Wednesday, June 1, 2011

The Persecuted Church

Nothing has so challenged my Christian life as learning and reading about Christians who live out their faith in nations which exhibit active hostility to the gospel.

For about fifteen years I have been receiving "Voice of the Martyrs," a monthly newsletter dedicated to serving persecuted believers. Every month I am reminded that this world is not my true home and that Jesus is alive and real. I am reminded that what God is doing in the lives of these persecuted Christians---giving them boldness, courage, strength, love for enemies---He wants to do in mine, as well.

I am ashamed to admit how easily distracted I am by want-tos and have-to-haves and gotta-get-one-of-those thoughts. Jesus warned us that the truth can be "crowded out by the worries of this life and the lure of wealth, so no fruit is produced" (Mat. 13:22) Desire for comfort, ease, and things will choke my spiritual fruit just as weeds will destroy a garden.

I live an American life and must be on alert that the culture I live in does affect how I judge what is valuable. I need the testimony of those who are standing for something greater and for all that truly matters to remind me of what is worthy and eternal.

The Holy Spirit uses "Voice of the Martyrs" to help me see how fleeting and foolish much of what I desire is. When I read of Christians in Vietnam who continue to tell others of Christ in spite of being arrested, I get clarity. And when I read of those who continue to set up Bible schools to train leaders even when their last school was bulldozed, my spiritual eyes open. Suddenly, giving and going and telling others becomes more of a priority than a new iPhone or a trip to St. Simons Island.

Sometimes "Voice of the Martyrs" publishes some pictures that are hard to view.

When the burned face of Yubelina, a Christian woman who attacked by Muslims, was on the cover I wanted to look away. For the remainder of her life Yubelina will be marred and disfigured by those burns, and yet she was smiling and full of joy. When I think of the falsehood that passes for beauty in my culture, I think maybe I don't need to turn away. Maybe I need to rethink what is beautiful. Maybe sharing Yubelina's pain and joy can come only through looking into her face.

I want to be different. I want my life to be more like those of my brothers and sisters in other countries who are proclaiming boldly the love and mercies of Christ even as they  hurt and grieve. And the only way to change is to open myself to God confronting my thoughts and my desires.

Today I am grateful for Yubelina and other believers who stand as witnesses to the truth. And I am thankful for "Voice of the Martyrs" for letting me know they exist and for challenging me to remember and support those who are in bonds.

If you want to know more about today's persecuted church, go to http://www.persecution.com/.

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