National Prayer Day, 2014

According to the Feb. 10th issue of National Review, Open Doors International, a group that assists persecuted Christians in high-risk areas around the world, reports that the number of Christians killed for their faith increased two-fold in the past year.

 

ODI “documented 2,123 Christian martyrs in 2013,” National Review reports, “compared with 1,201 in 2012.  NR notes that “[These are low estimates; other organizations estimate that upwards of 8,000 Christians were martyred last year].

 

According to ODI, the main perpetrators of this increase in persecution are Islamist extremists in Syria, Pakistan and Egypt.  NR noted that North Korea was also persecuting Christians but that precise numbers were more difficult to confirm.

 

“Yet the story of these martyrs goes largely untold or is brushed aside,” National Review reports.  “Reuters and Time, writing on the Open Doors report, were unwilling to print the word ‘martyrs’ without scare quotes.”  Meaning those publications consider martyrdom an exaggeration.

 

“We should not shrink from facing the massacre of innocents because the manner of their death is not politically correct,” NR concluded.

 

Here in America, Christians aren’t being murdered – yet.  But they are being marginalized, their symbols being removed from public squares by well-funded secular and atheist groups.  Schools, threatened by expensive lawsuits, are backing down on Christmas celebrations, renaming Christmas Trees “Holiday” trees and banning any songs with Christian themes from their annual “holiday” concerts.

 

God appeared to the prophet Ezekiel as a four-faced (man, ox, lion and eagle) and told him to memorize His words and speak to the House of Israel whether they wanted to listen or not:

 

 

“And he said unto me, Son of man, I send thee to the children of Israel, to a rebellious nation that hath rebelled against me:  they and their fathers have transgressed against me, even unto this very day.

 

“For they are impudent children and stiff hearted.  I do send thee unto them, and thou shalt say unto them, ‘Thus saith the Lord God.’

 

“And they, whether they will hear, or whether they will forbear [refuse to listen], (for they are a rebellious house), yet shall know that there hath been a prophet among them.

 

“And thou, son of man, be not afraid of them, neither be afraid of their words, though briers and thorns be with thee, and thou dost dwell among scorpions: be not afraid of their words, nor be dismayed at their looks, though they be a rebellious house.

 

“And thou shalt speak my words unto them, whether they will hear, or whether they will forbear:  for they are most rebellious.

 

“But thou, son of mean, hear what I say unto thee:  Be not thou rebellious like that rebellious house and eat that I give thee.”  Ezekiel 2-3

 

God gives Ezekiel a roll of a book in which God’s warnings to Israel are written.  Ezekiel obeys God and eats the scroll so that the words were received in his heart and his mind.  For in the absence of the faithful priests of Israel, Jerusalem, God’s throne on earth, had turned to worshipping idols and the sun and filled the temple with golden idols.

 

“Why boastest thou thyself in mischief, O mighty man?  The goodness of God endureth continually.  Thy tongue deviseth mischiefs, like a sharp razor, working deceitfully.

 

“Thou lovest evil more than good and lying rather than to speak righteousness.  Thou lovest all devouring words, O thou deceitful tongue.

 

“God shall likewise destroy thee forever.  He shall take thee away, and pluck thee out of thy dwelling place and root thee out of the land of the living.

 

“The righteous also shall see, and fear, and shall laugh at him.  Lo, this is the man that made not God his strength, but trusted in the abundance of his riches and strengthened himself in his wickedness.

 

“But I am like a green olive tree in the house of God; I trust in the mercy of God forever and ever.  I will praise thee forever because thou hast done it, and I will wait on thy name, for it is good before thy saints.”  Psalm 52.  Psalm 53 speaks about fools who do not believe in God.

 

After the resurrection of Jesus, Peter and John went about Jerusalem, healing the sick and the lame.  The priests and the Sadducees came upon them, even as they cured a lame man, who stood beside them. They didn’t know what to do with Peter and John.  They could clearly see a miracle had been performed and that many had witnessed it.  So they arrested the pair, but then released them on the condition that they never again teach in the name of Jesus.

 

There was a great deal of doubt not just among the Jews but among the Greeks about Jesus.  Many declared against Jesus because He had wanted to change their long-held customs.  The synagogues of the Libertines rose up against one of the Christian’s new disciples, Stephen.  After telling the story of Moses and healing the sick, he was cast out of the city, stoned, and stripped of his clothes.  The people laid the clothes at the feet of Saul of Tarsus, a Roman Jew who helped police the synagogues for the Christian teachers, beating and dragging the Christian followers to prison and death.

 

But while on the road, Saul came upon Jesus and was converted and renamed.  He went on to become a missionary. He was warned not to go to Jerusalem.  But he went anyway.  The citizens of Jerusalem recognized him as the Jew who had brought to slaughter thousands of Christians.  He was about to be sentenced to stoning, but he persuaded the captain of the guard to allow him to speak as he was not only a Jew, but a Roman.

 

“Men, brethren and fathers, hear ye my defence which I make now unto you.  (And when they heard that he spake in the Hebrew tongue to them, they kept the more silence:  and he saith,)

 

“I am verily a man which am a Jew, born in Tarsus, a city in Cilicia, yet brought up in this city at the feet of Gamaliel, and taught according to the perfect manner of the law of the fathers, and was zealous towards God, as ye all are this day.

 

“And I persecuted this way unto the death, binding and delivering into prisons both men and women.  As also the high priest doth bear me witness, and all the estate of the elders, from whom also I received letters unto the brethren, and went to Damascus to bring them which were there, bound unto Jerusalem, for to be punished.

 

“And it came to pass that, I made my journey, and was come nigh unto Damascus about noon, suddenly there shone from heaven a great light round about me.  And I fell unto the ground, and heard a voice saying unto me, ‘Saul, Saul, why persecutes thou me?’

 

“And I answered, ‘Who are thou, Lord?’  And he said unto me, ‘I am Jesus of Nazareth, whom thou persecutes.’

 

“And they that were with me saw indeed the light and were afraid.  But they heard not the voice of him that spake to me.

 

“And I said, ‘What shall I do, Lord?’  And the Lord said unto me, ‘Arise, and go into Damascus and there it shall be told thee of all the things which are appointed for thee to do.’

 

“And when I could not see for the glory of that light, being led by the hand of them that were with me, I came into Damascus.  And one Ananias, a devout man according to the law, having a good report of all the Jews which dwelt there came unto me and stood and said unto me, ‘Brother Saul, receive thy sight.’  And the same hour, I looked upon him.

 

“And he said, ‘The God of our fathers hath chosen thee, that thou shouldest know his will, and see that Just One, and shouldest hear the voice of his mouth.  For thou shalt be his witness unto all men of what thou hast seen and heard.  And now why tarriest thou?  Ariest, and be baptized, and wash away thy sins, calling on the name of the Lord.’

 

“And it came to pass that, when I was come gain to Jerusalem, even while I prayed in the temple, I was in a trance and saw him saying unto me, ‘Make haste, and get thee quickly out of Jerusalem, for they will not receive they testimony concerning me.’

 

After his baptism, Saul of Tarsus became Paul.  From prison, he wrote many letters to the Gentiles (the non-Jewish population) as well as to the Hebrews:  “Thou hast loved righteousness and hated iniquity.  Therefore God, even thy god, hath anointed thee with the oil of gladness above they fellows.  And thou, Lord, in the beginning has laid the foundations of the earth and the heavens are the works of thine hands.  They shall perish.  But thou remainest and they all shall wax old as doth a garment.”  Hebrews 1:9-11

 

The persecutor became the persecuted; the prisoner of the Romans and the Hebrews became the “prisoner” of Jesus.

 

“Blessed are they which are persecuted for righteousness’ sake, for theirs is the kingdom of Heaven

 

“Blessed are ye, when men shall revile you, and persecute you, and shall say all manner of evil against you falsely, for my sake.

 

“Rejoice and be exceeding glad.  For great is your reward in Heaven.  For so persecuted they the prophets which were before you.

 

“Ye are the salt of the earth.  But if the salt have lost his savour, wherewith shall it be salted?  It is therefore good for nothing but to be cast out and to be trodden under the foot of men.

 

“Ye are the light of the world.  A city that is set on a hill cannot be hid.

 

“Neither do men light a candle and put it under a bushel, but on a candlestick and it giveth light unto all that are in the house.

 

“Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father which is in Heaven.”

 

The enemies of Christianity would wipe the faithful, along with their forefathers, the Jews, from the face of the earth.  Because they are non-believers, they don’t understand that it is not possible to unhear what has been said or unbelieve what has been written on the hearts of the believers.  They can murder the messengers, thereby preventing the message from being spread.  They can strike fear in the hearts of those who haven’t heard the Good News and even corrupt the hearts of those who have, not understanding that there is eternal forgiveness in Heaven.

 

Today is National Prayer Day in a nation that practically forbids the public practice of Christianity and turns a blind eye to nations that persecute Jews and Christians.  It is a government that would have us bow down to bureaucrats and forbid the name of Jesus to cross our lips in the public square because it would supposedly violate the creed of some other faith.

 

Yet we rejoice and even laugh in the faces of the non-believers, even with the sword at our throats.  Why? 

 

Because Jesus lives and reigns forever and ever.  Amen.

 

 

 

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Published in: on February 6, 2014 at 3:42 pm  Leave a Comment  

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