Tuesday, April 30, 2013

An Invitation....

     Today I am thinking of a man named Stephen.
     More than 2,000 years ago, he told his audience exactly who Jesus was and then explained how his hearers had missed every single sign written by the prophets - signs that clearly pointed to Jesus.  He didn't mince words when he told them that they had participated in the  killing of  the Son of God. Basically he presented the claims of Christ in such a way that his listeners could not refute his arguments.
     So they killed him.
     But God honored him. The Bible normally speaks of Jesus as being seated at the right hand of God the Father.  In the narrative about Stephen's stoning, however, it says that Stephen saw Jesus standing at the right hand of God.  I think Jesus stood in order to honor Stephen, the first martyr of the early church.
     How much is Jesus worth?
     Stephen apparently thought Jesus was worth everything.
     Over the centuries, countless others have thought the same thing.
     One of them today is in Evin prison, very  ill and in solitary confinement. His name is Saeed and he's not the only Christian being tortured for his faith. However, today we know for sure that Saeed's  need is great.  He's bleeding internally and will be in solitary for 20 days. He's been in solitary confinement before and has said that this was the darkest time for him, that each hour seemed like an entire day.
     What do you do 24/7 in a bleak, stagnant cell with maybe just a blanket to sleep on?  How do you pass the time away until your next "interrogation" session? How do you cope with rampant worries about your family on the outside, with threats from brutal guards who let you know that they will get your children next if you don't cooperate?
     What would you give just to be able to hear your wife's voice or feel the grass on your feet and the sunshine on your face?  What would it be like to have a normal day without terror sometimes dogging your steps, to have something to do in order to take your mind off of the hell that you are in?
    Maybe if he just renounces Christianity.. or  words things in such a convoluted way that it seems as if he is not a Jesus follower - maybe if he just bends a little here or gives a little there...  What if he says that he believes in Jesus in the way that all religions believe in Jesus?  What if that one sentence could bring him freedom and all he had to do was just say it...?
    But it's not possible.
    For Saeed and others like him, following Jesus is non-negotiable; he simply  can't say what isn't true.
    And this is the point of my blog:  for those of us who have the awesome privilege of following Jesus in freedom, praying for men like Saeed and Farshid  should also be...    non-negotiable.

    Hebrews 13:3

If you don't know how to pray for Saeed, an invitation from his wife, Naghmeh is included below.

  • My name is Naghmeh Abedini and I am writing to invite you to participate in a national day of prayer for my husband, Saeed Abedini, who is currently being held in a dangerous Iranian prison because of his Christian faith. Remember His Chains day of prayer and solidarity for Saeed will take place on the 13th anniversary of Saeed’s salvation and I hope to gather in prayer with hundreds of thousands of Christians around the world united in prayer for Saeed on that day.

    When: May 19, 2013.

    The Vision to Share: What if thousands of church congregations took steps to “remember those in prison as if you were together with them in prison” (Hebrews 13:3) by making a focused, unified effort to support Saeed and remember other persecuted Christians?

    How you can participate:

    · Read the paragraph below on May 19, 2013, telling Pastor Saeed’s story:

    In July of 2012, a Christian pastor named Saeed Abedini left the United States for what was supposed to be several weeks as he continued his efforts to establish an orphanage in Rasht, Iran. As he was about to return home, he was pulled off of a bus by the Iranian Revolutionary Guard and placed under house arrest. He remained under house arrest until September, when he was taken without warning to one of Iran’s most notorious prisons, where he has now been imprisoned for 236 days. He has broken no law, but has been charged for peacefully gathering with other Christians, a crime for which he has been sentenced to eight years in prison. For the last eight months, he has suffered beatings, threats, and torturous interrogations as Iranian authorities try to get him to renounce his faith in Jesus Christ. Pastor Saeed has stated in a letter from prison that they will never get this from him, and has described the joy that he has experienced as God gives him strength even through these intense sufferings. His wife, Naghmeh, remains in the United States with their two children and has invited churches around the nation to take a united stand in prayer and to call on God for his release.

    · Pray for Pastor Saeed and his family. Pastor Saeed’s wife, Naghmeh, has asked that we pray for the following three things in particular:

    1. Saeed's health. That the Lord would heal him from the internal bleeding and protect him from those who seek his life.

    2. That Saeed would continue to shine the light of Jesus in prison. Ephesians 6:18-20 : “praying always with all prayer and supplication in the Spirit, being watchful to this end with all perseverance and supplication for all the saints—and for me, that utterance may be given to me, that I may open my mouth boldly to make known the mystery of the gospel, for which I am an ambassador in chains; that in it I may speak boldly, as I ought to speak.”

    3. Prayer for our family. The Lord would give us continued peace and Grace as we trust Him with what the future holds.

    4. Prayer that the Lord would use this to bring salvation to many, including the Muslims in the middle east.

    · Promote #savesaeed and @savesaeed.org using social media. When Pastor Saeed found out about #savesaeed, he was deeply encouraged by the Church’s support. At www.savesaeed.org, please add your voices to the hundreds of thousands of people who have already signed the petition calling for his release.

    · Spread the news of Saeed’s plight by having church members share his story with three friends or family members.

    Will you and your affiliated congregations join us in a unified effort to support Saeed on May 19th? In order to effect the most widespread participation possible, please also consider inviting at least 3 other pastors of different congregations to join you in this effort.

    When Paul was a prisoner for the gospel, he asked the church to “remember his chains” (Colossians 4:18). As a church body, let’s do the same for Saeed, whose unwavering devotion to the gospel of Christ has resulted in his bearing those same chains. We must pray for Saeed and the millions of Christians who are persecuted for the gospel all around the world.

    To our faithful God be the glory,

    Naghmeh Abedini

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