|"Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death,|
I will fear no evil,
For Thou art with me..."Psalm 23:4
I remember with great affection a feature of many magazines in the past called "Pen Pals". People were encouraged, through Pen Pals, to reach out and befriend someone far away, whom we had never met, and may never meet this side of heaven. I love that concept. Too bad it has disappeared from the landscape of publications today. If ever there was a time when we need to connect across the miles, it is today. Some of the greatest writing we have as a christian community is in the form of letters, written from a distance, expressing the love and encouragement of the writer (Paul) to those he loved and cared about that were far away in miles, but ever near in his heart. It is in that same vein that I have decided to begin a series I am calling Love Letters. These will be letters of affection and encouragement to brothers and sisters I will never meet but are near and dear to my heart, as well as letters to those who know me well and with whom I share an unbreakable bond of love and treasure. I am excited about beginning this series. I hope you enjoy and are encouraged by what is written, with love and prayers that you will meet God and experience the priceless gift of His love as you read. May God hold you close all the days of your life, and may we meet in heaven to celebrate His love...
To My Dear Suffering Brothers and Sisters in the Lord, in Iraq:
I want you to know that, although we have never met, and live in vastly different parts of the world, we are deeply connected to each other as followers of Jesus Christ. I have been reading and watching news reports of the horrors and tragedies you are experiencing because of your faith in Jesus. I truly cannot imagine having to endure what you are going through. I want you to know I cry with you at the loss of your home, your lifestyle, and, most especially, your loved ones, sometimes even your precious children. I know that you could not persevere in this trial without the grace and love of God. I pray for you constantly that God will carry you through every trial and comfort you in every loss.
I pray that you will have courage to face whatever is asked of you, because of your love for Jesus Christ. I hope you know that the prayers and love of many, many brothers and sisters, all around the world, are offered for you constantly. I do not, in any way, make light of what you are suffering. I know that if I were asked to endure what has come to you, I would depend on the prayers of God's people to carry me through.
I hope that you will remember, in the middle of this darkness, that God is with you, you are not suffering alone. Remember all of the times He has carried you and know that He is carrying you through this, as well. Without Him, where would we be? I do not know why God has allowed this to come to you in this time at this hour. But, I believe, if it breaks your heart and mine, it breaks the heart of God even more. Not only to see you suffer, as you do, but, to know that you are persecuted and suffer because of your faith in Jesus Christ.
The hatred and evil unleashed upon you is solely because you follow the Lord Jesus Christ. I struggle sometimes to be a witness in my safe, comfortable corner of the world. And yet, you suffer the unimaginable because you are a witness to the worthiness of our Savior. I am so humbled in the face of your witness.
I pray that you will be surrounded by the love of God at the very moment of your deepest struggle to be that witness. I pray that God's love and promises will be so much more real to you than the evil you are experiencing. I pray that you will overcome by the depth of your awareness of His love for you and His grace. I pray that the Word of God will be so alive to you that you will remember His promises to you that are never forgotten by God. I pray that you will be saturated with the oil of gladness dripping down all over you. I pray that you will have courage. That you will be comforted, as only God can comfort. And that you will be victorious witnesses to the love of Jesus Christ, who is worthy. He is worthy. Praise God, you are His witnesses.
I speak for many in America who stand with you in love and prayers for God's sustaining, overcoming grace. Thank you for your faithfulness in the face of enormous suffering. Jesus is worthy...
"Behold, the tabernacle of God is with men, and He will dwell with them, and they shall be His people. God Himself will be with them and be their God. And God will wipe away every tear from their eyes, there shall be no more death, nor sorrow, nor crying. There shall be no more pain, for the former things have passed away. Then He who sat on the throne said, "Behold, I make all things new." And He said to me, "Write, for these words are true and faithful. And He said to me, "It is done! I Am the Alpha and the Omega, the Beginning and the End. I will give of the fountain of water to him who thirsts. He who overcomes shall inherit all things, and I will be his God and he shall be My son..." Revelation 21:3-7 NKJV