Voice of the Martyrs Prayer Watch

NIGERIA: Over 100 Dead in Attack

Around 100 suspected Boko Haram militants have killed 106 people – 105 men plus one elderly woman, in an attack on a village in Nigeria.

The attackers stormed the mainly Christian village of Izghe, in Nigeria’s restive north-eastern Borno state, on Saturday. Borno has been under emergency rule since May last year in a bid to stop an Islamist rebellion that has claimed thousands of lives since 2009.

The attacks in the area were becoming “deadlier and more frequent by the day”, said Senator Ali Ndume.

A local farmer, Barnabas Idi, said the attackers, dressed in military uniform, had gone door to door looking for those hiding in their houses. “The attackers came … in six trucks and some motorcycles,” he said. “They asked men to assemble at a place, and began hacking and slaughtering them.” There were no security forces in the town at the time of the attack, he said.

Source: Sydney Morning Herald, BBC world

Prayer Points

  • Pray for those who have lost loved ones, pray they will find comfort in the fact that Christ is victorious over death, and the dead in Christ will be raised with Him. Pray that, in view of this promise, they will continue to give themselves fully to the work of the Lord (1 Corinthians 15:50-58).
  • Uphold all those in authority who are attempting to bring an end to the bloodshed in Nigeria, pray the Lord will grant them insight, wisdom and strength, ask the Lord to grant them His favour.
  • Pray for the members of Boko Haram, pray the Lord will bring true conviction and repentance to many.

 

TURKEY: ‘Ugly’ Charges against Turkish Pastor Dropped

Protestant Pastor Orhan Picaklar was informed earlier this month that what he called “ugly slanders” against his character and conduct have been officially dropped by the Turkish prosecutor investigating his case.

Picaklar was detained on 11 November 2013 and held for two days in the Black Sea coastal city of Samsun over alleged involvement in prostitution, sexual harassment and human trafficking.

Samsun Prosecutor Recep Bakirci declared in a ruling issued on 13 January that there was no sufficient evidence to open a case against the pastor, nor against nine other suspects listed on the official complaint. Picaklar only learned of the decision on 3 February, when he received a mailed copy of the official’s four-page ruling.

All of the allegations from the accuser, a 19-year-old Iranian woman deported from Samsun before Picaklar’s arrest, were ‘abstract, unbelievable claims’, the prosecutor concluded.

‘I was truly put to shame,’ the pastor said. ‘I hadn’t done anything, but this was a huge and ugly slander, and most people who read the press believed it.’

Source: World Watch Monitor

Prayer Points

  • Thank the Lord the truth has come to light and the charges have been dropped.
  • Ask the Lord to strengthen the resolve of Pastor Picaklar, to continue to serve Him in spite of the injury to his reputation. Ask for his good name to be restored.
  • Pray for the Iranian woman who made the false accusations.

 

CHINA: Crackdown Preceded Chinese New Year Celebrations

Before the commencement of the nation’s Chinese New Year celebrations, which began on 31 January, Christians were targeted several times in what is believed to be a crackdown on church activity.

In Beijing, members of a church group were arrested on 24 January when they tried to visit Zhang Wenhe, a fellow member. The 19 Christians had initially gone to Zhang’s home for a Bible study, only to discover that he was being held under house arrest at another location. Upon learning of Zhang’s new location, and the fact that he was experiencing serious health concerns due to a heart problem, the believers tried to deliver food and medicine to him. Authorities then detained 15 of the believers, including Zhang, a 14-year-old male and another believer with heart trouble.   

Meanwhile, churches in central Henan province and southern Guangdong province have also reported intense persecution. In Guangzhou, the capital of Guangdong, police have disrupted the gatherings of a house church twice a week since the start of January. In Neihuang County, Henan, many Christians are fearful to attend their church meetings because of the opposition they have endured from several local government departments.

Sources: China Aid, Release International 

Prayer Points

  • As our brothers and sisters in China endure this latest crackdown, pray that they will keep their eyes on Jesus, persevere in their faith, and not grow weary or lose heart (Hebrews 10:32-39; Hebrews 12:1-3).
  • Pray that the detained Christians will be released very soon, and that their faith will only be strengthened by this trial.
  • Commit China’s authorities to our Lord in prayer, asking that their eyes may be opened to the truth of the Gospel.

One thing the Olympics have taught me.

http://www.goldmedalmind.net/wp-content/uploads/2014/02/Sochi-2014-Olympics-829732.pngI quiet enjoy watching sport, and I’ve really enjoyed turning on the TV and seeing the Sochi Winter Olympic games on. Watching people from different countries battle it out against one another in various different sports is pretty enjoyable. But one thing in particular has struck me as I’ve been watching the Winter Olympics this year: These people train for at least 4 years (probably far longer) just to compete for a few minutes. Some of them succeed, winning for themselves a brief moment of glory and a shiny piece of metal. Others are forgotten by the wayside within moments, left only with the hope of something different after four more years of training.

It occurred to me that while there is absolutely nothing wrong with sport or the Olympics, if this is all that these people live for then they are to be pitied. If all they can hope to attain in life is a few minutes of fame, if all that they set their eyes on is the glory of being the best in the world for a few years, then they aren’t really living for anything that will last. The fact is that in a years time only a few people will remember who won medals and who competed well. In a few decades these athletes won’t be remembered at all.

But it struck me that the same applies for everything in this world – doesn’t it? We can chase after things that promise a lot, but can they ever truly deliver? Will we be happy with just one more promotion? Will making my first million dollars truly make me content and fulfilled in life? Even friends and families will disappoint us – and likewise we’ll fail them. And even if these things could bring lasting contentedness, none of them can change the fact that we are sinful and need a saviour. None of them can save us from death.

In Ecclesiastes 7:2 Solomon says:

It is better to go to a house of mourning
than to go to a house of feasting,
for death is the destiny of everyone;
the living should take this to heart.

The truth is that whatever we achieve in this life, there is no purpose to it unless it is done for God. Whatever we accomplish will fade away. It will be forgotten and replaced. But if we repent of our sins and put our faith in Jesus as the only one who will save, then we have the promise that we will go to be in heaven with him for eternity. We won’t take our achievements with us. In fact, it won’t matter if we’ve achieved “greatness” by the world’s standard. The only thing that will matter in the long run is if we have put our faith in Jesus and, as a result of that, have served God faithfully out of thankfulness and love.

What are you trying to achieve in life? What are your goals? Will they matter once you die? Will they matter in 200 years time?How long will it take for people to forget you?

The real question boils down to this: Are you living your life as a Christian who has turned to Jesus as the only one who can save, or are you rejecting him and living your own way?

1 Corinthians 9:24-25

 Do you not know that in a race all the runners run, but only one gets the prize? Run in such a way as to get the prize. Everyone who competes in the games goes into strict training. They do it to get a crown that will not last, but we do it to get a crown that will last forever.

Have you been Crucified with Christ?

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I have been crucified with Christ and I no longer live, but Christ lives in me. The life I now live in the body, I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me. (Gal 2:20)

A lot of people know this verse. It’s one of those common ones that we can pull out without too much thought. But that’s the problem – have we actually considered the depths of what it means to be crucified with Christ?

It only hit me the other day what the implications of that statement are. If we were crucified with Jesus, that means we died with him. If we were dead we wouldn’t be doing anything would we? We’d just be laying in the ground decaying. But Paul doesn’t just say “I no longer live” – he says “but Christ lives in me”.

If Christ lives in us, and we are dead, what does that mean for our sin and all the extra bits and pieces that we fill our lives with? If we are really dead to the world, and if it is really Christ who lives in us (which should be our aim), then there is absolutely no excuse to sin. There’s no excuse for a “little white lie”, or for doing something that dishonors God “just one last time”.

But at the same time, if we are dead, what about the video games and movies that don’t really have a purpose? The exercise done not to honour God with our bodies but just to honour ourselves? We all fill our lives with things that don’t really matter (those were just two common examples for my age group).

But if we are dead, and it is Christ who lives in us, shouldn’t our every action, word and thought be in line with his? Shouldn’t we be always looking for ways to honour and glorify him and share the gospel? Shouldn’t we be transformed, doing everything for his glory and out of love for those around us?

And yet, if we’re honest none of us are like that. To be completely dead to anything except Christ is nearly impossible on this earth. And at the same time that should be our aim – we should be living as Christians constantly, always re-evaluating what we are doing in an attempt to make it more and more honouring to God. Here are two ideas:

  • Are there specific areas in your life that you are still sinning? The answer to that will be yes – because we are still sinful and won’t be perfect until heaven. But are you repentant for those things and trying to give your life more fully to God?
  • Have a look at where you use your time. Are those things useful and good? Are they glorifying to God in any way? They may not be wrong to do, but do they tangle you up and stop you from doing things that are specifically good and right?
  • Have a think about where your thoughts are usually drawn to. Are you often thinking about how to honour God and how to serve him? Or about other things which might not be particularly bad, but just aren’t as good? I find my attention is usually drawn to my friends – not in an effort to encourage and love them, but thinking about what they think of me and things like that.

I’m not at all saying that by doing things that aren’t specifically godly or ungodly we aren’t Christians. I’m just asking if we’ve really considered what this verse means – are we dead to ourselves and the things in this world and living only for Christ? What areas in my life do I need to be working on?

VOM Prayer Watch

PAKISTAN: Christians Devastated by Death of Preacher

Friends of a popular Pakistani preacher, who was killed by a hit-and-run driver, believe he may have been murdered because of his conversion from Islam.

Rashid Mehmood, 33, came from a rich, influential Muslim family but turned to Christ in 2005. Though he trained as a lawyer, he decided to become a pastor and preach the Gospel, despite strong opposition from his relatives.

On 23 December 2013, Rashid was a passenger on a motorbike driven by his pastor friend when a car began to chase them, and then deliberately struck the motorbike. Rashid suffered serious head injuries and died later in hospital after undergoing surgery.

Two days before his death, Rashid had preached about Jesus being the only true and living God and the embodiment of God’s love, quoting from the Koran at several points. According to sources, Rashid was a role model for other Christians with a Muslim background and his death “broke people’s hearts.”

Source: Release International

Prayer Points

  • Pray for those grieving the loss of Rashid that they will be comforted by the Spirit’s sure presence.
  • Pray Rashid’s passion for sharing the Gospel continue among other believers from Muslim backgrounds.
  • Just as God reached out to Saul, a ruthless persecutor, may He also draw to Himself those who opposed Rashid (Acts 9:1-19).

IRAN: Shahnaz Jayzan Released from Prison

Shahnaz Jayzan, an Iranian Christian arrested in December 2011, was released from prison on 28 January. Shahnaz was imprisoned along with Naser Zamen-Dezfuli, Davoud Alijani and her husband, Pastor Farhad Sabokrouh. The three men were earlier freed after spending over 200 days in jail.

Shahnaz’s release was conditional, and she is required to report to the Revolutionary Court of Ahwaz every four months. According to sources, Shahnaz and Pastor Farhad are not permitted to hold church services or visit Christians in Khuzestan province. Also, they were told they should leave Ahwaz, their hometown.

Source: Mohabat News

Prayer Points

  • Thank God Shahnaz has also been released from prison.
  • Pray that she and her husband will continue to serve God faithfully, despite the limitations placed on them by authorities.
  • Remember in prayer the many other Iranian believers who remain imprisoned, ask God to grant them endurance and pray also that they will soon be released.

You can impact and encourage imprisoned Christians by writing letters, reminding them that they are not forgotten.

 

SOUTH SUDAN: Female Church Workers Raped and Killed

Scores of female church workers were massacred last month as they sought refuge at a church in the central South Sudanese town of Bor.

The women, several of whom were elderly, had fled rebel attacks to hide in the St Andrew’s Episcopal Church compound, when rebels descended on them, raping several of them before shooting them at close range.  Five of the women worked as pastors in the church.

Since the conflict erupted, several churches have been attacked and looted, and pastors harassed. In Malakal, the St Francis Catholic Church compound was attacked and looted in mid-January, and the priest robbed. The local Anglican and Evangelical churches were also looted.

The most affected areas are the north-eastern states of Jonglei, Unity and Upper Nile. Bor, the headquarters of Jonglei State, was totally destroyed, with houses, food stores, shops, banks and churches burnt down and looted.

Source: World Watch Monitor

Prayer Points

  • Plead with the Lord to intervene, to bring a cessation of the brutality and bloodshed.
  • Pray for those who have lost loved ones and livelihoods, ask the Lord to strengthen them, provide for them and comfort them in their sufferings.
  • Pray the Lord will use this time of unrest to strengthen His church and draw many into His kingdom.

I don’t understand – and it’s good!

11949856321026402567tasto_9_architetto_franc_01.svg.medI’m reading 1 Corinthians at the moment. And while I can understand the general gist and idea of each passage, there are so many smaller points that I just don’t understand.

But that got me thinking: I actually don’t know as much as I think i do about the bible. I don’t have all the answers. I don’t know all the ins and outs. In fact, I probably don’t know much at all. And realising that was an extremely good wake up call.

I find it so easy to get complacent. To get lazy. To think I’m doing alright because I think I know a fair bit more than most others. And as a result to not try very hard because of it. The thoughts aren’t usually that blatant. They’re usually hidden under a guise of fake humility that can just slip past if I’m not careful to keep them in check.

Therefore, when I’m reminded that I actually don’t know a lot and that there are plenty of things I actually have no idea about, it’s a bit of a slap on the face. A much-needed wake up call that needs to be heeded.

God is infinitely more knowledgable, more powerful, more wise, more awesome, more holy, more just, more righteous, more loving and more perfect than me. I, like Job wasn’t there when he created the universe. I don’t know everything there is to know about the world. I don’t know much at all really. But I’m so inclined to be proud and to think that I actually know a lot. To be the first to spurt out answers when people ask questions. In reality I need to be humble, to realise that even if I can piece an answer together it doesn’t make me better than the other person – and it doesn’t automatically make me right either.

Aside from just humbling me a little, Not understanding is also good because it gives another opportunity to praise God. To realise that  he is far more glorious and knowledgable than I can fathom. It gives  a chance to prayerfully explore new areas (which takes time and effort and can be extremely frustrating – but also quite humbling, helpful and exciting).

I don’t know if you’ve ever had an experience like this – a moment of clarity where one of your obvious failings hits home. But they are good moments.

I don’t know everything. But God does. And that is good. I don’t understand. But God does. And he is good.

After writing this post I read this passage, and although the context is different, it does still ring true: 1 Corinthians 8:1b-3

 We know that “We all possess knowledge.” But knowledge puffs up while love builds up. Those who think they know something do not yet know as they ought to know. But whoever loves God is known by God.

 

The Sites to See

The Myself I was Yesterday: In this post Tim challenged our societies view of friendship between men and explores how the biblical alternative is far more beneficial.

How can I know if they’re THE ONE? “singles, take this to heart – When it comes to finding the one, the actions people choose trump the commitments they make. Look at their actions, not their intentions.”

Are you a slave to entertainment? This post from Fervr provides a well needed challenge: Are we enslaved to entertainment? Are we letting it distract us from serving and honouring God?

Creativity and Ministry: Aubry offers her thoughts on why she doesn’t want to become a Christian musician. It’s definitely worth thinking through!

Me Woo! Another challenge from Adam Ford. How do we view our churches? Is it all about us, or about serving fellow Christians?