Blessed are those who are persecuted because of righteousness, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. (Matt 5:10 NIV)
Dear Cambridge Family & Friends,
November is a paradoxical month. For many people in the Western Hemisphere and most of us in the West End of Richmond, November is a month highlighted by a time of Thankfulness. In just a few weeks, many businesses, schools, government and other organizations will close their doors to observe Thanksgiving. Many families will gather together and at least temporarily take a break from their dizzy busy lives, briefly give thanks to the Lord for their many blessings and ‘dig in’ to a buffet of turkey & dressing, potatoes & gravy and all the ‘fixins.’ A few days later, many Western Christian churches including American Christians who are still able to move after over-indulging and exhaustive shopping, will make their way to church to celebrate the first Sunday in Advent – a time of thankful expectation and celebration for the ‘coming’ (from the Latin word adventus)of the Christ child.
Not to bum you out or put a sour taste in your mouth outside the bittersweet flavor of your cranberry sauce, but it’s important for all of us Christians to pause, pray and reflect on those fellow brothers and sisters-in-Christ around the world, and especially in the Middle East who will not gather around with family and friends to feast; who will not don their Sunday best (even if it’s their best skinny jeans in the hipper churches) to openly celebrate the coming of Jesus. These men and women, boys and girls will be taunted, traumatized, and tortured because of their public profession of Jesus Christ as Messiah. They will be collected and killed for believing and professing in a loving God who sent His one and only Son to die for all of our sins. As we reach for our second helping, they will rely on the Second Coming and promise of a second, eternal life with Jesus Christ as their life on this earth will end. What many of us take for granted, they will take to their graves.
Throughout the month of November, it is my prayer that we can bring attention to the Persecuted Church. We began the first Sunday in November by handing out and wearing orange ribbons symbolic of the orange jumpsuits worn by 21 Egyptian Coptic Christians who were beheaded this year in Libya by ISIS. In the coming weeks I have asked a few members of our church to share pictures, stories and solutions to address this travesty.
I want to encourage you to familiarize yourself with the persecution of Christians throughout the world and know that several of the privileges we enjoy as Christians to express our opinions and faith are but a legislative pen stroke from being taken away. We are already seeing several examples of freedom of ‘Christian’ expression restrictions in our schools, athletic fields, universities, military and other government agencies and organizations.
I also want to encourage you to celebrate the incredible freedom of Christian expression that you have by making a new commitment to ‘being a family in Christ joyously worshipping God’ by regularly attending worship; to ‘growing together in faith,’ by being discipled in Sunday school, Wednesday night (and other) Bible studies; to ‘serving with your gifts,’ by engaging in one or more of the many ministry needs and opportunities we have at our church, and to ‘love your neighbor near and far’ by inviting someone to church, sharing your faith, serving, praying, fasting and acting for those who need to know the love of Jesus Christ.
In Christ alone,
Cambridge Baptist Church