Strength From The Bible
"Your Word is a lamp for my feet, a light on my path." ~ Psalm 119:105
In Eritrea, the government restricts the freedom of religion of faith groups. The only groupings permitted are the Eritrean Orthodox Church, Roman Catholic Church, Evangelical Lutheran Church and Islam. Everyone who is caught at a meeting of believers outside these four official religious groups, even in a private house, can be arrested, tortured and put under pressure to renounce his faith.
Thousands of Christians are being held at police stations, in containers, at military bases and in prisons. Even though many of them have been held for years, none of them has had a trial. In many cases, Christians are also beaten or abused in some other way.
Isaac is one of these prisoners. He heard about God’s love from soldiers in the military unit in which he was fighting during the war with Ethiopia. On the basis of their testimony, he decided to become a Christian and was secretly slipped a Bible. He buried it in the sand and when he had the opportunity, he read the Word of God somewhere outside the army camp. He tried to do so as inconspicuously as possible, but one day he was discovered.
Almost from his first day as a Christian, he was persecuted. He was tortured and even left out in the burning sun, but he refused to renounce his faith. God’s love and God’s Word had become too important for him. In the end, he was locked up, just like other Christian prisoners in Eritrea. He has become a living legend, because he has held on to his faith.
A number of Christian prisoners, who are being held in containers, have been given Bibles in secret. They have divided them into portions, and in this way, each believer has a small part of the Bible. When the container is closed, it is too dark to read. But as soon as the doors are opened to let in some air or to hand out food, something amazing happens. The prisoners do not immediately run outside for fresh air or to eat. First they inconspicuously hold their portions of the Bible to the light in order quickly to be able to read a few verses and to be strengthened by God’s Word.
Today I will treasure my freedom to read and meditate on God’s Word.
Lord, I pray Your Spirit of Peace upon my brothers and sisters in prison today in Eritrea. May they be encouraged by Your Word!
~ excerpt from: "Standing Strong Through the Storm" - a daily devotional published by Open Doors USA, PO BOX 27001 Santa Ana, CA 92799 USA
Open Doors USA is a 501(c)(3) compliant organization and a charter member of the Evangelical Council of Financial Accountability. All contributions are tax-deductible.
Memorizing God's Word
"All Scripture is inspired by God [breathed out by God] and is profitable for teaching, for rebuking, for correcting, for training in righteousness, so that the man of God may be complete, equipped for every good work." ~ 2 Timothy 3:16-17
When China’s best-known pastor, Wang Ming-dao, was finally released from prison, he stated, “In these past twenty years, I have not had a copy of the Bible. Happily between the ages of twenty-one to twenty-four, I spent my time at home doing the housework and studying the Scriptures. I memorized many passages. These passages in my heart came out one by one and strengthened me. Had it not been for those words of God, then not only I, but many others, would also have been defeated.”
Pastor Lamb in southern China was in prison for many years at that same time. “I understood then why I had memorized so much of God’s Word while in Bible school,” he says. “I kept my sanity only by repeating Bible verses over and over.”
The best way the church can prepare for trials and persecution is by seriously studying and learning the Word of God. Christians need an overview of the whole Bible. Understanding God’s outline for mankind in the Bible aids in memorization as well.
What is the right attitude to bring to Bible study? Some read and study the Bible with the intent to get something from it to teach to others. But first, we should approach the Bible with the desire to see the goodness and loving-kindness of God and understand how “wide and long and high and deep” is His love for us (Ephesians 3:16-19). Let His love show you His supply for your own need and then you are better able to meet the needs of others.
Second, approach the Bible with humility. Study the Bible to discover what God has said. Bible study is meant not merely to inform but to transform.
In restricted countries where Bibles are in short supply, pastors are often in a quandary as to which of the many spiritually needy he should share these precious books with. Progress in Bible memorization is one method they can use for determining who will receive the available Bibles. One house church group in Vietnam decided to give them to the believers who were most determined to use them. The criterion used was memory work. So Bibles were shared only with those who recited flawlessly Psalm 119 — all 176 verses!
Open Doors is committed to provide God’s Word to those for whom it is not available.
“For I am not ashamed of the gospel of Christ, because it is God’s power for salvation to everyone who believes, first to the Jew, and also to the Greek. For in it God’s righteousness is revealed out of faith into faith, just as it is written: The one who is righteous by faith will live.” ~ Romans 1:16-17
Today I will memorize a new verse from God’s Word, the Bible.
Pray for the Christians in restricted countries where there is a shortage of God’s Word.
~ Open Doors USA is a 501(c)(3) compliant organization and a charter member of the Evangelical Council of Financial Accountability. All contributions are tax-deductible. Open Doors USA PO BOX 27001 Santa Ana, CA 92799 USA
Strategic Level Spiritual Warfare
"Suddenly, a hand touched me and raised me to my hands and knees. He said to me, “Daniel, you are a man treasured by God. Understand the words that I’m saying to you. Stand on your feet, for I have now been sent to you.” After he said this to me, I stood trembling. “Don’t be afraid, Daniel,” he said to me, “for from the first day that you purposed to understand and to humble yourself before your God, your prayers were heard. I have come because of your prayers. But the prince of the kingdom of Persia opposed me for 21 days. Then Michael, one of the chief princes, came to help me after I had been left there with the kings of Persia. Now I have come to help you understand what will happen to your people in the last days, for the vision refers to those days.” ~ Daniel 10:10-14
There is considerable interest and teaching today about “territorial spirits,” that is, spiritual warfare waged against high-ranking principalities and powers assigned to a locale. The Scripture passage here indicates that a particular evil spirit was assigned to Daniel’s human government or territory. But what we lack biblically is any example of or injunction to engage these spirits directly or by name. Daniel only prayed to his God who sovereignly directs angels to war against the territorial rulers. The Apostle Paul taught that demonic emissaries who attack the church and hinder its mission can be overcome only through reliance on the power of God.
That same power of God is much needed in the world today. For example, witchcraft is being used as a strategic weapon by traditional Indian authorities in western Colombia in an attempt to weaken and even stamp out the faith of indigenous Christians. Sorcerers or witchdoctors, called te walas by the indigenous peoples, have started sending messengers to sit in the back during church services, rather than going directly themselves. When the pastors invite listeners to receive Christ, these messengers say, “No, we have just come to listen.” But while Christians are praying, the te walas sprinkle the cursed waters around the church.
If their incantations bring no results, the te walas themselves come to the church, surrounding it with occult rites to cause the believers to lose their desire to pray and read the Bible. In some recent night-time visits by these traditional “healers,” the witchdoctors made pacts with animal blood as well as sprinkled their cursed waters on the church.
A seventeen-year-old girl in one church was induced to participate in these practices, despite having Christian parents. She actually made a pact of witchcraft, her pastor said, to give over one of her relatives to Satan. Discouraged, her parents cannot understand how this could happen in their home, where she learned to know and love God. Church leaders and the pastor have united with this family to intercede urgently for this young girl’s deliverance. The pastor admitted that he feared that more such cases are happening that have yet to be discovered. They need our prayers.
Today I’ll not underestimate the power of God to defeat all that Satan throws against me.
Lord, may Your mighty power overcome the evil united against Your church.
Open Doors USA is a 501(c)(3) compliant organization and a charter member of the Evangelical Council of Financial Accountability. All contributions are tax-deductible. Open Doors USA PO BOX 27001 Santa Ana, CA 92799 USA
The Village In Syria Were They Speak Jesus' Tongue -
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Annihilation of Christian Life and People: Where is the Outrage in the West?
~ Meeting Catastrophe with Indifference
"Where is the solidarity for the Sri Lanka's Christians?" asked the British scholar Rakib Ehsan, a Muslim.
"The differences in tone and nature between the condemnations of the Christchurch and Sri Lanka terrorist attacks are striking. After Christchurch, there was no hesitation about stating the religious backgrounds of the victims and directing emotion and affection towards Muslim communities. Politicians took no issue with categorising the events in Christchurch as terrorism."
"In contrast, the words 'terrorism' and 'Christianity', along with their associated terms, have so far failed to feature in much of the reaction to the attacks in Sri Lanka."
"What is evident is not only a clear reluctance to specify the religious background of Christians who were killed in Sri Lanka, but also an absence of heartfelt solidarity with Christian communities across the world, which continue to suffer grave forms of persecution on the grounds of their faith."
Rakib Ehsan asked the right question. But it might be rewritten as: Where is the Western solidarity for the Sri Lanka's murdered Christians?
This is a drama in three acts. The first act consists of the Christians and other non-Muslim indigenous peoples being violated and murdered. The second act consists of Muslim extremists who create this genocide. And the third act consists of the indifferent West, which looks everywhere else.
The number of murdered victims in the April 21 Easter Sunday jihadist attacks in Sri Lanka is too terrible even to think about: 253 dead. Among the victims, 45 children were murdered. Their small faces and stories have begun to emerge. The Islamic terrorists knew there were many children in the three churches, and they deliberately targeted them with their bombs. Footage shows one of the bombers patting a young child on the head before he enters the St. Sebastian's Church in Negombo, where "everyone has lost someone".
The Fernando family had taken a photograph at the baptism of their third child, Seth. In Negombo they were all buried together. Father, mother and three children aged 6, 4, and 11 months. According to the New York Times:
"Fabiola Fernando, 6, was an elementary school student. In a photo posted to her mother's Facebook page, she showed off a gold medal, a small smile on her face. Leona Fernando, 4, the middle child in her family, was learning to read and was holding a copy of "Sleeping Beauty" in the picture. Seth Fernando, 11 months, was the newest addition to the Fernando family. He was buried alongside his parents and two sisters."
The silence of the Western intellectual world and the media is particularly deafening. The new humanitarian conscience seems to see only two groups: those who have the right to the compassion and protection of the international community, and those, such as Christians, unworthy of help or solidarity.
The deliberate murder of an 8-month-old baby, Matthew, in a Sri Lankan church apparently did not upset or chill the West, did not go viral on social media, did not to become a hashtag, did not to push the Europeans to crowd into their public squares, did not press the Islamic world to examine its conscience, did not to induce Western politicians and opinion-makers seriously to reflect on who killed that child, or on those who foment and finance the Islamist anti-Christian hatred.
Sudesh Kolonne was waiting outside St. Sebastian's Church when he heard the blast. He then ran inside and searched for his wife and daughter. It took him a half hour to find their bodies.
The attacks also killed three children of a Danish billionaire. Another woman lost her daughter, son, husband, sister-in-law and two nieces. A British father had to make a choice over which of his two children to save. Another British family was destroyed. To add horror to horror, the pregnant wife of one of the terrorists, when police raided her home, detonated a suicide vest, killing her own children.
The Duke of Cambridge, Prince William, just visited the Muslim survivors of the attack on the mosques in Christchurch, New Zealand, including children recovering in the hospitals. It was a gesture of humanity and compassion. Why does the same compassion not spur the British royal family to stop in Sri Lanka, their former colony, to meet the Christian survivors, before going back to England? Entire Christian families were decimated in the attack.
Where is the outrage in the West for the annihilation of Christian life and people? It feels as if there is no indignation, only silence, interrupted by bombs and "Allahu Akbar". The history books of the future will not condone this Western betrayal. If the West had taken seriously the persecutions of Christians, now the bell would not toll for the death of the Christian presence -- not only in historic lands of Christianity, but also for the West. Islamic extremists have seen that the West has not mobilized to prevent them from repressing Christians, as if unconsciously there were a strange convergence between our silence and the ethnic cleansing project of the Islamic State, aimed at erasing Christians.
The British author Melanie Phillips has called this persecution of Christians "our guilty secret."
"Religious liberty, the core value of western civilisation, is being destroyed across large parts of the world. Yet the West, myopically denying this religious war, is averting its gaze from the destruction of its foundational creed in the Middle East and the attempt to eradicate it elsewhere. It is therefore no surprise that, faced with jihadist barbarities abroad and cultural inroads at home, the free world is proving so ineffectual".
The jihadist attack in Sri Lanka was not only "the deadliest attack on Christians in South Asia in recent memory." It was also the largest massacre of Christian children. But no newspaper has launched a campaign to raise awareness of European public opinion, no pro-Christian solidarity movement has arisen, no Western leader appears to have visited a church in solidarity, no Western church leaders had the courage to point out the culprits by calling them by name, no Western mayors hung photographs of the 45 children torn to pieces, no public square was filled in thousands saying "Je suis chrétien".
A few years ago, at the height of the migrant crisis in Europe, a photograph conquered public opinion in the West. It was the famous picture of the three-year-old Syrian boy, Alan Kurdi, who drowned off the coast of Bodrum, Turkey. That little migrant moved the West. His image went viral. The New York Times called it "Aylan Kurdi's Europe".
"For historical reasons, Angela Merkel feared images of armed German police confronting civilians on our borders," wrote Robin Alexander, Die Welt's leading journalist, in his book, Die Getriebenen ("The Driven Ones"). If photographs of migrant children spurred Europe's leaders to open their borders, the photographs of murdered Christian children -- such as the 45 in Sri Lanka -- apparently left them indifferent.
The appeal of Asia Bibi's daughters to help her mother met a deaf West. The UK refused to offer asylum to this Pakistani Christian family and take persecuted Christians.
"It is with indifference that we witness a catastrophe of civilization with no precedent", wrote the French scholar historian Jean-François Colosimo, commenting on the destruction of Eastern Christianity. No religion, no community, is today more persecuted than Christians. Why, then, this silence by the West? Have we become so foreign to ourselves, to our roots and to our history, that we can contemplate this outbreak of jihadi violence without blinking an eye? Or are we so short-sighted that we hoped to buy "peace" with the Muslim extremists at the cost of abandoning those Christians? The same jihadi ideology that murdered Christian children in Sri Lanka, targeted European children in Nice, Manchester and Barcelona.
Sri Lanka after the massacre is not just a terrible succession of crying mothers and little coffins. Unfortunately, it also tells us a lot about the discouraging state of the West.
~ by Giulio Meotti, Cultural Editor for Il Foglio, is an Italian journalist and author.
Visions Of Jesus - Messiah
Some of Jesus’ disciples took time to come to a place where they recognized this very human being they followed was also God. Interestingly, in Matthew’s account of their journey with Jesus, it was the calming of the terrible storm that finally convinced them:
"Then those in the boat worshiped Him and said, “Truly You are the Son of God!” ~ Matthew 14:33
Jesus later told His disciples that people who have not seen His miracles and still believe are even more blessed. But still today, many people need a supernatural revelation to trust Him.
Throughout the Muslim world come reports of people having dreams and visions of Jesus. In this way, He becomes real to them and further reading of Scripture confirms His status as Messiah and Savior.
Hedayat is an Iranian youth who had always been a good Muslim and practiced the rituals required by his faith, but he had never considered the message of the Quran to be very positive. An Armenian Christian friend of Hedayat sometimes shared a little with Hedayat about the Christian faith of his family. He didn’t say too much, because he did not want to get in trouble for it. But one day he gave Hedayat a movie, warning him to watch it when he was alone.
Watching the movie did not convince Hedayat of the Christian faith, nor his dream afterwards. He says, “I had prayed the prayer at the end of the video, and then I had this dream. I saw a man in my house, standing before me. I saw marks in his wrists and feet, and I just knew this must be Jesus, but I could not respond.”
Hedayat recalls after that, he had felt very confused and did not want to accept any of this. He realized that especially his older brother might become furious if he accepted the Christian faith. So he decided to block any thoughts about this and cut the relationship with his Armenian friend.
Although the Armenian tried to get in touch many times, Hedayat always refused. Four years later the Armenian believer mustered up courage and went to the electronics shop where Hedayat worked. Walking up to his old friend, he shoved a small present over the counter.
“I will never forget you and will always pray for you,” the Christian said. Then he turned around and left the shop, leaving Hedayat astonished.
“From the size of the package, I thought it was a pocket-diary. But it turned out to be a New Testament,” Hedayat remembers. “At the moment I unpacked it, I felt anger coming up, because he was chasing me with his Christianity! I put it away, but in the evening I became curious and wondered if I could discover if the Bible indeed was corrupted, as I was told.”
So Hedayat started reading Matthew, Mark, and Luke. After a few months, Hedayat contacted his Armenian friend at the phone number that was on a little note in the Bible. The Word of God had convinced him that there was no Mehdi coming, as Iranian Shias believe, but that it was Jesus the Messiah he should be expecting. Through his friend, he was soon welcomed into a house church and discipled.
Today I will thank God for His Son revealed through His Word which is enough for me.
Pray for many more who see Jesus in dreams and visions to come to a place of acceptance.
~ Open Doors USA, Open Doors USA, PO BOX 27001, Santa Ana, CA 92799 USA
Open Doors USA is a 501(c)(3) compliant organization and a charter member of the Evangelical Council of Financial Accountability. All contributions are tax-deductible.
"Make every effort to live in peace with all men…" ~ Hebrews 12:14
Other religious groups are one of the most threatening tactics Satan uses against the church of Jesus Christ. In the book of Acts we see over and over that the primary opposition to the spread of the gospel in the early church was from religious groups. Again we must never view these groups as the enemy. We know who our real enemy is. In some parts of the world, the small percentage of extremists among Hindus, Buddhists and Muslims have encouraged mob violence and other forms of persecution against Christians. Our attitude toward them should be as Brother Andrew’s acronym for ISLAM suggests: I Sincerely Love All Muslims.
The tactic that our enemy uses in these major religions of the world is the same. It comes from his character of deceiving and lying. Some people are able to perceive elements of truth within the major religions of the world, but their essential teachings are deceivingly false.
Wherever possible, missionaries of cults and other religions do whatever possible to encourage Christians — usually those who are Christian in name only — to convert to their religion. Unfortunately, in countries such as Egypt, a significant number do convert to a cult or to some other religion. The lure to convert can be marriage, money, employment, social acceptance, and any other similar attraction.
Hardini was born to a devout Muslim family in Indonesia where everyone must go to the mosque every day to pray. Her father had strict rules for everyone in the family. One rule was that Hardini should never associate with Christians. Despite Hardini’s devotion to Islam, her heart was heavy and she longed for inner peace. A Christian with a great sense of joy and peace befriended Hardini.
Hardini had the courage to tell her new friend about her spiritual hunger, and the friend offered to pray for her in the name of Jesus. After the Christian girl prayed, peace filled Hardini’s heart and her life radically changed.
When Hardini’s family discovered she had become a Christian, they spent hours and hours trying to entice her with force to recant her new faith. Hardini remained steadfast. Finally her parents made a painful decision — they totally disowned their daughter. That left Hardini with the choices of either recanting her faith or fleeing from her home and family. She chose to flee.
Today I will pray for believers like Hardini who experience religious intolerance.
Lord, help me to sincerely love all Muslims and people of other faith systems.
~ Open Doors USA is a 501(c)(3) compliant organization and a charter member of the Evangelical Council of Financial Accountability. All contributions are tax-deductible.
~ Open Doors USA, Open Doors USA PO BOX 27001 Santa Ana, CA 92799 USA
Satan's Changing Tactics
"However, we do speak a wisdom among the mature, but not a wisdom of this age, or of the rulers of this age, who are coming to nothing. On the contrary, we speak God’s hidden wisdom in a mystery, a wisdom God predestined before the ages for our glory. None of the rulers of this age knew this wisdom, for if they had known it, they would not have crucified the Lord of glory." ~ 1 Corinthians 2:6-8
Today’s devotional comes from our founder and friend, Brother Andrew:
Have you ever noticed the strategy Satan used throughout Old Testament history? His attacks were aimed at preventing the birth of the Messiah at Bethlehem, but, once Jesus was born, Satan’s tactics changed somewhat. In some instances, he tried to kill Jesus before the Lord could reach the cross. At other times, Satan engineered numerous attempts to discredit Him — to cause Him to stumble or to sin.
But Satan met defeat at the cross. He failed to understand God’s strategy, and his final blunder actually forced events so that Jesus, though innocent, was condemned to die. The Apostle Paul noted that Satan did not understand this in 1 Corinthians 2:8.
Since that time, Satan’s tactics have changed. He’s still concerned about preventing the Word — the Word that was with God and is God (John 1:1) — from reaching people who are under Satan’s dominion. His attack is now two-pronged.
First Satan concentrates on the life and name of Jesus which each and every believer bears as the Lord’s representative. I believe it is important for Christians undergoing persecution to realize the attack they are under is actually directed not at them, but at the life of Jesus in them, a life which they have power to transmit to others.
Satan will make every effort to discredit you, to frighten you and to silence your witness in order that the new life in you stops with you. Sometimes Satan overreaches himself, just as he did at the cross, and sends a believer to a martyr’s grave but that life lives on in other believers who continue to bear witness more gloriously and triumphantly than ever.
That the church not only survives, but grows under such persecution has been demonstrated beautifully by the church in China. After missionaries were forced to leave in 1950, and all ties were cut with the body of Christ, believers were put through the horrible experience of Mao’s Cultural Revolution. Christians were killed or imprisoned, Bibles burned, and the remaining believers scattered all over China. The attack was clearly on the life and name of Jesus as manifested in believer’s lives.
As these sufferers scattered, they took the life of Jesus with them, and just as was the case with the early believers in Jerusalem, “Those who were scattered went about preaching the Word” (Acts 8:4). Now we see the harvest in China as millions of Christians are identified, meeting together for fellowship and worship in remote provinces…
I want others to have the one who makes me happy — Jesus.
Today I will be aware of Satan’s attempts to silence my witness for Jesus and resist him!
Thank You, Lord, for the way You bring good from the evil tactics of the enemy of our soul. Help me stand strong against his attack on the life and name of Jesus in me.
~ Open Doors USA is a 501(c)(3) compliant organization and a charter member of the Evangelical Council of Financial Accountability. All contributions are tax-deductible.
Open Doors USA, PO BOX 27001, Santa Ana, CA 92799 USA
Open Doors USA
For over 60 years, Open Doors has worked in the world's most oppressive countries, empowering Christians who are persecuted for their beliefs. Open Doors equips persecuted Christians in more than 60 countries through programs like Bible & Gospel Development, Women & Children Advancement and Christian Community Restoration.
What is Open Doors USA?
Open Doors USA is a community of Christians who come together to support persecuted believers in more than 60 countries.
We are a 501c3, non-profit organization with more than 60 years of experience and a long track record of financial integrity.
And we are also a group of friends — a mix of office staff, board members, field representatives, and many, many regular people who stand against persecution. Although we haven’t met every one of our readers and supporters face-to-face, we count each of them as an important part of our work.
How Did it Start?
Our ministry was launched by a courageous Christian man from the Netherlands named Brother Andrew. Many people best know Brother Andrew from his most well-known book, God’s Smuggler, which tells stories of his secret missions to smuggle Bibles into hostile regions.
During his life, Brother Andrew took great risks to sneak the Gospel into communist countries during the height of the Cold War. He did so with a sense of adventure, believing that his faith in Jesus was worth every danger he faced.
Today, although the world has changed, Christians are still persecuted and, in some communities, continue to be forced underground. Like Brother Andrew, Open Doors team members still take on risks to resource these Christians living in hostile regions and to continually work against persecution wherever it exists.
We spend time getting to know persecuted believers on the ground, in their communities, and we are often inspired by the strength of their faith in the midst of great hardship. We believe that they, along with our team of staff and supporters like you, will be the Brother Andrews of this generation.
How to Get Involved:
We invite anyone who is interested in our ministry to become part of the extended Open Doors family. You can start to get to know us today by:
• Browsing our website and reading firsthand reports from believers on the ground in these 60 regions.
• Signing petitions that advocate for the rights and well-being of persecuted believers around the world.
• Subscribing to free email updates that keep you informed about persecution incidents around the world.
• Making a donation to send financial support or Bibles to Christians living in hostile regions.
• Sending letters to encourage persecuted believers.
We know that many of you intentionally donate time, resources, and volunteer hours to worthy causes. We hope that you will consider making “persecution” one of the areas that you are determined to impact over the course of your life. We are in this for the long haul and we would love to offer you a lifetime of ministry opportunities for doing good for the kingdom of God.
About Our Faith:
At Open Doors, we are devoted to Jesus Christ. We are people of the Bible and people of prayer who seek to live and work out of deeply rooted faith in God. These values are part of our daily rituals. Around our organization, it is routine to begin and sometimes also end business meetings in prayer. And every week, our entire staff gathers at least three times to share what God is teaching us and to pray for the persecuted believers we serve.
We stake our lives in Jesus’ Great Commission. We take this command so seriously that we still take risks to this day to get copies of the Gospel into hostile areas. We do this because we love God. We are inspired by the life and teachings of Jesus who often went out of his way to spend time being present with vulnerable people on the margins of society.
We value all the people who work with us at every level — persecuted believers and supporters alike — as we are all family in the larger Body of Christ.
• We are part of the Body of Christ; a people to people people
• We are persecuted church driven
• We are people of the Bible
• We are people of prayer
• We live and work by faith
• We are devoted to Jesus Christ and His commission
• We are motivated solely for the glory of God
Download our monthly Prayer Calendar from here: https://www.opendoorsusa.org/take-action/pray/monthly-prayer-calendar/
Visit our Web Site here: https://www.opendoorsusa.org/
Faith And Fear
"On that day, when evening had come, He [Jesus] told them, “Let’s cross over to the other side of the sea.” So they left the crowd and took Him along since He was already in the boat. And other boats were with Him. A fierce windstorm arose, and the waves were breaking over the boat, so that the boat was already being swamped. But He was in the stern, sleeping on the cushion. So they woke Him up and said to Him, “Teacher! Don’t You care that we’re going to die?” He got up, rebuked the wind, and said to the sea, “Silence! Be still!” The wind ceased, and there was a great calm. Then He said to them, “Why are you fearful? Do you still have no faith?” ~ Mark 4:35-40
Storms often bring out our true spiritual condition. Jesus was in the boat but the disciples still feared for their lives. He chastised them for their fear and their little faith! Thus our greatest need is not for the storm to end but to be freed from fear and have faith in Him while the storm rages.
At a Standing Strong Through The Storm (SSTS) seminar in Central Asia, our translator looked at us at the close of our three-day session and commented, “Thank you for teaching us how to stand strong. God spoke to me a lot through this seminar. I was afraid to die but not anymore. I have peace to go and spread God’s Word.” She is now serving the Lord in a dangerous but strategic mission in her region.
A middle-aged man in North Korea was arrested after the police found a Bible in his home. Terribly beaten, he was certain he would die. A Christian friend shared, “When he came to faith, he made the decision that one day he would die for Christ. Every Christian in North Korea has made that choice. Every Christian in the country has the spirit of martyrdom in him. If you lose that spirit for one second, you cannot carry the burden of being a follower of Jesus.”
A significant factor in dealing with fear — especially fear of dying — is realizing that we are already dead in Christ (Galatians 2:20). Former Open Doors colleague, Hector Tamez, says that this concept is clearly seen in the lives of Christians living in war zones of Latin America. The Christians who were caught in the civil war between the government and Shining Path guerrillas in Peru, are a classic example for us. Here is how Hector expresses their commitment:
They know that they are going to be killed. And they say, “In order to be a Christian here, you have to recognize that you are already dead in Christ. Once you recognize this, then any day that passes by in your life is a gain.”
In some countries, surviving one day or one year means that you have one God-given day or year to testify not only with your words but with your deeds. Fear should not control your life! Christ should control your life!
When storms come my way, I will affirm God’s power to overcome fear and live by faith.
Ask God to forgive you for your times of fearfulness and lack of faith. Pray that all members of the Persecuted Church would have faith in Jesus like these Peruvian believers.
America, Please Stand for Us: We are Dying!” Muslim Persecution of Christians 2018
DECEMBER 30, 2018
God Bless America
Egypt's Silent Epidemic of Kidnapped Christian Girls
~ Christian women in Egypt face an epidemic of kidnapping, rape, beatings and torture.
Egypt’s Christian community faces dangers that most other Egyptians needn’t fear. Threats of violence during church services, attacks on buses filled with innocent pilgrims and their children, and assaults on successful Christian businesses happen all too frequently.
But only occasionally do they appear in the Western media.
Meanwhile, mass kidnappings, such as the Boko Haram abductions in Nigeria, are widely reported. Even accounts of young Pakistani Christian girls’ abductions have been published from time to time.
However, an ongoing nightmare in Egypt has gone virtually unnoticed for years. Victims fall silent. Authorities turn a blind eye and religiously-motivated kidnappings are extremely difficult to document.
But the truth is that Christian women in Egypt face an epidemic of kidnapping, rape, beatings and torture. Innumerable girls and women vanish forever, and even if they are somehow rescued, their stories are thought to be so shameful that they’re hidden as dark family secrets. Meanwhile, doctors quietly repair internal damage and “restore virginity” to abused teenagers and twenty-somethings. Priests try to protect family reputations when the girls return.
Meanwhile, the devastated survivors will never be the same.
The attacks vary – some happen randomly, when a vulnerable female is spotted walking alone on a sidewalk. Other are plotted by Islamist consortiums, who pay kidnappers as much $3,000 per girl. The assailants rape the victims, hold them in captivity, then demand that the terrified young women to convert to Islam – often violently abusing them until they surrender.
These crimes are particularly common in villages outside Egypt’s major cities, where radicalized thugs act with impunity, sometimes forming raging mobs and leaving behind a trail of blood, ashes and broken people.
World Watch Monitor, an international Christian publication, interviewed a man who had been once an abductor himself. He explained, “A group of kidnappers meets in a mosque to discuss potential victims. They keep a close eye on Christians’ houses and monitor everything that’s going on. On that basis, they weave a spider’s web around [the girls].”
Once a victim is delivered to a radical Islamist organization, he explained, her price tag, payable to the kidnappers, is big money in a cash-strapped country like Egypt. The kidnappers are happy with their share of the loot. However, their radical Islamist handlers have a “higher” aim: to strengthen Islam and weaken Christianity.
The tactics vary. Some of the girls are flattered and romanced by their captors. A starry-eyed young woman falls in love and is delighted when her mysterious lover, who promises to convert to Christianity – if she’ll run away with him. All too often when she does, she is never heard from again.
Other young women are abducted off the street.
One Egyptian teenager – we’ll call her “Samia” – grew up in a Coptic home. Her mother was devout; her father was violent when drunk.
Samia decided to run away, determined to leave her small village in Minya and find a new life in Alexandria. She reached her destination, but as she made her way along an unfamiliar city street, a car pulled over, two young men grasped her and dragged her into the back seat. A brutal foursome later took turns raping her while mocking the small cross tattooed on her wrist.
Samia courageously escaped and made her way home. By then, she had been badly beaten. The cross on her wrist had been burned off with acid – and she was pregnant.
Her mother and sister managed to settle her in a convent; she returned home months later, after the nuns delivered the child, whom she never saw and her father never learned what had befallen her.
Abdel Fatah al-Sisi was elected President of Egypt in a landslide vote in May 2014. His victory was welcomed by many Egyptians, and after his acceptance speech, Sisi was endorsed by several religious and political leaders, including Coptic Patriarch Tawadros II.
I later asked Bishop Serapion, the Coptic bishop of Los Angeles, about the plight of Copts and other Christians in Egypt following Sisi’s election. Were Copts faring better now, under Sisi’s presidency?
Choosing his words carefully, he told me that there has been genuine progress at the top levels of government, but local authorities are still inclined to turn a blind eye to anti-Coptic persecution.
And so it goes. Especially defenseless are the women who are assaulted and taken captive, often in the name of Islam. Local authorities are the last to renounce their small-town power and prestige. And minorities – Copts and other Christian communities – continue to suffer.
Girls and women are abducted and abused. Businessmen are arrested while attempting to collect money owed by Muslims. Instead of fair payment, they are instead accused of having sexual relations with Muslim women or of other scandalous behavior and are jailed – sometimes for years.
My friend and colleague Charmaine Hedding, founder of Shai Fund – a small international humanitarian organization – is presently in Egypt interviewing Christian women who have survived abduction and sexual abuse.
“We do what we can,” she told me. “We’re providing small donations and encouragement. But we also really want to make sure these vicious sexual abuses are made known in the West, where today’s women are especially sensitized to such devastating experiences."
“Perhaps once Western women begin to understand what’s really happening in Egypt, we’ll see more help and concern for the traumatized victims of both religious and sexual abuse.”
~ by Lela Gilbert | December 5, 2018
The writer is an internationally recognized expert on religious persecution, an award-winning author and an adjunct fellow at the Hudson Institute who lived in Jerusalem for over a decade. Her book Saturday People, Sunday People: Israel through the Eyes of a Christian Sojourner received wide critical acclaim. She is also co-author of Persecuted: The Global Assault on Christians, and Blind Spot: When Journalists Don’t Get Religion. Follow her on Facebook and Twitter @lelagilbert.
It Is Harder To Live For Jesus
"Then Jesus said to his disciples, “Whoever wants to be my disciple must deny themselves and take up their cross and follow me…” ~ Matthew 16:24
Jesus’ first call to those interested in Him was “Come and see!” (John 1:39). As His disciples spent more time with Him, Jesus’ call became more demanding and required more commitment.
Here He calls those who would be His disciples to make the ultimate sacrifice and “Come and die!”
Jesus was the last person Sundar Singh was looking for as a late teenager in India at the turn of the 20th Century. After all, Jesus was the “foreign god” of the Christian teachers at his school. A zealous Sikh, Sundar had publicly torn up a portion of the Bible to protest its claims. One night as he prayed he became conscious of a light shining in the room. He looked outside to make sure it was not someone shining a light. Gradually the light took the form of a globe of fire and in it he saw the face of Jesus. Sundar threw himself on the ground and surrendered His life to Jesus.
The following months proved to be very difficult for Sundar and his family. Becoming a follower of Christ was not taken lightly by his family nor his community. He was excommunicated. He cut his hair, a gesture that did not make things any easier with his family who were convinced he had renounced his Sikh heritage.
A month after he was baptized in the year 1905, he took the vow of a sadhu. He gave away his meagre possessions, put on a saffron robe and became a barefooted wandering man of God. Among Christians the world over, this barefoot Sadhu was later called the “apostle of the bleeding feet” because the soles of his feet were often covered in bloody blisters. The life of a sadhu is hard and entirely dependent on God. Sadhu Sundar Singh’s needs were met entirely through the kindness of people he met wherever he went.
Sundar Singh is credited as the first missionary to cross the Himalayan Mountains to take the gospel to Nepal and Tibet. At thirty-six-years-of-age he made his last trip over the mountains. He never returned and is assumed to have been a martyr for Jesus.
In his diary left behind he had written, “It is easy to die for Christ. It is hard to live for Him. Dying takes only a few minutes — or at worst an hour or two — but to live for Christ means to die daily to myself.”
Today I will do the “hard” thing: die to myself and live for Jesus and others who need His love.
Help me Lord to live worthy of the calling as Your disciple. Show me the cross You want me to carry today.
Choosing Love Over Hate
"Bless those who persecute you; bless and do not curse." ~ Romans 12:14
At the early age of eleven, Sam was living a pious Muslim life in the southern Philippines. He prayed at mosques on Fridays and fasted during Ramadan. Sam was the only one of his siblings sent to school where he excelled both in classroom and sports. He was everybody’s favourite, popular and well-loved.
But everything changed one afternoon. After school, Sam passed by his grandfather’s house who happened to be a Christian. He saw a maroon book with ‘Kitab Injil’ (The Gospels) written on the cover. He opened it and started reading. “I was drawn to Jesus because his teachings were so different...Help the needy, obey and respect parents, do not be a false witness...they were not taught in Islam. Before that, I only knew to repay evil with evil.”
So Sam committed his life to following Jesus and His teachings in the Bible. He was just a fifth grader then. Although he was the only Christian in his family, Sam’s parents and siblings respected his new faith. But outside his home, among his friends, it was a different story. “You’re a kafir (infidel)! You are not my friend anymore.”
It was very painful for Sam to be deserted by his friend. His classmates at grade school kept a good distance from him. Some mocked him, calling him kafir. There were times during classes when kids would throw their shoes at him. They bullied him by writing stuffs on his uniform, filling his bag with sand, and even punching him.
One day, a friend-turned-enemy yelled at him. “You Christians are filthy! Christians are garbage!” Sam cried and ran home. There were times when he was tempted to fight back, but he remembered the words of Jesus to love the enemies, to bless and not curse. In his heart, he prayed for those who bullied him and repaid them with a kind smile instead.
Sam, now seventeen, has endured physical harassment, insults, and discrimination from friends and school mates for boldly telling them that he is a Christian.
After Sam joined the Open Doors’ discipleship program for MBB youths, he has become even bolder in seizing every opportunity to share his faith in Jesus. Sam knows that doing so might cost him his life someday.
“When I think of my friends, my heart breaks. I lost them, and though they turned out to be my enemies, I don’t hate them. Instead, I pray for them that one day they will meet my Lord Jesus and be changed.”
Jesus wants me to not repay evil with evil but rather love, bless and pray for those who are my enemies.
Help me Lord to live among those who oppose me with the character of Jesus and respond to them with love and not hate.