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21 Day Devotional | Day 17: Serving God Serves Others

THE REPORT OF THE PERSECUTED CHURCH:

Somalia is ranked # 2 on the Open Door Watch list. "With no functioning government in Somalia, Christians are targeted by Islamic terrorists and clan authorities. As the government gains more control, state actors are joining the vicious two to persecute Christians. The only type of Christianity in Somalia is Christian converts from a Muslim background. Persecution in the country is very severe. Islamic religious leaders maintain publicly that there is no room for Christianity, Christians and churches in Somalia. Islamic terrorists, in the form of al-Shabaab, as well as other radical Islamic groups, have intensified the persecution of Christians" (Open Doors, 2015).   

In societies where castes and social position are tied to one's identity, it is easy to see what a trial is for many individuals who come to Christ to lose their social acceptance, friends, and become social outcasts in a society that has no room for Christians or their faith. Can you for a moment stop to think what this could be like? What if you went to work and everyone ignored you, and your bosses and coworkers would revile and accuse you endlessly when they declined to address you at all? Surrounded by people and yet you are not one of them. 


SCRIPTURAL REFLECTION:

Romans 12:17 AMP

"Repay no one evil for evil, but take thought for what is honest and proper and noble [aiming to be above reproach] in the sight of everyone".

John 16:2 AMP

"They will put you out of (expel you from) the synagogues; but an hour is coming when whoever kills you will think and claim that he has offered service to God".


QUESTIONS FOR DEEPER REFLECTION:

1. Formoment, think about these radical Islamists. Do you think that they share something with Saul who later became Paul?

2. Is it possible, that they really believe they are doing some service to their god?

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FOOD FOR THOUGHT:

Proverbs 14:12, says "There is a way which seems right to a man and appears straight before him, but at the end of it is the way of death." This way of man lacks knowledge of the most High and causes us all to fall short of the Glory of God. Why do you think that Saul was [not only] consenting to [Stephen’s] death [he was pleased and entirely approving?] (See Acts 8, AMP).

ASK GOD:

to reveal areas in your life where you may think you are doing some service to God but, are actually persecuting Christ or hindering His will in your or another's life?


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PRAYER:

God I pray earnestly for the Christians who endure the terroristic environment of Somalia and have faithfully come to Jesus from the Islamic faith. I pray that there would be a powerful restoration of a functioning government which would give freedom to all faiths. I pray that as these things occur the civil wars, famines, and droughts, which have plagued the nation of Somalia for far too long would cease. I declare the voice and tongue of terrorism is stopped. I declare that the Words of God be loosed and the freedom of Christ is already emerging with profound voice and an unquenchable fire! (Insert any additional) In Jesus Name, Amen.

FURTHER READING:

Want to know more about the Gospel message that made a Saul into a Paul? Read Galatians Chapter One.

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21 Day Devotional | Day 16: Unshakable Citizenship

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THE REPORT OF THE PERSECUTED CHURCH:

            "The Yemen Constitution declares that Islam is the state religion and Sharia Law is the source of all legislation. This makes Yemen the 14th country where Christians face the most severe persecution.  There is some religious freedom for foreigners, but proselytization is prohibited. Muslims are forbidden to convert to another religion. Yemenis who leave Islam may face the death penalty. Christian converts from Islam face persecution to such a degree that they need to live in secret. Missionary activities by expatriates have led to detentions and deportation " (Open Doors, 2015).

                  Many Christian converts are forced to lose their rights of citizenship, and public status. It is extremely difficult to be banned from public places and encounter social stigma simply, because of one's faith. Many who lose their rights of citizenship suffer the loss of living in their country of birth, the right to work, to vote, and the identity that comes from belonging. In the past, one's identity was tied to where one lived. What if you were told you could no longer be an American, vote, or have possessions, as a direct consequence of your profession of faith in Jesus Christ?  

FOOD FOR THOUGHT

Just think for a moment about the  Decree on a Passport, "The Secretary of State of United States of America hereby requests all whom it may concern to permit the citizens national of United States named here to pass without delay or hindrance, and in case of need to give all lawful aid and protection!" We as Americans have been truly blessed. Let us not take for granted our freedoms and help others who are struggling to be free too! 


SCRIPTURAL REFLECTIONS:

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Romans 12:16 AMP

"Live in harmony with one another; do not be haughty (snobbish, high-minded, exclusive), but readily adjust yourself to [people, things] and give yourselves to humble tasks. Never overestimate yourself or be wise in your own conceits." 

Philippians 3:20 AMP

"But we are citizens of the state (commonwealth, homeland) which is in heaven, and from it also we earnestly and patiently await [the coming of] the Lord Jesus Christ (the Messiah) [as] Savior!".


QUESTIONS FOR DEEPER REFLECTION:

1. In countries where the trust of the people is blindly put in man and government we see many consistent things: terrorism, suffering, and torture. In Psalm 146:3, we are instructed, "Do not put your trust in princes, in human beings, who cannot save". In what ways do you think we place our trust in men, and government?

ASK GOD:

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In Hosea 4:6, God describes His people, ... "My people are destroyed for lack of knowledge." When countries and governments fail to follow the creator's plan they lack knowledge needed to bring healing to the nations. Ask God where you have been lukewarm and trusted men rather than God? Ask God to reveal where you may have forgotten the instructions given through the wisdom of God's word and have suffered for a lack of knowledge. 


PRAYER: 

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God we thank you for a new and imperishable citizenship we, as Christians, have in Heaven! When we lose earthly citizenship there is a far greater glory within your kingdom and promises. God we ask you for the Yemenis who lose their sense of belonging when they lose their earthly citizenship and all the rights that come with that citizenship, help them embrace their heavenly citizenship and all the promises and blessings that are theirs through faith.

             God I ask you to bring a strong unity of Christianity in the midst of a divided and torn nation that perishes for a lack of the knowledge of who You are! Reveal yourself in mighty ways, in dreams, visions, and through your undying love. God, we pray you will loose your scripture through the radio, TV, and internet; send forth Your word of life that it may not come back void.  (Insert any additional) In Jesus Name, Amen.


FURTHER READING:

Want to know more about your unshakable citizenship in Heaven?  Read Philippians. 

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21 Day Devotional | Day 15: One With Them

THE REPORT OF THE PERSECUTED CHURCH:
Libya is ranked # 13 on the Open Door Watch list. "The position of Christians in Libya has been extremely difficult, and has only deteriorated, making Libya the most difficult country to be a Christian in North Africa. Within a context of anarchy and absent rule of law, Christians – both nationals and foreigners – are squeezed between fanatical religious groups and criminal gangs. As in most Muslim countries, converting from Islam brings social pressure. Most Libyan Christians are afraid to meet with other believers, as any kind of religious gathering (other than Islamic) for Libyans is forbidden. The violence against Christians has increased in a country where rule of law is absent" (Open Doors, 2015).


SCRIPTURAL REFLECTION:

Romans 12:15 AMP
" Rejoice with those who rejoice [sharing others’ joy], and weep with those who weep [sharing others’ grief]" .

Hebrews 13:3
"Remember those in prison as if you were their fellow prisoners, and those who are mistreated as if you yourselves were suffering"

Many persecuted Christians often feel isolated and alone, since they are unable to fellowship with other believers. However, prayers from Christians half a world away have brought the same amount of encouragement that fellowship would have for these persecuted Christians. Prayer is vital—not only as a direct line to God, but as a way to encourage our persecuted brothers and sisters around the world.  

            1 Corinthians 12:26  tells us that we are one body—when one member suffers, we all suffer. When one member is lifted up, we all rejoice. Persecuted Christians and Christians in the free world are not two separate entities, but rather are one body. The persecuted church needs the free church to support them and most importantly to lift them up in prayer. The church in the free world learns lessons from the persecuted who have stood strong in the face of persecution. Christ is the head of the body and uses the church (both free and persecuted) in unique and powerful ways.


QUESTIONS FOR DEEPER REFLECTION: 

1.When you have gone through severe loss, or grief, what helped you the most?

2. How have you been able to help others significantly? If you have special abilities or gifts of the Holy Spirit to serve others what has stopped you from using these more?

ASK GOD: 
Where there have been times you have not supported those who were grieving. Ask God to help you become more aware of ways to be at 'one' with your brothers and sisters in God's will. Ask God to reveal the overwhelming sense of loneliness some of these persecuted brothers and sisters feel, and pray how you would want them to pray for you,  -if your roles were reversed. 


PRAYER:

God help us to heed the instruction in Hebrews 13:3, and continue to remember those in prison as if we were together with them in prison, and those who are mistreated as if we ourselves were suffering.  I pray that the church would be challenged, united, courageous, wise, and prepared for persecution. I pray for a stable central government in all the countries both those that are free and suppressed.'

            I pray for the Muslim Background Believers and that they will not be targets of their families or their communities and will find favor so they can testify to Christ. I pray for God’s people to encourage those Christians in the crosshairs of Islamic militants and violence. Help our brethren to understand they are not alone. Help our brothers and sisters throughout the world who are suffering to 'feel the prayers' lifted up and be strengthened in their faith (Insert any additional) In Jesus Name, Amen.


FURTHER READING: 
Want to know more about what Jesus prays for us, His Disciples? Read John 17:6-26.

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21 Day Devotional | Day 14: Be A Blessing

THE REPORT OF THE PERSECUTED CHURCH:
 

The Communist government under China`s new president Xi Jinping aims at controlling religious activities. While in most regions in China, Christian activities have been watched under careful eye rather than controlled, the unregistered house churches could be affected by a program started to eradicate so-called “evil cults.” Concerning the ethnic Han churches, some observers speak of three kinds of churches: the “black” ones which are illegal and which the state is fighting against (for example Vatican loyal Roman Catholics), the “red” ones which are state-approved and controlled and the “grey” ones which are not registered, but tolerated, and which form the majority of the Christians. 

    In the video below, Pastor Wong has experienced persecution firsthand in house churches. He thinks persecution is a test from God which separates the true Christians from those who are not. He believes for those who are truly God's, it makes them stronger. Persecuted Christians, no matter what country they are from, do not ask us to pray that persecution would end, but rather ask us to pray that they stand strong through the persecution. They do not wish to be delivered from the persecution, but rather ask us to pray that they would be able to overcome the trials that they are facing in a way that is honoring to God. A Christian widow from Iran said: 

"I only had hatred in my heart for my enemies who had murdered my husband. But one day a miracle happened. God taught me how I could love my enemies… I had been praying for this, even though on the deepest level I didn't want it to happen. Gradually, through a process of ups and downs, God answered this prayer." 

The only way we can get through extreme hurt is by forgiving people as Christ did; with unfailing love.



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SCRIPTURAL REFLECTION:

Luke 23:34
"And Jesus said, "Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do." And they cast lots to divide his garments".

Romans 12:14 AMP
"Bless those who persecute you [who are cruel in their attitude toward you]; bless and do not curse them".

Romans 12:21
"Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good".


QUESTIONS FOR DEEPER REFLECTION: 
 

1. An Egyptian Christian reflected on the way he was treated when he converted to Christ: "In great suffering you discover a different Jesus than you do in normal life… Pain and suffering bring up to the surface all the weak points of your personality. In my weakest state, I had an incredible realization that Jesus loved me even right then."  How has Jesus loved you when you have encountered great suffering? 

2. How can we relate to others' suffering the way Christ relates to us?

ASK GOD: to reveal areas where you need to relate to the suffering of others and to show you ways to overcome evil with Good!


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PRAYER:

God I want to discover the 'real Jesus' the one Your scriptures tell me about. Help me to love others the way you have loved me and through the weakest places, through my own inabilities, help me to encounter a true unfailing love for my enemies. (Insert any additional) In Jesus Name, Amen.

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21 Day Devotional | Day 13: Investing through Contribution

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THE REPORT OF THE PERSECUTED CHURCH:

Afghanistan is #5, in the severity of countries suffering from extreme persecution accordingto the Open Doors World Watch List.  All Christians with an Afghan nationality come from a Muslim background (converts). If it becomes known that someone has converted to Christianity, he or she faces heavy societal and familial pressure. If Christians are discovered, they are subject to discrimination, hostility, and even violence by their family, friends and community. There are no public churches in Afghanistan.



SCRIPTURAL REFLECTION:

Romans 12:13 AMP
"Contribute to the needs of God’s people [sharing in the necessities of the saints]; pursue the practice of hospitality" .

Luke 8:21 NIV
"And it was reported to Him, "Your mother and Your brothers are standing outside, wishing to see You." But He answered and said to them, "My mother and My brothers are these who hear the word of God and do it" .


QUESTIONS FOR DEEPER REFLECTION: 

1. How would you feel if your entire family disowned you for being a Christian, and associating with other believers?

2. How would you feel if when your entire family disowned you for being a Christian, and other believers did not support you?

ASK GOD: If you have truly considered your brothers and sisters in Christ as your true family, ask God if there is any dissention or division with others in the body of Christ and how you can be a peace maker. 


PRAYER:

Jesus Said, that whoever does God's will is my brother and sister and mother in Mark 3:35; I desire to not only be a part of the family of God by following your will, but I seek to bring other brothers and sisters to this knowledge. I pray, God, that You will soften the Afghan government to give persecuted Christians freedom to worship and protect them from the Taliban. That every small group of Christians will stand strong in their faith and not return to Islam under pressure no matter how difficult it will be. I ask you, God, that the constant instability and cycle of war over the last 30 years will end! Bring us to strengthen one another in accomplishing  Your will. (Insert any additional) In Jesus Name, Amen.

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21 Day Devotional | Day 12 : Get In The Cell

THE REPORT OF THE PERSECUTED CHURCH:

"Richard Wurmbrand dared proclaim his loyalty to Christ rather than bow to a government hostile to the gospel. For this, he spent a total of 14 years in prison, two of those years alone in a solitary cell. As he sat alone, he dreamed of a mission that would one day help Christians like him. Today, you have the opportunity to read his testimony in: Tortured for Christ" (The Voice of the Martyrs). "One Chinese church leader, who spent 23 years in prison, once said this to Christians who did not face persecution: Sometimes you need to build yourself a cell. He says, "I was pushed into a cell, but you have to push yourself into one. You have no time to know God. You need to build yourself a cell, so you can do for yourself what persecution did for me—simplify your life and know God."  It is vital that we "Be still and know that He is God" by spending time with God, to grow in Him, so we are prepared to stand strong in the face of persecution" (Standing Strong Through The Storm, Open Doors Curriculum, 2015). 



SCRIPTURAL REFLECTION:

Hebrews 13:3
"Continue to remember those in prison as if you were together with them in prison, and those who are mistreated as if you yourselves were suffering".

Romans 12:12 AMP
"Rejoice and exult in hope; be steadfast and patient in suffering and tribulation; be constant in prayer".


QUESTIONS FOR DEEPER REFLECTION:


1. Have you ever felt like you were in a prison? or imprisoned by some circumstance that you can take and relate to those who are in real prisons suffering for their faith?

ASK GOD:
Ask God to reveal where you may need to eliminate the things that don't really matter in light of eternity from your focus? Have you de-cluttered your life and adjusted your focus in light of eternity?


PRAYER:

God our thoughts are not Your thoughts, neither are Your ways our ways. As the heavens are higher than the earth, Your ways are higher than our ways and Your thoughts than our thoughts. We know that there are countless Christians who have died without seeing the fruits of their labors. All that has been and all that is to come is in your hands, and our labor is not in vain. Thank you for your strength and hope that comes from sitting at your feet where you give what no-one and nothing can take away!
(Insert any additional) In Jesus Name, Amen.

 

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21 Day Devotional | Day 11: Be a Lighthouse

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THE REPORT OF THE PERSECUTED CHURCH:

 "The year was 1955. A young Dutchman was burdened with the desire to reach out to Christians in Eastern Europe, where Christianity was becoming more and more illegal. He took his first trip to visit Christians in Poland and was amazed at what he saw- Entire underground congregations with only one Bible to share!  Brother Andrew knew he had to do something. So two years later, he arrived at the same border in a VW Bug filled with Bibles. He knew that if he was caught with the Bibles, he would be arrested, so he prayed: "Lord- In Your Word, You made blind men see. Now I am praying that you would make seeing eyes blind." And God answered his prayer!

 Brother Andrew of Open Doors was able to deliver Bibles and training materials to Christians in Eastern Europe, allowing Christians to freely read God's Word in those countries. Today, the ministry started by Brother Andrew has expanded to strengthen persecuted Christians in over 60 countries! Open Doors currently serves persecuted believers through the following ways: Bible & Gospel Distribution, Women & Children Advancement and Christian Community Restoration" (Open Doors USA, 2015).



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SCRIPTURAL REFLECTION:


Romans 12:11 AMP

"Never lag in zeal and in earnest endeavor; be aglow and burning with the Spirit, serving the Lord."

 

QUESTIONS FOR DEEPER REFLECTION: 

1. As Christians we are instructed to NEVER lag in Zeal and in earnest endeavor, this means we pursue the cause of Christ with intensity. When you look around, do you see others who are passionate and their appetite growing for the things of God?

2. Is the advancement and spread of the Gospel a constant concern?


ASK GOD:

Ask God to reveal any areas where you may be lagging in your appetite, and your attempts at achieving great things for God and His people regardless of the price it may require. Ask God where you have allowed "your voice" for God to be quieted and fear of others reactions has stopped you from putting forth an effort.


PRAYER:

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Let us pray, God give us the boldness to declare Your Word, and we ask you God to perform mighty signs and wonders - ---- "And now, Lord, take note of their threats, and grant that Your bond-servants may speak Your word with all confidence, while You extend Your hand to heal, and signs and wonders take place through the name of Your holy servant Jesus." Let it be that when we pray, the places where we gather together be shaken, and all be filled with the Holy Spirit and begin to speak the word of God with boldness. (Acts 4:29-31). (Insert any additional) In Jesus Name, Amen.


Further Reading:

To learn more about see prayers fromthe Bible see: http://www.persecution.net/prayer.htm

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21 Day Devotional | Day 9: Unconditional Love

THE REPORT OF THE PERSECUTED CHURCH:

“There are numerous reasons why Christians are persecuted.  In some countries, severe abuse of Christians takes place under authoritarian governments, where these governments seek to control all religious thought and expression as part of a comprehensive plan to control all aspects of political and civic life. In countries like Nigeria which is #10 on the Extreme Persecution World Watch List, more than 98 percent of the population is Islamic; hostility comes more from society than from the government. Historically, Islamic associations have emerged, which aim to restrict the freedom of 'deviant Muslims' and minority religious groups like Christians”

Although Boko Haram is most often associated with persecution of Christians in northern Nigerian, the pattern of persecution is much more complex than only killing or wounding Christians – as well as moderate Muslims – by an Islamic terrorist group. This is especially so in the 12 northern Sharia states where local government and social groups leave hardly any space for Christians to live their own lives. The current situation in Nigeria casts dark clouds ahead with the declaration of a caliphate in northeastern Nigeria. Boko Haram has kidnapped hundreds of girls, boys and women. Also, the attacks have left thousands homeless (Open Door, 2015).


SCRIPTURAL REFLECTION: 

Romans 12:9 AMP
"[Let your] love be sincere (a real thing); hate what is evil [loathe all ungodliness, turn in horror from wickedness], but hold fast to that which is good".

Luke 15:20
"And he arose and came to his father. But while he was still a long way off, his father saw him and felt compassion, and ran and embraced him and kissed him ". 


QUESTIONS FOR DEEPER REFLECTION:

1.  How do I treat others who do not conform to what I think is right?

2. Are we moved by compassion even when others are a long way off from where they need to be? 

ASK GOD: Ask God to search your motives in ministry. Ask God if you seek to control others thoughts and expressions of ‘your God’ and become disappointed when they do not conform? Ask God to show you ways to love others “Unconditionally”.


PRAYER:

God, I pray you would fill me with Your unfailing and unconditional love; that Your Spirit of Love that dwells in me will overflow to others even if they are a long way from where the need to be.  Only Your love can help me to see what is good in others, and hold fast to that which is good in them. You died for each of us while we were yet sinners, help us to love othersthe way You have loved us. I pray for the people of Nigeria, and that the 200 girls of Chibok and the many others kidnapped by Boko Haram will be returned to their homes immediately.

I ask you, God,  for the displaced Christians in Northeastern Nigeria to be reunited with their families and to receive the help needed. That the open doors ministry would be freed to assist and counsel them. I pray for all those who have been affected by the violence and trauma of Boko Haram would rest secure in God. I ask for Boko Haram to have softened hearts and the scales of deception would fall from their eyes and see and come to know the only true God, In Jesus Name, Amen.


FURTHER READING:

To learn more about unconditional Love read 1 Corinthians' Chapter 13, and about the Fruit of the Spirit in Galatians 5:22-23.

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21 Day Devotional | Day 8 : Giving of Oneself

THE REPORT OF THE PERSECUTED CHRISTIAN: 

“Christian persecution is any hostile feeling, attitude, restriction, or action experienced as a result of one's identification as a Christian. Christians in areas with severe religious restrictions pay a heavy price for their faith.  Beatings, physical torture, confinement, isolation, rape, severe punishment, imprisonment, slavery, discrimination in education and employment, and even death are just a few examples of the persecution they experience on a daily basis. 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” (Open Doors, 2015).


SCRIPTURAL REFLECTION: 

Romans 12:8 AMP

“[He whose gift is] practical service, let him give himself to serving; he who teaches, to his teaching

Definition of Practical Service: of or concerned with the actual doing or use of something, rather than with theory and ideas. 


QUESTIONS FOR DEEPER REFLECTION: 

1. When hearing about other Christian brothers and sisters who are suffering for their faith are you moved into specific action, or get stuck in theories and ideas about why bad things happen to good people?

2. Do you think it is easier to turn the channel and avoid conversations on religion and politics?

3. Does the Word of God address taking a stand for the Truth?

ASK GOD:
sk God to search your actions, your assistance or supply to those in need of education, encouragement, and provision when persecuted throughout the world. Do you teach or stir others up to get informed and involved in creating positive changes? If not ask Him why? Ask God to reveal where your good intentions fall short of actions. 


PRAYER:

God help us to heed the Bible passages that call us to be a voice for the voiceless. Help us to follow the instructions given in Psalm 82:3, that tell us to stand up for those who are weak and for those whose fathers have died. Help us to see to it that those who are poor and those who are beaten down are treated fairly. (Insert any additional) In Jesus Name, Amen.


NEXT STEPS:

To learn more about our persecuted brothers and sisters sign up for free e-Newsletters, learn more, partner in prayer, and consider donating to those who provide resources to our persecuted brethren throughout the world! 

Open Doors: OPENDOORSUSA.ORG
Voice of the Martyr: PERSECUTION.COM
Prisoner Alert: PRISONERALERT.COM

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21 Day Devotional | Day 7 : Serving Practically

THE REPORT OF THE PERSECUTED CHURCH:

Christians Face a Culture of Fear, and Intimidation in U.S. Military! The Family Research Council (FRC) released a video warning Americans about the persecution of U.S. troops who express their Christian faith. “Soldiers give up a lot of privileges or rights to be soldiers and defend the freedom of others,” says one soldier in the video, “But certainly the free exercise of religious freedom is not one of them.” "Defending America's freedom shouldn't mean surrendering theirs,” he said, “especially given that the Constitution they have sworn to uphold guarantees religious liberty as all Americans' 'first freedom.’” Many soldiers say the powers-that-be in the U.S. military are “bound and determined to eradicate the military and its heritage of any references to our Christian heritage and Christian beliefs.”

“This kind of repression is crouching at the door of American churches,” one soldier says. “And if the people decide to do nothing they have only themselves to blame because they refused to act when action was warranted.” The FRC report, A Clear and Present Danger: The Threat to Religious Liberty in the Military,  was released in October, 2014. It documents more than 25 instances of religious persecution in the U.S. military.


SCRIPTURAL REFLECTION:

Romans 12:7 AMP

 

 

[He whose gift is] practical service, let him give himself to serving; he who teaches, to his teaching.


QUESTIONS FOR DEEPER REFLECTON: 

1. Do I personally thank Military members for their service, understanding they each sacrifice for my freedoms?

2. Do I know anyone in the Military? If so, how do I support their faith, and prayerfully support them and their families?

3. Even though I do not currently serve in the Military, I am considered a Soldier of Christ. How then am I supposed to serve others and the cause of freedom in the lives who depend on my service? 

FOOD FOR THOUGHT: 
I do not have to be a "Teacher" to teach. By living a Godly example, and by living a life of virtuous behaviors I teach by my example alone. 

ASK GOD: 
Ask God to search your heart and see if there is complacency in praying and helping our military brothers and sisters. Ask him for how you can help and make a difference.


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PRAYER: 

God we join in prayer with the Family Research Council and the Restore Military Religious Freedom Coalition in giving honor and praying for our troops, and their selfless families, especially those who are being discriminated against for living out their faith. May they find refreshment in their daily spiritual and physical needs. Help Americans find courage and supportive resources to reach out to them by loving them as "we" would want to be loved.  (Insert any additional) In Jesus Name, Amen.

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21 Day Devotional | Day 6: Vessels Speaking Out

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THE REPORT OF THE PERSECUTED CHURCH:

Worse than being unprepared, many American Christians will not even entertain the idea that they may have to suffer for the name of Christ.  If a Christian gets angry–when times are good– at the mere suggestion they may suffer persecution, will that same Christian “endure to the end?” In Revelation, especially in chapters 2 and 3, Jesus makes wonderful prophetic promises to all who will overcome.  Will that pampered 21st century American Christian be an “overcomer” when hard times appear? In these morally challenged times -when those you depend on the most often hurt you the deepest - is there anything left you can trust? Yes! You can fully trust the Bible!  


SPIRITUAL REFLECTION:

Romans 12:6, AMP

6 Having gifts (faculties, talents, qualities) that differ according to the grace given us, let us use them: [He whose gift is] prophecy, [let him prophesy] according to the proportion of his faith.

Prophesy is much more than just telling what will happen in the future. Prophesy is a declaration given by divine inspiration. In 1 Corinthians 14:1, the bible instructs us to " Follow after charity, and desire spiritual gifts, but rather that ye may prophesy"(AMP).  You do not need to be a prophet to prophesy or to speak under the inspiration of God.

When being persecuted it is extremely important to rely upon divine inspiration rather than natural understanding. Wisdom that comes from the Spirit tells us what to expect down the road. Since the scriptures have instructed us on many things that are to come, we can also encourage our brothers and sisters to remain steadfast in their faith.


QUESTIONS FOR DEEPER REFLECTION:

1. Why do you think that the scriptures tell us to desire to prophesy?  

2. How does examining current events in the light of God's prophetic word help us to be prepared for what we may face? 

Brother Andrew, the founder of Open Doors International answers the question: "Where Do You Find Your Courage?"

Brother Andrew, the founder of Open Doors International answers the question: "What Excites You About the Future?"


ASK GOD:

Ask God to search your heart. Confess any action or thought that He reveals to you as to why you have struggled to love the unlovable. As a living sacrifice, how you can offer spiritual worship by living a life of unfailing love? 


PRAYER:

I thank you, God, for the reminder that there is a price to pay for disobedience. Help me to be obedient as I await Your return. (Insert any additional) In Jesus Name, Amen.

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21 Day Devotional | Day 5: One in Christ

THE REPORT OF THE PERSECUTED CHURCH:

            Sudan is ranked #6 on the Open Doors 2015 World Watch List.  July 14, 2015 was the trial of Yat Michael and Peter Yen in a Khartoum court. The defense presented two witnesses, an IT expert and a retired army general. The pastors denied allegations and have stated that some of the "incriminating" documents allegedly found on their computers are not theirs. The IT expert testified that it is easy for others to plant the documents on their computers without their knowledge. The retired general testified that the documents used as evidence against the pastors are in the public domain and are not related to military or other state secrets as had been alleged. Observers from a number of foreign embassies were present at yesterday's hearing. An official from the Sudanese Ministry of Justice told one of the pastors' lawyers that the extent of outside interest has led the government to take a very close interest in the case. The next hearing will be on July 23, 2015 but that will apparently only be for procedural purposes. The verdict is expected during a hearing on August 5, 2015. Please continue to pray for our brothers. 

UPDATE: PRAISE REPORT!

“Christian Pastors Yat Michael Ruot and Peter Yein Reith have just been released by a Sudanese judge. The Christian pastors, originally from South Sudan, were on trial because of their faith, facing possible death sentences. After a major international outcry, including more than 220,000 who have signed our petition for their freedom at BeHeardProject.com, the pastors are now free. Pastors Michael and Peter are eternally grateful for the prayers and voices of all those who have taken action for their freedom. We spoke with the pastors following their release, and they asked us to share their gratefulness.
Pastor Michael said, “They released us today. We are happy. We had heard we won't be released. But praise God!”  Pastor Peter echoed his friend’s joy saying, “We are very happy now we are free because of your prayers. Thank you for all that you have done for us.  God heard your prayers and we are free! With the help of Mohaned [Mustafa] and his team, they do great work for us and God uses him.” This is a major victory in the fight against Christian persecution worldwide.  The voices of hundreds of thousands of people demanding justice have been heard. The prayers of millions have been answered.”

While we praise God for this great victory, be reminded that there are still many persecuted Christians who are imprisoned and facing death in the Sudan. Continue to pray that they would receive similar prayer and support from their brothers and sisters in Christ and be delivered from their persecutors.


FURTHER VIDEOS & PARTNER OPPORTUNITIES:

SHRAPNEL PULPIT:

What does the pulpit look like at your church? After their church was destroyed by a bomb, this South Sudan minister continues to preach behind a shrapnel torn pulpit. 

SOUTH SUDAN: 'A CESSPOOL OF HUMAN SUFFERING' 

Learn how Christian organizations such as World Vision are providing hope to a war torn country in the name of Jesus Christ. For more info on how you can partner with World Vision, Click the logo below. 

 
Click image for more info on how you can partner with World Vision to provide education, food and housing for impoverished families and children across the globe in the name of Jesus Christ. 

Click image for more info on how you can partner with World Vision to provide education, food and housing for impoverished families and children across the globe in the name of Jesus Christ. 

 

SCRIPTURAL REFLECTION:

Romans 12:5 AMP
5 So we, numerous as we are, are one body in Christ (the Messiah) and individually we are parts one of another [mutually dependent on one another].

When the Lord Jesus was asked to declare what was the greatest commandment in a powerful statement, Jesus condensed the entire law into two telling points:

  • “You shall love the LORD your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your mind. This is the first and greatest commandment".

  • The second is like it: "You shall love your neighbor as yourself."

            If we Love the Lord with all we have to offer Him it is natural that we would love others as ourselves. It is interesting to note that He then says,  'On these two commands all the Law and Prophets hang!' (Matthew 22:37-40). 


QUESTIONS FOR DEEPER REFLECTION:

1. If we know that we are to love our neighbor as ourselves then why do we not put their desires ahead of our own? We buy our pleasures, do we help others buy what might give them pleasure? Do we stop to meet our neighbors' needs?

ASK GOD:
Ask God to search your heart and attitudes toward others. Ask Him to reveal where you fail to consider others needs, and desires. Ask Him how you might be able to 'Bless' your neighbors, coworkers, unsaved family members. 


PRAYER: 

May the Sudanese people and governmental officials see your love and experience your truth. May the two pastors who have been on trail for their faith continue to encourage the people by their stand for you. Thank you Lord for their interaction within the international community and please use this scrutiny to ensure justice for others. I continue to thank you and pray for the pastors families to experience the Lord’s provision in every need as they are now freed. I pray for the Sudanese apostasy laws to be abolished, that a halt to the closing of churches by the government would be instituted. I ask you God to keep safe the Christians around the Nuba mountains from bombings and divine provision for their daily needs.  Help us to continue considering our persecuted brothers and sisters needs as our own(Insert any additional) In Jesus Name, Amen.


News Citation:

Open Doors, Newsroom Article Compiled by Janelle Powers. For media inquiries, contact Christine Cape at 404-545-0085 or Christy Lynn Wilson at 770-401-9842.

 

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21 Day Devotional | Day 4: Becoming One In Purpose

Iraq and Syria are #'s 3 & 4, in the severity of countries suffering from extreme persecution according to the Open Doors World Watch List. In the Middle East: The Gospel Is Spreading! As he serves the persecuted church in the Middle East, a front-line worker is watching the gospel spread and change lives in a predominantly Muslim region. In his own village, and among the Syrian and Iraqi refugees his church has visited, people are coming to Christ as persecuted believers live out their faith. “We have new people in our home groups and it’s an opportunity for them to hear the good news. We have focused in our weekly service on subordination to the Lord Jesus and bearing persecution that could happen to the church."

• Click for a news article from the Christianpost.com on the persecution of Christians in Iraq        

 As part of its outreach ministry, the worker’s church recently visited three villages, providing food to Iraqi and Syrian refugees. “During one of the visits, we met a mother who was so excited to take the Bible,” the front-line worker said. “For some reason, they heard about the miracles of the Lord Jesus and wanted to read it." In one village, “We met a man who asked about the character of Christ and why Christians believe he is the Son of God.”  “We had a fantastic time explaining and sharing our faith with him and his wife. They listened carefully to know more and urgently requested a Bible to start reading. We also saw a 15-year-old boy who we evangelized during our last visit. He was looking for us. He saw our car and he had questions about the Bible.” 


Video on Iraqi Christian Refugees: 

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3w-OsJr72gk

SCRIPTURAL REFLECTION:

Romans 12:4 AMP

" For as in one physical body we have many parts (organs, members) and all of these parts do not have the same function or use" .


QUESTIONS FOR DEEPER REFLECTION: 
 

1. Would it change the way you looked at the unsaved, and unlovable people who are offended by the message of the Gospel now if you knew they were needed in order for the body of Christ to function correctly? Would you try to appreciate them, be more merciful, and long suffering if you knew you needed them. The truth is you need them as much as they need you! 

2. How do you think your actions toward the unsaved, and unlovable can change to help them be more receptive to the good news?

3. Have you ate and drank with sinners lately? If not, why are you not following the example set by Jesus? 

ASK GOD:
Ask God to search your actions and motives toward the lost. Ask Him to reveal every action or thought that may be a turn off to others listening to your message. 


PRAYER:

Thank you God for my brothers and sisters throughout the world who are faithful in their efforts to draw others to a saving knowledge of you. Not all of us have the exact same function and are used in diverse manners. Whether we are called to pray, educate, travel, volunteer, be a voice and advocate, donate to support the advancement of the Gospel help us to do so willingly, with compassion, and in unity of purpose. I ask you God for the thousands of refugees who have fled to northern Iraq or to surrounding countries, and those who have been left homeless and without jobs for supernatural provision and support to handle their traumas. I pray that the civil war would end and the Islamic state will be turned  back, dispersed,  and driven out of the middle east.   (Insert any additional) In Jesus Name, Amen.


News Citation: The Voice of the Martyrs (The Voice of the Martyrs) 
http://www.persecution.com/public/newsroomprint.aspx?story_ID=%3d373735

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21 Day Devotional | Day 3: Adding to the Value of Other


THE REPORT OF THE PERSECUTED CHURCH:

Click to View North Korean Christian Persecution Video:  (Please Note: This Video Contains Violence and Graphic Images) 

Click to View North Korean Christian Persecution Video:  (Please Note: This Video Contains Violence and Graphic Images) 

Korea is #1, in the severity of countries suffering from extreme persecution according  to the Open Doors World Watch List. Today in North Korea, an estimated 50-70,000 of our brothers and sisters are suffering unspeakable tortures in a modern-day holocaust environment; within four concentration camps!  In North Korea to go to prison, a concentration camp, or be executed, you just have to behave in a manner that the government views as a threat. Even a loyal communist can be imprisoned if he or she is the unfortunate family member of a person labeled as a traitor. North Korea punishes three generations of an offender’s family. North Koreans are forced to worship their government leader as a god. While many in the country suffer in the darkness of this cruel regime, the piercing light of Jesus Christ provides hope to those who are able to hear the gospel.

A few Christian North Korean defectors boldly return to the nation that once imprisoned them to share the gospel with their countrymen. Bob Fu was a teacher in a communist school; by night, he was a preacher in an underground house church network! Fu’s conversion to Christianity, his arrest and imprisonment for starting an illegal house church, then his harrowing escape have made him an inspiring advocate for his oppressed brothers and sisters. 


SCRIPTURAL REFLECTION:

Romans 12:3 AMP
" For by the grace (unmerited favor of God) given to me I warn everyone among you not to estimate and think of himself more highly than he ought [not to have an exaggerated opinion of his own importance], but to rate his ability with sober judgment, each according to the degree of faith apportioned by God to him" 

Paul exerts his influence in order to turn people to Christ with loving grace; understanding the absolute awareness that all have fallen short of the Glory of God. Paul remembers well what his former Saul heart thought of people and how his opinion was knocked off a horse! 


QUESTIONS FOR DEEPER REFLECTION: 

1. Are there any opinions of myself or others that exceed the bounds of humble modesty?

2. Have I truly sought to think the best of others before forming an opinion, judgment, or acted out before thinking what would be best in drawing other's to Christ? If not, how can I change?

3.  Do you think that others (for example, Saul(s) who murder,  ISIS members) are less important to God? 

ASK GOD: Ask God to search your heart. Ask Him to reveal every action or thought that is more high than it ought to be. Ask God where you may have thought you were more important than another. 
 


PRAYER:

Thank you God for salvation's message coming to me in my time of need! Help me to go into the circumstances of my life observing all that you have commanded me, to make disciples, and draw others through your unfailing love! Where there is judgment, give me mercy; where there is a haughty heart, humble me; and where I cannot see your purpose, reveal your will to me. Help me to pray, and support for my brothers and sisters in the faith while loving those who have not yet come to know of their need for God. I pray for Christians imprisoned in labor camps; please sustain them. I pray for the many displaced Christians to have food, water and provisions when forced to flee. That Christians would stay strong in their faith under unrelenting pressure from government spies. That God will bring repentance and salvation, and for the softening of the Korean leaders' hearts toward its nation’s citizens. (Insert any additional) In Jesus Name, Amen. 


Hope In the Darkness:

John 8:12
Then Jesus again spoke to them, saying, "I am the Light of the world; he who follows Me will not walk in the darkness, but will have the Light of life."
 

Click to watch video of how the gospel, despite the North Korean government's best effort, is still making it's way into the hands of the people of North Korea

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21 Day Fast | Prayer Night Reminder

Join us tonight at 6:30pm for a time of prayer for persecuted Christians across the globe.

View this email in your browser (http://us8.campaign-archive2.com/?u=56d237de41c987f6e117cb231&id=5eec915dce&e=5dd7a242dd)

CHURCH-WIDE PRAYER FOR PERSECUTED CHRISTIANS

6:30 PM • TONIGHT (EVERY TUESDAY DURING THE 21 DAY FAST) •MPCC SANCTUARY Join us tonight for a night of prayer and worship as we lift up our persecuted brothers and sisters in prayer. Prayer meetings will be held every Tuesday during the 21 Day Fast For Persecuted Christians. Children's classes will be provided for children 5th grade and under.

Daily Devotionals: Miss sign ups to receive the 21 Daily Email Devotionals for Persecuted Christians? Email jessicad@getrealchurch.org to add your name to the email list. Devotionals are also posted daily to the church website at getrealchurch.org/i-am-n.

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21 Day Devotional | Day 2: Conforming To Christ

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21 Day Devotional | Day 2: Conforming To Christ


THE REPORT OF THE PERSECUTED CHURCH:
Pakistan is #8, in the severity of countries suffering from extreme persecution according  to the Open Doors World Watch List.  Aasia Bibi, a young Pakistani mother of five has spent years on death row defending herself against an allegation of blasphemy. As Aasia took a break from her long day of work to drink water, she also offered water to the other women. The women told Aasia that they could not drink water from the hands of a Christian who had made the water haraam (unclean and unlawful in Islam) by handling it. The women demanded Aasia convert to Islam to be cleansed of her impurity. Aasia refused and publicly affirmed her faith in Jesus Christ. About five days later, Bibi was charged under section 295-C of the Pakistan Penal Code that punishes by death any speech that is perceived to be insulting to the Prophet Muhammad.


Additional Media Resources: 

Click To View Video from BBC about Aasia Bibi

Click to view video interview about the continued persecution of Aasia Bibi's husband and 2 daughters. 


Scriptural Reflection: 

Romans 12:2 AMP

"Do not be conformed to this world (this age), [fashioned after and adapted to its external, superficial customs], but be transformed (changed) by the [entire] renewal of your mind [by its new ideals and its new attitude], so that you may prove [for yourselves] what is the good and acceptable and perfect will of God, even the thing which is good and acceptable and perfect [in His sight for you]."

     If anyone is in Christ, they are no longer of the world and must take careful heed to not return to it. Having been made into a new creation we must seek to walk in God's will, according to His unfailing love and plan. Having been reconciled to God, we must walk in the ministry of reconciliation. 


QUESTIONS FOR DEEPER REFLECTION: 


1. In what ways can I renew my mind & attitudes so that I can conform to Christ-likeness?  Where do I seem to struggle most? 

2. Aasia Bibi offered her co-workers a glass of water. How have you shown a simple act of kindness in your place of work? Have you had to stand against the flow and honor your faith? 

ASK GOD: Ask God to search your life. Ask Him to reveal every action or thought that is fashioned after the customs, or ways of the world; then ask Him for help to renew your life completely.

If anyone is not yet in Christ, they are living a life fashioned after the customs of the world. Jesus asks the Father to forgive them, for they Know NOT what they are doing.  "For the god of this world has blinded the unbelievers’ minds [that they should not discern the truth], preventing them from seeing the illuminating light of the Gospel of the glory of Christ (the Messiah), Who is the Image and Likeness of God" (2 Corinthians 4:4).

 If we understand this passage fully, we can see why we need to pray according to Ephesians 1:18


PRAYER:

'Dear Lord, touch the eyes of their heart (our hearts) flood them (us) with your light, so that they (we) may begin to know and understand the hope to which You have called them (us), and how rich is Your glorious inheritance is for all the saints (Your set-apart ones)' Help people like Bibi have a strengthened assurance in the God she proclaims. Help people see her compassion, and faith in Jesus as inspiring. Spare her life and help her continue to be a witness to your unfailing love. (Insert any additional) In Jesus Name, Amen.


FURTHER READING:
Want to know what happened to Saul's eyesight when he was saved?
Click to read Acts 9:18.


 

News Citation:
Pakistan's Unjust Blasphemy Laws Need Considerable Reform | American Center for Law and Justice (American Center for Law and Justice) 

http://aclj.org/persecuted-church/pakistans-unjust-blasphemy-laws-need-considerable-reform 

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21 Day Devotional | Day 1: Consecrated Living Sacrifices


 THE REPORT OF THE PERSECUTED CHURCH:

Religious Persecution is in America! A report by two U.S.-based religious freedom groups says anti-Christian persecution is on the rise in America. David French of the ACLJ says. “It’s clear that – particularly on college and university campuses – we have seen a significant rise in attempts to silence Christian organizations by the misapplication of nondiscrimination laws.” “It is dramatic,” says Liberty Institute Founder Kelly Shackleford, of the recent hike in reported incidents of persecution. Shackleford says the central culprits are the government, schools, and social programs. Shackleford claims the acts of persecution point to a deeply rooted spiritual issue that has mainstreamed throughout the sexual and countercultural revolutions in academy, media, churches and government; the trends are accelerating in alarming rates.

Among the violations listed on the American Center for Law & Justice joint report: (News Citation: Persecution of Christians on rise in US - Click here to view news article)

    • A federal judge threatened “incarceration” to a high school valedictorian unless she removed references to Jesus from her graduation speech. (click for news article on Angela Hildenbrand)

    • City officials prohibited senior citizens from praying over their meals, listening to religious messages or singing gospel songs at a senior activities center.

    • A public school official physically lifted an elementary school student from his seat and reprimanded him in front of his classmates for praying over his lunch.

    • Following U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs’ policies, a federal government official sought to censor a pastor’s prayer, eliminating references to Jesus, during a Memorial Day ceremony honouring veterans at a national cemetery.

    •  Public school officials prohibited students from handing out gifts because they contained religious messages.

    • A public school official prevented a student from handing out flyers inviting her classmates to an event at her church.

    • A public university’s law school banned a Christian organization because it required its officers to adhere to a statement of faith with which the university disagreed.

    • The U.S. Department of Justice argued before the Supreme Court that the federal government can tell churches and synagogues which pastors and rabbis it can hire and fire.

    •  The State of Texas sought to approve and regulate what religious seminaries can teach.

    •  Through the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, the federal government is forcing religious organizations to provide insurance for birth control and abortion-inducing drugs in direct violation of their religious beliefs.

    • The U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs banned the mention of God from veterans’ funerals, overriding the wishes of the deceased, and deceased’s families.

    • A federal judge held that prayers before a state House of Representatives could be to Allah but not to Jesus.


    SCRIPTURAL REFLECTION:

    Romans 12:1 AMP 
    "I appeal to you therefore, brethren, and beg of you in view of [all] the mercies of God, to make a decisive dedication of your bodies [presenting all your members and faculties] as a living sacrifice, holy (devoted, consecrated) and well pleasing to God, which is your reasonable (rational, intelligent) service and spiritual worship" 
    The scriptures are full of invitations, and admonishing calls to heed the Spirit of God's instructions, exhortations, and imploring. These calls console, encourage, and strengthen us as we respond to the invitations coming from a merciful God. 

    QUESTIONS FOR DEEPER REFLECTION:

    1. In what ways can I/We make a decisive dedication of our bodies (presenting all members & faculties) in service and Spiritual worship? 

    2. We do not walk after the flesh, or wage war against flesh and blood. The passage speaks of my "service" and "Spiritual worship" as well pleasing to God. In what ways can I serve and worship God Spiritually?

    Fasting presents our bodies, thoughts, and plans as sacrifices in order to seek a deeper level of devotion as we minister to the Lord our God. As you set aside time this week to spend with God, praying for yourself, your loved ones, and our church consider how loving the unlovable is a command. Look over the landscape of your life and identify the Saul(s) who need the Love of Christ. 


    ASK GOD:

    Ask God to search your heart. Confess any action or thought that He reveals to you as to why you have struggled to love the unlovable. As a living sacrifice, how you can offer spiritual worship by living a life of unfailing love?  Confess where you have not loved your brothers and sisters in Christ. 


     PRAYER:

    Lord we desire to have a deeper revelation of God's love, and to be enabled to love others the way Christ has loved us. Please help Christians to take a stand where they can help the defenseless. (Insert any additional) In Jesus Name, Amen.


    News Citation:

    Persecution of Christians on rise â in U.S. (WND)
    http://mobile.wnd.com/2012/09/persecution-of-christians-on-rise-in-u-s/#shJsFi91RuGJYVbR 

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