When we woke up this morning we made a decision that we were going to go to church. Our decision was based upon ruling out the other options that presented themselves to us. Some of us struggled with whether or not to sleep in since it has been a long week, a grueling week. Others of us struggled with whether or not to work in the yard or get some things done around the house. Still others of us had to decide if we were going to go to worship or attend a function going on in some other part of the city or state. There is one thing that none of us had to struggle with that many of our brothers and sisters around the world had to confront: “What will happen to me or my family if I am found worshipping Jesus my Savior?”

Today, we are taking a break from our study of the book of Colossians so that we can pray for the oppressed Christians around the world. Today, on this National Day of Prayer for Persecuted Christians Sunday, you and I are joining with approximately 150,000 churches in 121 countries around the world in seeking God’s strength and protection for those who are risking their lives for the sake of the Gospel. You may be thinking to yourself, “What oppressed Christians around world? I thought all of that suffering for Jesus stuff was over when the final book of the Bible was written.” You are not alone in thinking that oppression is a thing of the past. Tragically, many of our nation’s spiritual leaders are not convinced that persecution is even taking place today. One year ago, a Washington staffer for the National Council of Churches, Albert Pennybacker, denied that a problem even exists. He said, “I wouldn’t say persecution is raging around the world.” (The Tennessean, September 28, 1996) In testimony before a House Subcommittee meeting, he has also stated, “What may appear as persecution and indeed resistance may in fact be the wish to preserve authentic religious and cultural traditions.” Victor Hsu, another National Council of Churches staffer, said that religious persecution in China was simply the “overzealousness of local cadres.” It is not difficult to understand why these spiritual leaders are making such statements when you consider that they live in a land where they are free to attend worship, pray in public, and read their Bible at will.

Those who are living in foreign lands where persecution is raging will paint for you a very different picture, a bloody picture of torture, rape, murder, and oppression that the world has not known. David Barrett has written in The International Bulletin of Missionary Research that “more than an estimated 160,000 believers were martyred in 1996, and countless others were subjected to unimaginable horrors. And the persecution appears to be escalating exponentially.” (David C. Barrett, “Annual Statistical Table on Global Mission: 1997 “International Bulletin of Missionary Research.” January 1997, p. 25.) Also, members of Congress, hardly considered a biased Christian group, are becoming alarmed about reports of brutality and murder on foreign soil. A House resolution passed the fourth week of September 1996, stated that more Christians have been martyred in the 20th century than in the past nineteen centuries combined. The draft of the resolution also noted that China’s Communist leaders have called underground evangelical and Catholic congregations “a principal threat to political stability.”

In light of such evidence, how it is that so many American Christians are so apathetic and nonchalant about those who are dying on a daily basis for the cause of Christ? I am convinced that there are a number of reasons: First, you and I have been unaware to a large degree because we live in such comfort and freedom. Second, there are many that simply don’t believe that such a thing could be taking place in the twentieth century. Lastly, there are simply those who do not care. As long as they are doing fine then all is well. I have a feeling that for most of us here this morning we would fall into the first category. I will assure you that if you will prayerfully listen to what the Lord has laid on my heart to share with you today, you will be broken to the depths of your being and this brokenness will lead to change in your life and mine.

I want us to read God’s Word before we get started so won’t you turn with me to Ecclesiastes 4:1.

Again I looked and saw all the oppression that was taking place under the sun: I saw the tears of the oppressed– and they have no comforter; power was on the side of their oppressors– and they have no comforter. (Eccl 4:1 NIV)

“And they have no comforter…” Those words have been ringing in my ears this past week as I have been studying and gathering information to share with you this morning. I have been asking myself, “Why don’t you talk more about the brothers and sisters in Sudan, Thailand, Mexico, Nigeria, and Iran who are dying for their unashamed faith in Jesus?” I do not have a good answer, but I have come to realize that not many of my preacher friends are talking much about it either, and I am ashamed.

As I have been studying this past week there has been one name that has come up over and over again in most of the documentation I have been reading about the widespread persecution of Christians around the world — Michael Horowitz. What is really interesting is that Dr. Horowitz is not even a Christian, he is a Jew, and yet he is pounding the pulpit trying to get us to wake up to the persecution that is going on. Dr. Horowitz has written,

Christians have become the targets of opportunity to the thug regimes around the world, and they are many. What’s going on now is monumental, and it’s affecting millions, tens of millions, of people. We’re talking not about discrimination, but persecution of the worst sort: slavery, starvation, murder, looting, burning, torture. (“Global Christian Persecution,” Guests: Michael Horowitz, Gary Bauer, Chuck Colson, Rep. Frank Wolf, Focus on the Family, September 16, 1996)

Another Jewish man, A.M. Rosenthal, has also joined the chorus to promote the awareness of persecution against the followers of Jesus. Mr. Rosenthal is appalled at the apathy that is evident among American Christians. In a recent column in The New York Times he wrote:

A few clergymen and their religious organizations try to arouse congregations. But astonishingly few, compared not only with the spread of the persecution, but what could be done to fight it, if the political, religious, business and press leaders of the world had the will and courage.

If I were a Christian, I would complain that Christian leaders, political, religious and business, around the world have failed in their obligations to fight oppression of their co-religionists. I am complaining anyway.’ (A.M. Rosenthal, “On My Mind: Persecuting Christians,” New York Times, February 11, 1997, p. A21)

It is tragic indeed that the leaders of this movement to bring a greater awareness of the widespread persecution of Christians are people outside of our own faith. I am thankful to these men and to others who have raised my awareness and changed the content of my prayers over the past week.

While I was studying this past week the Lord brought to mind the only four missionaries that I know personally. Scott Spies, who is working in Moscow, Allen and Joan Eubanks, who have labored tirelessly for more than thirty years in Thailand, and E.C. Okoye, who is a native of Onitsha, Nigeria and runs the King’s Bible College in that city. I know from my experiences with these people that persecution is a very real and present danger for so many of our brothers and sisters. The last time I spoke with Scott Spies, before he headed back to Moscow, Scott was concerned that the Russian government was going to tighten their grip and possibly make all foreign missionaries leave the country. That threat has not been totally removed.

I have heard story after story through the years from Allen and Joan about the persecution they have encountered. Allen has been working for years to translate the Bible into the native language of the Wa tribe found in the mountains of Thailand. The Eubanks’ son, David, has been detained and is even now under watch by the government of Burma for his missions work. In Burma it is against the law to be a Christian.

The last time Dr. David Darnell was in Nigeria to teach at the King’s Bible College there was terrible persecution happening at the hands of the Muslims. E.C. Okoye told David to pray for him because he did not know whether to buy his students Bibles or guns.

These are not isolated events my friend. The prayers of people like Scott, Allen and Joan, and E.C. are different than our prayers. I am convinced that our prayers need to change! We need to join our persecuted brothers and sisters in prayer for God’s protection and strength for those who are encountering such attack.

I want to do two things in our time remaining. I want to give you some examples of what is taking place around the world today so that you can pray specifically for those I will tell you about. Secondly, I want to share with you how the Bible addresses the issue of persecution so that you can see how these courageous brothers and sisters are able to stand strong. I have another reason for sharing the biblical response with you. You and I do not know when persecution will come knocking at our door. When it does I want us to be prepared to stand strong with those who have gone before us.

* Members of the Islamic group stormed two churches on February 12 and 14 of this year. For the first time the terrorists boldly entered the congregations, firing at will. Many of the victims were youth who had gathered for the regular meetings. One of the survivors related the event: “We were attacked from behind as we were listening to the sermon. Wetrie

d to hide behind the benches, but they followed us even up to the altar of the church.” With 15 killed and numerous others hospitalized, these attacks have resulted in the largest number of Christians martyred in the country’s recent history.

* Christians in the Southeast Asian country of Laos have been asked to sign their names to a simple document. The document reads: “I recognize my beliefs are incorrect. I will not share my faith with others. I will not interact with my church, and I will not accept help from Christians.” This statement of denial is used as a weapon in a war against Christianity. When enough Christians in a village are coerced into signing statements of denial, the government confiscates the local church building. Christians can lose their jobs just for confessing Christ. Public rallies are held to falsely accuse Christians of wrongdoing. Yet no matter what tactics the Communist government tries, the church in Laos continues to grow. Pray that Christians in Laos will continue to boldly stand for Christ.

* When Michael Horowitz, a Jew by faith, was asked why he was so willing to stand up for suffering Christians, he said, “There is a man who lives with us who is the embodiment of Christian faith, and I’m in awe of it. He is from the Ethiopian Evangelical Church where he is the senior pastor. He is trying to get asylum into the United States and is meeting every possible roadblock you can imagine. Here is a man who has been jailed over 25 times for his faith. He’s been tortured. On one occasion he was hanged upside down with hot oil poured on his feet. This is a man of abiding faith who will be tortured again and murdered if he is sent back to Ethiopia.”

* There have been more people martyred for their faith in Jesus Christ in the 20th Century than in all the previous nineteen combined. Source: By Their Blood, by James and Marti Hefley.

* According to World Mission Digest there are some 100 million martyrs in this so called ‘modern’ 20th Century.

* More people have died in circumstances related to their faith in this century than in all the 20th Century wars combined. Source: Statistical research of the WEF Religious Liberty Commission.

* The main reason for the rise in persecution, especially over the past several years, seems to be the exponential growth of Evangelicals in places such as Latin America, sub-Sahara Africa and Asia. Not surprisingly, these are the same areas of the world where Christians are experiencing discrimination, harassment and persecution at the hands of those with power.

* The shift in Evangelical growth from the Western world to the Third World over the past few decades has been startling. In 1960, over 70% of all Evangelicals lived in North America and Western Europe. In 1990, 70% of all Evangelicals lived outside the West in the Third World, and the numbers continue to grow at a staggering rate. Source: Operation World by Patrick Johnstone.

* Reported incidences of persecution have actually increased since the fall of Communism in the former USSR.

* Traveling at night, preaching and speaking during the day, Chinese house church pastors work in one of the world’s most dangerous vineyards. They endure the possibility of arrest by a hostile government, yet they give their lives to strengthen and build up the body of Christ. According to the Chinese Church Research Center, there are more Evangelicals in China than in any other country in the world, perhaps 75 million. Holding a house meeting of Christian believers is illegal. Those who are caught are often tortured, using boiling water to burn them in order to force confessions of loyalty to the Chinese Communist government. Many who are arrested are sent to prison labor camps where they are often denied food and water and are shocked with electric probes. Amazingly, people still come to these home fellowships where they can hear the word of God proclaimed and share life with other believers.

* The United Nations reports that the militant Islamic government of central African Sudan has declared a systematic battle against Christians. Since 1982, 300,000 Sudanese Christians have been killed. Each year hundreds of Christian believers are sold into slavery and taken where they have to work as slaves or as concubines for their Muslim masters. “Please pray for us,” Sudanese Christian leaders urge believers around the world, “we need your prayer support so that we might be able to love those who cause our sufferings and show them that the love of Christ is a stronger weapon than those used against us.”

These stories, only a few of the hundreds of stories I have read this past week, illustrate for you and me the terrible suffering and the great cost that many of our brothers and sisters around the world are undergoing for the sake of the Gospel. What is truly humbling is that they do not see it as a great cost, they see it as a privilege. I received a copy of a hymn that is being sung by Christians in China today as they worship our Savior in secrecy. I want to share the song with you so that you can see the bold and precious faith of these Chinese saints of God.

To Be a Martyr for the Lord

1.From the time the early church appeared on the day of Pentecost,
the followers of the Lord all willingly sacrificed themselves.
Tens of thousands have sacrificed their lives that the Gospel might prosper.
As such they have obtained the crown of life.

2.Those apostles who loved the Lord to the end,
Willingly followed the Lord down the path of suffering.
John was exiled to the lonely isle of Patmos.
Stephen was crushed to death with stones by the crowd.

3.Matthew was cut to death in Persia by the people.
Mark died as his two legs were pulled apart by horses.
Doctor Luke was cruelly hanged.
Peter, Philip and Simon were crucified on a cross.

4.Bartholomew was skinned alive by the heathen,
Thomas died in India as five horses pulled apart his body,
The apostle James was beheaded by King Herod,
Little James was cut up by a sharp saw.

5.James the brother of the Lord was stoned to death,
Judas was bound to a pillar and died by arrows,
Matthias had his head cut off in Jerusalem.
Paul was a martyr under Emperor Nero.

6.I am willing to take up the cross and go forward,
To follow the apostles down the road of sacrifice.
That tens of thousands of precious souls can be saved,
I am willing to leave all and be a martyr for the Lord.

Chorus: To be a martyr for the Lord, to be a martyr for the Lord,

I am willing to die gloriously for the Lord.

The song of the Chinese saints humbles me. I don’t know what they are going through, but Jesus knows what they are suffering and He is with them in their suffering. He calls you and me to be with them as well as we pray for them on a daily basis. Not only for the Chinese, but our brothers and sisters in Africa, Iran, Mexico, Cuba, Pakistan, Moscow, Thailand, and around the world.

How do we make sense of all of this? Does the Bible say anything about persecution because of our faith in Jesus? Why would God allow those who have given their lives to Him to suffer from such injustice? Is there an answer to the suffering? Those are excellent questions. I want us to spend the rest of our time studying what God’s Word has to say about the persecution of believers.

First of all, God’s Word teaches us that persecution is part of the Christian life.

We, as the followers of Jesus, should never expect better treatment from the people of the world than was experienced by our Risen Savior. Jesus was persecuted at every turn. He was mocked, ridiculed, beaten, and finally killed the most brutal of deaths. Why should we expect anything more from those who are opposed to the cause of our King! Jesus Himself said,

Blessed are those who are persecuted because of righteousness, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. {11} “Blessed are you when people insult you, persecute you and falsely say all kinds of evil against you because of me. {12} Rejoice and be glad, because great is your reward in heaven, for in the same way they persecuted the prophets who were before you. (Mat 5:10-12 NIV)

The followers of Jesus in the first century knew they were in for a long, hard road and as a result they tried to educate new converts that the life they were choosing in Christ would be costly. Peter wrote,

Dear friends, do not be surprised at the painful trial you are suffering, as though something strange were happening to you. {13} But rejoice that you participate in the sufferings of Christ, so that you may be overjoyed when his glory is revealed. {14} If you are insulted because of the name of Christ, you are blessed, for the Spirit of glory and of God rests on you. {15} If you suffer, it should not be as a murderer or thief or any other kind of criminal, or even as a meddler. {16} However, if you suffer as a Christian, do not be ashamed, but praise God that you bear that name. (1 Pet 4:12-16 NIV)

Paul, who was not one of Jesus’ original disciples knew from the beginning that his life would be one of suffering and struggle for the advancement of the Kingdom. He passed on that teaching to his young protege, Timothy, and we would do well to pass on that information to our children and those with whom we have influence. Paul wrote,

You, however, know all about my teaching, my way of life, my purpose, faith, patience, love, endurance, {11} persecutions, sufferings–what kinds of things happened to me in Antioch, Iconium and Lystra, the persecutions I endured. Yet the Lord rescued me from all of them. {12} In fact, everyone who wants to live a godly life in Christ Jesus will be persecuted, (2 Tim 3:10-12 NIV)

Secondly, we are to be willing to suffer for the advancement of His Kingdom.

What is most important to you? Is it your comfort or His Kingdom? The early followers of Jesus and those who are suffering with joy in their hear

ts in our day are impassioned with the advancement of the eternal Kingdom of God.

Peter and the followers of Jesus were persecuted for speaking of Jesus, but it didn’t deter them, they spoke with even greater conviction. Take a look at Acts 5 to get a glimpse of what I am talking about.

They called the apostles in and had them flogged. Then they ordered them not to speak in the name of Jesus, and let them go. {41} The apostles left the Sanhedrin, rejoicing because they had been counted worthy of suffering disgrace for the Name. {42} Day after day, in the temple courts and from house to house, they never stopped teaching and proclaiming the good news that Jesus is the Christ. (Acts 5:40-42 NIV)

The way in which they took their beatings and torture had everything to do with how they viewed their King and Savior. They were well acquainted with the suffering Messiah, not some Christian Book Store, sanitized Jesus, but a blood-splattered, beaten victorious Savior and that is what gave them power. Peter writes,

But how is it to your credit if you receive a beating for doing wrong and endure it? But if you suffer for doing good and you endure it, this is commendable before God. {21} To this you were called, because Christ suffered for you, leaving you an example that you should follow in his steps. {22} “He committed no sin, and no deceit was found in his mouth.” {23} When they hurled their insults at him, he did not retaliate; when he suffered, he made no threats. Instead, he entrusted himself to him who judges justly. (1 Pet 2:20-23 NIV)

Paul wrote in Philippians that it was granted to us to suffer for Christ’s sake, on His behalf for the world to see that He has truly made a difference in our lives. Paul wrote, “For it has been granted to you on behalf of Christ not only to believe on him, but also to suffer for him.” (Phil 1:29 NIV)

Those who suffer do not suffer for no reason with nothing to gain.

God has promised that there are rewards for our obedience in the face of suffering. James 1:12 says, “Blessed is the man who perseveres under trial, because when he has stood the test, he will receive the crown of life that God has promised to those who love him.” (NIV)

Suffering leads to spiritual maturity. James 1:2-4 says,

Consider it pure joy, my brothers, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith develops perseverance. Perseverance must finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything. (NIV)

Suffering can be endured because we know that God will bring justice when Jesus returns. Paul wrote in 2 Thessalonians 1:5-7

All this is evidence that God’s judgment is right, and as a result you will be counted worthy of the kingdom of God, for which you are suffering. God is just: He will pay back trouble to those who trouble you and give relief to you who are troubled, and to us as well. This will happen when the Lord Jesus is revealed from heaven in blazing fire with his powerful angels. (NIV)

Suffering can be endured because we know this life is not the end. The prophet Isaiah wrote,

The righteous perish, and no one ponders it in his heart; devout men are taken away, and no one understands that the righteous are taken away to be spared from evil. Those who walk uprightly enter into peace; they find rest as they lie in death. (Isaiah 57:1-2 NIV)

How God uses persecution for His purposes:

God can use our suffering to glorify Jesus, our suffering Savior. When Jesus returns to take us home then all will know that our suffering was not in vain, but that we were willing to suffer all things for the One who died for us. 1 Peter 1:7 says,

These [all kinds of trials] have come so that your faith — of greater worth than gold, which perishes even though refined by fire — may be proved genuine and may result in praise, glory and honor when Jesus Christ is revealed. (NIV)

God can use our suffering to reveal Jesus in us. We are not powerful people, the records show that millions upon millions of Christians have succumbed to death at the hands of oppressors and tyrants like Adolf Hitler, Mussolini, Pol Pot, and others. We may not be strong, but when we suffer for the Kingdom a power is revealed in us that is unlike any power the world has ever seen. Paul wrote in 2 Corinthians 4:7-11,

But we have this treasure in jars of clay to show that this all-surpassing power is from God and not from us. We are hard pressed on every side, but not crushed; perplexed, but not in despair; persecuted, but not abandoned; struck down, but not destroyed. We always carry around in our body the death of Jesus, so that the life of Jesus may also be revealed in our body. For we who are alive are always being given over to death for Jesus’ sake, so that his life may be revealed in our mortal body. (NIV)

God can use our suffering to encourage others to be more courageous in their testimony. When I hear stories of my brothers and sisters of all ages stranding strong for the sake of the Gospel I am strengthened and encouraged. Paul wrote in Philippians 1:12-14,

Now I want you to know, brothers, that what has happened to me has really served to advance the gospel. As a result, it has become clear throughout the whole palace guard and to everyone else that I am in chains for Christ. Because of my chains, most of the brothers in the Lord have been encouraged to speak the word of God more courageously and fearlessly. (NIV)

God can use our suffering to spread the gospel to other places. Do you know that some of the most dynamic Christians among us in the United States today are here because persecution has forced them to flee their own country? Hopefully their having come here will be used by God to rekindle the fire of evangelism and discipleship within us. It has happened before and it could surely happen again. We see how this happened in the early Church in Acts 8:1,4

On that day a great persecution broke out against the church at Jerusalem, and all except the apostles were scattered throughout Judea and Samaria. Those who had been scattered preached the word wherever they went. (NIV)

What Can I Do For Those Who Are Suffering?

There may very well come a time when you and I are given the opportunity to stand strong in the face of opposition for our King to the degree of those in others countries today, but as of now we live in a free land where persecution is minimal. What can we do to stand with our suffering brothers and sisters in other lands? Let me give you some suggestions.

* Remember the persecuted as if you yourselves were suffering. Hebrews 13:3 “Remember those in prison as if you were their fellow prisoners, and those who are mistreated as if you yourselves were suffering.” (NIV)

* Stand side by side with the persecuted believers. Accept personal loss in order to sympathize with them. Hebrews 10:32-34 says,

Remember those earlier days after you had received the light, when you stood your ground in a great contest in the face of suffering. Sometimes you were publicly exposed to insult and persecution; at other times you stood side by side with those who were so treated. You sympathized with those in prison and joyfully accepted the confiscation of your property, because you knew that you yourselves had better and lasting possessions. (NIV)

* Exhort other Christians by the faith and example of the persecuted believers. I am sharing these stories with you today to encourage you to pray for our brothers and sisters and to give you a deeper and more powerful faith. In 2 Thessalonians 1:4 we read,

Therefore, among God’s churches we boast about your perseverance and faith in all the persecutions and trials you are enduring.

* Take action to rescue the persecuted. It is not enough to feel sorry for our brothers and sisters, we need to take action. Our nation right now has given Most Favored Nation status to China, the most arrogant persecutor of Christians. We should let those who make decisions know that this is not right. In Proverbs 24:11-12 we read,

Rescue those being led away to death; hold back those staggering toward slaughter. If you say, “But we knew nothing about this,” does not he who weighs the heart perceive it? Does not he who guards your life know it? Will he not repay each person according to what he has done? (NIV)

* Call your church to pray for the persecuted. While Peter was in prison the church prayed fervently for him. Acts 12:5 says, “So Peter was kept in prison, but the church was earnestly praying to God for him.”

* Love and pray for the ones who are persecuting believers. Jesus said in Matthew 5:44-45,

But I tell you: Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, that you may be sons of your Father in heaven. He causes his sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous. (NIV)

* Rejoice over their steadfast love of God. This morning we need to praise God for those around the world who are standing uncompromisingly for the cause of Christ. Paul wrote in 1 Thessalonians 3:7-9,

Therefore, brothers, in all our distress and persecution we were encouraged about you because of your faith. For now we really live, since you are standing firm in the Lord. How can we thank God enough for you in return for all the joy we have in the presence of our God because of you? (NIV)

* As you pray, remember who the true enemy is. We have no bone to pick with the leaders of persecuting countries or with false religions that are killing our brothers and sisters — our war is against Satan himself. These people are mere pawns in the hands of the Enemy. We need to pray that they would come to know our Savior while we stand in opposition to their demonic ways. Paul wrote in Ephesians 6:12-13, 18 For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms. Therefore put on the full armor of God, so that when the day of evil comes, you may be able to stand your ground, and after you have done everything, to stand… And pray in the Spirit on all occasions with all kinds of prayers and requests. With this in mind, be alert and always keep on praying for all the saints. (NIV)

I mentioned earlier that I wanted to share all of this with you for two reasons. First, so that we could pray for and stand with those who are suffering. Second, so that we can be ready when persecution comes. I say, “When persecution comes.” It is coming my friend. The seeds have already been planted and are bursting forth from the soil even now. Let me give you a couple of examples.

We are coming up on the Christmas Season in just a couple of months. Just last year, a Virginia teacher who gave her students an assignment to write a “Christmas” story told one student that a story based on the biblical account of Christmas was not allowed.

In Wisconsin prisons you can get by with many things but you can’t wear a cross.

Under Wisconsin prison regulations, inmates can have 20-inch color T.V.’s, electric guitars, and Playboy magazines in their cells. However, they aren’t allowed to wear crucifixes or any other religious symbols. Prison officials say that they are worried that crosses and other symbols might be used as gang insignias, weapons, or currency for bartering. So they have decided to ban all jewelry except for wrist-watches and wedding rings. Several inmates who are Christians and had worn crucifixes before the ban was implemented brought suit challenging the ban on the grounds that it infringes on their religious liberty.

Sylvester Sasnett prays in his cell, works in the prison chapel, and studies religion in the hope of someday becoming a minister. He was given a cross as a gift in 1992 and, before the ban, wore it at all times as a constant reminder of his faith.

Shouldn’t we be encouraging inmates like Sylvester Sasnett to seek redemption and to turn their lives around? Prison officials certainly need to be vigilant about keeping things out of prisoners’ hands that could be used as weapons, but certainly an electric guitar, a television or an electric fan–all of which are permitted in inmates’ cells–contain parts that make far better weapons than a small cross. And if the dangerous gangs in prison really do run out of ideas for tattoos and hand-signs and for some reason start wearing crosses, the prison could always crack down on the gangs and their violence and leave the crosses alone.

Although the regulations governing the Small Business Administration require it to abide by all civil rights laws “without limitation,” including those that prohibit religious discrimination, Joan Blocker, the owner of a day care center in Glennville, Georgia, was denied a loan because her children say grace before lunch, read Bible verses and use Montessori materials as educational tools. Mrs. Blocker, facing bankruptcy, asked the Administration to back a $23,000 loan to help keep her business afloat. The SBA Division Chief replied that she was not eligible because her day care was using a Christian-based curriculum. Mrs. Blocker’s bank told the SBA that the day care center filled a dire need in the community and that any credit risk she posed was minimal. The SBA said no anyway. People of faith need not apply.

The seed-bed of persecution in America is planted and germinating as we speak. I pray that we will stand with our suffering brothers and sisters in their time of need now so that hopefully they will stand with us when our time comes.

“When one member suffers, all suffer …” (I Corinthians 12:26)

I Saw The Tears of The Oppressed…
Ecclesiastes 4:1