bus trip that would last a week. Before he left, he gave Sarah seven apples. Why?
The answer is SO OBVIOUS when you know it:
“An apple a day keeps the doctor away”
But, to me these riddles – even these simple ones – are a total mystery to me. My mind just DOES NOT think this way! Only when they are revealed to me do I smile and say “Oh yeah! That’s so obvious”.
In the same way, so much about life and the world is a mystery to me. Take the horrific persecution of Christians around the world. I know my God to be an Almighty and All-loving Father. I know that at a “click of His fingers” He can just stop all the suffering of His children around the world – He can just destroy all the evil people or He can just change their hearts – in an instant. Why does He not do this???
It is a mystery to me – that one day He will explain, and I will go “Oh yeah!” But, until that time I just accept that this is how it is – and that my role is to pray and support and to work in partnership with Him and human agencies like “Open Doors” and “Release” and “Barnabas” in order to support my brothers and sisters around the world who do not have the same freedom and safety to practice their faith as do I – brothers and sisters enduring suffering that are now estimated to number 245 million – a number that is beyond comprehension!
You know, we always try to understand and rationalise what is happening to us – and sometimes we just can’t do this – we are, of course, merely human and not divine. It is with shame that I know that in the past (God forbid that some think it so now!) many western Christians simply assumed that those who suffered persecution or poverty in other countries were receiving the punishment of God because they were not good enough or had done something wrong (was this not the experience of Job from his “comforters”?)!
And so I must always remember the words and promises of Jesus who said:
Blessed are those who are persecuted because of righteousness, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
11 ‘Blessed are you when people insult you, persecute you and falsely say all kinds of evil against you because of me. 12 Rejoice and be glad, because great is your reward in heaven, for in the same way they persecuted the prophets who were before you. (Matthew 5: 10-11)
For, I remember that a colloquial way of understanding the word “blessed” is “Oh! You lucky, lucky people you!” It may be tough now – but in the future – for eternity – you will be greatly rewarded because of enduring what you have had to suffer now on this earth – for you endured it in the Name of Jesus.
THE CHALLENGE FOR US OF THEIR PERSECUTION
They are not suffering persecution because of their wrong-doing. It is not due to their lack of faith.
We live in a world that is still groaning to be healed from the effects of the “Fall” of mankind as outlined in the early chapters of Genesis.
Our enemy, the devil, is the “prince of this world” and for this time he is abroad, acting directly and indirectly through a “fallen” mankind to seek to destroy God’s people from the face of this earth. He will not succeed, but, until Jesus comes again, life is going to be very tough for many who put their faith in our Lord and Saviour, Jesus Christ.
We are going to see today the many forms that persecution can take. For some it is constantly being mocked; for others it is being told to keep their views to themselves; for some it will be a dictate to not share their faith with others; for others it will be the loss of job or the inability to gain a job in the first place; for some it will be a removal of civil rights and liberties; for others it will be imprisonment for their faith; for some it will be physical beatings; for others the confiscation of property and possessions; for some it will be being thrown out of the family home; for others it will be torture and death – latest figures suggest that over 4 305 Christians were martyred for their faith in 2018.
In the final book of the Bible – Revelation – we are told that John:
“saw under the altar the souls of those who had been slain because of the word of God and the testimony they had maintained. 10 They called out in a loud voice, ‘How long, Sovereign Lord, holy and true, until you judge the inhabitants of the earth and avenge our blood?’ 11 Then each of them was given a white robe, and they were told to wait a little longer, until the full number of their fellow servants, their brothers and sisters,[c] were killed just as they had been.” (Revelation 6: 9-11)
But, later we are shown a multitude in white robes who are joyfully praising God, and when John is asked who these are, he is told:
‘These are they who have come out of the great tribulation; they have washed their robes and made them white in the blood of the Lamb. 15 Therefore,
‘they are before the
throne of God
and serve him day and night in his temple;
and he who sits on the throne
will shelter them with his presence.
16 “Never again will they hunger;
never again will they thirst.
The sun will not beat down on them,”
nor any scorching heat.
17 For the Lamb at the centre of the throne
will be their shepherd;
“he will lead them to springs of living water.”
“And God will wipe away every tear from their eyes.”’ (Revelation 7: 14-17)
The challenge to us, who live in the safety and freedom of our land, has been so well-put in the UCB “Word for Today” for the 24th September 2019 and is read out by Julie:
SOLD OUT TO GOD
‘All the things I once thought were so important are gone from my life…so that I could embrace Christ.’ (Philippians 3:8-9 MSG)
Before you discover your God-given purpose in life, you’ll often experience a series of adversities that cause you to relinquish what’s temporal and grasp what’s eternal. For Paul it meant the loss of every earthly possession. For others it can mean the heat of battle in a divorce court. When the person you thought was ‘everything’ walks away, suddenly you’re stripped down to what you had before. Look at Job; his home was a shambles, his marriage seemed a joke, and his children were dead. That’s when he discovered you can be stripped of the temporal, but not the eternal; stripped of your wealth, friends, and fame, but not of your character and your faith in God – those things survive the strippings of life. The Bible says, ‘Then Job…fell down upon the ground, and worshipped’ (Job 1:20 KJV). True worship is born in the fire of sacrifice. When you can lay upon the altar something you thought you had to have because you realise it was God’s all along – that’s worship. Look at Abraham’s altar. God didn’t want the slain body of Isaac; He wanted to know if there was anything Abraham loved more than Him. That’s it – reaching the place where you can pray: ‘Lord, here are my grudges and unforgiveness, my need to impress, my time, talent and treasure, anything I’m wrapped up in that hinders me from being completely Yours. You’ll never have to take these things from me, for I gladly give You all it takes to be what You want me to be.’ Can you pray that prayer today? It’s not easy, but it’ll change your life. (Bob and Debbie Gass)
In so many cases, our persecuted brothers and sisters around the world have literally had to give up everything that they possess in order to faithfully serve God. They, truly, are “sold out” to God. Am I? Are you?
BRIAN’S ACCOUNT OF THE WAY “OPEN DOORS” IDENTIFIES THE “TOP” 50 COUNTRIES:
Read from Open Doors ‘About World Watch List 2019.
Use of Algorithms. NOT a new dance to replace the Samba.
- UN Universal declaration of human rights. Article 18
There are 193 countries registered with the United Nations, with the State of Palestine and the Holy See not registered.
- Donald Trump’s speech to United Nations 23 September 2019
PART TWO – PRAYERS
Peter has asked the question “Oh God, how can I pray for all the persecuted countries?”
Before I explain how we would like the family of Ashford Community Church to try to pray for at least 50 countries, let me give you 2 quotes from refugees from North Korea:
Both names changed for security:
1 – Yong Sook – She has told how she came to meet God during her imprisonment in one of North Korea’s notorious prison camps. When she walked into a church for the first time it has had a huge and lasting impact on her: “it was a place I could be comforted, to be understood.”
2 – Chun – said “Despite all my suffering, I love God with my whole heart. I am so grateful for Him.”
In the baskets going around, there are 50 miniature flags representing the top 50 Open Doors World Watch List 2019.
We would like each person including children old enough to pray to take a flag and to hold it up while we pray. On the back of the flag is a number which indicates where in the 50 the country sits. Number 1 the worst, number 50 still bad but not the worst.
After prayers, you will be able to identify the name of the country that you are praying for from either the Map on the wall or in one of the 2 Booklets ‘World Watch List 2019’ on the tables by the exit door. Write the name of the country on the back of the flag.
Let’s pray for our individual country daily, for a month.
WHEN ALL GIVEN OUT:
Let us pray:
Gracious Lord and Heavenly Father, You so love the world that you sent your only son our Lord Jesus Christ to bear our sins on the cross so that we no more have to make sacrifices to ask for your forgiveness. Yet the world in many parts refuses to accept your name and love just as they did in the days of your prophets.
We are not prophets, we are not superhuman so we pray to you today on behalf of all those who live in countries where there is persecution against Christians who would follow your son Jesus Christ.
Grant to all of those Jesus -followers a knowledge of your presence and your love.
In the name of Jesus Christ,
(SEE ATTACHMENTS FOR BRIAN’S “SUPPORTING DOCUMENTS”)
So today we will remember them. We will remember those brothers and sisters around the world who are suffering for their faith. We will remember them through our prayers. We will remember them through our giving – to organisations like “Open Doors”, “Release” and “Barnabas” who are able to directly support them. We will even do our part as citizens of the United Kingdom to put pressure on our government to speak out on our behalf to the governments of other nations to end this on-going persecution.
245 million! What a number. Oh God! How can I pray for them all?
Well, maybe I cannot. But I can commit myself to pray for one country, and maybe even for one individual in that country who is suffering for their faith.
And if each of us commits ourselves to praying every day (for a month in the first instance) for that country, then we are covering an awful lot of countries in our prayers to God.
Brian is going to tell us more….