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Archive for the ‘prayer’ Category

“Let every soul be subject to the governing authorities. For there is no authority except from God, and the authorities that exist are appointed by God.” (Romans 13:1)

As per chapter 13 of the Book of Romans, God appoints governing authorities for a specific purpose. Here it is: “For rulers are not a terror to good works, but to evil. Do you want to be unafraid of the authority? Do what is good, and you will have praise from the same. For he is God’s minister to you for good. But if you do evil, be afraid; for he does not bear the sword in vain; for he is God’s minister, an avenger to execute wrath on him who practices evil.” (Romans 13:3-4)

But if you do evil, be afraid

In theory, those who are appointed by God to these authoritative positions, be they police officers or Presidents of the United States, are Obama Face Palm-240x180to be ministers of God’s goodness, but this is not their only calling. They are also avengers (those who take vengeance), called to execute wrath (strong and fierce punishment) on those who do evil, for the sake of God’s righteousness and for those who abide by His laws. Never should they condone evil practices or suggest that those who long for justice are ignorantly riding their horses highly.

But Wait!

Didn’t God say, “Vengeance is Mine!” Is there not coming a day when God will pour out His wrath on an unrepentant world?

Yes, these things are true, but clearly, as the Romans 13 text demonstrates, God does not expect (or require) that the law-abiding world stand idly by while satanic-driven terrorism floods our streets. Prior to proclaiming [that] vengeance belongs to God, the Scripture maintains that whenever possible we’re to live peaceably with all men and to not exact punishment ourselves – God has appointed governments to exact certain punishments. The ultimate vengeance that belongs to God alone concludes with condemnation. Men and governments have no such authority, but neither must we wait to douse the fires of those who desire to set us ablaze. We are free to eliminate them and then trust God to judge them and us accordingly.

Meanwhile…

With God’s help, we’re to love and pray for those folks who do evil, remembering that Jesus took their sins to the cross, as well as ours. If they’re not aware of that Good News, then it’s our duty to tell them, if and when God affords us the opportunity to do so.

Hold Them Accountable

Don’t be fooled into believing that our only option is to be found in the voting booth. In America, the authorities that govern us (appointed by God) have also provided us many liberties. Let us boldly utilize them, while never forgetting to pray for the leadership of this country and also how God would use us.

Frankly, our leadership is not effectively doing the job God appointed them to do. The Romans passage quoted above tells us that ‘if you do evil,’ you should be afraid of the governing authorities. When I look around the world today, I don’t believe anyone looks at our president with fear. Based on his words and actions they may in fact see him as an ally or a sympathizer. This should not be and it’s okay to say so.

In this light, it’s okay to vocalize our concerns and to pray for these problems to be rectified. All of this certainly, and yes Biblically, falls into the category of submission to authority. So pray for salvation for those who may need it and also for Holy Spirit revival for those who need that. Pray for obedient boldness for those [who] God may be calling to leadership positions and that others may step down for their failure to uphold the tenets of their offices.

Hope

Our ultimate hope is in Jesus Christ, but let us also be good stewards of the goods and governments He has provided. Let no one neglect them as they wait for Christ’s return.

“Jesus taught peace, love and forgiveness. He came to give His life for the sins of mankind, not to take life. Muhammad on the contrary was a warrior and killed many innocent people. True followers of Christ emulate Christ — true followers of Muhammad emulate Muhammad.”

Franklin Graham

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If My people who are called by My name will humble themselves, and pray and seek My face, and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven, and will forgive their sin and heal their land. 2 Chronicles 7:14

“It is not so much as prayer changes things, but prayer changes me and I change things.” Oswald Chambers from, ‘My Utmost For His Highest.’
~

It could be rightly said that when we pray we are not petitioning the Lord to change His mind, but rather that He changes our minds so that our desires line up with His. meWe know this in part because God said, “For I am the LORD, I change not.” As we approach Him with a subjected mindset [in prayer] it will be revealed to us in a most practical way that He is our refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble.’ This recognition strengthens both faith and relationship, and consequently we are transformed. In the Oswald Chambers’ quote, he said, “And I change things,” but I sense he recognized that God is the changer of things and we are just His yielded vessels.

Abide in Me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit of itself, unless it abides in the vine, neither can you, unless you abide in Me. I am the vine, you are the branches. He who abides in Me, and I in him, bears much fruit; for without Me you can do nothing. John 15:4-5

Prayer keeps us connected. To suspend prayer is to sever the branch to which we are affixed and to hinder prayer is to effect a withering death. As it pertains to His will (and our change), we are simply the conduit by which His blessings flow. If we fail to yield there will still be fruit, but it will be attributed to someone else. In other words, God’s plan will be achieved regardless if we are involved or not. However, God wants us onboard, engaged, and motivated; He wants to bless us as He blesses; He wants to transform us as He transforms. As we are prayerfully connected, both heart and circumstances will be altered.

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Do not fret because of evildoers, Nor be envious of the workers of iniquity. For they shall soon be cut down like the grass, And wither as the green herb. Trust in the Lord, and do good; Dwell in the land, and feed on His faithfulness. Delight yourself also in the Lord, And He shall give you the desires of your heart. Commit your way to the Lord, Trust also in Him, And He shall bring it to pass. He shall bring forth your righteousness as the light, And your justice as the noonday. Psalm 37:1-6

Guilty!

You have probably heard the old aphoristic saying, “If you were arrested for being a Christian, would there be enough evidence to convict you?”

I was mulling that over after I read this item from today’s Washington Times:

The Muslim Brotherhood and its supporters have began forcing the roughly 15,000 Christian Copts of Dalga village in Egypt to pay a jizya tax as indicated in Koran 9:29, author and translator Raymond Ibrahim reported on Sunday.

Jizya is the money, or tribute, “that conquered non-Muslims historically had to pay to their Islamic overlords ‘with willing submission and while feeling themselves subdued’ to safeguard their existence.”

I found that interesting. While I don’t mean to make light of the Christian oppression and persecution that is taking place in Egypt and around the world in alarming numbers, the headline gave me pause…

“If I were accused of being a Christian, would there be enough evidence to force me to pay a jizya tax or any other kind of abusive tax?”

Silly, right?

Well I haven’t been arrested or accused yet, but I have once again been sent a bill from the irsIRS for several thousands of dollars, making this two years in a row. Last year it was cleared up with a simple response to the agency, and I have no reason to suspect this time will be any different, but in light of one of our nation’s most recent scandal regarding the IRS and their sketchy (illegal?) dealings with conservative Christians, I cannot help but wonder — is this nonsense still going on, or is this merely a coincidence?

God only knows.

Show Me the tax money.” So they brought Him a denarius. And He said to them, “Whose image and inscription is this?” They said to Him, “Caesar’s.” And He said to them, “Render therefore to Caesar the things that are Caesar’s, and to God the things that are God’s.” Matthew 22:19-21

Christian Persecution

While I might be experiencing a twinge of paranoia, the reality is that Christians are being persecuted by the millions around the world and it is rapidly coming to America.

Consider the statistics:

  • Christianity is the largest; most widely spread faith in the world (Reuters)
  • About 100 million Christians are persecuted around the world (Reuters)
  • Another 150 Million Christians are murdered each year (UCANews)

I’m not even dogmatic about the numbers. They could be off by 90% and they are still staggering –15 million Christians killed annually is satanically horrific.

What’s Our Recourse?

Prayer is always our first response.  God changes us through prayer and He gives us the inside scoop through prayer. What do I mean by the ‘inside scoop?’ By that I mean He reveals His will to us. The reality is that sometimes God allows a Christian to be in jail (the Apostle Paul, for example), because that believer can (perhaps) share the Gospel with a people group who might not otherwise hear the Good News of salvation through Christ Jesus. All the more reason we need to understand the biblical concept of incorporating “Thy will be done,” into our prayers.

What you do after prayer is between you and God.

Submit yourself to God, listen for His response, and then comply with His directive.

“Pray without ceasing” 1 Thessalonians 5:17

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Twin-TowersIf the photograph on the left is any indication, then the answer is yes! Why then does the President of the United States want to support an Al Qaeda-infested rebel force seeking to overthrow President Bashar al-Assad‘s Syria? It doesn’t matter that Assad is evil, Al Qaeda is OUR enemy and if we do anything to support them, it’s an act of treason.

Am I overstating the issue?

Is treason too strong a word to use in regard to the intended actions of the POTUS?  

You decide…

Aid and Comfort:

To render assistance or counsel. Any act that deliberately strengthens or tends to strengthen enemies of the United States, or that weakens or tends to weaken the power of the United States to resist and attack such enemies is characterized as aid and comfort.

Article 3, section 3, clause 1 of the U.S. Constitution specifies that the giving of aid and comfort to the enemy is an element in the crime of Treason. Aid and comfort may consist of substantial assistance or the mere attempt to provide some support; actual help or the success of the enterprise is not relevant.

If the president drops one bomb on Syria, guess who he is aiding and comforting?

That’s right – our enemy: Al Qaeda. 

What’s our recourse?

Short of prayer, I’m not 100% certain, so let’s begin with that and be persistent in it! I trust that the Lord will guide His children in how we oare to respond. I do know that God in His word instructs us to be subject to the governing authorities (Romans 13:1), so as good subjects we should vote when we’re able and encourage those in power to do what’s morally and Biblically right.

Treason is a stipulation of our Constitution, therefore anyone who violates it needs to be prosecuted. Untied State citizens (subjects) in good-standing need to lovingly stand behind any effort to remove law-breakers from our society, even if it is the president. As ‘good subjects’ we must see to it that our laws are enforced.

We also should be praying for our president (and those who support his position on aiding Al Qaeda), that they would adhere to the laws of the United States. More importantly, that he (and others) would act like the Christian that they say they are. Our prayers in this regard are essential and any implementation should not be ignored or rejected.

The kings of the earth set themselves, And the rulers take counsel together, Against the Lord and against His Anointed, saying, “Let us break Their bonds in pieces And cast away Their cords from us.” He who sits in the heavens shall laugh; The Lord shall hold them in derision. Then He shall speak to them in His wrath, And distress them in His deep displeasure: “Yet I have set My King On My holy hill of Zion.” (Psalm 2:2-6)

If you agree with me on this issue, please SHARE the blog on facebook, Twitter, and other social media. Believe it or not, many Americans do NOT understand what’s going on in Syria in regard to Al Qaeda. Sharing the blog may help to inform others. SUBSCRIBE to the blog as well.

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“For the Lord God is a sun and shield; The Lord will give grace and glory; No good thing will He withhold From those who walk uprightly.” Psalm 84:11

Prayer Warrior

It’s a term we all recognize. I have used it, my pastor has used it, and probably every Christian I’ve been blessed to schmooze with through the years, has used it. We use the expression because it best prayerwarrior7describes the actions of those of the faith who earnestly lift others in prayer; who consistently and persistently go before the Lord with all requests, supplications, intercessions, and thanksgivings, and often time while possessing prayer lists and maintaining prayer logs. They are classified as our  ‘go to’ people within the body of Christ when an appeal, a plea, or petition is desired. That brings me to a twofold question:

“Is the label right (and by ‘right’ I mean Biblical), and is it harmful?”

I’ll explain. First…

Is it Biblical?

The short answer is, I don’t believe so. While there are certainly folks in the church who fit the definition, I’m not convinced God would concur that a special designation is called for. Is being a prayer zealot a gift of the Holy Spirit? If so, I’m not seeing it. The Bible records three main passages regarding spiritual gifts: Romans 12:6-8;1 Corinthians 12:4-11; and 1 Corinthians 12:28. According to the list, we see…

Prophesying, serving, teaching, encouraging, giving, leadership, mercy, the word of wisdom, the word of knowledge, faith, healing, miraculous powers, distinguishing between spirits, speaking in tongues and interpretation of tongues, helps, governments, and diversities of tongues.

But, I don’t see prayer warrior on the list.

I suppose you could make an argument that tenacious prayer falls under one (or more) of these categories, but I sense that’s when we begin to stretch the doctrine a little too thin. Let’s be honest, prayer is a vital component of each of these giftings, but is not the actual gift.

Is it Harmful?

Yes, I believe it is, and I’ll tell you why — our Father in Heaven desires that we all pray in this manner. Could we really believe that the Lord would want us to delegate our conversation to somebody else; someone who we perceive is better at it then we are? Where in the Bible does God suggest to us to go find a prayer warrior, or even to make a separate distinction? Nowhere that I can find, but I do see this…

“In truth I perceive that God shows no partiality.” Acts 10:34

Elevating someone to the status of prayer warrior may encourage the believer who happens to fit the mold, but it simultaneously sends an erroneous message that this person is gifted in a way that we are not, and therefore, we have been relieved of this duty. Do we really believe that? Aren’t prayer warriors doing the very thing that we are called to do? Wouldn’t it be more accurate to say that prayer warriors are obedient, rather than gifted? Finally, should we be seeking out a prayer mediator when the Father has already provided us one?

“For there is one God and one Mediator between God and men, the Man Christ Jesus” 

Haven’t we also been given a Helper in our pursuit of prayer?

“Likewise the Spirit also helps in our weaknesses. For we do not know what we should pray for as we ought, but the Spirit Himself makes intercession for us with groanings which cannot be uttered.” Romans 8:26

Here’s the truth — God desires all His children pray in this manner! The fact that you don’t now is not the point. God never intended that in your discouragement (in this regard) you turn to another Christian, but rather you turn to Him. Therein lies the point!

Look at these directives from God’s word…

Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication, with thanksgiving, let your requests be made known to God; and the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus. Philippians 4:6-7

There is nothing in there that remotely suggests we find a prayer warrior to do this for us.

Pray without ceasing, in everything give thanks; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you. Do not quench the Spirit.” 1 Thessalonians 5:17-19

Do you see anything in there that implies this is somebody else’s job? Me either. The one thing that does jump out at me [is] that if we’re not praying like this, we’re throwing water on the fire that is the Holy Spirit. That cannot be good.

One more…

“Take the helmet of salvation, and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God; praying always with all prayer and supplication in the Spirit, being watchful to this end with all perseverance and supplication for all the saints” Ephesians 6:17-18

The Last Word

Try to look at like this — it’s the church (not God) that has created a prayer warrior status. When we serve to encourage others with the moniker, it is a wonderful, Christian gesture, but what we’re really saying (when we use the term), is that we recognize there is a great void within the body Christ that only very few are filling. It might be better to recognize this Christian’s faithful obedience instead. May I suggest that the next time we sense the need to identify another believer in this manner, that we also ask the Lord to examine our own hearts to determine why the title is not befitting for us. The question should not be, “Lord, why am I not a prayer warrior,”  but rather, “Why am I not submitted to Your will in my life?”

Am I suggesting we should not seek out others to pray for us?

Heaven forbid!

We are called to pray for one another. I’m saying that there is not a circumstance to ever shy away from being the type of communicant the Lord wants us to be or to relegate the duty to someone else. God wants to talk with us directly and has fully equipped us to be fervent communicators.

Talk — God is listening.

If you enjoyed the post please like it, share it, comment on it, or subscribe to it. Frankly, I am blessed that you stopped by to read it today. God bless you too!

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“And whatever things you ask in prayer, believing, you will receive.” (Matthew 21:22)

At Low Tide

When Hurricane Sandy hit our home (on whatever day that was), I was asleep with earplugs crammed deep into each side of my head. We all decided to go to bed once the electricity went out about 8 PM. The next morning we awoke to a chilly, un-electrified house. From what I could determine, our home, and those in my neighborhood, were spared. There were trees and wires down everywhere, but most of the houses were intact. The rain had not been that bad; even our basement was dry. In fact, the portion of ceiling that usually leaks when we get a driving rain never proffered a drop of water. There was one tree down in my yard, but with the aid of a floor jack and my Jeep, I was able to get it up off the lawn and re-planted. I lost about 8 shingles off my roof, but wouldn’t you know it, I had exactly 8 shingles in my garage and was able to make a repair in about 30 minutes or so.

Hurricane Sandy, I surmised, wasn’t that bad. Once again, the media over-hyped the weather report.

I jumped into the car and drove down to the beach front. It soon became apparent that my assessment of the storm’s intensity and destruction was askew. It pained me to admit it, but the media had gotten this one right (it was bound to happen eventually). Sections of boardwalk were flipped over, mountains of beach sand covered the roads, buildings were collapsed (or missing), and piers that once jutted into the Atlantic Ocean for decades, and through countless storms, were no more.  I snapped pictures until the battery in my camera went dead, jumped in the Jeep, and drove home.

Again I thought to myself, it wasn’t that bad. After all, much of what was lost could be characterized as extracurricular entertainment — the boardwalk, the piers with their roller coasters and fishing facilities, the food concessions and games, all of it for our amusement. These businesses would all, in due time, recover, I concluded. They would likely come back better than before. And a lot of the homes that were damaged or destroyed, well, these folks are wealthy; they all have insurance, and eventually they would all be restored.

I went home to my family and dark house where we prayed and played board games until the electricity came back on about a week later. No TV, no internet.

“Now this is the confidence that we have in Him, that if we ask anything according to His will, He hears us.” (1 John 5:14)

When the power eventually was restored and I was able to get back online, I began to witness the relief effort that was going on all around me. Honestly, I was shocked. I kept thinking, What for? With the exception of millions of people not having electricity, there really wasn’t much need for relief.

I soon learned that our church joined in the effort. A church from Pennsylvania was coming to join forces with us, and together we were going to join forces with a church in a place called Highlands, NJ. I knew the area. It was misnamed, because there is nothing high about it. This small, bay front community is about 10 feet above sea level. I wasn’t sure why we were going there, after all, I had seen the damage in other areas, and it didn’t seem so bad, but nevertheless I prayed and I went.

As we drove our cars down the hill into the Highlands, the devastation was immediately apparent. The folks had already begun the process of cleaning up and the curbs were filled with garbage.

But wait. This garbage was different.

On both sides of the street; every street, piled has high as a person could throw a wet blanket, were the personal belongings and contents of the citizens of Highlands. Their furniture,  their clothes, their appliances, their mattresses, their toys, their walls, their baby pictures, their rugs, their floors, their insulation, their blood, their sweat, their tears.

What in hell happened here?

However, when He, the Spirit of truth, has come, He will guide you into all truth (John 16:13)

As far as I could tell, not one home was spared. The first floor of practically every single home (and most homes were only one level) were flooded out. The water had long since receded, but in every direction there was ruin. Even the church we were partnering with lost everything on their first floor. But as God would have it, this turned out to be a blessing, because as soon as it was emptied and gutted, it was filled with relief supplies for the community.

I spent the next few days here helping residents empty their homes of all their possessions, pulling down sheet rock, and pulling up floors, in order that they might be able to rebuild when their insurance checks came in; if they had insurance that is. Not all of them did. You see, Highlands is not such a highfalutin kind of place. Most who live here are middle-to-very-low income families. Not all; there are some higher-end condos closer to the water’s edge, but the majority of the folks in Highlands are struggling to make ends meet. In most instances, Sandy came in and stole all they had.

This was the case in most of these communities along the coast: complete ruin. I had no idea. So sad, but these people did not need our tears.

Why am I telling you all this? 

Because there is a great need here and the need will continue for months. Oh not just in Highlands, NJ, but in every shore town that Sandy touched. I figured you may not be aware. I thought that because I live here and I didn’t even realize how bad it was. Less than 3 miles from my house, people were putting out to the curb everything they own, and I was oblivious to it. Thousands upon thousands of homes and lives were destroyed, and I thought to myself, “Gee, Sandy wasn’t so bad.”

As it turns out, I did one thing right — I prayed.

While I didn’t understand the scope of the problem initially, I prayed for people who may be suffering loss. Despite my ignorance, God answered those prayers and changed me. God woke me up to the reality of the situation and in the process made me an effective tool in His hand. Had I not prayed at all, the likelihood is that I would have sat in my warm and happy home unconscious to the needs around me. Because of God, through prayer, something better occurred. Oh, it wasn’t much, but it was something. Without the prayer, it would have been nothing. Yesterday I helped a guy named Eugene gut his home. Today, as my aching back heals a bit, I write to exhort and encourage you to pray.

Do not quench the Spirit. Do not despise prophecies. Test all things; hold fast what is good. (1 Thessalonians 5:19-21)

What will your prayer do?

I do not know specifically, except to say, that if your prayers are sincere, God will change you in some manner. Maybe all God will do is make you a prayer warrior. Maybe He’ll make you a helper or a giver. Maybe He’ll get you moving in an entirely different direction altogether. The reality is that nothing will change until you pray. And consider the notion that if you’re reluctant to pray, maybe the underlying problem is that you are not submitted to the change God wants to do in you. Stop saying that you hate change and pray.

Now the Lord is the Spirit; and where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is liberty. But we all, with unveiled face, beholding as in a mirror the glory of the Lord, are being transformed into the same image from glory to glory, just as by the Spirit of the Lord. (2 Corinthians 3:17-18)

Please pray for the victims of Sandy and wait for the change in you. If you want to help in some small or big way, first pray. 

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Pastor Youcef Nadarkhani was released Saturday, Sept. 8, after a trial where he was found guilty of evangelizing Muslims. Youcef was not charged with apostasy, or leaving Islam. He was sentenced to three years, which he’s already served. Youcef is free, praise God!

The work is not over!

In a sense, Pastor Youcef became the poster child for the persecuted church. For reasons unknown, the usually quiet media picked-up Youcef’s story, shared it nationwide, and many of us learned for the first time, that Christians are truly being murdered for their faith in Jesus Christ. The truth of the matter is that thousands of Christians (some yearly estimates exceed 150,000) are murdered annually for their Christian faith.

Hundreds of thousands more are beaten, abused, banished from their communities, and/or arrested and  jailed.

What’s our response?

We Must Pray

If you are a Christian, you are a part of the body called the church. Therefore, if the church is being persecuted anywhere, you too are being persecuted. Do you understand that? Far too often we sit around lamenting how the church is suffering overseas. We utter things like, “We’ve been spared for now, but the ways things are going, it won’t be long before they start arresting and killing us.”

That’s nonsense. Oh, not the part about the time not being long before those atrocities occur in the USA (we’ve already see it happening on a smaller scale), but that we have been spared from the persecution.

If our brothers and sisters are struggling anywhere, in compassion, we suffer as well. If we’re not, then we don’t fully understand the dynamic and holistic qualities of Christ’s church. In whole, we are His bride.  As a starting point, we must pray for her.

I visited the Voice of the Martyrs website and (without their permission), copied [onto the blog] just a few of the Christians who have been arrested for their faith. Each of their names is linked back to the VOM prisoner alert page where you can learn more about these folks in particular and the persecuted church in general. There, you can also sign up for their newsletter and emails and learn how you can become prayerfully involved. Remember, God is powerful and He manifests Himself through prayer!

Just do it.

Now I beg you, brethren, through the Lord Jesus Christ, and through the love of the Spirit, that you strive together with me in prayers to God for me (Romans 15:30)

Don’t pray when you feel like it. Have an appointment with the Lord and keep it. A man is powerful on his knees.” ~ Corrie ten Boom

Nguyen Van Ly

On Feb. 19, 2007, Father Nguyen Van Ly was arrested in Hue, Vietnam for distributing material “harmful to the state.” In March, he was sentenced to eight years in prison. He has issued statements criticizing the government’s confiscation of church property, lack of seminary training and the influence of the state in church teachings and has been a powerful advocate for Christian freedom.

On March 15, 2010, Father Nguyen was released on medical parole after he suffered three debilitating strokes. He spent 16 months convalescing before the government demanded he return to complete his sentence.

Seriously ill and weak, Father Nguyen was rearrested on July 25, 2011.

Behnam Irani

Behnam Irani, a 41-year-old pastor from Karaj, Iran, was convicted of crimes against national security in January 2011 and sentenced to one year in prison. After voluntarily surrendering to authorities on May 31 to begin his sentence, he learned that he would be forced to serve five years in connection with a previous conviction.

Officers from the Ministry of Intelligence and National Security (MOIS) raided Irani’s house church on April 14, 2010, and assaulted him before taking him into custody. Although he was released on bail two months after his arrest, he later received the one-year prison sentence.

When Irani voluntarily began serving his sentence in May 2011, he was prepared to spend one year in prison. But he received a letter in October stating that he must now serve five years from his previous sentence.

Tohar Haydarov 

On March 9, 2010, a criminal court in Uzbekistan sentenced 27-year-old Tohar Haydarov to 10 years in prison for the “Illegal sale of narcotic or psychotropic substances in large quantities,” according to Forum 18 News Service. Members of the Baptist church in Uzbekistan insist that the charges are fabricated and that Haydarov’s sentence was punishment for his religious activity. It is unclear why Haydarov received a 10-year sentence.

Imran Ghafur Masih

On Jan. 11, 2010, Imran Ghafur Masih was sentenced to life in prison and fined 100,000 rupees ($1,155 U.S.), according to The Voice of the Martyrs contacts. His family has appealed the decision to the Pakistan High Court and is awaiting a hearing date.

On July 1, 2009, Pakistani police arrested Imran Ghafur in Punjab province after Muslims accused him of burning pages of the Quran. While cleaning his brother’s retail shop, Imran removed the trash he had collected, intending to burn some of it. While burning the trash, pages of an Islamic book flew into the fire and burned. Imran’s neighbor, Haji Liaqat, saw the burned pages of the Islamic book and alerted other Muslims in the area. “Haji Liaqat saw the burned pages, and he aggressively told all resident people and travelers that Imran burnt the pages of a Quran also,” a VOM contact said. “He was telling everybody that Imran Ghafur is burning the Quran … he should be killed.”

Asia Bibi

Asia Bibi, a 37-year-old Pakistani woman from the village of Ittanwali, was arrested by police on Friday, June 19, 2009. Asia (also called Asia Noreen) is the wife of 50-year-old Ashiq Masih, and their family is one of only three Christian families in a village of 1,500 families…There was an intense discussion among the women about their faith. The Muslim women told Asia about Islam. Asia responded by telling them about her faith in Christ. Asia told the Muslim women Christ had died on the cross for sins, then asked them what Mohammad had done for them, according to VOM sources. She told them Jesus is alive, but Mohammad is dead. “Our Christ is the true prophet of God,” she reportedly told them, “and yours is not true.”

Upon hearing this, the Muslim women became angry and began to beat Asia. Then some men took her and locked her in a room. They announced from the mosque loudspeakers that she would be punished by having her face blackened and being paraded through the village on a donkey. Local Christians informed the police, who took Asia into custody before the Muslims could carry out their plan.

Seventeen months after Asia’s arrest, she was convicted of violating subsection C of Pakistan’s 295 blasphemy law – blasphemy against the prophet Muhammad – and was sentenced to death.

Alimujiang Yimiti

In September 2007 Chinese government officials closed Alimujiang Yimiti’s business and accused him of using it as a cover up for “preaching Christianity among people of Uyghur ethnicity.” He was later arrested in January 2008 and accused of “subversion of the national government and endangering national security,” a crime punishable by death.

In Feb. 2011, the Higher People’s Court of Xinjiang notified Alimujiang, who is serving his sentence, that they upheld the original sentence of 15 years of imprisonment in the reconsideration.

Learn more about Voice of the Martyrs website HERE.

You you agree that Christians should be praying consistently for the persecuted church, then you should share the link to this blog or the VOM link with your friends on Facebook, Twitter, email, or other means. It really is that important.

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But He was wounded for our transgressions, He was bruised for our iniquities; The chastisement for our peace was upon Him, And by His stripes we are healed. Isaiah 53:5

A while back I wrote a piece called Cancer Cure Discovered. I was reminded of the blog when the issue of ‘praying for healing’ came up in my Saturday morning men’s Bible study group. The fact that the portion of the Bible we were studying had little to do with divine healing didn’t thwart us; we plowed ahead anyway.

One of the guys shared how he prayed for a healing for his wife and believed the healing would take place that very day. It didn’t. I knew in my heart that she had in fact been healed and I told him so. All that remained was for her to catch up to her healing. That could be today, next week, or in Heaven.

He agreed, but still others in the group sensed it was a spiritual cop-out to say such a thing. “Yeah, yeah, we know,” was the attitude, “we’re all healed in Heaven when we receive our new bodies.”

But that was not my point. If that’s the mind-set we latch onto (and so many do), we might never pray for healing, particularly in the cases of the terminally ill, incurable, or for that matter, the dead (I don’t mean in the Mormon sense). What a shame that would be.

I actually heard somebody once say, “If someone came up to me and asked me to pray for their healing, I wouldn’t unless the Holy Spirit told me to.”

Really?

Therefore we do not lose heart. Even though our outward man is perishing, yet the inward man is being renewed day by day. For our light affliction, which is but for a moment, is working for us a far more exceeding and eternal weight of glory, while we do not look at the things which are seen, but at the things which are not seen. For the things which are seen are temporary, but the things which are not seen are eternal. 2 Corinthians 4:16-18

Earlier in the week, and after being prompted to do so, I prayed for a healing. I had left a mid-week prayer meeting and the Lord spoke to me on the drive home.

What do you want Dave?”

I answered Him out loud, “I’m good,” (meaning I couldn’t really think of anything I needed)

I’m not sure, but I think I heard God laugh.

No really Dave, what do you want?” 

After a moment I responded, “Ok God, I know it’s selfish and vain, but I’d like you to fix my teeth.”

I then adjusted the rear view mirror to see if it worked. It didn’t. I have to tell you, I really believed for a moment my teeth were going to straighten out right before my eyes.

I continued my prayer, “Okay Lord, Since You brought it up. I know it’s a trivial matter and I know you have already provided the financial means by which I could have my teeth repaired, but you asked, so I’m just sayin. I know nothing is too big or too small a matter for you and that Your time is not an issue.”

I looked again in the mirror.

Nothing

I laughed out loud, not mockingly, but in a ‘God-why-are-you-messing-with-my-head’ kind of way.

For the remainder of my ride home, something amazing happened. My conversation with God continued and He healed me. Oh, not my teeth, but other things that needed repair. God assured me that my teeth would be restored, but He took the time to go about healing these other areas that needed attention.

Then it hit me — if I hadn’t prayed for the one matter; the other matters would not have surfaced. Needless to say, the immediate restoration of those things is of greater significance than a mouthful of broken and crooked teeth.

And that was the point.

I prayed a prayer that I otherwise would not have prayed and as a result God revealed stuff about me that I would otherwise not had known. What a shame it would have been to miss that. Our sufferings, our troubles, and our ailments, they are temporary conditions, but it’s my testimony that God tends to heal the things this side of Heaven that give Him the most glory and later on in glory our lighter afflictions.

Many are the afflictions of the righteous, But the Lord delivers him out of them all. He guards all his bones; Not one of them is broken…The Lord redeems the soul of His servants, And none of those who trust in Him shall be condemned. Psalm 34:19 + 22

What are your thoughts?

  1. Do you understand that Christ took a beating prior to His crucifixion in order that we could be healed?
  2. Do you believe this healing is available to all who believe?
  3. Do you believe?

~~~

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For I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worthy to be compared with the glory which shall be revealed in us. For the earnest expectation of the creation eagerly waits for the revealing of the sons of God. Romans 8:18-19

A few days ago, a friend asked if I would share my testimony in a future blog. My mind immediately flashed back to a teaching I once heard from Pastor Chris McCarrick of Cornerstone Calvary Chapel. He essentially warned the group that our testimonies should not turn into brag-i-monies. I knew exactly what he meant because I had been guilty of that offense –placing too much emphasis on self, exaggerating sinful details to make it more interesting for your audience, and then only giving Jesus an honorable mention in the last sentence or two.

Glory be to Me

I have since been taught to keep my testimony simple and to focus primarily on what Jesus is doing in and through my life today. By design that helps me to keep tabs on my faith-walk, because, if I cannot respond to the question, What is God doing in my life today?” I have a critical situation that needs immediate attention.

So, the gory details that I once shared with everyone, I now only dole out as the Holy Spirit directs me. Now, if I have a divine encounter with an alcoholic or a drug addict, I may share with them how I was once a drunk and a druggie and how Jesus found and rescued me. If it’s a thief or a burglar, then I might relate how Jesus saved and redeemed me from those things.

Through these years, and to God’s glory, honor, and praise, I’ve been blessed with opportunities to communicate similarly with the suicidal and depressed, the abused and the abuser, the adulterer and adultery victim, the murderer, the lawless, the atheist, and the blasphemer.

Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of mercies and God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our tribulation, that we may be able to comfort those who are in any trouble, with the comfort with which we ourselves are comforted by God. 2 Corinthians 1:3-4

However, on occasion the Lord moves me to air-out a random memory or event. The remainder of this blog pertains to one such recollection.

Game Day

The memory is a little fuzzy: it was opening day for the 2008 church softball league. I recall it was an ugly affair: we lost something like 20 to 2. The reality is that our team loses a lot. Why? Well let’s just say that the other teams are usually better than us and leave it at that.

Back then I was in the habit of emailing my teammates a brief devotional the day after a game that focused on some spiritual component of the game. Driving home I had a sense that, given the game’s outcome, the subject matter would likely have something to do with humility.

Little did I know.

Do not quench the Spirit. 1 Thessalonians 5:19

I walked into the house after the game and was met by my son who asked me how the game went. Before I could stop myself I blurted out,

It was awful. We looked like Jerry’s kids out there.”

I Know…I KNOW!

Before the words even left my mouth I felt the Holy Spirit’s conviction telling me not to say it. I ignored this prompting from the Lord and said it anyway. As soon as I finished the sentence I knew I should have kept my mouth shut. Not only had I sent a stupid message to my son that it is somehow okay to make fun of handicapped people, I disobeyed a direct command from the Lord telling me not to say it — two sins for the price of one.

I plopped down in a chair to think about what I might write for the post-game-devo, but my mind was blank. Later, when I went to bed, it was still blank. I prayed and I waited, but there was nothing. I was awoken in the morning by the Lord speaking to my heart.

Are you sorry?”

I knew exactly what He was talking about and before climbing out of bed, I apologized. Then God spoke again.

Go watch the video.”

Again, I knew exactly which video He was referring to, despite the fact it had been over a year since I last viewed it on YouTube. I couldn’t recall the title, but I knew since God was directing me, it would be easy to find.

It was.

The Video:


Looking back, I don’t remember if I ever wrote a team devotional that day. However I do recall how pitiful it is, when because of selfish disobedience and pride, I subject myself to having to learn the same lessons over and over. I’m also reminded that with each act of rebellion there are casualties — nails cannot be extracted without leaving a scar on the wood and seeds cannot be unplanted without disturbing the soil. Sin always has consequences and it is never victim-less.

However…

If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness… My soul shall be joyful in my God; For He has clothed me with the garments of salvation, He has covered me with the robe of righteousness… 1 John 1:9 + Isaiah 61:10a

Oh, Blessed Salvation!

In Christ we are cleansed and are not haunted by past sins. Today, the events serve as reminders of Christ’s grace and mercy.  Glory be to God!

If you don’t know Jesus as your Lord and Savior, if you want to be forgiven and cleansed, if you desire to have purpose and to be used by God, you can.

One by one, mull-over each of these verses:

  • For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God. Romans 3:23
  • For the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord. Romans 6:23
  • But God demonstrates His own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us. Romans 5:8
  • That if you confess with your mouth, “Jesus is Lord,” and believe in your hear that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved. For it is with your heart that you believe and are justified, and it is with your mouth that you confess and are saved…For everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved. Romans 10:9-10 + 13
  • Therefore, since we have been justified through faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ…there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus. Romans 5:1 + 8:1

Finished?

There’s nothing to stop you from praying to God right now and receiving the promises of His word as your own. In your prayer sorrowfully admit that you have sinned against God and ask Him for forgiveness.

Are You Sorrowful?

And believe that the Lord Jesus Christ is the Son of God Who died for you on the cross, rose from the dead, and is Lord. Call upon Jesus Christ to be your Lord and Savior.

Do You Believe?

Believing implies a willingness to submit to God’s authority and obey what He says in His word the Bible.

Are You Willing?

If you have accepted Jesus as your Lord and Savior today, praise the Lord! You should know that Jesus encourages Christians to make disciples (students), not merely converts. For that reason you should find a solid, Bible-believing church, attend and get involved. If you need assistance in finding a church in your area, I am more than willing to help you – simply make your request known in the comments section below.

“Or what woman, having ten silver coins, if she loses one coin, does not light a lamp, sweep the house, and search carefully until she finds it? And when she has found it, she calls her friends and neighbors together, saying, ‘Rejoice with me, for I have found the piece which I lost!’ Likewise, I say to you, there is joy in the presence of the angels of God over one sinner who repents.” Luke 15:8-10

~~~

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Stand fast therefore in the liberty by which Christ has made us free,

and do not be entangled again with a yoke of bondage.

Galatians 5:1

It’s the law!

Imagine if it were the law, that when you met a young man or woman and became ‘serious’ you must write love letters, you must hold hands, or you must buy flowers. It certainly is an inane concept isn’t it? It’s silly because when you fall in love with a person these types of things come naturally — they do not need to be legislated.

Love Does More

This is essentially Paul’s message to the church.

We are free of mandatory rites and rituals of religion; we are free because love does more than legalism. Legalism (just so we’re on the same page) is that doctrine that says, Salvation is by faith in Jesus Christ ~and~ something else.”

There is no something else.

It’s just faith in Jesus Christ. If anyone adds the word ‘and’ after the sentence, “Salvation is by faith in Jesus Christ, ” run away. Jesus proclaimed that He finished the work on the cross.

It stands to reason that if legalism can drain the passion out of an earthly relationship, it will consume a spiritual one as well. All we need do is examine the church to see all the depleted souls who have given up on Christ because of man’s imposition of religious duty. This ought not to be.

Faith in Christ Jesus on its own will result in free display of passion; enthusiasm, zeal, and love. They cannot be legislated.

If that statement is true, why then do we see flocks of faithful people, those who had routinely declared, “It’s not a religion; it’s a relationship,” walking away from the church?  It’s no wonder why legalists felt it necessary to impose rules and regulations as an aide to salvation.  In that slim, sliver of light, legalism is an admirable, albeit misguided, gesture.

What’s the Answer?

Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all things that I have commanded you; and lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age.” Amen. Matthew 28:19-20

Focus.

The reality is that many seemingly faithful people leave the church because they have not been properly discipled. In far too many instances they don’t even know what the word faith means!  Webster’s 1828 dictionary defines the word in this manner:
Evangelical, justifying, or saving faith, is the assent (obedience) of the mind to the truth of divine revelation, on the authority of God‘s testimony, accompanied with a cordial (sincere) assent of the will or approbation of the heart; an entire confidence or trust in God’s character and declarations, and in the character and doctrines of Christ, with an unreserved surrender of the will to his guidance, and dependence on his merits for salvation. In other words, that firm belief of God’s testimony, and of the truth of the gospel, which influences the will, and leads to an entire reliance on Christ for salvation.”
Chances are if a person struggles with a definition that implies belief, submission, and obedience to God, they probably won’t stay in church very long. Then there are others who remain, but choose to redefine the Christian vocabulary to meet their own desires.  As a result we have always had false teachers who impose their liberal and concocted interpretations on the unschooled, which is all the more reason why Christians must be discipled in the Word, the Way, and the truth of God.
The properly discipled believer will gratefully subject himself to the authority of Jesus Christ — simply put: rules and regulations are not necessary.

Bashing Religion

Never!

Although I used the words religion and religious in a negative context, I am not bashing those institutions. I savor the components of religion (prayer, worship, communion, baptism, marriage, etc), for these are the things I get to do. I do not consider them the things I must do.

Nor do I worship the components — I worship Jesus!

For me, religion is the word that defines the elements of my faith that can bring me into a closer relationship with the Lord. In that context, being religious is not the horrible thing that some believers have made it out to be.

I willingly confess, “I am religious!”

I pray religiously, I study the word religiously, I go to church religiously, I partake of Communion religiously, but I only worship, honor, serve, and obey my Lord and Savior.

And not only that, but we also rejoice in God through our Lord Jesus Christ,

through whom we have now received the reconciliation.

Romans 5:11

How about you?

  1. Are you a victim of legalism and/or religion?
  2. Are you faithful in the truest sense of the word?
  3. Are you allowing yourself to be discipled in God’s word?

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