Soon after Andy came to Oak Cliff as Student Minister, he began a practice of reading about and praying for a country from the Voice of the Martyrs Persecuted Church Guide during our Sunday School opening. This morning, with Andy being gone and Chad being sick, it fell to me to read about our country for the week, Mauritania. On this Sunday before our Independence Day, I was especially touched by the plight of the Christians in this small country in Western Africa.
Mauritania is 99.8%+ Muslim. Barely 0.1% of the population know Christ. It is against the law to be a Christian...or anything other than Muslim...in Mauritania. It is against the law to print or import religious materials of any religion other than Muslim, and it is illegal to evangelize Muslims. Conversion to Christianity is punishable by death, and in 2009, local police arrested and tortured 150+ Christians for meeting together as a church.
This week in America, many of us have been greatly distressed by a Supreme Court ruling which we see as a major blow to freedom. There has been much talk...and rightly so...of the way our freedoms in this country are being eroded little by little in many areas. It is disturbing, and we definitely need to take a stand and protect the freedom that has been paid for with the blood of so many over the last 236 years.
However, I was overwhelmed as I read this morning about Mauritania...just one country among many in the world today where merely claiming the name of Christ can result in imprisonment or death...that we still have so very much to be thankful for as we approach this Independence Day. We are able to claim the name of Christ without fear. We are able to gather together for worship in peace. We are able to own as many Bibles as we choose. We are able to share our faith without reprisal. We are even able to declare and defend our religious and political views via social media.
Yesterday I commented on a blog post by a blogger troubled about the popularity of the movie "Magic Mike" and the book "50 Shades of Grey". One of her last sentences summed up her whole post so well..."We were made for SO much more!" After spending a week studying/teaching God's plan and design in Creation in VBS, I was especially struck by the truth of that statement. In my comment I said, " I want to be so caught up in the "more" that God created me for that I don't have time for books or movies like these to even be on my radar."
I was reminded of that this morning as I read about the country of Mauritania and the hardships faced by Christians there. I don't begin to understand why God allowed me to be born in a country blessed with the freedoms we are blessed with here. There are things that sadden me about the direction our country has taken in recent years, and even more in recent days. But...I am still incredibly thankful for this country in which we've been blessed to live and raise our children.
And I am even more convicted about the urgency of being caught up in the "more" for which we were created. So often, we...I..."waste" the freedom with which we've been blessed. We use our "freedom" as justification for pursuing all manner of things which are not honoring to our Creator. We're often very poor stewards of the precious freedoms with which we've been blessed.
My heart aches today for the persecuted Christians in Mauritania and other countries around the world. It is frustrating to feel that there is so little that can be done for their plight. But there are things that we...I...can do. We can pray. We can give to organizations that are working to help. We can become involved in those organizations. I can teach my children and others about the plight of the persecuted church and about the preciousness of our own freedom. I can teach them how to be good stewards of that freedom, and I can be a good steward in that area myself.
Most of all, I can not waste a single ounce of the freedom I've been granted. I can put a priority on reading, studying, and memorizing the Bible for which so many through the ages have sacrificed so much, up to and including their lives. I can make the most of every opportunity for corporate worship, fellowship, and ministry. I can devote my heart and life to discovering and doing what God created me to do, without worrying that I am going to be imprisoned or put to death for doing so.
My prayer as we approach this Independence Day is that we will not only celebrate our freedom, but that we will steward it well.
If My people, who are called by My name, shall humble themselves, pray, seek, crave, and require of necessity My face and turn from their wicked ways, then will I hear from heaven, forgive their sin, and heal their land.
~2 Chronicles 7:14 AMP
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