A Song We Sing With Our Lives

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Image – The Voice of The Martyrs USA

I recently returned from an I Commit conference hosted in the state of Washington. While there I heard a young man named Gilbert Hovsepain share his testimony. Gilbert is one of the sons of Rev. Haik Hovsepian, who was martyred in 1994 in Iran. The documentary A Cry From Iran , tells the story of Rev. Haik and his family.

Gilbert began his testimony that morning by making a statement about the “song we sing with our lives.” Since that day I have rolled those words over many times in my mind. It has led me to ponder, — what song is my life singing?

I believe we greatly error when we listen to the stories of our brothers and sisters who have suffered for Christ from afar. When we filter their living testimonies through the lenses of — us and them. For the follower of Jesus Christ, it has never been us and them. It is us and Him. The genuine lives of our persecuted family draw us closer to the cross — in a reformed unity. Together we are one voice in harmony with  the heart of God.

There is a beauty in martyrdom that can only be viewed through spiritual eyes. Victorious shouts that reverberate throughout the heavens. A crowd of witnesses cheering the martyrs on to the finish line. A homecoming celebration for those who have overcome. My heart is filled with joy as I imagine those who spent their time on earth as persecutors, now won to Christ by a the songs of love. Once on opposite sides — now family.

I tell you that in the same way there will be more rejoicing in heaven over one sinner who repents than over ninety-nine righteous persons who do not need to repent. Luke 5:7 NLT

The entry fee to join the voices of those who suffer is simple, yet costly — we must enter into the fellowship of their suffering. The Message Bible’s introduction to the book of Job describes this fellowship eloquently.

So, instead of continuing to focus on preventing suffering — which we simply won’t be very successful at anyway — perhaps we should begin entering the suffering, participating insofar as we are able — entering the mystery and looking around for God. In other words, we need to quit feeling sorry for people who suffer and instead look up to them, learn from them and if they will let us — join them in protest and prayer.” – Eugene H. Peterson

One way to enter the fellowship of suffering is to join the chorus of those who will remember our persecuted family in prayer on the International Day of Prayer for the Persecuted church . This coming Sunday voices from all over the globe will share in remembering and praying for our persecuted family.

One of those we can remember to pray for is Farshid Fathi of Iran. Farshid was arrested in December of 2010 and remains in prison till this day. You can read more about Farshid’s story and portions of letters he has written from prison at Prisoner Alert. Farshid’s witness was the inspiration for the song titled A Letter From Prison, written and preformed by his friend Gilbert Hosvepian.

May our hearts never be satisfied with being on the sidelines. May we be a chorus of surrender alongside of our persecuted family. May our lives be melodies of living sacrifice. May we be a song of love for both those who suffer and those who persecute.      

They cried out with a loud voice, “O Sovereign Lord, holy and true, how long before you will judge and avenge our blood on those who dwell on the earth?” Revelation 6:10 ESV

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The Bigger Question

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This week the world was once again assaulted by yet another senseless act of violence. This time the carnage took place in a small community many Americans may have never heard of before — Roseburg, Oregon. Eye witness accounts describe the gunman in this mass shooting at Umpqua Community College as demanding that students stand up and answer his question. Reportedly the killer then asked the students if they were Christians, if they replied yes, he said “Good, because you’re a Christian, you will be seeing God in about a one second”, then he shot them dead.

The news of this mass shooting has been spread both near and far, and across many different forms of media. The imprint  this evil act has left behind has sparked dialogues, speculation, and debates about the root of such heinous acts of violence. While this certainly merits attention; I wonder if there is a bigger question we should be discussing? A deeper inquiry into the lives of those who rose to their feet that day. What would cause the Christians who were slain in that dark moment to confirm their faith — rather than deny it? What do they possess that is of greater value then their very lives?  I think these are the same questions asked by those who witnessed the martyrdom of the twelve disciples that choose to follow in the foot steps of Jesus Christ.

Persecution of Christians always has a reverse effect. This is why Tertullian could write – “The blood of the martyrs is the seed of the church”. It’s why Jesus cried out to His Father while being crucified; asking for forgiveness for the sins of His torturers.

34 And Jesus said,“Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do.”

And they cast lots to divide his garments. Luke 23:34. ESV 

All over the world, and at this very moment, persecuted Christians are uttering the same words to God on behalf of their persecutors today

As the world began to learn more about the mass shooting in Roseburg; including eye-witness accounts of the shooter singling out Christian students for execution; a media campaign began. A new hashtag can be seen on social media profiles, and accounts, declaring —#IAmAChristian. Four words that come with a price for those who own them.

There is no exception or exemption. If you choose to follow Jesus you will suffer persecution.

And all nations will hate you because you are my followers. But everyone who endures to the end will be saved.

Matthew 10:22 NLT

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Image – UTube

Last February, Libyan Islamic State (IS) militants released video footage of the martyrdom of Coptic Christian men in Libya. The footage of their martyrdom included a caption that read — “The people of the cross, followers of the hostile Egyptian church.” The 21 men who knelt before their persecutors were identified as ‘people of the cross’, and asked to deny their faith or die. Many of the men are seen uttering their final words on this earth — “Lord Jesus Christ.”

While it was reported that all of the men where Coptic Christians from poor villages in Upper Egypt; it was later discovered that this wasn’t the case. One of the men martyred that day was identified as Mathew Ayairga; a young man from Chad. He is believed to not have been a Christian before kneeling in the sand beside the ‘people of the cross.’ Witnessing the courage and faith of the Egyptian Christians he also chose to follow Jesus.  Perhaps he understood the bigger question? Mere moments before Matthew was executed, His executors are seen asking “Do you reject Christ?” His reply was “Their God is my God.” Four costly words.

 Perhaps the answer to the bigger questions is that followers of Jesus Christ embraced the cost of being a Christian. Maybe like Stephen in the book of acts they see beyond this temporal realm we call life. Could it be they had already given up their lives? In reality not one of their lives were taken — they laid them down. They offered them up.  Could it be they had already reconciled the fact that their lives were not their own?

The martyrs who stood to face sure death and those who knelt to face certain death — now live — together alongside a multitude of their family who has gone before them. I can only imagine the reception they received as they stepped out of their earthly bodies and took in their first heavenly breath. As they each took their place alongside the multitude crying out before the throne of God.

They shouted to the Lord and said, “O Sovereign Lord, holy and true, how long before you judge the people who belong to this world and avenge our blood for what they have done to us?” Revelations 6:10 NLT

Following Jesus has never been safe. The Christians in Mosul Iraq understand the cost of being of the sect of the Nazarene. Last summer in northern Iraq, the Islamic State (IS) painted the Arabic letter ن, or “N,” on properties, homes, and businesses of Christians. Those who owned the property were identified as Christians and given the choice to deny their faith or suffer at the hands of their persecutors. They were forced out of their homes with barely the clothes on their backs.

I Am NWe may, or may not, be asked to lay this life down as our persecuted brothers and sisters have, and do, today — but, we should live as if we were. Like those in Roseburg, Libya, Egypt, North Korea, Iraq, Syria, and many other hostile and restricted countries; we can stand, kneel, speak, go, and pray.

Yes, I am a Christian — and I am N. I will stand, I will kneel, and I will go.

Remember those in prison, as if you were there yourself. Remember also those being mistreated, as if you felt their pain in your own bodies. Hebrews 13:3 NLT

  The Voice of the Martyrs is offering a tangible way to show your commitment to our persecuted family. You can show the world around you that you are “N” too. You can make your commitment to pray and stand with our persecuted family facing Islamic Extremism. Please see – I Am N bracelets at – http://www.persecution.com/.