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Friday, 24 June 2016

courage that many Christians today are upholding

I am “N” ---Stories of Courage
                The second section of the book “I Am N” focuses on the
courage that many Christians today are upholding in light of their faith being challenged. We realize however that there have been martyrs in history whose courage led them to prison or death or both. One such individual is Wang Ming Dao whose lifespan was 1900-1991 in China.
Wang Ming Dao became a Christian at 14 while attending the London Missionary Society’s primary school. He was an outspoken Christian and remained such a problem for the Communist Party in the 1950s and 1960s that he spent 22 years in prison.
During the 1920s Ming-Dao founded a church called the Christian Tabernacle- non-denominational and not dependent on foreign funds. His idea was that he wanted the church to remain independent so that the people could worship more freely. Yet during the time when Japan occupied northern China (1937-1945) a Chinese federation was organized to which every church was required to join. However, Mind-Dao refused and put his life on the line. He believed it was wrong to form an alliance which included nonbelievers.
After attaining power in 1949 the Communists instituted a state sponsored, state controlled church which of course Ming Dao would have nothing to do with. He was continuously threatened and refused to join. In 1955 he was imprisoned. During his time in prison he was threatened with torture and execution. He was abused and mentally broken and even confessed to crimes he knew he had not committed only to promise to support the state controlled church. He was released and after regaining his health he again refused to join the state controlled church. He was put in prison again for 22 years. He was offered release but refused because he believed the government owed him an apology. At age 91 he died in Shanghai. With his refusal to compromise the house church movement began which were considered illegal and could have been interrupted at any time.
Ming-Dao wrote extensively about Jesus and he learned that threats should not instill fear in believers. But instead should be catalysts for proclaiming God with greater courage and boldness.
REFLECTION
Ming-Dao’s story is filled with moments of courage when stands up for his faith not being associated with non- believers. Do you think his action was correct? When state controlled churches were introduced in China do you think that he was wrong in not joining these?  Why/why not?
We may or may not think that the church, a visible symbol is important to the growth of Christians. Yet many who believed in Christ met in unsafe church houses and were arrested, tried and imprisoned for doing so. Which do you think is best? To be in hiding and worshiping or open and safe in community?
Wang Ming Dao did not want to have outside non believers influencing his teachings. Do you think this approach would/could work today?
Wang Ming-Dao highlighted Peter and Johns refusal to be shaken by threats from jewish leaders resulting from the rapid spread of the gospel.  The Jews threatened them and charged them not to speak or teach at all in the name of Jesus. Acts 4:18  Peter and John did not stop speaking, but di so more boldly. Ming Dao learned that threats should not instill fear in believers. Instead they should be catalysts for proclaiming God with greater courage and boldness.
PRAYER
Thank you for the courage of Wang Ming-Dao and his ability to influence the movement of Christians in China. We pray that we might have the courage we need to tell others about Christ Jesus so that we might continue to build Christ’s church in faith. We pray for courage to share the words we need.  Amen.
               

The Voice of the Martyrs    I am N: Inspiring Stories of Christians Facing Islamic Extremists. Colorado Springs, CO:  David C. Cook Publishing 2016.  (p. 109-111))

I am “N” ---Stories of Faithfulness

I am “N” ---Stories of Faithfulness

                The book “I Am N” contains many stories of people from
around the world who came to fully understand the meaning of the cost of discipleship. Their stories of courage, sacrifice, joy, perseverance and forgiveness enable us to question our faith and give us reason to pray about whether our faith is strong enough to move us forward. Or would we give in and give up.
Habila Adamu and his family lived in Nigeria and were awakened at night by intruders wearing robes and masks and carrying an AK47. They were there to do the work of Allah but Habila knew that soon his faith would be asked and tested and so he prayed silently. He was asked his name, where he worked and whether he was police or military. He was then asked the important question Are you a Christian or Muslim? He answered, “I am a Christian.”  The man stated that we are offering you a better life if you will only say the shahada which is the Islamic profession of faith. But he did not. He was asked again. Habila did not say anything. The one holding the gun raised the barrel of the rifle to Habila’s head. Habila told his wife, “The death of a Christian is a great gain, not a loss.”
The intruders asked for all the money and because they had hardly anything the gunman lowered the barrel to Habil’a mouth. The bullet passed through his mouth; he fell to the floor. The wife screamed and the boy burst into tears. The intruders left thinking the man was dead.But Habila was still alive when his wife bent over him and whispered, I am still alive. Please get help.  No police would come; but the neighbours took the man to the hospital by 6 a.m. Habila was scheduled to have a bone graft to repair his cheekbone. However they were stunned to see that his cheekbone had healed. He was all right; He recovered and began to share his story. And when he does, Habila speaks of forgiveness.
Habila prays—God, forgive them. God, forgive them.  How does say this? Because Christ is love and the God he serves is love and he commands us to do the same.
REFLECTION
In North America we have the gift and hope and promise of living with religious freedom. We pray for peace for our brothers and sisters who believe in Christ and who seek forgiveness for those who have wronged them. It is difficult for us to understand. But they do this so that they might live and know that Christ is looking after them.
Habila speaks with conviction when his faith is tested. Habila speaks with courage as he shot in front of his wife and son. And being left for dead, he seeks help. His life was spared and now he is able to tell his story and how he forgives the one who shot him.
I wonder would we—forgive that man who shot us in front of our family members? Would we speak the words of forgiveness when we are so tested about whether we live or die?
How does Habila’s story inspire you to forgive others? Why?
PRAYER
Thank you for Habila’s story and his active forgiveness for others who seek to follow Christ. Enable us to grow in faith like his and show us what it means to live for you in our every day lives.   Show us what it means to forgive. Amen.

The Voice of the Martyrs    I am N: Inspiring Stories of Christians Facing Islamic Extremists. Colorado Springs, CO:  David C. Cook Publishing 2016.  (p. 202-204)  Next week we will conclude this series on this book of modern martyrs who live for Christ.

Tuesday, 7 June 2016

Be strong and courageous. Do not be frightened, and do not be dismayed, for the Lord your God is with you wherever you go

I am “N” ---Stories of Courage
Be strong and courageous. Do not be frightened, and do not be dismayed,
for the Lord your God is with you wherever you go”  Joshua 1:9

                The second section of the book “I Am N” focuses
on the courage that many Christians today are upholding in light of their faith being challenged.
                One story is of a young woman who at a young age came to know Jesus through shortwave Christian programs from Europe. She listened, wrote down Bible verses, hid them in her clothes or pillow until she could memorise them. She was locked in her bedroom for almost two years because her family called her infidel and she was not allowed to talk or eat with her family. Eventually she was able to get out and meet people and through Christian connections she met her husband a Christian. This young man saved money and with her permission asked her parents to marry her. They presumed he was Muslim and consented thinking that the infidel daughter would be out of their home and care. This young couple had a difficult time securing a home, work and yet they lived with the courage of Christ. They had a son and despite the uncertainties of their life in Egypt, they remain faithful to their calling. They continue to tell others of Jesus and live knowing that ‘hope, contentment and peace can be found only in Jesus.” They truly have the courage to trust God for whatever lies ahead and they are committed to do his will not theirs.
                Another story is a Saul/ Paul story where a young man whose specialty was in car bombs riot planning and infiltrating Christian organizations came to know Christ. In order to advance his killing of Christians he posed as an impostor and asked how he could become a Christian. He became a part of this community but at the same time he returned to the mosque to pray and fast. He lived this double life for six years. Until he heard the question asked of him and his double life. He repented for real and came to be a true follower of Jesus. And in this, he had to find courage for by coming to Jesus, his life was now in danger. But he pursued and grew in faith, with the Christian community’s support.
                REFLECTION
When we think of courage in our context we wonder about something that may seem so important yet when compared to these stories—courage means life or death and truly facing up to their faith in Christ.
Have you ever been challenged by your faith belief? Have you found the courage to say whose you are and what this means? Sometimes when we think about loving God we are facing life and death due to age and illness. Yet these people were courageous in their faith because they wanted to live life as young people. These are conversion stories and each of these people took a step of courage that makes a powerful impact. As Paul wrote in Galatians 1:23-24 “they only were hearing it said, “He who used to persecute us in now preaching the faith he once tried to destroy. And they glorified God because of me.” What does this mean for you and your relationship with God?


PRAYER
Wonderful God I pray for the courage I need to tell others my faith not only in times of uncertainty but when I am able to talk to others about Christ. Give me the words I need. Show me your love I pray. Amen.
               

The Voice of the Martyrs    I am N: Inspiring Stories of Christians Facing Islamic Extremists. Colorado Springs, CO:  David C. Cook Publishing 2016.  (p. 63-78)

Thursday, 2 June 2016

I am “N” ---Stories of Sacrifice

I am “N” ---Stories of Sacrifice
Luke 9:23
If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself ad take up
his cross daily and follow me.
                Would you sacrifice yourself for your faith in God? This is not something that Christians in the West are forced to think about. So that when and if we hear about ISIS soldiers questioning people who believe in Jesus and are willing to pay a tax or even face death, it is difficult for us to understand.
                Families are being torn apart when asked ‘who are you?” If they answer Christian they are not permitted to stay in Muslim land controlled by ISIS. Their homes are confiscated, they are removed under force and often the ISIS soldier will paint an Arabic ‘n’ for Nazarene indicating that this was a Christian home and now the property becomes a part of the Islamic State. One such family is Abu Fadi in Iraq who fled Mosul and were able to reach Erbil. After undergoing search and questioning they were able to flee to this city overpopulated with Syrian war refugees.  Yet they remembered that God was with them no matter what they faced and wherever they went.
                God does not care where we live but is concerned about where our hearts are. He cares about where we place our trust what we value and whether the desire of our hearts is to focus our eyes on him. He is pleased when we are so focused that we can affirm our hope and trust God.
REFLECTION
How much are you willing to sacrifice for your faith in God? Thousands of people leave their countries, homes and everything that matters to escape terrorism and destruction. Many people who have left Iraq are living in refugee camps and existing with very little. But what keeps them going is hope in God. God will provide.
While working in the fields, a Pakistani mother of two girls named Asia was sent to prison for taking a drink form the same spigot as a Muslim woman. She was Christian and in order to be released from prison she needed to convert to Islam. She refused. For two years her daughters did not see her yet she continued to have faith in Christ. Her family members were also persecuted. Her husband and children were harassed so much that they moved five times in seventeen months.  A reward for killing this woman was also offered but no one did. Two Pakistani politicians publicly supported her and they were murdered.
REFLECTION:
Christian families are being persecuted, incarcerated and suffering terrible fates. Yet they continue to glorify God knowing and demonstrating that they hope lies in heaven, in eternity with Jesus.
How do you respond to hearing these stories? Do you take extra time in trying to find out who you are in relationship with God? When you say you are a Christian what does this mean?


PRAYER
Wonderful God, you love us and call to us serve you as your faithful children. Bless us and guide and protect those who sacrificing their lives for their faith in Jesus as Saviour. Help us to understand what this means when often we take our faith for granted. Amen.
               

The Voice of the Martyrs    I am N: Inspiring Stories of Christians Facing Islamic Extremists. Colorado Springs, CO:  David C. Cook Publishing 2016.  (Ch. 1-2, p.21-34)