A firm conviction has been planted in my heart as I read or hear reports of persecution, and that is that all of us have a sacred obligation to our persecuted brothers and sisters –  the body of Christ – to take this suffering on as our own. I have to take to heart the words of Jesus in Matthew 25:36-40, “for I was hungry and you gave Me food; I was thirsty and you gave Me drink; I was a stranger and you took Me in; I was naked and you clothed Me; I was sick and you visited Me; I was in prison and you came to Me….Assuredly, I say to you, inasmuch as you did it to one of the least of these My brethren, you did it to Me.”

The Holy Spirit led Paul to use the Greek word chalepos, translated “perilous, dangerous, fierce, harsh, savage” when he wrote in 2 Timothy 3:1, “But know this, that in the last days perilous times will come.”  It is a severe term, used only one other time in Scripture.  As Jesus crossed the Sea of Galilee to enter the demon-filled land of the Gaderenes, he encountered two men who were “exceedingly fierce, so that no one could pass that way" (Matthew 8:28).  This term has two other cultural meanings:  Ancient Greek astronomers used it to describe the collision of two planets, and the ancient medical community ascribed the term to an infected wound that could lead to death.

Welcome to last days, perilous times in the world.  They are the days when men (and women) will be lovers of themselves, lovers of money, boasters, proud, blasphemers, disobedient to parents, unthankful, unholy, unloving, unforgiving, slanderers, without self-control, brutal, despisers of good, traitors, headstrong, haughty, lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God, having a form of godliness but denying its power.  (2 Tim 3:1-5)

We have all become accustomed to receiving bad news, to sensationalized stories of crime and hate splashed and scrolled across websites and TV screens.  But the Apostle Paul tells us that all of this boils down to good news for us.  He wrote in 1 Cor 16:9,  “There is a wide-open door for a great work here, although many oppose me.” He went on to give the secret to winning this war just a few verses later, “Be on guard. Stand firm in the faith. Be courageous. Be strong.  And do everything with love (1 Cor 16:13).  Paul gives us practical advice as marching orders from a military commander.  Be aware, be on watch, have your head in the game. 

Twenty years ago I got a wake up call in my ministry and founded Student Leadership University.  After 20 years of speaking in nearly 10,000 public high school assemblies and thousands of youth groups, I came to the realization that the average Christian teen could not answer 1 Peter 3:5 to be ready to give an answer of the hope that is in you.  When the game was on the line, they could not carry the ball across the finish line, and so we began an intensive leadership training that included biblical worldview from some of the brightest Ph. D’s in the nation. 

But that’s not enough.  I don’t want students to leave SLU and not be actively, personally involved and so we partnered with the ministry that helped begin the passion in me so many years ago, Open Doors.  You probably remember when as many as 200 girls were abducted from their boarding school in northeastern Nigeria by heavily armed Boko Haram Islamists who arrived in trucks, vans and buses.  Thanks to Open Doors, Student Leadership University was able to mobilize students to send prayer grams to parents, relatives, and friends in that community within 24 hours.

As I looked toward new goals for 2016, I asked myself, “Have I done all I could with all the excellence possible?  If not, where do I need to catch up; whom do I need to develop relationships with; what do I need to set as priorities for the new year and be ready to face?   Without a doubt, at the top of that list is prayer and involvement with the persecuted church, my brothers and sisters throughout the world.   If Jesus truly is the paramount example of leadership for us, if we are passionate followers of His sayings, then we will take very seriously the directive to bless those who curse you, and pray for those who spitefully use you. 

By partnering with Open Doors in prayer, in giving, and in action, you can be a part of a powerful movement that is bringing down strongholds of spiritual forces and infusing comfort to grieving Christians. Start at the Open Doors Take Action website and see just how impactful your prayers, gifts, and talents can be both in the United States and around the world.

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