A Persecuting World

 

One of the reasons I stopped paying much attention to Facebook is all of the ill-informed arguing.  A few years ago, I was scrolling through my news feed when I saw a status talking about the persecuted church.  The status was well-informed and very eye-opening, but there was a comment thread of people arguing that Christians aren’t persecuted.  Being well ingrained in the church at that point, it had never crossed my mind that people who aren’t in the church have no clue that there are thousands of Christians killed every year on the basis of their faith.  

According to Open Doors USA, every month there are 255 Christians killed, 104 abducted, 160 are imprisoned without trial, and 66 churches are attacked.  1 in 12 Christians in the world lives under intense persecution, and there are at least 50 countries where it is either illegal to follow Jesus, or where those in power will treat Christians poorly.  Now, this is not a new concept, in fact, this is something that has been happening since the literal beginning of Christianity.  The book of Acts is filled with different acts of persecution against those who follow Christ.  Church history, for the majority of it, details different organizations, governments, and people groups who detest, and sometimes even kill, Christians.  

So should we be praying for our brothers and sisters to rise up and fight for their freedom?  Should we encourage them to rally against these powers?  Actually, I don’t think so.  Jesus, on a few occasions, warns His disciples of their coming persecution.  He warns that He will be killed and that the very same fate lies in store for many of them.  So what does Jesus tell them to do?  Does He tell them to fight back?  To stand up for themselves?  Not quite.  Jesus tells them, in Matthew 10:26-28, “have no fear of them, for nothing is covered that will not be revealed, or hidden that will not be known.  What I tell you in the dark, say in the light, and what you hear whispered, proclaim on the housetops.  And do not fear those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul.  Rather fear him who can destroy both soul and body in hell.”  The disciples even live this out, as we find in Acts 4:29 when they share this prayer: “And now, Lord, look upon their threats and grant to your servants to continue to speak your word with all boldness.”  

Now, I don’t believe we should ask for or seek out persecution.  But I do think we should stand in solidarity with our brothers and sisters who are being persecuted, and pray that they would be able to stand up under the weight of the persecution they live with.  So I would like to challenge you to think and pray outward this month.  Pray for those who are persecuted, and speak light into the dark world we live in with boldness.   

Until He Returns,

Gage Addington


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The Miracle of Christmas

Every Christmas story/movie is filled with miracles. From Miracle on 34th Street to How the Grinch Stole Christmas, and with miracles as varied as the movies themselves, Christmas is just a time of year when everybody seems more receptive to miracles.  Maybe this is because each of us is waiting for a miracle to happen in our lives.  Maybe this is because Christmas just has this contagious feeling that miracles can happen to anybody.  Maybe this is because the first Christmas is so ripe with miracles that we can’t help but express that in some way.  
 
If I wanted to break down each miracle in the Christmas story, I would need a few books and a few lifetimes to do them justice. We have the miracle of the virgin birth.  We have multiple accounts of angels appearing to different individuals involved in the Christmas story.  We have the star that appeared in the sky at Jesus’ birth and was even there (most likely) multiple years afterward.  Lastly, and most importantly (unbelievably, miraculously, etc), we have the incarnation of the very God of the universe.    
 
In Philippians 2:5-11, Paul describes the incarnation in this way:
  “Have this mind among yourselves, which is yours in Christ Jesus, who, though he was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, but emptied himself, by taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men.  And being found in human form, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross.  Therefore God has highly exalted him and bestowed on him the name that is above every name, so that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.”
 
So as we move further into this Christmas season, my prayer is that we would all remember why we are celebrating at this time of year.  We worship a God who decided to save His creation in one the most intimate way possible, by becoming a part of it and dying for it.  And Christmas is the time of year when we really get to center our days, our weeks, even an entire month around this fact.  So this Christmas, I would like to invite you to join me in worshiping the God who works in the business of miracles.   Until He Returns, Gage Addington

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