Monday, April 8, 2013

Good news/Bad news ...

Those of you who attend smaller congregations: have you ever felt bad because your church attendance numbers are low?

Do you sometimes think that because your church is small, there is not much going on?

Here is some good news for small churches:

Revelation 3:7-8 NLT

 “Write this letter to the angel of the church in Philadelphia.
This is the message from the one who is holy and true,
    the one who has the key of David.
What he opens, no one can close;
    and what he closes, no one can open:
  “I know all the things you do, and I have opened a door for you that no one can close. You have little strength, yet you obeyed my word and did not deny me.

The Church of Philadelphia, thought to be small in number *, with little strength yet God commended them.  "They were weak enough to be strong in the Lord." **  They knew how weak they were and how they needed to rely on the Lord's power.

Philadelphia was the only one out of the seven churches mentioned in Revelation that did not receive a rebuke.

Why?  They were commended because they kept the Word.  They obeyed the Word.

They also kept the name of Jesus.  They did not deny Him when persecuted.

When I heard about the Philadelphian Church, I got excited.  You don't have to fill a stadium full of people to receive commendation from the Lord - although that would be great. You just have to be faithful to the task set before you.

I see so many little churches in the rural area where I live.  Churches that struggle to support a pastor, to pay its bills and still have funds for outreach and missions. Pastors who toil long hours, often having to work a secular job to help support themselves.

Church members who get discouraged seeing little growth in numbers.

I've been there.

Let this word be an encouragement to you.  As long as you stay rooted in the Word, and never deny Jesus, there are good things in store.

Vindication from persecution.

Protection from the hour of trial that will come to the whole world to test unbelievers.   I believe this means the Great Tribulation, but read Revelation 3 through verse 12 and draw your own conclusions.

So, hold fast and be an overcomer.  You can have a position of honor as a true servant of God.

Speaking of persecution; now, for the bad news ...

A news story caught my attention this week.  Two Coptic Christian immigrants (meaning Orthodox Christians from Egypt) were murdered in Jersey City, New Jersey, by a local man described by a friend as a non-religious Muslim.***  However, the two victims were beheaded and their hands severed which could be indicative of a religious slaying.****

As gruesome as this story is, what is more astonishing is the fact that little has been reported about this incident.  The killings happened in February, I read the Fox News Home Page every day and saw nothing reported about this.  I learned about it on Facebook. After Googling "coptic christians beheaded in New Jersey," I did find that a couple newspapers have reported it but no mainstream media has carried the story.  (Please let me know if I missed a major news outlet covering the murder.) 

Of course, persecution of Christians has been happening in other countries for some time now. In Egypt, a beheading of a Christian for not renouncing his faith was shown on television.***** This is not something new.  Will persecution follow Christians over to our homeland?

If so, will the news media care?

I bring this up because I feel it is just indicative of the times we live in.  In what was once a strong Christian nation, somehow my beloved country feels like not a very safe place for Christians.

Should persecution come our way, I pray we will be like the Philadelphian church and rely on Christ's strength to never deny the name of Jesus. We do have His promise that He will be with us always.

I'm linking this post with the Hear It on Sunday, Use It on Monday community because my pastor, Travis Schroeder, preached on the Church at Philadelphia from Revelation 3 on Sunday night. You can find this community on Michelle's blog, Michelle DeRusha.


* Source: The Message to Philadelphia (Rev 3:7-13)From the Series: Studies in Revelation

** Source:  Enduring Word Media 

*** Source: The Christian Post:  Egyptian Christian Immigrants Murdered, Beheaded in NJ
**** Source:  The Commentator:  Gruesome beheading of Coptic Christian Men in USA
***** Source: Tunisian Man Beheaded For Converting to Christianity
By Lawrence D. Jones , Christian Post Reporter

1 comment:

Ann P said...

Hi, Jerralea! For a few years early in our marriage, my husband and I attended a small church in the country. We loved the old fashioned, close-knit atmosphere. When we started raising a family, we sought a church that had families with kids the same age as ours. It's sad to see less and less of the small churches surviving anymore!
The story of the murdered couple is startling, yet not surprising to me. As Christians, we have been warmed throughout the New Testament that we will face persecution for our faith. To me, it is another reminder that we are very close to Christ's return!! Lord, come quickly!!!
In His Love, Ann @ Christ in the Clouds