Bible Readings and Devotion for June 23, 2020
Here are the references for the readings. Please look these up in your print Bible, your smartphone app Bible, or your online Bible:
Devotion for June 23, 2020
By Pastor David Tinker
Persecution of the followers of Jesus has been happening continually since the time of Jesus. There are many reasons governments, leaders, neighborhoods, groups, or individuals find to attack, dismiss, sideline, harm, and even kill Christians. We will not address the list here at this time.
I mention the persecution of Christians because our reading from Acts chapters 7 and 8 tell the story of the martyrdom of St. Stephen. He had recently preached a sermon which challenged the behavior of some of the Jewish leaders toward Jesus. Saul, later known as Paul, was at that time supervising the arrest and attacks on Christians. When Stephen offended the leaders, there was a stoning, and execution, of Stephen to kill him for what he had said.
As Stephen was at his point of death his last words were his prayer that the Lord would forgive those who attacked and killed him. Even in his final moments he was living out God’s will. He was loving and forgiving his enemies.
In the world today many thousands face persecution for following Jesus. There are a few organizations which keep track of what our fellow Christians face around the world.
Open Doors is one group: https://www.opendoorsusa.org/
Another one is The Church in Need: https://www.churchinneed.org/
Another one is International Christian Concern: https://www.persecution.org/
These can provide stories, information, and prayer requests for supporting the persecuted and martyred church of today. Generally, persecuted Christians ask that you pray for their strength in their witness as they face such harsh realities, rather than that the persecution stop.
Loving God, you promise to be with all who are persecuted for your sake. Guide all who speak your message of salvation and forgiveness, and who speak your word of justice. Console any who are tormented or targeted for being your faithful followers. This we pray in the name of Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.