What struck me about this encounter is that Jesus had already ascended into heaven. Saul was racing around capturing Jesus' disciples, putting them in prison, beating them and terrorizing them. Saul was not beating, terrorizing or imprisoning Jesus. Yet he was. Remember in Matthew 25:40 and 45? Jesus tells the world at the last judgement that the things that they did to HIS PEOPLE are considered things done to Him personally: "Inasmuch as you have done it unto the least of these my brothers, you have done it to Me"
That radically changes my perspective about the persecuted Church. It is easy to feel remote from those who are persecuted ~ I blush to admit that, but it is the truth. I have not traveled overseas on missions trips to countries of persecution. I have not encountered very many people in my life who have been beaten for Jesus. I have heard stories and seen a few movies, but that is not as real as personally meeting someone who has been in jail because they love Jesus and won't quit talking about Him. However when I take the perspective that Jesus Himself is being persecuted and imprisoned and beaten and beheaded and tortured, that gives me a very, very different and much more real view of things. How can I be still? How can I be silent? When I realize that it is Jesus Himself who is being persecuted, how can I not do something about it?
Yet what can I do about it when it is so far away? In Matthew 25, Jesus gives us the answer to that question. "For I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me drink, I was a stranger and you welcomed me, I was naked and you clothed me, I was sick and you visited me, I was in prison and you came to me." Matthew 25:35-36.
If nothing else, am I welcoming strangers? Do I stop and speak and invite them to my home? Am I doing everything in my power to help them see that I consider them a part of my family? There are nursing homes around me. Do I take time to go and visit? Do I find someone who has no family left ~ no one to encourage and comfort them in the last years of their life ~ and do I step in to be family for them?
There are things that we can do. Voice of the Martyrs has an excellent plan of action with numerous ways you can support the persecuted church. You can even write letters to those who are imprisoned. Can you imagine what a blessing that would be? Suppose you had been in jail for years with little or not contact with anyone else who loves Jesus, and one day you got a letter of encouragement and prayer from another believer on the other side of the world? If you think that those letters do not get to the prisoners but are kept by their guards, wouldn't it be a blessing for them to read the Truth?
Most of all, keep these people in your prayers. Remember that they really are your family. If your own mother, father, sister, brother, husband, wife or child were being persecuted, wouldn't you be storming Heaven's Gates on their behalf?
Which leads us to the prayer list for this week.
- Thank you so much for your prayers for Mark, Susan and Rachel. The flights went well without any seizures that made the pilot want to divert the plane. Please pray that Rachel will be able to eat and drink a little better; and sleep!! Pray that the work goes well for the next three weeks, and that God's plan for them will be very clear.
- Nancy's energy is improving a little this week. Thank you for your prayers regarding that. Please continue to keep her in your prayers. Next round of chemo is scheduled for June 2, with scans on the 18th.
- Benjamin, who lives in India, is having serious trouble with his vision. Please pray that the doctors would be able to find out what is wrong. Pray for his wife, who is understandably a little anxious for him. Pray that God would be honored in him and through him.
- Anna's grandmother (a strong believer) died last week. Please thank God for her life, and pray for comfort and peace for the family she leaves behind.
- For many, this is the last week of school. Please pray for students and teachers as they wrap up another year. For those who are not believers, pray that the influence of Christians they met this year will continue.
- Yesterday little Faith started her summer with brain surgery for cancer. Please pray for healing, for comfort, for her parents and that God's people will remember to surround them with His love.
- Pray that God's word would spread through the influence of Vacation Bible Schools that are gearing up for the summer. Pray for the directors, the teachers and all the behind-the-scenes folks, that God would use them to reveal Himself. Pray that the hearts of the children (and their parents) would be prepared by Him to receive His word and Truth.
- Please pray for Jody. It has been 9 months since her husband Danny died. Pray for God's mercy and grace and comfort for her.
- Pray for those who are suffering for Jesus today.
God's peace to your homes and hearts.