TODAY, in North Korea, there are at least 30,000 Christians barely surviving the torture of prison camps with no hope of being released. Many work in mines, and stories from survivors talk about severe beatings, being locked in cages, and starvation to the point where mothers and their own children are fighting over bits of food.
Most of those imprisoned knew their almost certain fate if they practiced Christianity, but they stood strong for what they believed and took the risk.
TODAY, in Sudan, Meriam Ibrahim is being imprisoned for her faith. She was forced to give birth to her baby girl in JAIL. Shackled. Her crime? Being a Christian. When given the chance to renounce her faith, she refused. All she had to do was renounce it, but she wouldn't.
TODAY, in Iran, Saeed Abedini, a pastor from Idaho, has been imprisoned for his Christian faith. He was imprisoned and charged while visiting family and finalizing plans for an orphanage he was building there.
TODAY, I [Ginny] attended church, sang next to my fellow sleepy church members and got ready to listen to the sermon fully expecting that afterwards, I would pick up my kids from children's church, and we would go on with our day. It was a typical Sunday morning and part of the routine of the week. I didn't worry about our safety. I didn't worry about being discovered and put in jail for raising my hands or praying.
During the worship time, I looked around the worship center, and I couldn't help but notice how few people seemed into the worship, and it discouraged me. I know we were all tired and singing in the morning may not be our first preference, but here we were singing songs about Christ's redemption, how He has overcome sin, and in how we stand in Christ alone. We should be excited and overwhelmed by the truth we are singing. Yet, I saw little of this happening, and to be honest, I was going through the motions as well after three long nights of comforting my children from the July 3/4/5 fireworks. Looking around, I wondered why we were so lack-luster in our worship.
My thoughts flew back in time to when I was on a mission trip in Mexico. We were serving a group of people who lived literally in a garbage dump. Yet, when we attended a worship service with them, their faith burst from them as they worshipped with their entire beings. These people, who had nothing, worshipped God as if they had everything. In reality, they did. They had eternal security in Heaven and the truth that God was their all in all. Their lives reflected their incredible faith.
It is funny how God works. Not soon after those thoughts were running through my head, they showed this video:
It is about those who had experienced a lack of freedom to express their faith, and the point of the video was to show us that we truly do have an incredible privilege and freedom to openly practice our Christian faith here in the United States. That freedom is a gift.
Governments in many countries of the world don't allow people to practice their faith. It is illegal in many places just to own a Bible or to pray. People have to meet in secret, always wondering when they will be discovered. Yet, they continue to meet, and they soak up every single word they can when they hear the Word of God. They hide God's truths in their heart, for they don't know the next time they will get to hear or read it again.
Yet here in the USA, we have an incredible freedom to own as many Bibles as we want, to attend Bible studies, to blog about our beliefs, to pray as a family around the dinner table, to raise our hand when we worship in church. However, do we really appreciate it?
While I am so grateful that I live here and have the freedoms I do, I wonder if those living in countries where freedom is non-existent, have a much better understanding of just how precious the truth of God is. Here, we hear someone quote John 3:16 and sigh because we have heard it over and over. It is something we can so easily take for granted. In the almost 40 countries where Christianity is illegal, those words bring a sense of hope that sustain them through imprisonment, beatings, and while they flee to refugee camps. They feel a sense of urgency to share the truth with others despite the fact that they may lose their lives to bring one more soul to the Kingdom of Heaven.
TODAY, let us feel that same sense of urgency and take steps to reignite the fire in us. Let us feel a sense of gratitude for the freedom we have to worship God openly. May we soak up the Word of God and reread verses we have read hundreds of times with a new sense of understanding and excitement. Even though we may be tired, let us spend daily time in prayer and studying God's Word. May we share the wonderful redeeming truth of God to others because we CAN share it without fear of death. Let us pray for those around the world who are martyrs for their faith.
I will leave you with my favorite quote from the above video. May the words of this quote have the same impact on you that they had on me:
"Those without liberty spend their entire lives chasing it. Once found, freedom reshapes how we live. Freedom is a gift."
How is your gift of freedom shaping you today? I pray that you will be able to live gratefully and truly take advantage of the freedoms our forefathers fought so hard to give us and that others would do anything to have.