My heart is broken as I see the continued persecution of believers around the world… especially those in the Middle East. Once again the various upheavals in Islamic countries have provided cover for certain agencies to persecute God’s people… Christians. It is a sad day when Muslims are more concerned for the lives of Christians and believers in the West!
I am reposting an editorial post on FoxNews.com. It is by Johnnie Moore, who is encouraging believers in the West to stand-up for Christians under persecution in the Middle East. Take some time to read it and ask the Lord what He would have you to do.
Christianity began in the East, not the West, yet today Christians in the East are enduring an all-out-assault by Islamic terrorists, while Christians in the West live their lives largely oblivious to it all. This has to change.
This is no imaginary persecution; in Syria alone there have been reports of kidnappings, Christian communities intentionally displaced by militants and, worst of all, shootings and beheadings of Christians who refused to convert to Islam.
In Egypt radicals have recently destroyed dozens of churches, and the once vibrant Christian population in Iraq has been decimated.
Christians in the West should stand up for those in the East out of regard for all they have given us over these thousands of years, if for no other reason.
See, what most American Christians don’t realize is that the “Islamic World” was once the Christian world. Some of the most well-known and influential leaders in the early church hailed from North Africa and the Middle East – like the warring theologians Athanasius and Arius, and the apologist Tertullian. It was for the library in Alexandria that the preeminent Greek version of the Torah (the “Septuagint”) was commissioned.
Today, St. Augustine would be called a Tunisian, Origen would be Egyptian and the Apostle Paul – who was on the road to Damascus when he encountered Christ – would have told the story of his conversion while heading to “Syria.”
It was also in the Syrian city of “Antioch” that Christians were first called “Christians,” and to this day there are as many Christian holy sites in that nation as anywhere else in the world.
When Jesus was born, and his life was threatened by the hysteria of King Herod, it was to Egypt that Joseph and Mary fled until Herod’s bloodlust subsided.
If the famed Council of Nicaea were held today, the headline would read: “Christian theologians gather in Turkey to settle long-held dispute about Christ’s deity,” and the part of the Jordan River where Jesus was baptized could have very well flowed through modern-day Jordan , as opposed to Israel.
Christianity was once so entrenched in the modern Islamic world that for centuries the center for Christian scholarship was Baghdad, and the long-ruined city of Merv (not far from border of what is now Afghanistan) was not only the largest city of its time, it was also best known as the center of Bible translation.
To this day – in nearly all of those places – there are Christian communities that have persevered through the ages, but now face the threat of extinction.
They have endured conflict after conflict, schism after schism, and they have learned how to coexist with peace-loving Muslims who are themselves fighting against the same radicalism that has caused the burning and bombing of hundreds of churches around the Islamic world since the spark of Arab Spring.
The trickling stream of Christianity runs in these places all the way to the era of Christ himself, but now – particularly in Syria – that stream is being dried up more quickly that most people realize.
Sadly, few Christians in the West have any idea this is going on, and I was once just like them.
Then I was invited last September to observe a meeting convened by Jordan’s King Abdullah in his country’s capital, Amman. Several dozen leaders of the Christian congregations of the East attended the meeting; I listened as these Catholic cardinals, Orthodox patriarchs and Anglican and Coptic bishops described the plight of their people.
No one was discussing their theological differences, because it was their churches that had been burned, their relatives who had been kidnapped and killed, and nearly every one of them told stories of consoling an inconsolable mother or child as they grieved the death of their last living loved one.
I wept as I heard their stories, and I wondered why Christians around the world weren’t incensed by it all.
Ironically, that meeting in Jordan was not convened by Christians, but by Muslims who cared about the plight of their Christian neighbors.
At one point, Jordan’s strong and kind king said that “it is a duty rather than a favor” to protect the Christians in the region, and Prince Ghazi bin Muhammad, a senior adviser to the king, acknowledged that “Christians were in this region before Muslims.” He said, “They are not strangers, nor colonialists, nor foreigners. They are natives of these lands and Arabs, just as Muslims are.”
While I was deeply encouraged by the tone of these Islamic leaders, I couldn’t help but ask myself, “I wonder how many Christians in the West even care about those in the East?”
In that moment, I decided I would be their advocate.
It was the Apostle Paul who once advised some friends in Greece to “pray that we may be delivered from wicked and evil people.”
I hear Paul’s prayer again on the lips of those persecuted today, and I call upon Christians everywhere to pray for and be an advocate for those upon whose foundation so much of our faith has been built.
Indeed, it isn’t a favor. It’s our duty.
Johnnie Moore is the author of a new book about Jesus called Dirty God (#DirtyGod). He is a Professor of Religion and Vice President of Liberty University, where he, among other things, supervises its Center for Global Engagement. Keep up with him on Twitter (@JohnnieM) or at Facebook.com/JohnnieOnline. The opinions expressed in this commentary are solely those of Johnnie Moore.
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Then Jacob was left alone, and a man wrestled with him until daybreak. Genesis 32:24
Inside this story of Jacob’s wrestling match with God is an apt picture of the believer’s relationship to God. Walking with God is not some gentle glide in which all things come easily and naturally. Many of our struggles are with God Himself. Not that we are gonna win. But, we think we are correct most of the time or there would be no wrestling. It is only after our wrestlings with the Almighty that we discover… He was right all along.
Just what is wrestling with God about anyway? Wrestling is our opportunity to become broken. It is a slow dance in which the most powerful God enforces His work and will. The stronger prevails and eventually takes the lead in the dance of life.
Wrestling with God is not pretty. In fact, when people give testimonies about how God moved in their life… they usually leave out the wrestling with God part. Hmmm. God’s goal is not to maim, hurt, or kill us. God simply wants us to surrender our strength and position. He wants the strife against Him and His word to cease. What most do not understand is they are not wrestling against God for evil… they are wrestling against God for good… goodness sake. It is God’s infinite grace which confounds us. It is His great love and compassion which brings us to our knees in surrender. The Father wants us to enter into His rest, not become a better wrestler.
There is an opportunity for each of us today. Instead of going around and around with God trying to prove why you are right, discover His grace and goodness. Choose instead to enter into His rest. The Lord wants to bless you today!
Blessings – From God’s Incubator,
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Some of you are holding onto a promise – a spiritual promise given to you from revelation born from your time with God. Satan couldn’t stop you from birthing God’s seed. Battle over… right? No, the devil’s attack against your seed has only just begun. He wants you to get the jitters… that is to jump at the false completion or false fulfillment of that word.
Your are in good company! Jesus endured the same temptation and so will you. Just before He entered full-time ministry, the devil was given the opportunity to give Him the spiritual jitters.
5 Then the devil took Him into the holy city and had Him stand on the pinnacle of the temple, 6 and said to Him, “If You are the Son of God, throw Yourself down; for it is written,
‘He will command His angels concerning You’;
‘On their hands they will bear You up,
So that You will not strike Your foot against a stone.’” Matthew 4:5-6
Most people are instructed to dial 911 in case of emergency. Christians are told to do the same thing in a spiritual emergency… they are instructed to read Psalms 91:1. Guess who else knows Psalms 91? Yes, Satan quoted these emergency verses right in Jesus’ face.
Notice the devil didn’t quote to Jesus the next verse in Psalm 91… it is verse 13…
You will tread upon the lion and cobra,
The young lion and the serpent you will trample down. Psalm 91:13
Satan didn’t quote the remainder of these verses to Jesus… He knew them already and would soon apply them! Our victory is found in doing the same. The spiritual jitters are Satan’s temptation to get us to test God by suggesting to the Lord that He must move on our behalf. The truth is … God has not forgotten about you or His promises to you. He knows exactly where you are. None of us need to succumb to the temptation to strive against God’s word by attempting to help Him to move on our behalf. If God needs our help… He will tell us.
I encourage you today to hold on to your word… it is all you need in dark places. As Smith Wigglesworth says, “We want to get to a place where we are beyond trusting in ourselves.”
Blessings – From God’s Incubator,
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I will give you the keys of the kingdom of heaven; and whatever you bind on earth shall have been bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth shall have been loosed in heaven.” Matthew 16:19
God has given believers the authority to open and shut the doors of heaven. A big part of having a key is learning to be responsible with it. You understand its purpose and know its importance. If we fail to come into agreement with what the Bible says about Kingdom Keys, we will ultimately fail at opening and closing the doors of heaven.
A key is a mechanism or device which opens something. If you have the key to something, you have the authority to open it. I have in my pocket some keys to a Ford F150, a Land Rover, and keys to storage units.
What does it mean? If I have keys to a vehicle, I have the authority to unlock it, to get in, possess all its contents, and drive away. If I have the key to a storage unit, I have the authority to open it, unlock it, go inside, and once I’m inside… I have access to the contents of whatever has been placed there.
All this is not spiritual rocket science, but whoever holds the keys has the authority to open and close. Jesus is saying, “I am going to give you some keys to the Kingdom of Heaven.” A part of receiving these keys is knowing what Jesus’ knows and then coming into agreement with what Jesus reveals about those keys. It is not difficult to comprehend, but many fail to follow Jesus’ words.
We are accustomed to having and using keys… they are a part of our normal and everyday life. In Jesus day they had keys and locks as well, but it was usually only kings and wealthy people who had such doors and locks. The king would pick out a trusted servant to whom he would give the key to the storeroom. This was the highest honor the king could bestow.
This trusted servant would take the key and wear it on a chain around his neck. It would be obvious to all that he had the keys of entrance to the palace, and further, into the treasures of the king. If the steward was doing his job correctly he would never take the chain from around his neck. He wore it continually as a sign of the authority given to him by the king.
The man who had the key was the man who could let you inside to see the king, or he was the man who could refuse you entrance. This is what’s behind Jesus’ statement when he says, “I will give you the keys to the kingdom.” Jesus is giving His servants charge of the storeroom!
I cannot express to you the importance of this scripture. But simply knowing about the Keys of the Kingdom is not enough. All believers must believe in the benefits found in God’s storehouse and the importance of using the keys. This teaching from Jesus is like a lot of other Biblical teachings… everyone is aware of it, but very few if any apply it. Most everyone I know is fully aware of the “armor of God” found in Ephesian 6. They know about it… they can tell you about it… but they never put on the armor. Knowing and doing are two different things.
Ask the Lord today about possessing and using the Keys to the Kingdom. The Lord is not trying to keep heaven’s bounty from us… He is simply explaining how the Kingdom works.
Blessings – From God’s Incubator