Tuesday, August 26, 2014

A Special Witness

"Will you suffer all, even death, rather than ...?" That was a troubling question I was asked when I stood before my congregation as a 14-year-old to confirm the faith God created in me at my Baptism. What if I was put on the spot -- what if my very life was on the line -- would I hold to my public confession that Jesus Christ is my Lord and Savior?

Last week the world was shocked and outraged by the beheading of American journalist James Foley by his Muslim captors from Islamic State. (This extremist Muslim group has also gone by the names ISI (Islamic State of Iraq), ISIS (Islamic State of Iraq and Syria), and ISIL (Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant -- another name for the region bordering the eastern Mediterranean Sea, which includes Israel, Jordan, Lebanon and Syria).

What I haven't heard very often is that James Foley was a devout Christian.

I came across a USA Today article by David McKay Wilson titled, "James Foley: beheading victim had deep faith." Wilson shared his recollections of a 2011 interview after Foley's release from his 45-day captivity by the Libyan government of Muammar Gaddafi. He described Foley as "a devout Christian, who, unlike most journalists I've known during my almost four decades in the field, was unapologetic about his heart for social justice and the inspiration he found for his beliefs in the New Testament." During his first imprisonment, Foley had prayed frequently and listened to a fellow prisoner read from the Gospel of Matthew daily. He credited God with his rescue back then.

A year later Foley's faith drove him to enter Syria and expose the suffering from the civil war, which still rages there. On Thanksgiving Day 2012 he was captured and held for two years before being executed.

Wilson closed his article with these words: "This time, God did not answer James Foley's prayers. This time, James Foley was not delivered from evil."

To all earthly appearances Wilson is correct. It looks like God stood by disinterestedly while Foley and hundreds -- perhaps thousands -- of His children are being executed for their faith.

But Wilson is wrong. God did answer their prayers, granting James Foley and each of them a final, complete deliverance from evil as He took them out of this world of tears and suffering and brought them into the glorious splendor of His presence.

The tragic thing is that not only Christians are being executed at the hands of the Islamic State, different ethnic groups, and other Muslims who don't know the Savior are being killed as well.

While we wait for the world's leaders to take action, there are two things we can do to help those suffering at ISIS' hands. Consider helping our Lebanon ministry center reach out with the Good News of God's love in Jesus Christ through radio broadcasts and care packages to refugees, and pray fervently -- as James Foley did -- for our Christian brothers and sisters, for the non-Christians who are being persecuted and killed, and for the members of ISIS who have been blinded by hate.

Reach Out to Victims of ISIS Persecution in Syria and Iraq: Click here!

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