Monday, December 14, 2015

The Hope of Glory

from my fellow pastor Bill Winn, at the Trinity and Humanity blog:

We huddled in a small room above a sympathetic citizen’s house. It was a tense time here in the Middle East. Christians were being rounded up and killed in horrible ways. It has been astonishing to us to witness the cruelty human beings are capable of inflicting on each other. The most glaring example is the Crucifixion of our Lord Jesus Christ. For a moment on that rooftop, as we were being systematically hunted down and
slaughtered, we felt as though we could identify with Jesus in the Garden of Gethsemane. Then one of the ladies in the group made a suggestion that, at first, seemed odd and then perfectly logical and monumentally Christ-like. “Let’s pray for those who persecute us, just like Jesus taught.” She said. We dreamed aloud to each other about the potential for the spreading of the Gospel if just one of those powerful persecutors would REL_G_002come to know Jesus and follow him.
You know what… one did. One of the men we prayed for that day met Jesus in a vision and became one of the most powerful Gospel preachers of our day. He even went on to plant churches, write many letters, and died the Martyrs death innocently murdered by Nero because he was a Christian. His name… Saul of Tarsus. He goes by Paul now and he is a wonderful Christian brother.
I think it is very likely that similar situations occurred during the persecution of the Early Church. It should be very easy for us to imagine the persecuted Christians of Saul's day praying for him to meet Jesus.
Two and a half weeks ago at Richmond Grace I gave a message on the first Sunday of Advent called Hope Sunday about this very topic. It was before San Bernardino but just after the Paris attacks. The message, for me, was difficult to craft as my anger over the senseless taking of human life was very real. In my study I did my best to develop a message around hope but the world around me seemed awfully hopeless. In prayer I was reminded of Colossians 1:27 where the former Saul of Tarsus wrote that Christ in us was the hope of glory. Jesus in us is our hope.  The Father, Son, and Spirit has included Humanity in the life of love they have shared for eternity and it is true for terrorists whether they choose to participate in it or not.
Maybe we should pray for these Terrorists. I don’t mean pray that the bombs that are dropping around them will find their mark. In fact, at Richmond Grace on Hope Sundaywe passed out a list of some of the top terrorist leaders around the world so that our members could pray for them specifically and by name.
What I am offering is the following suggestion: What if one of the men on this list is the next Saul of Tarsus? What if one of these terrorists met Jesus in a vision? (the most common way Muslims in Muslim countries are coming to belief in Jesus) What if one of the men on that list became a powerful voice for the Gospel of Peace… the Gospel of Jesus Christ who is the Savior of the World! That indeed would be something worthy of a place in our prayer lives.
So will you join us at Richmond Grace Fellowship and pray for the men on this list? It could just change everything!      ~Bill Winn
Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi
Current "caliphate" and leader of ISIS
Omar al-Shishani
Top level ISIS military commander
Ayman al-Zawahiri
Leader of al Qaeda
Ibrahim al-Asiri
Top level bomb maker for al-Qaeda
Qasim al-Raymi.
Top level al-Qaeda leader in Saudi peninsula
Sirajuddin Haqqani
Operational leader of Haqqani Network, the deadliest insurgent group in Afghanistan
Abubakar Shekau
Leader of Boko Haram, Nigerian insurgent group who has pledged allegiance to ISIS

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