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Persecuted Church in America
"Blessed are those who have been persecuted for the sake of righteousness,
for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.  "Blessed are you when men cast
insults at you, and persecute you, and say all kinds of evil against you
falsely, on account of Me.  "Rejoice, and be glad, for your reward
in heaven is great, for so they persecuted the prophets who were before
Young, beautiful, intelligent--Maria Durant had it all. That is until
she was imprisoned for talking about her relationship with God. 17th Century
France, with all its religious intolerance, was not the place for a vivacious
Christian woman like Maria. Or was it? For 38 years she suffered for Christ
in a prison cell while her peers married, had children and relished their
grandchildren. Life passed her by.
Eventually she died a martyr's death. The enemy thought he silenced
this witness, but he didn't. Though dead, she continues to inspire those
who go to the place where she was imprisoned to read the single word she
scratched on the dungeon wall Resistez--resist!
But that was 17th Century Europe. That kind of travesty of justice could
never happen in the 21st Century, right? And it certainly wouldn't happen
in America, the home of the free and the land of the brave.
In October 1998, David and Diane Reiter of Denver were ordered by the
city to stop their weekly prayer meetings in their home. They could only
meet only once a month. Even though they are complying with all municipal
regulations, a city administrator determined that he did not want any religious
activities in their neighborhood. The Denver couple are presently appealing
the decision in a federal court. (ReligionToday.com Aug. 4, 1999)
This March, Chris King ran for president of Harvard's student council
on the platform of, among other things "values-driven leadership." A fellow
Christian, Meagan White sent out an email to members of the Harvard-Radcliff
Christian fellowship requesting prayer for his candidacy. When news that
King was a Christian became public, the school newspaper came out against
him because King's "... ties to religious groups have raised concerns among
students." (Baptist Standard, March 10, 1999)
Last April, government officials removed a display of the Ten Commandments
from a public building in Manhattan, Kansas. The hand engraved granite
table had hung on the building for over 40 years, but the ACLU and the
Americans United for the Separation of Church and state threatened a law
suit against the city if the display remained. The city fathers choose
to bow to threats instead of listening to the 4,000 residents that signed
a petition asking them to leave the display alone. (FALWELL CONfiDENTIAL,
APRIL 30, 1999)
On April 2, In Seattle, Washington a twenty-five-year-old pregnant woman
was kicked off a public transit bus in the pouring rain. What was her disruptive
behavior? The bus driver overheard her talking with a fellow passenger
about the Lord. (AFR News, April 9, 1999)
During the same month, the U.S. 5th District Court of Appeals ruled
that clergy in Beaumont, Texas were no longer allowed on school property
to answer students questions about religion, sex or abortion. ( FALWELL
CONfiDENTIAL, APRIL 30, 1999) But of course, propagators of the "safe sex"
religion can still find an audience in Texas schools. Humanists can still
tell a scarred, vulnerable teenage girl that the answer to her problems
is abortion, but clergyman are no longer permitted to pray or offer council.
In May, the 11th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals ruled that students in
Duval, County FL could no longer decide whether or not to have student-led
prayers in their graduation ceremonies. According to Chief Justice Joseph
Hatchett, a policy that allows prayer "coerces objecting students to participate
in prayer." (News Summary for Friday, May 14, 1999 religiontoday.com)
You know about the shootings at Baptist Churches in the Dallas area
(http://www.coppellgazette.com/front/99/0923/index5.html )and the one in
our own state at the Home Church in Fresno, CA, (http://www.sbc.net/articles/1999/10/07/bpa3.asp)
and I'm sure you've heard about the COLOMBINE HIGH SCHOOL shootings--I
mean who hasn't, but I wonder if you've heard the whole story? The news
media have painted the church shootings as "random acts of violence by
crazed people," but I wonder if there isn't more to it than that? Why would
they enter a house of worship on Wednesday evening instead of a shopping
mall or a sports stadium?
According to the editors of Religiontoday.com, the "Two teenage gunmen
at Columbine High School shot students they knew were Christians." The
news media widely circulated that they targeted athletes and minorities,
but downplayed their thirst for Christian's blood.
Everyone knew about Cassie Bernall's faith. After a brush with the dark
side, she found Christ as her Savior and when she did, she didn't keep
her faith a secret. A member of West Bowles Community Church in Littleton,
she took her Bible to school every day and wore a "What Would Jesus Do?"
She was in the library when the gunman burst into the room and asked
her a question, "Do you believe in God?" Among her final words was the
word "yes." She
A year before the shootings, Rachel Scott wrote these words in her diary:
"I am not going to justify my faith to them, and I am not going to hide
the light that God has put into me. ... if I have to sacrifice everything,
I will. I will take it. If my friends have to become my enemies for me
to be with my best friend Jesus, then that's fine with me."
Rachel wrote these words exactly one year before she was slain for confessing
her faith at Columbine High School, April 20, 1999. (SBC Life June 99)
Rachael attended Orchard Road Christian Church, an Assemblies of God
congregation. Lori Anderson, one of the staff members of the church said
Scott was "a remarkable, committed Christian girl who had a passion for
God and for people. She was fun loving and gifted in drama and public speaking."
(ReligionToday.com April 23, 1999)
For years I've encouraged my congregation to pray for the persecuted
church. Little did I know that soon, I'd be asking people to pray for the
persecuted in America. I know that what is happening isn't "state sanctioned,"
so it doesn't meet the technical definition of persecution, yet the enemy
is attacking nonetheless.
The time has come. Persecution will increase. Are you ready? Some of
our congregation may one day soon be stationed in persecution hot spots
around the world. Will you be ready? Is there any good that can some from
A few months after the tragedy, I referenced the Littleton shooting
in one of my FreshStart devotionals. Shortly thereafter one of my church
members emailed me with this note:
Pastor, I thought you might like to see this. I have been forwarding
the FreshStart devotional to a friend of ours, John Beth, in Colorado Springs
for a few weeks now. This was his reply to the one I sent today. It is
wonderful to know that God is always able to bring good out of bad. Jamie.
Now a portion of the forwarded note:
"Just a little update on the Littleton issue. Living so close to the
tragedy, we are still getting a lot of emotions between the Denver area
and the Springs here. On the good side, a revival has broken out in our
cities. The people's awareness of God has been sizable here and many teens
are turning to God. Just like MADD and programs like it, many high schools
have started doing "GUN FREE" pledge sheets where students are signing
pledge sheets in commitment to not carry, handle or be involved in arms
in our public schools. Kids and parents are devoting more attention to
their relationships and to their surroundings. Police patrolling and armed
officers will be more involved on school campuses and are readily available
to the teens for any situation." John
Satan hasn't learned, has he? He cannot destroy the church with persecution.
God can use it to spread the gospel.
Norm Boshoff once said, "Persecution no more defeats the church than
water can defeat a grease fire in the kitchen. Water doesn't put out a
grease fire but simply spreads it. The same thing is true of persecution
As we consider the plight of Christians around the world and close to
home, shall we commit to pray that we will stand fast and that God may
be glorified--whatever happens.