Already Dead

‘In late 1944 conditions in Lunghua [internment camp] continued to worsen, not through deliberate neglect by the Japanese authorities, but because they had lost all interest in us… The huge Japanese armies in China were ready to defend the Emperor and the home islands to the last man.

Nowhere had Japanese soldiers surrendered in large numbers. Fatalism, fierce discipline and a profound patriotism shaped their warrior spirit. In some way, I think, the Japanese soldier assumed unconsciously that he had already died in battle, and the apparent life left to him was on a very short lease. This explained their vicious cruelty.’

from ‘Miracles of Life, Shanghai to Shepperton, An Autobiography’ by J.G. Ballard

I wonder if this is a similar situation to that of today’s suicide bombers, or members of Islamic State? We’ve all seen the shocking news reports of beheadings, violence and rape of young girls. Do they believe there is no other choice and sooner or later they’ll be dead anyway? Is this nothing more than a bleak reflection of a life without hope? Here, perhaps, is how we learn to pray for our enemies.

So I am praying for my persecuted brothers and sisters in Christ in war torn areas. May they be granted the grace and courage to truly be light in all that darkness.

Jesus said, “You are the light of the world. A city built on a hill cannot be hidden.” (Matt. 5:14)

What a great commission. If you would like to know more about how to help our suffering family, please visit Open Doors .

I

The Kingdom of God Expressed Through Community

As I was listening to Luke 14, I was thinking about the means by which the representation of love expresses itself. In other words how we, as followers of Jesus, manifest His presence to those around us. What does this look like? Then I came to this part:

‘When [Jesus] went into the house of one of the rulers… to eat bread, they were watching him… when he noticed how they chose the best seats, [he] said to them, “When you are invited by anyone… don’t sit in the best seat, since perhaps someone more honourable than you might be invited… and he who invited both of you would come and tell you [to move]… Then you would begin, with shame, to take the lowest place. But when you are invited, go and sit in the lowest place, so that when he who invited you comes, he may tell you, ‘Friend, move up higher.’ 

…He also said to the one who had invited him, “When you make a dinner or a supper, don’t call your friends, nor your brothers, nor your kinsmen, nor rich neighbours, or perhaps they might also return the favour, and pay you back. But when you make a feast, ask the poor, the maimed, the lame, or the blind; and you will be blessed, because they don’t have the resources to repay you. For you will be repaid in the resurrection of the righteous.”

When one of those who sat at the table with him heard these things, he said to him, “Blessed is he who will feast in God’s Kingdom!”

extract from Luke 14:1-15 (WEB)

Blessed indeed. Aren’t we, as followers of Jesus, literally those who have ‘invited’ Jesus? Isn’t this what we profess as the root of our faith? How many times have you invited your friends round for dinner, or similar? How many times have you invited the poor, the maimed, the lame… or whatever might be the 21st century equivalent? I can’t think of a single time when I have done the latter. Can you? I bow my head knowing how far I fall short.

I am also struck by the idea of the concurrence of humility, kindness and generosity. One doesn’t stand on its own, not when we know Jesus. They are all part of the same, part of the great language of agape, as Brother Andrew puts it.

It seems to me that everything in the Kingdom of God is expressed through community, and that one of the greatest lies of our times is that the world revolves around ‘me’.

Indifference

‘Persecution is an enemy the Church has met and mastered many times;

indifference could prove to be a far more dangerous foe.’

from God’s Smuggler by Brother Andrew, founder of Open Doors

In my life, I can see how true this has been. Imho, indifference is one of the West’s biggest problems. We are indifferent towards our families, indifferent towards our communities, indifferent towards the environment, indifferent towards the poor, indifferent towards the lost and suffering. We justify it to ourselves, and the justifications sound good. They seem plausible, sensible even, sometimes. But Jesus taught us that the very last thing we should be is indifferent. Apathy, indifference, whatever you want to call it, is at least as destructive as ‘active’ evil. Indeed, indifference could easily be described as a ‘passive’ form of evil. Yet however you dress it up, evil is still evil. But don’t worry, you don’t have to be a preacher, or a missionary, or a theologian, or [insert worthy calling of choice]. Jesus says that even a cup of water to someone who is thirsty, if it is done in His name, makes us part of His kingdom.

The people ask, “Why should we fast if the Lord never notices? Why should we go without food if he pays no attention?” [notice the rationalisation of indifference]

The Lord says to them…“The kind of fasting I want is this: Remove the chains of oppression and the yoke of injustice, and let the oppressed go free. Share your food with the hungry and open your homes to the homeless poor. Give clothes to those who have nothing to wear, and do not refuse to help your own relatives…’

extract from Isaiah 58:3-7 (GNT)

My Brothers, My Sisters

Caring isn’t a Christian’s sideline hobby. Caring is a Christian’s complete career. We don’t just care about people — caring about people is our job — the job every single one of us get up to do every single day. That’s it. Caring is our job, our point, our purpose. We’re here to care like a boss… 

Because God forbid, you don’t get a roof over your head, food on your table and the safety of no bullets shattering your windows because you deserve more — you only get all that so that you get to serve more.’

Read more of Ann Voskamp’s brutally honest post about the desperate realities of life as a refugee fleeing Islamic State here:

Into Iraq #2: What the News isn’t Telling You & Why We Can’t Afford to Pretend it’s Not Happening

You can donate via Ann’s page to The Preemptive Love Coalition, or you can donate to Open Doors. Both are there on the ground with the refugees. I have no more words. Just read it. Please. Give what you can.

Far Away and Close at Hand

CHIBOK GIRLS MISSING FOR OVER A YEAR

The girls abducted from a school in Chibok have now been missing for one year and three days. For their parents who continue to hope and pray for their return, it feels like an eternity. Of the 252 girls that were taken, 16 jumped off the trucks, four escaped after arriving in the Sambisa forest, but 232 are still missing.

It seems likely that they have been moved to another country, possibly Niger. Muhammadu Buhari, the recently elected President of Nigeria, has said that his government will ‘do everything in its power to bring them home’ but that he ‘cannot promise that we can find them’.

PLEASE PRAY:

  • Continue to pray for the protection and safe return of the Chibok girls
  • For comfort for their parents. Twenty of them have died since the girls were taken, many because of stress-related illnesses.
  • For wisdom for those who are working to secure the safe release of the girls.

From an email from Open Doors, a charity serving persecuted Christians worldwide. I can only imagine what those parents are going through. My heart goes out to them. I can’t doing anything other than pray and show my support through agencies like Open Doors. Lord, in your mercy, hear our prayer.

What about closer to home? What can we do to love those who are distraught and in our midst? Too often the response is to avoid the person, because their grief or distress is so deep that it seems overwhelming and although we might like to help, we just don’t know how. Plus, it’s scary. We fear becoming entangled in their pain and distress. We know that, as followers of Jesus, we must be kind, we must show compassion, but what can we do? I’d like to share this, which happened when I was a teenager:

My grandparents were visiting us for Christmas. On the evening they arrived, my grandmother was taken ill. She was rushed to hospital and the next few weeks were a blur as she was admitted to hospital, sent home, admitted to hospital again, had surgery… and then she died. My grandfather, my father and his brother were overwhelmed. Their grief was palpable; it seemed to hang in the air.

My grandfather stayed with us for four months after her death. One morning, I heard him sobbing. The door was open so I went in the room. I put my arm on his shoulder and stayed with him until the sobs lessened. Later that day he said to me, “How did you know?”

“How did I know what?” I replied.

“How did you know to not say anything?”

I looked him in the eye and shook my head, “I just did.”

“Thank you.” He said.

Sometimes words are not enough. Sometimes words are too much. Lord, in your mercy, hear our prayer.

EMDR, LENT, TRAINING

I’ve had to take a break from my studies to focus on getting well. It was the right decision, but sometimes, if I compare myself to the world, I can’t help but see all that I missed. My peers went to school; I missed school. My peers did their A-levels and went off to university; I didn’t. My peers began jobs and careers; I didn’t.

It’s not that I resent the fact that I never had any of these things, because what difference does resentment make? None! So it’s a useless, destructive thing to hang onto. Nonetheless it would be so easy to feel ‘less than’. In the past few weeks of EMDR, I have had to face the extent and depth of my brokenness, but I have been strangely surprised by my strength too. Genuinely surprised. I may not have pieces of paper to prove my ‘qualifications’, but God has had me in training for years, just as today’s email from the Open Doors ‘Step of Yes’ series said. As Paul wrote to the Thessalonians, so God has said to all of us today:

‘…you don’t need any written instructions. God himself is teaching you to love each other, and you are already extending your love… make it your ambition to have no ambition!’

1 Thessalonians 4:9,10 (JB Phillips)

Lent: What Makes Us Useful?

Brother Andrew… had always been puzzled by our interest in a book project.

“I can’t imagine why you’d want to write about me,” he had said when we first proposed it, “who would be interested? I’m the son of a village blacksmith – never even graduated from high school. I’m just an ordinary person.”

That, of course, was exactly the appeal of his story. How indeed had God been able to use a fellow with a bad back, a limited education, no sponsorship and no funds, to do things that well-connected, well-endowed people said were impossible? …that was what made Brother Andrew’s adventures so intriguing.

From Prologue to God’s Smuggler by Brother Andrew

with John and Elizabeth Sherill

You can read more about Brother Andrew and Open Doors here.

Needed Time

I’m off to my EMDR session tomorrow, with the full intention of trying to ‘let go’. My friend is in labour with her first baby. My parents are flying back to Europe this week from America. The children are at school tomorrow. A friend mourns his wife.

In the Middle East, Christians are fleeing their homes, their livelihoods, running from everything they have ever known. Worse still, some of them stay, knowing the consequences but choosing to live as people of light in the land of darkness, God help them. God bless them. See how bright they blaze in the darkness?

Children the world over are abandoned, abused, neglected. Families starve in the basement while in the penthouse they party with champagne. One is born into poverty. One is born into privilege. The world groans under the weight of her own iniquities.

Now is the needed time. Lord. As much as ever, we need You. We need a Saviour. Help us to be thankful for ‘enough’ and when we have more than enough, help us to share. Help us to always be alert to the suffering of our brothers and sisters, and to help them in whatever small way we can. We know that with You, Lord, small becomes big, last becomes first, poor becomes rich. Thank you, Lord, for your Upside Down Kingdom. Help us in our weakness. We need You.

Amen

Lent: As the Father has Loved

‘1968. Jerusalem. Brother Andrew had spent a decade visiting the church in Communist lands. He had built a team to help him. But the success of God’s Smuggler meant he was now too well known and could not return to those countries. A visit to Israel brought him face to face with the conflict between Muslim, Jew and Christian in the Middle East. He read again Christ’s messages to the church in Revelation. ‘To him who overcomes…’ [Revelation 3:7-13]

“But most of the churches in that letter had not ‘overcome’. They no longer existed. Individual churches could die… I knew then that my mission was to seek out the living church in the Middle East, learn about her condition and needs, and do whatever I could do to strengthen her.”

The core of Brother Andrew’s message is love. “Here’s what we need to remember: I Sincerely Love All Muslims.” Or ISLAM for short.’

from Open Doors email

as part of the Step of Yes series

Amen. ‘I Sincerely Love All Muslims’ – ‘Islam’ for short.

*********

This morning I had a cup of tea brought to me by my wonderful husband. The mug containing the tea was printed with the words ‘Love was His meaning’ over and over. How amazing  – no, how beautiful – that I should be sipping my tea from that mug and reading the above from Open Doors. A gentle reminder that God is good when times are good and God is good when times are bad.

‘Would you know your Lord’s meaning in this thing? Know it well, love was his meaning. Who showed it to you? Love. What did he show you? Love. Why did he show it? For love. Keep yourself therein and you shall know and understand more in the same. But you shall never know nor understand any other thing, forever.’

from Revelations of Divine Love

by Julian of Norwich

As the Father has loved me, so I have loved you; abide in my love.

John 15:9 (NRSVA)

Where is Jesus? Where are We?

Below is the content of an email from an organization called Open Doors.

Open Doors stands up for and helps persecuted Christians around the world. It recognises that in Christ, we are one.

“Who will rise up for me against the wicked? Who will take a stand for me against evildoers?” Psalm 94:16

Nigeria

“Mummy, why isn’t the world standing up for us too?”

Amongst the many cartoons that have been doing the rounds in the last week, there’s one that shows victims of the Nigeria massacre forlornly looking down on the Paris protests. A child asks, “Mummy, why isn’t the world standing up for us too?”

Just before the Kouachi brothers unleashed their shooting spree on an office in Paris, on 7 January, Boko Haram attacked the Nigerian town of Baga, terrorising and killing at least 150 people. Some witnesses say there may have been as many as 2,000 victims, many of whom drowned while fleeing to Chad. Unlike events in France, the attack on Baga had no live broadcast. There were no reporters present, nobody tweeted for help or texted the police. Gruesome pictures were posted later but were largely ignored, especially in Nigeria.

Christians angry

Because of the understandable difficulty of getting information after incidents like these (see BBC report), we don’t yet know how this has impacted Christians. What we do know is that Christians in Nigeria are angry. In November, hundreds of Christians, displaced by the Islamist insurgency in Nigeria’s north, staged protests to express their outrage over the government’s failure to protect them. Daniel Kadzai, Chairman of the Christian Association of Nigeria for the North Central Zone, declared:

”The Federal Government has toyed with the lives and limbs of the Christians in northern Nigeria for political gains. There is no explanation the government can give as to why the Federal troops will run away from the towns prior to the attack on such towns by Boko Haram.”

The publication of Open Doors’ new World Watch List last week shows that Nigeria, for the first time, has entered the top 10. Last year, 2,484 Christians were killed there for faith-related reasons and 108 churches were attacked. The Church of the Brethren in Nigeria has been the worst affected by the insurgency. In the last five years, over 8,000 of their members have been killed. How would we respond if that were happening in our country?

Let’s stand up for our brothers and sisters in prayer and action. There’s still time to invite your MP to the launch of the Open Doors report on global persecution next Tuesday.

Source: BBC; Open Doors

Please Pray:

  • That Christians in Nigeria will lead the way in responding to violence with grace and truth
  • For the people of Nigeria to choose justice and peace as elections take place next month
  • For world leaders, that as well as responding to terror attacks in Paris and Belgium, they will take seriously the extreme persecution and violence faced by Christian communities around the world.

With many thanks for your prayers.

Open Doors Prayer Team