Our Brother Is In Prison. Here’s A Preliminary To-Do List

WLO_ransomcaptiveNo, I don’t know your family history. But I do know that you and I have brothers and sisters from all over the world who are in prison.  These are men and women that may not be related to us by blood, but they are connected to us by something far stronger than mere physical biology.  Paul’s words to the Ephesian church remind us of just how important this connection really is.  He says,

So then you are no longer strangers and aliens, but you are fellow citizens with the saints and members of the household of God, built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Christ Jesus himself being the cornerstone, in whom the whole structure, being joined together, grows into a holy temple in the Lord (Eph. 2:19-21)

Depending on what verse you turn to, this Christian connection is called the Bride of Christ, a family, a body, a church, a household and a temple.  Can you think of any more powerful connection than these?

And some of the members of our family are in prison . . . for their faith!

You’ve no doubt heard about this before, but remember: This is a blog about hearing and doing, since Jesus reminded us of the emptiness of revealed knowledge without action.

Maybe you’re not sure what you yourself can do. Let me assure you that doing virtually anything is better than doing nothing!

1.  The most important thing you can do is what Pastor Foley suggested in his Monday blog post: Stop sinning!  In other words, let the example of imprisoned believers remind you of the urgency of getting your own life right with Christ! Observe their way of life and apply it to your own discipleship. (And by the way . . . if you bypass this suggestion then the rest of this post is rendered meaningless!)

2.  Don’t forget about these Christians!  This sounds simplistic, but in Christian discipleship the simplest things are often the most difficult. What we are talking about here is a spiritual discipline. Our lives are filled with work, school functions, children’s activities, shopping, TV, computer, and church Bible studies. We don’t have much time to think about a Christian who may be imprisoned in a place like Iran.  But the spiritual discipline of “not forgetting” is exactly what Richard Wurmbrand asked us to practice in Tortured for Christ.  He said,

The message I bring from the Underground Church is: “Don’t abandon us!”  Don’t forget us!”  Don’t write us off!”  “Give us the tools we need!  We will pay the price for using them!”  This is the message I have been charged to deliver to the free church (pg. 144).

One simple way we can not forget our brothers and sisters in prison is by writing a letter to them.  Voice of the Martyrs has a letter writing program whereby they show you how to write a letter, the benefits of writing such a letter, and who exactly to write a letter to.  Right now they have opportunities to write letters to imprisoned believers in Pakistan, Indonesia, Iran, and Sudan, among many other countries.

Imagine being in prison yourself . . . alone and not sure if anyone really knows or cares that you are in prison.  Imagine receiving a letter from a believer halfway across the world whereby you realize that someone is praying for you!

3.  Finally, Richard Wurmbrand  mentioned that persecuted and imprisoned Christians desire tools.  We can certainly be a help in providing these tools, but we must first understand what the tools are and how they should be provided.  In other words, Christians in North Korea may need something different than Christians in Nigeria.  Or Christians in Sudan and Christians in India may both want the Scriptures, but it may need to be delivered in different ways.

Let’s first take the time to listen to the persecuted and imprisoned church leaders and learn about the faithful church in their country and how we can come alongside them and serve the body of Christ together.

Posted in North Korea, persecution, Ransoming the Captive | Tagged , , | Leave a comment

What More Can We Do To Help Persecuted Believers? How About This: Stop Sinning

WLO_visitremember“I’m praying, I’m giving financially, but I really want to know: What more can I do to help persecuted believers?”

I get that question a lot when I speak about North Korean underground believers at conferences on Christian persecution.

Hebrews 12:1-2 offers a unexpected answer: Stop sinning.

Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles. And let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us, fixing our eyes on Jesus, the pioneer and perfecter of faith. For the joy set before him he endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God.

This is actually a corollary of rather than an alternative to Hebrews 13:3, which says, “Continue to remember those in prison as if you were together with them in prison, and those who are mistreated as if you yourselves were suffering.”

In other words, if we really were in prison with persecuted believers, one of the things we (hopefully) wouldn’t be doing is regularly giving in to our besetting sins.

So if we are regularly giving in to our besetting sins at present, that’s a sign that we’re not preparing seriously for persecution…which is a sign that we are not taking the suffering of our brothers and sisters seriously.

“Yes,” we may say. “But I really want to do something to help them.” 

Good. And that’s of course why we should not neglect prayers and financial support.

But imagine if you were a persecuted Christian, and you received a steady flow of letters from fellow believers around the world saying, “Your suffering has caused me to get serious about my Christian life. You have inspired me to throw off every weight and lay aside every sin that so easily besets me and instead run with perseverance the race God has set out for me.”

What greater help could we give a persecuted brother or sister than to let them know how God is using their life to disciple and bless many in the wider body of Christ?

Posted in Visiting and Remembering | Tagged , , | 5 Comments

Need More Help To Memorize Scripture? How About The Topical Memory System?

WLO_searchingscripturesOut of all the blog posts I (Pastor Tim) have written, which by the way isn’t very many (163 to be exact), I was surprised to find out what my most popular post is.

Far and away, it is a post I wrote in December 2013 entitled A Unique Way to Memorize Scripture. Needless to say, it is quite encouraging to see the level of continuing interest in Bible memorization despite the overall decline in biblical literacy in the Western Church.

A little over two years ago, I was convicted when I saw the example of the North Korean underground church. Most Christians in North Korea have almost no access to the Scriptures, but when they do receive a verse or two they immediately commit it to memory. Since that point my family has tried to memorize a different Scripture passage every week, often reviewing the passages on a yearly basis to ensure that we’ve really memorized them for the long-term.

That being said, I certainly haven’t learned any method that makes the practice effortless! That’s why I’m always on the lookout for helpful hints and encouragement from others.

Matthew Johnson from Seedbed.com recently wrote a blog post on why he started memorizing scripture. In it he referenced the Topical Memory System (TMS) as a great place to start. TMS was started by the Navigators as an easy-to-use system to help believers memorize Scripture verses. It divides the Bible into key topics and gives a list of Scripture verses for each topic. For example, under the topic of “Proclaiming Christ” is listed Romans 3:23, Isaiah 53:6 and Romans 6:23, among many others. If you buy the official TMS it comes with perforated cards to help your memorization.

There are some similarities between the TMS method and the way my family has memorized Scripture the past 2 years. We’ve studied a different topic area each month (we organize Scriptures by Work of Mercy) and memorized Scripture passages related to those topics.

But one of the dangers I see with the Topical Memory System is memorizing Scripture verses out of context or with no context at all.  My friend from Bible College, Michael Surran said,

Many Christians treat the Bible as a buffet. They go straight to the “promise” verses, you know, the “ask and you shall receive” verses. Like a buffet, they’ll take two or three helpings from the promise “table”, but you won’t see them anywhere near the “we must suffer many hardships to enter the Kingdom of God” table. It’s human nature – many of us find the dessert bar much more attractive than the salad bar. But it is also very dangerous.

My own remedy for this problem is memorizing whole passages of Scripture rather than just individual Scripture verses. For example, instead of memorizing Isaiah 53:6, we memorize all 12 verses of Isaiah 53. It sure seems like a lot, but I bet you’ll be surprised that memorizing a passage of Scripture does not take much more time than memorizing a single verse.

This past month my family was studying discipleship. We memorized three passages related to making disciples (2 Kings 2:1-15, Matthew 28:16-20, Luke 9:57-62). Along with memorizing passages, we’ll also often read the chapters before and after to understand what is truly happening.

Matthew Johnson said these words about Scripture memorization, but they might as well have been my own.

I began following Christ when I was 15 so it took me nearly twenty years before I got into this discipline, but it has been one of the most rewarding practices I have ever experienced and I would love for you to join me in hiding God’s word in our hearts (Psalm 119:11).

Posted in Making Disciples, Preparation | Tagged , , | 3 Comments