Tuesday, July 15, 2014

The Persecuted Church

People chained to the ground for many months. People locked away in cold prison cells. People shoved into over-crowded shipping containers, only being allowed to see the the light a few precious times during the day. People shot, hacked, and stabbed to death. People forced to witness friends and family shot, hacked, and stabbed to death. People denied education and better lives. People whose parents or children are taken away from them, sometimes never to be seen again. People living in a constant state of fear, not knowing when the police or government will show up at their door to drag them away to prison. What do all these people have in common? They are Christians around the world who are suffering because of their faith in Jesus Christ. They are the persecuted church.

It has been eye opening for me reading about the stories of the persecuted church. Stories of people who suffer greatly and sacrifice much all because they refuse to deny their faith and trust in Jesus. People who truly know that if they desire to live godly lives they will face persecution (2 Timothy 3:12). That they are hated because Christ was hated first (John 15:18). That their present sufferings are not worth comparing to the glory that will be revealed in them (Romans 8:18). That their light affliction, which is but for a moment, works for them a far more exceeding and eternal weight of glory (2 Corinthians 4:17). That to live is Christ and to die is gain (Philippians 1:21). They continue to grow in faith and maturity as they cling to the precious words of the Bible in the midst of the trials and tribulations in life.

What I find most amazing about the persecuted church is that they continue to thrive despite all that they face. House church networks all over China continue to grow and expand despite the intense efforts of Chinese government to eradicate Christianity from their boarders. Many leaders of these churches have been captured, thrown in prison, forced to perform grueling labor, and have been tortured and beaten. Some have been thrown in prison multiple times. Yet during these times they hold on to the truths that they know. They count it all joy that they are able to share in the suffering of Christ. And when they are finally released, they continue to preach the gospel. And the house churches continue to grow all the more. One such church leader shared his experiences in prison with Open Doors ministry. His testimony can be found at the link bellow. It is a powerful story and worth reading.

http://www.cbn.com/spirituallife/BibleStudyAndTheology/Discipleship/persecution_112702.aspx

When I read his story, it helps me to realize my current problems really aren't all that big. It teaches me to be thankful for the freedoms that I have living in the USA; to not take them for granted. It begs the question, if loving God became a crime in the USA, would there be enough evidence to convict me of being a Christian? Would I be able to stand firm in the face of persecution? Would I be able to count it all joy? Would you?

To those reading this, let us not forget our brothers and sisters around the world who daily experience persecution. Let us keep them in our prayers as they are desperately in need of encouragement for all they go through. Let us pray for our brothers and sisters in Christ in Egypt, Iran, North Korea, China, Indonesia, and the far corners of the world. For the prayer of the righteous is powerful and effective. Let us remember, the persecuted church.

Friday, July 11, 2014

Open and closed doors

We all have and will face closed doors as we walk through this life. It was never promised that we would not face obstacles, but God works all these things for the good of those who love Him and are called acording to His purpose.  We don't always see it as good but often things turn out much better than we could have imagined.

The following is another email I received from biblegateway.com from the newsletter Standing Strong Through The Storm published by Open Doors International.  I hope you are blessed by it.

OPEN AND CLOSED DOORS

“For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways,” declares the LORD. “As the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways and my thoughts than your thoughts.” Isaiah 55:8-9

The Bible has much to say about open doors but many times – even as Christians – we seem to face obstacles on our path and in our ministry. Blocked doors can be VERY frustrating. Yet God often uses closed doors to advance His cause.

Bible teachers like Max Lucado remind us that God closed the womb of a young Sarah so he could display His power to the elderly one. He shut the palace door on Moses the prince so he could open shackles through Moses the liberator. He marched Daniel out of Jerusalem so he could use Daniel in Babylon.

And even Jesus knew the challenge of a blocked door. When he requested a path that bypassed the cross, God said no. He said no to Jesus in the Garden of Gethsemane so He could say yes to us at the gates of heaven.

It’s not that our plans are bad but that God’s plans are better.

A prayer is circulating on the Internet that expresses it this way:

He asked for strength that he might achieve,
he was made weak that he might endure;
He asked for health to do larger things,
he was given infirmity that he might do better things;
He asked for power that he might impress men,
he was given weakness that he might seek God;
He asked for wealth that he might be free from care,
he was given poverty that he might be wiser than carefree.
He asked for all things that he might enjoy life,
he was given life that he might enjoy all things;
He received nothing he asked for.
He received more than he ever hoped for.
His prayer was answered!
Blessed man!

The shortest distance between a closed and open door is the distance between your knees and the floor. The one who kneels to the Lord can stand up to anything.

RESPONSE: Today I will accept that my blocked door doesn’t mean God doesn’t love me. Quite the opposite. I’ll see it as proof that He does.

PRAYER: Thank You Lord that You know best and have even better plans for me and my service for You. Help me wait patiently for You to open the right door at the right time!

Standing Strong Through The Storm (SSTS)
A daily devotional message by SSTS author Paul Estabrooks

© 2011 Open Doors International. Used by permission

Monday, June 2, 2014

Which are you?

The following is one of the newsletters I received from Open Doors International. The newsletter is entitled Standing Strong Through the Storm and can be subsribed to at biblegateway.com. It is very powerful and I hope you enjoy it as much as I did.


WHICH ARE YOU?

I can do all this through him who gives me strength. Philippians 4:13

A young woman went to her mother and told her how things were so hard for her. She did not know how she was going to make it and wanted to give up. She was tired of fighting and struggling. It seemed as one problem was solved a new one arose.

Her mother took her to the kitchen. She filled three pots with water. In the first, she placed carrots, in the second she placed eggs and the last she placed ground coffee beans. She let them sit and boil without saying a word. In about twenty minutes she turned off the burners. She fished the carrots out and placed them in a bowl. She pulled the eggs out and placed them in a bowl. Then she ladled the coffee out and placed it in a bowl.

Turning to her daughter, she asked, “Tell me what you see?” “Carrots, eggs, and coffee,” she replied.

She brought her closer and asked her to feel the carrots. She did and noted that they were soft. She then asked her to take an egg and break it. After pulling off the shell, she observed the hard-boiled egg. Finally, she asked her to sip the coffee. The daughter tasted its rich aroma.

The daughter then asked. “What does it mean, mother?”

Her mother explained that each of these objects had faced the same adversity—boiling water—but each reacted differently. The carrot went in strong, hard and unrelenting. After being subjected to the boiling water, it softened and became weak. The egg had been fragile. Its thin outer shell had protected its liquid interior. But, after sitting through the boiling water, its inside became hardened. The ground coffee beans were unique, however. After they were in the boiling water they had changed the water.

“Which are you?” she asked her daughter. “When adversity knocks on your door, how do you respond? Are you a carrot that seems strong, but with pain and adversity, do you wilt and become soft and lose your strength? Or are you an egg that starts with a malleable heart, but changes with the heat? Do you have a fluid spirit, but after a loved-one’s death, a relationship breakup, a financial hardship or some other trial, have you become hardened and stiff? Does your shell look the same, but on the inside you are bitter and tough with a stiff spirit and a hardened heart? Or are you like a coffee bean? The bean actually changes the hot water, the very circumstance that brings the pain. When the water gets hot, it releases the fragrance and flavor. If I am like the bean, when things are at their worst, I get better and change the situation around me through Christ-likeness.

When the hour is the darkest and trials are their greatest do you elevate to another level? How do you handle adversity?

RESPONSE: Christians are like carrots, eggs or coffee beans. They don’t know how strong their response is until they get into hot water. Which are you?

PRAYER: Lord, help me realize that every experience You gives me, every person You put in my path, is the perfect preparation only You can see.

Standing Strong Through The Storm (SSTS)
A daily devotional message by SSTS author Paul Estabrooks

© 2011 Open Doors International. Used by permission

Monday, April 28, 2014

Salvation

Salvation. Most of us have heard of John 3:16 which says, "For God so loved the world that He gave His one and only son so that whoever believes in Him shale not parish but have everlasting life". But some may be asking, what is salvation? How do I accept this message? How should I respond? All excellent questions. Here is a scenario to help break this down:

Three people flying on a plane are approached by a man who tells them this: "This plane is about to crash and everyone still on board will die. If you want to live, take this parachute and jump off the plane now."

The first person tells the man he is crazy and rejects the parachute. The second person takes the parachute but remains in their seat. The third person takes the parachute and immediately straps it on and jumps off the plane. Not long after this, all three of the plane's engines burn out. The plane crashes and everyone on board, including the first and second person, dies. The third person, however, lives. 

What can we learn from this scenario? Three things. First:

1) Salvation is a free gift.

The parachute represents salvation. Notice none of the three people were required to pay for the parachute; it was simply offered to them. Salvation is a free gift offered to us by God. We do not have to earn it or some how deserve it. It is a free gift of everlasting life offered to all. With this gift we are pardoned from our sin and rebellion against God and are given a new life in Jesus Christ. But like with all gifts, we are now faced with the following: a choice.

2) Salvation is a choice.

Those three people on that plane had a choice: to take the parachute or reject it. God offers this free gift of everlasting life to all. All are now faced with a choice: to accept or reject salvation. This is a very important choice; one that cannot be taken lightly. Acceptance leads to eternal life; but rejection leads to eternal death. Heaven and Hell are real destinations and where we will spend our eternity all starts with making a choice. The question is, will you accept or reject this free gift of salvation?

Someone may point out that although the second parson accepted the parachute, they still died. An excellent observation. This leads me to my third point.

3) Salvation requires a response.

While both the second and third parson accepted the parachute, only one responded the man's warning and jumped off the plane. The third person realized that they could not stay on the plane if they wanted to live. When we truly embrace salvation, we realize that we can no longer continue living the way we were: in sin and rebellion against God. For if we continue to live in sin after claiming to have accepted salvation, salvation has had no real impact on our life and we are still on the path to destruction. Salvation calls us to live a new life: a life in Jesus Christ. Second Corinthians 5:17 states "if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; old things have passed away; behold, all things have become new." 

Salvation. It is a free gift. It is a free gift offered to all without us having to earn or deserve it. It is a choice. Will you accept or reject this free gift? It requires a response. When we truly embrace salvation, we will leave behind our old ways, for behold! We are a new creation! 


Wednesday, April 2, 2014

We fall down, we get up

Forgiveness. Sometimes it is hard to forgive others when they wrong us. But often times it is even harder for us to forgive ourselves when we sin. We can't see how God could possibly forgive us for our wrong doings. We feel that either we have sinned too much, done the same things over and over again, or have done something so big that God could not forgive us. The guilt, the shame, the blame hold us down like chains. Chains that have bound our hands and feet to the ground; paralyzing us. Paralyzing us in our mind, body, and soul.

Forgiveness. This is, however, far from the truth. God is more than willing to extend forgiveness to us when we sin. Though our sin may be great, God's grace is greater. Romans 5:20 says, "Moreover, the law entered that the offense might abound. But where sin abounded, grace abounded much more."

Forgiveness. If you have discovered this blog post and find yourself in a place where the weight of your sin has you bound, feeling hopeless, Jesus is inviting you into the throne room of grace. The price of admission is simply a broken spirit. For a broken and contrite heart will not be turned away (Psalms 51:17). Simply come before the Lord and begin to confess your sins. As you confess your sins, begin to meditate on the following scriptures, letting their truths wash over you:

"If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness." 1 John 1:9

"As far as the east is from the west, so far has He removed our transgressions from us." Psalms 103:12

"For I will be merciful to their unrighteousness, and their sins and their lawless deeds I will remember no more." Hebrew 8:12

Forgiveness. Imagine that Jesus is standing before you, speaking those words of scripture to you. As you feel the weight of your sins lifting off your shoulders begin to give praise and thanks to God. He is mighty and worthy of the praise! Thank you Jesus for your amazing love and forgiveness in spite of my sin!

Forgiveness. You are not alone in this struggle. This morning I begun to feel the burden and weight of my own sins. But as I began to pray, God, as he often does, will put a song in my spirit. When I began to listen to this song it lifted my spirit and reminded me that though I fall down, I can get back up again. The following is the song God gave to me. I pray that it would minister to you as it did to me and raise your spirit. You may have fallen, but you can get back up again!



Sunday, December 16, 2012

My God is Awesome!

Music. Music inspires. Music can uplift. Music renews the soul. Music can strengthen and encourage. Music can bring peace and tranquility. Music can make tears of joy flow. Music.

I enjoy listening to music. I enjoy listening to music that comes from God with a message that speaks to me when I need it most. I enjoy listening to music that brings tears to my eyes and I cannot help but respond with gratitude in my heart for all that He has done for me.

I have a song I want to share with you. This song is called Awesome. It speaks of a God who is awesome. A God who can move mountains. A God who can keep you in the valley. A God who can protect you from the rain. A God who brings healing to the broken, and strength to those weakened. If you are weary from the burdens of life and are having a hard time pressing on, this song is for you. If you need healing for your broken heart, this song is for you. If it feels like you are going through the valley of the shadow of death, this song is for you. If you are on the mountain top and just want to give God a shout of praise for all that He has done for you, this song is for you.

Bellow is a video of Pastor Charles Jenkins & Fellowship Chicago performing the song Awesome. I hope and pray that this song will touch your heart and life like it has touched mine. That it will help strengthen and encourage you as you walk this road of life. That it will cause you to think about the goodness of God and all that He has done for you to the point that your soul cries out, hallelujah! Thank you Jesus! Glory to God! Hallelujah!



Sunday, September 30, 2012

Change of seasons

Fall. A beautiful time of the year where the leaves change colors and paint the landscape with vibrant yellows, reds, and oranges. As I was driving down a hilly, narrow, country road on my way to Church yesterday morning, I thanked and praised God for this beauty that surrounded me. Truly God is an amazing architect. The beauty of His creation is just astounding. He is so worthy of praise and glory for the works His hands have wrought.  Thank you God for the beauty and wonder of your creation!

Fall. A busy time of the year as students head back to school, crops are harvested, and yard work needs to be done. But in the midst of all the busyness I would encourage you to take time out of your busy schedule and just enjoy the beauty of God's creation. Give Him the praise and thanks as you witness the transformation taking place around you. The change of seasons. What an amazing God we serve! All praise and thanks belong to and is due unto His name!