Archives for posts with tag: christian persecution

Engage Through Compassion

It seems like we went to sleep and the next day Christianity turned into the punching bag of the world. We never saw it coming. Now there is a sort of unwritten rule in the world of media and public opinion forums that says it is okay to take cheap shots at Christians, and especially at evangelicals. Not that we don’t deserve some of the criticism, but today I don’t want to dwell on those.

Rather, I would like to point out that Christians have often been on the forefront of a lot of good that has happened and is still happening in the world. Even today, when natural disaster strikes, after the politicians and the reporters leave, it is often Christian churches that stay and bear the brunt of the recovery work. I know this partially because I spent quite a bit of time in Slidell, LA, after Hurricane Katrina. I can still hear the locals thanking us for repeatedly coming back with teams even though the church I was with at the time was located a thousand miles away.

Christians do the bulk of benevolence and volunteer work around the world. They advocate for the poor and downtrodden. They run orphanages, hospitals, schools, soup kitchens, and drug rehab centers. And they give billions to charity work.

Take just one example: infanticide. From time immemorial this despicable practice was not only legal but encouraged. Parents, both rich and poor, used infanticide as a way of getting rid of children who were deemed weak or undesirable (in the case of girls). Famous politicians and philosophers defended infanticide and considered those who opposed it insane.

But all of that started to change when the Christians stepped on the scene. The earliest Christian document, a sort of Catechism called Didache, dated approximately 90 A.D., strictly prohibited infanticide. Christians began to convert pagans and they began to change. They protested against the practice to influential politicians. They provided alternatives to mothers who would kill or abandon their children to the elements. These Christians were of one mind and they didn’t stop until one bishop Basil finally convinced the Emperor Valentinian to outlaw the practice of infanticide in the Roman Empire.

This Sunday at Grace Church we will be highlighting the plight of those who are considered the “least of these” in our society – children who have no voice. Sadly, even though infanticide is no longer an official policy of any state, we have found other ways of exposing and even killing innocent children whose only “sin” was to have been brought into the world.

But our purpose is not just to protest or commiserate about the plight of at-risk children. We will ask you to take action. NOW (=No Option to Wait). Like the early Christians who provided alternatives to the evils of infanticide, we want you to engage in something that will make a difference.

With that in mind, we will have several organizations who are working to protect children both here and abroad represented at our church this Sunday. They will provide an array of opportunities for us to act. Please don’t miss the chance to be compelled to action by the Holy Spirit.

And if you have friends in the community who are or have in the past adopted or fostered, please give them a special invitation to come. We will be recognizing them publically and give them a gift from our family at Grace Church. Hope to see you there!

Happy Thanksgiving!

Pastor Ivanildo C. Trindade

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“For you have been given not only the privilege of trusting in Christ but also the privilege of suffering for him.”  (Philippians 1:29).

Privilege to suffer? According to whom?

Most of us come to Christ expecting only blessings. After all, we heard the “sales pitch,” didn’t we? “God has a wonderful plan for your life.” And isn’t the very definition of “Gospel” good news?

But is that all? Let’s look at that verse in Philippians again. The text literally says, “It has been gifted to you, on behalf of Christ, both to believe and to suffer.” The word translated “gifted” is the same one as the word “grace.” Charis in the Greek.  So is the gospel good news and bad news at the same time?

Well, in a sense, yes. The gospel is good news of salvation for those who believe. It is the greatest news any time anywhere. Through Jesus Christ we can experience forgiveness of sins, peace with God, and eternal life beyond the grave. That is awesome news. But it doesn’t mean that we are immune from suffering. Jesus said, Here on earth you will have many trials and sorrows. But take heart, because I have overcome the world.” (John 16:33).

The early Christians never expected a trouble free life on the way to paradise. They were fully aware that following Christ was a two-sided gift, on the one hand, victory; on the other, vexation. And they fully embraced both aspects of the Gospel.

In fact, the Apostle Peter warned the believers not to be surprised when they faced persecution, “… as though something strange were happening to you.” (1 Peter 4:12, 13). So why do we act surprised when we face trials and tribulations? Jesus never said we were only going to have feast and jubilation. He also spoke of trials and tribulation. And He Himself experienced that. So did Paul. So did all 12 Apostles, who all died a martyr’s death, except John, who died in prison on the Island of Patmos.

The fact is that there has never been a time in the history of humanity when followers of Christ have been more severely attacked than now. Christians are suffering under the brutal hands of radical Islam in so many countries. Zealot Hindus are also targeting Christians. Christians in Nigeria, Kenya, Indonesia, India, etc. have had their houses of worship burned and people have been frequently, brutally assaulted and murdered in the most vicious manners imaginable.

This Sunday we will remember to pray for the Persecuted Church as we continue to study the little book of Philippians. To prepare your heart, I encourage you to visit the following sites and educate yourself about the plight of the suffering church.

Resources:

I have also written in the past about this topic, if you want to check it:

As you pray for our brothers and sisters who are suffering for their faith, remember the words of the author of Hebrews: “Remember those in prison, as if you were there yourself. Remember also those being mistreated, as if you felt their pain in your own bodies.” (Hebrews 13:3).

Pastor Ivanildo C. Trindade

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“Those who have turned the world upside down have come here.” (Acts 17:6). This was the accusation leveled against some early Christians not too many years from the time Jesus ascended into heaven. Paul and Silas were among them, in Thessalonica, roughly 1,000 miles from Jerusalem.

So the question is: How could this small band of Christians make waves so far away in such a short period of time? The answer may surprise you. They had met the risen Lord, were so desperate that their very survival depended on prayer and they were boldly sharing their faith even in the face of threats against their lives. Now that is a lethal combination.

Some will say that the disciples were only being falsely accused of turning the world upside down. In other words, since this is a rioting crowd, they were exaggerating. You ever heard of hyperbole?

Well, let’s consider that for a moment. Maybe this was a catchy phrase these rioters came up with, but they went further. They said, “They are defying Caesar’s decrees, saying there is another king, one called Jesus.” (Acts 17:7). Hmmm. That is really radical, if you want my opinion. It is subverting the order of things. It’s challenging the authorities and threatening the very fabric of a society which existed on the premise that the Emperor was the one existing power. Christians had become dangerous to society. That is as counter-cultural as they come, and the Church must reclaim this place in the world, even if it costs us a lot — or even everything.

Kim Jong Il was not afraid to say it. He considered Christians, “my most volatile enemies.” Christians threaten to change allegiances and dethrone human dynasties wherever they go. All they need to say is “I am the way and the Truth and the Life. No one comes to the Father except by me.”

From that perspective, Christians were being accused of committing a crime. But that wasn’t stopping them from speaking of what they had seen and heard. They were an unstoppable force for this Jewish Messiah who died and rose again. They had seen it with their own eyes and they couldn’t stop talking about it.

But then something happened in the last 2000 plus years. The Church of Jesus Christ became a sleeping giant. We’ve been cornered into silence and became only a semblance of the power that once was.

But not all is lost. We can still become bold, we can still rely on prayer, and we must. In fact, we must or we will become totally irrelevant and not even risk being falsely accused of turning the world upside down. Come to church this Sunday and find out how we recover that dream.

 

Pastor Ivanildo C. Trindade

 

So on Sunday we launch a new series on the Book of Haggai. But before we get there, I am just wondering: what did you think of the service last Sunday? Did any of you decide to go watch the movie because of our service?

I am taking my staff through an exercise that is helping us think long and hard about what it is that makes our church UNIQUE. One of the questions we are asking ourselves is: what can we do that 10,000 other churches cannot do? Well, last Sunday was an example of that, but there is so much more, I believe, by way of hidden talents, untapped potential, and doors that could literally burst open for significant ministry in our community. Please keep praying for clarity for us and bring your contribution to the table of uniqueness.

By the way, if you missed the service, you may still catch it here.

Back to Haggai. He is the first of the post-exilic prophets. That means that he wrote after the people of Judah had returned from 70 years as exiles in the land of Babylon. He is also one of the 12 minor prophets (the first 9 preached before the people went into captivity and the last three, Haggai, Zechariah, who were contemporaries, and Malachi, who lived 100 years later, preached after the people returned to Jerusalem).

Though historically far removed from us, the word from these prophets, and especially Haggai, is especially relevant to the masses yearning to breathe free from what I call the “tyranny of stuff.” By the time Haggai started preaching the people had been back for about 18 years. They had laid the foundation of God’s house about 16 years earlier, then they stopped, claiming that “it was not time yet” to build the house of the Lord. Meanwhile, they were busy building their own little palaces. God tried to get their attention to no avail.

I once heard a story of a north American pastor who went to China on an underground trip to visit Christians who were involved with the “illegal” house church movement. This trip was the biggest eye-opener of his life and ministry. As he was getting ready to return, he asked one of the Chinese pastors who had spent many years in forced labor camps for refusing to stop preaching the Gospel, “How can the people in the U.S. pray for the persecuted church in China?” The answer hit him like a tsunami, “Isn’t it more like how we can pray for you?” The Chinese pastor asked. Then he added, “It seems that we have handled persecution better than you have handled prosperity.”

Now you may say that the Chinese pastor was being a bit arrogant. You may say that he was suggesting they didn’t need prayers. You may say that he was bunching everyone together in the same material-loving pot. As for me, I take that injunction humbly and try to learn what it means to me living in one of the wealthiest nations in the world. And I make mine the words of the prophet — consider your ways!

This Sunday we will understand more clearly what are the potentially catastrophic consequences of choosing not to put God first in all our affairs. I can’t wait to see what God is going to do in our midst as we study this little book together.

See you on Sunday!

Pastor Ivanildo C. Trindade.