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The Cost of Following Jesus – ISIS and America

Islamic terrorists in Iraq are beheading children and burying people alive, and it won’t stop there. They have a message for America: “We’re coming for you.” -CBN News

 

Following the path to Jesus often leads to persecution. Growing up in a culture where freedoms and choices are plentiful, makes that a hard pill to swallow for some. We’re free to gather in worship, we’re free to pray, we’re free to praise and sing to the Heavens all we please. While we very well may be ridiculed, hardly ever are we arrested for our faith.

 

Luke 21:10-19     Nations will go to war against one another, and kingdoms will attack each other. There will be great earthquakes, and in many places, people will starve to death and suffer terrible diseases. All sorts of frightening things will be seen in the sky. Before all of this happens, you will be arrested and punished. You will be tried in your meeting places and put in jail. Because of Me, you will be placed on trial before kings and governors. But this will be your chance to tell about your faith. Don’t worry about what you will say to defend yourselves. I will give you the wisdom to know what to say. None of your enemies will be able to oppose you or to say that you are wrong. You will be betrayed by your own family and friends. Some of you will even be killed. Because of Me, you will be hated by everyone. But don’t worry! You will be saved by being faithful to Me.”

 

I’m continuously watching videos and reading articles about ISIS and the persecution in Qaraqosh and Bartilla. I watch these Islamic terrorists run Christians out of their homes, cut off their limbs, and blow up their bodies. They flee while they can to Erbil, most with nothing more than the clothes on their back. If they don’t convert, they are killed, each one of them, from baby, to mother, to old man. They’re burning churches and cleaning out the belongings of the victims, leaving them with nothing. No ID, no travel documentation, no clothes, no money, nothing. They’re shot, tossed on the ground, and run over with machinery, as their families are made to watch. They’re pleading for the United States and the United Nations to come stand by them.

What am I doing for my faith?

Meanwhile, as thousands upon thousands are dying for their faith, here in America, churches care more about the lighting on the stage. They’re having basketball courts put in, flat screens installed, and pool tables set up. On the other side of the globe, children are being taken, raped and beheaded for their faith, while we worry about raising our hands during Sunday morning worship. We ask ourselves what the person next to us will think if we pray out loud or clap in excitement for the Lord. Frankly, I think we all need a heart check. Yes, persecution in the US is few and far between, but are we ready to fight the good fight?

Jesus made plain the consequences that would come with following Him. He warned us all through Scripture what would take place in the lives of believers. It happened to Peter, John, Paul, James, and countless others. Why it still comes as a surprise to me, is beyond me. Even though it’s anticipated, it’s not any more acceptable. 

Have mercy, Lord, on those who are mistreated. Keep them strong and rescue them from death.

Recently I read a story about a man named Dmetri, who fell head-over-heels in love with Jesus during the communist reign in Russia. He began opening his home to others, giving them a place to come and worship. People swarmed to read the Bible and sing songs that testified their faith. So many people came, the government noticed, and Dmetri was fired from his job. Steadfast, he continued preaching to others that came and gathered. One night, during a church session, officers broke in and took him, just as Luke said would happen in meeting places. They slapped him around and said, “We warned you, and warned you! And I will not warn you again! If you do not stop this nonsense, this is the least that is going to happen to you.” When the officer made his way to the door, a small grandmother put her life out there, and waved a finger in his face. She declared, “You have laid hands on a man of God and you will NOT survive!” Two days later, the officer died of a heart attack. After 150 people showed up at the next meeting, Dmetri was thrown into jail for 17 years. The prisoners and guards couldn’t break him as he continuously sang the same song to Jesus every day. They laughed and cursed, sometimes throwing waste at him. He snuck paper to his cell and wrote Bible verses on them, sticking them to concrete pillars as “praise offerings” to God. For 17 years he was beaten, but never stopped. The guards finally decided to execute him, but as they carried him away, 1500 inmates raised their hands and began singing the same song Dmetri had sung every day for those 17 years. The officers stepped back in horror and questioned him, demanding to know who he really was. He proudly declared, “I am a son of the Living God, and Jesus is his name!” He was then released.

When persecution comes, when your road becomes long, and your hallelujah tired, hold tight to Luke’s Scripture. 

 

This is a chance to tell about your faith. Don’t worry about what you will say to defend yourselves. I will give you the wisdom to know what to say. None of your enemies will be able to oppose you or tell you that you’re wrong.

Tomorrow’s freedom is today’s surrender. Shout loudly. Spend wisely. Read avidly. Live responsibly. Give Lavishly. Travel meaningfully. Think Biblically. Study purposefully. Volunteer. Pray continually. 

 

 

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An Undying Passion

Day after day, I write about the same thing, the same people, the same love. Africa, the homeless, the poverty-stricken, the sick, the dying. But let me tell you, God has set this undying passion for His people and His children and His land inside of me for a reason. I’ve never wanted anything so much, every hour of every day it seems that Africa is on my heart. I genuinely crave it with a passion much too large for this heart of mine to contain. I delight in knowing that the passion and love I feel isn’t something I mustered up myself, but rather it was God given. Falling in love with Jesus sure brought the change in me, and as I sit here basking in His glory, my heart hurts at the thought of someone else missing out on the same transformation because they’ve never heard of Him and the grace He offers so freely. Who will tell them? Who will hold them, and sing to them and clean up their scraped knee? Oh I pray it’s me, someday. Isaiah 6:8 says, “Then I heard the Lord asking, “Whom should I send as a messenger to these people? Who will go?” I said, “Here I am. Send me.” And that’s exactly my prayer, that God would send me to the nations. I said, “Lord, send me. Please, send me.” I pleaded every night for who knows how many months, and because we serve such a gracious God, He honored my willing heart. So off I go, to dance on red soil, and share Jesus with every soul I can. No, I’m not afraid, in fact there’s not a bit of fear in me. If something happens to me, I die knowing Christ. I’m afraid for the children sleeping in puddles, afraid that they’ll go unnoticed. I’m afraid for the women that give up their bodies and are robbed of joy and innocence, hoping that it will buy them one more day. All the while, I’m overcome with joy at the thought of infectious laughter and new hands to hold. I get shivers just thinking about the opportunity I’ve been blessed with, to love on children who don’t know much love otherwise. I’m in it for the people, so that they know a Love much greater is waiting on them and that because they were bought with a price, they are such a treasure. Oh boy am I in, I am so in. I don’t want Africa for the vacation; I want it for the sick children with the runny noses. I want it for the ones dying on the dirty streets without knowledge of Jesus’ saving grace. I want to be scarred, yet deeply humbled by the lives people live without treated water and sewerage and electricity. I see those children in pictures with flies on their open sores, nothing but skin and bones, yet bloated stomachs sticking out so far they can’t even see their little feet. Meanwhile, I also see a God so powerful and so willing to bring hope to those lives that more than anything I want to be a part of the change I know He’s bringing. How humbling that will be. 

“Whatever you want others to do for you, do so for them, for this is the Law and the Prophets.” Matthew 7:12 There are people in need all over. If you were in the shoes of one struggling, wouldn’t you “want the shirt off of someone’s back”? Yes, you’d want to be shown love and compassion and companionship, so give love and compassion and companionship. 

“A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another, even as I have loved you, that you also love one another. By this all men will know that you are My disciples, if you have love for one another.” John 13:34 This speaks for itself, just love people. Remind yourself, “God loves this person, God values this person. He wants me to do the same.” Love them as He loved us, and He loves us a LOT. Jesus took the ultimate sacrifice when receiving death on the cross, if that’s not love I don’t know what is. Be willing to sacrifice as Jesus sacrificed for those that don’t yet know Him. He didn’t say, “Love one another, unless it means giving all you have.”

My friends, give. Give selflessly. Give financially, open up your home, give prayer, just give love in all the ways you can. God meets our needs as we meet the needs of others.