How Can Poor Christians Give?


In my Sunday preaching, I am deep into a quest to cover each book of the Bible in a single sermon. I started preaching this single book series over one year ago, and I have now reached 2 Corinthians.

Child GivingIn listening to 2 Corinthians, I was struck by a paragraph at the opening of chapter 8. The Macedonians became an example which Paul used to inspire the church at Corinth to give generously toward helping suffering saints. At first, I was struck by the unimaginable generosity of the Macedonians. Later, I was struck by something even more astounding…

First, notice how generously the Macedonians gave. Though poor, they were wealthy in giving.

We want you to know, brothers, about the grace of God that has been given among the churches of Macedonia, for in a severe test of affliction, their abundance of joy and their extreme poverty have overflowed in a wealth of generosity on their part. For they gave according to their means, as I can testify, and beyond their means, of their own accord, begging us earnestly for the favor of taking part in the relief of the saints… 2 Cor 8:1-4, ESV.

Second, ponder the striking paradox between their poor circumstances and their generous giving.

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But there is more to the story than simply generous giving.

Third, notice the intense desire the Macedonians possessed. Paul says—even though they lacked the means—they begged earnestly to participate. Poor Christians begged for the opportunity to contribute to a love offering! I’ve never seen anyone–rich or poor–begging to give an offering to help suffering saints.

Fourth, –and most surprising honestly–get a grasp of what kind of an example these Macedonians really are in Paul’s mind. We would expect Paul to use the Macedonians as an example of giving so that the Corinthians would be encouraged—almost shamed—into giving, right?. After all, the Corinthians were far better off than the Macedonians, and the Macedonians gave generously!

But Paul doesn’t use the Macedonians as an example of generosity. But of grace. Speaking of the Macedonians, Mark Seifrid points out,

“Yet they are an example, not of generosity, but of the grace of God.”

For Paul, the appeal to the Corinthians is not guilt, but grace. God’s grace empowered the poverty-stricken Macedonians to give. Likewise, God’s grace would also empower the church at Corinth to give generously.

If Paul had tried to shame them, the Corinthians may have been able to put up a defense against guilt. But what church would ever defend herself against grace? We love to receive grace from God. And Paul says, in effect, that receiving grace means giving grace.

Listen to Seifrid’s exposition of this profound reality about God’s grace and Christian giving:

“Paul also makes it clear that he understands the Macedonian act of giving as the reception of a gift from God. God is present and active in human giving in such a way that human givers are finally mere receivers.”

Amazing grace from an amazing God! The poor Macedonians were made rich enough to give away generously. May God’s grace make us so rich!

What Might You Do When Persecuted?


Spurgeon image from Purity and Passion blog.

Charles Haddon Spurgeon (1834-1892) is affectionately and appropriately known as “The Prince of Preachers.” 

I recently revisited a sermon from him concerning the reality that any of us might be called upon to suffer for Christ. In this sermon, Spurgeon uses the friendship of David and Jonathan to show how quickly and unexpectedly persecution may occur.

Here is how Spurgeon describes the scene:

 

Jonathan could hardly think that his father really meant harm to so good a man as David, and he expressed to David that opinion, and then David, to be prepared for the worst, put to him this question, “What if thy father answer thee roughly? 

 “It did so turn out. Saul answered his son with bitter words, and in the desperation of his anger he even hurled a javelin at him to smite him; yet Jonathan did not forsake David, he clung to him with all the faithfulness of love, and until his death…  

…This question of David to Jonathan is one which I wish to put this morning to all believers in Christ, especially to the younger ones…. I want to put before them the supposition that they will meet with opposition from their dearest friends, that perhaps their father, brother, husband, or uncle will answer them roughly, or perhaps their mother, wife, or sister will become a persecutor to them. What then? What will they do under such circumstances? Will they follow the Lord through evil report? “What if thy father answer thee roughly?”

 

Spurgeon next emphasizes why it’s necessary for believers to ponder this question. In short, believers are likely to suffer some loss as a result of their faith in Christ. Again, here’s Spurgeon, 
 
 
There are a few Christians so favourably circumstanced that all their friends accompany them in the pilgrimage to heaven. What advances they ought to make in the sacred journey! What excellent Christians they ought to be! They are like plants in a conservatory—they ought to grow and bring forth the loveliest Bowers of divine grace. But there are not very many who are altogether in that case. The large proportion of Christians find themselves opposed by those of their own family, or by those with whom they labor or trade.
 
…Was it not so from the beginning? Is there not enmity between the seed of the serpent and the seed of the woman? Did not Cain slay his brother Abel because he was accepted of the Lord? In the family of Abraham was there not an Ishmael born after the flesh, who persecuted Isaac, who was born after the Spirit? Was not Joseph hated of his brethren? Was not David persecuted by Saul, Daniel by the Persian princes, and Jeremiah by the kings of Israel? Has it not ever been so? Did not the Lord Jesus Christ himself meet with slander, cruelty, and death, and did he not tell us that we must not look for favor where he found rejection?
 
I press the question Upon you who think of avowing yourselves believers, for most likely it will come practically home to you, and it is well when you begin to build a house to calculate whether you will be able to finish it.
 
Finally, Spurgeon offers 4 ways you might respond:
 
  • You might become offended that others treat you roughly. “I mean that you may leave Christ altogether, because you cannot bear his cross, and though willing enough to go to heaven with him if the way were smooth, it may be that… you will turn your back upon the good country and return to the City of Destruction.”
  • You might gradually give way over time (like Judas). “With all our true professions, if we flinch from persecution it will prove that we only want our price, and, like the traitor Judas, we too will sell our Master, not for thirty pieces of silver possibly, but to escape ridicule or avoid ill-will.”
  • You might make a pitiful compromise between Christ and the world. “O soul, if you attempt this you must fail, and moreover you will have chosen the roughest road of all, for if a man serves God, and serves him thoroughly, he will meet with many comforts to balance his crosses; and if a man serves Satan thoroughly he will enjoy whatever poor comfort is to be got out of sin; but if he goes betwixt and between he will feel the discomforts of both, and the pleasures of neither.”
  • Or… you might take a firm and humble stand for Christ. ““If my father answer me roughly he must do so, but I have another Father who is in heaven, and I shall appeal to him. If the world condemn me, I shall accept its condemnation as a confirmation of that gracious verdict of acquittal which comes from the great Judge of all, for I do remember it is written, ‘If the world hate you ye know that it hated me before it hated you’ and ‘If ye were of the world, the world would love its own; but because ye are not of the world, but I have chosen you out of the world, therefore the world hateth you.'”

Religious Liberty in the Toilet


I was minding my own business, just making the regular afternoon pilgrimage to the men’s room. Out of nowhere, a colleague popped in and asked me a most unexpected question:

refugee-mother-and-child“Are you upset with how the world is responding to our new president? I bet you’re unnerved by the way the world thinks he’s a Christian!”

As a rule, I don’t debate politics much anymore. I certainly don’t do so in the men’s room. But the question struck me—blindsided me—with such swift assault that I mumbled my reply before having time to think. My reply was something like,

“It doesn’t matter who the President is; many folks will assume he is a Christian because he represents the U.S. And besides, I don’t think he will be worse than our last President.”

I think it was the last remark that left my friend so shocked and unsettled.

“What… what do you mean?” he replied.

There in the men’s room, I proceeded to unfold a litany of failures from the last decade which have led to a wholesale depopulation of Christians from the Middle East. (For one such example, see Nina Shea’s article concerning the Obama Administration’s reluctance to use the term genocide in defense of Christians.)

Many examples could be offered about damage done to Christians over the past ten years, but the gist of my frustration centered around the Obama administration’s orchestrated attempt to redefine (weaken) the concept of religious liberty in the U.S. Once the concept was weakened in the U.S., the reverberating effects around the world were easy to predict. If Christians in the U.S. aren’t free to bring their beliefs into the public arena, then why should Communists rulers in China grant Christians free speech in public?

The U.S. has been the beacon lighting the way for religious freedom around the world. When the main light goes dim; all lights emanating from it get darker and darker. The last decade has seen religious liberty go pretty dark.

To illustrate, consider Elliott Abrams’ article in Newsweek last fall which featured the startling headline

The U.S. Bars Christian, Not Muslim, Refugees from Syria.

Abrams explains,

The headline for this column—The U.S. Bars Christian, Not Muslim, Refugees From Syria—will strike many readers as ridiculous.

But the numbers tell a different story: The United States has accepted 10,801 Syrian refugees, of whom 56 are Christian. Not 56 percent; 56 total, out of 10,801. That is to say, one-half of 1 percent.

In a recent Christianity Today article, Arab church leaders were quoted as being opposed to the policies of the Obama administration. These same church leaders thought the Trump Executive Order would have the effect of causing more Christians to leave Iraq and Syria–an outcome they don’t wish to see.

I don’t mean for this post to be political, just like I didn’t intend to get into a political debate in the men’s room. But there is no doubt Christians have suffered terribly for the past ten years, partly because of our political decisions. Let’s hope and pray the next decade will be less violent and intolerant toward Christians.

#What Is Aleppo? Why Christians must care


What is Aleppo? The question seems innocent enough to most Americans. But back in September, the question lit up Twitter ( #WhatIsAleppo ) and made Independent presidential candidate Gary Johnson appear even more out of touch with reality. When asked about his response to the crisis in Aleppo, Johnson replied, “And what is Aleppo?”

It’s one thing for an average American to be unsure about Aleppo’s whereabouts; it’s another thing entirely when someone aspiring to be president is not aware of its existence.

aleppo-city-viewSo, what is Aleppo? Aleppo is an ancient city, one of the oldest cities on earth. Aleppo was around before Jesus was born in Bethlehem. And Aleppo existed before King David killed Goliath. Indeed, people were dwelling in Aleppo before Moses was born in Egypt. People have been living in the ancient city of Aleppo (now the second largest city in Syria) for more than 4,000 years.

Today—partly because it is Syria’s second largest city—Aleppo has become the flashpoint in Syria’s civil war. The civil war in Syria is a power struggle to determine who controls Syria and this region of the Middle East. Daniel Horowitz explains,

In Syria, there is a fight between Assad/ Hezbollah/Russia/Iran vs. Al Qaeda splinter groups, Ahrar al Sham, and the Islamic State — with Turkey, Qatar, and Saudi Arabia funding a number of the Islamic fundamentalist rebels.

Uri Friedman of The Atlantic describes Aleppo’s significance this way:

If Assad, along with his Russian and Iranian allies, were to emerge victorious in Aleppo, it would have consequences beyond Syria, Tabler added: “It would be a tremendous loss for the U.S. and its traditional allies: Turkey, Saudi Arabia, Qatar, and Jordan. … This would also be a huge loss for the United States vis-à-vis Russia in its Middle East policy, certainly. And because of the flow of refugees as a result of this, if they go northward to Europe, then you would see a migrant crisis in Europe that could lead to far-right governments coming to power which are much more friendly to Russia than they are to the United States.” In other words, to answer Gary Johnson’s question, Aleppo is a lot more than a Syrian city.

These quotes make a couple of important points. One, a serious war is waging in Aleppo, and it involves a number of world powers, not the least of which are the U.S. and Russia…apparently on opposing sides. The significance of Aleppo in world events is evident in the recent assassination of Russian ambassador Andrei Karlov. Karlov’s assassin allegedly shouted “Remember Aleppo” after killing the ambassador. Clearly, Aleppo is front and center in world affairs.

Two, Christians in Syria in general and Aleppo in particular have no real allies. Which would be better—to face the oppression of the Assad form of Islam or side with the Al-Qaeda rebels and live under their brand of Islamic extremism? It would be difficult in good conscience to waive a banner for either team in this civil war.

Back in 2011-2012, the U.S. thought it was intolerable that 10,000 Syrians were killed. Our government thus decided to fortify the rebellion against the Assad government. But Assad’s government did not topple. Russia and Iran reinvigorated that government with military might to reassert its dominance. And the result has been horrific. CNN reports,

Since the war began in 2011, an estimated 400,000 Syrians have been killed, according to the United Nations.

As of December 2016, 4.81 million Syrians have fled the country and 6.3 million people are displaced internally.

What should Christians do?aleppo-syria

Without a doubt, Christians must pray for all the citizens of Aleppo. The people of Syria are suffering at the hands of their political leaders, who, in some sense, serve as religious leaders, too. There are reports that churches are growing because Muslims are disillusioned by the violence and are looking for answers. As one Christian from Aleppo says,

“But you know what’s surprising? The church is still full; displaced people take their place. Especially Muslims are coming to the church now.”

Christians must pray specifically for other Christians in Syria. The Christian district in Aleppo has been all but obliterated. About 90% of Christians in the area have either died or fled to a safer location like Lebanon. Those Christians remaining are living without electricity, gas, heat, and even without water. Conditions are not just terrible. They are life-threatening. And yet, ministry needs and opportunities are increasing. Imagine surviving through such difficulties, while having the opportunity to minister to many Muslims through your church. It’s an unusual opportunity to say the least.

For anyone interested, Global Hunger Relief operates in Syria. The advantage of GHR is that it operates on a volunteer basis, ensuring that 100% of funds given actually go toward meeting needs, not paying staff.

http://globalhungerrelief.com/news/detail/syrian-refugees

Don’t Be Afraid of Bad Disciples


Have you ever sacrificed your time and your energy to invest in other people? You probably spent time with them in discipleship, building them up in God’s Word, only to have them go astray and turn away from all you taught them. It hurts, doesn’t it? It seems like a life-investment with no return.

Christ definition disciple what is disciple christianThe founders of Southern Seminary in Louisville learned early in the life of that great institution the pain of a life investment lost.  One of the first and brightest students to come through Southern Seminary was Crawford H. Toy.  By all accounts, he was a brilliant student and became an early faculty member at Southern.  But then he went astray.

Basil Manly said that Toy “breathed an atmosphere of doubt” until it became his “ritual air.” Toy abandoned his position on the reliability of Scripture.  He left Southern and became a professor at Harvard, where he would later become a Unitarian.  This move crushed the founders of Southern Seminary, men who had invested greatly in Toy.  James P. Boyce, upon leaving Toy at the train station for his departure from Southern Seminary (and biblical orthodoxy), famously cried out—with his right arm held high: “Oh, Toy, I would freely give that arm to be cut off if you could be where you were five years ago, and stay there.”

What pastor or serious man of God would not freely offer himself as Boyce did to preserve the soul of a young man in whom he has made a life investment? Sadly, Christian history—beginning with Judas—is riddled with men who have been as close to the truth as darkness is to the light that shines into it, and yet have turned away in the end.  Such a turn from truth is grievous for a teacher to see.

Today is Reformation Day, October 31st.  As you celebrate the freedoms of the Protestant Reformation, remember that good and faithful pastors have paved the way for you to receive God’s Word. For those of us who speak English, remember William Tyndale, the father of the English Reformation.

William Tyndale was the first man to translate and publish the Bible in English.  For his translation and publishing efforts, he was killed—strangled, then burned at the stake.  And yet, his work remains.  Indeed, when the King James (authorized) translation was produced, the committee retained about 84% of Tyndale’s interpretations. Tyndale studied, labored, and died so we could have access to Scripture in our own language.

You may have heard the story of William Tyndale. But you probably haven’t heard much about Henry Phillips. Henry Phillips was something of a drifter, a castaway.  He was a gambler whose situation had become so desperate that he stole money from his own father to pay his debts. And yet, William Tyndale took him in.

Tyndale shared his meals with Phillips.  Tyndale made a life investment in Phillips, sharing with him the glorious joy of justification by faith alone.  Tyndale showed Phillips all his latest manuscripts and shared with him the plans he had for Bible publication in England.  Few people were given such privileged access by this great Reformer.

And in May of 1535, the life investment Tyndale made in Henry Phillips paid its diabolical Reformation Tyndale english persecutiondividend.  Phillips turned on Tyndale, leading him into a trap in which soldiers easily subdued the wily wordsmith.  Tyndale was led away to a dungeon in Vilvoorde Castle.  From there, he was taken to his death.  Henry Phillips was able to pay a few more debts with his blood money.

As we consider our own life-investments lost, let us be mindful of William Tyndale, whose great work still remains nearly 500 years after his death. He may regret the investment he made in Henry Phillips, but William Tyndale—I am sure—has no regrets about investing his own life in the work of the gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ.  Ultimately, the life investments we make are for the gospel. Thus, they are never in vain.

Happy Reformation Day! And keep up the good work.

Hate This Election? Love one another.


I have a friend who I am convinced is the smartest guy around. This past summer, he turned off the TV news. He has no Facebook, Twitter, or other social media accounts. But he does have a joyful disposition and peace in his soul—even in the midst of this excruciating election cycle. This election isn’t pretty. There is no viable candidate with integrity. None worthy of even a tepid endorsement. Christians across the country are perplexed, distressed, outraged, and disgusted. Our choice appears to be between Constantine and Diocletian.

love-one-another-simpleThe truth is, we might be more than a little distracted. Perhaps we need a fresh look at first things. We must first love God with heart, soul, mind, and strength. Second, we must love others as we love ourselves. This election is challenging our love for others in general, and our love for one another in particular. And that’s a shame.

The mark of the Christian is love for one another. “By this shall all men know that you are my disciples, that you love one another,” (John 13:35). Suffice it to say, for American Christians, love has not been the most noticeable Facebook trend. Nevertheless, we carry on. There are great victories being won around the world as the gospel goes forward, and Christians continue to love one another fervently from the heart.

I thought this might be a good time for a few examples of Christian love:

In South Sudan, Christians are living among tribes that have no written language. These Christians are helping the Toposa people learn the good news of Christ and the gospel through songs. The Toposa people are an oral culture—no books, no sermon notes, no writing tablets. But they love to sing and dance. So Christians are helping them continue their songs and dances, while introducing the good news of God’s redemption through music. Check it out here: https://www.imb.org/singing-the-gospel-how-oral-learners-encounter-truth/

Another example of Christian love comes from across the Atlantic. London, England, is a world unto itself. The city has at least 8.6 million inhabitants (that’s the official census figure, experts think the real number is much higher). Among the millions of people, there are at minimum 300 different languages spoken. Into this ethnic and cultural mix, Christians are intentionally moving in and living among the many unbelievers. London has become a magnet for ordinary Christians (not full-time missionaries) to work in their professional capacity by day, while staying focused on loving others with the good news of God’s love in the evenings and on weekends. See the full story: https://www.imb.org/london-making-disciples-in-the-capital-of-the-world/

idop-20-yearsFinally, there may be something more important than the election happening this November! Sunday, November 6th (and Sunday the 13th), the International Day of Prayer (IDOP) will celebrate its twentieth anniversary. Originally begun in 1996 by the Religious Liberty Commission of the World Evangelical Association, the International Day of Prayer is now a global movement of millions of Christians joining together in prayer for those suffering persecution. Open Doors USA, The Voice of the Martyrs, and the World Evangelical Alliance all make resources available so your church can participate in this important event to serve fellow Christians through prayer. Fulfill John 13:35 by joining with other Christians to pray for suffering saints.

Paul, Prison, and the President


AN ANCIENT PRINCIPLE

The Apostle Paul was once set free from prison, but he wouldn’t go. Paul did not leave the jail which held him in Philippi until he had first asked for the magistrates to come to him in person (Acts 16:16ff.).  Why the unnecessary stay?

Persecution Prison Theology ChinaStudents of the New Testament recognize the Apostle Paul as a man seriously concerned with justice and righteousness. The righteousness of God was a primary motivation in Paul’s life (Rom 5:20-21). Possibly, righteousness had something to do with Paul’s extended stay in Philippi, too. God’s justice expects justice from men. So Paul conducted a bit of a “sit in” until justice was served.

In the face of suffering injustice from the Roman rulers, Paul made a specific point to force the righting of a legal wrong in Philippi. Luke records the incident (Acts 16:37):

And the jailer reported these words to Paul, saying, “The magistrates have sent to let you go. Therefore come out now and go in peace.”  But Paul said to them, “They have beaten us publicly, uncondemned, men who are Roman citizens, and have thrown us into prison; and do they now throw us out secretly? No! Let them come themselves and take us out.”

The magistrates were alarmed by the report that Paul would not leave (v. 38). They showed up in person to apologize to Paul and Silas. They then asked Paul and Silas politely to leave the city—which, of course, they did with no further incident.

Christians today may justifiably follow the pattern of Paul and call our governing authorities to account for injustice. Christians will sometimes sense an obligation to hold non-believers to the standard of justice which they themselves have set. In Philippi, a Roman city, it was illegal to beat and imprison a Roman citizen without a trial. Paul and Silas called the magistrates to own their wrong actions.

The gospel was new in Philippi, and Paul was its most celebrated advocate. If he were treated as a criminal, then, perhaps, other Christians would be viewed with suspicion. Paul was likely taking his stand (or keeping his seat in prison) for the sake of the gospel, the church, and the corporate witness of these early Christians. Because of Paul’s courage and conviction, future generations of believers would have a greater likelihood of being protected by justice.

Christians more and more are having occasion to point out injustice. We will benefit from thinking thoroughly about when and how to protest wrongs committed against us. Once the apology or correction is made, we must not gloat or glory. Instead, we (like Paul and Silas) should go about the gospel’s business:

“So they went out of the prison and visited Lydia. And when they had seen the brothers, they encouraged them and departed” (Acts 16:40).

IN AMERICAN PRACTICE

The Obama Administration has sustained a consistent assault on the historic concept ofObama Obamacare Abortion religious liberty. Four years ago, I pointed out how the first amendment was morphing into something less like the constitution and more like the Communists ruling China. More recently, Ed Whelan has listed several examples of the current administration’s active attempts to rewrite the First Amendment and restrict religious activity in the U.S.

  • In the international arena, the administration has reduced religious liberty to a shriveled concept of individual religious worship and has instead aggressively promoted its LGBT initiative at the expense of religious liberty. See, e.g., Thomas F. Farr, “Religious Freedom Under the Gun,” Weekly Standard, July 16, 2012.
  • In Hosanna-Tabor Evangelical Lutheran Church v. EEOC (2012), the Department of Justice contested the very existence of a “ministerial exception” to federal anti-discrimination laws, despite the fact that that exception had been uniformly recognized by the federal courts of appeals. According to the Obama Department of Justice, religious organizations, in selecting their faith leaders, are limited to the same freedom-of-association right that labor unions and social clubs have in choosing their leaders. At oral argument, even Justice Kagan called DOJ’s position “amazing,” and in its unanimous ruling the Court emphatically rejected DOJ’s “remarkable view that the Religion Clauses have nothing to say about a religious organization’s freedom to select its own ministers.”
  • Despite the fact that its own independent review board ranked the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops far above other applicants for a grant to assist victims of human trafficking, HHS political appointees denied the grant because USCCB won’t refer trafficking victims for contraceptives and abortion. See Jerry Markon, “Health, abortion issues split Obama administration and Catholic groups,”Washington Post, Oct. 31, 2011.
  • Against the backdrop of an escalating clash between gay rights and religious liberty, the Obama administration irresponsibly abandoned its duty to defend the federal Defense of Marriage Act. When President Obama finally cast aside his professed opposition to redefining marriage, he opened the way for an intensification of the vitriolic attacks on traditional religious believers (and others) who continue to hold the position that he had so recently claimed to embrace.
    (Ed Whelan, testimony before congress).

Whelan’s list offers a clear testimony to the increasing likelihood that Christians will run afoul of those enforcing the new tolerance.  As with Paul and Silas, Christians today may sense the need to speak up, to take a stand, or take a seat in prison, waiting for justice to arrive. Law professor Richard Epstein has recently written about one such Christian—Barronelle Stutzman.

(to be continued…)

Why Sit in Prison?


The Apostle Paul was once set free from prison, but he wouldn’t go. Paul did not leave from the jail which held him in Philippi until he had first asked for the magistrates to come to him in person (Acts 16:16ff.).  Why the unnecessary stay?

jail-noStudents of the New Testament recognize the Apostle Paul as a man seriously concerned with justice and righteousness. Ultimately, the righteousness of God was Paul’s motivation for life (Rom 5:20-21). Throughout the New Testament, God’s justice expects justice from men, too. So Paul conducted a bit of a “sit in” until justice was served.

In addition to suffering persecution for the cause of Christ, Paul and Silas also suffered injustice from the Roman rulers. Paul undoubtedly desired for the magistrates in Philippi to become Christians. His faithful testimony before authorities in the book of Acts proves his desire to see pagan rulers converted. More proof of Paul’s desire is found in his admonition to the Corinthians (1 Cor 9:22): I have become all things to all people, that by all means I might save some.

Nevertheless, Paul made a specific point to force the righting of a wrong in Philippi. Luke records the incident (Acts 16:37):

And the jailer reported these words to Paul, saying, “The magistrates have sent to let you go. Therefore come out now and go in peace.”  But Paul said to them, “They have beaten us publicly, uncondemned, men who are Roman citizens, and have thrown us into prison; and do they now throw us out secretly? No! Let them come themselves and take us out.”

The magistrates were alarmed by the report that Paul would not leave (v. 38). They showed up in person to apologize to Paul and Silas. They then asked Paul and Silas politely to leave the city—which, of course, they did, with no further incident.

Christians today may justifiably follow the pattern of Paul and call our governing authorities to account for injustice. As Christians, we sometimes will sense an obligation to hold non-believers to the standard of justice which they themselves have set. In Philippi, a Roman city, it was illegal to beat and imprison a Roman citizen without a trial. Paul and Silas called the magistrates to own their wrong actions.

The gospel was new in Philippi, and Paul was its most celebrated advocate. If he were treated as a criminal, then, perhaps, the other Christians would be viewed with suspicion. Paul was likely taking his stand (or keeping his seat in prison) for the sake of the gospel, the church, and the corporate witness of all Christians. Because of Paul’s courage and conviction, future generations of believers would have a greater likelihood of being protected by justice.

In the context of 21st century America, Christians will increasingly have occasion to point out injustice. We must think through now how and when it is right to protest wrongs committed against us. Once the apology or correction is made, we must not gloat or glory. Instead, we (like Paul and Silas) should then go about the gospel’s business:

“So they went out of the prison and visited Lydia. And when they had seen the brothers, they encouraged them and departed” (Acts 16:40).

Are Christians Persecuted in America?


Kudos to K.A. Ellis, a Ph.D. candidate at the Oxford Centre for Mission Studies. Her recent article in Christianity Today demonstrates a thoughtful and insightful response to the oft-repeated question of whether Christians in the U.S. are “really” suffering persecution.

persecution-american-flagEllis points out that Christians around the world—including those in hotspots like Syria and the Middle East—believe that Christians are being persecuted in the United States. The sub-title of her article is, “If our overseas brothers and sisters say we are, then we probably are.” The sub-title itself offers a compelling argument. Christians in the Middle East operate on the assumption that all who desire to live a godly life in Christ Jesus will be persecuted (see 2 Tim. 3:12). The response of these overseas Christians demonstrates the New Testament reality that the body of Christ identifies with the suffering of other Christians (Heb. 13:1-3). On this point, Ellis concludes,

“When persecuted Christian leaders overseas warn about how seriously US Christians are marginalized, it’s time to listen.”

Ellis further points out the undeniable reality that persecution looks radically different in Nigeria, Vietnam, and China. Certainly, the degree of suffering in the US is less intense when compared to these Christians in other areas. But that fact alone is no proof of the absence of persecution in the US.

Christ taught his followers from the beginning that persecution would include mere insults:

“Blessed are those who are persecuted for righteousness’ sake, forutheirs is the kingdom of heaven.

“Blessed are you when others revile you and persecute you and utter all kinds of evil against you falsely on my account” (Matthew 5:10-11, ESV).

Finally, Ellis argues soberly about how quickly societies can flip from tolerant to intolerant. It would be naïve to think that persecution can’t happen “in America.” Of course it can. It has. Baptists and others were persecuted in the early days of American history.  And Christians today are in the crosshairs of many cultural leaders.

Further, as I point out in my upcoming book, persecution does happen now in America, but it simply does not get reported as such (for predictable reasons). Churches are burned. Christians are shot and killed. House churches are targeted. And Christians are losing jobs… all in America. Yes, Christians in America are really being persecuted.

So, Christians ought to hear the sober conclusion Ellis reached:

“This is not a cause for despair. We may never experience what the global church faces, but it teaches us that the culture cannot despise us more than we can love its people… Our true goal is perseverance and faithfulness in showing forth the kingdom of God.”

Why hate family?


According to Jesus, discipleship begins with complete allegiance to Him as Lord. Even the bond of familial love must yield to the eternal relationship of divine love accomplished for us in Christ!

Shockingly, Jesus said, If anyone comes to me and does not hate his own father and mother and

persecution love hate uganda

Creative commons

wife and children and brothers and sisters, yes, and even his own life, he cannot be my disciple. Whoever does not bear his own cross and come after me cannot be my disciple.”

There’s no record of Jesus possessing any particular animus against fathers, mothers, sisters, or brothers. On the contrary, his statement here is not against families as much as it is for disciples. Why would Jesus issue such an ultimatum to his would-be disciples? Because he loves them!  His gospel really is the only means of escaping a perishing world under God’s sentence of death. If one wishes to escape sin and death, he or she must flee to Jesus Christ alone. It’s all or nothing. Life or death.

And Jesus is life.

This past May, Kuluseni Iguru Tenywa found life. He was so glad to be rid of his demons! For years, Tenywa had been tormented by demons. He says he was oppressed by them until he received Christ at a local gathering of Christians. While all of heaven surely rejoiced at this one sinner becoming a follower of Christ, those living in his village in Uganda were enraged against him. Before his conversion, 53 year-old Kuluseni Tenywa had served as the Imam of his Muslim village.

After his conversion, everyone in the village turned against him—everyone, including his wife and his four children. According to Morning Star News, his wife berated him, calling him an infidel and refusing to offer him food. By late June, a mob—led by Tenywa’s brother-in-law—had come for him. They destroyed portions of his farm and his store and intended to take decisive action against him. Desperate, Tenywa felt he had to flee for his life. He ran from his village, from his home, from his family on June 27. He has not seen them since.

Kuluseni Iguru Tenywa has thus far proved himself a faithful disciple of Christ. His life reflects the sober reality Jesus himself unfolded for his followers: “And a person’s enemies will be those of his own household” (Matt 10:36). Sadly, the world has turned against this brother, but if God be for Him, who can stand against him!

Would you please take a moment to pray for this brother in Christ? His wife and children need our prayers, too. You can read more of his story here.

Don’t Buy the ISIS Lie


Regardless (politically) of whether one supported or denounced the Bush Administration’s actions in Iraq, the consequent actions and inaction have made the situation in Iraq positively intolerable. Since the summer of 2014, Christianity has been systematically destroyed in Iraq:

Christian persecution Mosul Iraq“Virtually the entire Christian population, and every trace of its unique 2,000-year-old civilization, has been eradicated from the ISIS-controlled Nineveh Province, the historic homeland of Iraqi Christianity. The vast majority of Nineveh’s Christians–like the vast majority of Yazidis–has been completely dispossessed and driven from their homes into Kurdistan or across the borders.”

Being driven from your homeland is bad enough. Unfortunately, that injustice is miniscule by comparison with the dizzying array of cruelty unleashed on Christians by the Muslim terror group known as ISIS.[1] According to witnesses who have survived and escaped these ungodly horrors, ISIS terrorists have been raping women and girls, while killing their husbands, fathers, and brothers. Girls as young as 9 have reportedly been raped.

Nina Shea recently published an expose of these atrocities against Christians and Yazidis in Iraq. In this report, she quotes an interview with one Christian woman who escaped:

“That night I was married to eight different men and divorced eight times. Each man raped me three or four times. When all this was over, we were taken back to the room where all the girls were being held. They made us walk naked through the big room where all the men were sitting. We were barely able to walk. This scenario was repeated every week–it was like a nightmare.”

 

Shea documents these unimaginable crimes NOT for the sake of aggrandizing bad behavior. Shea isn’t trying to shock her readers to gain more hits for her article. Her chronicling this evil is to circumvent a further injustice. Some are encouraging us to look away from the genocide of Christians in the Middle East.

As Shea notes, “In a June 15 report concerning ISIS’s genocide in Iraq’s Nineveh Province, a small but highly influential international group, the Independent Commission of Inquiry on the Syrian Arab Republic,insists that ISIS does not intend to destroy the Christian community, which would mean that, under the genocide convention, the terror group has not waged genocide on that minority.”

Shea points out that news agencies and governments may take comfort in the claim that ISIS isn’t really committing genocide because they allow Christians to remain in the land, as long as they pay the jizya tax. But this is geopolitical fool’s gold. Beyond the fact that paying such a tax is a carte blanche form of extortion, this claim to allow Christians to remain is simply not true.

From the article,

What ISIS refers to as “jizya” is extortion and ransom from a few disabled or elderly individuals, and others who did not escape in time. Those who did not escape have been killed or forced to become jihadi “brides,” human shields, slaves, hostages, or Muslims against their will. They are barred from practicing their Christian faith.

And more to the point,

“The State Department’s former counterterrorism expert Ambassador Alberto Fernandez describes the Raqqa jizya document as essentially a pathetic “Salafi Caliphate publicity stunt”:

‘[T]here are no images whatsoever of what could be described as normal Christian life in ISIS-controlled territory–no functioning churches, no monasteries or working priests, and no Christian families or Christian schools–all of which had existed throughout Islamic history.’”

Shea’s article has much more detail and much more to say concerning the danger of buying into ISIS propaganda. Christians have been targeted violently and need for us to be sober-minded, praying, and doing what we can to halt their destruction.


[1] The terror group prefers to be called IS, referring to their claim of having established an Islamic State. The official name used by the U.S. government is ISIL. Many Arabs and some governments (like France) believe Daesh is the best term to use in referring to the group. Daesh is an intentionally pejorative term.

How Has Christianity Grown So Quickly in South Korea?


Blog  Bishop Andrew Taegon Korea

Photo by Swiss James
(Creative Commons)

The Republic of Korea is now a thriving economic power, one of the “Asian Tigers” of production and wealth generation—a leader in automobile manufacturing (Hyundai, Kia), telecommunications devices (LG), and consumer electronics (Samsung).  South Korea is now a global force, maintaining the 12 largest economy on earth.

Approximately 1/3 of the adults in South Korea are Christians. In fact, the largest Christian congregation in the world exists in Korea—the Yoido Full Gospel Church on Yoi Island in Seoul. In 2007, the population of the Yoido church exceeded 830,000. Yes! the congregation of this one church is equal roughly to the population of San Francisco. Korea and Christianity appear to be getting along quite well.

It was not always the case that Korea and Christianity could peacefully coexist. In the 18th and (especially) the 19th centuries, Koreans were terribly intolerant of Christians. By the end of 1866, the Christian population of Korea totaled about 20,000. That year, Christians were martyred by the thousands; estimates put the total number of Christians killed between 8-10,000.

Today, Christians in Korea remember those who paved the way of faith with their own blood.  In Jeoldusan, on the spot where hundreds of martyrs were killed, there is now a Museum-Shrine to Korean martyrs. Detailed records in the museum tell the story of how Confucian leaders killed Christians so their “errors” would not catch on and lead Koreans “astray.” Yet Christianity did catch on in Korea—eventually.

In 1962, Christians made up only 5% of the population of South Korea. Now, as I said above, over 30% of the population is Christian. What a difference 50 years can make! How have Christians made such a difference in Korea over the past 50 years? The secret may well be in the faith their Christian forefathers showed over the last century, suffering intense persecution but maintaining a witness to the truth through it all.

Consider the faithful witness of Saint Andrew Kim Taegon. By the age of 25, he had become Korea’s first Catholic bishop. And at the age of 25, he was martyred for his faith in Christ. In the face of his imminent execution, he proclaimed,

“This is my last hour of life, listen to me attentively: if I have held communication with foreigners, it has been for my religion and for my God. It is for Him that I die. My immortal life is on the point of beginning. Become Christians if you wish to be happy after death, because God has eternal chastisements in store for those who have refused to know Him.”

In the face of death, Christians maintained the hope of life. Over time, the Christian answer to death proved much more powerful than either Confucianism or the ancestor worship of  Korea’s tribalism. The real world problem of death demands an uncompromising solution. Christ alone satisfies death’s demand.  The Korean martyrs left decades of powerful testimonies affirming the Resurrection.

Though we Christians may lose the temporal battle for life to the power of our enemies, we cannot finally lose at all. Where is death’s victory? Has it not been swallowed by the resurrected life of our Lord Jesus Christ? Death no longer stings the believer.

So whatever battles appear to be lost, let us remember as Andrew Kim Taegon did to press on by faith in our Jesus who has been raised from the dead. Who knows what the Lord may do in 50 years or in 150 years? We know already what he has done to death in the death of Christ. Our sure hope is Christ, who began a good work in us and will keep it until His final, victorious return. Thanks be to God for our indescribable gift.

History: Why Christians Can’t Rely on News Editors


Are reporters biased? Sure. But reporter bias is not the most troubling problem when trying to get “the News.” Reporters are merely “field hands” or “harvesters.”  They aren’t the farmers who actually own the fields. The owners are the editors.  Just as farmers decide what crops will be planted on their lands, so, too, editors decide which reports will end up in their papers (or on their web pages, podcasts, and TV shows).  Editors are the ones really in control.

Auschwitz 70th Anniversary

Auschwitz (Creative Commons)

Editors are in charge of deciding what is and what is not news. A chilling—sad and sobering—reminder of the power of a news editor was on display this week as the world marked the 70th anniversary of the liberation of Jewish prisoners from Auschwitz.

About 300 Auschwitz survivors returned to the dreaded site of their incarceration to mark Tuesday’s official 70th anniversary of the death-camp’s liberation.  In conjunction with this emotional anniversary, the Daily Telegraph published a story about how their paper got the scoop on the rest of the world concerning the Nazi program of mass killing.

An exiled Polish Jew–Szmul Zygielbojm –worked feverishly to find out information about what was happening to Jews in Poland. His main motivation was to save his own family—a wife and son who remained captive to the Nazis in Poland. With more intrigue and drama than a Tom Clancy novel, Szmul Zygielbojm was finally able not only to get information about gas chambers and daily death tolls to the Daily Telegraph, but, even more impressively, he was able to get eyewitness accounts of mass killings smuggled out of Poland on microfilm hidden inside of a key.

At great personal risk, he carried out his plan and disclosed the entire, unimaginable affair to a newspaper reporter for the Daily Telegraph. Triumphantly, he waited for the world to revolt at the horrific news of the Nazi atrocities.

But the outcry of injustice never came. No one noticed the story when it was first published on June 25, 1942.  By the following April, Szmul Zygielbojm was both incredulous and in despair over what must have seemed like a sub-human lack of concern for suffering Jews (including his own family). By May of 1943, his family was dead. And in Szmul’s mind, his life was over, too. He wrote the following note before he killed himself:

“The responsibility for the crime of the murder of the whole Jewish nationality in Poland rests first of all on those who are carrying it out.

But indirectly it falls also upon the whole of humanity, on the peoples of the Allied nations and on their governments, who up to this day have not taken any real steps to halt this crime.

By looking on passively upon this murder of defenceless millions of tortured children, women and men they have become partners to the responsibility”[1]

No one can blame Szmul Zygielbojm for his cynicism and for pointing the finger of blame at all who were living happily while Jews were being slaughtered by the thousands. One of the main culprits, however, may well have been the editors at the Daily Telegraph. The truth of the matter is that Szmul had given them credible evidence of the worst mass murder in history, and they buried it in a small article on page 5. What if the mass killing of 1,000 Jews per day had been given front page, headline status in June of 1942? Might it not have awakened Europe sooner to the gravity of the Nazi problem?

I have documented below a fine article by Roy Greenslade concerning the Szmul Zygielbojm affair if you would like to read more about that sad set of circumstances coming out of WWII. For my purposes here, I ask this simple question: What are the editors of “the News” not telling us today? What page 5 stories ought to be on the front page?

The Cleansing of Iraq’s Christians Entering Its End Game 

War on Christians from Africa to Asia to the Middle East, Christians Are the World’s Most Persecuted Minority

15,000 Christians Lose Their Homes, One Thousand Dead in Attack by Muslim Terrorists

Christians are not targeted by a single nation for extinction, the way the Jews were targeted by the Nazis. But Christians are targets of violence around the world. I think I understand why American news outlets put the Christian story on “page 5.” But Christians need no longer to depend on daily news editors to know what is really important, right?

                [1] As quoted by Roy Greenslade of The Guardian, whose fine article (Tuesday, January 27, 2015) is available online http://www.theguardian.com/media/greenslade/2015/jan/27/daily-telegraphs-holocaust-article-in-1942-that-went-unheralded .  He tells the complete story very well.

What’s Next for Christians in America?


A fantastic contrast is displayed in Isaiah 46: the difference between carrying around man-made gods or realizing that God Himself carries mankind through history.  God’s people realize that God alone is Lord and that we are dependent wholly upon Him. He cares for us, and He carries us. He bears our burdens. He begins the good work in us, and He brings it to its eternal completion in Christ.

Create idol keep idol Christians in America

Idol in Tahiti (Creative Commons)

Conversely, those who refuse or reject God end up making gods for themselves. Expedient as this idolatry is in the beginning, it becomes quite burdensome over time. It’s one thing to make an idol; it’s quite another to keep it. As reality bears down, the idol becomes harder and harder to keep alive. In the end, one must either admit that we are created and sustained by God, or we must believe against mounting evidence that truth is what we demand it to be —a god of our own making.

The pressure is mounting in America. There was once room for the Bible’s God in civil discourse and common morality. Since the sexual revolution, however, the god of sexual freedom has demanded no boundaries. Even the common sense notion that marriage includes a husband and a wife is an unbearable burden. The God of the Bible seems too demanding now for most Americans. Consider a few recent examples.

A couple of years ago, I noted how the Democratic National Convention separated itself from Christianity preceding their election-year rally in Charlotte.  For some reason, the DNC shunned welcome baskets from a group of Christian churches welcoming them to town (the Charlotte 714 project).  Have Republicans now rejected biblical morality, too?  One must wonder whether the recent non-vote by the U.S. House of Representatives wasn’t a similar signal being broadcast by the Republican party—that Christian views of life and marriage really are now out of bounds in a sexually boundless America.

In his visceral rejection of the Republican-led House of Representatives’ inaction, Russell Moore hurled,

“I am disgusted by this act of moral cowardice. If the House Republicans cannot pass something as basic as restricting the abortion of five-month, pain-capable unborn children, what can they get done?”

Beyond the question of what the Republicans might get done, my question is what does this inaction mean for Christianity in America? It’s painfully obvious that one ought not hurt a helpless baby in the womb. If we can no longer appeal to Congress for moral action on behalf of innocent babies, then for what can we as Christians appeal?

Will we dare speak up for marriage? Family?  Chastity?  Recently, a fire chief in Atlanta was suspended without pay simply for believing that some forms of sexual expression are “perversions” of the heterosexual (and biblical) norm.  Even more ominously, judges in my home state of California have decided—as a code of ethics—that it would be improper for a sitting judge to be affiliated with an organization that discriminates on the basis of sexual orientation. From the Los Angeles Times,

California’s judicial code of ethics bars judges from holding “membership in any organization that practices invidious discrimination on the basis of race, sex, gender, religion, national origin, ethnicity or sexual orientation.”

Presently, this new code of ethics reaches to private organizations like the Boy Scouts—but not yet to churches.  Churches are the only exemption left, but for how long will churches be exempt? Denny Burk offers this sober assessment:

In other words, the Court knows that it has a standard that churches and other religious organizations violate. That is why they grant them an exception. But on what basis would they continue such an exception? If they really view churches as discriminatory without rational basis, there would be no reason for the exception to stand. That would effectively preclude Christians and other people of faith from serving as state judges in California.

So Christians may not be able to be judges in California, big deal! Why does that matter? It matters because such an Free speech lost two stories christianexclusion would mean no Christian interpretation of the law—thus no biblical morality—in California. Despite what folks say, all legislation is ultimately moral legislation. Morality is the only thing laws can legislate. And the direction of California is toward legislating a morality without a Christian component. (See Romans 3:10-18 for a picture of such a “morality”).

Two recent, excellent articles point in this same direction and attempt to wrestle with the consequences of godless morality for Christians in America.  Rod Dreher has an insightful piece recently published in The American Conservative titled “The End of American Civic Christianity.”

In this piece, Dreher contends that the division within the Roman Catholic Church has reached a crisis point. It is no longer clear whether one can be both Christian and American. Here is the article’s conclusion:

He found that the older people around the table — those 50 and older, say …  still seemed to believe that the public order could be saved, despite the direness of the moment. Those younger people — including Catholic scholars — had a more radical view of what could be saved, and what could not. To put it more bluntly than it probably should be, if the question is, “Can you be both a good Christian, and a good American?”, the answer is increasingly looking like no, you cannot.

The unified view, as I recall, was that we are no longer living in normal times for American Christians, and they (we) had better wake up and understand which way the wind is blowing, and adjust.

The wind is obviously blowing against the Biblical view of morality. A similar article was recently posted by Dr. Mark Coppenger in the Canon and Culture series from the ERLC. In this article, Dr. Coppenger argues that “Therapeutic Nihilism” rules the day. Feelings in general (and sexual feelings in particular) rule the day rather than the more open Judeo-Christian philosophy of days gone by. Coppenger argues for an unashamed return to the “discursive” Judeo-Christian philosophy of American history. His case is compelling.

Nevertheless, I fear the first article gets it exactly right. The sexual revolution is more radical than any of us realize, and the appetite of foreign gods is never satisfied. Pagan gods must be fed continually and propped up incessantly. Because they are not real, they must coerce complete adherence. No dissension is allowed—especially if those dissenting voices echo the one, true God of days gone by.

Christian Church China PersecutionWhat does this mean for Christians? It means we ought to accept the reality that we are no longer a “moral majority.” We are the minority sub-culture of American morality.  Thus, we must first get our own houses in order. The first priority of American Christianity ought to be ecclesiology. We must have healthy churches. Our culture desperately needs a viable alternative to offer those over-burdened by propping up the foreign god of the sexual libertines. The family of God has to be a refreshing alternative to the dysfunctional families decimated by the god of this age.

Second, Christians must genuinely live mundane lives as salt and light. Our king is still on His throne. We need not fear the future—even if it means we shall suffer the wrath of those devoted to a false god. Our Christ will never be unseated from His throne. We must lovingly point others to His majesty. We must speak of the true freedom found in Christ. We must always shine the light of our good works and good words into the darkness of a lost people so they may continue to have hope.

Finally, we must realize that neither the gospel nor our Lord Jesus has failed. Christ will build his church, and the gates of Hell will not prevail against it.  One person at a time, Christ will build His church. One brick at a time, the new temple in Christ’s kingdom is still being built through sinners believing in Jesus. One letter at a time, a new history is being written as Christ brings today and tomorrow toward its ultimate goal of a new heaven and a new earth converging around Him.

So what are Christians to do? Obey Psalm 46:10, “Cease striving and know that I am God.” Or, to use the phrase of a famous hymn: Be Still My Soul,

Be still, my soul; thy God doth undertake

To guide the future as He has the past.

Thy hope, thy confidence, let nothing shake;

All now mysterious shall be bright at last.

Be still, my soul; the waves and winds still know

His voice who ruled them while He dwelt below.

In the end, if the Bible is true (and it is), and if Isaiah 46 is right (as it most certainly is), then the false gods of sexual liberation will prove to be too much of a burden to bear. When that happens, Christians and their God—and their God-glorifying communities—will be a remedy of welcomed relief for those who are weary and heavy-laden, for those who wish to find rest for their souls and learn from Jesus the way to abundant life.

RELATED POST:

Don’t Mess with Marriage (Lesson in Tyranny)

How Do You Obey Hebrews 13:3?


Christian persecution Mosul IraqSome years ago, I had a conversation with T. W. Hunt, a well-known prayer warrior. He had come to lead a conference on prayer at our church. At the time, I was a volunteer representative for Voice of the Martyrs. When he realized my concern for the persecuted church, his eyes lit up, and he enthusiastically retorted, “I pray for the persecuted church every day.”

As we spoke further, he revealed his method for remembering to pray for the persecuted church (as we are called by Hebrews 13:3 to remember the persecuted and ill-treated because we, too, are in the body). His method was simple. Each month, he received the VOM Newsletter. Upon receiving it, he would start at the front cover and work his way to the back, praying for each person’s name mentioned in that newsletter. He would make sure that he prayed for every person mentioned in the newsletter every month.

Though I never adopted his method for remembering on a consistent basis, I did realize that we must take extraordinary steps to obey Hebrews 13:3.  It is not a natural command for us to fulfill. We do not naturally identify with the persecuted church; thus we must be commanded to remind ourselves not to forget about our suffering brothers and sisters in Christ. I have set up these reminders in many different ways over the years.

For instance, I once wore a “Pray for Sudan” arm band. I also wore a “Bound with Them” bracelet to keep prisoners on my mind. One of the most effective ways I found was to make myself as familiar with Christians in prison as I was with Greek vocabulary—so I literally made flashcards of Christians in prison and kept them on a little ring which I could carry with me and flip through, praying as I went through the names on the flashcards.

Today, I am keeping things a little simpler still. My prayers are focused on Asia Bibi because her life is, literally, in the Asia Bibi Persecution Pakistan Praybalance. In 3 weeks, a judge will decide if this wife and mother of five will live or die. She is under the sentence of death in Pakistan on account of her faith in Jesus Christ. I have changed all my social profile pics to a prayer reminder until after October 16th so that I do not fail to remember this sister in prison in her time of great need.

I’m sure there are many other ways to remind ourselves to obey Hebrews 13:3. Please feel free to share how you remember to remember the persecuted (and thus obey Hebrews 13:3). Talk about it with your friends and ask them to share. The more we hear ideas from one another, the more likely we are to “stir one another up to love and good works” like remembering those who are ill-treated on account of their faith in Christ.

Remember the prisoners, as though in prison with them, and those who are ill-treated, since you yourselves also are in the body (Hebrews 13:3, NASB).

Why Did the Pope Cry?


Once a bouncer in a night club, Pope Francis might not be known generally as a “crier.”  On a recent trip to Albania, however, he was seen weeping visibly. Why the emotional outburst from such a high-ranking Catholic official? It seems that Pope Francis was overcome by emotion because of the lowliness of an Albanian priest:

Pope speaks against Christian persecution Albania communism

Creative Commons (by Alfredo Borba)

Fr. Ernesto Simoni Troshani, an 84 year old diocesan priest, recalled when the Communist party came to power and began detaining and murdering priests, some he said who died saying “Long live Christ the King”. He also said that his diocesan superiors were killed by firing squad.

Fr. Troshani was himself imprisoned for 18 years during the Communist takeover of Albania. On his cell wall, Troshani etched the phrase, “Jesus is my life.” Troshani was sentenced to forced labor, where he stayed until he became so weak the Communists assumed he would die. He was released and lived the rest of his life as a priest. When this lowly priest knelt before the pope, the pope was overcome by the beauty of his humility, and, thus, he wept.

As I have said before, I am not Roman Catholic. I don’t recognize Pope Francis as my leader on earth. However, I do recognize that he has been a reliable advocate on behalf of persecuted Christians around the world. His comments on persecution make perfectly good (and biblical) sense to me. He says,

When I hear that so many Christians in the world are suffering, am I indifferent, or is it as if a member of my own family is suffering? Am I open to that brother or that sister in my family who’s giving his or her life for Jesus Christ? (Pope Francis)[348]