CultureWatch

Bill Muehlenberg's commentary on issues of the day...

They Suffer and Die While We Party

Apr 11, 2013

As we speak, all over the world Christians are being persecuted, imprisoned, tortured, and killed for their faith. The worst persecution of Christianity in its 20-century history is happening now. Yet we in the comfortable West basically don’t know about this or don’t give a rip about it.

We are far too entertained and amused in our pews to be bothered by anything “negative” like this – out of sight, out of mind. We are far too interested in the good life, in our masses of material goods and our non-stop entertainment – both in and out of the churches.

Indeed, we are far too busy anyway to be involved in these sorts of issues. After all, we have all those Farmville games to play, all those movies to watch, all those big plasma TVs to view, all those fancy vacations to enjoy, all those concerts to attend, all those feasts to consume, all those trivial pursuits to pursue.

Who has time for thinking about or praying for the persecuted church when we have so many goodies to fully occupy our time with? With 24/7 entertainment, we have all we need. And our churches are up to their ears in entertainment and celebrity culture as well, so we can have it all, seven days a week.

But the bloodshed, torture and violence elsewhere continues, whether we acknowledge it or not, and whether we care about it or not. Egypt is just one example of the horrific persecution of Christians. Christian Newswire just released this statement about the scene there:

“What has been described as the Arab Spring has evolved into deadly seasons, especially for the original Christian inhabitants of these lands. The dictators who once ruled these countries are being replaced by militant Islamic regimes that are bent on cleansing their nations from all Christians.

“Not a day passes in Egypt without Christian homes, businesses and churches burnt to the ground. Members of the Christian minority are wounded and killed. It is common for their children to be kidnapped for ransom or for coerced conversion to Islam. In village after village, militant Muslims drive Christians from their homes and businesses, where they have lived for generations.

“A recent atrocity in Egypt exemplifies violence unprecedented in modern history. On Sunday April 7, 2013, a funeral service was held at St Mark’s Coptic Cathedral for the victims of Muslim violence in the village of Al Khosous. As the four coffins were carried from the church, Islamic mobs attacked the mourners throwing rocks, grenades, tear gas and fire bombs, killing two more Christians and wounding dozens. The mob also attacked the Cathedral compound which includes the headquarters of the Coptic Papacy and residence of the Pope. Police took more than an hour to respond, and when they arrived, they did nothing to stop the attack. There are reports that some officers actually fired tear gas grenades into the Cathedral. The symbolic ramifications of these acts are frightening.

“The United States shares responsibility for what is happening to Egypt’s Christians. The USA encouraged the takeover of Egypt by the Muslim Brotherhood with full knowledge that the organization has a history of violence and bloodshed. The United States has a powerful bargaining tool to help stop the violence. It gives Egypt 2 Billion Dollars annually in foreign aid. The President and Congress should make it known that the funding is at risk unless a quick peaceful solution is found for the plight of The Coptic Christians of Egypt.”

And here in Australia Opposition Leader Tony Abbott has just come out in support of the persecuted Copts. His media statement said this:

“The Coalition is concerned that Egypt’s Copts continue to face great stress. In the latest incident, on 7 April, a funeral at Cairo’s St Mark’s Coptic cathedral for four Copts killed in sectarian violence came under attack resulting in a further death and many injuries.

“Tragically, the collapse of the Mubarak regime has led to increased violence against Egypt’s Coptic community. Since then, Copts around the world, including the tens of thousands in Australia, have been increasingly anxious about the difficult situation faced by members of their faith in Egypt.

“As I said at a major prayer vigil in Sydney in October 2011, a democracy must be judged not by how effectively it implements the will of the majority but how effectively it protects of the rights of the minority.

“The Australian government should impress on the Egyptian authorities, including through a statement, its concerns about the situation of Egypt’s Coptic community and urge the country’s leaders to establish a fully democratic political system which protects the rights of minorities. For the Coalition, nothing less is acceptable.”

Well done Tony. It is certainly a start, although a somewhat stronger statement might have been preferred. But it is certainly more than we are getting from Labor, that’s for sure. We all need to write to Tony and encourage him in this, and see to it that he does more on this. Please write to him here: tony.abbott.mp@aph.gov.au

Let me close by making a risky statement – one that may alienate some folks. But I don’t really mind too much. It may be harsh, but I believe it needs to be said. In July tens of thousands of believers will rush to Hillsong in Sydney to hear preachers like Joel Osteen and other big celebs in the Christian world.

Speakers like Osteen will be telling the masses that ‘you can have a better life, you can be successful, you can be happy’. In the meantime Christians will continue to be tortured to death in Egypt, North Korea and elsewhere. I wonder if the crowds will hear anything about this all week at this conference.

Will they hear anything about the slaughter of the unborn: 100,000 babies a year in Australia? Some 50 million annually worldwide? Will anything be said about the assault on marriage and family? Will anything be said – or done – about the millions of starving people around the world?

Or will it be just one big bless-me club, with lots of entertainment, rock concerts, and feel-good messages? Time will tell. But why does Amos 5:21 keep coming to mind here? “I hate, I despise your religious festivals; your assemblies are a stench to me.”

I hope this is not how our Lord looks at some of our Christian gatherings today. But he is the same yesterday, today and forever – so he may well feel this way about all sorts of our holy huddles. I want to make sure this is not how he views me and my activities.

So if we concentrate on what is really important, rather than just seeking to have a good time and feel good about ourselves, we need not worry about this harsh judgment. But if not, we better stand up and take notice. As the next three verses of Amos 5 say:

“Even though you offer up to Me burnt offerings and your grain offerings,
I will not accept them;
And I will not even look at the peace offerings of your fatlings.
Take away from Me the noise of your songs;
I will not even listen to the sound of your harps.
But let justice roll down like waters
And righteousness like an ever-flowing stream.”

Or as Jesus said in Matthew 25:34-40:

“Then the King will say to those on His right, ‘Come, you who are blessed of My Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world. For I was hungry, and you gave Me something to eat; I was thirsty, and you gave Me something to drink; I was a stranger, and you invited Me in; naked, and you clothed Me; I was sick, and you visited Me; I was in prison, and you came to Me.’ Then the righteous will answer Him, ‘Lord, when did we see You hungry, and feed You, or thirsty, and give You something to drink? And when did we see You a stranger, and invite You in, or naked, and clothe You? When did we see You sick, or in prison, and come to You?’ The King will answer and say to them, ‘Truly I say to you, to the extent that you did it to one of these brothers of Mine, even the least of them, you did it to Me’.”

www.christiannewswire.com/news/5451671871.html
www.auscma.com/2013/04/11/press-release-from-the-hon-tony-abbott/

[1393 words]

25 Responses to They Suffer and Die While We Party

  • This is a prophetic word. I forwarded it around the world.
    Rodney Gynther, Melbourne

  • Thanks Bill I concure with all that you say, and good on your for having the Character and the guts to so bluntly put it. Thats what I love about you, you say it as it is, not as many would like it to be pleasurable to the sounding of one’s ears.

    I only hope those involved in the upcoming Christian Confrences will have read your Post and take heed of your God given Counsel and reveal to their Listeners and all within their sight and hearing the attrocities being committed against Christians and also Non-Christians alike and to prick the hearts of every God fearing Christian to take up the cause for abolishment of these persecutions and ongoing evils.

    Leigh D Stebbins

  • Hi Bill, (first time, long time)

    I would highly recommend that everyone who reads this go and sign up to receive and donate to “Barnabas aid”.

    They provide support to the persecuted Church and will send out magazines and prayer books which highlight a specific country everyday and the issues the Christians there face and ways to support and pray for them.

    Most of the time you just read these stories and weep for these people. The fact that their faith stays so strong while being tortured in a shipping container (as it is common in Eritrea) makes you examine your own life and praise God for the things he has given you, ask for his forgiveness for all the times we loose faith in such trivial situations and encourages us to stand up for God regardless of the costs involved.

    May we never forget to pray for these people, our brothers and sisters in the Lord.

    Thanks Bill.

    Daniel Ruggeri

  • Thanks Daniel. Yes groups like Barnabas Fund are doing a great job and we need to support them all we can:

    http://barnabasfund.org/AU/

    Bill Muehlenberg, CultureWatch

  • Thank you, Bill. We need a constant reminder to pray for our persecuted brethren daily, that the Lord will comfort them and strengthen them, protect their children and ensure that they do not have more than they can endure. On Sunday I was asked to speak over the communion service at church. I felt to share on sacrifice and partaking in the same Spirit as the Lord by taking the emblems. I shared a story of a short term missionary who was taken and beaten almost daily until he reached a point of trying to suicide. Then the Lord appeared to him and with a beaming smile, told the man that He loves him. Not long after that the man had a breakthrough and was freed from the prison but not before he had accepted the fact that he could be in that prison for the rest of his life. I shared that the Lord doesn’t always rescue us right away. We don’t always get the payback on our giving or other sacrifices immediately. We are called to pay a price. A few minutes after I delivered that message another young man stood and with a very upbeat tone shared a more ‘encouraging and positive’ message. At the end of his message he slipped out, ‘have a wicked day’. Without trying to be judgmental of all our positivity, I wondered if we’ve got it so wrong and what it’s going to take for God to snap us into our positions as foot soldiers in His army whose lives are not our own. I know I’ve got a long way to go there.

    Dee Graf

  • Hi Bill,

    Thank you for these frank words.
    I pray that this message will sink deeply in our lives and we may wake up!

    Blessings,
    Jeremy Hopwood, A.C.T

  • This, as well as many other locations around the world where Christian and other minorities are persecuted violently and regularly.Still the the Islamic clerics in the west declare, “Islam is a religion of tolerance and peace”
    How do we seriously listen to such nonsense under the banner of “political correctness”.

    Mike Lyons

  • Thank you Bill for rightly highlighting the plight of our dear brothers and sisters in Egypt. Open Doors have a wonderful DVD which I watched with our family at Easter about the realities of the issues in Egypt. Their film “Behind the Sun” brings to life the true situation in Egypt. It is very worthwhile watching and can be purchased from Open Doors website. It would be a great resource for a youth group or Sunday night service.

    Regarding Hillsong, the gatherings actually are not a “bless-me club” as many propose. I have attended the Hillsong Colour conference for 7 years and the first time I attended I had a dramatic Holy Spirit “attitude adjustment”. They actually lend strength to the causes across the earth who are committed to serving the poor by virtue of their number and their public profile. Hillsong is working for the causes and not just to serve themselves. One of the main reasons I keep returning to Colour is to stay in touch with the emerging needs across the nations and to hear how I may respond. At every conference they educate and update those present about the forgotten and suffering people of this world. They understand that by harnessing numbers, the amounts raised by Hillsong can have a significant impact. Hillsong very effectively presents the issues you mention above and always expresses options for everyday people to respond to these issues. They sow huge resources into rescuing girls in sex trafficking as well as programs aimed at prevention and education. They support orphans and AIDS-affected communities in Africa and many other people without a voice in the nations under oppressive regimes.

    Bill I appreciate your frustration with the culture of many churches and I agree that the Aussie church needs a wake up to our deep responsibility toward the persucted church. We will be held accountable for how we respond and we must be admonished to support the people suffering and dying for OUR faith. I realise Hillsong is an easy target because of it’s size and influence, but in this case you are incorrect.
    I thank God and bless Hillsong for jointly working with other organisations to wake up the Australian church.
    NB: I am not a member of a Hillsong church 🙂

    Sue King

  • Thank you for this reminder Bill. Many of us have persecuted Christians on our prayer lists but some of us need a reminder to pray more.

    David Morrison

  • G’day Bill,

    I have read more than a few of your posts, and I think they have all been insightful to me.

    I guess the question for me is this: how much of ourselves do we get to spend on ourselves? I am sure you’ve hit a nail on the head with reference to many of us being dull to the plight of others, be they saved or unsaved. But….

    This world is full of hardship and heartache. Even in the First World, where all of our needs are generally met, even for many of the poor, and many of our greeds are met too, we have millions of people who are falling apart or struggling for various reasons.

    Are we to live 24/7 to fix this broken world? That seems like a God sized task to me, not a man sized task. Maybe not even a man_with_God sized task. Things go to ruin in the book of Revelation. Without being fatalistic, if ‘we will always have the poor with us’ and the whole world is sin riddled and affected, just how much of ourselves is to be lived trying to right wrongs?

    Or is the answer, we aren’t to enjoy this life in any way, shape or form that our fleshly selves might care for, as we’ve been bought at a great price [God Himself]?

    I always feel awkward when people post the things like you have in this article. Am I loved and forgiven, or am I a worm, am I a son, or a servant, or a slave ??

    Sincerely, yours in Christ,
    William Hooke

  • Thanks William

    But with all due respect, the very fact that you ask such questions indicates that something may be somewhat amiss in our thinking as Christians here. Let me explain: The truth is this: Jesus Christ left all the comforts and joys of heaven to live among us, and take all the abuse, hatred, mockery and rejection we dished out to him. Although sinless and innocent, he suffered more than any other man, culminating in the horrific crucifixion. He did this all for us while we were yet sinners, so that we might be forgiven and gain new life.

    He gave everything for us in other words. Thus to speak about “how much time should I spend on myself” in a sense is quite astray. Jesus gave 100% of his time and life for us, so how can we not return the favour? We owe him everything, not just 10% or 50% or whatever. He is either Lord of all or he is not Lord at all.

    Sure, we all need obvious times of rest, relaxation, hobbies and so on. No one is denying that. But we are asking the wrong questions when we ask how much can I give to Jesus or how much can I hold back. He demands our all, because he gave us his all.

    So take time out for some sport or relaxation or reading and family and work, etc. That is fine. But recall that our real rest will come in heaven. Here we have a job to do. There is a war going on: souls are perishing all around us, and our brothers and sisters are dying for their faith, while we have a life of ease and pleasure in the West.

    Another person asked me similar questions, and said we need to have “balance” here. I replied with words to this effect: What do you mean by ‘balance’? It is exactly because probably 95% of the church in the West is simply living the good life, and does not give a rip about their brothers and sisters elsewhere that we hardly need balance. What we need is a Holy Ghost kick in the pants to rouse us out of our slumber and gross carnality. I don’t really think there are too many Christians who are doing too much here, loving Christ too much, and being too active for the Kingdom – one in a thousand maybe. So most of us need a shake-up here, and need to move out of our lethargy and comfort zones and start getting serious about our faith.

    As Leonard Ravenhill so rightly said, “Many pastors criticize me for taking the Gospel so seriously. But do they really think that on Judgment Day, Christ will chastise me, saying, ‘Leonard, you took Me too seriously’?”

    And as to what we can do to practically help the persecuted church, I speak to that issue here: https://billmuehlenberg.com/1998/08/30/christian-persecution-2/

    Finally, as to your last question, we are accepted in the beloved, and also slaves of Christ. We are sons of God, but we exist to serve and glorify Him. We are called his friends, but we are also told the servant is not above his master. No contradictions here at all. We have a love relationship with Christ, but he is forever God and we are forever his grateful disciples. So we need the attitude of Paul here: “What is more, I consider everything a loss because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord, for whose sake I have lost all things. I consider them garbage, that I may gain Christ” (Phil 3:8).

    That is just basic Christianity 101 after all.

    Bill Muehlenberg, CultureWatch

  • Also William, in answer to your query, “just how much of ourselves is to be lived trying to right wrongs?”, I try to deal with that here:
    https://billmuehlenberg.com/1997/10/10/the-case-for-christian-social-involvement/

    And here:
    https://billmuehlenberg.com/1999/04/08/end-times-and-christian-responsibility/

    Bill Muehlenberg, CultureWatch

  • I do see what you are saying – we are really either Christ’s or we are not. But then, we are finite and God seems to need to take us through successive revelation rather than hitting us with one big download of what it means to be ‘in Christ’.

    I guess I am still having my thinking ironed out 🙂 It seems a little strange to me that having ‘me’ time, can be exactly what God is wanting me to do at a particular moment, and can still be something I do ‘for Him’. I guess I am still using Greek thinking in somethings. Useful for Science and Humanities, but comes up short in the multi-threaded things of God XD

    I will look at those three links you have offered me. Thank you 🙂

    If you have not seen Jossy Chacko’s morning sermon at Crossway on Sunday passed, 7th April, you’d probably like it as it is parallel with what you are saying. I think his evening sermon was like this too….

    Thank you for your time, and may God continue to use you in keeping us to His narrow path.

    With love, William Hooke

  • Thanks again William

    Yes we all must think and pray these issues through. I guess the short answer to all this is what Paul said in Col. 3:17: “And whatever you do, whether in word or deed, do it all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him.”

    And yes I heard Jossy on Sunday morning.

    Bill Muehlenberg, CultureWatch

  • Daniel R your are absolutely right about Barnabas Fund’s work-which I support. I have protested to the Iranian and Pakistani embassies about the treatment of Christians and also tried to raise the plight of the Copts to various senators such as Senator Xenophon – he seems only interested in being a headliner.
    Whilst Tony Abbott has come out in support of the Copts, Was it his immigration spokesman Scott Morrision – supposedly a Christian – made comments about Copts needing to wait their turn to come to Australia?

    Wayne Pelling

  • Thanks for this article.

    This was not a comfortable read, but the kind of thing I need to be reminded of.

    I am aware of the realities of persecution, since I receive the prayer newsletter from Voice of the Martyrs.

    I do not hear about these kinds of things happening to Christians around the world at my church.

    Scott McPhee

  • Thank you Bill. The dreadful persecution of Christians in various countries has been on my conscience for some time, but with so many other Christian causes to support, I have been putting this issue in the “too hard” or “leave it to others” basket.

    Your article has straight away caused me to repent of this attitude. I will go to the link for Barnabas Fund and find ways to support them.

    Thank you for the great and courageous work you do.I will continue to pray for you and your loved ones daily.

    Brian Pratt, Sydney

  • Many thanks Brian

    Bill Muehlenberg, CultureWatch

  • Hi Bill,

    I have read your post and as a Coptic Christian living in Australia pray for the peace of Egypt continually, as they are my brothers and sisters in Christ.

    What a great post that exemplifies Christian thought and Ideas, your prayers will never go un-noticed by the Lord Jesus Christ keep them flowing.

    The Lord Jesus Christ says in Matthew 7:13 “Enter by the narrow gate; for wide is the gate and broad is the way that leads to destruction, and there are many who go in by it. Because narrow is the gate and difficult is the way which leads to life, and there are few who find it.

    We as Christians MUST go in by the narrow gate if we chose to live with the Lord Jesus Christ, if the gate is wide then we know that we are on the wrong path. There is no resurrection without a cross. We cannot attain eternal life unless we mortify our carnal senses from our lusts and desires. Sin is love of the world and the wide gate and the broad road. None of which accords with the Cross of Christ, about which Saint Paul said: “I have been crucified with Christ; it is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me”. (Gal. 2:20). Whoever dissociates himself from the cross, dissociates himself from God and the community of believers.

    Your brother in Christ,
    Shenouda Andrawis

  • Thanks for that Shenouda

    Bill Muehlenberg, CultureWatch

  • Thanks Bill for a powerful article and Thank you all for joining in with your comments. Seeing people writing about Christian persecution and people reading it, and thinking what we can do makes me feel that my prayers are answered.
    I’m a proud Australian citizen; I came to Australia in 1987. I’m a Coptic Orthodox Christian. I came from Egypt for a better life and yes Bill you are right I was “… far too interested in the good life”.
    If we are in the civilised world (don’t like calling it the west) think of ourselves far too interested in the good life … I think that is ok. That is what GOD has provide for HIS good people on earth as long as we thank HIM for it and make sure that we help the less fortunate not just with money. Money, time, writing, speaking publicly and I think the most powerful thing we do is to keep pushing governments and countries to stop putting political interest before moral and human interests.
    In the Middle East culture and in particular Middle East Christians, we are non-confrontational and lean towards silence and praying trying to avoid face-to-face clashes. That is why I welcome other people to speak on our behalf. Not because I’m afraid or coward but because I believe in GOD and that HE listens to my prayers.
    Religious hatred in a country like Egypt, Sudan or Ethiopia is externally funded and (I believe) is a direct result of some other regional countries getting more and more economically powerful.
    GREED is our big and far most powerful enemy. Greedy families = Greedy society = Greedy government. We need more; we need more for ourselves before we think of others. That’s what has to stop.
    I wish that I have an answer to this problem that I can put in bullet points and action plan to work through, but reality is this is a very big thing to deal with and as Mr. William Hooke commented “Are we to live 24/7 to fix this broken world? That seems like a God sized task to me, not a man sized task.”I remind myself with Matthew 19:26 But Jesus looked at them and said to them, “With men this is impossible, but with God all things are possible.”
    So we all have to keep trying and with GOD’s help the impossible can be possible.

    GOD Bless you all.

    Wahid Iskandar, Sydney

  • Many thanks indeed Wahid

    Bill Muehlenberg, CultureWatch

  • Your message Bill is a timely reminder that we as Christians need to continually uphold our persecuted brothers and sisters in prayer. I tend to agree with you as well that some churches (not all) attempt to ‘entertain’ rather than to preach the Word in all it’s truth for fear of upsetting the listener. However, I believe that ministries such as Joel Osteen’s and Brian Houstons definitely have a place in the Body of Christ as they promote the kind of life that we should all strive to have as Christians. A life that is boldly lived for the Lord, walking humbly and victoriously with a kingdom mindset. The blessings you mention are a given result of a life centred in Christ and as of the seed of Abraham, and not something that is automatically bestowed upon the individual because they turn up for Church on the weekend. Bless you. 🙂

    Victoria Ann

  • Thanks Vic

    Bill Muehlenberg, CultureWatch

  • This is good!

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