a prayer for the oppressed & persecuted

 

Great God, Ruler over all, we come before you in the name of the Lord Jesus, the Prince of Peace. Your power is indisputable and all-surpassing. Your rule ever is right and good, just and merciful. All glory, honor, and praise be to you, God!

Without your rule, God, we would be nothing at all, swept away with the wind. And we sadly confess that your rule, we often ignore. Wipe away this weakness in your servants, we pray, and bring your kingdom to completion in the lives of your people. Forgive us, God.

Thank you for every measure of quiet and calm that you have granted humankind. Thank you for working your will of peace through rulers and officials, heads of state and governmental leaders, throughout all the world. Thank you for the many things we take for granted in how we are able to live our everyday lives.

And God, hear our plea for relief to all who live lives that are always greatly burdened and often in upheaval. We pray for all who groan with the rest of creation under the weight of sin, but who also must bear the added weight of affliction for faith, beating for believing, torture for trust, and threatening for obedience to you. Shield those who are in jeopardy now and deliver those who are on the brink of martyrdom. Set the captives free and break the rule of those who rule with little sense of humanity. In it all, God, may witness of you and your supreme rule abound.

Decree it and it will be, God. This we believe and know. Pour out your compassion and bring justice. Sweep away oppression and bring in your kingdom more now than has ever been before.

Amen.

LIFE group discussion guide: suffer

NOTE: Following is the discussion guide we’ll use tomorrow (Mar. 15) in our LIFE groups at MoSt Church. This guide will enable your follow-up of my sermon that morning. To find previous group discussion guides, look under the category title “LIFE group guides” and you’ll find an archive of previous issues.

Reason

Stated in a single sentence, this is the purpose of this morning’s sermon.

To remind us that fully following Christ will cost us; leading us to, and thru, suffering.

Revelation

These Scriptures form some of the foundation of this sermon.

• He was despised and rejected — a man of sorrows, acquainted with deepest grief. … He was oppressed and treated harshly … When he sees all that is accomplished by his anguish, he will be satisfied. (Isaiah 53.3a,7a,11 NLT)

• He then began to teach them that the Son of Man must suffer many things … (Mark 8.31 NIV)

• A disciple is not above the teacher, but … like the teacher. (Luke 6.40 NIV)

• … calling the apostles back, they had them beaten. They ordered them not to speak in the name of Jesus, then let them go. The apostles left … rejoicing because they had been regarded as worthy to suffer disgrace for the sake of the name. Every day they continued to … proclaim the good news … (Acts 5.40-42 CEB)

• … he has graciously granted you the privilege not only of believing in Christ, but of suffering for him as well. (Philippians 1.29 NRSV)

• … if you suffer for doing good and you endure it, this is commendable before God. To this you were called, because Christ suffered for you, leaving you an example, that you should follow in his steps. … even if you should suffer for what is right, you are blessed. (1 Peter 2.20-21; 3.14 NIV)

Relation

Use the following icebreaker question to prime the pump for group conversation.

1. Tell us of a time you thought you’d get something for free, but found it cost much.

2. What have you paid dearly for in life, and so, have special thought or feeling for it?

Research

These exercises/questions are meant to help us grapple with the Scripture(s) related to this sermon.

1. List the things people did to Jesus that must have caused his heart anguish.

2. Read and ponder James 5.7-11 and 1 Peter 2:19-25; 4.12-19.

Reflection

These questions help us discern and share what we sense God’s Spirit is doing as we encounter his word.

1. What specific sort of sufferings, because you believe, unsettle your heart most?

2. Tell us of a time you suffered because you believe and some good came from that.

3. How does self-pity express itself? How does it hinder spiritual maturity in Christ?

4. What attitudes are needed to face suffering well? What actions grow such a mind?

Response

This idea/suggestion is for your use beyond the group meeting; to aid your living out today’s message.

1. Become more aware of the plight of Christians elsewhere on earth. Pray for them.

2. Develop a “How can I bring the most glory to God in this moment?” mindset.

links: this went thru my mind

Agreement, disagreement, listening & understanding: Steps You Can Take to Listen More Deeply [required reading]

“What if, instead of having to agree or disagree, like or dislike, you could learn to understand and be understood? What if you learned to just listen?”

Blessings, gratitude, prayer & thanksgiving: Thank You for Blessings Unknown to Me

“For all Your blessing, Heavenly Father, known to me, and for all unknown, accept my thanks.”

Christianity, Christian nation, courage, faith, ISIS, misunderstanding, persecution & witness: ISIS and “the Nation of the Cross” [essential reading]

“I’m a part of this “Nation of the Cross” and it doesn’t have a nation, it is an international, world-wide community of people who believe that this is actually not the worst thing you can do to us. Terrorism and acts that are designed as symbolic fear-driven aggressive acts of bullying only strengthen our resolve to lay down our lives. You may denounce some of our culture, and there are plenty of us that wish that the Christians in America didn’t participate as readily in consuming some of the same culture you denounce, but you have woefully misunderstood who you are talking to.

“If you want to talk to America than call it by it’s proper name, if you want to talk to the Church than this is our response for over 2000 years.

“You can’t kill people who have already died. That’s who you are talking about and who you are talking to when you address “the people of the Cross.”

Government, history, Lipscomb, Restoration Heritage, & voting: Voting More Evil than Dancing, says David Lipscomb

“One gets a sense of how important this is to Lipscomb. The kingdom of God stands in opposition to all human institutions, and the most powerful, violent and coercive of institutions is civil government.”

Morality, reason, secularism & spirituality: Building Better Secularists

“Past secular creeds were built on the 18th-century enlightenment view of man as an autonomous, rational creature who could reason his way to virtue. The past half-century of cognitive science has shown that that creature doesn’t exist. We are not really rational animals; emotions play a central role in decision-making, the vast majority of thought is unconscious, and our minds are riddled with biases. We are not really autonomous; our actions are powerfully shaped by others in ways we are not even aware of.”

links: this went thru my mind

 

Benevolence, poor, poverty, prosperity & work: There’s No Such Thing as the Worthy Poor

“There is no such thing as the worthy poor. Don’t get me wrong. I see how the book of Proverbs is strewn with verses that trumpet the virtue of work and warn of the dangers of sloth. Hard work is indeed a virtue. And we should be leery of scams.  But the problem is that too many of us assume that because a person is poor, then that must mean he or she just isn’t working hard enough.”

Capital punishment & the death death penalty: The Biblical Case Against the Death Penalty, From a Former Supporter

“‘Capital punishment is against the best judgment of modern criminology and, above all, against the highest expression of love in the nature of God.’ (Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.)”

Divorce: Mourning the Destructiveness of Divorce

“One must have a heart of iron to pretend that all is fine, when children must suffer so badly for the selfishness of their parents; when children must be “grown up,” so that their parents can persist in behaving like self-willed children. The real harm, however, cannot be captured by numbers. No human thing can ever really be. What the divorce regime has done is to infect with transience what ought to be the most intimate and enduring of human bonds. It has eradicated from our minds the very idea of a complete and irrevocable self-donation.”

Genocide, martyrdom & persecution: Leader: ISIS is ‘Systematically Beheading Children’ in ‘Christian Genocide’

“‘They are systematically beheading children,'” Arabo repeated slowly. ‘And mothers and fathers. The world hasn’t seen an evil like this for generations. There’s actually a park in Mosul where they actually beheaded children and put their heads on a stick … this is crimes against humanity. They are doing the most horrendous, the most heart-breaking crimes that you can think of.'”

Turkey: The Pilgrimage: Turkey [a 22-part series by Ben Witherington about his recent trip to Turkey; part 1; part 22]

“Touring Turkey after touring Israel is like touring Texas after touring Rhode Island. The difference in size, scope, and amount of things to see is enormous. … I suggest you sit back in your easy chair with your laptop, get a good cup of coffee, and prepare to be surprised by what amazing things there are to see and do and be edified by in Turkey. Let ole Uncle Ben be your guide …”

a prayer amidst the killing

 

Father God, my mind is flooded tonight with words and my heart is heavy with them.

ISIS. Massacre. Genocide. Air strikes. War.

In the name of Jesus, I ask that you give wisdom to all this world’s leaders who seek peace.

Confound and confuse, divide and defeat, all who seek the death of innocents.

Shield and deliver the harassed and oppressed, the abused and persecuted.

Protect all who seek to bring relief.

Intervene in this lost world’s ways and stop this cancer of killing. Deliver us from evil.

Amen.