Thursday, October 31, 2013

Stephen's Story

Day 5
Pray for the Christians who have been injured because of their faith. Pray for healing of body and soul, and for a forgiving spirit. Pray that they will be restored and be able to continue to provide for their families and pursue a relationship with Jesus.

Psalm 30:1-3
I will exalt you, LORD, for you lifted me out of the depths and did not let my enemies gloat over me. LORD my God, I call to you for help, and you healed me. You, LORD, brought me up from the realm of the dead; you  spared me from going down to the pit.

I love the line in the prayer request, "pray...for a forgiving spirit". It reminds me of a story in the bible of Stephen. Stephen was a man full of faith and of the Holy Spirit (Acts 6:5). He spoke the truth and it was difficult for the leaders to oppose the words which flowed from his mouth. Because of this and his love for Jesus he was seized. When asked if the charges were true he did not change his story, he continued to trust in his relationship with Jesus and obey him. So he was persecuted and stoned to death. But in the midst of the stones being hurled at his flesh, he prayed "Lord receive my spirit," then he fell on his knees and cried out, "Lord, do not hold this sin against them."

This was his last act of forgiveness... a true act of a forgiving spirit in times of persecution.

Lord Above,

The beauty of your love is so evident. How your servants serve you, how they are so willing to give their lives for the sake of your name... it means more than anything this world can offer. Your majesty, your strength, your gentleness and your grace are what bring people closer to you. For you are a God who loves his people, who wants them to have an eternal life with you. Yet, the sin of this world is so thick, and because we are sons and daughters of Adam the darkness in this world brings brother against brother. But you have found that when we are filled with your love there is no stopping us from sharing your truth. Your streams of living water flow from within you and into your faithful followers. From this your word is poured out into the nations, into the deep Amazon forests, into the dirty city streets, into cities that despise your name. But being filled with you gives a strength that restores any physical pain caused through persecution. You are the one who brings blind men to see, dumb to speak, dead to life. So I pray that you seek out healing to those who have sacrificed their bodies to physical pain just to shine your light. That through the injuries they sustain their families will not find hatred but beauty in your word because ultimately your son paid the highest price, taking on the sins  of the whole world and all humans that would ever walk it, and then he died with the burden of that darkness on his shoulders. But you are stronger than death, you are greater than any pain, and in that may those who suffer find hope... because it is in you and your Holy Spirit that your son's grave was found empty. It is in you that we have hope for the future, for eternity.

In that Lord, I find beauty in this tragedy.


Wednesday, October 30, 2013

Blessing in the Shadows

Day 4
Pray 1 Peter 3:14-17 for the persecuted. Pray that those undergoing persecution, especially those in prison, will not be overcome by a spirit of fear. Pray that those undergoing interrogation will be given the words to say at the right moment, and that they'll be able to do so with gentleness and respect.

1 Peter 3:14-17
But Even if you should suffer for what is right, you are blessed. "Do not fear their threats; do not be frightened." But in your hearts revere Christ as Lord. Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have. But do this with gentleness and respect, keeping a clear conscience, so that those who speak maliciously against your good behavior in Christ may be ashamed of their slander. For it is better, if it is God's will, to suffer for doing good than for doing evil.

When I read 1 Peter, all I can think about is the story that was told on Sunday:

Nearly 200 years ago a revival took place in Wales England. And as a result of this revival many missionaries were called onto foreign mission fields. And many of these missionaries chose as their place of service a place in Northern India, a place known for savages, they were called "head hunters".  Who as a sign of greatness in their tribe they would take the heads of enemies and hang them on their walls. It was into this savage tribe that these missionaries came, and obviously they were not welcome by this tribe. But they knew they were called by God and so they continued to share their faith. And they finally were able to reach out to one family, and they accepted Jesus Christ.

And this man and his wife and his two sons were so contagious about Jesus Christ that they began to lead other members of their tribe to Jesus. And the Chief of their tribe caught wind of their faith and so he called a meeting of the tribe and he captured this man and his family and brought them before the tribe. He said to the man, "Renounce Jesus Christ as your savior or something bad will happen to you. We will kill your two sons." And the man looked down at his sons and he knew he loved them but he could not renounce Jesus Christ, so instead he said the words to this famous song, he said, "I have decided to follow Jesus. No turning back, no turning back." And the archers pulled back their arrows and they shot dead his two sons.

I have decided to follow Jesus,
I have decided to follow Jesus,
I have decided to follow Jesus.
No turning back, no turning back.

And as his sons laid their on the ground before him, dead, the tribal chief said to him, "I am going to give you another chance. Renounce Christ or I am going to kill your wife." And the man looked down at his sons and then looked up at his wife whom he loved so much, his partner in life, but he knew what scripture said, that he needed to acknowledge God, acknowledge Christ before men. And he said the second line to this famous song, he said, "Though none go with me, I still will follow. No turning back. No turning back." And the archers killed his wife.

Though none go with me, still I will follow.
Though none go with me, still I will follow.
Though none go with me, still I will follow.
No turning back. No turning back.

And now with his two sons and his wife lying on the ground in front of him, the tribal chief stood in front of him and said, "Renounce Christ or this time we will kill you." And the man realizing that he had nothing left in this world looked up at heaven and said the last lines to this song, he said, "The cross before me. The world behind me. No turning back, no turning back." And in anger the tribal chief gave the order and the archers killed the man.

The cross before me, the world behind me.
The cross before me, the world behind me.
The cross before me, the world behind me.
No turning back, no turning back.

And now with the man and his two children and his wife dead, the chief stood before this family speechless. He couldn't believe what his eyes had just seen, and he realized that through the faith of this man that this God must be real. This Jesus who this man was willing to die for must be real. And on the spot the reports tell us that this chief accepted Christ as his savior. And through the following weeks other tribes began to accept this Christ as their savior. All because one man and his family were willing to stand up and say "I have decided to follow Jesus, though no one goes with me I am still going to follow, the cross before me, the world behind me. No turning back, no turning back."

My fingers are unable to type the words my heart wants to express. The grief and joy when I hear this story are so intertwined that it is indescribable how I feel. This journey, praying for 7 days, has allowed me to reveal emotions that I did not know I could express to even you. The brokenness, the confusion, it is all from you. As I pray for these people, read about them, think about them... I draw closer to you. I do not understand how the shadows on this earth can be for your will. I do not understand how darkness can produce blessings, how death can bring resurrection, how sacrifice pushes forth grace. Lord your scripture says that "If you should suffer for what is right, you are blessed." But what are all the other moments? What are all the other moments counted as? Are the joyful moments blessings? If death is a blessing, if suffering is a blessing... what are all the other moments? My confusion, my frustration is so raw, so real that I can't help but sit here and cry. I sit here thinking about the people who have been burned, crucified, martyrs. I sit here and think of them, their families, their pain... and then try and call it a blessing. But their faith in you was so strong. They knew exactly what they would say the moment someone asked them why they have hope in you. And is that where the blessings lie? Is the answer what brings forth life changing moments? Is the answer, the strength that you have given your servants? For when they reply, they reply with your grace, your truth, as soft as whisper in the wind. For you are not in the thunder, or the lightening... but in the quietness, the gentle breeze. I pray that all of the people, the family members of Christ whom are in this position have faith to stand in your word. Shield their hearts from the maliciousness this life so quickly brings. Draw them close to you, let them sip out of the cup you have filled for them. Let it pour out into their souls so they will not be thirsty in trying times.

In your name.


(Watch on youtube... but not all mobile devices can show this video so I had to transcribe it)

Tuesday, October 29, 2013

A Lamp Unto My Feet...

About a month ago my new puppy took my bible off of my bed stand and decided to devour the Word of God. She ate the leather cover and tore the thin scripture filled papers into a million pieces. It was beyond repair, and I was seriously devastated. I had underlined, hi-lighted, post-it'ed up that bible for the past eight years and now it was gone. My quick references, vanished... or devoured. But it was easy for me to replace, I just jumped into my car with my husband, drove down to the nearest Christian Book store and picked out a new one.

And as I sit here reading today's prayer topic, I want to laugh at my histerical self a month ago.... it was NOT the end of the world, for me. I have hundreds, if not thousands, of bibles at my hand all I have to do is log into the internet, go to the closest store, look at my bookshelf. Unfortunately, there is no such convenience for those in the persecuted church. Bibles are often smuggled in to these countries, if you're caught with one  your life could easily be on the line. The sad reality is in our over-abundant country our "conveniences are often overlooked when they should be thought of as blessings instead.

Day 3:
Pray for those providing Bibles and Bible training for the persecuted church. Pray that persecuted Christians in remote areas will gain access to the Bible and Scripture training. Pray for safety for those meeting secretly for training and encouragement, and pray that their deeper understanding of Scripture will enable them to reach others for Christ.

2 Timothy 3:16
All Scripture is God-breathed, and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting, and training in righteousness...


I do not know the feeling of going without your word being tangible, right here at my fingertips. I do not know what it's like to have to hide your word, to really call it sacred because of the scarcity and the repercussions to be caught with it. I have been guilty of taking your word for granted and making its importance non-existent at times. Lord, as you open my eyes to the things unseen from the warmth of my chair, I plead that those who are secretly being trained in your word in dark rooms, that your word is imprinted on their hearts. For their bibles are a luxury, and few and far in between. Lord that your keep the scripture pure in their minds, that it is not tampered with in any way, remembered only as you want it to be known.

As they dive into your word, open their eyes, ears, and hearts to the learning of your word. Let the training come easily for them as they understand your word deeper than they ever thought imaginable. Your word is alive and active, let it penetrate their souls. Allow them access to the knowledge you hold, enough for them to confidently shine your light knowing your word is inside their hearts. God, your word is flawless, and in that it is a shield for those whom take refuge in you.

This I beg of you, be with them in the secret, in the quiet places. Let your word shine for them.

Monday, October 28, 2013

Pray for the families...

Day 2
Pray for the families of those who have been killed, those who are in prison, and those who have suffered harm for their faith. Pray that God will meet their physical, emotional and spiritual needs. Pray also for comfort for those who have lost loved ones.

Psalms 94:16-19
Who will rise up for me against the wicked?
    Who will take a stand for me against evildoers?
Unless the Lord had given me help,
    I would soon have dealt in the silence of death.
When I said "My foot is slipping,"
    Your unfailing love Lord supported me.
When anxiety was great within me,
    your consolation brought me joy.

My heart sank looking at the headlines from K-Love news today...

Morrocan Jailed for being Christian

Christians No Longer Safe in Northern Iraq?

More Persecution for Iranian Christians

...and not to mention the ongoing news on Saeed Abedini, an American Christian Pastor, jailed for over a year now in Iran for expressing his faith.

Father above,

As these family members live with loved ones in chains, behind bars, or at the stake in the sake of your name I pray that you bring peacefulness to their souls in knowing that they are prayed for. That hands are reaching out over them, that thousands of people have them in their thoughts and on their hearts. Lord I pray that you will meet their physical, emotional, and spiritual needs. For Lord you call each of us to serve you and in that you promise to guard the feet of your faithful servants. As we offer up our lives to you, and as many have offered theirs and are living lives that can be taken at any moment, I pray for peace in the thought of serving you and no other God. Serving your Kingdom and not our selfishness, serving your ways and not our own. Lord to serve you is to know you... to be close to you. I pray that these families whom face troubles daily, knowing that blessings come even when they lose someone they love, most dearly, are strengthened in knowing they will be reunited again one day.

Lord my prayer is a cry from my heart, spiritually laboring to beg for you Lord, that if you have to give the attention you offer me and take it to give to these families, to the persecuted, then move swiftly. Let me feel alone, forgotten and afraid, if it makes one of them feel more comfort, more love, and stronger in their faith.

I have my bible. I have my church. I have my husband, my spiritual leader, and my life group to give me support. Lord, take the moments you give me and bless them instead.

I want to remember Paul and Silas.

Lord speak to my heart. Let me know where you want me to stand, what you want me to notice as these 7 days pass.

Lord speak, I want to know your heart.

Let me hear your voice.

Sunday, October 27, 2013

One With Them

Being asked to pray for someone is one thing, being asked to pray for someone who is persecuted daily is another.

Our church has asked us to gather with "The Persecuted Church" - churches around the world, in countries where Christianity is hated and people seek to destroy believers, and just pray for them. "For where two or three gather in my name, there I am with them." Matthew 18:20.

So, I wanted to blog about this 7 day experience of what we are asked to pray about, what emotions flow from this, and the power of prayer when you pray for something greater than yourself.

What is really great about this is before I went to church this morning I sat in my quiet time with God and just asked him to open my heart to what he wants from me. I felt compelled to open to one of my favorite books in the bible, 1 Samuel. As I began to read Chapter 1 my heart began to open to the words God wanted me to read... the first passage is about Hannah and her grief and anguish in her weakness (hers is the inability to have a child). Her misery and despair is evident in her countenance and in that she begins to weep bitterly and seeks after God with raw emotion. As she prays, she prays from her heart, pouring out her soul to the Lord. Through this God showed me how he wants me to pray, that he wants me to be more intimate, more real, more emotional in my prayers with him. Sometimes I put on a presence of strength and even with God I hide my grief... yet he still knows my heart.

In this it was evident that God wants me to be real in this challenge to pray for 7 days for the persecuted church. So I will be sharing my prayers and feelings with you over this journey. If you feel compelled to join in the prayers, I beg you to join in without hesitation. Let's gather together and lift up those who have stepped out for our Lord, those who are brave and seek and desire to please him... even if it means their life is at stake. 

*Day 1*
Pray Matthew 5:11-12, 44-45 for the persecuted church. Pray that those who are persecuted will bless those who insult them and rejoice that they are worthy to suffer for Christs name. Pray that they will love their enemies and pray for them, following Christ's example.

Heavenly Father, 
As I sit here in comfort, in warmth, in safety, I humbly pray for my brothers and sisters in Christ whom are persecuted. Lord you have broken me, my heart, and for that desperate emotion pours forth, urgency arises as I pray from the depths of my heart. 
I pray that through persecution they draw closer to you, although stones are hurled and flesh is beaten, those who seek only to let your name be known find comfort in your arms. Lord, that this worldly selfishness and fear gives way to the strength only your spirit can provide. From the inside out protect them. From their souls, their hearts, their minds. Allow them to fight back with a loving heart, encouraging words, and a light in their eyes that lets others know your spirit has filled them. That through this love, not a worldly love, but a supernatural love, enemies will be brought to their knees, hearts will change, souls will be won over in your name. As they live out your example Lord, loving enemies, serving those who persecute them, that in the end your kingdom is glorified.  
Lord, break our hearts for what breaks yours. Let us feel the burden of their pain and lift them up so that you will allow them to feel the love from other Christians even if it is miles away and from someone they do not know. 
As we gather in your name to pray for spiritual strength and spiritual comfort for those who are persecuted, remind us that there is no one holy like you, that there is no Rock like our God. For you break the bows of warriors, and you bring death and make life. Nothing can hinder you from saving, whether by many or by few Lord. 
I am in this with you Lord, with my whole heart and soul.