What difference does the resurrection of Jesus Christ make in your life? What difference does it make in a family and in a country? Christ’s resurrection certainly gives us perspective and hope. It reminds us that we too can have victory over death and the grave through Jesus, and our only hope for eternity is found in faith and trust in Jesus and His finished work on the cross. Our hope finds new joy and anticipation as we too consider the empty tomb. Our Savior is not dead, but rather He is alive. This reality should change the way we live and respond to people and circumstances. It reminds us that we live for eternity and not just for time. It calls us to order our lives according to the teaching of God’s Word and show the world how the resurrection changes our character, our relationships, and how we treat those whom we do not even know. The resurrection creates a bond between believers throughout the world and helps us to better understand the broad concept of family. The Christian family is a global unit, and therefore when one Christian is hurting in Iraq, Christians across the world feel his sorrow. This means we cannot ignore the persecution of Christians regardless of where they live. We share a common faith with Christians everywhere, and therefore it is our responsibility to pray for our brothers and sisters and to do everything in our power to help relieve their struggles. This means writing to our political leaders to express our views and concerns, supporting relief organizations that are reaching out to the persecuted, and praying for Christians who are living daily under the threat of persecution.
I recently listened to David Cameron, the Prime Minister of Great Britain as he shared an Easter message. I encourage you to listen to it. He underscored the role of a Christian nation in reaching out to the down trodden, the persecuted, and the abused. It was refreshing to hear him refer to Great Britain as a Christian nation, and it made me long to see our own nation embrace our Christian heritage. We can expect increased persecution of Christians in the next years, and it is paramount that we pray for our brothers and sisters and support them in any way possible. As we mentally gather at the empty tomb to see that Jesus has indeed risen, we will look around and discover that we share this wonder and awe as well as responsibility with Christians everywhere. Regardless of denominational title or geographical location, we are family together because the tomb is empty. May the death and resurrection of Jesus continue to impact our choices and actions as we live in light of the resurrection of Jesus.
New reports have come out this morning about heightened alerts of terror attacks in the United States in response to a new threat by an Al Qaeda linked group. A video has surfaced where a leader of Al Shabaab, is calling for attacks on shopping malls in the United States, Canada, and Great Britain. This is the same group that was responsible for an attack on a shopping mall in Kenya where 67 people were killed. Witnesses said that gunmen in the Kenyan mall would ask the hostages questions to determine whether or not they were Christians. If the hostages were Christians and would not denounce their faith, they were killed. This type of persecution is typical for Christians living in the last days. When Jesus’ disciples asked Him for signs of His Second Coming, He told them that the persecution of Christians would be one evidence that His return was soon coming. He said in Matthew 24:9, “Then they will deliver you to tribulation, and will kill you, and you will be hated by all nations because of My name.” He said in the next verse, “At that time many will fall away and will betray one another and hate one another.” I think it is clear that as the return of Christ draws closer, it will not be popular to be a Christian and standing for Christ will be costly. There will be many church attenders and “religious” people who deny faith in Christ in response to this persecution.
Mark 13:32-33 says, “But of that day or hour no one knows, not even the angels in heaven, nor the Son, but the Father alone. Take heed, keep on the alert; for you do not know when the appointed time will come.” While Jesus said we do not know the day or hour of His return, He also told us to keep alert and to take heed. He is basically saying, “I have told you the signs that will come before My return so watch the news and read the papers. Be aware of what is going on and ready for My return.” While we do not know the exact date of Christ’s return, and it could still be some years off in the future, there are signs happening all around us that reveal His return could certainly be soon. Let’s pray for our Christian brothers and sisters who are being persecuted all over the earth. Let’s spread the good news of the gospel. Our days may indeed be short and Christ’s return could very well be soon.
The wonderful church I pastor is having a prayer emphasis this week, and today we are being reminded to pray for our government leaders. I invite you to join in with us as we pray for our nation. 1 Timothy 2:1-2 states, “First of all, then, I urge that entreaties and prayers, petitions and thanksgivings, be made on behalf of all men, for kings and all who are in authority, so that we may lead a tranquil and quiet life in all godliness and dignity.” In this call to prayer, the Apostle Paul begins by challenging believers to pray for all people, but especially for government leaders. Think for just a moment about Paul’s world. The government for which Paul was urging prayer was not a government filled with godly leaders. As a matter of fact, they were just the opposite. At that time, Nero was the emperor of Rome, and Nero was far from receptive to Christianity. History tells us that he persecuted Christians ruthlessly. He found great pleasure in torturing believers and trying to ridicule Christians publically. Being a Christian in the Roman Empire at this time was not very well received, but in this context, Paul urged Christians to pray for government leaders and to even thank God for them. The underlying message is that whether we agree with political leaders or not, we are commanded to pray for them.
I would say that God lead Paul to cover nearly every aspect of prayer by using the words “entreaties and prayers, petitions and thanksgivings.” You can easily look at these four words and see them almost as synonyms, but that is not exactly accurate. While the Greek word for “prayer” simply means to talk to God and “petition” means to request something from God, I want to focus for a moment on the first word that is used: “entreaties.” This word means to plead or beg. It carries with it a sense of urgency and desperation. We live in desperate times, and in these times, we are commanded to plead with God on behalf of our leaders. The decisions political leaders make impacts our nation and the world. It is easy to be angry at a leader or disgusted, if we do not agree with them. One thing I have learned is that it is hard to passionately and consistently pray for someone with whom we are angry. Before we pray for our political leaders, we may first need to repent of our attitudes before God and surrender our minds and hearts to the reality that we are in a spiritual battle, and urgent prayer for our political leaders is a key weapon on this battle field. So, today I urge you to pray for our president, our congressmen and women (both nationally and in our state), and our local leaders. Pray for their salvation, if they are not Christians, and pray that they would lead our nation in a way the reflects the truth of God. Pray that God would help them to turn a deaf ear to those who would influence them to govern contrary to God’s truth. Ask God to help us as a nation to be a champion for human rights and that our national leaders would take a stand against the persecution of Christians around the world. Pray for a revival in Washington.
In my book, Immovable: Standing Firm in the Last Days, I share that Christians can expect to be persecuted in the days ahead. We have a Christian brother who is being persecuted and whose 2nd Amendment rights have been trampled. I am speaking of Fire Chief Kelvin Cochran of Atlanta. He published a book entitled “Who Told You That You Were Naked,” which is book about what the Bible has to say about sin. Within the book, he refers to homosexuality as being a sin – which of course the Bible does say. The mayor of Atlanta did not like Cochran’s position on this issue, which means the mayor does not just disagree with Chief Cochran but also with God, so he fired Chief Cochran. This is deplorable and quite frankly, shocking. Where are all of the people who marched in New York to protest recently? Where is the ACLU? There should be a national uproar over trampling the rights of an American citizen for one of the freedoms we hold dear – the freedom of speech. I’m writing this because I think Christians must voice their concern and outrage at this unfair treatment. Fire Chief Cochran is a member of a Baptist church in Atlanta and wrote the book on his own time and self-published it originally as a Bible study on the topic of sin. Please sign a petition that is distributed by the Georgia Baptist Convention and voice your opinion to Mayor Kasim Reed. The petition and contact information for the mayor can be found at this site: http://gabaptist.org/petition. If the mayor’s office was flooded with letters and e-mails expressing our outrage, I believe it could make a difference in reinstating the chief. I’m sure Kasim Reed has future political aspirations, and he must know that U. S. citizens do not look favorably on political leaders who use their authority to attack a basic American freedom. In Paris, terrorists attacked the freedom of speech by murdering 12 employees of a magazine publisher. In Atlanta, this freedom was attacked by firing the Fire Chief. Something must be done to not only protect Chief Cochran but also to protect the U. S. Constitution.