Tag Archives: persecuted church

Endure with Joy

I’ve long been inspired by the vibrant faith of believers in China’s underground church. No one is sure, but some think there may be over 60 million believers in these secret house churches. Astounding when you consider all the forces over the years that have tried to stamp out the Gospel in China!

Chinese believers are known for their steadfast and joyful faith in the face of intense persecution. A man who had just returned from visiting members of an underground church was asked how the believers were able to cope with the continued trials.

“These brothers and sisters know this is not the end of the story,” he explained.  “They EXPECT God’s glory to come at the end of their trial.  They believe the trial will end. And they expect to be victorious.”

Are you wrestling with a tough problem? Maybe it feels like your trial will never end. Perhaps we don’t suffer the same kind of intense persecution as Chinese believers, but we fight the same devil. James urges us to “resist the devil and he will flee” (James 4:7).

Peter also challenges us to join the “resistance:” Resist him [the devil], standing firm in the faith because you know that your brothers and sisters throughout the world are undergoing the same kinds sufferings. (1 Peter 5:8).

We can draw strength from the example of Chinese believers. They remind us that our trial “is not the end of the story.” They inspire us to “expect God’s glory.”

We strengthen our own faith when we encourage each other to stand “firm in the faith.” Joy in our journey comes as we team up with other believers.

The Christian life is meant to be enjoyed, not just endured.  So daily, let’s ask the Lord to help us find joy while we endure!

Day Fifteen: Glimmer of Hope

This kind can come out by nothing but prayer and fasting (NKJV Mark 9: 29).

Today is Day Fifteen of our 21 Day Fast for Pastor Saeed.  We’ve seen a surprising new development which has given Saeed’s family a glimmer of hope.  President Obama has chosen Boise State University, Naghmeh’s hometown, as one of his stops on his national tour.  He will speak there at 11am tomorrow (MST). No one knows just why the President chose Boise.  Could this be the breakthrough that Naghmeh and the thousands fasting and praying with her have been looking for? I agree with Naghmeh that this looks to be a God thing.

We must continue to pray fervently that Naghmeh will actually have an opportunity to talk with the President.  That his heart will be moved to bring Saeed home.  Naghmeh has made repeated attempts to have a face to face meeting with the President during her many trips to Washington on Saeed’s behalf. She has come up against repeated roadblocks.

Click here to read the letter Naghmeh just wrote to the President.  As you read her letter, allow yourself to carry her burden and feel her grief.  Fasting enables us to grieve and mourn over things that are broken.  Suffering, loss, and injustice.  We grieve for what’s not right and we intercede in prayer for God to intervene.

I’ve noticed that prayer and fasting seem to bring hidden things into the light.  This compels me to seek God more fervently.  Perhaps that’s part of the secret.  Fasting weakens our flesh so that we kick into the spirit mode. We replace our hunger for food (or whatever we are fasting from) with God’s Word and find His Word fills us in ways food does not. And that Word makes us strong. Continue reading

Day Eight: Why Fast?

Why fast?  I can think of plenty of reasons.  Fasting cleanses your body and gives it rest.  It helps you seek God and adds power to your prayers (Daniel 10:12).  Jesus himself fasted.  But my decision to join in this 21 Day Fast for Pastor Saeed Abedini  was more from my heart than my head.

Fasting allows me to stand beside Naghmeh Abedini and  join in her fight for Saeed’s release.  I desperately want to see her reunited with her husband.  I can’t go to Iran on Pastor Saeed’s behalf.  And even if I could, who would listen?  But I can fast and pray to the God who is ruler over all earthly powers. The Bible tells me this kind of prayer has great power.

More than anything, Naghmeh wants to glorify Jesus as she works for Saeed’s release.  Wherever she goes, she looks for opportunities to share the Gospel.  She prefers a quiet life to the grinding schedule of travel speaking on Saeed’s behalf. Her itinerary has included appearances before the United Nations and European Parliament.  A self-described homebody, Naghmeh says, “Saeed would be very surprised to see me speaking all over the world.”

Naghmeh is appealing to those in authority to release her husband.  Saeed has committed no crime other than being a Christian.  He was in Iran, with permission from the government, to help build  an orphanage.  Even the United Nations has issued a statement that Saeed has been wrongfully imprisoned.  So Naghmeh has asked that we cry out with her in prayer and fasting.

Naghmeh’s story reminds me of Queen Esther in the Bible.   Esther’s story takes place in Persia, modern day Iran. The young queen risks her life to thwart a genocidal plot to destroy her people.  Esther calls for a fast: “Go, gather together all the Jews who are in Susa, and fast for me. Do not eat or drink for three days, night or day. I and my attendants will fast as you do. When this is done, I will go to the king, even though it is against the law.  And if I perish, I perish” (Esther 4:16 NIV). Esther’s great courage saved her people from a terrible fate.

Like Esther, Naghmeh is calling for fellow believers to join her in fasting for Saeed’s release.  She knows she is up against powers too strong for her. Calling for a fast is a sign of humility.  It shows Naghmeh’s utter reliance on the Lord and her willingness to rest in His power.  But dear friends, it also shows she has not given up!

Will you agree to stand strong with Naghmeh throughout this 21 Day Fast?  Let’s persevere in prayer until Saeed is home!




Day Five: The Swarm

I recently heard about a group of school children who figured out a way to stop bullying in their classroom.  Whenever a fellow student was being bullied, the other classmates would gather around the victim and simply stand without saying a word.  This show of solidarity stopped the bullies dead in their tracks every time. The students nicknamed their tactic “The Swarm.”

I think we can learn a lesson about prayer and fasting from those school children.  Let’s be like The Swarm as we gather around Pastor Saeed Abedini and his family.  I believe our “swarm” of prayers and fasting will have a powerful impact, especially in the spiritual realm.

If you want to stand strong in your 21 Day Fast for Pastor Saeed, don’t do this alone.  I encourage you to get a family member or friend to fast with you. Share your prayer and fasting experience with your small group.  Check out Naghmeh’s Facebook page to see how others around the country are praying.  It’s not too late to join in.  Every day of prayer and fasting has purpose.

During my first experiments with fasting years ago, a friend and I would pray and fast on the same day.  We would often trade prayer requests and sometimes we’d go for a walk to pray for our needs.  It was good to have someone else in the boat.  Plus, I discovered it helped to confess some of the yucky stuff God  would reveal to me about myself and get that into the light.  Remember, confession is a valuable part of fasting.

Jesus was clear about the power of “a swarm” of believers in prayer. He promised that when we are gathered in His name, even just two or three of us, He is there with us.  Truly I tell you that if two of you on earth agree about anything they ask for, it will be done for them by my Father in heaven (Matthew 18:19-20).

The Greek word for agree is symphone (from which we get symphony), meaning “together with the same voice.” This word can also be translated “music.”

I wonder if our fasting and prayers for Pastor Saeed, sound like music to God?  Imagine the unified voices of many believers around the country and even all over the world who are crying out to God in fervent prayer on Pastor Saeed’s behalf!  Let’s agree to stand strong in solidarity with him through our continual “swarm” of prayer and fasting. Together. 




Day Two: How do I fast?

I’m glad you’re on board for for the 21 Day Fast.  People around the world are standing in agreement with Naghmeh Abedini, fasting and praying fervently for her husband Saeed’s release after two years in an Iranian prison.  I encourage you to follow her on Facebook, where she’ll post her daily thoughts and insights during this 21 Day Fast.

It is possible to fast from things other than food….as long as they cost you something in terms of time, energy, comfort, or convenience.  My friend Ashley once did a month long fast from all social media.  Click here to read about her “Anti-social Prayer Experiment.”  That kind of fast might be harder than giving up food!

 According to the Bible, fasting is part of a normal prayer life.  When Jesus was giving his disciples some tips on prayer,  he said “When you fast…” not “If you fast…”  If it were up to me, I wouldn’t have come up with the idea of fasting.  Food is too much fun.  But the Bible is clear.  Fasting sharpens prayer.

One friend doing the fast decided to abstain from food all day on Day One.  She asked me for some tips on fasting.  I’m not an expert, but I’ve tried to make fasting a regular part of my prayer life for the last several years. Here are a few thoughts off the top:

1. Staying hydrated is one secret to effective fasting.  Throughout the day, I  drink lots of water, especially a lemon water recipe recommended by a naturopathic doctor:  Squeeze the juice of 4-5 lemons into a pitcher of pure water and add 3 Tablespoons of grade B Maple Syrup.  You can’t taste the syrup, but according to my doctor friend, it helps regulate blood sugar while you fast. Sip on this all day, making sure to get the recommended eight glasses of water.  I usually have a cup or two of green tea first thing in the morning to avoid getting one of those nasty little caffeine-withdrawal headaches.

2. When the urge for food hits, that’s my alarm bell to pray.  I also take extra time to read and meditate on the Bible.  Fasting heightens my spiritual sensitivity and seems to propel my prayers in ways I don’t understand.  Like I’ve said, I don’t know why fasting works.  It just does.

3. I feel more motivated to fast when someone I care about has a pressing problem.  Also, I sometimes fast when I need the Lord’s guidance or when I just plain feel stuck.  I’ve encouraged you to list a couple of issues in your own life during this 21 Day Fast where you need to Get Unstuck.

4. I’m compelled to fast and pray when I see suffering or injustice.   Pastor Saeed has endured terrible suffering during his imprisonment.  Naghmeh and their children desperately want him back home.  Fasting and prayer are one way we can share in their suffering.

God is pleased when we fast and pray for those like Pastor Saeed who are being oppressed.  

“This is the kind of fasting I want,” God says in Isaiah.  “Free those who are wrongly imprisoned…Let the oppressed go free,and remove the chains that bind people (Is. 58:6 NLT).”

Prayer:  “Lord, we cry out for you remove the chains that bind Pastor Saeed and other persecuted Christians worldwide.  Remind us daily when they need us to take a minute to stop what we are doing and pray.  We fervently pray for you to bring Pastor Saeed home to his family.”  Amen.