Tuesday, August 18, 2015

The Persecuted Church: What is it, who is it, are we it, and why do we care?

Church.... We, as Christians in the United States of America, are not persecuted.  We aren't.  Period.  We are privileged beyond belief.  We don't even know hardship, let alone "persecution".  But, there are places in the world that do.  Places where being a Christian will get you fired, your possessions seized, you throne in jail, beaten, tortured, or even killed for the case of Jesus Christ.

Most Christians know ISIS most infamously for the 21 Christians in Egypt who were beheaded on the beach in the orange jumpsuits.  A “Message signed in blood to the Nation of the Cross” a “Hostile and offensive” church. 

The 21 walked out, they didn’t run, they didn’t fight, they didn’t beg, they didn’t scream…moments from death They chanted.   “The Lord Jesus Christ” 

In this picture, this man’s dying breath was “Yeshua!” JESUS!

ISIS Said this was a message to all those people “Carrying around the cross illusion in their heads”
It was to sow fear.  To scatter Christians.  To be rid of the message of the Cross.

3 days later, people walked the streets of Egypt with soot crosses marked On their heads because they wanted ISIS to know that the it was no illusion, it wasn’t in their heads, and they weren’t afraid to show it On their heads.

That’s what persecution looks like Church.

We all heard about that,  how many of you heard about this?  These 7 have what looks like rope but it’s actually explosives so that when the terrorists stepped back and detonated it decapitated the men.                          

-- hear about that?—

Or this one where they handcuffed them inside this car, stepped away, and shot the car with an RPG

*SLIDE* Or these, where they locked  men inside a cage and slowly lowered them into the water (they then switched to underwater cameras, then hoisted back up and swapped back to this view to show their demise).

In June of this year they began offering kidnapped Christian girls (GIRLS) sex slaves as “prizes” for those who “mastered the Koran”.  They also sell the girls.  
When funds got low and a price increase was necessary, they posted this (which the UN has verified)
“Islamic State in Iraq.  In the name of Allah most Gracious and Merciful, we have receieved news that the demand in Women and Cattle markets have sharply decreased and that will affect Islamic State revenues as well as the funding of the fighters in the battlefield.  Therefore we have made some changes.  Below are the prices for the Christian women slaves.
40-50: $43    30-40: $75    20-30: $86    10-20: $130 
        1-9: $172
Costumers are allowed to purchase only three items with the exception of customers from Turkey, Syria, and Gulf Countries.  Obey and follow the rules and laws of Islamic State or you be killed.”

You see, originally my sermon was to be about how we were NOT the persecuted church and how we needed to shut up and get over that because of how RICHLY spoiled we, as Christians are in the United States – and we are!
But as I worked my way through the persecution of the world the words of Paul to the church at Corinth broke my heart…  1 Corinthians 12:26 says 

We are one body - 
“If One member suffers, all members suffer”

then you have the words of Paul, and Timothy, Peter, and Silas, all of them asking for Prayer while they were imprisoned and persecuted, saying that they Knew the prayers of the saints were what would save them.
We, the part of the church in the US, are Not persecuted, but our church doesn’t stop at the US, God’s church is worldwide, it is universal, and it is ONE body –
so while I am not persecuted, if my sisters and brothers in North Korea are persecuted, than our Family is persecuted – our Family hurts – our Family weeps for one another – our Family HAS to pray for our brothers and sisters who ARE persecuted. 

Pray that their cup would pass, that there would be another way, but that if it’s not the Father’s will for the cup to pass,
if there is no other way, than we pray strength, and courage, patience, fearlessness, and joy, we pray they are purpose filled and spirit filled.  We pray for them the Peace that passes all understanding.  We pray for them because they are our family.  We Are One With Them.

Tertullian said
“The blood of the martyrs is the seed of the church”

I want you to think, what would you do if you knew you only had 21 days left to live?  What would you use your time for?  Who would you talk to?  What would you say – if you had Nothing to fear?

This is a call to Live like we are dying.

That message that ISIS sent out about those 21 Egyptian men on the beach was addressed to “The People of the Cross” = the “hostile and offensive church in Egypt”
Here’s my question I want to leave you with, people of the Cross:

If tomorrow you woke up and the world had magically changed overnight and Christianity was illegal in the USA and you were arrested and put on trial for being a Christian… would there be enough evidence to convict you?

And I’ll tell you, just coming to church on Sunday and plopping down in a pew doesn’t make you “hostile” or “offensive” … or “dangerous” or even “noticeable”.

So, If you were in Egypt when ISIS came looking for Christians to make an example of, would they have known to come for you – would you have been on their radar?

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