Faith Lessons by Ray Vander Laan: Don’t Forget Us

Can we identify with our brothers and sisters who suffer for Jesus around the world?

RVL takes the group to a church carved 20+ stories underground in Cappadocia. An airshaft is disguised as a well. The church would have sat in darkness when the enemy was present. Torches would have used up the oxygen and perhaps have given them away. They could only come out at night.

RVL reads from Heb 11,

(Heb 11:32-37)  And what more shall I say? I do not have time to tell about Gideon, Barak, Samson, Jephthah, David, Samuel and the prophets, 33 who through faith conquered kingdoms, administered justice, and gained what was promised; who shut the mouths of lions, 34 quenched the fury of the flames, and escaped the edge of the sword; whose weakness was turned to strength; and who became powerful in battle and routed foreign armies. 35 Women received back their dead, raised to life again. Others were tortured and refused to be released, so that they might gain a better resurrection. 36 Some faced jeers and flogging, while still others were chained and put in prison. 37 They were stoned ; they were sawed in two; they were put to death by the sword. They went about in sheepskins and goatskins, destitute, persecuted and mistreated–

How far would you go to be like the rabbi? How long would you stay underground?

(Heb 11:38-39)  the world was not worthy of them. They wandered in deserts and mountains, and in caves and holes in the ground. 39 These were all commended for their faith, yet none of them received what had been promised.

RVL: They didn’t come here just because they wanted to go to heaven. They came down here because they wanted to pass this on to you. Their work isn’t finished. It’s our job to finish what they did.

Do you know the price they paid so you can have the scriptures? What are you going to do with this? What will you say when you meet them and they say, “We paid the ultimately price to pass this story on to you. What did you do?”

(1 Cor 12:12)  The body is a unit, though it is made up of many parts; and though all its parts are many, they form one body. So it is with Christ.

(1 Cor 12:26-27)  If one part suffers, every part suffers with it; if one part is honored, every part rejoices with it. 27 Now you are the body of Christ, and each one of you is a part of it.

If I say, “I’m not suffering,” then I must not see those who suffer as also being part of the body.

The fact that we don’t cry and ache for our brothers and sisters around the world who are suffering means we’ve lost the sense of community Jesus meant for us to have. We are suffering!

A woman from Sudan, Rebbecca, gives a testimony of her experiences there, suffering as a Christian. Churches were bombed. Many Christians were left to be killed by the hyenas and lions. The animals don’t normally eat humans, but so many bodies were left to be eaten, the animals began to attack humans, dragging off and killing one of her friends. She lost both of her parents by the time she was three. She was asked, having seen what we are doing to Christians, do you still wish to be a Christian? She said “yes.”

She says we are not here by chance. Please, she says, do not forget what is happening.

Are we suffering? Yes.

The Rabbi called us to be talmidim. It’s about becoming like Jesus. How badly do we want to be like Jesus? As badly as the disciples who dug this church? As badly as Rebbecca?

For most of us, discipleship is something to be dabbled in, but Jesus calls us to be disciples every day, every minute.

(1 John 2:6)  Whoever claims to live in him must walk as Jesus did.

“Come, ” Jesus said, “follow me.”

FOR TEACHERS —

From AsiaNews.it

On 6 February 1997, a mob of about 30,000 Muslims attacked a Christian village called Shantinagar, near Khanewal City, in Punjab Province. They set on fire the whole village, including many Churches. The spark that caused the assault was a blasphemy case involving a Christian who was charged under Section 295-B of the Pakistan Penal Code.

On 12 November 2005, another angry mob of some 2,000 Muslims vandalised and set fire to three Churches, a nuns’ convent, two Catholic schools, the homes of a Protestant clergyman and a Catholic priest, a girls’ hostel and the homes of Christian residents in the village of Sangla Hill in Nankana District, in Punjab. The attack was sparked by an alleged case of blasphemy involving a local Christian, also under section 295-B of the Pakistan Penal Code.

On 8 May 200, many Christian families reportedly fled their homes after they received a threatening letter from Islamic militants at Charsada in the North-West Frontier Province. In it, they were summoned to convert to Islam within 10 days or face dire consequences. In June 2007, Christians in Shantinagar village, Khanewal District, in Punjab received similar threats. In such cases, police have often failed to provide adequate protection.

On 22 April 2009, a gang of armed extremists attacked a group of Christians in Tiasar Town, a Karachi suburb, setting six houses on fire and seriously injuring three Christians. One of them was Irfan Masih, whose injuries were serious from the beginning and who died five days later.

On 30 June 2009, angry Muslims attacked Christian homes in Bahmani wala village, Kasur District, in Punjab, after another Christian was accused of blaspheming against Islam’s prophet. They damaged about 100 houses and stole valuables (gold jewellery) and cash. The mob also smashed furniture and other household items.

On 1 July 2009, a Christian youth, Imran Masih, was tortured by a group of Muslims and then arrested by local police for allegedly burning pages of the Qur‘an in Faisalabad’s Hajwary area.

On 30 July 2009, thousands of Muslim fundamentalists descended upon the village of Koriyan where they set 51 Christian homes on fire after another case of alleged blasphemy. Two days later, on 1 August, at least 3,000 extremists went after the Christian community in Gojra. Seven people were burnt to death (including two children and three women), and another 19 were injured. Dozens of houses were also set on fire.

According to the Associated Baptist Press —

TASHKENT, Uzbekistan (ABP) — A judge in Uzbekistan has found three Baptist leaders guilty of tax evasion and involving children in religious activities without their parents’ permission, ending a high-profile trial in the Uzbek capital city of Tashkent Oct. 29.

Judge Nodyr Akbarov of Yakkasaray District Criminal Court ordered Pavel Peichev, president of the Baptist Union of Uzbekistan, and two colleagues to pay fines equivalent to $5,760 — more than nine times the average annual wage in Uzbekistan.

The court also banned Peichev and two other defendants — Baptist union accountant Yelena Kurbatova and Dimitry Pitirimov, director of a Baptist-sponsored summer youth camp — from administrative and financial activity for three years.

Pitirimov told Forum 18, an international news service that monitors alleged violations of religious freedom, that he believed the “real intention” of the case was to remove the three leaders in an attempt to disrupt the nation’s Baptist community.

According to the Economist

WHERE is the hardest place in the world to be a Christian citizen? North Korea, perhaps? Saudi Arabia? Try Somalia. There are thought to be no more than a thousand Christians in a resident population of 8m people, with perhaps a few thousand more in the diaspora. The Islamist Shabab militia, which controls most of southern Somalia, is dedicated to hunting them down.

Christian men attend mosques on Fridays, so as not to arouse suspicion. Bibles are kept hidden. There are no public meetings, let alone a church. Catholic churches and cemeteries have been destroyed. The last nuns in the smashed capital, Mogadishu, were chased out in 2007. The year before, an elderly nun working in a hospital there was murdered. The only Christian believers left are local Somalis.

Catching and killing them is useful propaganda for the Shabab, not least for indoctrinating its young fighters and suicide-bombers in the belief that America, Britain, Italy, the Vatican, along with Ethiopia and Kenya, are all “crusaders” trying to convert Somalis to Christianity. The UN lurks nefariously behind. Israel, of course, is also doing its bit to undermine Islam.

The shaky transitional government led by Sheikh Sharif Ahmed, whose writ runs weakly across the territory the Shabab does not yet run, is unlikely to speak up for any of its citizens caught with a bible. Though professing moderation, he promotes a version of sharia law whereby every citizen of Somalia is born a Muslim and anyone who converts to another religion is guilty of apostasy, which is punishable by death.

Every month several Somalis are killed for being Christian. Sometimes that is just a label that the jihadists stick on people they suspect of working for Ethiopian intelligence. But many are simple believers. According to Somali sources and Christian groups monitoring Somalia from abroad, at least 13 members of underground churches have been killed in the past few months. Most were Mennonites, evangelised by missionaries on the Juba river in southern Somalia. They include a 46-year-old woman shot dead near the town of Jilib after a Swahili-language bible was found in her shack; a 69-year-old man killed near a port south of Mogadishu after Shabab fighters found 25 Somali bibles in a bag he was carrying; and two boys, aged 11 and 12, who were beheaded by the Shabab after their father refused to divulge information about an underground church. Hundreds of Somalis may have been killed for being Christian since the Shabab arose in 2005.

These stories are reported in the press, but rarely make headlines in the US. Even Fox News and Rush Limbaugh do not routinely report about atrocities committed against Christians around the world. Those of us who rely on major media for our news are at best vaguely aware of these persecutions.

Why doesn’t the major media report this news routinely?

Why don’t we feel compeled to search the news out?

Obviously, the US government’s agenda is not the same as the church’s agenda. Just so, the media’s agenda is not the same either.

Question:

Today we complain of “persecution” because the governmental officials in the schools will not teach our children to pray — forcing us to do so ourselves. However, we have plenty of time to train our children in baseball, soccer, and ballet.

Would any of us be willing to commit to spend as much time preparing our children for a life of service in the Kingdom as we spend preparing them for sports and dance? Most will never make it in the professional world of athletics or dance or piano. A very few will earn a scholarship. We pray that they’ll all be productive members of the Kingdom — and yet we spend virtually no time preparing them.

If you lived in Somalia, or Uzbekistan, or India, how much time would you spend training your children on how to live as Christians?

Where will the next generation of church leaders come from?

In today’s teen ministry, the greatest challenge faced by the ministers and volunteers is finding a way to make learning about the Bible “fun,” because our children won’t pay attention unless the lesson is entertaining.There approach to Bible study is entirely self-centered.

How good a job are we doing of preparing the next generation? Will we pass the story on to those who follow us?

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4 Responses

  1. Jay,
    Fantastic post! I am currently re-reading a book published by Asia for Christ. This is a group headed by a man from India who began preaching in his own country at age 16. Now, he raises funds to provide less than what we would consider subsistence living for thousands of Indian “missionaries” to their own country. He tells, not only of privation beyond belief, but of persecutions that make me wonder how dedicated to the Lord I really am.

    I ask myself, “What am I willing to die for?” RVL is right to ask if we suffer with those who are suffering for the name of Jesus.

    There is nothing that will make us “One in Jesus” more than standing with those who are persecuted for righteousness sake.

    Jerry S.

  2. Certainly puts things in perspective doesn’t it.

    We of the church of Christ in this country must strive for unity and stop the bickering over such petty things. How we could help these folks if we would join together.

  3. To answers your last question: Thank God that he has raised up missionaries from Korea, Nigeria and the Philippines to come to North America! … Too often we have been entertaining ourselves to death – spiritual death.

    Part of the problem of the persecuted church is us – missionaries who have not been successful in presenting the gospel message as been separate from western culture.

    One positive line stands out about Somalia: “Christian men attend mosques on Fridays…” To be brief, that is acting wisely. Remember the Christians continued in the Temple (Acts 3).

  4. Jerry and John
    I have been to most of the places mentioned by Jay. Especially Pakistan, Christians are the lowest caste in the nation.

    Would most Churches of Christ recognize these sufferers as “followers of Christ”?

    You are right. We contribute money to the evangelist you mentioned and we have been members of the COC for more than fifty years. We have long since recognized that we are not the only Christians on this planet.

    I am like C.S. Lewis, I don’t takre sides in doctrinal arguements. We would rather go to Walmart or the local washiteria and talk to common folks about their souls, then encourage them to go to a church that they are comfotable with.

    Grace to you. Bob

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