Why Pray for the Persecuted?


This Sunday is the International Day of Prayer for the Persecuted Church. We will join forces with believers around the globe in interceding for the some 200 million of our kind suffering for their faith in Jesus. This begs the question why pray for these brothers and sisters? I see at least three reasons in the Scriptures.

One, it’s a matter of loving obedience. In Hebrews 13, v. 1 leads off a list of rapid fire exhortations with, “Let the love of the brethren continue.” One such manifestation of that love in v. 3 involves the following: “Remember those who are in prison, as though in prison with them, and those who are mistreated, since you also are in the body.” Remember is a present tense command. We must keep on remembering. What better, more tangible way to do that, than in intercessory prayer?

Two, it’s a matter of mystical ownership. I say “mystical” in the sense of that which inspires a sense of spiritual mystery and awe. Paul speaks of this in 1 Cor. 12:26 when he writes, “If one member suffers, all suffer together. If one member is honored, all rejoice together.” There is simply no separating ourselves from our fellow saints in chains even if they do reside in restricted countries halfway around the globe from us. Prayer marks us as owning this one-body reality in a substantive way.

Three, it’s a matter of supernatural opposition. I love Acts 12:5. “So Peter was kept in prison, but earnest prayer for him was made to God by the church (emphasis mine).” Luke tells the rest of the story that saw the apostle miraculously delivered from his cell. Why? Because the church opposed Herod’s threat by wielding its powerful weaponry of prayer. So many tales are told by persecuted saints of miraculous intervention tied directly to the prayers of saints in faraway places. Eternity alone will reveal just how much harm was prevented as well as good done because the church prayed as it should.

Join me this Sunday evening at 6 PM for our monthly conference of prayer with special emphasis on the persecuted church. One of our missionaries will share about her experiences in a restricted country and bring unique perspective to our prayer time as a result.

Why pray? Obedience, ownership, and opposition. That’s why.

Why Pray for the Persecuted Church?


Tomorrow brings us to another International Day of Prayer for the Persecuted Church. We will devote exclusively our monthly concert of prayer on the evening of the 10th at 6 PM in F5 to interceding for our brothers and sisters in chains. Why does it matter that we do this? Here are several reasons.

  1. Jesus suffered much at the hand of a host of persecutors. He identifies completely with their weakness (Heb. 4:15). So should we.
  2. Multitudes of believers worldwide, some 200 million, pay a great price for their faith, even martyrdom. The sheer extent of the need cries for our attention. More Christians were martyred in the 20th century than in all previous centuries combined (International Journal of Missionary Research). 
  3. Scriptures command us to remember their plight as if incarcerated with them (Heb. 13:3). How better to remember than in prayer?
  4. The most frequent prayer request by the persecuted is that other believers would pray for and with them. Can we possibly refuse?
  5. When one member of the body suffers, all suffer (1 Cor. 12:26).  Sixty to ninety minutes of prayer is a small price to pay to identify with the suffering of dear saints around the globe.
  6. Praying for one another imitates the model of Jesus who prayed for Peter in advance for his strength in the face of persecution sure to come (Luke 22:32). What would Jesus do?
  7. God answers prayers for the persecuted in miraculous ways.

One reason why I read Voice of the Martyrs’ monthly newsletter is that it includes countless reports of how God miraculously encourages saints under duress as a direct result of the prayers of God’s people on the other side of the world. Join us on Sunday evening.

Part of me wants to say this: if you don’t come to any other of the eleven concerts of prayer OGC hosts, come to this one. Remember the persecuted. In the sovereignty of God you and I could just as easily find ourselves today holed away in a North Korean prison camp for our faith as opposed to luxuriating ourselves in the affluent West. Enough said.

For a look at the World Watch list top 50 restricted nations for 2013 click here.

Why This Cancer Survivor Loves Jesus

Every August since 2005 the same thing happens. I get nostalgic. For good reason.  The eight month of each year marks the anniversary of my finishing treatment for head and neck cancer. I tend to gravitate back to my journal from that year.

Here is a portion of my entry from August 7, 2005:

Felt nauseous much of the day, yesterday, but for the first time in a long while did not throw up [I learned to celebrate the slightest of victories]. I slept better last night too. Thanks be to God. [See what I mean?] I don’t think I was awake for more than an hour at any one stretch. I didn’t get up up yesterday until noon. Read the paper and then watched baseball. I was feeling pretty punk. Wondered if the anemia was affecting me. Nancy read me my Bible chapters [By God’s grace I managed to keep up with my through the Bible in a year reading]. I just didn’t feel up to it. Took a nap. Did some emails. We watched the celebration of Operation Mobilization honoring forty-five years of George and Drena Verwer’s ministry. It was exuberant, funny, touching, and inspiring all at the same time. The man has had a consistent, faithful run. I would really like to finish like that, however much time remains. Would you be gracious to me, Father, and allow that? Thank you for whatever is to come. Help me to be faithful. God is He who tests minds and hearts (Psalm 7:9) and He is righteous in all His ways.

God has answered that prayer, at least for the last eight years. I am exceedingly grateful. That’s one reason this cancer survivor loves Jesus. He answers prayer. Even if He had said no to my request for healing, I want to believe I still would love Him.

Yesterday I ran into a pastor friend of mine who suffered a bout with tongue cancer as well. It has been twenty years clean for him. He still runs the race well. I want to follow in his footsteps as well, Lord willing.

Lord, thank you for these eight years. I love you with all my heart. May I always do just that.

August Resource of the Month

Now that we have occupied our new facility and now that we have a lovely dedicated space for displaying resources for sale to our people, I want to introduce a new feature of the blog beginning this month and I hope recurring every month from here on.

Welcome to the resource of the month!

We currently stock approximately forty different titles covering a wide range of subjects on the shelves in the middle of our entryway .

When I thought about which title would get top billing here in August, I immediately considered the fact that this month is missions month at OGC (hope to see you at 9:30 AM on Sundays this month in the auditorium for interviews with various ones of our missionaries). That would have made John Piper’s Let the Nations Be Glad an easy selection for promotion. However, I opted not to go that direction. I landed on J. D. Greear’s book Gospel: Recovering the Power that Made Christianity Revolutionary. Why is that?

I do see a connection between missions month and Greear’s book. Only those held fast in the grip of the gospel will likely engage in Jesus’ mission to reach the world in global missions and the city in local outreach. It’s just too tough a sell otherwise. In getting a bunch of our folks to invest in a copy of Greear’s book, I hope to fan the flame of our church’s passion for both from a supernatural motivational perspective.

The author states his aim in the book quite plainly:

Over the next several chapters, I want to reacquaint you with the gospel. Not just with the doctrines, but with its power. The gospel is the announcement that God has reconciled us to Himself by sending His Son Jesus to die as a substitute for our sins, and that all who repent and believe have eternal life in Him. I want you to see the gospel not only as the means by which you get into heaven, but as the driving force behind every single moment of your life. I want to help, in some small way, your eyes to be opened (again) to the beauty and greatness of God. I want you to see how the gospel, and it alone, can make you genuinely passionate for God, free you from captivity to sin, and move you outward to joyful sacrifice on behalf of others (p. 5, emphasis mine).

Obviously J. D. Greear writes with a mission to believers in churches like ours . He wants to show us the vital importance of seeing the gospel as not just something we believed in the past but as something in which we stand and are being saved moment-by-moment in the present (1 Cor. 15:1-2).

He goes about that in a most practical way. He introduces in Part 2, the bulk of the book, what he calls the Gospel Prayer. I blogged on that elsewhere in the past so won’t repeat the concepts here. This feature and the practical application it offers in the challenge to pray this prayer daily as an antidote to gospel amnesia makes Greear’s book my choice for putting before us when, in fact, a good number of other books out there focus on the gospel as well – Matt Chandler’s The Explicit Gospel and Greg Gilbert’s What Is the Gospel also excellent options just to name two.

May I encourage you to invest in a copy of Pastor J D’s book? A number of copies are available on the shelves of our resource center for $10 each. You can put your cash or check in the payment box supplied on one of the shelves for your convenience.

Imagine with me, if you will, a church full of people who embrace this thought with which Greear closes on p. 248:

The gospel is not merely the diving board off of which you jumped into the pool of Christianity; the gospel is the pool itself. So keep going deeper into it. You’ll never find the bottom.

Fancy a swim in this particular part of the pool? You won’t regret it as you plumb further the depths of the glorious gospel of our blessed God (1 Tim. 1:11).

What Kind of House at 872 Maitland Ave?

The dangers of referring to a church building as “God’s house” notwithstanding (God is housed among His people, a spiritual temple, in the New Covenant age – see 1 Peter 2:4-5, not in any building), the question of what kind of house of God will OGC’s new building be is certainly one worth asking.

Among other things, if I read Mark 11:17 correctly, we must make it a house of prayer. Jesus cleansed the temple in Jerusalem of money-changers objecting to their violation of the space by invoking Isaiah 56:6-7. These I will bring to my holy mountain, and make them joyful in my house of prayer. God meant the temple to serve as house of joyful reflection, prayer meditation – a place to meet with Him where worshippers could pour out their hearts before Him – not a place of financial business transactions.

The Jews embraced that priority as evidenced in Luke 18:10 where the Pharisee and Publican both stood in the temple engaged in prayer, albeit of very different kinds. Acts 3:1 says the apostles went up to the temple at the hour of prayer. Little wonder then that this notion carried over into New Covenant worship. Acts 2:42 describes the newly birthed church as continuing steadfastly . . . in prayers (note the plural). Paul described the first order of business in the church gathered as supplications, prayers, intercessions, and thanksgivings on behalf of all people in 1 Tim. 2:1 and added this in v. 8: I desire then that the men in every place pray lifting up holy hands without anger or quarreling.

Given such clear biblical testimony as to the priority of prayer in “God’s house,” I don’t see any way we can be anything but a house of prayer at 872 Maitland Ave. It would seem to me then that continuing the second Sunday of the month prayer time on the property at 6 PM should continue. I invite anyone with a desire to seek the Lord on behalf of the nations, our city, and our church, to join me in the fellowship hall this Sunday, June 10.

Just in case there is any question, we do anticipate receiving our CO from the city tomorrow. That means we will have a 10-:45 AM worship service only this Sunday at 872 Maitland Avenue and our first official occupancy prayer meeting that evening at 6 PM.

A Day More About Missions than Green Beer

Today, of course is St. Patrick’s Day.

Nancy intends to cook up a pot of corned beef and cabbage before the day is out. She got some Guinness Stout for the occasion also. My mouth is watering already, even though I just finished lunch not too long ago.

Nothing wrong with any of those aspects of the day, in moderation of course, but how much we will have missed the point if we do not acquaint ourselves with the man behind the day, St. Patrick, called by some the patron saint of Ireland.

Mark Driscoll has an excellent post on him entitled St. Patrick: One of the Greatest Missionaries Who Ever Lived.

Let me whet an appetite of a different kind with this pull quote from the post by the man whose family used to go by O’Driscoll:

In faith, the forty-something year-old Patrick sold all of his possessions, including the land he had inherited from his father, to fund his missionary journey to Ireland. He worked as an itinerant preacher and paid large sums of money to various tribal chiefs to ensure he could travel safely through their lands and preach the gospel. His strategy was completely unique, and he functioned like a missionary trying to relate to the Irish people and communicate the gospel in their culture by using such things as three-leaf clovers to explain the gospel. Upon entering a pagan clan, Patrick would seek to first convert the tribal leaders and other people of influence. He would then pray for the sick, cast demons out of the possessed, preach the Bible, and use both musical and visual arts to compel people to put their faith in Jesus. If enough converts were present he would build a simple church that did not resemble ornate Roman architecture, baptize the converts, and hand over the church to a convert he had trained to be the pastor so that he could move on to repeat the process with another clan. Patrick gave his life to the people who had enslaved him until he died at 77 years of age. He had seen untold thousands of people convert as between 30-40 of the 150 tribes had become substantially Christian. He had trained 1000 pastors, planted 700 churches, and was the first noted person in history to take a strong public stand against slavery.

For the rest of an intriguing and to-the-point mini-education on this giant of church history click here.

Before the day is out, take a peek. Give thanks for a gospel-inflamed heart of the past like this one. Ask God to raise up others like it in our generation for His glory, the good of the church, and the joy of the nations.

Sacred Sending for the Sake of the Name

As we get ready to love on the Armands this Sunday evening in launching them overseas for the global cause of missions, I want to reinforce from the Scripture why I believe it matters that we do this in a first class, all-out way.

In the book of Third John, the apostle commends his beloved friend, Gaius for his gracious hospitality toward missionaries in his midst, but then adds this encouragement in v. 6 – You will do well to send them on their journey in a manner worthy of God.

The Greek word for send in the New Testament conveys the idea of fitting out with the requisites for a journey. Titus 3:13 may be the clearest embellishment to this idea of what it means to send: Do your best to speed Zenas the lawyer and Apollos on their way; see that they lack nothing. Literally, diligently or zealously send them on their way. To what extent? See that they lack nothing. I like the ESV’s way of putting it – Do your best. And I’ll tell you why.

Back at 3 John 6, the apostle exhorts, You will do well (that’s his way of saying please, kindly, – it was a common idiom of the day) to send them on their journey IN A MANNER WORTHY OF GOD. That is why I entitled this article Sacred Sending. How should we send forth missionaries to their next assignment? In a manner worthy of God. As befits servants of God. As if we were sending forth God Himself. The way we treat missionaries says something about the way we treat God Himself. It is no small matter to consider whether or not we will do our best when it comes to launching the Armands out for the sake of the name.

At the end of John Piper’s book, Let the Nations Be Glad, Tom Stellar writes about this phrase:

This elevates the importance of sending as high as can be imagined. It is a commandment of God (notice the “ought” of verse 8). The reason we must send them in a manner worthy of God is that they go out for the sake of the Name. The Name of God is at stake in how we treat our missionaries. God is glorified when we support them substantially with our prayers, our money, our time, and myriad other practical ways (notice the “whatever” in v. 5). God is not glorified when our missionaries are simply a name on the back of the church bulletin or a line item in the budget.

So, dear ones, won’t you join us for the celebration send off this Sunday night (see details further in the enews)? Won’t you prayerfully consider what you might give toward their transition needs? Although they have raised the full amount of $5000 toward these expenses as required by Wycliffe, that does not include, for some reason, their travel costs in terms of air fare and luggage fees. Those amount to about $3000. You may give on Sunday morning or that evening if you have yet to do so.

Let us pray together that through our generosity we will send them on their way in a manner worthy of God so that they lack nothing.

How Our Extraordinary God Deploys Ordinary People for His Extraordinary Purposes

Yesterday’s message in Acts 18:1-28 is now on the web. You can listen to the audio here.

Here’s a summary of the message:

Our extraordinary God specializes in deploying/using ordinary people for His extraordinary gospel purposes. He guides them by providence in circumstances. He galvanizes them for mission through the gospel. And He grounds them in truth for discipleship. How about you, ordinary Joe or Jane, Jim or Janice? Do you know this extraordinary Jesus in terms of His glorious saving Gospel? If you aren’t certain about that, let us know and we will get you some resources to help you. If you do, do you realize He means to deploy you in His mission where you live, work, and play, maybe even beyond at some point in a short term mission or even long term relocation/? Don’t rule out something quite surprising from this God! How mobile are you for the sake of Christ? You never know when and where providence might point you in a missional direction. Be ready! Start praying J. D. Greear’s gospel prayer daily (I’ll post it on my blog – see above) and buckle your seat belt and keep your arms and legs inside the vehicle at all times.

May God give us grace to grow as a people on mission among peoples near and far!