Since the 4th of July is just around the corner, I’ve been thinking about how incredibly fortunate we are to live in the United States, one of the most prosperous, blessed countries in the world. The majority of us live in modern homes with most of the comforts of the 21st century – microwave ovens, televisions in several rooms with satellite or cable services, wireless computers, cell phones, ipods . . . you name it and we likely have it . . . or plan to get it! We have transportation to take us anywhere we want to go, plenty to eat and a variety of choices. And most importantly we’re free to make choices about our belief in God and to worship where we wish. For what more could we ask?
On this Independence Day, Lord, I will lift my praise to you
because I’m free; yes, truly free to love and worship you,
to read your word, to share my faith, to openly speak your truth
without fear of torture, chains, or death, I can praise and honor you!
I am free from failure because I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me.
I am free from want because my God supplies everything I’ll ever need.
I am free from doubt because God has dealt to every man the measure of faith.
I am free from weakness because the Lord is my strength; of whom shall I be afraid?
I am free from sin because the blood of Jesus cleanses me from all sin.
I am free from worry because He said to cast all my worries upon Him.
I am free from fear because I walk in the Spirit of power, love, and a sound mind.
I am free from defeat and failure because my triumph is always in Christ.
I am free from every sickness because I’m healed by the stripes of Christ.
I am free from death, because I believe in Him; He is the resurrection and the life!
Yes, on this Independence Day, I rejoice in the fact that I’m free.
Where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is liberty! For freedom He has set me free!
Oh, Father, I praise and I thank you for providing me with this blessing,
and while it is still day in the USA, let me always be confessing
my dedication to you and your gospel of truth at every opportunity –
as others are dying in foreign lands today, someday here it might not be so easy.
As I’ve continued to reflect on how blessed I am to live in this country, I’ve also begun to think about other Christian brothers and sisters who are, this very day, suffering persecution, torture and death in foreign lands because of their devotion to Jesus. It’s really convicted me about how I often take my blessings for granted . . . and worse yet, how I whine and complain about such unimportant things.
A long, hard day at the office,
then I fix dinner, wash the dishes, do some laundry;
it seems my days, from beginning to end,
are filled with such tiring activity!
I glance at the clock – it’s 11:00 p.m.,
and once again I’m too exhausted to pray.
Perhaps tomorrow I’ll have a little more time,
but for now I must call it a day.
In comparison, a story on the “Voice of the Martyrs” website reported: “Following a death threat delivered to the Canaan Fellowship Church in Jaffna, Sri Lanka, 34 year old Pastor Vasu Sritharan was brutally murdered by three young men who laid in wait for him. The pastor, after a night of prayer, entered his room and encountered his assailants. The killers slit his throat and he bled to death. Some of the Hindu groups were trying to curtail Pastor Vasu’s work with the Hindus. Another man from this same church was found with his throat cut almost a month later.”
It’s Sunday morning (the second service)
as I sit down with my bible in hand –
third row, aisle seat, middle section –
pastor and friends always know where I am.
But the music’s all wrong, the sermon’s too long,
and the air conditioning’s on the fritz.
How will I ever concentrate on the Lord?
How can I possibly “enter in”?
In another story, Voice of the Martyrs stated: “Last week it was reported that Chinese police hauled another 50 believers in Wuhan, China to jail. Most of the arrests happened while believers worshipped in house churches. One hundred thirty members of another Protestant house church were also recently imprisoned. Many believers are now secretly gathering together in rooms with windows closed and shades drawn so authorities will not see or hear them. They whisper their prayers and praises as temperature in these rooms often exceed 100 degrees.”
People in the marketplace are just faces,
mixed together in a hurried blur.
Some I might notice, but others I do not;
I’m so busy, I can’t be concerned.
I don’t have time to get to know them;
they have their lives, and I have mine.
Besides witnessing to strangers is awkward;
evangelists are supposed to share Christ.
And in another report: “Firing squads recently massacred more than 20 new believers in North Korea. They were executed on grounds of ‘criminal charges.’ Other recent killings include two Christian women who were publicly executed. They were faithful believers who were spreading God’s Word. The women were charged with ‘illegal smuggling’. In another case, two believers were shot to death in public. North Korean officers broke the teeth of one of them, and as they dragged him to the place where he would be killed, he continued to tell them about his Savior, Jesus.”
I whine and complain about such little things!
When am I gonna get it?
This walk’s not about me, my petty needs,
or all my creature comforts.
It’s about Jesus and what He’s asked of me –
the plan He’s established for my life.
Am I gonna heed His call and give Him my all,
or am I just gonna live to “get by”?
Several weeks ago, I was sitting in the congregation at a ladies’ retreat and happened to look down at a purse I’d bought that day at Wal-Mart. Unexpectedly and powerfully, I felt the urge to pray – right that moment – for the person who had made the purse. It was such a strong leading, it literally dropped me to my knees and I immediately began to intercede. Later when I looked at the tag in the purse, I discovered that it was made in China.
Because of this experience, one more report I read this week really tugged at my heart. “Pastor Cai Zhuohua was imprisoned for three years for ‘illegally printing’ Christian literature. He was tortured with a cattle prod, held in a cold and cramped cell with 27 other prisoners and forced to make soccer balls for 10-12 hours a day in a Chinese sweatshop.”
I just recently learned that many of the items we purchase here in the United States, marked “made in China”, are actually made in Chinese sweatshops by prisoners. Many of these prisoners are, in fact, our brothers and sisters in Christ whom the Chinese government has arrested and tortured because they’re considered “dissidents”.
Hebrews 13:3 says “Remember the prisoners, as though in prison with them, and those who are ill-treated, since you yourselves also are in the body.”
The Voice of the Martyrs ministry says the plea of persecuted Christians is always the same: “Please, pray for us”. And so, I’ve made the decision that in the midst of my “activity-filled” days, at the very least, I am going to pray for my brothers and sisters who are suffering in foreign lands . . . and I hope that some of you will also join with me.
Let’s begin now.
Lord, we ask that you have mercy on your people who are persecuted and afflicted around the world – those who have heeded the call of Jesus to take up their cross daily and follow him. Their path has been difficult, full of trials and hardships, yet they refuse to deny you, Lord. Please stand by them and strengthen them as you did the Apostle Paul, so they can earnestly say, “Your will be done.”
In your Word, we’ve read about the rescue of Peter from prison and we know you can turn the heart of any government official, including those with authority to release your people from prison. Father, you rescued Peter in response to the prayers of the Church, and we now ask you to do the same for your disciples everywhere who have been imprisoned because they preach Christ. Deliver them from the hands of their executioners so that through them, your message can continue to be proclaimed to the people of their lands.
Lord, we’ve also read in your word about your servant, Stephen, who was stoned to death. We know that many others since that day have been executed because they would not deny their faith, and for those in our generation who will suffer this same fate, we ask that you would strengthen their faith so they can say with Paul, “To die is gain.” Expand their vision, Lord, so that they see what Stephen saw: Jesus standing at your right hand.
And Lord, we pray for ourselves and other believers here in this country. Help us to recognize and appreciate the freedoms we have here and the incredible blessings you’ve provided. But in the midst of this prosperity and abundance, give us wisdom and strength to resist the temptation to put other things ahead of you because anything that becomes a distraction and detriment to our walk with you is no longer a blessing. It’s a curse. And, Lord, help us to always be spiritually ready for whatever tomorrow brings; that in the wake of whatever faces us, we will stand strong and never turn away from you.
We ask all of these things in the precious name of our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ.