Summary: Using material from Voice of the Martyrs to help Christians in America look beyond themselves to thepersecuted church.
World View Christianity
“Bound With Them”
International Day of Prayer for the Persecuted Church
November 12, 2006
Today is a little different of a subject matter for us. For the next two weeks we will be looking at the Christian life from the view of what is happening in places around the world to Christians and how we as a local church community are affected and how we can effect change in those areas.
The image or idea that has been running through my head as I have thought and prayed about today is the image of a chain.
*Hold up Large Chain
We have various thoughts about chains. They are so useful for jobs and certain activities. They are connection points. They are only as strong as their weakest link. Today, I want to paint a picture of you about chains to help you understand the conditions of our Christina family in other parts of the world.
When we think of chains, we think of them as tools, things to help us accomplish a task. When Christians around the world think of chains, they think of them as restraint, as hindrances to living the life that they were designed to live.
This is an image that is deeply rooted in the foundations of Christianity. Early Christians were routinely held captive in jails and they were chained together. We see this image used throughout scripture by the apostles who were often jailed and beaten for the teachings about Christ.
There are some amazing stories in the book of Acts about how the early Christian leaders were imprisoned for their faith. One great story comes from Acts 12 and involves the Apostle Peter.
“But while Peter was in prison, the church prayed very earnestly for him.
The night before Peter was to be placed on trial, he was asleep, chained between two soldiers, with others standing guard at the prison gate. Suddenly, there was a bright light in the cell, and an angel of the Lord stood before Peter. The angel tapped him on the side to awaken him and said, "Quick! Get up!" And the chains fell off his wrists.” Acts 12:5-7 (NLT)
The chains of prison are designed to keep us from escaping. They are tools that keep prisoners where they are supposed to be. In our country, prisoners were often kept in chains. Several prisoners would be joined together in hopes of keeping them form escaping. This video clip will show you one of the great effects of chains.
Show clip of “O, Brother, Where Art Thou?”
Chains are designed to limit freedom.
Today, millions of our fellow Christians live in chains around the world. They may not have physical chains on them, although many have those chains and more. Persecution of believers around the world is a chain designed by the enemy of God to limit the freedom and spread of the message of Christ.
Show clip from Voice of the Martyrs.
How do chains of fellow believers affect us? What role do they play in our lives?
Scripture points out that we have a responsibility to never forget the chains of our fellow believers.
“Don’t forget about those in prison. Suffer with them as though you were there yourself. Share the sorrow of those being mistreated, as though you feel their pain in your own bodies.” Hebrews 13:3 (NLT)
Around the world, millions of Christians suffer the effects of persecution. They are held captive in jails, they are chased from their homes, they are kidnapped, and women are forced to marry against their will and many other atrocities we can never understand.
**Let me read to you some stories from Voice of the Martyrs.
These stories impact me in very deep and powerful ways. These are real life people who are being held in captivity because they name Jesus Christ as their Messiah. When I think about their life and my life, I feel so ashamed that the things that cause me pain are so trivial. These people are literally fighting for their lives because they follow Christ.
When I look at a map of the world like the one behind me, I am amazed at the vastness of inhumanity in our world. When we get so wrapped up in our lives as American Christians, we must never forget that people just like us, who believe in the same Jesus we do, are being held as prisoners for no other crime then following Christ.
On the map of the world that is behind me you can see countries that are hostile to the message of Christ and countries where it is illegal to be a Christian.
Another aspect of chains that fascinates me is that chains are not only restricting, they are connecting. Things are joined together by chains. In the same way, you and I are connected to those imprisoned because of the chain of the power of Jesus Christ. We are called to join with them in suffering and to experience the pain with them as if it were happening in our own bodies.