Sunday, May 25, 2014

Preparing For What Is To Come As Persecution Increases Worldwide

The question that always comes up at any prophecy conference or bible study - is what will Christians have to face on this side of the 'gathering up'? 

It is a highly pertinent question - one that is difficult to answer. Clearly we will be gone prior to God's judgment upon an unrepentant world - also known as the Tribulation, but what we  may face prior to that period is anyone's guess. 

It may be worth looking at some scripture. 

"Be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid or terrified because of them, for the Lord your God goes with you; He will never leave you nor forsake you" (Deuteronomy 31:6)

"The Lord Himself goes before you and will be with you; He will never leave you nor forsake you. Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged." (Deuteronomy 31:8)

"No one will be able to stand against you all the days of your life. As I was with Moses, so I will be with you; I will never leave you nor forsake you." (Joshua 1:5)

"You will hear of wars and rumors of wars, but see to it that you are not alarmed. Such things must happen, but the end is still to come." (Matthew 24:6)

The first story below is just one of many such stories that you read on a daily basis. 

One can simply go to the link for Voice Of The Martyrs for daily updates on the growing persecution around the world. The stories are heartbreaking and we need to include these Christians in our daily prayers. 

“Let the little children come to Me, and do not forbid them; for of such is the kingdom of God. Assuredly, I say to you, whoever does not receive the kingdom of God as a little child will by no means enter it.” (Mark 10:14b–15, NKJV).

Sometimes children are able to see truth in unencumbered, refreshing ways. Jesus loved children, and even challenged his followers to “receive the kingdom of God as a little child.”
At VOM, we acknowledge the mandate of James 1:27 and have a unique interest in serving the underserved, especially children and widows living in areas that experience intense persecution. Pakistan is one of those places.
For several years, VOM has been in active partnership with David C. Cook, a nonprofit organization dedicated to publishing discipleship resources to help Christians all over the world grow in their faith.
Together, we have been able to distribute hundreds of thousands of “Story of Jesus” books in some of the world’s most difficult places. These colorful books, which are similar to “comic books,” introduce Jesus to children in a way that is very compelling. In fact, when I took a copy home to my own children, they were immediately drawn to it.
In July of 2013, two young girls in Pakistan received a copy of “the Story of Jesus” in their native language of Urdu. The Christians who distributed the booklets happily reported that these girls trusted Christ after reading these engaging booklets. Two more sisters were added to our family!

Just a couple of months later, on a sunny Sunday morning, two suicide bombers entered the All Saints Church compound in Peshawar, Pakistan. These Islamists waited until the services were over and the nearly 500 worshipers began to gather for a meal together. At 11:45, they detonated their suicide vests and killed 78 people and injured another 130. It was the deadliest attack on the Christian minority in the history of Pakistan.
In October, I received word that the two young sisters who received “the Story of Jesus” during the July distribution, and began to follow Jesus, were killed in the attack on that bright Sunday morning.
The death of children is especially tough, and many of the victims from Peshawar were women and children. There are never easy answers for difficult situations like this. They serve as vivid reminders of how fallen our world is. But, we do not mourn as those without hope! We believe that “while we are at home in the body we are absent from the Lord. For we walk by faith, not by sight” (2 Corinthians 5:6–7).
As you look at the photograph of these two young girls, please remember their families in prayer, along with the other families who lost loved ones in this attack. Pray also for those who plotted this attack. May God’s glory be manifested in all of the chaos that continues in this area. Finally, please pray with us that God will guide us as we do our best to minister in that difficult place.

Pope Francis on Sunday invited the Israeli and Palestinian presidents to the Vatican, calling the stalemate in peace talks “unacceptable” as he visited the birthplace of Jesus.
On the second leg of a three-day visit to the Middle East, the pontiff delighted his hosts by referring directly to the "state of Palestine" – a nod of support to their bid for full statehood recognition.
Jubilant, flag-waving Palestinians greeted Francis on his pilgrimage, which featured a Mass in Manger Square on a stage next to the Church of the Nativity, built over Jesus' traditional birth grotto.

Earlier, he stopped to pray at the Israeli separation barrier surrounding the biblical West Bank town.
"In this, the birthplace of the Prince of Peace, I wish to invite you, President Mahmoud Abbas, together with President Shimon Peres, to join me in heartfelt prayer to God for the gift of peace," the Pope said at Mass.
"I offer my home in the Vatican as a place for this encounter of prayer," Francis said. Asked about the invitation, a spokeswoman for Peres said in Jerusalem that he "always accepts any kind of initiative to promote peace". While Abbas heads the Palestinian government, Peres's presidential post is largely ceremonial.

Previous popes always came to the West Bank after first arriving in Tel Aviv, Israel. Francis, however, landed at a Bethlehem helipad from Jordan aboard a Jordanian helicopter and immediately headed into an official welcoming ceremony and meeting with Abbas.

Standing alongside Abbas, Francis declared: "The time has come to put an end to this situation which has become increasingly unacceptable." He said both sides needed to make sacrifices to create two states, with internationally recognized borders, based on mutual security and rights for everyone. "The time has come for everyone to find the courage to be generous and creative in the service of the common good," he said.

Although the Pope had insisted his visit was religious, his comments show he is clearly not afraid to step into the political realm.

Prior to his arrival in the Holy Land on Sunday, Pope Francis cautioned that his visit would be “strictly religious” in nature. But that didn’t stop both Israel and the Palestinians from trying to corral the pontiff into the conflict on their respective sides.
By the time he stepped off the helicopter in Bethlehem, it seemed Francis had acquiesced to the inevitable, telling his audience that it was high time to bring an end to the “increasingly unacceptable” Israeli-Palestinian conflict, and to do so on the basis of a two-state solution.
The pope then went so far as to christen the land he was standing upon as the “State of Palestine.”

“Our recent meeting in the Vatican and my presence today in Palestine attest to the good relations existing between the Holy See and the State of Palestine,” he said standing next to Palestinian leader Mahmoud Abbas.
The gesture won Francis enthusiastic applause from the audience in Bethlehem, where the pope then conducted a much-anticipated Mass. Unsurprisingly, the Mass was interrupted by exaggeratedly-loud calls to prayer from the adjacent mosque.

As Pope Francis heads to the Holy Land this weekend to mark the fiftieth anniversary of Paul VI’s historic 1964 trip, he does so amidst increasing violence against the dwindling Christian population in the region.

It’s clear that Francis’s trip offers a chance to lift up the realities of persecution and violence against Christians in the region. But it also provides the world an opportunity to more fully grasp what Boston Globe religion reporter John Allen calls the “global war on Christians.”

It seems that popular culture in the West is only nominally aware of this global epidemic. According to the Vatican, over 100,000 Christians are murdered by some relation to their faith every year. And just last week, a Sudanese woman was sentenced to death for marrying a Christian.

Let’s hope the West is affected by his message and awakens to the uncomfortable reality that it is actually Christians who are the most persecuted group in contemporary society.

A Jesus movement among both Jews and Muslims in the Middle East has been described by a Japanese-American pastor as a spiritual awakening that has never been seen before.
Peter Tsukahira was addressing a conference in Jerusalem aimed at strengthening the bonds of reconciliation between the sons of Abraham (Isaac and Ishmael). An invitation-only event, At the Crossroads was hosted in the Old City by Christ Church, the oldest Protestant church in the region.
Arab, Iranian, Turkish and Kurdish delegates attending from countries perceived as enemies of Israel risked their lives to come and enjoy the hospitality of their Jewish brothers, quite apart from the fact that Christians are suffering severe persecution in many of the Muslim-background nations represented.

The pastor said the church at large was in danger of entering a ‘dark age’, but could change the world if they affected every facet of life and culture with biblical foundations.
“Christianity is at a crossroads,” said Tsukahira. “One day Islam is going to fall, and then the Christians are going to have to step up with the answer and fill the vacuum. However, the kingdom of God is more than a gospel of church growth.”
One area in which the church had failed over the centuries was in cutting itself off from its Hebraic roots. But the last few verses of the Old Testament (in Malachi) speaks of how the hearts of the fathers will turn to their children, and the children to their fathers – paving the way for the Messiah’s second coming.
This, he says, refers to Christians re-connecting with their Jewish founding fathers. After all, God’s promise to Abraham was that he would be a blessing to all nations.
“I think it’s like going to a long movie after the intermission. We never understand why it ends the way it does, or learn of the part played by characters earlier on.”
Tsukahira believes that a big breakthrough among Arab Moslems would come quickly and suddenly, and would provoke the Jews to jealousy, paving the way for Israel’s national acceptance of Jesus as Messiah.

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