260 Million Christians persecuted

Christians, from the beginning, have been persecuted. Jesus did not promise a persecution-free life either for all of his would-be followers. Rather, he let everyone know what they are getting into: “If any want to become my followers, let them deny themselves and take up their cross and follow me.” (Matthew 16:24; Mark 8:34; Luke 9:23) If that isn’t enough, Jesus goes further in his Sermon on the Mount in Matthew 6:44, he teaches us: “But I say to you, Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you.”

According to the Open Doors organisation, who monitor the persecution of Christians and compile a world wide list every year of those nations that persecute Christians; in 2019 there were about 260 million Christians highly or severely persecuted, up from 245 million the previous year. Jihadism spreading in African nations; a movement towards Hindu theocracy in India; and a growing lack of religious tolerance towards Christians in China are all contributing factors in the increase of persecuted Christians last year.

Truth to tell, most Christians likely do not want to be persecuted; nor do they find it easy to love enemies and pray for persecutors. However, that is our calling, and only by the grace of God, with the help of the Holy Spirit are we able to follow our calling in this regard.

Perhaps one’s most important prayer would be for enemies and persecutors to have the same destiny as the apostle Paul—who by an encounter with Jesus on his way to persecute Christians in Damascus was given a new calling and orientation in life to become a follower of Jesus; a zealous missionary to the Gentile world; and one of the most accomplished theologians of all time.

For more details on the 260 million persecuted Christians, read the following article in Christianity Today here.

Challenge for our Lenten journey

Challenge for our Lenten journey

I came across this challenge in Morten Kelsey’s Healing & Christianity, which he was given at a conference on healing by someone who did not know the name of the author. I have been unable to locate the author too. So from the wise and loving author Anonymous, here is a worthy Lenten challenge for us all:

 

To laugh is to risk appearing the fool.

To weep is to risk appearing sentimental.

To reach out for another is to risk involvement.

To expose feelings is to risk exposing your true self.

To place your ideas, your dreams, before a crowd is to risk their loss.

To love is to risk not being loved in return.

To live is to risk dying.

To hope is to risk despair.

To try to heal is to risk failure.

But risks must be taken, because the greatest hazard in life is to risk nothing.

The person who risks nothing, does nothing, has nothing, and is nothing.

They may avoid suffering and sorrow, but they cannot learn, feel, change, grow, love, live.

Chained by their attitudes, they are a slave, they have forfeited their freedom.

Only a person who risks is free.

 

Lord have mercy.

Martin Luther on The Cross is good for us

This year, one of the devotional books I’m reading is a collection of Martin Luther’s writings: Day By Day We Magnify Thee: Readings for the Church Year Selected from the Writings of Martin Luther (Philadelphia: Fortress Press, 1982). Once again, I am appreciative of Luther’s deep, insightful theology of the cross, evident here in this devotion based on Psalm 94:12. His phrase “snore in our security” is, I think, an apt description of many folk in the affluent world today. His remark on obligations is similar to what Dietrich Bonhoeffer described as “cheap grace.”

 

It is highly necessary that we should suffer, not only that God may thereby prove His honour, might, and strength against the devil, but also because the great and precious treasure which we have, if it were given unto us without such suffering and affliction would make us snore in our security. And we can see—unfortunately it is a general thing—that many abuse the Holy Gospel, behaving as if they were freed from all obligations through the Gospel and that there is nothing more they need do, or give or suffer. This is a sin and a shame.

 

The only way our God can check such evil is through the cross. He must so discipline us that our faith increases and grows stronger, and thus draw the Saviour all the deeper into our soul. For we can no more grow strong without suffering and temptation than we can without eating and drinking.