November 23, 2012

Always Be Thankful

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President Franklin Roosevelt coined the “Four Freedoms” and Norman Rockwell gave us the iconic paintings to impress them in our memory:

  • FREEDOM to worship
  • FREEDOM of speech
  • FREEDOM from fear
  • FREEDOM from want
Thankful for all the men and women who have sacrificed, and who continue to sacrifice, to protect those freedoms for us living in the United States. Praying for them and their families.Yesterday, Thanksgiving Day. I was reminded of the story of the Pilgrims and of the first Thanksgiving in Plymouth. Of George Washington’s Thanksgiving prayer. Of President Obama’s Thanksgiving proclamation. Posts of “I’m thankful for …” filled Facebook and the email inbox. I spent much of the day thinking about God – doing homework in my first course in seminary. And then an evening of Thanksgiving, enjoying fellowship and food with the family. Still reflecting this morning on my 10-year old grandson’s words as he blessed the Thanksgiving meal. “Sweet fragrance” indeed.

What a contrast to then wake up this morning to news that nine men were sentenced for discussing their faith and praying together. Forum 18, a watchdog organization for international religious freedom, reports today that in Uzbekistan, two men were given seven-year jail sentences and seven others were given suspended three-year sentences. Relatives told Forum 18 that the men gathered together to discuss their faith, to pray together, and to work on each others homes.

These men are Muslim. They were studying the Koran and praying to Allah. Freedom to worship is not just freedom to be Christian. It is freedom to believe or not as your conscience dictates. God gives each one of us a choice. Far be it for man to take that away.

Uzbekistan is a well-known offender of religious freedom and persecutor of Christians. It is #7 on the World Watch List, an annual ranking of countries persecuting Christians that is prepared by Open Doors.

As a Christian, thinking about Muslim men denied their right to believe, I’m reminded of the “first they came” quote by Martin Neimoller, the German pastor and theologian. There are several versions of the quote. One that Wikipedia says is commonly used in the United States goes like this:

First they came for the socialists, 
and I didn’t speak out because I wasn’t a socialist.

 
Then they came for the trade unionists,
and I didn’t speak out because I wasn’t a trade unionist.

Then they came for the Jews,

and I didn’t speak out because I wasn’t a Jew.

Then they came for me,

and there was no one left to speak for me.
 

Will I speak out for these Muslim men? Or will I wait until they come for me, when no one is left to speak out? Let’s be a voice for the voiceless.

  1. Praying for a just Uzbek government, that it will come to provide religious freedom to its citizens.
  2. Praying for those jailed and sentenced for their beliefs, and for their families, that Isa – our Lord Jesus – will appear to them and show them His Truth.
  3. Praying for Christians in Uzbekistan, that they will remain strong in their faith and will be mightily blessed.
  4. Praying for all the people of Uzbekistan, who just like me, need the very same saving grace of Jesus.

And let the peace that comes from Christ rule in your hearts. For as members of one body you are called to live in peace. And always be thankful. (Colossians 3:15 NLT)
 

Loving the Journey,

Kevin

 

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