Tuesday, November 8, 2016

There Should Only Be Suffering And Vicarious Christians, Not Innocent Bystanders!

Devotionals this week taken from the IDOP website
In the modern church calendar, the first two Sundays of November are set apart to remember and pray for the persecuted church, through the International Day of Prayer for the Persecuted Church or IDOP. Please remember those who are persecuted in the name of Christ this week.

by Dr. Thomas Schirrmacher Executive chair - Theological Commission World Evangelical Alliance

Hebrews 10:32-35:says "Remember those earlier days after you had received the light, when you stood your ground in a great contest in the face of suffering. Sometimes you were publicly exposed to insult and persecution; at other times you stood side by side with those who were so treated. You sympathized with those in prison and joyfully accepted the confiscation of your property, because you knew that you yourselves had better and lasting possessions. So do not throw away your confidence; it will be richly rewarded.” The author of the Letter to the Hebrew seeks to embolden his readers in times of suffering so that they are reminded of how God helped them in earlier times of suffering (verse 32). 

What is truly interesting in this text, however, is that the Letter to the Hebrews designates all readers as those who have “endured in the great contest in the face of suffering”, independent of whether this occurred through suffering or through vicarious association with suffering! The author of the Letter to the Hebrews puts the sufferers and those demonstrating compassion on the same footing. 

In verse 33, the readers are first of all addressed as those who in part have endured much suffering, but “at other times” also suffered because they in some cases “stood side by side with those who suffered”.  There are, then, direct sufferers and sufferers who are in that position because they suffer alongside others! In verse 34 the situation is reversed: To start with, it is mentioned that the readers have suffered with those in prison. Then it is mentioned that they themselves lost possessions. 

That is precisely the objective of IDOP. Christians who suffer and Christians who stand side by side with those suffer seek to build a ‘community’ of suffering. Prayer occurs simultaneously in countries where there is Christian persecution and where there is no persecution of Christians. If we do this, then we “do not throw away our confidence,” and this confidence “will be richly rewarded” (verse 35). 

A Christian never lives without Christian persecution! Either he is persecuted or he suffers with the fate of those who are persecuted. And whoever suffers, suffers at the same time with others who perhaps suffer even more! The possibility that someone simply ignores the suffering of another individual or church and then enjoys the fact that things are going well for him, without this turning into thankful involvement for the sake of others, is something which does not even come to mind to the writer of the Letter to the Hebrews! For Christians to suffer and for other Christians to not suffer side by side? Unthinkable! Christians who look away while others suffer? Inconceivable! And yet this is precisely what applies to the large majority of Christians! The International Day of Pray (IDOP) is a good opportunity to end this situation here and now, to inform yourself about the global situation of the body of Christ, and at least through prayer to have ‘fellowship’ with those who suffer. 

Scripture to Claim:
Beloved, do not be surprised at the fiery trial when it comes upon you to test you, as though something strange were happening to you. But rejoice insofar as you share Christ's sufferings, that you may also rejo

In This World You Will Have Tribulation

Devotionals this week taken from the IDOP website
In the modern church calendar, the first two Sundays of November are set apart to remember and pray for the persecuted church, through the International Day of Prayer for the Persecuted Church or IDOP. Please remember those who are persecuted in the name of Christ this week.
In This World You Will Have Tribulation by Rev. Aiah Foday-Khabenje   (Text: John 15:18-16:2)
A common slogan in the church in Africa is: “Jesus is the answer”. However, it is not always clear what the question is. We may have various presuppositions, mostly about human flourishing and as portrayed by so called prosperity preachers. Our itching ears tend to hear, what our hearts desire. In this reflection, I want to call our attention to the SIN, SHAME and SUFFERING question for which Jesus is the answer: SIN - we may know or believe that Jesus died for our sins and the sins of the whole world (John 3:16). The just recompense for sin is death. Jesus Christ, like no other, laid down is life for the sins of humans, and any and all who by faith, trust him as Lord of their lives are saved from eternal damnation (Rom. 6:23). 
That means even people committing heinous crimes and cruelty like ISIS can be saved and transformed to be followers of Jesus. St Paul was like an ISIS commando and no wonder he referred to himself as worst of sinners (1Tim 1:15). This statement was not just said in humility; Paul was known for heinous crimes before his encounter with Jesus. He was transformed from being a persecutor of the Church to the greatest activist and champion of the Gospel of Jesus Christ. A hardened criminal on the cross believed in Jesus and was granted eternal life in heaven with Jesus.
SHAME - The means to our salvation was the death of Jesus on the wooden cross, a symbol of shame.  Shame was an immediate consequence of human failure. Adam and Eve felt ashamed when they disobeyed God (Gen. 3:7-10). Shame exposes our nakedness, our ugliness, our deceptive hearts, foolishness, and wickedness. Our sins are exposed for all to see. Sin alienates us from God in shame. 
Christ bore our shame on the cross: …fixing our eyes on Jesus, the pioneer and perfecter of faith. For the joy set before him he endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God. Hebrews 12:2 NIV  Crucifixion was reserved for the scum of society; slaves, hardened criminals, and enemies of the state. It was considered too horrible and degrading. The preferred means of execution was beheading. Cross was a vulgar word and not used in polite company. On the cross, Jesus experienced such a shame to cover the shame of humanity (1Cor 1:24). Jesus took on our shame of disobedience and reconciles us with God, the Father.
SUFFERING -The origin of human suffering is the fall; a consequence of SIN. Suffering and pain is evil and can no way be romanticized. It is natural to pray: “this is not my portion as a child of the most High God”. However, when we go through suffering and persecution it does not mean it is as direct result of our sins.  Suffering is a harsh reality of our walk with Jesus. Jesus foretells that followers will be persecuted on this world (John 16:33; 2 Tim 3: 12). On the cross, Jesus personally experienced the full range of human suffering. Jesus still bears the scars of his wounds even in his resurrected and glorified body and have become his identifying marks (John 20:20-29). 
Healing of pains happens at the cross of Jesus; forgiving those who have wronged us, loving our enemies, and offering our wounds to God. The Cross tells us that God in Christ is one with us in our suffering
(Phil. 1:12-14; 3:10-11). When we suffer, God doesn’t stand off, aloof and unconcerned, unable or unwilling to get involved. Jesus did not just suffer and die for us but he did rise from the dead. In a way rose for us and gave us access to that resurrection power. By Christ’s wounds at the Cross we are healed.

Scripture to Claim:
But even if you should suffer for righteousness' sake, you will be blessed. Have no fear of them, nor be troubled… 1 Peter 3:14

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