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That Word Above All Earthly Pow'rs: The Kingdom of the Cross Under the Sword of the Crescent

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Newsweek's current cover-story is "The Global War on Christians in the Muslim World," by Ayann Hirsi Ali, who fled her native Somalia and served in the Dutch Parliament before taking a position at the American Enterprise Institute. As the article points out, widespread anti-Christian violence is exploding even in countries with Muslim minorities. How do we respond wisely as Christians to this growing threat?



1. Prayer



First, the crisis calls for concerted prayer on behalf of our brothers and sisters under the cross. More Christians have been martyred in the last several decades than in all of the centuries combined—including the early Roman persecutions. We are directed by Christ to pray first and foremost for the coming of his kingdom, come what may. But we also are called to pray for the "daily bread" and protection from temptation that become especially critical needs under persecution. Corporate and private prayers for all the saints, especially those under the cross, should be high on our list.



2. Faithful Witness



Second, instead of watering down the faith, Christians in the West should stand with fellow saints who are witnessing to Christ even to the point of death. It's striking that when Paul, writing from prison, asks for prayers on his behalf, he does not even mention better conditions. The gospel is his overriding passion. The "prisoner of Christ" asks for prayer "that words may be given to me in opening my mouth boldly to proclaim the mystery of the gospel, for which I am an ambassador in chains, that I may declare it boldly, as I ought to speak" (Eph 6:19-20).


The temptation is great to tone down the radical message of the gospel. A growing trend in evangelical missiology, known as the "Insider Movement," encourages people to become "Jesus followers" while remaining Muslims. They need not profess faith in Christ publicly, be baptized, or become part of the church; they may continue to be Muslims outwardly. In the church's first centuries, a similar challenge arose. Many, including some bishops, claimed that they could remain Christians inwardly while outwardly surrendering their Bibles and any public identity as believers. Excommunicated, they were known as the "lapsed," and this gave rise to the well-known statement by the third-century bishop and martyr Cyprian, "Outside the church there is no salvation."


In the West, including the US, there is a growing detachment from public identification with Christ, including baptism and membership in the church. Emergent church leaders encourage people to become "followers of Jesus" while remaining Hindus, Buddhists, Jews, or Muslims. After all, it's "deeds, not creeds." There is growing reluctance to witness openly to Christ for fear of being perceived as narrow-minded and intolerant. While we eschew all appeals to temporal power, much less violence, for the spread of Christ's kingdom, we must pause to consider the seriousness of Christ's claims not only in the face of martyrdom but in the face of the more subtle forms of compromise that are weakening our witness at home and abroad. While brothers and sisters sit in prisons for their testimony to Christ, their greatest disappointment is to learn that some Western missionaries are encouraging what amounts to apostasy. It's a policy that doesn't even make sense pragmatically, since the duplicity of "Muslim followers of Jesus" outrages the Muslim community even where Christians and Muslims live in relative co-existence.


Controversy over Wycliffe Bible Translators for apparently softening the references to Jesus Christ divinity as the eternal Son of the Father raises further suspicions that we in the West may be losing our nerve just at the moment when Christ is calling his sheep to martyrdom around the world. I had the privilege of participating in a film directed by Bill Nikides. Soon to be released, "Half Devil, Half Child," includes interviews with Christians in the Muslim world, as well as Muslim leaders. A trailer can be seen here (www.halfdevilhalfchild.com).



3. Human Rights, Not Just Christian Rights



Third, Christians in the West should advocate publicly for human rights, including religious freedom, as part of the universal mandate of neighbor-love. Ramez Atallah, an evangelical leader and general secretary of the Bible Society of Egypt, reportedly counseled, "It's not to our benefit to have loud voices overseas talking about Christians. It's a great benefit to us to have loud voices abroad talking about a more universal bill of rights for all Egyptians." (See that article here).

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  • [...] The Kingdom of the Cross Under the Sword of the Crescent From Michael Horton: Newsweek‘s current cover-story is “The Global War on Christians in the Muslim World,” by Ayann Hirsi Ali, who fled her native Somalia and served in the Dutch Parliament before taking a position at the American Enterprise Institute. As the article points out, widespread anti-Christian violence is exploding even in countries with Muslim minorities. How do we respond wisely as Christians to this growing threat? [...]

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  • [...] Horton writes: Newsweek‘s current cover-story is “The Global War on Christians in the Muslim [...]

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  • [...] (2) faithful witness; (3) human rights, not just Christian rights. You can read the whole thing here. (HT: JT) Bookmark on Delicious Digg this post Recommend on Facebook Buzz it up Share on Linkedin [...]

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  • [...] The Word Above All Earthly Powrs  Michael Horton looks at the persecution of Christians and the temptation to water-down the Gospel as a result. He also gives three proper responses for Christians. [...]

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  • [...] Horton, on the White Horse Inn blog, gives three ways in which we Christians in the West should respond (These are quotes, not the [...]

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  • [...] advocates tolerance, and freedom of religion, the Christian church is under increasing persecution. “In fact, more Christians have been martyred in the last several decades than in all of the pr... What would be the intelligent response to that… Well you can read and pray your way through the [...]

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  • Guest - Scott W. Spears

    I wonder if those that hide their faith in Christ under a bushel are under this directive?

    Matthew 7:6Give not that which is holy unto the dogs, neither cast ye your pearls before swine, lest they trample them under their feet, and turn again and rend you.

    Even so, may the Lord lead them to come out of Islam and away from those that they would preach to that would not accept the Gospel to those that are seeking the truth.

    Matthew 7:7Ask, and it shall be given you; seek, and ye shall find; knock, and it shall be opened unto you: 8For every one that asketh receiveth; and he that seeketh findeth; and to him that knocketh it shall be opened.

    So may the Good Shepherd help them to follow Him to be witnesses of the Son so that those that seek, may find.

    2 Corinthians 6:14Be ye not unequally yoked together with unbelievers: for what fellowship hath righteousness with unrighteousness? and what communion hath light with darkness? 15And what concord hath Christ with Belial? or what part hath he that believeth with an infidel? 16And what agreement hath the temple of God with idols? for ye are the temple of the living God; as God hath said, I will dwell in them, and walk in them; and I will be their God, and they shall be my people. 17Wherefore come out from among them, and be ye separate, saith the Lord, and touch not the unclean thing; and I will receive you. 18And will be a Father unto you, and ye shall be my sons and daughters, saith the Lord Almighty.

    Having fellowship in regards to worshipping Jesus Christ requires our leaning on Him to reprove the works of darkness.

    1 Corinthians 5:4In the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, when ye are gathered together, and my spirit, with the power of our Lord Jesus Christ, 5To deliver such an one unto Satan for the destruction of the flesh, that the spirit may be saved in the day of the Lord Jesus. 6Your glorying is not good. Know ye not that a little leaven leaveneth the whole lump? 7Purge out therefore the old leaven, that ye may be a new lump, as ye are unleavened. For even Christ our passover is sacrificed for us: 8Therefore let us keep the feast, not with old leaven, neither with the leaven of malice and wickedness; but with the unleavened bread of sincerity and truth.

    Ephesians 5:10Proving what is acceptable unto the Lord.
    11And have no fellowship with the unfruitful works of darkness, but rather reprove them. 12For it is a shame even to speak of those things which are done of them in secret.

    2 Timothy 2:24And the servant of the Lord must not strive; but be gentle unto all men, apt to teach, patient, 25In meekness instructing those that oppose themselves; if God peradventure will give them repentance to the acknowledging of the truth; 26And that they may recover themselves out of the snare of the devil, who are taken captive by him at his will.

    Believers in Jesus Christ cannot do that in a Islamic mosque.

    So I understand the need for leaning on the Lord to know when not to preach, but at the same time, know how to be out there for those that seek Him so that they may find Him.

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  • Great article! I would add that we need to pray for the persecutors. There are wonderful stories (starting of course with Paul himself) of those who persecuted believers coming to know him. There are many examples from church history, not forgetting british christians taken as viking slaves and leading their captors to Christ. His kingdom is not of this world. Our battle is not with flesh and blood but with kingdoms and principalities, and the weapons of our warfare are not carnal.

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  • [...] That Word Above All Earthly Pow’rs: The Kingdom of the Cross Under the Sword of the Crescent &#821....How should Christians respond wisely to growing anti-Christian violence overseas? [...]

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