Summer Growth & Fun at LMPC

Summer is a great time to pop in to worship or join us in a new faith adventure.

group prayer
YOUTH- New Director- Taylor Rider.  A Great time to join in.
Whitewater Rafting 7/29- 7:30AM – 8:00PM

YOUTH XTRAVAGANZA 8/23  931 Sugar Mill Rd. (on the lake)
Start off to the new youth year.  Come join us.  Meet leaders, register, t-shirts, pray.

RALLY DAY- 9/6- Starts a New Sunday School/Learning/Growth Year 9:30 Fellowship Hall

Join us on the LMPC Labor Day Float 9/7 8:00 at GIS.  A great time to witness and take part in the community.

FIRST LMPC HEALTH FAIR 9/9 6-8:00 pm.
Flu shots, shingles shots, check blood pressure, sugar, sign up for counseling, exercise, zumba, optometrist glaucoma check, and more!!!

RIB RALLY 9/19 6-8 pm at LMPC kid games/cookout fun.

We had a great Vacation Bible School!  Hundreds came.  Many volunteered.
We are looking for some new teachers for children SS to go along with the new building.
Click on picture for a Video.
group singing big

 

GOoDWorks Blitz Video of this year’s (2015) blitz- just finished

 

 

7-12-15 “Trusting God First- Jehoshaphat” 2 Chronicles 20

“Trusting God First” Jehoshaphat  2 Chronicles 20.     7-12-15 LMPC by Dr. J. Ben Sloan For video of this sermon, click here.
We have inherited many interesting names from the Bible- Mary and John are two of the most common names in the English language.  Elizabeth, Peter, David, Adam, but Jehoshaphat is not one of the names we have adopted.  The name Jehoshaphat in Hebrew means “The Lord is judge” and wherever he went it reminded people that we are accountable to God.  There was a Looney Tune  cartoon with one favorite line- “Well jumpin Jehoshaphat.”  Jimmy Dorsey had a song about “Jumpin Jehosaphat” and the line probably came in English from the “Headless Horesman.” All this is trivia.  I do not know that Jehoshaphat ever jumped.  Jehoshaphat was a godly king of a relatively small and powerless nation.  Jehoshaphat threw out the pagan idols in the land (2 Chr. 17) , and sought to have the people know the Law of Moses (2 Chr. 17:7-9).  But under his leadership the land prospered and he established a fairer court system (2 Chr. 19). There is this amazing story of deliverance in the Bible that we have sometimes glossed over.  Ahab had been the king of Israel and he had a large fortress city in Samaria and a huge army with chariots- but his army was virtually destroyed by Ben Hadad of Syria.  Ahab recovered his army but he died.  After his death some of the smaller kingdoms decided to invade the nation of Judah because it was vulnerable.  Some of your eyes are starting to gloss over.  This is not just a history lesson- this is a faith lesson that applies to you.   The people of God were as good as dead- outnumbered 10:1- by what is described as a “vast army.”  But God delivered them- and we have the same hope.  Hear the Word of the Lord:  After this, the Moabites and Ammonites with some of the Meunites came to wage war against Jehoshaphat. Some people came and told Jehoshaphat, “A vast army is coming against you from Edom, from the other side of the Dead Sea. It is already in Hazezon Tamar” (that is, En Gedi). Alarmed, Jehoshaphat resolved to inquire of the Lord, and he proclaimed a fast for all Judah. The people of Judah came together to seek help from the Lord; indeed, they came from every town in Judah to seek him. Then Jehoshaphat stood up in the assembly of Judah and Jerusalem at the temple of the Lord in the front of the new courtyard and said: “Lord, the God of our ancestors, are you not the God who is in heaven? You rule over all the kingdoms of the nations. Power and might are in your hand, and no one can withstand you. Our God, did you not drive out the inhabitants of this land before your people Israel and give it forever to the descendants of Abraham your friend? They have lived in it and have built in it a sanctuary for your Name, saying, ‘If calamity comes upon us, whether the sword of judgment, or plague or famine, we will stand in your presence before this temple that bears your Name and will cry out to you in our distress, and you will hear us and save us.’10 “But now here are men from Ammon, Moab and Mount Seir, whose territory you would not allow Israel to invade when they came from Egypt; so they turned away from them and did not destroy them. 11 See how they are repaying us by coming to drive us out of the possession you gave us as an inheritance. 12 Our God, will you not judge them? For we have no power to face this vast army that is attacking us. We do not know what to do, but our eyes are on you.” 13 All the men of Judah, with their wives and children and little ones, stood there before the Lord. 14 Then the Spirit of the Lord came on Jahaziel son of Zechariah, the son of Benaiah, the son of Jeiel, the son of Mattaniah, a Levite and descendant of Asaph, as he stood in the assembly. 15 He said: “Listen, King Jehoshaphat and all who live in Judah and Jerusalem! This is what the Lord says to you: ‘Do not be afraid or discouraged because of this vast army. For the battle is not yours, but God’s. 16 Tomorrow march down against them. They will be climbing up by the Pass of Ziz, and you will find them at the end of the gorge in the Desert of Jeruel. 17 You will not have to fight this battle. Take up your positions; stand firm and see the deliverance the Lord will give you, Judah and Jerusalem. Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged. Go out to face them tomorrow, and the Lord will be with you.’ ” 18 Jehoshaphat bowed down with his face to the ground, and all the people of Judah and Jerusalem fell down in worship before the Lord. 19 Then some Levites from the Kohathites and Korahites stood up and praised the Lord, the God of Israel, with a very loud voice. 20 Early in the morning they left for the Desert of Tekoa. As they set out, Jehoshaphat stood and said, “Listen to me, Judah and people of Jerusalem! Have faith in the Lord your God and you will be upheld; have faith in his prophets and you will be successful.” 21 After consulting the people, Jehoshaphat appointed men to sing to the Lord and to praise him for the splendor of his holiness as they went out at the head of the army, saying: “Give thanks to the Lord, for his love endures forever.” 22 As they began to sing and praise, the Lord set ambushes against the men of Ammon and Moab and Mount Seir who were invading Judah, and they were defeated. 23 The Ammonites and Moabites rose up against the men from Mount Seir to destroy and annihilate them. After they finished slaughtering the men from Seir, they helped to destroy one another. 27 Then, led by Jehoshaphat, all the men of Judah and Jerusalem returned joyfully to Jerusalem, for the Lord had given them cause to rejoice over their enemies. 28 They entered Jerusalem and went to the temple of the Lord with harps and lyres and trumpets. 29 The fear of God came on all the surrounding kingdoms when they heard how the Lord had fought against the enemies of Israel. 30 And the kingdom of Jehoshaphat was at peace, for his God had given him rest on every side. This story in the Bible reminds me of another.    In 1799 Napoleon and his army had surrounded the little town of Feldkirk Austria and he wanted in.  The people were ready to surrender.  The bishop pointed out to the people that it was Easter and they should at least ring all the bells in every church in town in celebration of Easter.  When Napolean’s army heard the bells ringing they thought the Austrian army had come and they left.  When they had no help and no hope but God- their praise of God rescued them.   There really is power in focusing on God and praising Him.  It is the power to lift up your head and pull you out of the whirlpool of sadness that seems to be pulling you down deeper and deeper. I. TRUSTING GOD AGAINST THE ODDS- The odds here were strong against Jehoshaphat.  He could not call on any other nation to help him- the enemies were too close and too numerous.  There were three or four kingdoms who were common enemies of Judah- they gathered together.  It would be like if North Korea, China, Russia, and ISIS all got together to invade us.      His response was not to complain- not to worry.  He didn’t stay in the walls though he was outnumbered.  He chose instead to put the choir on the front lines- not to fight- but to sing and praise.   He chose to trust God against the odds.      There is always power in forgiveness and in praise.  There is power in ringing out when things seem hopeless and helpless.  To some, they embrace their fears and worries with hopelessness and say that we should all abandon hope.  There is always hope with God.  There is a hope that goes beyond our power and beyond our ability.   I can remember going to see an older man in the Presbyterian Home.  He could not remember his name or the name of his relatives- but he could remember some of the words to Amazing Grace.  Singing that song- you could see his dim eyes light up- even then.   God is greater than your financial problems.  When you are weak- remember He is strong- and His grace is sufficient for you.  This is the Gospel- we cannot save ourselves- but there is One who can- but we have to look to Him.
I. TRUSTING GOD THOUGH WE HAVE NO POWER- Jehosaphat’s prayer is a prayer we all need to make. We might as well admit that in and of ourselves we cannot accomplish much. But with God we can say to a mountain- move and it will move.     His prayer is basically recognizing how helpless we are and how great God is.   This is not a recognition that should come only in desperate times.  We like to think of our abilities- our cell phones, our TVs, our advanced medicine, our advanced weapons.  But without God it is all useless and just a shuffling around of dust.  If you don’t have a meaning and a purpose to your life- what good is a cell phone?     I can remember when Kay was told she had cancer in December 2006 we were given little hope- probably three months.  It has been nine years- we have seen all three kids get out of college and get on their own.  It has taught us every day is a gift.   One day life will end.  Our power here on earth will end.  Our power, youth, strength, and life are temporary.  Don’t waste it.  Plug your life in to the power of God.  Verse 12 says, “We have no power to face this vast army attacking us.  We do not know what to do, but our eyes are on you.”   This is the situation for every believer.  In ourselves, we have no power- no strength, no might in ourselves.  The prophet’s advice to Jehoshaphat is always advice to us- do not be afraid or discouraged- in other words- don’t despair and give up on your God, your faith, your hope.  For the battle is not yours- but God’s.  Look, when you are standing up for God- when you are believing and doing the right thing- remember the battle is not yours- it is God’s.  We are always in His hands.  David faced Goliath in the strength of the Lord- the same strength that Jehoshaphat marched in- and our same strength today.

III. TRUSTING GOD SURPRISES US- Jehosaphat had no idea how this would happen.  It was not like he sent out spies to stir one country’s army against the next.  Sometimes the high walls against us are only sand.  Illusion.   The scripture says we should trust in God with all our heart and lean not on our own understanding.  We don’t have to know how everything is going to work out.  But we are called to trust God no matter how sad life can get or how hard the circumstances.  When we trust God and acknowledge Him in all our ways- asking for His help- He will direct our paths.      There are very few instances of the army of Judah marching out like this- outnumbered but singing.         They were not surprised that there was a vast army.  They were surprised what happened to the vast army just by marching out in worship.  The amazing thing is they were giving thanks to God before they even marched out.  They had real confidence.  They praised God that He was their savior even though he hadn’t saved them yet.       What we focus on we magnify (Joel Osteen).  We can focus on the problem or we can focus on the promise.  We can focus on the little black dot on the large white board, or we can open our eyes to God and what He has done for us.  If you take a penny and hold it right next to your eye, you can block out the sun.  This is one reason why it is so important to know the scriptures- to know the promises available to you.  David said, “O magnify the Lord with me and let us exalt His name forever.  I sought the Lord and He heard me and delivered me from all my fears.”  When you change your focus- it takes away doubt and gives you an expectant heart.  This is what faith does.  So Paul says, “whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think on such things” (Phil. 4:8).  Paul could write that from prison. Yet God changed the world through Paul and his writings.  God is not obligated to do things just the way we expect, but He does obligate Himself to love us through the terrors and problems of life.  The good thing is- life is full of surprises- it is mysterious- good and bad.  But God is good and He will encounter us along the way.  The people of Jehoshaphat probably could not imagine what happened.  They could not imagine that their vast enemy would fight among themselves without their lifting a weapon.  Paul says that God can do more than what you ask or imagine (Ephesians 3:20).  God can turn hate into hope.  I think we saw that with what happened in South Carolina in the last month.   The relatives of those who were shot could have focused on the evil—everyone else seemed to.  Instead they focused on God and forgiveness.  God can do that in your life- with your children- with your family.  Do not give up- or give into thinking there is no hope and I can’t do anything about it.  Jehoshaphat would have said- “I don’t know how it’s going to happen- but I’m trusting in you, Lord.”

7/5/15- “A Single Thread of Hope that Saved a Nation”

To watch a video of this sermon, click here.

“A Single Thread of Hope that saved a Nation”  Heb. 11:31; Josh 2:8-21  Preached at Lake Murray Presbyterian 7/5/15 by Dr. J. Ben Sloan

Paul Kagame was raised as a Christian in Rwanda.  He watched his Tutsi village in Rwanda burn as a young boy by the Hutus and the Belgian government.  He became a poor refugee- a nobody.  When the Belgians left Rwanda, they gave the power to the numerous but less educated Hutus. From April to July 1994 The Hutus tried to wipe out all the Tutsis in the land.  It is estimated 800,000 died.  There was little hope for Rwanda.  The west- including the USA refused to step in.  Kagame led a Tutsi military force that conquered the capital though  outnumbered 5 :1 and stopped the genocide.  Most thought the Tutsis would seek revenge.  He is single handedly responsible for stopping many revenge killings.  Without his leadership- the land would still be at each others’ throats and freedom would be taken away by revenge and hate. One person can make a difference for freedom.     Rahab was a nobody.  She was a prostitute who also wove to make a living.  Yet she was responsible for the fall of Jericho and without her help we might wonder if the nation of Israel ever got off the ground.  Rahab hid the spies of Israel and let them escape by a scarlet thread/rope.  The spies told her to hang that rope/thread outside her window and the Israelites would not attack her and those in her family who believed her message and took shelter with her.       Many ministers have said there is a scarlet thread running through all of scripture.  It weaves in and out.  Sometimes it seems it is a thick rope, and other times it seems like a tiny, tender, scarlet thread.  It is a thread of salvation.  This thread saved the two spies whose information was vital to the people of God.  God used the rope of a harlot to save them.  This thread saved Rahab and her whole family.  There is always a thread of hope- a thread of salvation- even for people who have no hope.

  1. The Thread is slim. Rahab was alone in her support for God’s people. Her change made all the difference for the people of God and for herself and her family.  She didn’t take a poll of the people of Jericho to see what she should do.  She did what she felt was right In the eyes of God even if she were the only one who believed that in the city.  In our pluralistic and secular society there will be times when doing the right thing will seem unpopular.  Our task is to be popular with God.
    Rahab said that she knew that “the Lord your God is God in heaven above and on the earth below.”  It was not that Jericho had their God and Israel had their God- it was that the Lord was God over all nations- heaven and earth.  All people need to worship the true God.   She had a strong but young faith- which we need to have as well.
    Sometimes it may seem your hope is slender and slim.  It may seem that the obstacles and those who oppose you are strong and powerful like the walls of Jericho.  Maybe your boss doesn’t like you.  Maybe your spouse has said they don’t like you.  Maybe you feel like you are losing everything- maybe you are. Maybe your are worried about your health and pain.  But do not forget your God.  He is the secret ingredient to any life.  It may seem your past has such a tight grip on you that you feel you will never hold your head above water.
  2. II. The Thread is Scarlet- It is no accident but it is a type that the thread that saved them was scarlet.  Freedom always costs something.  The 56 signers of the Declaration of Independence lost their wealth and belongings- some lost all, all lost some.  Internal freedom also costs something.  To be free we have to deny ourselves.  Rahab’s salvation was that she believed that God was at work and she wanted to be on His side. She said, “He is God in heaven above and earth below.”  Do you believe that?  Do you believe He is God of only one region- one little spot.  There are lots of people who say that God is God here- but maybe not God of India or China.  Truth is, Rahab was a prostitute- and probably a temple prostitute of the Amorites of Jericho.  She gave up her religion to follow God, and she risked her profession.  She really risked her life in helping the spies.  The thread is a thread of hope.  In the midst of a war- she did not hope in the well trained, better equipped army of Jericho with their high walls.  She put her hope and trust in God.      The great thing is that God turned her around.  By tradition and more hard evidence (that we’ll hear in a minute), she changed her life.  There are people who say that you cannot or will not change.  Maybe you have been caught in some sin- and you feel like you cannot give it up and it is ruining your perspective, your life, your family, your faith and your hope.  As He changed Rahab He can change you.  Rahab is a monument that God changes people and can change you.       A few weeks ago there was a documentary on gangs in America.  There were extensive interviews with a couple in New York.  He was deep into the Cripps and she was a prostitute and they both were on drugs.  It seemed as if there was no hope for them.  But they would not allow the interviewer to silence what changed them.  They testified it was the power of Christ that changed them.  They were in church every day because she knew that if she did not cling to Christ and His hope she would be sucked back in.  Rahab is a testimony that God can change us- and He can change you too- if you will believe, give up the sin and fully give yourself to God.  There is freedom in the Lord that sets you free on the inside and allows you to be free from the bondages of life on the outside.
  3. III. Hold Onto the Thread- Rahab didn’t hide the thread- afraid that someone would see it.  She held onto her new found faith with all her might.     Put your full weight on the hope of Jesus Christ. I have only been rock repelling twice and it was not a very pretty sight.  But I had a helmet, a cradle for support and a safety rope as well as the main rope- and I was repelling a slanted face- not a shear rock face.  Yet I was holding onto my main rope white knuckled with all my heart- as if my life depended on it.   I do not doubt the spies were a bit braver holding onto Rahab’s scarlet thread.   Hold onto your hope like that.   In a day when people are letting go of what counts for eternity- do not let go of your hope.  God is the only eternal hope- that can give hope beyond the grave and beyond ourselves.       In the end Rahab is commended- she kept the faith and the hope.  In Hebrews she is held up as an example of someone whose faith saved her life.  In James Rahab is commended as someone who didn’t just talk about her faith- but who acted on it- sheltering and protecting the spies.  But the greatest compliment is found in a subtle way in Matthew.  The genealogies of the Bible are full of men.  But Matthew’s genealogy has a few women and Rahab was one of them. But there is more.  Maybe you remember the story of Ruth, the Moabitis, who joined the nation of Israel in kindness to her mother-in-law, Naomi. We also see in this story how the wealthy merchant, Boaz was so kind, so gracious, so godly toward Ruth and others.  Do you know who Boas’s mother was?  Boaz’s mother was Rahab.  I do not doubt that Boaz learned kindness and grace from his mother, Rahab.  Rahab is therefore the great- great grandmother of David and the ancestor of Jesus himself.   I invite you to keep the hope, keep the faith.  If there is a terrorist attack, strife in our country, strife in our state, strife in your family or in your own soul- keep the faith- and the thread of hope will not fail you.  Amen

The Father and Those who Persecute You

“The Father and Those who Persecute You” 6-21-15 Father’s Day- after the Charleston Church shooting at Emmanual AME where 9 were shot; Psalm 74:1-8, 18-23; Mt. 5:10-12

For a video of this sermon, click here:
For a video of Tucker Bemis’s baptism, click here.

I was hoping to have a nice sermon for Father’s Day- but I changed my sermon three times- in light of the events that happened in our state Wednesday night. How do we jive that we have a heavenly Father who loves us and cares for us and then at the same time there is persecution of His children here. The simplistic solution would be to say, “God is good, people are mean, but God will win.” The complexity is to get into how good is God or how mean are people and who is in control of what. I am not real certain that we absolutely have to understand all of that- at some point we have to have faith in the goodness and the ability for God to conquer our evil somehow. But what we do say as a cornerstone of our faith is the cross. It is in the central place in our sanctuary. The cross was the worst persecution- a totally innocent Jesus- killed be a very powerful Roman government and a very strict religious group. Jesus taught us to turn the other cheek and lived that out. The Romans were conquered by the Christians not by an army of bishops and laypeople- but by a steady conversion to a loving way. The persecution had to stop because there were so many. It was not an army or protests in the street that really conquered the Romans – it was love. Jesus taught and lived that the persecution on the cross is not as final as we might think. The resurrection brings meaning to Jesus’ persecution and to our own. The Father allowed the cross of His own Son. But the cross is not the end- and the death of these nine in Charleston is not the end either. Persecution has been upon the church from the beginning. I do not want to play down the racism and prejudice involved- a sermon on that terrible sin is coming later. What shocked me is that these brothers and sisters of ours were killed in a church in a Bible study that they welcomed this man into. I. THE REALITY OF PERSECUTION- Psalm 74 asks how long will the people of God continue to suffer. There are people who have said to me, persecution of Christians will never come to South Carolina. But it has. Not just last Wednesday but many times in our relatively short 240 year history. The British burned many churches- many of whom were Presbyterian. Presbyterian churches in Indiantown in Williamsburg County, Yemassee, Georgetown and York were burned. I actually saw an article by two Harvard professors in answer to a question as to whether the British burned churches- their answer was basically “No” and they forgot and redefined their history. The ruins are still there- go to the Sheldon church in Beaufort County.  When Sherman came to Columbia legend is that he was going to burn First Baptist but that a person outside pointed him to another church down the street- and they burned that one instead- Washington Street Methodist and Ebeneezer Lutheran, the rectory and education building of Trinity Episcopal at the time both blacks and whites worshiped in these places. He burned other churches too like the Episcopal churches in McPhersonville and Norway, SC. In the civil rights battles of the 60s there were bomb threats to the African American churches- the gathering place for blacks. Flint Hill Baptist in Rock Hill was burned. In 1996 eight African American churches were burned in SC. In 2000 Antioch Baptist (African American) in York County was burned. These are not African American churches only- they are the church of Jesus Christ- part of who we are- our brothers and sisters in Christ. A sanctuary is a holy refuge. It is a holy place that is being disrespected. It is not that we need more laws- it is against the law to murder in a church or harm a church. We need changed hearts. If people respected God, they would respect His churches. We need to repent. Our schools and churches are to be safe places. It is not just Muslim extremists who are attacking, but deranged racists, and nihilists who think there is no reason to live. It is hatred- evil- a lack of respect for human life and God’s law that says, “Thou shalt not murder.” A murder in church is a horrible disrespecting of God.      There have been more Christians killed in the last 100 years than all the other centuries put together.   Today Christians in the Middle East are facing genocide. It is basically a conspiracy by the Shiites, the radical Sunnis to eliminate Christianity from its birthplace. The population of Christians in the Middle East has shrunk from 20% at the beginning of the 20th century to 5% today. 700,000 Syrian Christians have left- many of their churches burned. Similarly about 700,000 Iraqi Christians have left that country in the last ten years (Newsweek 3/26/15). Our passage in Psalm 74 lifts up to God- that our places of worship have been destroyed. In this hundred degree heat, it is hard to live without air conditioning. Yet most of these middle class Christians were kicked out of their air conditioned homes with stoves and refrigerators to go live in the non-air conditioned desert in tents.      Why are people so mean to Christians? I think the root is a spiritual evil- part of the struggle and battle against evil in the world. I’m not just talking about the devil- though I am sure the devil smiled at the cross and the reality of personal evil becomes evident in persecution. Human evil- the poison in our hearts takes control and becomes violent action. Evil does not want to be told it is wrong. Racists don’t want to be told they are wrong. People who are proud or selfish don’t want to hear that they are proud or selfish. People who are apathetic to persecution don’t want to hear that they should care more. It has happened many times that the truth is turned on its head. So Christians are seen as “haters” while people who love to hate good and the good people are seen as good.      Jesus said in this world you will have trouble. The word “trouble” is tribulation and persecution and implies difficulty. But then He said the most encouraging words, “But be of good cheer—I have overcome the world.”

  1. THE LIMITATION OF PERSECUTION- Persecution is always limited by God. God will put an end to it. This is why Jesus could say “You will have trouble but be of good cheer.” He has overcome the world. The worst the world can do cannot take away your soul. Revenge is not ours- it is the Lord’s. God is the judge- not us. It is not that it doesn’t matter what you do. We do not have to take our defense in our own hands. It is not as if Jesus was saying, “Crucify me, it doesn’t hurt. It doesn’t matter.” No, it hurts- it matters. But Jesus knew even the worst we do cannot stop God and the power of the resurrection. It is not all up to us- it is not up to our knowledge, our skill, our strength, our police, our laws, our barriers and locks, or the distance we are from trouble makers. Don’t get me wrong- I am for doing all we can to make us safe and better people. We are ultimately in God’s hands- He is our heavenly Father- and no one can take us out of His hands- who can separate us from the love of God- not death, devil, sorrow- or even the powerful Roman soldiers and law or the cross. In the end- God wins- and He cares a lot more than we do about the actions of humans. It amazes me we can look at ISIS beheading other Christians and look the other way and say, “It’s not my bizness.” Or we can see famine for the Christians kicked out to the desert and mountains by ISIS and say, “It’s not my bizness.” Or when a person loses a job simply because they are a Christian or want to keep the Sabbath. Or when a pastor and 9 congregant get shot- and we say, “It’s a different denomination and a different church in a different city.” Do you hear? It’s like we are saying “As long as it isn’t me- it’s ok.” No we cannot solve all the world’s problems- but we are called to at the very least pray for the problems we hear about.  What can stir us out of our slumber to God and others? How much evil will it take before we wake up and say – we need to repent?      Tertullian once said, “The blood of the martyrs is the seed of the church.” One of the limitations of persecution is that in trying to snuff out the love of Christ it actually multiplies it. The Republic of China kicked the missionaries out in 1955 but instead of killing the church it grew from 1 million then to 100 million today. In the early church when people were led to the lions and they refused to recant- people would say to themselves- I would like something to die for and live for. III. THE HANDLING OF PERSECUTION- Our passage says to pray, rejoice, and bless 1. Pray for those who persecute you. Many prayers have been sent up asking God to change the soul of those who hate in our land. I cannot change them. But the Spirit can. Many prayed- victims’ families prayed for the conversion of Dylann Roof. But we pray not just for their conversion, we pray that God would see and do something. Leave it in God’s hands- not yours.   2. Rejoice when you are persecuted- why? Why? For some, this world’s comfort is all there is and to rejoice in persecution makes absolutely no sense. Yesterday at the AME church in Chapin there was a prayer service. The pastor there said that evil is a live- but it will not keep me from praising God. Hatred would like to steal your soul and your song. 3. Our passage says to bless those who persecute you. People might expect to hear- defend yourself- strike back- curse those who persecute. But the One who said on the cross, “Father forgive them for they know not what they do” invites us to bless the persecutors. At the same time- the cry for justice for the protection from those who mean it for evil goes up to our Lord. He particularly hears the blessing of the persecuted. Such blessing amplifies the cry into God’s ears.      There was a wonderful article in the Wall Street Journal about the relatives of those who were killed. They were blessing the shooter at the bond hearing. So the daughter of Ethel Lance said, “I just wanted everybody to know, to you, I forgive you. You took something very precious away from me. I will never talk to her ever again. I will never be able to hold her again. But I forgive you.” She asked that God have mercy on the shooter’s soul. A family member of Anthony Thompson said, “I forgive you and my family forgives you.” Hatred did not win. Forgiveness keeps hatred from continuing.      The Witness of Emanuel AME has stood firm. It is a firm reliance on a heavenly Father who sees them through. The shooter said he almost didn’t do it because they were so nice. The state Senator who shared his desk with Senator Pinckney on the floor said that he was the most gentle of the 46 legislators.” One young man at the church jumped in front of a bullet meant for his aunt. Five families came forward during the weapons charge hearing saying they forgave the shooter or asked for God’s mercy for him. The love and grace that goes beyond human ability shines in the darkness and the darkness has not overcome it. The Father is not absent nor uncaring. He is raising up His people with love once more conquering hate.