What Can We Do?

On Easter Sunday, April 21, 2019, six terrorist bombs ripped through churches and hotels in the city of Columbo, Sri Lanka, killing 290 and injuring 500. “The bombings were the deadliest attack on Christians in South Asia in recent memory and punctuated a rising trend of religious-based violence in the region” (Bastians, Gettleman, Schultz).
Persecution International reports that an April 14, 2019 attack on a Christian church in Akwanga County, Nasarawa State, Nigeria resulted in the deaths of seventeen people attending an infant dedication ceremony. The mother and baby were both killed in the attack, while the father is in critical condition.
Open Doors USA states that “According to The Pew Research Center, over 75% of the world’s population lives in areas with severe religious restrictions (and many of these people are Christians). Also, according to the United States Department of State, Christians in more than 60 countries face persecution from their governments or surrounding neighbors simply because of their belief in Jesus Christ.”
God’s Church on earth is composed not of individual buildings or denominations, but of individual people, who compose the Body of Christ.  Jesus is the Head of the Body and the Chief Corner Stone upon which the Church of God is built.
Our body is all our physical parts: head, arms, legs, torso. A body can also be an organization or a group of people and a body can describe the main part of a building, like a church or a temple. As it is with our physical bodies, our spiritual body – the Body of Christ – although composed of many parts, operates as a whole organism and anything that affects one part of the Body affects the whole.
This can be true because the Body of Christ, unlike a simple organization of people, is created not through fiat but because as believers in the gospel of Christ we are baptized into one Spirit.
The Message translation says it this way: “You can easily enough see how this kind of thing works by looking no further than your own body. Your body has many parts—limbs, organs, cells—but no matter how many parts you can name, you’re still one body. It’s exactly the same with Christ. By means of his one Spirit, we all said good-bye to our partial and piecemeal lives. We each used to independently call our own shots, but then we entered into a large and integrated life in which he has the final say in everything. (This is what we proclaimed in word and action when we were baptized.) Each of us is now a part of his resurrection body, refreshed and sustained at one fountain—his Spirit—where we all come to drink. The old labels we once used to identify ourselves—labels like Jew or Greek, slave or free—are no longer useful. We need something larger, more comprehensive” (1 Corinthians 12:13).
This larger, more comprehensive approach to understanding the magnitude of the connection between all believers in the lordship of Christ is best begun by acknowledging that when one member of the Body suffers, the whole Church of God and the entire Body of Christ is affected. Paul wrote this to the church at Corinth exhorting them, “…that there may be no division in the body, but that the members may have the same care for one another. If one member suffers, all suffer together; if one member is honored, all rejoice together” (1 Corinthians 12:25-26 ESV).
Violent persecution of Christians and the desecration of church buildings is increasing worldwide (Open Doors USA). But what can we do as both members of the Body of Christ and as individual Christians to support our brothers and sisters who may be suffering in areas that we cannot reach, or whose persecutions are not being reported by the news media?
There are many organizations, such as Open Doors USA, Persecution International, Franklin Graham’s World Medical Mission and the American Center for Law and Justice who work tirelessly providing information to the public along with food, shelter, medical care and legal support to persecuted Christians (and others) worldwide. Each of them and so many other ministries would appreciate any financial help we can give them, and we will provide links to these organizations, below.
In addition to that, and even more importantly, as members of one Body, although it may be difficult for us to reach across oceans and continents to succor our brothers and sisters who are suffering in Sri Lanka or Nigeria, each of us has been granted full access to the throne of our Father in heaven through the Blood of Jesus Christ. When the distance we must travel to touch the lives of those who suffer exceeds our reach, there is no impediment to our reaching out to God in prayer. He is the One who fills all things, and nothing can exceed his grasp.
When Jesus’ followers asked him to teach them how to pray, he said,
“Pray then like this:
‘Our Father in heaven,
hallowed be your name.
 Your kingdom come,
your will be done,
on earth as it is in heaven.
Give us this day our daily bread,
and forgive us our debts,
 as we also have forgiven our debtors.
And lead us not into temptation,
but deliver us from evil’” (Matthew 6:9-13 ESV).
Jesus instructs us to pray not only for ourselves, but to “our” Father. When we pray for God’s will to prevail, for God to sustain us and equip us, for God to lead us and deliver us, we are praying for the entire Body of Christ and all the saints. Although Jesus said that we are to pray to our Father in secret (Matthew 6:6-7), he did not say that we are to pray for ourselves alone, but to “our” Father, for “our” needs. Jesus instructs us to pray for the whole Body of Christ.
Beyond that, and even before that, in Matthew 5:43-44, Jesus said “’You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’ But I say to you, Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you…’” (ESV).
When we pray for the Body of Christ, we must also pray for all those who are lost. When we pray for the persecuted, we must also pray for the persecutors. When we pray for the good, we must also pray for those who do not yet know the difference between what is good and what is evil.
“But I say to you, Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, so that you may be sons of your Father who is in heaven. For he makes his sun rise on the evil and on the good, and sends rain on the just and on the unjust. For if you love those who love you, what reward do you have? Do not even the tax collectors do the same? And if you greet only your brothers, what more are you doing than others? Do not even the Gentiles do the same? You therefore must be perfect, as your heavenly Father is perfect” (Matthew 5:44-48 ESV).
Jesus is the head of the Body of Christ. He has given instructions to his Body, the Church, on how to pray. This is the time when we must come together in Spirit and in Truth, as his Body, and pray to Almighty God, our Father, for protection and strength for all the saints and for his will to prevail for all people, on earth as it is in heaven.



Links to websites:

American Center for Law and Justice: https://www.aclj.org/

Graham, Franklin. Samaritan’s Purse, World Medical Mission:  https://www.samaritanspurse.org/medical/serve-with-world-medical-mission/

Open Doors:https://www.opendoorsusa.org/

Persecution International Christian Concern:  https://www.persecution.org/category/news/




Works Cited:

Bastians, Dharisha, Gettlemen, Jeffrey, and Schultz, Kai. “Sri Lanka Bomb Attacks Targeting Christians Kill Hundreds”. The New York Times. 21 April, 2019. Web.https://www.nytimes.com/2019/04/21/world/asia/sri-lanka-bombings.html . 22 April, 2019.

Open Doors. “WHERE DOES CHRISTIAN PERSECUTION OCCUR?”. Open Doors USA. n.d. Web. https://www.opendoorsusa.org/christian-persecution/where-does-christian-persecution-occur/ . 22 April, 2019.

Persecution International. “17 Christians Massacred During Celebration in Nigeria”. Persecution International. 21 April, 2019. Web. https://www.persecution.org/2019/04/21/17-christians-massacred-celebration-nigeria/ . 22 April, 2019.

Resurrection Sunday

Now after the Sabbath, toward the dawn of the first day of the week, Mary Magdalene and the other Mary went to see the tomb.
 And behold, there was a great earthquake, for an angel of the Lord descended from heaven and came and rolled back the stone and sat on it. His appearance was like lightning, and his clothing white as snow. And for fear of him the guards trembled and became like dead men.
But the angel said to the women, ‘Do not be afraid, for I know that you seek Jesus who was crucified. He is not here, for he has risen, as he said. Come, see the place where he lay. Then go quickly and tell his disciples that he has risen from the dead, and behold, he is going before you to Galilee; there you will see him. See, I have told you.’
 So they departed quickly from the tomb with fear and great joy, and ran to tell his disciples. And behold, Jesus met them and said, ‘Greetings!’ And they came up and took hold of his feet and worshiped him. Then Jesus said to them, ‘Do not be afraid; go and tell my brothers to go to Galilee, and there they will see me’” (Matthew 28:1-10 ESV).
Can you imagine the women’s shock and excitement when the shining angel showed them the empty tomb where Jesus had been buried? And even more so when Jesus himself met them with a message for his disciples.
John’s gospel recounts that Jesus said to Mary Magdalene outside the tomb, “…say unto them, I ascend unto my Father, and your Father; and to my God, and your God” (20:17b KJV).
Where did Jesus go before he showed himself to the disciples after his resurrection? What did he do? What does it mean that Jesus ascended unto his Father and our Father?
Fulfilling a Messianic prophecy in Psalm 68:18, Paul describes that “When he [Messiah] ascended on high, he led a host of captives, and he gave gifts to men.”
(In saying, ‘He ascended,’ what does it mean but that he had also descended into the lower regions of the earth? He who descended is the one who also ascended far above all heavens, that he might fill all things)” (4:8-10).
God had a plan.
Jesus descended into the lowest parts of the earth, and he ascended far above all heavens, that he might fill all things. Colossians 1:18-20 says that Jesus is “…the head of the body, the church. He is the beginning, the firstborn from the dead, that in everything he might be preeminent.
For in him all the fulness of God was pleased to dwell, and through him to reconcile to himself all things, whether on earth or in heaven, making peace by the blood of his cross” (ESV).
Jesus descended into the lowest parts of the earth, and he ascended far above all heavens that he might fill all things and reconcile (bring together or put to rights) through himself all things, whether in earth or in heaven, making peace between God and mankind by the blood of his cross.
Paul continues in Ephesians 4:11-13, “And he gave the apostles, the prophets, the evangelists, the shepherds [pastors] and teachers, to equip the saints for the work of ministry, for building up the body of Christ, until we all attain to the unity of the faith and of the knowledge of the Son of God, to mature manhood, to the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ” (ESV).
These are the gifts Jesus gave to men and women, after he ascended on high. What could be the purpose of these gifts: evangelists, pastors, teachers, prophets, apostles? Where do we see these gifts manifesting today?
Paul wrote that “…speaking the truth in love, we are to grow up in every way unto him who is the head, into Christ, from whom the whole body, joined and held together by every joint with which it is equipped, when each part is working properly, makes the body grow so that it builds itself up in love” (Ephesians 4:15-16 ESV).
In Colossians 1:18, Paul wrote that Jesus is “…the head of the body, the church. He is the beginning, the firstborn from the dead, that in everything he might be preeminent” (ESV).
Jesus descended into the lowest parts of the earth and ascended far above all heavens that he might fill all things and reconcile all things to himself by the blood of his cross; and when he returned – having conquered death - he gave gifts to men and women so that they might become evangelists, pastors, teachers, apostles, prophets – so that he would be preeminent in all things as the head of the body of Christ, which is the church.
The apostle Peter wrote, “…you yourselves like living stones are being built up as a spiritual house, to be a holy priesthood, to offer spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ” (1 Peter 2:5 ESV), describing the body of Christ as living stones built upon Christ who is the Chief Corner Stone, to become the church – God’s spiritual house on earth.
When Jesus reconciled all things to himself through the blood of his cross, he activated the template of the body of Christ which is the church. When he returned, he gave gifts to the church “…to equip the saints for the work of ministry, for building up the body of Christ…” (Ephesians 4:12 ESV).
By the time Jesus appeared to his disciples in Galilee after his resurrection, he had already established the body of Christ and the church in reconciling all things unto himself by the blood of his cross, and would breathe life into his new creation fifty days later, at Pentecost (see Acts chapter 2).
At the end of Matthew’s gospel, Jesus reassures his disciples and instructs them in the Great Commission, which would spread the good news of salvation throughout the world:
“And when they saw him they worshiped him, but some doubted. And Jesus came and said to them, ‘All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age’” (28:17-20 ESV).
“For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life. For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but in order that the world might be saved through him” (John 3:16-17 ESV).

Good Friday

Isaiah 53
“Who believes what we’ve heard and seen?
    Who would have thought God’s saving power would look like this?
The servant grew up before God—a scrawny seedling,
    a scrubby plant in a parched field.
There was nothing attractive about him,
    nothing to cause us to take a second look.
He was looked down on and passed over,
    a man who suffered, who knew pain firsthand.
One look at him and people turned away.
    We looked down on him, thought he was scum.
But the fact is, it was our pains he carried—
    our disfigurements, all the things wrong with us.
We thought he brought it on himself,
    that God was punishing him for his own failures.
But it was our sins that did that to him,
    that ripped and tore and crushed him—our sins!
He took the punishment, and that made us whole.
    Through his bruises we get healed.
We’re all like sheep who’ve wandered off and gotten lost.
    We’ve all done our own thing, gone our own way.
And God has piled all our sins, everything we’ve done wrong,
    on him, on him.
 He was beaten, he was tortured,
    but he didn’t say a word.
Like a lamb taken to be slaughtered
    and like a sheep being sheared,
    he took it all in silence.
Justice miscarried, and he was led off—
    and did anyone really know what was happening?
He died without a thought for his own welfare,
    beaten bloody for the sins of my people.
They buried him with the wicked,
    threw him in a grave with a rich man,
Even though he’d never hurt a soul
    or said one word that wasn’t true.
Still, it’s what God had in mind all along,
    to crush him with pain.
The plan was that he give himself as an offering for sin
    so that he’d see life come from it—life, life, and more life.
    And God’s plan will deeply prosper through him.
Out of that terrible travail of soul,
    he’ll see that it’s worth it and be glad he did it.
Through what he experienced, my righteous one, my servant,
    will make many “righteous ones,”
    as he himself carries the burden of their sins.
Therefore I’ll reward him extravagantly—
    the best of everything, the highest honors—
Because he looked death in the face and didn’t flinch,
    because he embraced the company of the lowest.
He took on his own shoulders the sin of the many,
    he took up the cause of all the black sheep.”
The Message translation



https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=BwdeGv9hK4E  (1)

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ZRiIpsbJW8o  (2)



(1) Passion City Church. “Good Friday:: You Need Not Say Goodbye” Youtube. Youtube, 14 April, 2017. Web. 14 April, 2019.

(2) Igniter Media. "Sunday's Comin'". Youtube. Youtube. 25 May, 2010. Web. 14 April, 2019.  ("The voice for Sunday's Comin' is              Pastor John L. Jefferson.")



Pray for Paris

When you pass through the waters, I will be with you;
    and through the rivers, they shall not overwhelm you;
when you walk through fire you shall not be burned,
    and the flame shall not consume you.
Isaiah 43:2 ESV
We lift the people of France to God in prayer, for consolation and for peace. We pray for the safety of all those fighting the fire at Notre Dame cathedral in Paris; and for all the people of the world grieving this great loss, as we grieve with you.
Que Dieu soit avec toi.


The Whole Armor of God – Part Three

The Armor of God is not something that we have to put on every day before we walk out the door to do battle with the world.
In fact, we only put on God’s armor one time, and then we wear it forever. Once we put on the Armor of God, it belongs to us. We do not put it on, take it off, and put it on again, because the Armor of God is not physical armor, it is spiritual armor. We wear it everywhere we go for all time and it covers us in all circumstances.
At the very first Passover, God instructed Moses to tell his people to place the blood of a sacrificial lamb on the doorposts of their houses, to protect them from the angel of death that would come that very night to strike Egypt:
“Then Moses called all the elders of Israel and said to them, ‘Go and select lambs for yourselves according to your clans, and kill the Passover lamb.
Take a bunch of hyssop and dip it in the blood that is in the basin, and touch the lintel and the two doorposts with the blood that is in the basin.
None of you shall go out of the door of his house until the morning. For the Lord will pass through to strike the Egyptians, and when he sees the blood on the lintel and on the two doorposts, the Lord will pass over the door and will not allow the destroyer to enter your houses to strike you. You shall observe this rite as a statute for you and for your sons forever’” (Exodus 12:21-24 ESV).
That first Passover in Egypt was a foreshadowing of Jesus’ sacrifice on the Cross for our sins. John the Baptist acknowledged this in John 1:29:
“The next day he saw Jesus coming toward him, and said, ’Behold the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world!’” (ESV).
The blood of Passover lambs offered cover and protection to God’s people in ancient times, so the Blood of God’s Son, the Lamb of God sacrificed for our sins, offers cover and protection for everyone who receives salvation through Jesus Christ today.
The first place that the Blood of Christ is mentioned in the New Testament is in Luke 22:44 while Jesus was praying before his crucifixion in the garden of Gethsemane:
“And being in agony he prayed more earnestly; and his sweat became like great drops of blood falling down to the ground” (ESV).
Ephesians 6:13 exhorts us to stand firmly on the foundation of the gospel of Jesus Christ, saying:
“Therefore take up the whole armor of God, that you may be able to withstand in the evil day, and having done all, to stand firm” (ESV).
Before introducing the Armor of God, Paul encourages us to take a stand, and to stand firm. But the ground that he is asking us to stand on is not “common” ground, it is holy ground. It is the ground that is founded on the solid rock of the gospel. It is the ground upon which the first drops of Christ’s Blood fell, in the place where his passion began. It is ground that has been redeemed by his Blood from the curse that followed the fall in Genesis 3:17 when God said to Adam, “Cursed is the ground because of you…” (ESV). Before God presents us with his armor, he gives us a solid place to stand that is under the redeeming Blood of Christ.
The first piece of armor we are presented with in Ephesians 6:14a is the Belt of Truth:
“Stand therefore, having fastened on the belt of truth…” (ESV)
John the Beloved Disciple describes Jesus’ interview during his trial with Pontius Pilate this way:
“Then Pilate said to him, ‘So you are a king?’ Jesus answered, ‘You say that I am a king. For this purpose I was born and for this purpose I have come into the world—to bear witness to the truth. Everyone who is of the truth listens to my voice.’  Pilate said to him, ‘What is truth?’” (John 18:37-38a ESV).
Before we can accept salvation, we must be exposed to the truth. An unbelieving world will always ask, “What is truth?” Jesus is the answer. He is the Way, the Truth and the Life. No one can come to the Father except through him (John 14:6). This Belt of Truth establishes us in the Armor of God.
“After [Pilate] had said this, he went back outside to the Jews and told them, ‘I find no guilt in him’” (ESV John 18:38b).
The innocence of Christ establishes us in his blamelessness. The perfect, sinless Lamb of God took our place and our punishment at the Cross, and in exchange for our sin, gave us his righteousness. The Blood of Christ washes us clean: “Come now, let us reason together, says the Lord: though your sins are like scarlet, they shall be as white as snow…” (Isaiah 1:18a ESV).
Therefore, the next piece of armor we put on is the breastplate, which protects us from attack on all sides:
“…and having put on the breastplate of righteousness…” (Ephesians 6:14b ESV).
Before Jesus was sent to the Cross, Pilate ordered that he be scourged. John 19:1 says,
“Then Pilate took Jesus and flogged him” (ESV).
Torn by the lash, Jesus’ back and torso were the next place to be touched by the Blood of Christ, through his righteousness, for our healing:
“Who his own self bare our sins in his own body on the tree, that we, being dead to sins, should live unto righteousness: by whose stripes ye were healed” (1 Peter 2:24 KJV).
As we take a stand on the firm ground of salvation, buckled by the Belt of  Truth and girded in the Breastplate of Righteousness, our steps are guided by the light shining from the Word of God:
“…and, as shoes for your feet, having put on the readiness given by the gospel of peace” (Ephesians 6:15 ESV).
Jesus’ feet were nailed to the cross, and as when he washed the feet of his disciples at the Last Supper (John 13:1-16), so his feet were bathed in his own Blood so that we can walk in his Way, established in his Truth, clothed in his Righteousness:
“’Truly, truly, I say to you, a servant is not greater than his master, nor is a messenger greater than the one who sent him” (John 13:16 ESV).
Thus prepared, Paul tells us to “In all circumstances take up the shield of faith, with which you can extinguish all the flaming darts of the evil one…” (Ephesians 6:16 ESV). When we walk with our feet shod with the Gospel of Peace, we are covered by the Shield of Faith:
 “So we are always of good courage…for we walk by faith, not by sight” (2 Cor. 5:6-7 ESV).
Finally, Paul tells us to “…take the helmet of salvation, and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God” (Ephesians 6:17 ESV).
Before the crucifixion, Pilate’s soldiers “…twisted together a crown of thorns and put it on [Jesus’] head and arrayed him in a purple robe. They came up to him, saying, ‘Hail, King of the Jews!’ and struck him with their hands” (John 19:2-3 ESV).
Jesus exchanged the Crown of Thorns, which was a crown of mocking, for his Helmet of Salvation – the Crown of Life. He exchanged the robe of persecution for the Robe of His Righteousness (James 1:12; Isaiah 61:10).
At the moment that we receive Jesus Christ as our Lord and Savior – when we take the  helmet of salvation - we are redeemed from the curse, washed clean from every sin, and given the gift of the continuous presence of God dwelling in us as the person of his Holy Spirit, who abides with us forever (John 14:16). Because Jesus’ brow was bathed in his Blood, we now can have the Mind of Christ (1 Cor. 1:30).
The hands of Christ were pierced so that our hands could hold the Shield of Faith and the Sword of the Spirit, with which to fight every spiritual battle (Isaiah 49:16).
Once we are clothed in the whole armor of God, our task is to pray “…at all times in the Spirit, with all prayer and supplication. To that end, keep alert with all perseverance, making supplication for all the saints…” (Ephesians 6:18 ESV).
We are to remain alert, stand and pray, with the Holy Spirit and for the family of God, who are “all the saints.” Especially for those whom God has placed in leadership positions in Christ, that we may all boldly proclaim the mystery of the gospel (6:19).
God has given us a place to stand, protection, guidance and all the equipment we need in Jesus Christ. Every place that was touched by his Blood becomes armor for us. The ground we stand on has been redeemed. Where he wore a crown of thorns, we are given the Helmet of Salvation. Where he was scourged for our healing, we wear the Breastplate of his Righteousness. His feet were pierced so that we can walk in the Gospel of Peace. His hands were nailed to the Cross so that we could have the Shield of Faith and the Sword of the Spirit. We are forever cleansed, safeguarded and equipped by the Blood of the Lamb, and we wear the Armor of the King of kings and Lord of lords.
“Surely he has borne our griefs and carried our sorrows; yet we esteemed him stricken, smitten by God, and afflicted. But he was pierced for our transgressions; he was crushed for our iniquities; upon him was the chastisement that brought us peace, and with his wounds we are healed” (Isaiah 53:4-5 ESV).