• Beth Hildebrand

This Is Rare For Me


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This is rare for me.

At the end of March I started an online Bible study on 1 and 2 Peter.  It’s about being a living hope and living stone in a dying world.  It’s also about our faith being tested and being willing to suffer in God’s name.

It’s not rare that I’m doing a study, but rare that I’m writing about world concerns and the future.

The past few weeks, there’s one word that’s been catching my attention as I’ve been reading this first letter Peter wrote: Prepare.

So prepare your minds for action and exercise self-control (1:13 NLT).

Since the Anointed (Christ) suffered in the flesh, prepare yourselves to do the same (4:1 VOICE)

But even if you should suffer for what is right, you are blessed.  ‘Do not fear what they fear; do not be frightened.’  But in your hearts set apart Christ as Lord.  Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have. But do this with gentleness and respect keeping a clear conscience, so that those who speak maliciously against your good behavior in Christ may be ashamed of their slander.  It is better, if it is God’s will, to suffer for doing good than for doing evil.  . (3:15-17 NIV)

I’ve had 1 Peter 3:15 underlined in my Bible for a while.  Have I really lived by that?  Do I keep quiet? Do I share my story about my faith and beliefs?  That’s a question I’ve been asking myself the past couple of weeks with this study.  Then the other day, I received an email to learn about another Bible study starting April 13 and guess what it is: 1 & 2 Peter.

With that announcement, I read a commentary on these letters: “Peter wrote his first letter to Christians who were experiencing persecution for their faith in Christ. The current culture was opposed to the gospel, which caused many Christians to flee their homes and become strangers in the land.  Peter encouraged these Christians to hold fast to the hope of Christ and to endure the persecution in an upright manner.  He exhorts the persecuted Christians by reminding them of their eternal inheritance in Christ, which pails in comparison to their current trials.”

To me that sure sounds like Peter wrote that specifically to us today.  And what about this?  Two different ministries studying the same books of the Bible at almost the same time.  Is there a reason for that?  About being a living hope and living stone in a dying world?  That’s what’s grabbed my attention this week, along with an article I read. For some reason I felt like I had to get it out on paper.  I’m just trying to process all of this ugliness.

The other day I fell upon an article from the Washington Post .  It stated,

“According to Open Doors, 2014 saw a huge increase in violence against Christians. Researchers for the group found that 4,344 Christians were killed for faith-related reasons between Dec. 1, 2013 and Nov. 30, 2014 — more than twice the number killed during the same period the previous year. Curry says those numbers are a low estimate, as the group only counts incidents in which the victim can be identified by name and an exact cause has been attributed.

In its annual “World Watch” report, which ranks the 50 countries where persecution of Christians is most severe, the group said the past year “will go down in history for having the highest level of global persecution of Christians in the modern era” and suggested that ‘the worst is yet to come.’”

It also stated how some of our country’s leaders didn’t mention the reason the 21 Egyptian Christians were beheaded – never said anything of why they were killed.  Those 21 men were killed because they were not ashamed to proclaimed their faith in Christ.  Our leaders ignored the core and the truth of it all.

The title of the article I quoted is, “Has the world really ‘looked the other way’ while Christians are killed?

Have I? Have we?  Have we as Christ followers ignored our brothers and sisters through Christ plead for help, brushed the problem under the rug, or just shaken our head and felt sorry for them?  I’m guilty!  So guilty.

I didn’t bring all this up as a Debbie Downer or to frighten you (although I confess my heart rate increases when I read those stats).  I’m bringing it up though to shine the light on God’s Word about this.  To help make myself, and hopefully you, aware that our brothers and sisters need our prayers, resources and support.  We need to know God’s Word and cling to it and be able to pray for the Christians who are currently being persecuted around this world.

I think we need to pay attention.  I feel more than ever these days that I DO need to be prepared if there comes a time when I might have to suffer from the comfortable life I have now.  There’s people all over the world who are not ashamed of standing firm in their faith and beliefs and are gently and respectfully not wavering from their hope through Christ and are willing to suffer for Him.

It makes me think how EASY God has made it for us to be able to share our beliefs in God in this free country.  It’s a gift He’s given us.  Back at our foundation, our country proclaimed God as our Cornerstone, so He blessed our country with the freedom to share and practice our faith freely.  So, at the moment, I’m not being persecuted, why not look for every opportunity to share my faith with others?

That’s different for each person because each person has different gifts and resources and passions of how to reach out to others.  Peter says in 4:10 to use whatever gift we’ve received to serve others.  I don’t know what you’ve been given but there are a few things I can suggest and people of any type can do.

  1. There’s a ministry, Feed the Hunger (FtH) based here where I live in Alamance county, and they have the unique and time sensitive opportunity to help Iraqi and Syrian victims of ISIS who have fled from their homes due to the military advances of the brutal Islamic State. They are mainly living in large refugee camps in Jordan that have raw sewage, cramped tents, and very little food.   A part of the FtH ministry includes Pack-a-Thons where anybody  is given the opportunity to hands-on pack meals with nutritional food or sponsor financially (from wherever you are) or you can volunteer AND sponsor!  If you live in Alamance county area in NC, you can come to FtH headquarters in Graham, or the Holly Hill mall in May and pack meals to be sent to ISIS victims.  Here’s all the details.  Our family joined with our small group last week and packed the first 4,080 meals to be sent to Jordon.  I guarantee you’ll be glad you did.

  2. Be in the Word.  If you’d lke to go deep into 1 and 2 Peter, here’s an online study through IF:Equip.  We’ll be reading the Bible and each day there’s a couple of people discussing their thoughts and wisdom on that day’s reading.  There’s no additional study material.  It’s simply reading and processing what you read in each day’s verses. It’s also great because you can do that any time of the day and reply in the comment feed if you feel led to.  It starts April 13 but you can jump in anytime.

  3. Pray.  I hope the persecuted Christians around the world are remembering, reading, hearing, praying – however –  1 Peter to get them through each day.  Each moment.  Peter wrote it to the people in the beginning church who were being persecuted in order to give them encouragement, wisdom and instruction.

Let us put on our armor of God and pray these for our family of believers being persecuted today – and in the future.

God, even though we have not seen You, we love You; and even though we do not see You now, we believe in You and are filled with an inexpressible and glorious joy, for we are receiving the goal of our faith, the salvation of our souls only through You.  (1 Peter 1:8-9 NIV)

God, you want us to love one another deeply, from the heart.  For we have been born again, not of perishable seed, but of imperishable, through the living and enduring word of God. (1:22-23)

God, as we come to You, the living Stone – rejected by men but chosen by You, God, and precious to You – we also, like living stones, are being built into a spiritual house to be a holy priesthood with You. (2:4-5)

God, thank You that we are a chosen people…a people belonging to You, that we may declare the praises of You who called us out of darkness into Your wonderful light. (2:9)

God, even if we should suffer for what is right, we are blessed.  (3:14)  That’s our job – to bless others and You, God.  We are not to repay evil with evil or insult with insult, but with blessing, because to this we were called so that we may inherit a blessing of eternity with You. (3:9)

I’m not a scholar, a preacher or even one who watches CNN daily but all of this seems to be stirring on the inside.  I don’t think I’m the only one.

I pray for this dying world to repent and be born again to become living stones for You. Remind me daily to be a living stone to the people You put in my life whether they be people I know or strangers.

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