Sitting in the high school pick up line, I waited for my freshman to come out. With the crowds of kids that rush through those doors everyday at 2:35, I thought about what he was wearing so I could look for him.
It struck me all of the sudden, Connor wore his youth group t-shirt today, which on the back boldly displays Jeremiah 20:9.
“If I say, 'I won’t mention Him or speak any longer in his name,' His message becomes a fire burning in my heart, shut up in my bones. I become tired of holding it in, and I cannot prevail.”
Today in Afghanistan, and many other places around the world, Christians have His message burning in their hearts — and they are dying in the name of Jesus Christ.
Tortured for their faith. Hunted down for their love of Jesus. They shudder when there is a knock at the door, and hold their children tight as they walk to the market.
Bibles are scarce and illegal in many places around the world, and as I read in a book by the Voice of the Martyrs, an international group who supports the persecuted and underground churches, many people share a bible - ripping out pages just so they can at least have a portion of His word to carry with them.
I can just see a sweet momma rocking her sleeping baby and holding those precious words to her heart, because they are all she has. I can see a father leaving home to provide for his family with that torn page folded in his pocket, as he prays he returns home that evening. The reality is, he might not - and if he does, they might not be there.
(I don’t want to paint a picture of alone and terrified people, because God doesn’t abandon those who love Him. Their time of persecution is with Him and I know they feel His power and strength, but they are human. I know they must also be afraid.)
My ESV bible was a surprise from Dad one morning when he walked in for our morning coffee and study. Beautifully made with a full section of comments to grasp the concepts in the book, yet it often sits unopened when I find myself caught up in life.
What that mommy in those places it's forbidden wouldn’t do to have what I do. Not just the book itself, but the freedom to own it. To be able to just leave it sitting on my dining room table with no fear at all of a knock at the door.
And honestly - sometimes it makes me really lazy. I forget how precious and fragile my freedom to worship is, when there are Christians across seas hiding in remote places just to do what I chose last week not to because I wanted to stay home in my jammies.
Certainly there are instances where people have been killed or violently attacked in America for their faith, but as a whole, our country is free to worship. We are free to not worship as well, no one is forced to proclaim Jesus as their Savior — not even by the Lord Himself.
Honestly, there are groups around the world who hate us for this freedom. I remember the first time I saw it — it was the night of Sept. 11, 2001. I was at work mopping the floor and watching the news coverage on a television that hung on the wall. Groups of people across the world celebrated in the streets as firefighters and police officers frantically searched for those lost in the rubble of Ground Zero. They cheered as the number of American casualties rose.
I remember that because I can never forget it. I was 23-years-old and until that moment I had no idea this kind of hate existed.
This is why today I ask us all to sit and really think about what we have here in America. I ask that we sit and think about who we have to thank for this freedom that we so often take for granted.
Friends, our freedom comes from God, and He has given us the American soldier to fight for it. And they have done it so well.
As I worship in the sanctuary, I don’t often consider how many boots on the ground it takes to keep my hands waving in the air.
That’s why I stand with my hand over my heart to that waving American flag. I do it because ingrained in those stars and stripes are the lives of our own people who gave everything so I don’t have to answer my door to terrorism.
Thank you God for those men and women who gave it all so that I can give my all to you.