Why we need to pray for the persecuted Church

Now it is evident that no one can terrify or subdue us who have believed in Jesus over all the world. For it is plain that, though beheaded, and crucified, and thrown to wild beasts, and chains, and fire, and all other kinds of torture, we do not give up our confession; but the more such things happen, the more do others and in larger numbers become faithful, and worshipers of God through the name of Jesus. For just as if one should cut away the fruit-bearing parts of a vine, it grows up again, and yields other branches flourishing and fruitful; even so the same thing happens with us.1

For many of us in the West persecution is a foreign concept; but for millions of our brothers and sisters in Christ, it’s daily reality. “In this past century alone, more Christians were murdered for their faith than any other century in human history, an estimated 200 million.”2

They face persecution from both society and governments—sometimes as severe as detention and imprisonment, or as “minor” as culturally accepted harassment. They experience property damage, displacement from homes, physical assault, and death. All because they’ve put their faith in Jesus Christ.

So what can we do? We can pray. Tim Keesee writes:

When we pray for persecuted brothers, we don’t only seek their deliverance, though that’s legitimate. We pray for their boldness (Acts 4:29; Ephesians 6:19-20). We pray for the further glory of Christ, something accomplished both by life and by death, from the pulpit and from the prison cell (Philippians 1:12-21).  God’s purposes are sometimes accomplished through suffering. A courageous Christian journalist in Turkey once told me that if human rights organizations had existed when Joseph was unjustly imprisoned in Egypt, they would have sought his immediate release. But God had a higher purpose than just delivering Joseph.  God’s design was not only to deliver Joseph but also deliver nations (Genesis 50:20).3

Both Justin Martyr and Keesee give us an important reminder: We pray for that our brothers and sisters in Christ would be strengthened to endure their trials—and we pray that the Lord would continue to grow His church.

Two resources to help you pray:

1. Sign up for Persecution.org’s prayer list for regular updates on prayer needs.

2. Use the 31 day prayer calendar put together by Frontline Missions to guide your prayers:

Prayer-Calendar1-980x757

You can download it here.

Around the Interweb

John Piper interviews Rick Warren on Doctrine

Piper’s remarks from the DG blog:

The nature of the interview is mainly doctrinal. I read Rick’s The Purpose Driven Life with great care. I brought 20 pages of quotes and questions to the interview. You will hear me quote the book dozens of times. With these quotes as a starting point I dig into Rick’s mind and heart on all the issues listed below (with the times that they begin on the video).

My aim in this interview is to bring out and clarify what Rick Warren believes about these biblical doctrines. In doing this my hope is that the thousands of pastors and lay people who look to Rick for inspiration and wisdom will see the profound place that doctrine has in his mind and heart. . . . Rick and I are very different in methodological instincts and inclinations. . . . We both have chosen risky ways. There are pitfalls of short- and long-term unfruitfulness. But in the end we do not govern the impact of our lives. God does. We do what the Bible and our hearts call us to do. I believe Rick’s is a faithful heart. Listen to the clarity of his doctrinal commitments and hear the heartbeat of his love for Christ and those perishing without him.

Also Worth Reading:

Music: Steve McCoy reviews Sojourn’s new album, The Water & The Blood

Books: Advice for Slow Readers

Theology: Loopholes for Hell: A Response to Jeff Cook’s Response to Francis Chan

Missing Persons: Pray for Matt Hill, a Christian brother from D.C. who has gone missing. Update: Matt has been found, alive and unharmed!

Bible: How Should the Books of the OT Be Ordered?

Contest Winner: The winner of a copy of The Next Story by Tim Challies is Mark Koiro! Congratulations, Mark!

In Case You Missed It

Here are a few of this week’s notable posts:

What Will It Take?

Book Review: The Next Story by Tim Challies

Are You Studying or Skimming?

A Few Lessons I’m Learning

Spurgeon: A Constant, Delighting and Enduring Love

Flavel: The Snare of Prosperity

A Few Lessons I’m Learning

Several months back, I mentioned that I’m writing a book and haven’t said too much about it since publicly. There are reasons for that, obviously, most of which amount to I haven’t had much to say.

However, I thought I’d give you a quick update on where things are at with it and what I’m learning through the process.

1. Having good friends and contacts is essential. The deeper I get, the more I realize that if you don’t have a good network to help, you’re going to have a hard time getting your foot in the door. On top of that, good friends and contacts who are willing to give you constructive feedback on what you’re doing will make the process that much easier. The feedback (and encouragement) I’ve received from Trevin,Tim, Dan, Andrew and Amber in particular has made even the process of submitting proposals that much easier.

Which brings me to my next point…

2. Submitting to publishers is not for the faint of heart. It can really hurt to get rejected, particularly if what you’re working on is something you’re sure God has put on your heart to write.

3. Rejection can be really encouraging. I’ve sent a proposal to six publishers at this point and have already received my first rejection. Believe it or not, I was really encouraged by it as the editor (a friend of a friend, incidentally), let me down really easily and reminded me that I can write real good when I’m trying.

4. Get an established author to show you how they write book proposals. I had no idea how to write a book proposal when I started this thing. At all. Fortunately, my friend Dan Darling gave me the down-low. I am unbelievably grateful for this. So grateful, in fact, that I will hyperlink to himTwice. [Read more...]

Let the Law, Sin, and the Devil Cry Out Against Us

The fact that the Spirit of Christ in our hearts cries unto God and makes intercession for us with groanings should reassure us greatly. However, there are many factors that prevent such full reassurance on our part. We are born in sin. To doubt the good will of God is an inborn suspicion of God with all of us. Besides, the devil, our adversary, goeth about seeking to devour us by roaring: God is angry at you and is going to destroy you forever. In all these difficulties we have only one support, the Gospel of Christ. To hold on to it, that is the trick. Christ cannot be perceived with the senses. We cannot see Him. The heart does not feel His helpful presence. Especially in times of trials a Christian feels the power of sin, the infirmity of his flesh, the goading darts of the devil, the agues of death, the scowl and judgment of God. All these things cry out against us. The Law scolds us, sin screams at us, death thunders at us, the devil roars at us. In the midst of the clamor the Spirit of Christ cries in our hearts: Abba, Father. And this little cry of the Spirit transcends the hullabaloo of the Law, sin, death, and the devil, and finds a hearing with God.

The Spirit cries in us because of our weakness. Because of our infirmity the Holy Ghost is sent forth into our hearts to pray for us according to the will of God and to assure us of the grace of God.

Let the Law, sin, and the devil cry out against us until their outcry fills heaven and earth. The Spirit of God outcries them all. Our feeble groans, Abba, Father, will be heard of God sooner than the combined racket of hell, sin, and the Law.

Martin Luther, Commentary on Galatians (Kindle Edition, location 2125)

He Delights in the Asking

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On your walls, O Jerusalem, I have set watchmen; all the day and all the night they shall never be silent. You who put the LORD in remembrance, take no rest, and give him no rest until he establishes Jerusalem and makes it a praise in the earth. (Isaiah 62:6-7)

Around the Interweb

CrossReference

Dr. David Murray is releasing a new DVD teaching series looking at Christ in the Old Testament, not only the predictions and typologies, but also His appearances as the Angel of the Lord. Dr. Murray explains in this trailer for the series:

HT: Challies

The Winners of the Counterfeit Gospels Giveaway

Over 80 people entered to win a copy of Trevin Wax’s new book, Counterfeit Gospels—and the following three people will be receiving a copy courtesy of Moody Publishers:

  1. Liam Moran
  2. Anthony Forrest
  3. James Chandler

Thanks to all who entered. I wish I had had more copies to give away, but I’d highly encourage you all to order a copy today.

Also Worth Reading

Prayer Request from Tullian: Pastor Tullian Tchividjian is almost finished his next book, Jesus + Nothing = Everything (Crossway 2011) and he could use your prayers.

Free Audio: This month’s free download at ChristianAudio.com is The Hiding Place by Corrie ten Boom

Bible: “If . . Then” in 1 John

Conference Messages: The 2011 Ligonier National Conference messages are now online.

The Elephant Room: Chris Vacher live blogged this past Thursday’s big event featuring Pastors Mark Driscoll, Matt Chandler, Perry Noble, James MacDonald, David Platt and Steven Furtick. James MacDonald also posted a number of his own reflections. Video from the event will be released over the next few weeks.

In Case You Missed It:

A review of Counterfeit Gospels and an interview with its author, Trevin Wax.

The Call Is Not To Be Taken Lightly

My Memory Moleskine: Think On These Things

A Legion of Andrews

Speaking Mysteriously of Mysteries

Honor Your Father by Being in Awe of Him

We show our honour to our Father in heaven, by having a reverential awe of him upon us. ‘Thou shalt fear thy God.’ Lev 25: 17. This reverential fear of God, is when we dare do nothing that he has forbidden in his Word. ‘How can I do this great wickedness, and sin against God?’ Gen 39: 9. It is part of the honour a son gives to a father, that he fears to displease him. We show our honour to our heavenly Father, by doing all we can to exalt him and make his excellencies shine forth. Though we cannot lift him up higher in heaven, yet we may lift him higher in our hearts, and in the esteem of others. When we speak well of God, set forth his renown, display the trophies of his goodness; when we ascribe the glory of all we do to him; when we are the trumpeters of his praise; this is honouring our Father in heaven, and a sure sign of a childlike heart. ‘Whose offereth praise, glorifieth me.’ Psa 123.

Thomas Watson, The Lord’s Prayer (Kindle Edition, Location 177)

Book Review: iFaith by Daniel Darling

Have you ever stopped to consider the pace of  your life?

Wake up, check your email, your Facebook, head out the door, meetings, work, phone calls, more email, more meetings, home again and collapse into bed.

If we had to be honest, this would probably be a fairly accurate picture of each of our lives, wouldn’t it? (I can’t possibly be the only one, can I?)

But, did you notice what’s missing? God.

Where is communion with Christ? Time for thoughtful Bible study? Prayer? Rest?

What is the hustle and bustle of our über-connected lifestyle doing to our relationship with our Savior?

That’s the question that motivated Daniel Darling, the senior pastor of Gages Lake Bible Church, to write iFaith: Connecting With God in the 21st Century. In this book, Darling examines place, posture and practice of prayer in a world so caught up in the urgent that it’s lost the ability to see the important.

iFaith was a much needed wake-up call for me as a reader. I’m far too guilty of frittering away time and getting so caught up in everything else that’s going on that I neglect my prayer life. But why is that? In large part because I hate waiting for an answer.

Darling writes, “Waiting is considered loathsome to a generation accustomed to having quick answers, fast results and instant gratification” (p. 28). Ouch.

Think about it for a second though. When you pray, how long do you persist? How long do you continue on in prayer before you give up and decide that God must not be saying “yes” to this one? Darling continues, “But we must surrender our hearts to the sovereignty of God who slows us down, because waiting is not wasted time at all. Waiting is the essence of a faith that pleases Him” (ibid). [Read more...]

Cultivating Private Prayer as a Pastor

On Tuesday, February 1, Dr. Joel Beeke spoke at the Desiring God 2011 Pastor’s Conference, “The Powerful Life of the Praying Pastor.” His topic: Cultivating Private Prayer as a Pastor. Though many visiting this site are not pastors, I hope you’ll find Dr. Beeke’s message beneficial to cultivating your own prayer life.

Video:

Audio: : (Download to listen later)

Below are the notes taken during Dr. Beeke’s session (courtesy of Desiring God):

It is always convicting to receive the assignment to speak on prayer to other pastors. And as I was writing the book that Dr. Piper referenced on prayer, I became increasingly convicted by the Puritans about how little I pray. So tonight, I am preaching first of all to myself. This topic is at the heart of revival of the church of Jesus Christ. My father told me when I was a teenager that the greatest problem of the church today is prayerless praying.

The sermons of the Reformers and Puritans are not that different than ours. We’re saying essentially the same thing. What was so different was their prayer lives. My aim is that we would truly pray in our prayers. So turn with me to Isaiah 64:6-9 and James 5:13-18.

True prayer is putting ourselves into our petitions, crying out to God Almighty and praying in our prayers. The problem is not that we don’t pray, but rather that seldom we truly prayerfully pray in our prayers. What is this praying? The primary exercise of faith. Private prayerful praying is the work of the triune God. It has more to do with God than with us. It is Heaven’s greatest weapon that we have at our disposal as a minister of the gospel. This kind of praying is supposed to be half of our vocation—giving ourselves to the Word and to prayer. [Read more...]

Book Review: Sun Stand Still by Steven Furtick

Title: Sun Stand Still: What Happens When You Dare to Ask God for the Impossible
Author: Steven Furtick
Publisher: Multnohmah (2010)

I wasn’t sure what to think of Steven Furtick’s Sun Stand Still when I first received it.

I’d heard a bit about Furtick, the founder and lead pastor of Elevation Church in Charlotte, North Carolina. Most of it had to do with numbers —Elevation has a congregation in the thousands, and its founding pastor has only just turned 30.

But I didn’t really know what he was all about. I didn’t know what he stands for and what he’s passionate about.

The back cover copy of the book didn’t make things any clearer. As I cracked it open, I couldn’t help but wonder if this would be completely ridiculous, or if it would be a lot more helpful than I anticipated.

By the time I finished the book, I had great deal more clarity regarding those questions. Furtick is deeply passionate about seeing Christians live in the fullness of their faith, and this book is his attempt to guide readers through the process of doing so.

Sun Stand Still is a call to what Furtick calls “audacious faith”—to live and pray like the God we worship and serve is actually capable of the impossible (because He is).

Furtick takes his inspiration from Joshua 10:1-15; there Joshua commands the sun to stand still so the Israelites can finish off their enemies, and God causes the sun to stand still. He wants readers to have God-sized visions; plans and prayers that are absolutely terrifyingly impossible to accomplish if God is not at work in them and through them.

In this sense, the book is right at home with Francis Chan’s bestseller,Crazy Love. That is, there’s this strong desire to see Christians living fully in their faith. To not try to live your best life now, but actually do big things for God’s glory.

That’s something that I greatly appreciate and resonate with, particularly in my own life. It’s easy to get wrapped up in getting by or sidetracked pursuing comforts in life that I might be at risk of missing an opportunity that God is giving me to take a big, bold step of faith. None of us should be content with actions that, as Ecclesiastes 1:17 says, are merely grasping or striving after the wind. A great deal of effort exuded for very little payoff. [Read more...]

No Care But Prayer

Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.

Philippians 4:6-7

No care but all prayer. No anxiety but much joyful communion with God. Carry your desires to the Lord of your life, the guardian of your soul. Go to Him with two portions of prayer and one of fragrant praise. Do not pray doubtfully but thankfully. Consider that you have your petitions, and therefore thank God for His grace. He is giving you grace; give Him thanks, Hide nothing. Allow no want to lie rankling in your bosom; “make known your requests.” Run not to man. Go only to your God, the Father of Jesus, who loves you in Him.

This shall bring you God’s own peace. You shall not be able to understand the peace which you shall enjoy. It will enfold you in its infinite embrace. Heart and mind through Christ Jesus shall be steeped in a sea of rest. Come life or death, poverty, pain, slander, you shall dwell in Jesus above every rolling wind or darkening cloud. Will you not obey this dear command?

Yes, Lord, I do believe thee; but, I beseech thee, help mine unbelief.

Charles Spurgeon, Faith’s Check Book

This is the Gospel (and the part that I struggle with) by Will Adair

Today’s guest blogger is Will Adair. Will describes himself as a pastor in transition, learning what it means to be content in Christ. He regularly blogs at Sojourns with Jesus and can be found on Twitter here.


My name is Will Adair and you are reading this because Aaron is on vacation and has graciously opened his blog to me. I wanted to write something universally applicable instead of rambling on about some fun but obscure doctrine like modalism or why the Avett Brothers are a band you should have continually on your play track next to Derek Webb (go Google them). Instead, I am writing on the Lord’s prayer. Let me be clear and candid. I have struggled with every line in this prayer.

Our Father in heaven,
hallowed be your name.

The concept of God as Father once seemed ludicrous. If God was up there he certainly could not also be my father down here. God is remarkably patient as a Father. When I finally embraced him, with little decorum he ran to me when I wandered home as the prodigal younger son. He gently rebuked me when I was the unloving elder son. I joyfully embrace his Fatherhood because as a father I need him to model to me how to love my kids.

“Your kingdom come,
your will be done,
on earth as it is in heaven.

Most of us have little problem with God as Savior but God as a real Lord tends to be problematic. No one has a problem with a Sovereign that is merely a figurehead like say Queen Elizabeth. The Father though unlike the Queen of England desires and has the authority to be involved in every aspect of his subjects lives. God as a King offends our modern & post-modern pride. Where there are kings there are servants. None of us likes the idea of servitude. Oscar Wilde lived his life as an atheist in his attempt to flee God and be his own lord. This though is the great illusion of our world. Wilde in De Profundis summarizes well the human condition. “Most people are other people. Their thoughts are someone else’s opinions, their lives a mimicry, their passions a quotation.” All humans either knowingly or unknowingly are as Wilde said “other people.” All of us already follow either a life given over to God or one given over to sin. Even our sin is not truly our own, it is at best someone else’s remixed. [Read more...]

Being a Comfort When You're Not Sure What to Say

Wednesday morning at six, my father-in-law is going to have heart surgery. Emily’s been surprisingly okay with everything (as she’s been fond of saying, she gets anxious about the little things, but the big ones don’t faze her too much), and her Dad is pretty confident that everything will be fine. But Emily’s mom… you can hear the stress in her voice whenever she calls.

It’s been a tough few weeks for her, and honestly we’ve not been sure how to be of comfort beyond telling her that we’re praying for her.

Being (as far as we know) the only Christians in our family, this has been a big struggle for us—the things we take comfort in, the only things that bring true comfort (Christ’s death, Christ’s resurrection and the hope of His final return and our future glorification with Him)—these things aren’t terribly comforting to people who don’t trust in Christ or believe that God is good. (And Emily’s shared this with her mom, which was one of the most loving acts I’ve ever seen her take.)

While I’m sure that the operation is going to be fine (sadly it’s become somewhat a standard procedure), I can’t help but wonder…

What if it doesn’t?

I know that, ultimately, if the surgery goes well, it’s by the will of God.

And I know that if it doesn’t, it’s also by His will.

God’s absolute sovereignty is one of the most comforting truths that He has revealed to us. The Psalmists revelled in it. Paul extolled it.

Jesus—well, Jesus is the Sovereign One, so, obviously…

But this doesn’t bring much comfort to those who are opposed to Him.

What I’ve been praying regularly is that God would use this situation to draw Emily’s family to Himself. That He would be revealed and they would respond in faith.

And maybe that’s enough.

Would you join us in praying for this to happen?


We received an update on my father-in-law’s surgery this afternoon. When the doctors began to operate they discovered they had to do a quintuple bypass, rather than the triple they originally thought.

After five hours of surgery, he has been moved to the recovery ward, but they’re waiting for his blood pressure to drop before they can wake him up. Apparently it’s a lot harder to get the blood pressure of “younger” men under control after a procedure like this which is why he is remaining out for the time being.

Thank you for your prayers today. They’ve meant a lot to us!

Around the Interweb (07/25)

5 Dangers Facing Over-Churched Kids and 9 Strategies to Reach Them

Tony Kummer explains:

These are the children who attend every service, and can’t remember anytime when they didn’t come to church. In my ministry, most of these kids also attend a Christian school. They can recite the books of the Bible, they’ve memorized countess Scripture verses, and they know details about Bible stories that I can’t even remember.

By over-churched kids, I mean children with too much religion and not enough actual interaction with Jesus…

One of the dangers that stood out for me:

They Have Learned to Pretend Pray: A real struggle for grown-ups is connecting with God through prayer. Too often it becomes routine and dry. Most younger children learn prayer as an act of imitation. Many don’t even realize that something cosmic is happening when we address our words to God. They don’t feel the presence of God or even expect that they should.

Tony’s solutions are extremely encouraging. Here are a couple:

Pray for Every Child: Sometimes the deepest problems require a spiritual solution. Ask God to make a difference for those over-churched kids. It’s great when we pray for those outside the church, but don’t forget to lift up those familiar names to the Lord. Remember, effective ministry depends on prayer.

Teach the Bad News: According to the Bible, we are all sinners who have earned the displeasure of God. Without Jesus, we would have no hope of passing God’s judgment. Over-churched kids need to realize that they too need a Savior. They need to learn about sin. Keep teaching the 10 Commandments, but also teach what Jesus said about loving your neighbor. None of us can really meet those standards on our own.

Read both posts; they’re well worth your time.

A Brief Bit of Housekeeping

This past week I was on vacation in Grand Bend, Ontario, enjoying some time relaxing with my family (and preparing a sermon). In my absence a number of gentlemen agreed to lend a hand and keep content coming. Matt, Chris, Gabe and Ben did a tremendous job and I know I was ministered to as I read their posts. (If you haven’t yet, keep scrolling down and you’ll find them.)

Thanks guys, I’m looking forward to having you back if you’re up for it!

In Other News

Church Life: Jason Helopoulos offers a few good reasons for changing churches (and a few bad ones, too).

Social Justice & the Bible: Kevin DeYoung wraps his Seven Passages on Social Justice series by examining Luke 4:16-21. The rest of the series includes Micah 6:8; Amos 5; Matthew 25:31-46; Jeremiah 22; Isaiah 58; and Isaiah 1.

Prayer: Rick Warren’s eyes were severely injured when he got toxic sap from his African Fire Stick plant in his eyes. His sight is gradually improving every day. Please join in praying for his full recovery.

Books and Technology: This week Amazon announced that Kindle books been selling 180 units for every 100 hardbacks for the last three months. Here’s what they didn’t say when they made that announcement.

In Case You Missed It

Here are a few of this week’s notable posts:

Matthew Svoboda tackles Eschatology and why he believes Amillenialism is the most biblically accurate view of the end times.

Gabe Posey looks at the call to ministry.

Chris Canuel examines the purpose of suffering through the eyes of Job.

Ben Reed shares the importance of the beautiful mess that is a small group.