Two New eBooks at Amazon Kindle!

FacebookMySpaceTwitterDiggDeliciousStumbleuponRSS Feed

Have you ever been persecuted for your faith?  I haven’t, though I’ve been ridiculed, but this is nothing.  I’ve met people, though, who experienced real persecution, and their faith is resilient.

Hi, I’m Rex Rogers and this is episode #16 of Discerning What Is Best, a podcast applying unchanging biblical principles in a rapidly changing world, and a Christian worldview to current issues and everyday life.

Throughout the history of Christianity, persecution of individual Christians and the Church has been constant.

And today, persecution against Christians is increasing around the world. 

The ministry Open Doors, sponsors a “World Watch List,” that recounts the top 50 countries in which, in their words ,“it’s most difficult to follow Jesus.” 

According to The Watch List, more than 360 million Christians live in places around the world where they experience high levels of persecution. That’s more than the population of the United States. In 2021, some 4,761 Christians were killed for their faith, 4,888 churches and other Christian buildings were attacked, and 4,277 believers were detained without trial, arrested, sentenced, or imprisoned for their faith.

For 17 consecutive years, North Korea has been ranked #1 as the most dangerous country for Christians, only recently displaced in 2021 by Afghanistan. Add countries like China, Laos, Somalia, Libya, Nigeria, Iran, Syria, and other Middle Eastern or North African countries where persecution of minority religions, especially Christianity, is an ongoing experience. 

Persecution intersects with discussions of freedom of religion and belief, and it can be considered in at least two ways: persecution of others – how we should respond to it, and personal persecution – how we should prepare for and respond to it.

Persecution is defined by Merriam-Webster as: “to harass or punish in a manner designed to injure, grieve, or afflict,” or “specifically: to cause to suffer because of belief.” The word is typically used in association with religious violence.

Periodically, I hear someone claim the American Church or Christians are experiencing “persecution.” But I don’t use “persecution” to refer to incidents in the US. Frankly, while churches in the US have been harassed by government or other entities, and while genuine persecution will likely someday come to this country, it’s not now. 

Meanwhile, persecution of the Church, Christians, Muslims, Jews, or several religious minorities is rampant elsewhere in the world. Indeed, restrictions on religious freedom is now a global crisis, in autocratic and religiously dominated regimes but also in democratic countries.

In my view, and I believe it is a biblical perspective, Christians should defend and promote religious freedom, the “first freedom,” for all human beings, whatever their religion or no religion at all. It’s part God creating us thinking, reasoning, choosing human beings made in his image, and it is part of Love your neighbor as yourself.

In the US, rather than persecution, we can talk about opposition, harassment, discrimination, even hostility, for example:

  • Eroding freedoms and a cultural tide that is more secular or pagan.
  • Increasing intolerance of Christian activity, evident in fines, lawsuits, jobs lost, and public disdain.
  • Increasing harassment and anti-religious or specifically anti-Christian bias in education at all levels.
  • Big Tech censorship of religious or Christian viewpoints.

Yet what we experience in the US, worrisome and negatively trending though it may be, is still different from the painful struggles elsewhere in the world that Christians are enduring because of their faith. 

Christians in the US still enjoy freedoms and protections rooted in the First Amendment that make profession of faith relatively easy or unthreatened compared to Christians living where owning a Bible could cost life and limb. 

This does not mean that persecution will never come to the US, nor that we should ignore anti-religious trends in government and culture. In fact, we should learn what God says about persecution, discover how we can assist isolated believers globally, and learn how we should prepare if God allows persecution to come to our doorstep.

Let’s think about what the Scripture says.

First, persecution is predictable.

  1. In John 15:30, Jesus said, “Remember the word that I said to you: ‘A servant is not greater than his master.’ If they persecuted me, they will also persecute you.”
  2. The Apostle Paul said, “Indeed, all who desire to live a godly life in Christ Jesus will be persecuted, while evil people and impostors will go on from bad to worse, deceiving and being deceived.” 2 Tim. 3:10-15. 

Second, the Scripture indicates persecution occurs within the will of God.  

  1. God uses persecution to purify the church. Persecution has always made the church stronger. “Yet he has no root in himself, but endures for a while, and when tribulation or persecution arises on account of the word, immediately he falls away.”  13:21, Mark 4:17
  2. And persecution has been instrumental in generating the Diaspora, spreading the truth worldwide: “Now those who were scattered because of the persecution that arose over Stephen traveled as far as Phoenicia and Cyprus and Antioch, speaking the word to no one except Jews. But there were some of them, men of Cyprus and Cyrene, who on coming to Antioch spoke to the Hellenists also, preaching the Lord Jesus.And the hand of the Lord was with them, and a great number who believed turned to the Lord.” Acts 11:19-21

Third, the Early Church suffered persecution.    

  1. The first martyr, Stephen, was arrested and stoned Acts 6:8-15, 7:1-60.
  2. The Apostles were arrested and imprisoned, and all but John were eventually martyred. Tertullian, one of the 2ndC, Church Fathers said, “the blood of martyrs is the seed of the church.”
  3. The great Apostle Paul said, “Five times I received at the hands of the Jews the forty lashes less one. Three times I was beaten with rods. Once I was stoned. Three times I was shipwrecked; a night and a day I was adrift at sea; on frequent journeys, in danger from rivers, danger from robbers, danger from my own people, danger from Gentiles, danger in the city, danger in the wilderness, danger at sea, danger from false brothers;in toil and hardship, through many a sleepless night, in hunger and thirst, often without food, in cold and exposure,” 2 Cor. 11:24-28.
  4. And Scripture pays tribute to faithful followers of Christ, saying in Heb. 11:36-38, “Others suffered mocking and flogging, and even chains and imprisonment. They were stoned, they were sawn in two, they were killed with the sword. They went about in skins of sheep and goats, destitute, afflicted, mistreated. of whom the world was not worthy—wandering about in deserts and mountains, and in dens and caves of the earth.”

This podcast is about Discerning What Is Best. If you find this thought-provoking and helpful, follow us on your favorite podcast platform. Download an episode for your friends.

Scripture also tells us what our attitude should be toward persecution and persecutors:

  1. Blessed are those who are persecuted for righteousness' sake, fortheirs is the kingdom of heaven. Blessed are you when others revile you and persecute you and utter all kinds of evil against you falsely on my account. Rejoice and be glad, for your reward is great in heaven, for so they persecuted the prophets who were before you.” Matt. 5:10-12
  2. “Love your enemies, and pray for those who persecute you.”  5:44
  3. Bless those who persecute you; bless and do not curse them.”  12:14

How then should we regard persecution?

  1. Expect persecution
  2. Be informed and pray for those who are persecutedInternational Day of Prayer for the Persecuted Church – first Sunday in Nov. See also Voice of the Martyrs, or read Foxe’s Book of Martyrs (1563), William Tyndale – translator of Bible to English, burned at stake.
  3. Stand with persecuted Christians. “If one part suffers, every part suffers with it,” 1 Corinthians 12:26.
  4. Provide practical help, as possible, for persecuted Christians, including immigrants.
  5. Be ready to give an answer, 1 Pet. 3:15-16.
  6. Trust God for the results– Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego walked out of the fiery furnace, yet Stephen was stoned unto death. God said, “Be faithful unto death, and I will give you the crown of life,”  2:10.
  7. And we’re provided perspective: “For we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the cosmic powers over this present darkness, against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly places” Eph. 6:12.

In the providence of God, real persecution may indeed come to the United States. I do not know what God will ask of us. I do know he will build his church “and the gates of hell will not prevail against it,” Matt. 16:18.

 

Well, we’ll see you again soon. For more Christian commentary, be sure to subscribe to this podcast, Discerning What Is Best, or check my website, r-e-x-m as in Martin, that’s rexmrogers.com. And remember, it is for freedom that Christ has set us free. Stand firm.

© Rex M. Rogers – All Rights Reserved, 2022   

*This podcast blog may be reproduced in whole or in part with a full attribution statement. Contact me or read more commentary on current issues and events at www.rexmrogers.com/, or connect with me at www.linkedin.com/in/rexmrogers.  

Are you stressed, distressed, obsessed, suppressed, repressed, oppressed, or just messed…up?

“Because of the Lord’s great love we are not consumed,
    for his compassions never fail.

They are new every morning;
    great is your faithfulness.

I say to myself, ‘The Lord is my portion;
    therefore I will wait for him.’

The Lord is good to those whose hope is in him,
    to the one who seeks him;

it is good to wait quietly
    for the salvation of the Lord.” (Lamentations 3:22-26).

 

© Rex M. Rogers – All Rights Reserved, 2021    

*This blog may be reproduced in whole or in part with a full attribution statement. Contact me or read more commentary on current issues and events at www.rexmrogers.com/, or connect with me at www.linkedin.com/in/rexmrogers.    

I confess that when I think about not traveling and why we are limited or cannot travel re ongoing government-instituted C-19 protocols, I want to grit my teeth and throw things. 

But then I’m reminded of when I tried this approach as a kid and Mom – who must have been the model for Mrs. Walton who always quoted Scripture on “The Waltons” – would quote the KJV, “This is the day which the Lord hath made; we will rejoice and be glad in it” (Ps. 118:24).

This was Mom's way of saying to an errant son, “Straighten up and fly right.” Who could argue with Mom, much less Scripture?

Mom was right. It's a great perspective verse:

“This is the day that the Lord has made; let us rejoice and be glad in it.” (ESV).

 

© Rex M. Rogers – All Rights Reserved, 2021    

*This blog may be reproduced in whole or in part with a full attribution statement. Contact me or read more commentary on current issues and events at www.rexmrogers.com/, or connect with me at www.linkedin.com/in/rexmrogers.    

Feeling low, depressed, discouraged, disillusioned, anxious, fearful, hopeless?
 
“Rejoice in the Lord always; again I will say, rejoice.
Let your reasonableness be known to everyone. The Lord is at hand;
do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God.
 
And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.
 
Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things.”
 
Phil. 4:4-8
 

© Rex M. Rogers – All Rights Reserved, 2020    

*This blog may be reproduced in whole or in part with a full attribution statement. Contact me or read more commentary on current issues and events at www.rexmrogers.com/, or connect with me at www.linkedin.com/in/rexmrogers.    

Things I pray for that may not be God’s will:

  • COVID-19 to end worldwide, now.
  • Social unrest, including in the US, to cease.
  • Polarization in culture to give way to productive consensus.
  • Authoritarian regimes to fall to democratic movements.
  • Religious liberty for everyone in the world.
  • No more wildfires, hurricanes, or other “bad weather.”
  • Abortion policy reversed; abortions reduced then eliminated.

That last one was the hardest one for me to write. 

The point here is not me suggesting God does not care or that He blesses such travail, but that the Sovereign God is in charge, that accidents or surprises don’t happen in the divine economy, that He works His purposes in spite of and through adversity and evil. 

So, I pray for His providential wisdom, His will, His mercy and grace.

 

© Rex M. Rogers – All Rights Reserved, 2020    

*This blog may be reproduced in whole or in part with a full attribution statement. Contact me or read more commentary on current issues and events at www.rexmrogers.com/, or connect with me at www.linkedin.com/in/rexmrogers.    

One year ago today I had my heart attack. I had a stent procedure, changed my diet and began walking a few miles each morning, lost weight, and otherwise returned to my life, family, and calling. 

Heart attacks get your attention, though. “Yet you do not know what tomorrow will bring. What is your life? For you are a mist that appears for a little time and then vanishes” (James 4:14).

I am grateful to the Lord for his protection and blessing, to the Drs and nurses for their expertise, and to my Good Wife for her decision in the wee hours of that night: “We’re going to the E.R. Now.”

So, I’ll quote a verse my Mother quoted to me many times as I was growing up, “This is the day that the Lord has made; let us rejoice and be glad in it” (Ps. 118:24).

And I’ll cite my favorite chorus, “God is so good. God is so good. God is so good to me.”  

He’s good to you too.

 

© Rex M. Rogers – All Rights Reserved, 2020    

*This blog may be reproduced in whole or in part with a full attribution statement. Contact me or read more commentary on current issues and events at www.rexmrogers.com/, or connect with me at www.linkedin.com/in/rexmrogers.