STANDING STRONG THROUGH THE STORM


STANDING STRONG THROUGH THE STORM

SUFFERING CAN PURIFY MY
FAITH
=============================
In this you greatly rejoice, though
now for a little while you may have had to
suffer grief in all kinds of
trials. These have come so that your faith—of
greater worth than gold, which
perishes even though refined by fire—may be
proved genuine and may result in
praise, glory and honor when Jesus Christ is
revealed. 1 Peter
1:6-7

Believers in North Korea’s underground church recite five
principles, along
with the Lord’s Prayer, at their secret gatherings. The
special place of
purifying suffering in the spiritual life of this church is
striking:

1. Our persecution and suffering are our joy and
honor.

2. We want to accept ridicule, scorn and disadvantages with joy in
Jesus’
name.

3. As Christians, we want to wipe others’ tears away and
comfort the
suffering.

4. We want to be ready to risk our life because
of our love for our neighbor,
so that they

also become
Christians.

5. We want to live our lives according to the standards set
in God’s Word.

Christian singer, Helen Berhane was arrested for sharing
her faith in her home
country of Eritrea. She spent almost three years in
prison, much of this time
in a metal shipping container. Because she would
not deny her faith or stop
sharing her faith, she was beaten so severely she
could not walk. During her
time in the containers she wrote new Christian
songs and spent her time
encouraging other Christian prisoners, as well as
witnessing to the prison
guards.

After her release, she resettled in
Europe and has written her prison memoirs
in a small book titled, Song of the
Nightingale. In the introduction when
describing her feelings inside the
shipping container prison, she writes:

Sometimes I cannot believe that
this is my life—these four metal walls, all of
us corralled like cattle, the
pain, the hunger, the fear. All because of my
belief in a God who is risen,
who charges me to share my faith with those who
do not yet know him. A God
who I am forbidden to worship. I think back to a
question I have been asked
many times over my months in prison: “Is your faith
worth this, Helen?” As
the guards continue on their rounds, I whisper the
answer:
“Yes.”[1]

RESPONSE: Today I will accept suffering as something that can
prove and purify
my faith.

PRAYER: Lord, thank You for those trials
and challenges that help me be more
like You. You are worth it all and
more!

Advertisements
Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

STANDING STRONG THROUGH THE STORM


STANDING STRONG THROUGH THE STORM

PEACE IN THE FACE OF
FEAR
=========================
You will keep in perfect peace those whose
minds are steadfast, because they
trust in you. Isaiah
26:3

Twenty-nine-year-old Maryam Rostampour and thirty-two-year old
Marzieh
Amirizadeh spent 259 days in Tehran’s notorious Evin prison in 2009
in Iran.
They had to overcome the fear of life imprisonment and the
possibility of
execution because they loved and followed Jesus Christ. They
had to remain
strong through weeks in solitary confinement, and endless hours
of
interrogation by Iranian officials and religious leaders. They had to
endure
months of harsh living conditions and debilitating sickness. In their
first
interview (with Sam Yeghnazar of Elam Ministries), they shared what
life was
like in prison and how they survived.

When asked about the
worst part of the prison experience, Marzieh wept as
she
explained:

“One of the worst was the execution of two of my fellow
prisoners. I had never
experienced such a thing. One of those killed was my
roommate. We had spent a
lot of time together. And one day they took her to
be executed. For a week I
was in shock that killing a human being was so
easy…After these executions the
spirit of sorrow and death hung over the
prison. There was deadly silence
everywhere. We all felt this. There was
nothing we could do. Everyone was
under pressure. The sadness was
overwhelming. We stared at each other but had
no power to speak. This was the
worst experience. It was horrifying and
tangible.”

When asked if she
feared execution, Marzieh responded:

“I never thought about execution, I
thought we might be sentenced to life
imprisonment because that is the
punishment for women convicted of apostasy. I
just thought this was something
we would have to bear.

“Before prison we talked about execution, but when
we got to prison and
experienced the fear of it—our way of talking changed.
The very first night
that we were arrested, when they threatened us, we were
really frightened. We
never imagined we would be so frightened; we had talked
about these things
before. But the atmosphere there and what happened to us
frightened us beyond
our expectations. We were confined to a dark and dirty
room and paralyzed with
fear. We could see the fear in each other’s faces. We
prayed and what calmed
us was the presence of God and the peace that He gave
us.

“It is easy to say that I give my life for the Lord and I will do
anything for
Him, even die. I always thought it would be a privilege to give
my life for
the Lord. You say these things. I know for sure that if this
would happen to
us we would rejoice ultimately. But human fears gripped us.
The power the Lord
gave us helped us to overcome these fears, just as when we
prayed in the
police station, God banished our fear and renewed our
strength.”

RESPONSE: Today I acknowledge that God can grant His peace in
every trying
situation I face.

PRAYER: Thank You Lord for the promise
of Your presence, Your peace and
renewing strength.

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

STANDING STRONG THROUGH THE STORM


STANDING STRONG THROUGH THE STORM

FEAR OF DEATH
=============
There
is no fear in love. But perfect love drives out fear, because fear has
to do with punishment. The one who fears is not made perfect in love. 1 John
4:18

Satan uses and plays on one of the basic elements and
instincts of our
nature—fear. It is natural for finite man to fear—especially
the fear of the
unknown, the fear of being hurt and the fear of death. There
is nothing more
Satan would like than to see us paralyzed with fear just like
King Saul when
facing the Philistines and Goliath.

Why do we allow
fear to be so controlling? On the one hand, we have past
experiences that we
don’t want to relive and on the other hand, we are very
hesitant about what
might lay ahead. But often the events and situations
creating most fear in
people have no basis in reality.

All fear is based on perception. Thus
fear has been described in the English
language as an acronym for “False
Evidence Appearing Real.” If we could
consciously remember this, it would
help us to allay many fears. But that
false evidence sometimes is so
convincing! However, we must always realize
that dread and fear—like other
tactics of the enemy—are based on a lie. This
is why throughout the
scriptures we are repeatedly commanded—366 times—to
“fear not.” It is
intensely liberating for our witness when we personally
overcome the fear of death. This allows us to focus on Christ and His kingdom.

Living as a
Christian under Romania’s dictatorship posed extreme difficulties
and
dangers. Even though Rev. Joseph Tson had counted the cost and served
the
Lord and His flock faithfully, he feared the day that he would be called
in by
security. He knew the possibility of facing death was
inevitable.

The day that Joseph feared arrived. Security officers arrived
at his home one
day and took him to their headquarters. He was instructed to
sit on a chair
and a gun was put to his head. “The choice is easy,” came the
commander’s
voice. “Deny Jesus or we pull the trigger.”

This was
indeed the moment that Joseph feared all through his ministry. But
suddenly
the Spirit of the Lord filled his whole being. “If you kill me today
you will
do me a great favor. All my sermons that were recorded will be in
great
demand because I will be a martyr for Christ. You will help me greatly
to
share my messages. You will also help me to go to my Lord quickly!”
Joseph
fearlessly replied.

The officer dropped the gun. “You
Christians are crazy,” he shouted and then
commanded the officers to take
Joseph back home.

Joseph’s life was spared but in a sense he lost it that
day. “Never again did
I fear what man can do to me. Never again did I fear to
lose my life,” Joseph
concluded.

RESPONSE: Today I will not allow
Satan’s favorite tactic of fear and
intimidation to conquer me in any
way.

PRAYER: Lord, enable me to overcome the fear of physical death as I
realize
that I am already dead to myself in You. May this be true today too
for
believers in conflict zones of our world.

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

STANDING STRONG THROUGH THE STORM


STANDING STRONG THROUGH THE STORM

RELGIOUS
LIBERTY
================
So if the Son sets you free, you will be free
indeed. John 8:36

Ron Boyd MacMillan is a perceptive communicator. He
writes for the next two
days:

As my plane touched down after a trip to
the Middle East, I breathed a big
sigh of relief. I was back where I did not have to watch my back, be careful
what I said, or where I went. Whew. I was
back in a country that had religious
freedom. I prayed to God, “Thank you for
the men and women who fought to bring
me this freedom. Thank God they
won.”

Then two incidents happened one after the other that made me think
again.

I was at an art exhibition and looking at a painting entitled, Man
startled on
a horse. I sought out the artist and said, “Was that the Apostle
Paul on the
Damascus road you were depicting?” I thought he would be pleased
I had figured
it out.

But he looked horrified, and glancing around he
hissed, “For goodness sake
keep quiet. Do you want me to get labeled as a
religious artist? I’d never
sell another painting if that
happened.”

Then I was talking to a priest in charge of a large church in
my city. His
church had just received a large sum of money from the state for
the
refurbishment of a church hall. Then he said, “Well, we had to sign
an
agreement that the church would be available for everyone of any religion,
and
that we would not try to convert anyone. But we were happy to do that. We
just
want to be a community resource.”

Suddenly I became aware that I
had to fight for religious liberty in my own
country. I had thought that
because certain toleration laws were in place, I
was safe.

But no, it
was clear from the artist that to admit one’s Christian faith in a
public
context was professional suicide.

How did my society suddenly get so
prejudiced?

And look at the priest blithely giving up his right to
evangelize, without a
thought to the long-term cost. Who was asking him to
refrain from
evangelizing? And how could he be so unaware of the freedom he
just signed
away?

RESPONSE: Today I will not assume that freedom is
automatic. I will stand up
for the truth of God’s Word and be truly
free.

PRAYER: Lord, may I never take the free expression of my faith for
granted.
Help me to understand the challenges that representing Your truth
will bring.

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

How’s Your Love Life?


 How’s Your Love Life?
Kay Arthur

In light of the fact that it is February—the month in which we celebrate Valentine’s Day—may I ask you a very personal question? “How’s your love life?”

The reason I ask is because your love life, my love life, is a very strong indicator of our relationship with God.

So how about three more heart-searching questions? Questions you might want to bring before God in prayer, asking Him to show you exactly where you really are. I know that as I have examined myself—and continue to do so—God is showing me how much I have to learn—where I fail, where I am weak and how much I need to grow in love. My cry has been, “Lord, teach me about love.” What’s your cry in respect to love?

Here, dear one, are the questions:

First, how well do you love God? And what about others? How do you do in that arena?

Second, whom do you love the most? God? Others? Yourself?

Third, how dwells the love of God in you? Do you know anyone who needs loving? Whether he or she is lovable or not, have you made yourself available to God to be His means of loving that person?

Two months ago we celebrated Christmas—a  holiday that in the most incredulous of ways not only reminds us of God’s unfathomable love for us, but for the world . . . most of whom do not even know He came or Who He was—Who He is! And if they do know His name, too often it is only as an expletive. John 3:16 tells us that God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son.

The baby placed in Mary’s womb supernaturally was the very Son of God . . . the only begotten of the Father . . . born to die. God incarnate—living in flesh just like ours. Tempted but without sin. The One deemed the Lamb of God who would take away the sins of the world by tasting death (and the separation it brings) for every man. The One forsaken by the Father so that you and I would be accepted as Beloved—and never, ever forsaken or forgotten.

And what were we like when God expressed such love towards us? Romans 5 tell us Jesus Christ died for us when we were without hope. Without hope because we were without God. He loved us when we were ungodly, helpless sinners—enemies!

And when we finally responded to His wooing and believed, God’s Word says, “I will call . . . her who was not beloved, ‘beloved'” (Romans 9:25; Hosea 2:23).

As the ancient hymn writer put it, “Amazing love! How can it be, that Thou, my God, shouldst die for me?”

As I write this, I think of a testimony—the story of Serge LeClure. At the age of eight Serge was taken from his hardworking, loving, single mother and committed to a home for delinquent boys—a home where he would be “properly cared for.” The “care” turned out to be abuse, bullying and rape. It was a “care” he constantly ran from, a “care” that caused him not to care! But he did learn to survive—through hate.

Serge rose to the top as a gang leader at fifteen. As a dealer in drugs, he received over a million dollars for his services. He also spent twenty-one years in prison, six of which were in solitary confinement. Through a chain of events in prison, he came in touch with people who endured embarrassment, harassment and much more, for the sole purpose of telling others about the love of God. For two years, Serge observed love in action—genuine caring. At the age of thirty-eight, Serge LeClure knelt on the cement floor of his cell and received the tangible gift of God’s love by believing on the Lord Jesus Christ.

He rose from the floor a new creature—set free from his addiction to drugs. The unlovable was loved, the condemned prisoner was pardoned, the incorrigible tempered, the sinner deemed a saint, set apart for God. And all because of the love of God! As 1 John says, “In this is love, not that we loved God, but that He loved us and sent His Son to be the propitiation [the satisfaction] for our sins.” This is the power of God’s love.

The power to love. A power given to each of us who believe on His name. A love that becomes the distinguishing evidence of our salvation according to 1 John 3:10-14; 1 John 4:7 and 1 John 4:20 and 1 John 5:1.

So how’s your love life? Do you love God? God says we are to love Him with all our heart, mind, body, soul and strength. But not only God; we are to love others. Those who are genuinely born of God not only love the Father, but the child born of Him. Thus Jesus gave His disciples a new commandment: we are to love one another even as He loves us (John 13:34-35). It would be time well invested to meditate on the ways He expressed His love toward us, toward others, even toward the one who would betray Him.

And what is it that keeps us from loving like this?

John, the apostle of love, tells us in his first epistle by way of a warning: “Do not love the world nor the things in the world. If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him. For all that is in the world, the lust of the flesh and the lust of the eyes and the boastful pride of life, is not from the Father, but is from the world. The world is passing away . . .” (1 John 2:15-16).

Yet the world is so very present, isn’t it? So alluring! So tangible! So appealing to our flesh, our ego, our desire to be, to attain, to “make it”! But you have to ask yourself, will it last? Is it worth what you pay in time, in energy, in relationships?

Ours is a culture of concupiscence—a culture that has infiltrated the church. We have a love of softness. We are told, “You deserve it! You earned it. You owe it to yourself to be good to yourself!” Oh Beloved, we hear it and we believe it. We have so loved softness that we have not endured hardship as a soldier of Christ. We have not disciplined ourselves for the sake of godliness.

And part of godliness is loving—as He loved—sacrificially, selflessly. Loving others not just with word or with tongue, but in deed and truth. When we love His way, then we assure our heart before Him, and we have confidence in the coming day of judgment, because as He is in this world, so are we. They know we are His disciples by our love—His love unleashed in us to overflow on the world about us. So, how is your love life, Beloved?

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

TABLETALK DEVOTIONS WITH R.C. SPROUL


TABLETALK DEVOTIONS WITH R.C. SPROUL

How to
Worship
==============
John 4:1–45 “God is spirit, and those who worship
him must worship in spirit
and truth” (v. 24).

Worship is perhaps the
most comprehensive of all the means of grace our Father
has given to us. When
we come together to praise our sovereign Lord, we have
the privilege of
engaging in Bible study by hearing the preached Word of God,
praying as a
corporate body, exercising stewardship as we give our tithes and
offerings,
and meeting with Christ as we partake in the sacraments.

Regrettably, too
many churches today have forgotten the awesome privilege and
sacred duty of
worship, preferring to create “seeker-friendly” services that
often cater
more to our culture and its love of entertainment than to the
adoration of
our Creator. In the “seeker-sensitive” model, worship has become
a means to
attract the unchurched through the means of marketing with little
regard as
to whether such a model is proper for worshiping God. Yet Scripture
is clear
that the Lord does not view worship as something indifferent or
subject to
the fanciful whims of sinful men. God is the one who determines
proper
worship (Lev. 10:1–3). Our fallenness makes us all prone to idolatry
(Rom.
1:18–32), and none of us is above disobeying His commands against
worshiping
other gods and crafting false images of Him (Ex. 20:3–6). Most of
us do not
construct deities of wood and stone; our idolatry is much more
sophisticated.
We tend to make increasing the size of the congregation our
chief priority.
We like to proclaim to the world how “hip” and “with it” we
Christians really
are. We love to deny those attributes of God that make
us
uncomfortable.

Today’s passage tells us that our Father desires
those who will worship Him
“in spirit and truth” (John 4:24). Worship in
truth means worship that is
structured according to His Word. We must praise
the Lord revealed in
Scripture, who is the embodiment of holiness and justice
as well as love and
mercy. The whole counsel of God must guide our worship of
Him.

Worshiping the Lord in spirit means that we praise God with our
whole being,
taking delight in the opportunity to praise His name. Spending
time preparing
ourselves before we come to church will help us “enter his
gates with
thanksgiving” in our hearts and into “his courts with praise” (Ps.
100:4).

Coram deo: Living before the face of
God
========================================
Do you find Sunday morning
worship to be a delight or dull and dreary? Do you
spend the service thinking
about all the things you could be doing if you were
not at church? Take time
today to repent for those times you have not devoted
proper attention to the
Lord in worship. Remember that He is truly present
among us when we gather
together (Matt. 18:20) and let that be a compelling
motivation to delight in
Him in the presence of His people.

For further study:

Exodus
32

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

2013 in review


The WordPress.com stats helper monkeys prepared a 2013 annual report for this blog.

Here’s an excerpt:

A New York City subway train holds 1,200 people. This blog was viewed about 4,900 times in 2013. If it were a NYC subway train, it would take about 4 trips to carry that many people.

Click here to see the complete report.

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment