Praying For the Persecuted Church in Iraq
It’s hard to believe, but the situation in the Middle East has gone from bad to worse in the last few months. The Lord has particularly directed my attention to the nation of Iraq as a place to focus my prayers for the persecuted Church. The reports that are coming out of Iraq recently are very disturbing and tell of unspeakable atrocities that are being propagated by the hands of wicked men who are seeking to advance their false religion through violence and terror.
If you have been following the news in the last month, you more than likely have heard of the Islamic terrorist organization that goes by the name of Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS). ISIS is an off-shoot from the infamous terrorist group Al-Qaeda. In fact, Al-Qaeda broke ties with ISIS because they consider ISIS to be too extreme for their taste. Sadly, ISIS has swept into the nation of Iraq like a flood: pillaging villages, kidnapping women and children, burning churches, killing innocent people by the brutal methods of beheading, un-judicial public executions, and crucifixion of Christians. They are filling mass graves with bodies everywhere they go. So far ISIS has claimed 4 major cities in Iraq and they are seeking to gain control of Baghdad which would essentially give them control over the Iraqi government. Over 600,000 refugees have fled from their homes, but few have found opportunity to flee into the safety of another nation’s borders. These refugees have lost everything and are living in constant vulnerability to the dangers of exposure to desert conditions and continued terrorist raids.
As you can see, the situation is dire and tragic. What does this mean to those of us who live continents away, dwelling in the safety of our air-conditioned American homes? How do we– how can we– respond to such awful, wicked injustice? As Christian believers, the primary way we need to respond is through intercessory prayers. The best way to pray for the persecuted Church is to pray that God will give them grace, strength, and boldness to be faithful witnesses of Jesus Christ. Some of these believers may even be martyred for their testimony of Jesus. Let’s pray that “they overcome… by the blood of the Lamb and by the word of their testimony, and [that] they do not love their lives to the death… for God will give them the Crown of Life”(Revelation 12:11). Additionally, we need to pray that God pushes back the spiritual darkness that is doing harm and that He releases the light of the gospel in these dark places (2 Thessalonians 3:1-5).
Ephesians 6:12 declares that “we are not fighting against flesh-and-blood enemies, but against evil rulers and authorities of the unseen world, against mighty powers in this dark world, and against evil spirits in the heavenly places.” The power that is driving ISIS and other wicked men is demonic influences, mindsets, and evil spiritual forces. When we pray, God moves! The Bible and Church history are full of examples of how God responds in power to the prayers of simple, weak men and women like you and I. Will you take up the torch of prayer in your generation? Lives, salvations, even kingdoms hang in the balance, and your prayers can tip the scales!
This last month we enjoyed celebrating my (Stuart) father’s 60th birthday. It was a really special time as our family and friends joined together to honor my dad and thank him for the positive impact he has had on all of our lives. Since everyone was together in the same place we were able to take a big family picture.
Back in KC, our family has experienced some relative success tending a small backyard container garden. In the past, all of our attempts to grow anything edible have failed. This year, however, we have two bell pepper plants, two chili pepper, two sweet basil, two spicy basil, one cilantro, and one gigantic tomato plant that are all doing great and bearing fruit! I think the big difference has been our commitment to water the garden. It turns out that plants like water! Who would have thought?
John has finally started walking! It is so cute watching him high-step his way from place to place. He is still working on becoming more stable, but is navigating two-legged-style like a champ. We have also enjoyed a new increase in snuggles. Little John hasn’t ever been a very snuggly baby, but for whatever reason he has recently decided that long hugs (5-10 seconds… we’ll take it) with mom and dad is something that he now enjoys. He is so darn cute!