If You Want to Know About the Persecuted Church, Watch This

As I mentioned last week, I was privileged to attend The Gospel Coalition Women's Conference in Indianapolis from June 16-18. My mind is still flipping and flopping with all the heavy truths, rich worship, and striking joy I encountered, and a post is brewing in my mind on all that the experience was for me.

One of the most unexpected moments of blessing and enlightenment came during a panel on the persecuted church. Led by Nancy Guthrie, four people sat on it: D.A. Carson, K.A. Ellis, Mindy Belz, and Nastaran Farahani. Together they discussed the persecuted church. It was horrible and wonderful all at once. The persecution they talked about was horrible, but the hope they highlighted was wonderful.

Take just an hour out of your day and watch (or listen to) this deeply moving and enlightening panel.

*Also, all the media from TGCW16 is now available here. You can watch every plenary session and listen to every breakout.

Ding Dong the Wicked Witch is Dead

Last week I shared a review of Mez McConnell's heart-breaking and grace-pervading testimony, Is Anybody Out There? This week I wanted to share with you a bit more into his story by sending you to this article he wrote not quite two weeks ago when he found out that his childhood abuser was dead.

Mez writes:

"Some children of a recently deceased mother wrote this startling obituary for their local press:

Marianne Theresa John­son-Reddick was born Jan. 4, 1935 and died alone on Sept. 30, 2013. She is sur­vived by her six of eight children whom she spent her lifetime torturing in every way pos­sible. While she neglected and abused her small chil­dren, she refused to allow anyone else to care or show compassion towards them. When they became adults she stalked and tortured anyone they dared to love. Everyone she met, adult or child, was tortured by her cruelty and exposure to violence, criminal activity, vulgarity, and hatred of the gentle or kind human spirit.  

On behalf of her children whom she so abrasively ex­posed to her evil and vio­lent life, we celebrate her passing from this earth and hope she lives in the after­life reliving each gesture of violence, cruelty, and shame that she delivered on her children. Her surviv­ing children will now live the rest of their lives with the peace of knowing their nightmare finally has some form of closure.

I just heard several hours ago that my stepmother of almost 13 years is dead. Of what and how I do not know. She was young. I know that. So painful is it to even think of her name I refer to her as “she” throughout my autobiography [watch Mez’s testimony].

It’s 1:30 a.m. and I can’t sleep. I don’t know what to think or feel. The above is pretty much what I would like to express to the world. I would like to go to her funeral, stand, and let everyone know what this person was truly like and how much damage she did while alive. I want her to get her just deserts even though I know, thanks to Christ, I will never get my own.

I am a pastor. I should know better. I do know better.

I know, deep in my soul, that Jesus experienced every form of suffering when he was in the world. “He was despised and rejected by men; a man of sorrows, and acquainted with grief” (Isa. 53:3). Jesus was betrayed and tortured. He is well acquainted with your grief, and he will never leave you (John 14:18). I know, therefore, that perceived wisdom (my own included) demands I forgive this woman who caused me such pain. I know it’s the Christian thing to do. I know he who has been forgiven much ought to forgive much in return (Luke 7:47).

I know.

Yet I want to make public my frustration toward crimes she never paid for. At the same time I want to be magnanimous in my forgiveness as Christ has been in his for my sin.

I feel conflicted."

Let Not Your Heart Be Troubled: A Review

In 1951, a London pastor preached eight sermons on John 14:1-12 to his congregation. They had just endured two world wars and the threat of the Cold War loomed ahead. They were struggling with fear, discouragement, depression, unbelief, worry, and cultural confusion. This sermon series was counter-actively infused with hope, comfort, compassion, and strength. The pastor was Martyn Lloyd-Jones, and this sermon series has now been collected in a short, joyously encouraging book called Let Not Your Heart Be Troubled.

At eight chapters long, this book reflects the eight sermons that Lloyd-Jones preached. He patiently plods through the first twelve verses of John 14. The context of the passage is that Jesus is telling His disciples about His imminent death and they don't understand. They are confused and hurt by this, and Jesus addresses the tumult in their own hearts with compassion and encouragement. Lloyd-Jones breaks each sermon (and the editors, each chapter) into just a couple of verses.

This book has buckets of strengths, in my opinion. First off, it's richly encouraging. I read a lot of books, but this short work was like a breath of fresh air, a pure delight to read. While present day political circumstances are quite different from 1951, the core sins and discouragements that Martyn Lloyd-Jones addresses are starkly relevant. I was deeply encouraged by these sermons.

Secondly, it's immensely readable. If I wasn't well aware of the fact, I'd be surprised to find out these words were first spoken in the early fifties. Sure, in the grand scheme of things sixty years isn't that long, but it's long enough. Yet Lloyd-Jones speaks in a timeless manner, offering ageless encouragement. His style is conversational, and I could almost hear his voice (including the crisp British accent) as I read. All in all, it was very accessible.

Third, it's both theological and practical. Let Not Your Heart Be Troubled would be an excellent book for a new Christian, or even as a discussion springboard for an unbelieving friend. While this book is at its root simple exposition of Scripture lacking any sort of flashy or funny illustrations, it's engaging and extensively practical. It's rich with doctrine yet offers easy, practical encouragement.

Last, it's short. While this may not seem like much of a strength, its brevity would appeal to many. It is literally just like a breath of fresh air. It whooshes in, clearing cobwebs of doubt and fear and confusion and discouragement from one's mind, bringing sweet, fresh encouragement and joy instead.

This is a book to invest in for sure. If you are going through a particularly low point in your life or simply find yourself troubled by the world we live in, Martyn Lloyd-Jones has encouragement for you: Believe in Jesus. He has the answer to your questions, and He offers hope for your doubt.

“[Jesus said,] 'Let not your hearts be troubled. Believe in God; believe also in me. In my Father's house are many rooms. If it were not so, would I have told you that I go to prepare a place for you? And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again and will take you to myself, that where I am you may be also'" (John 14:1-3).

*I received this book through Crossway's Beyond the Page review system. All thoughts and opinions expressed in this review are entirely my own.

Image Credit: Amazon

Remember: IDOP 2014

Yesterday (or the Sunday before, as the date varies from place to place) was International Day of Prayer for the Persecuted Church (IDOP). While we live our everyday lives surrounded by relative wealth and comfort, millions of Christians are suffering in labor camps and jails, being beaten and killed, having their basic human rights taken away, and being oppressed by the government and the God-haters around them. This is a dark tragedy, especially since their sole reason of persecution is that they follow Jesus.

So what can we do? As the video below points out, the number one request of persecuted Christians everywhere is, "Please pray for us." Let's do that, not just on IDOP, not just when the pastor reminds us. Make a commitment to actively, continuously do it throughout the year.

For more information on how to pray and for resources on supporting the persecuted church, check out these websites:

Voice of the Martyrs - This is the Canadian site. You can also check out the American site. VOM has loads of helpful resources on particular countries and how to pray and assist.

Open Doors - This is the international website. Click on your country below to be taken to your national OD page. This is where you can find information on the most recent prayer requests, details on countries, and methods of support.

IDOP - Last but not least, here's the link to the official International Day of Prayer for the Persecuted Church webpage. Watch the videos, read the stories, and pray.

Remember those who are in prison, as though in prison with them, and those who are mistreated, since you also are in the body (Hebrews 13:3).

Study: American Public Thinks Religion's Influence is Waning

The article below is a little different from what I usually post at It highlights a study done by the Pew Research Center about the influence of religion in the sphere of politics in the United States (which I think has a lot of impact on Canadians). There are some important takeaways from it that Joe Carter points out well. A few of them include:

Nearly three-quarters of Americans (72 percent) now say that religion is losing influence in American life, with 56 percent of the public as a whole saying it is a “bad thing” that religion is losing sway in the U.S.

One-third (34 percent) of evangelicals say it has become more difficult to be an evangelical Christian in the U.S.

The public is now evenly divided on the question of whether churches and other houses of worship should express their views on day-to-day social and political questions: 49 percent say they should do this, while 48 percent say churches and other houses of worship should keep out of political matters.  

Read the rest here.


Yesterday was an important Sunday for two different reasons. Both involved remembering. Both involved suffering. And both involved life.

Remembered annually in churches all across the globe, it was Sanctity of Human Life Sunday. This Sunday fell just two days before the 41st anniversary of Roe v. Wade, the court case that legalized abortion in the U.S., paving the way for its legality worldwide. We remembered that abortion goes on every day. Children are thoughtlessly murdered, removed from the womb like they're simply an unwanted growth. It is a horrible tragedy, this crime of murder, where approximately 42 million little lives will be taken from us this year. Forty-two million little ones will never see the light and never have a chance to grow, to live, to play soccer or eat ice cream or do algebra or be given a hug or see a Christmas tree. And our governments will kill them. We need to celebrate the sanctity of human life. It is a gift, never a curse. We must remember.

The second thing we remembered was a Sunday annually recognized in November. But because of Dad's vacation time, our church remembers it in January. It was the International Day of Prayer for the Persecuted Church. Again, we remembered those suffering - not unborn babies, but moms and dads and kids and grandpas and grandmas who live far away from our North American affluence. They are those who are persecuted for their Christian faith. In Sunday School we looked specifically at China and Iran, two countries who brutally oppose anyone who believes anything besides their government-sanctioned religion. In China, that's a secular sort of "faith," and in Iran it's Islam (98.6% of the population). Christians can be thrown in jail, beaten, exiled, refused or fired from jobs, have their churches destroyed, and even be tortured and killed - all because they profess faith in Jesus. We remember that they suffer for the same cause that we live for. And we remembered that God is sovereign over all, but we must pray. We must remember.

In the closing of his Colossian letter, Paul said,

Remember my imprisonment. Grace be with you.

And Hebrews 13:3:

Remember those who are in prison, as though in prison with them, and those who are mistreated, since you also are in the body.

We should not be surprised that the cause of Christ incurs suffering. We should not be surprised that evil flourishes in a society that commits idolatry every day - worship of self. We should not be surprised at sin, but we should never grow accustomed to it. Let it never feel natural. We can't get comfortable. And we can't forget suffering. Remembering in prayer is the greatest thing we can do for both of those causes - persecution and abortion. The Sovereign One has the whole world in His hands. He will judge with fairness and with equity. But that doesn't mean we don't have any responsibility. It means we have more responsibility. We must remember, and we must not keep silent.

Resources on Abortion:
Abort73 - This is a website I link to every year. It is an especially thorough resource, including practical facts, stories from women who've had abortions, videos, and more.
9 Things You Should Know About Planned Parenthood - This article coincided with President Obama's keynote address at the 75th Planned Parenthood gala.
Questions for our Pro-Abortion Friends, Church Leaders, and Politicians - This is a moving article by Kevin DeYoung on the reality of life.
Five Things We Can Do for the Unborn - John Piper is purely practical here.

Resources on the Persecuted Church:
9 Things You Should Know About the Persecuted Church - This chronicles extremely important facts that happened in just 2013.
Voice of the Martyrs - This is a non-profit organization that seeks to assist the persecuted church worldwide. You'll find many excellent resources on this website, like how to pray, how to give, overviews of different nations, and more.
Open Doors - This is also an important ministry helping the persecuted church.

One Who Changed the World: Part Two

We left Leile with his debts to pay but it didn't take him long. He quickly founded a church in Kingston, Jamaica, with his family and three other members. Their first services were held at the local racing track! Akin writes, "During eight years of preaching, Leile baptized five hundred persons and established a strong church in Kingston. Again giving evidence of his humility and desire to glory only in Christ, he sent urgent appeals to the British Baptist to send missionaries. As a wise minister, he gladly shared the growing work with other capable co-laborers." Akin also attests the emancipation of the slaves in Jamaica on July 31, 1833, to Leile's gospel proclamation, though it was a rocky path leading up to that joyous occasion.

Before 1802, Leile was thrown in prison for "rebellious preaching," and not even allowed to have his wife or children visit him. He was tried for his life, but was freed because "no evil could be proved against him," notes Edward Holmes. Unfortunately, shortly after his first stint in the Kingston prison, he was thrown in again, this time because the builder of his chapel claimed that Leile hadn't paid him. Leile was forced to pay all the fines from his own pocket and ended up taking extra jobs once he was released from prison to pay more to the shifty builder.

Christian persecution settled in around 1805, though it didn't get too bad until 1810. This was due to the fact that a law forbidding all preaching to the slaves was enacted. Brutal and severe persecution of the missionaries broke out really from 1802 all the way until slavery was abolished in 1833, yet still continued until 1838 when all slavery was removed from Jamaica.

Akin writes, "Only a man devoted to glorying in Christ crucified and not himself could endure such opposition and shameful conduct from fellow human beings. And the result of his humble perseverance. In 1814 there were only eight thousand Baptists in Jamaica, including slaves, freed men, and some whites. Only eighteen years later in 1832, there were twenty thousand Baptists in Jamaica. The genesis of this great harvest: George Leile!"

Records show that George Leile died around 1828, a few years before he could see slavery fully abolished. But he died trusting in God's work and His word and knew His glory would prevail despite shifty chapel builders, filthy prisons, false accusations, slavery, sin and vile persecution. Edward Holmes finishes a reflection on George Leile's life with this,
"The slave, who was himself set free to declare the glorious deliverance of his Lord, had brought the fruits of the gospel's spirit to thousands who had learned to love his Lord and accept his salvation. The Negro prophet of deliverance had raised up many courageous servants of the Lord to lead his people into their Promised Land of freedom."
 *Note: This biographical sketch of George Leile was adapted from Chapter Six of 10 Who Changed the World.


Two days ago, on Sunday, our church participated in something that most other churches participated in two months ago. It officially took place on November 4th of last year, but because we were away, we postponed it until now. We did it on the first Sunday of 2013. This was IDOP.

IDOP is the International Day of Prayer for the Persecuted Church.
"Every year, churches and groups around the world take time to remember and pray for Christians who are suffering persecution globally. We, as partners, monitor occurrences of the persecution of Christians and are alarmed at the increase in incident. How much more do our brothers and sisters in Christ need our prayers?" (from
My dad preached on Revelation 12:13-17, where Satan was persecuting the saints of God (i.e. Christians, the church). You may not be aware that, according to the IDOP website, "today around the world, over 200 million Christians are being persecuted for their faith." But Muslim, Communist, and all around anti-Christian governments are working at full strength to destroy the church, a futile attempt of course.

Throughout his sermon, my dad presented a slide show (created by IDOP, modified by him) on three countries where governments are persecuting Christians - Nigeria, North Korea and Vietnam. Of course, there are dozens of other countries where brutal persecution of Christians takes place, but these were just three that IDOP selected. Here some highlights from the slide show. Just take a look at these facts and please join me in prayer, not just on IDOP, not just once a year, but all year, for the persecuted Christians.

NIGERIA - The capital of Nigeria is Abiju, and the population (158.2 million) is pretty evenly split between Christians (51.2%) and Muslims (45.1%). Though the country was ranked #23 in recent years on Open Doors' list of most persecuted countries, it is now up to #13 this year. That means the persecution is getting worse. Though according to the constitution, Nigeria has religious liberty, Muslim extremism keeps the country in a tight grasp. Hundreds of Christians have been killed in violent attacks, churches have been burnt down, Christians have been threatened, Muslims who have converted to Christianity are being disowned by their family, women are being divorced by their husbands, and Christian businesses are even being forced to shut down and Christians are fleeing. Let us pray for our brothers and sisters in Nigeria.

NORTH KOREA - Christians in North Korea experience the most severe suffering in the whole world. And this is North Korea's tenth consecutive year being the worst persecuted county. The capital of North Korea is Pyongyang, and the population is 23.9 million. Out of that 23.9 million, 400,000 are Christians. It is one of the most repressive governments in the world. Right now, between 50,000 and 70,000 Christians are being held in prison camps. Christianity is downright outlawed, completely illegal, and there are no churches in the country. All Christian activities are declared criminal and anti-Korean activity. If a Christian is found, he faces death, and his immediate family also faces the possibility of death. Let us pray for our brothers and sisters in North Korea.

VIETNAM - Vietnam is a primarily Buddhist country, and Christians there face all sorts of challenges. Out of its population of 89 million, 52.4% are Buddhist, while 9.4% are Christians. It ranks #19 on the persecuted church list. The government is Communist and that brings its own problems to Christians. Buddhism is the national religion, and religious liberty has decreased greatly. Unfortunately, media censorship is beginning to increase, so that means no freedom of speech. Intimidation, bullying, discrimination and pressure to renounce the faith also fills the country. While the church has grown nine times its size since 1975, a problem of unity has arisen, and the government has been seeking to use it for their purposes of sowing dissension and division among the different churches. Let us pray for our brothers and sisters in Vietnam.

Let us pray for our persecuted brothers and sisters all over the world. Let's pray for strength for them, for endurance, for grace, for faith, for freedom, for comfort - both for them and for their family, for their churches to thrive, for souls to be saved. And then let's pray for these anti-Christian governments, for their salvation and for them to extend kindness to the Christians. But most importantly, let's pray for God to be glorified in all that happens in this world, and let's rejoice that all that happens is in His sovereign care and plan.

Lest We Forget

Last Friday, here in Canada, we celebrated Remembrance Day. For the past little while, we've been wearing our poppies, proud of the sacrifice so many valiant soldiers made for our country. Lest we forget, we said.

But yesterday, people not just in Canada but all over the world were also remembering something. Like Remembrance Day (and Veteran's Day for my US friends), this day was set to remember many brave soldiers. But not government soldiers. No, soldiers of the faith. Soldiers who are advancing the kingdom of God in many countries, but who are being beaten, imprisoned, brutally ridiculed, ostracized from society, and killed. But we didn't just remember them briefly, say a quick prayer, and move on. The entire focus of the day was to pray for these people. Yesterday was the International Day of Prayer for the Persecuted Church (IDOP).

This is what the IDOP website says about this day and its purpose:
"Every year, churches and groups around the world the world take time to remember and pray for Christians who are suffering persecution globally. We, as partners, monitor occurrences of the persecution of Christians and are allarmed at the increase in incident. How much more do our brothers and sisters in Christ need our prayers?
The traditional church calendar marks “All Saints Day” and “All Souls Day” in the month of November. It is a season of remembering saints of the church and the souls of those who departed this world. It is an appropriate time for the modern day church to also pray for persecuted believers world-wide, through the International Day of Prayer for the Persecuted Church (IDOP). Today around the world over 200 million are suffering for their faith in Jesus Christ. At this very moment, a genocide of Christians in Sudan is taking place; persecution in China is intensifying; the Nigerian army is assisting in the slaughter of Christians; church buildings are bombed in Iraq, leaving more than 70 dead. Believers all around the world face violence, imprisonment and even death. More than ever, Christian believers all around the world who suffer for their faith need our prayer. We ... hope you will join Christians worldwide in praying for persecuted Christians this November."
But something Dad really pressed yesterday was that we must not pray for the persecuted Christians just one day a year. No, he said. Let us not forget, he prayed. We should be praying for our persecuted brothers and sisters every day of the year, not just one.

I pray that this would be a good reminder for those of you who've heard of IDOP and/or the persecuted church, and an eye-opening moment for those of you who haven't. So let's get on those knees and petition our Father for our persecuted brothers and sisters.

Lest we forget ...

Why We Need to Be Lifting Up our Brothers and Sisters in Egypt in Prayer

I don't know how much you know about the conflict going on in Egypt right now, but let me lay it out for you as simply this: For nearly thirty years past Hosni Mabarak has governed Egypt with a dictator-like strategy. But no more. On January 25, 2011, protesters gathered peacefully in Cairo to protest their want of a new government, of a new leader. But a few protests later, and things turned ugly. According to CBC News, the police started the violence by turning tear gas and water cannons on peaceful protesters. Since then, at least 300 people have been killed and approximately 2,000 people injured. After 18 days of protesting, Hosni Mubarak finally stepped down and handed temporal authority over to the military. The people still want democracy, though.

Meanwhile, something sinister is lurking in Egypt's shadows. Something that makes me shudder just to think about it. Something called the Muslim Brotherhood. Did you know that 90% of Egypt's population is Muslim? But that's not the scary part. The scary part is that the Muslim Brotherhood wants control of the government. They've done their best to stir up Egypt, to get them to de-throne Hosni Mabarak, so the Muslims can take control of the government.

Do you know what would happen to our Christian brothers and sisters in Egypt if the Muslim Brotherhood took control of the country? Persecution so awful I can't even type it.

That's why we need to be lifting up our brothers and sisters in Egypt in prayer. That's why we need to be praying for the Muslim Brotherhood. That's why we need to be praying for the Egyptian military. That's why we need to pray for the salvation of Hosni Mabarak and Mohamid Badie (the chairman of the Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt). That's why we need to pray for strength for Egypt's Christians, for boldness and faith. That's why we need to pray that the Lord's will be done. That's why we need to pray for justice, for peace.

That's why we must add Egypt to our prayer list.

"Let my prayer come before You; incline Your ear to my cry!" Psalm 88:2

Daddy's Daughter: Insights on My Dad's Sermon

Today my dad preached on Hebrews 13:3. "Remember those who are in prison, as though in prison with them, and those who are mistreated, since you also are in the body," as today is International Day of Prayer for the Persecuted Church. You may not know this, but Christians all over the world are being beaten, arrested, and killed because of their faith in Jesus. The video below is disturbing, but I would encourage you to watch it ... and hear their cry.

Daddy's Daughter: A Short Summary of My Dad's Sermon

Good evening, readers. Welcome to a Sunday Daddy's Daughter summary (this will be a regular Sunday event from now on). This morning my father preached on Acts 6:8-8:3. This passage was on Stephen, the first Christian martyr. My dad's sermon on the persecuted church was entitled 'Being the Church, but How Far Will You Go?' This is a short summary of it:

My dad came on the stage wearing his bullet proof vest from when he was an RCMP chaplain. He started by talking about the Voice of the Martyrs, an organization that spreads the word about persecution in other countries. After reading the Scripture, he talked about the 3 parts to Stephen's story:

  1. The Accusations- Some Jews argued with Stephen, but Stephen was so full of the Holy Spirit that they could not refute him, so the Jews were angry. The Jews brought Stephen to court.
  2. The Defense- The Jews brought false witnesses, and Stephen talked about how the Old Testament history pointed to Jesus Christ. He then finished his speech by pointing fingers at the court leaders for crucifying Christ.
  3. The Sentencing- The leaders were furious and stoned Stephen to death.
Stephen was willing to die for Christ. My dad said that, "persecution is not an option." Jesus tells us we will be persecuted because He was (John 15:18-20) . If the church is truly being the church then the church is a persecuted church. If you're not being persecuted then something is wrong. My dad finished with, "Maybe one day there will be a time that I will have no choice but to wear this (bullet proof vest) up here to protect my life."So, how far will you go?