Maybe you recently saw the pictures of the 21 young Egyptian Coptic Christians in orange jumpsuits on the shores of Libya. Behind each man is a hooded radical Islamist holding a knife. Attempts were made to persuade each man to deny Jesus in order to live. As you look at the picture, and think about ISIS, you know what is coming next. It is easy to think martyrdom is only in the history books. Nothing could be further from the truth.
It turns out that only 20 were Egyptian Christians. It has only recently been made public who the 21st man was. Coptic Fr. Thomas Philipose fills us in on who is the mystery man. “He was a Chadian Citizen (darker skin shown in picture) who accepted Christianity after seeing the immense faith of his fellow Coptic Christians dying for Christ. When the Islamic State Terrorist forced him to reject Jesus Christ as God, looking at his Christian friends, he replied, ‘Their God is my God, so the terrorist beheaded him also.’” Think about the faith, shining through those 20 Christ followers who made a non-believer, a true believer in Christ, even at the point of death.
I’m inspired by the impact of the 20 on the 21stman. Faced not with the threat of death but with the guarantee of death they sang songs and rejoiced that they were counted worthy to suffer for the name of Jesus. Twenty men in their twenties making $3-4 an hour in a land far from home got caught in the web of ISIS and impressed the 21st man so much that he was compelled to trust Jesus. Back in the boys’ hometown the families and church grieve but say they forgive ISIS. The women congratulate each other that their boys would not deny the Lord and they experience a measure of joy at their martyrdom.
This story of the 21st man blows me away. May the blood of the martyrs once again be the seed of the church. Cardinal George of Chicago said, “I expect to die in bed, my successor will die in prison and his successor will die a martyr in the public square.” Don’t be surprised by increased persecution in the United States. In Acts 5:42, despite persecution, jail and floggings, the disciples rejoiced they were counted “worthy to suffer for His name.” We do not have to win in this world to win in the next, but God often works powerfully through those who suffer well. The Cardinal went on to say, “His successor will pick up the shards of a ruined society and slowly help rebuild civilization as the church has done so often in human history.”
How did the small marginalized Jesus movement 2000 years ago grow 40% a year for 250 years and turn the world upside down? Not through the power of politics but through the one who overcame the tomb and who still reigns. The Kingdom can do well with or without Caesar’s cooperation. Augustine said, “The city of God does not depend on the city of man for its existence and strength.” Do I hear an AMEN? So many people need to hear the Gospel!!
I think the 21st man heard and saw the Gospel!!
Be Thou My Vision Hymn
Be Thou my Vision, O Lord of my heart; Naught be all else to me, save that Thou art
Thou my best Thought, by day or by night, Waking or sleeping, Thy presence my light.
Be Thou my Wisdom, and Thou my true Word; I ever with Thee and Thou with me, Lord,
Thou my great Father, I Thy true son; Thou in me dwelling, and I with Thee one.
Be Thou my battle Shield, Sword for the fight; Be Thou my Dignity, Thou my Delight,
Thou my soul’s Shelter, Thou my high Tower: Raise Thou me heavenward, O Power of my power.
Riches I heed not, nor man’s empty praise, Thou mine Inheritance, now and always,
Thou and Thou only, first in my heart, High King of Heaven, my Treasure Thou art.
High King of Heaven, my victory won, May I reach Heaven’s joys, O bright Heaven’s Sun!
Heart of my own heart, whatever befalls, Still be my Vision, O Ruler of all.
~Old Irish Song attributed to Saint Dallan Forgaill, sixth century
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March 6 Capitol Coalition
March 11 Leadership St. Tammany
March 12 Southshore Leader Forum
March 12 Media Training Day
March 13 Louisiana Dental
March 19 Northshore Leader Forum
March 19-22 Forcey Bible Missions Conference
March 28 A Day of Grace
April 3-5 Officers Christian Fellowship Retreat
April 3-June 11 Louisiana Legislative Session
April 7 Lobbyist Study resumes
April 9 Legislators Study resumes
April 10 Mayor’s North shore Prayer Breakfast
April 15 Governor’s Prayer Breakfast with Ravi Zacharias
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