Most of us have been horrified by the events in the news recently. Churches around the nation are joining together on Sunday for a moment of silence to remember the 21 martyrs–all Christians from Egypt. Right to the very moment when they lost their lives, they testified to the faithfulness of Jesus. Check out this website and the following video:
We in the West have it so easy–we are barely even ridiculed for holding a Christian worldview–but it could change. In other nations where there is a price to be paid for being a follower of Jesus, one of the basic discipleship lessons is on how to deal with persecution.
It’s a small step, but let’s show our solidarity with our fellow believers by remembering the 21 martyrs.
Milad Makeen Zaky
Abanub Ayad Atiya
Maged Solaiman Shehata
Yusuf Shukry Yunan
Kirollos Shokry Fawzy
Bishoy Astafanus Kamel
Somaily Astafanus Kamel
Malak Ibrahim Sinweet
Tawadros Yusuf Tawadros
Girgis Milad Sinweet
Mina Fayez Aziz
Hany Abdelmesih Salib
Bishoy Adel Khalaf
Samuel Alham Wilson
Worker from Awr village
Ezat Bishri Naseef
Gaber Munir Adly
Esam Badir Samir
Malak Farag Abram
Sameh Salah Faruq
There is an ancient and almost forgotten road leading from Gibeon (a Canaanite city north of Jerusalem) to the coast. In Old Testament times, this was the principle road from the mountains to the plains. It led through leading through difficult and steep terrain. Two villages sit on this road in the foothills of the mountains. In ancient times, they were known as the villages of Upper and Lower Beth Horon.
Their location was sufficiently strategic that Solomon fortified them with walls, gates and bars (2 Chronicles 8:5). They are mentioned several times in the Old Testament (e.g. Joshua 16:3). Battles were fought over them.
They are now the Palestinian villages of “Bet ‘ûr et-Taḥta” (the lower) and “Bet ‘ûr el-Foḳa” (the upper).
Along with a third village (Uzzen-sheerah, which no longer exists), they were originally founded by a woman, Sheerah, daughter of Beriah who was a son of Ephraim (1 Chronicles 7:24).
Luke 10:3 says this: Now go, and remember that I am sending you out as lambs among wolves.
Jesus told his disciples to go–or more accurately, “as you are going.” Yet we usually ask people to come. “Come to our church,” “Come to our special meeting!” Even in our house churches we ask people to come.
Why did Jesus tell us to go? If we go, we are the ones who are crossing the cultural barrier. We are the ones to get uncomfortable. Think about it: what is it like for someone who has never been in church to come to one of our meetings. It is a total culture shock! We may ask them to sing songs they don’t know, to listen to a monolog or take part in a discussion they know nothing about. There are reasons we are told to go.
Jesus may send us to places where we don’t naturally feel comfortable. But Jesus was known as a friend of sinners. He was willing to mix with people that the upright religious people of his day refused to have anything to do with. He was comfortable with tax collectors and prostitutes. Notorious sinners hung around him (Luke 15:1-2). Are we willing to risk going to places where “sinners” hang out if Jesus asks us to?
Then Jesus tells us that our going is like throwing lambs to the wolves! Dinner time!
What kind of shepherd would do that? Send his lambs to the wolves?
What is the protection for a lamb? As Neil Cole likes to point out, it’s not their superior intelligence, their sharp teeth, their camouflage, or their speed. They have no natural defense but their shepherd. When we go to spiritually dangerous places, Jesus himself is our protection.
Some years ago, when our daughter, Becky returned from YWAM where she had been for a couple of years, she sensed the Lord wanted her to go and work downtown in our bar district. We thought about it. We had two questions: would she be safe, and what would our Christian friends think. As we prayed, we had a peace about her doing this. About 6 weeks later she threw a party and forty of her friends from downtown came–bar-tenders, bouncers, tattooed and pierced. The result: a Bible study formed and several of them found the Lord.
When we go as lambs, we are also vulnerable, weak. People are instinctively more attracted to someone who is willing to admit their imperfections. They identify with us more when we don’t have all the answers. Are we willing to go in this way
One of the practices that characterizes most of the church planting movements I’m familiar with is an emphasis on prayer walking. It is a core component of the process that results in rapidly multiplying disciples. If the Lord leads us to start a church in a certain neighborhood, we do well to prepare the ground by prayer walking.
When we started a church in the low income housing projects, the first thing we did was to prepare the ground in prayer.
In Matthew 12, Jesus gives an illustration in his defense against an attack by the Pharisees. They accused him of casting out demons by the power of the devil. He replied, “How can anyone enter the strong man’s house and carry off his property unless he first binds the strong man? And then he will plunder his goods.” (verse 29)
Who is the strong man Jesus refers to here? It is Satan or one of his minions. What are his goods? It’s the people who he’s taken captive.
In Joshua 1:3, God tells Joshua that he will give him every place where he sets his feet. There is something about praying “on site with insight” that prepares the way for the Lord to come.
What does prayer walking consist of?
- We survey the land: When Moses sent the spies into the land of Canaan, he was effectively doing a spiritual survey of the land before they went in (Numbers 13:1-25). We walk the area taking note of anything of spiritual significance and asking the Lord for wisdom and understanding as to what is going on in the area.
- We ask the Lord for his plan for the area
- We establish a prayer team: Jesus sent out the disciples two by two, praying as they went.
- We physically walk the area. As we do so we are praying that God will reclaim the area:
- We praise and thank God and bless the area and the people who live there. We bless everyone who impacts the area–the police, the education system, etc.
- We pray for the welfare of the people who live there. In Jeremiah 29:7, the people of Israel were told to pray for the peace and prosperity of Babylon, even though it was the land where they were held in captivity.
- We demolish the strongholds that are there. Jesus has all authority, and he has given us that authority to bind the demonic powers that hold the people who live in that area. We use spiritual weapons to overcome these demonic powers.
- We repent for the problems of the area. We are priests, and as such, can pray for the redemption of the people of the area.
Psalm 2:8 says, “Only ask, and I will give you the nations as your inheritance and the ends of the earth as your possession.
Photo credit: Stef Lewandowski (Creative Commons)
Sometimes it takes a story to help us realize just how much of a difference prayer makes.
We have friends in India who picked two villages to visit. One of the villages they prayed for and the other they did not. When they later went in to proclaim the good news of Jesus, the village they had not prayed for threw them out. In the other village, the one they had prayed for, 45 families became believers.
We so easily take prayer for granted without realizing its incredible potential power.
A number of years ago, an experiment was performed by a church in Phoenix, Arizona.
They randomly selected 160 names from the local phone book and divided them into two, 80 in each group.
The first group was prayed for daily by their team of intercessors. The second group was not prayed for.
After 90 days, all 160 homes were called by members of the intercessory team. They identified themselves and asked for permission to stop by and pray for the family and any needs they might have. Of the 80 homes that were not prayed for, one person invited them to come in. Of the 80 homes that had been prayed for, 69 invited someone to come over, and of the 69, 45 invited them to come in.
Prayer makes a difference!
(Story comes from Alvin Vander Griend in The Praying Church Idea Book by Douglas A. Kamstra)
Len Sweet is one of the most influential Christians in North America. So when he writes a book (From Tablet to Table: Where Community Is Found and Identity Is Formed) that espouses principles that we who are involved in the simple/organic/house church movement hold dear, I sit up and take notice.
From Tablet to Table examines the importance of meals in the life of Jesus and the early church and why this is significant for us today. Jesus performed much of his ministry and teaching around the meal table, and the early church placed a heavy emphasis on “sharing meals from house to house.” In fact, the New Testament contains many examples of hospitality–of being both a host and a guest. Why the importance?
In the New Testament, the communion table was not a wafer and sip of wine, but occurred in the context of a full meal. We live in a day of fast-food and drive through meals. As a culture we have largely lost the benefit of sitting together, enjoying our food in a leisurely fashion and telling stories that will live down through the generations. Meals together form relationship and community. So what might happen if we brought shared meals back into the life of our churches and gave the table a place of pre-eminence in our interactions with the communities we live in?
Another facet of this book I appreciated was the idea that the Scriptures can be a spiritual feast from which we gain sustenance for our souls. God nourishes us through his word and gives us strength to live our lives as his ambassadors here on earth.
There are many good and practical ideas in this little book. It’s definitely worth reading!
(Disclaimer: I received a copy of this book from the publishers.)
Are we praying the price?
David Watson, whose book Contagious Disciple Making: Leading Others on a Journey of Discovery I featured here, once asked his top 100 church planters–those who were starting at least 20 churches per year–a series of questions to find out the common elements among them. They found many similar factors, but there was only one present in every team: a high commitment to prayer.
Here’s what is described in the book:
These leaders spent an average of three hours per day in personal prayer. They spent another three hours in prayer with their teams every day. These leaders were not all full-time religious leaders. In fact, most of them had regular jobs. They started their days at 4:00 a.m., and by 10:00 a.m. were at work.
These top performers also spent one day per week in fasting and prayer. The whole team spent one weekend per month in fasting and prayer.
One group had started more than 500 churches the previous year.
I’m not talking about legalism here; we cannot earn a move of God. But I firmly believe we will not see the move of God we long for in this country without praying the price.
We will not see the move of God we long for unless it is preceded by a prayer movement. Are we praying the price?
In 1983, Tony and I had the privilege of going to Korea where we spent time at Full Gospel Central Church. At that time, it was the largest church in the world and Dr Paul Yonggi Cho was the pastor. Our question going there was two fold. Was this work “an inch deep and a mile wide,” or, if it was deeper than that, what, if any, was the secret to the remarkable things they were seeing?
The first night we were there, we went to their all night prayer meeting. We arrived an hour early to find the place (which seated about 10,000 at the time) already filled with people praying. Every seat was taken and there were more on the floor in the aisles. Mothers had babies on their backs, children were sleeping on the ground. There were older people, younger people, all praying and worshipping. We didn’t understand a word of what was going on, but the presence of God was so real it felt almost tangible. When the meeting started, everyone began praying loudly and simultaneously. The whole auditorium was on its feet, storming heaven, arms raised, some with fists clenched, tears running down their cheeks. A few were kneeling, their tears dripping to the floor. It was profoundly moving. At one point I looked at my watch. Forty minutes later, someone rang a bell and the praying stopped. Then another topic was announced and off they went again. This went on all night with the occasional break to sing a hymn.
A couple of days later we visited their “Prayer and Fasting Mountain.” Some people fasting for forty days. Some were there to pray until they received healing. Because it was so cold (13 degrees F) many were lying on the floor in sleeping bags. We visited the tiny cubicles cut into the mountain, where people stayed to fast and pray until God met them.
We heard story after story of the miracles God did in response to prayer. Healings, businesses restored, lives transformed by meeting Jesus.
At the end of our time there I was convinced we were seeing a genuine and deep move of God. And the reason? The people there were praying the price.
Photo credit: www.economist.com