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Archive for the ‘Persecution’ Category

~ Written by Cassie Rayl

I found my old Bible in my parents’ closet this summer. Finding this obviously-forgotten treasure immediately brought back a torrent of emotions as my fingers traced the embossed leather, and the Bible’s pages flipped to passages I’d dog-eared 10 or 15 years ago.

I’ve had the heart of a writer long before anyone had ever seen my name in print, and this Bible was proof of that. Most of the pages’ margins were completely filled with questions, elaborations, and prayers corresponding with a passage.

It was like stepping into a timeless memory reacquainting myself with my youthful spiritual growth. My faith had been tested early on due to life-threatening medical issues, but I was captivated by the obvious innocence of my deep faith. In the margins of one page I wrote, “May you always be enough.”

Over the years, I had forgotten about this Bible. I had forgotten my passion for learning God’s word. I had forgotten so many things, but God never forgot that prayer. Through the highs, lows, gains and losses in my life, he knew he’d bring me back to that simple prayer.

Even when I didn’t think God was enough, he stayed faithful. Even when I thought I’d lost everything, he remained. I prayed such a simple prayer out of innocent desperation, and he used it to give my life purpose.

He’s always enough, even if we don’t understand how deeply we need him.

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~Written by Cassie Rayl

Christianity is uncomfortable. If there’s anything I’ve learned this past year with a vengeance it would be just that. I haven’t stuck around Jesus and his standards to be comfortable. If ease was truly what I sought in 2019, I’ve followed the wrong God.

I used to share such thoughts with confidence and be surrounded by knowledgeable nods and knowing smiles. This past year, more than ever before, I found myself around people who acted disgusted that I had stayed with Christ. After all, in their minds, I could blame this Jesus for everything our family had been through, so why stay?

During one conversation where a friend asked me why I still believed following Christ was a good idea, all I could say through the tears was, “Because He’s everything, and I trust Him.”

Our culture is slowly becoming less and less “Jesus friendly.” If we as the Body of Christ can’t cement in our hearts why we trust Him, and if we can’t purpose in our minds just how much we are willing to give Christ no matter our circumstances, standing strong will only become harder.

In 2020, let’s strive to stand with purpose in allegiance to the only One Who is always enough. The world needs the light of Christ more than ever.

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~ Written by Viki Rife

“This shouldn’t be happening to me!” How many times does that thought, in some version, go through our heads? I shouldn’t be stuck with a broken-down car in heavy traffic. I shouldn’t get yelled at unfairly by my boss or parent. I shouldn’t always be the one who has to make sacrifices in a relationship.

This “victim” mentality is a part of our human thinking, but it isn’t how Christ has called us to live. I’m deeply humbled by the story of Hans Landis, a Swiss martyr who was executed for his faith. His wife and grown children were also imprisoned, and after his death were threatened with confiscation of their property if they didn’t renounce their faith within two weeks. They refused, losing everything.

The children later rebuilt their lives, only to have their property confiscated again. The entire family was targeted for persecution. Eventually, the grandchildren of Hans were taken away from their parents to be raised by other people.

Through it all, each member of the family had a choice to make. Even with all they went through, they did not see themselves as victims—they considered themselves victors when they stood firm in their faith.

I’m trying to develop the mindset of my Landis ancestors. God did not create me to think like a victim in my circumstances. He wants me to remember that in Him I’m a victor.

So goodbye, victim mentality. I choose to focus on my victorious standing through Jesus.

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~ Written by Viki Rife

Nothing makes me more angry than injustice. I cry with the psalmist, “Why do the wicked prosper?” Recently, a situation that seemed completely unfair really got to me. Frustrated, I kept asking, “God, you could deal with this person and stop their cruelty to others. Why don’t you?”

Then I read Jesus’ parable in Matthew 13:24-30. A farmer has planted his field, but weeds start to grow. When his servants give him the news, the insightful farmer tells his servants, “An enemy has done this!” When the servants offer to pull them up, the farmer tells them to leave them until harvest. Then the weeds would be pulled first and tied in bundles to be burned.

When we see injustice, we cannot blame God. Cruelty, murder, cheating, bullying, even sickness, are the work of the enemy. All those things we know should not be in our “field” have been planted by him. But our Lord knows what He’s doing. A time will come when He makes all things well, and will harvest us into His Kingdom. Meanwhile, our anger should be directed toward the enemy, and we should seek to thwart him by drawing closer to our Lord.

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~ Written by Cassie Harris

“All you Christians do is gossip with each other. It’s disgusting!” Her words stung. It didn’t matter that she didn’t understand prayer. It didn’t really even matter that I knew she didn’t understand Christian accountability. Her anger still made me re-evaluate what I considered accountability, support, and the need for prayer.

I’m not ashamed to admit it: When my world is shaken, the first thing I do is ask trusted friends to join me in prayer. Prayer is powerful. I’ve never had to handle stress alone. Although I know God can meet me alone, my heart feels more at peace when I know my experiences are being shared with people who depend on God’s love as well as I do.

It’s true, the line between gossip and support should constantly be measured. But taking away someone else’s privilege to encourage you within the Body is harmful. Our Heavenly Father made us for community. The world will strive to tell us differently. Our culture is sick; don’t let the beauty of praying together suffer because of it.

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~ Written by Viki Rife

There are more divorces in your church than you think. The legal documents only represent a very small part of what is happening. Yes, there are couples who are still married but who do not work together as partners. Still, that is only the tip of the iceberg. Ask yourself: is there anyone within my church I wouldn’t want to partner with in a project? When we don’t want to partner with someone, we start disengaging from them. If we disengage from others, we are heading down the path of divorcing ourselves from the Church.

It’s the way we divorce ourselves from other humans that ends up causing disunity in the church. And we must remember that Jesus prayed, above all, for unity among His people. If our love for each other is supposed to be a witness to a lost world, how effective are we?

I’d like to propose a radical therapy approach to dealing with disunity of any kind. When you feel tension in your relationship with another person, before it builds any more, ask if they will commit to praying half an hour a week with you. That time of prayer could be in person or over the phone. Share prayer requests with each other and pray about them together. There is something powerful about prayer as we enter God’s presence together. We begin to understand each other, and to actually want the good we are praying for them to happen to them.

Why not try some radical therapy this week? I can assure you that God will honor your commitment to unity. You will wonder why you didn’t engage in this blessing sooner!

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~ Written by Viki Rife

Let’s be honest. We just can’t reach our full potential alone. Strength comes when we partner with others.

That is a foundational belief of the Fellowship of Grace Brethren Churches. We rejoice in the number of brothers and sisters whom God has brought into our circle throughout the world, and realize that we must learn to partner together. Cultural differences must not stand in the way of the mission God has given us. We need to work together to determine how our beliefs can strengthen us to reach out to a world in need.

That’s why you should feel a vested interest in what will happen in Bangkok, Thailand, next week. As delegates representing at least 19 countries meet together, their decisions will help set the stage for greater impact as we collaborate globally to make disciples for Christ.  
For some of the delegates, just getting to the meeting is a major challenge. Some of them come from war-torn countries; some are at risk of persecution. They need our prayers. It’s the best contribution we can make to bless these representatives and to help our Fellowship become effective around the world.

Please commit to spend least fifteen minutes in prayer at some point next week for the future of the international Fellowship of Grace Brethren Churches. Help the delegates know who “has their backs” by signing up in the prayer chain. Details can be found at http://charisalliance.org/english/prayer-chain.html.   

Thank you for your valuable contribution. 

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~ Written by Viki Rife

The shooting of students in Oregon last week shook me to the core. It could have been my grandsons. 

I was very aware of that because of a conversation with them earlier this summer. Anytime they visit, they usually climb in bed with us when they wake up and we tell stories to each other. That morning, I decided to tell the story of a man imprisoned in Russia for his faith who saw amazing answers to prayer. 

When I finished, the six-year-old said thoughtfully, “If anyone says they will shoot me if I love Jesus, I’ll still tell them I do.”  

“What made you decide that?” I asked him.  

“B (his nine-year-old brother) told me I should always stand up for Jesus,” he answered. 

I turned to B. “What made you decide to do that?” I asked. 

“Well,” he explained, “I was wondering about it, so I talked to Mom and she agreed that I should.” So, these little guys have already decided how they would handle it. And although they aren’t in college, school shootings are unfortunately not limited to colleges. Yes, it could be them. 

A side of me screams, “No!” But the rest of me screams, “Yes! Yes, take a stand for God. Make a powerful statement that He is worth dying for.” 

To you moms out there, may God help you as you guide your children. I never had to have that conversation with my children. But the world has changed. This is now their reality. We can’t shield them from it.  The only thing harder than encouraging your children to take a bullet for Christ is encouraging them to encourage your grandchildren to take a bullet for Christ.

But we need to consider what it would do to a child who truly believes in Christ to live with the knowledge that they had denied Him. I would not put that burden on them. So I would make sure to give them the freedom of knowing that if they believe in Jesus, I will support their decision. They have a right to stand up for Him. 

If we want to raise kids with backbone, we have to start now. 

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~ Written by Viki Rife

When I buy a new phone, the first thing I do is download a tornado app. It tells me when a tornado might be coming, and also gives me detailed instructions for what to do before, during, and after the storm hits.

What kind of app do we have to help us weather persecution? Too bad it isn’t that easy. But there are some things we can do so we’re ready for whatever comes our way. Daniel 11:32 tell us: …the people who know their God shall stand firm and take action. Key components for taking action include:

1. Scripture study and memorization: persecuted believers throughout the world bear witness that knowing God’s Word has had an impact in helping them to stand firm in hard times.

2. Prayer: we have been promised wisdom, we need only to ask for it. Remember that this assurance in James 1:5 comes in the context of Christians who are suffering persecution for Christ.

3. Live now as a citizen of heaven: surrender your rights to Christ, bless your enemies and pray for them, seek the good of others.

4. Anticipate the glory, as glimpsed in Revelation, that awaits those who stand firm. Keep your eyes above the waves of today and focus on the joy of hearing Jesus say, “Well done!”

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~ Written by Viki Rife

After five-year-old Frances Slocum was kidnapped in Pennsylvania in 1778, her family spend 59 years looking for her. They finally found her living among the Miami tribe in Indiana. They wanted her to come back with them to live in “civilization.” She had become accustomed to her current life, and she refused to leave it.

She knew she wouldn’t belong any more.

As believers, we find ourselves having to choose where we belong. Are we citizens of earth or citizens of heaven? When Jesus taught about the kingdom of heaven, He presented us with an entirely different mindset from what this world accepts. Citizens of heaven care about the good of their own country, and don’t get involved in the politics and customs of the earthly country they are living in. They invest in furthering the interests of their own country.

What does it mean to you when you pray, “God’s will be done on earth as it is in heaven”? What would that actually look like? What are we willing to do to make that happen? We are called to live in a way that gives a taste of heaven on earth.

We need to understand that it is how we handle suffering that furthers the kingdom of God most. . Pray for God to keep changing your perspective so you can live the lifestyle and mindset of the kingdom of heaven.

It’s where you belong!

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