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A Suffering Church Posted 3.11.2016

There have been a rash of prominent Christians who have passed away over the last few weeks.  And I only know of a few.  Charles Ryrie.  Jerry Bridges.  Gary Smalley.  The hope of heaven provides comfort in the midst of our sorrow and loss.  But the Tolkien (and biblical) prospect of “white shores and beyond” makes us unique in a world ravaged by the last enemy.  There are many in our church family who have been hit with reality of death lately as well. 

 

But this week I was thinking that perhaps we ought not to focus not simply on the famous (at least in the Christian world) who have entered glory.  There are so many more “regular” Christians who are dying as well.  They get no article in the paper – or even a tweet.

 

I did a little research this week.  Open Doors has ranked the countries with the most extreme anti-Christian persecution.  It may not surprise you, but the top ten are (in order with the worst listed first):  North Korea, Iraq, Eritrea, Afghanistan, Syria, Pakistan, Somalia, Sudan, and Iran.  Not a huge surprise.  You might want to check out their website as it provides detailed information on each country and some current prayer requests.

 

Another article said research indicates that a Christian is killed for his or her faith every five minutes across the world.  That is staggering.  Currently across the world, more than 200 million Christians are threatened because of their faith.  And, it is a problem in more than half of the nations in the world, 105 of 109. 

 

“Relevant” reports that there have been more Christian martyrs in the 20th and 21st centuries than in the preceding 19 centuries going back to the days of Jesus.

The countries most hostile to Christianity center around the Middle East and Africa.  However, the greatest recurring persecutor of Christian remains in the community dictatorship headed by North Korea’s Kim Jon-un.  This hostile regime has made it especially difficult for Christian missionaries to reach for decades.

 

Christian Freedom exhorts us to pray for persecuted believers all around the world.  The appeal for us is from Hebrews.  “Remember those in prison as if in prison with them and those who are mistreated as if you yourselves were suffering” (13:3).

 

The stories are horrendous.  The crisis very real.  Much of the persecution today is at the hands of Islamic militants. Christian Freedom International (CFI) president Jim Jacobson has described the scene in Iraq, where Islamic State militants are systematically stamping out Christianity, crucifying men, women and children and destroying churches.

 

“Islamic State Militants in Iraq are using Christian churches as torture chambers where they force Christians to either convert to Islam or die,” he says. “Islamic State militants are also stripping the former places of Christian worship of ancient relics which in turn are smuggled to Western collectors to help fund their terrorist activities.

 

Too much death.  The hope of heaven does become much more real – but we ought to be found on our knees in prayer for the persecuted Church.  May God lead us all to our knees.

 

 

 

 


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