The Shadows of Persecution

The widows and children of the Malatya martyrs are always near to my heart and in my prayers this time of the year. Semse Aydin is the inspiration for this blog I’ve written. She lives daily in the shadow of persecution. May God continue to be her everything.
This post was originally written after a horrific terrorist attack that took place in France in 2015. Since that time our world has been assaulted again, and again by this shade of evil.

Tami Yeager

As I recently watched and listened to the news of the attack and subsequent slaying of those in the French magazine office of Charlie Hebdo; I found my thoughts immediately drawn to a comparable, yet very different story.  Both stories share the similarity of bloodshed at the hands of adherents to radical Islam. Each story is painfully tragic. I wondered if any of those  slain in France had met their attackers before that fateful day. I thought of the life and deaths of Necati Aydin and Ugur Yuksel and Tilmann Geske, who were murdered in their office at Zirve Publising in Malatya, Turkey on April 18, 2007.

Those who were responsible for the murders of Necati, Ugur, and Tilman weren’t all strangers to these men or their families. To the contrary, one of the murderers had sought Necati out earlier pretending to be interested in his Christian faith. As described in the book titled Faithful Until Death and written by Wolfgang Haede, Necati…

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Shame’s Seduction

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Shame. The word alone makes me want to inhale deeply, before preparing myself for confrontation. The fallacy is, that shame comes in like a thick fog — daring you to defy it, to confront it, — while taunting you with the notion that you are worthless, and no match for its power.

The serpent was clever, more clever than any wild animal God had made. He spoke to the Woman: “Do I understand that God told you not to eat from any tree in the garden?” – Genesis 3:1 the Message

Since the dawning of time, shame has tragically makes it’s abode in the sons and daughters of Adam and Eve. Once its venom enters the victim’s life blood, it takes up residence, even being passed on from one generation to the next.  A skilled master of disguise. He greets his targets in a variety of different forms. Even those who don’t believe he exists. In his ever cunning way he’ll convince his prey that he is holy, just, and righteous, — one’s lot in life, and even a birthright. It’s sufferers having lived with it for so long, are often unaware of its toxicity spreading throughout their soul.

13 “The serpent seduced me,” she said, “and I ate.” Genesis 3:13 the Message

Shame has exercised and honed his seductive skills to near perfection — if that were possible.

21 God made leather clothing for Adam and his wife and dressed them. Genesis 3:21 the Message

Thankfully, shame underestimated its greatest opponent — the King. As He did in the Garden of Eden, — so He has done to this day. With His very own hands, He’s crafted new clothing for us to wear. No two are alike. Once this clothing is embraced it carries with it the antidote to disarm shame at every level. Shame actually shrinks away from the King and His grace woven clothing.

The LORD says, “I will rescue those who love me. I will protect those who trust in my name. Psalm 91”14 NLT

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Immanuel ~ God With US

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photo credit – The Nativity Story

The Birth of Jesus

The birth of Jesus took place like this. his mother, Mary, was engaged to be married to Joseph. Before they came to the marriage bed, Joseph discovered she was pregnant. (It was by the Holy Spirit, but he didn’t know that.) Joseph, changrined but noble, determined to take care of things quietly so Mary would not be disgraced. – Matthew 1:18-19 The Message

Have you suffered under the ruthless hands of shame? Maybe you’ve had the weighty shadow of shame cast upon you by a society, or a people group, — or those you love? Perhaps you’ve stood strong under the weight of shame for simply saying “yes” to God’s will in your life. Maybe our broken world gifted you with shame before birth? Shame comes in all kinds of packages.

Mary was as human as you and me. While she knew whose child she carried inside her chosen body — she was also confronted with the shame of her culture. I imagine it would have been difficult not to receive shame projected upon her as Joseph wrestled with the news of her pregnancy. Was her integrity questioned? Was she accused unfairly? Did she feel rejection from the one who held her future in his hands? Did she feel isolated, abandoned, — alone? Did she suffer heart ache?  

Shame is easily handed off — even, when it’s unjust, cruel, and unwarranted.

Take heart. God sent his very own messenger, the angel Gabriel to rescue Mary. He loves you none the less. He will rescue you too. Rest assured in His plan for you. Even if you can’t see it. Keep your eyes on the end of the day — His purpose, His plans, His way, His great big love for you.

He is your Immanuel — God with you!

Refuse shame at every port of entry. It does not belong to you. Jesus took all shame upon Himself. All shame. It is not yours.

Rest, even if misunderstood. Immanuel, God with us, understands you well.

I believe you make His heart smile every time He thinks of you.

“Look! The virgin will conceive a child! She will give birth to a son, and they will call him Immanuel, which means ‘God is with us.” Matthew 1:23 NLT

The entire nativity story was written for you. Wrapped in every written word is a gift of peace. One sent to a broken and hurting world. It’s the good news!

 

 

“Darkness cannot drive out darkness: only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate: only love can do that.” – Martin Luther King Jr.

Malatya Martyrs

As we near April 18th, the anniversary date of Turkey’s first modern day martyrs — the martyrs of Malatya; my thoughts and prayers are with their families, and the church in Turkey.

Below is part of a blog I wrote earlier this year.

Necati Aydin and Ugur Yuksel and Tilmann Geske, were murdered in their office at Zirve Publising in Malatya, Turkey on April 18, 2007.

Those who were responsible for the murders of Necati, Ugur, and Tilman weren’t all strangers to these men or their families. To the contrary, one of the murderers had sought Necati out earlier pretending to be interested in his Christian faith. As described in the book titled Faithful Until Death and written by Wolfgang Haede, Necati was suspicious of this young man from the beginning. He and his wife Semse discussed this, and concluded that in spite of the young man’s motives, a meeting would still offer an opportunity to share the message of Jesus with him. Later Semse would refer to those who were responsible for the murders of her husband, Ugur, and Tilman as “their Judas.”

Necati Aydin, Ugur Yuksel, and Tilmann Geske didn’t have their lives taken from them, they gave them away, not unlike the Jesus they’d hoped to introduce to the five men who betrayed them that morning. Instead of this introduction they were ushered into the heavens where they’ve now joined those robed in white, as they await the full number of their fellow servants.

Semse and Nicati

Nacati and Semse Aydin

1Then each of them was given a white robe, and they were told to wait a little longer, until the full number of their fellow servants, their brothers and sisters, were killed just as they had been.– Revelations 6:11

Susanne & Semse

Susanne Geske and Semse Aydin

Following the aftermath of the killings in France I wondered how this news would affect those who live boldly in the shadows of persecution. Women like Semse Aydin and Susanne Geske. Both of them  suffered great losses yet each found it in their  hearts to publicly forgive those responsible for the deaths of those they love. Would the images, and commentaries being shared on virtually every media outlet bring vivid memories to the forefront of their minds? Would pain that lay gently beneath the surface be visible to them once again? More importantly, I wondered if those who live in the shadows of persecution like Semse and Susanne know they are not forgotten? Do they know they are not alone, and that we remember them, and are praying for them? While it’s true that God is faithful to those with broken hearts, it is equally true that a broken heart hurts. I am convinced that those who’ve lost their loved ones because of their faithful testimony are also those of whom the world is not worthy. When we remember, encourage, and pray for those who suffer for their Christian faith, let us not forget the living witnesses amongst us. .

“It was not easy for me to say that I forgive the killers.” Semse said later at the memorial service. “To be honest, my heart is broken and my life feels shattered. I really loved Necati. He was the love of my life, my closest friend. But there is no one I love more than Jesus. Only because of this, I can bear it.” – Semse Aydin from Faithful Until Death.

 

“I have found that there are three stages in every great work of God; first, it is impossible, then it is difficult, then it is done.”
– Hudson Taylor

Beauty From Ashes

Beauty From AshesWhere we live we are able to burn our yard debris during certain times of the year. Each fall we clean up dead and dying plants and toss them into the burn pile, having deemed each plant as having served its purpose and its season having come to an end. When we do burn the pile, the fire burns extremely hot, and because of its size and intensity, it will often smolder for days. When it does eventually burn out, what remains is a large pile of ash.

This last spring a beautiful squash plant rose from the burn pile. Not a single person in our family planted it or tended it once it sprouted from the ashes. Yet this plant is the healthiest plant on the property. The seed survived the heat of the fire last fall and the freeze of winter, and the plant weathered the 80-degree, sun-filled days of this past summer. Not only did it survive all of those extreme elements, but it has also bore an abundance of fruit—there are over nine squash growing on this healthy plant!

The beauty of the abundant life rising from the ash pile has captivated me. I have found my thoughts consumed with what God is saying through this plant that came to life from the ashes. It comforts me to know that God can bring beauty from ashes, and also reminds me that there is great potential for seeds buried in the soil of disappointment, sorrow, and despair.

Never underestimate the potential of a seed buried deep within the ashes. The fire that seemed to be relentless was in reality creating the perfect soil for new life.

 

“Do you know what hurts so very much? It’s love. Love is the strongest force in the world, and when it is blocked that means pain. There are two things we can do when this happens. We can kill that love so that it stops hurting. But then of course part of us dies, too. Or we can ask God to open up another route for that love to travel.”
― Corrie ten Boom, The Hiding Place