Encouragement From The Word, Uncategorized

Pray for Afghanistan

Finally, something has eclipsed the pandemic in the news:  the Taliban takeover of Afghanistan.  It is fraught with political nuances and challenges for those of us who may not have been following the story closely for years, going back to the time before and during the western nations’ war and occupation that sought to keep the nation under some form of democratic rule.

But with the final withdrawal of American troops, the Taliban has solidified its control.  And with that will come some form of Islamic law, which is concerning to many women, as well as to Christians in general.

It is said that this nation is second only to North Korea in its record for persecution of Christians.  And that is only apt to get worse, not only in Afghanistan, but in other middle eastern countries, where terrorist groups may feel empowered by recent events favouring the Taliban.

I want to encourage you today to take some time to pray for Christians and churches in Afghanistan, and throughout the middle east.  Pray for protection, for peaceful co-existence, and for the power of the gospel to triumph over hatred and persecution.  And pray that western nations will stand up for the rights of women and religious minorities in these countries.

You may have trouble finding the words, but give that to the Lord, too.  He will know the groaning of your heart.

And the Holy Spirit helps us in our weakness. For example, we don’t know what God wants us to pray for. But the Holy Spirit prays for us with groanings that cannot be expressed in words” (Romans 8.26, NLT).

Encouragement From The Word

Hate

This Sunday at St. Paul’s Church, Nobleton, I’m going to talk about hate.  It’s a pertinent subject, since there’s a lot of it going around these days – but not all of it gets publicized in the same way.

Jesus tells his disciples the blatant truth in John 15.18-19 (NLT):  “If the world hates you, remember that it hated me first. The world would love you as one of its own if you belonged to it, but you are no longer part of the world.  I chose you to come out of the world, so it hates you.

That seems like pretty bad news.  How do we survive, let alone thrive, in a society where we are surrounded by hate? (You’ll have to stay tuned for the answer to that.  You can join us at 10:00 a.m. for worship on Sunday, or tune in to our live-stream on Facebook, or later on YouTube or on the church website.)  Hatred toward followers of Jesus is not widely talked about, perhaps because the church has been a dominant force in society for so long…but it isn’t anymore.

But the good news is that there is help.  We aren’t consigned to live the Christian life alone.  We have the Holy Spirit, and each other.  Each is important!

The Holy Spirit is the third Person of the Trinity, given to us by the Father and the Son to live in and through us when we come to him in faith.  Living the Christian life without the Holy Spirit is like trying to breathe without oxygen: it can’t be done.  The Holy Spirit is our Helper, our Advocate in the midst of the hate the world offers.

There are a lot of “one another” phrases in the New Testament, and these underscore how important Christian community is.  We need each other if we are going to make a difference in a world of adversity. We need each other in both a macro and a micro sense, sharing corporate worship as well as a deeper intimacy with the Lord and each other through small groups.

The world will hate us for following Jesus, because it hates Jesus.  But the good news is that the church of Jesus has been historically proven to thrive under persecution.  Think of the Christians in China, forced underground to continue their devotion to the Lord.  Imagine how much community means to them!  Imagine how much they rely on the Holy Spirit!

We don’t know much about persecution here in the west…yet.  But we can be ready for it by relying on the Holy Spirit and each other.

See you on Sunday.

Encouragement From The Word

Privilege and Persecution

The tragedy in Sri Lanka on Easter Sunday, and its politicization, has illustrated the reality that Christians are under attack, being persecuted and executed in these days, and often, the western media don’t even mention it.

It’s not getting any easier to be a follower of Jesus in our time.  Even as little as 50 years ago, the church still enjoyed a privileged position, in our country and in many western nations.  But that is no longer true.  As time rolls on, our relationship to the culture is looking more and more like the church of the first century.

And in many ways, that’s actually good news.

The church that experiences cultural privilege is less likely to rely on God. The church that experiences cultural persecution is more likely to rely on God, because he’s all there is to rely on!

And the church that experiences cultural persecution has a greater tendency to grow if it’s being faithful to Jesus and his Word.

So don’t worry about persecution; remember that Jesus is greater than any persecution we could face.

Here on earth you will have many trials and sorrows. But take heart, because I have overcome the world” (John 16.33, NLT).