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My Heart-Wrench for the Persecuted

This morning as usual I woke up early and met with God, thanking Him and praising Him for the gift of Jesus and the gift of His grace, that one  such as me, could be grafted into His family.  What an honor!  What a privilege!  My heart, the core of myself, is so filled with gratitude that I can feel it in a way that I cannot describe.  Maybe you understand what I mean.  Thanks just has to come out, and so it erupts from the center of my being.  Thank you Father.  Thank you Jesus.  Thank you Holy Spirit.  Our Trinity God, 3 in 1.  Amen

All that being said, as I moved into prayer I could not help thinking about the persecuted Christians around the world.  I was drawn deeply into prayer for our brothers and sisters who are suffering pain, fear, homelessness, loss of loved ones, hunger, thirst, cold, and loss of all their possessions.  I prayed and I prayed, naming countries, and praying for the Christians and Jews and even for those who will become Christians, and as I did so I realized that there are very few countries where Christians are not being persecuted at some level, the United States and Canada come to mind.  Even Europe is beginning to see persecution, not at the level of the Middle East, Africa, N. Korea, China, India, and so many other countries, but persecution is on the increase there.

This then led me to the thought, “the strong must support the weak,” followed by the questions, “What can we do? What can I do?”  Oh Christians in the US are certainly mocked by many people, but we are not persecuted, and we have brothers and sisters who are suffering at levels we would find hard to believe.

In fact, all those who want to live a godly life in Christ Jesus will be persecuted. (2 Timothy 3:12)

My eyes were opened wide as I read Charles Morris and Craig Borlase’s book, Fleeing ISIS, Finding Jesus, which is a book about the strength of the Christian faith in the Middle East despite of, or ever maybe because of, persecution.  In the book I read first hand accounts of people from several of the countries that we read about in the news every day, countries where Christians as being beheaded and crucified, and where women and girls at very young ages are being raped continually by many men.  Yet their faith holds!  It is amazing.  It can only be through Jesus, himself, that these precious people can face each moment of their days.

Remember the word I spoke to you: ‘A slave is not greater than his master.’ If they persecuted Me, they will also persecute you. If they kept My word, they will also keep yours. (John 15:20)

“I am with you always, to the end of the age.” (Jesus final words in the book of Matthew (chapter 28, verse 20b)

God and son2

And so, I realize what I can do best is to continue to pray for these members of our Christian family, as well as for the Jews.  But I also need to pray for their tormentors, that Jesus will continue to reach them through visions and dreams, and that their hearts will be transformed from hearts of pure evil to hearts that serve our glorious King, Jesus.

For you have heard about my former way of life in Judaism: I persecuted God’s church to an extreme degree and tried to destroy it.  (Gal 1:13)

He who formerly persecuted us now preaches the faith he once tried to destroy. (speaking of Paul in Gal 1:23)

Will you join me in prayer?

Holy and Almighty God,  I can only feel a drop of your intense love for these people, both your children and their persecutors, and yet what I can feel is strong.  I know you love the sinner, no matter how great their sin, and long for them to turn to you for forgiveness and the grace of salvation through your son, Jesus.  Please hear our prayers as we pray that your Holy Spirit will fall with power over the Middle East, Africa, China, N. Korea, India, Vietnam, Philippines, and all other places where persecution of Christians and Jews persists. Let thousands and thousands of hearts be changed, Almighty God.

Jesus, savior of the world, forgive me for every moment that I forget about my hurting brothers and sisters.  I lift them up to you today.  Please fill them with the strength they need to get through this day.  Fill them with a strong sense of your presence in the midst of their fears.  Ease the pain of grief  their carry.  As the families lose all of their belongings, their is shame that fills the hearts of the men, especially.  I am not sure what it will take, if not a miracle from you, Jesus, but release them from these feelings of shame.  Let them have joy and love in the midst of their trials, and for those who are in the process of torture, give them supernatural strength and peace.  Hold them strong, Lord Jesus.  Hold on to them just as you have promised.

Thank you for hearing our prayers.  In your holy name, Jesus, we pray. Amen

Israel deserves a closer look

star14cThe country of Israel, its government, and its people are the victims of some rather disgusting, one-sided publicity.  I have decided that enough is enough, and have prepared a sampling of seldom reported items to help balance the rhetoric.

First, who is really the “bad guy” when it comes to civilian casualties as battles and skirmishes are fought?  The Israelis are always reported as the killing civilians in large numbers.  Consider this though…

Israel’s approach to bombing enemy targets is unique in the history of warfare. Making use of modern technology, it sends text messages, or calls the target several minutes before striking, to warn the occupants to move to safety.

Then it sends a flare or similar device as a final warning before actually dropping the bomb. The success of this strategy can be measured by the numbers. In striking 500 targets in Gaza, only around 20 civilians have died, with about another 20 Islamic militants. In terms of what is euphemistically called “collateral damage,” those figures are extraordinarily low.

http://www.inquisitr.com/1342806/gaza-israel-warns-targets-by-sms-and-phone-to-leave-before-bombing/

When a government cares about civilian casualties, they are NOT the bad guys.  Bad guys are the ones doing exactly what the media loves to report that Israel is doing.  If you read the full article you will find this is an Israeli to Palestinian kindness only.

It is often said that non-Jews have no voting rights in Israel.  This is actually not true.  Consider this…

The Israeli election season began months ago, but the Arab parties have only recently launched their campaign. Unlike other parties that will try to sway swing voters on election day, March 17th, their strategy is getting Arab-Palestinian citizens who have historically been apathetic or who outright boycotted elections to vote. Around half of Arabs in Israel did not participate in recent elections. But this time around, Arab parties are gaining ground. Early polls show the Arab-Palestinians are expected to jump from the lowest voter turnout rate to one of the highest in the country and could become the third largest party in the next Knesset.

http://mondoweiss.net/2015/02/palestinians-israeli-elections/ (viewed 1/2/2017)

The real threat in Israel, as it is in the Western world, is that the Muslim population can grow to outnumber voters in the countries in which they reside, causing an internal, political change in the home country.

Lastly, the whole burden of the failed peace process is always put on Israel.  However, this also is a failure of accurate reporting.  Anyone who understands the real nature of the problem knows that Israel is only asking for recognition of their right to exist.  The Palestinians will never agree, without education in peace,  because to do so would go against everything their Muslim faith and Arab heritage has taught them.  In their eyes, Jews do not have a right to exist.  They are to be conquered, made to convert, pay an exorbitant tax, or die.  (The same is true for Christians, but this article is about Israel and the Jewish people.)

Consider this….

There are two main reasons why Palestinians will not sign a real and meaningful peace agreement with Israel – at least not in the foreseeable future.

The first is a total lack of education for peace. The second is related to the absence of a leader who is authorized – or has the guts – to embark on such a risky mission.

If Yasser Arafat was not able to accept the generous offer made by former Prime Minister Ehud Barak at the 2000 Camp David summit, who is Mahmoud Abbas to make any form of concession to Israel? Arafat was quoted back them as saying that he rejected the offer because he did not want to end up drinking tea with assassinated Egyptian President Anwar Sadat, the first Arab leader to sign a peace agreement with Israel.

Any Palestinian who dares to talk about concessions to Israel is quickly denounced as a traitor.

These are the two reasons why the “peace process” in the Middle East will continue to revolve in a vicious cycle. In order to make peace with Israel, you need to prepare your people for peace with Israel. This is something that the Palestinian Authority has failed to do. And that is why we will not see the emergence of a more moderate Palestinian leader in the near future.

http://www.aish.com/jw/me/Why-Palestinians-Cant-Make-Peace-with-Israel.html  (viewed 1/2/2017)

Israel has given up land for peace. It did so in 1978, when it gave up the Sinai Peninsula (and all the oil wealth from that land) to the Egyptians who had signed a peace treaty with them.

Israel would give up land for peace again.  The one condition that cannot seem to be met is Israel’s unwavering desire to be acknowledged as having a right to exist.  What group of people, and country would not want that as part of a peace treaty?  It is not asking all that much, one would think.  Oh, but it is….

Peace is not an option for the Arab nations.  Total annihilation of Israel, and Jews, is their goal.   Peace, wanted by Israel, is not the desired outcome of the Palestinians or by their Middle East neighbors.

I have added this link to a wonderful 5 minute video about the history of the land both Israel and the Palestinians are fighting over.  It is also helpful to understand the history of the disputed territory.

http://www.israelvideonetwork.com/the-most-important-video-about-israel-ever-made/

I support Israel’s right to exist, and I hope you will also.

Moriah

Will the New Year be different for you?

But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faith, gentleness, self-control. Against such things there is no law.  (Gal 5:22-23)

Interesting that this series on fruit of the Holy Spirit would conclude just as so many people are considering their New Year’s resolutions, and the final “fruit” is “self-control.”  So interesting…..

What are you hoping to change in the new year?  How are you hoping 2017 will be different?  Are you hoping, along with thousands of others, to lose weight, eat healthier, or change your appearance in some way?  Are you hoping to find a new job and makwoman_4020cnpe more money?  Could you be hoping to get more consistent with prayer time or Bible reading?

Even those who stand up tall and say, “I don’t make New Year’s resolutions!” there is something they would like to do better, do less of, or do more of.  All of us have stuff like that in our lives.  It goes with not being perfect, whatever that looks like.

If we are going to do one thing that can affect all aspects of our life, it would be to draw closer and deeper with God.  By now in the posts regarding all the fruit of the Holy Spirit, I think the case can be said that God can and does make a difference in the quality of life of those who choose to believe in him and believe him. Let’s consider for a moment the benefits:

  1. More peace, even when in stressful situations
  2. More joy, even in times of sadness
  3. More hope, knowing, with assurance, there is a better life ahead
  4. More comfort, knowing that you are standing on the rock and get shaken less and less
  5. More security, knowing that God will provide
  6. More community, knowing that you have a huge family of believers that includes brother and sisters all around the world, and in heaven.   You are part of a huge family, and will be together with all of them in the future.
  7. More confidence, knowing you are living a worthwhile life
  8. More assurance, knowing the truth of right and wrong, and living the right path
  9. More steadiness, knowing God leads and we follow his path
  10. More light, the darkness fades and the light of Christ fills your entire being
  11. More love, knowing God loves all people, we learn to love all people too, even those who hurt or harm us
  12. More strength, knowing we have God’s power within us and it will get us through
  13. And so much more……

god-changes-us

So, as you consider self-control, rather than focus on what is wrong with you, why don’t you focus on God instead.  He loves you just the way you are, and will gently lead you into  paths that will transform your life into the precious jewel God created you to be.  Seek God, the one true God, the God of the Bible FIRST, and let all the other things fall into place in the proper time.

God bless you now and throughout 2017.

Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, the new creation has come: The old has gone, the new is here! (2 Corinthians 5:17)

 

 

Gentle does not mean weak!

But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faith, gentleness, self-control. Against such things there is no law.  (Gal 5:22-23)

The use of this word in the context of the Fruit of the Spirit, Galatians 5:22-23, speaks of humility and forbearance.  Such a person would be comfortable and humble, without a judgmental spirit.  This fruit of the Spirit can be found in those who with quiet, unassuming natures consider helping others as natural as breathing.

You will find them tirelessly helping behind the scenes, possibly standing at the sink cleaning the dishes at a fund raising dinner, or standing at the serving line to provide a hot meal to the poor who line up for a free dinner.  You might see visiting prisons to freely give of their time to  those locked behind the prison walls.  Then there are the volunteers who work for the various hospice organizations, listening to and helping the families who are facing the death of a loved one.  These are just a few examples of thousands of ways the gentle tirelessly serve.

Be completely humble and gentle; be patient, bearing with one another in love. (Ephesians 4:2)

The world needs more of these gentle, yet strong, humble servants.  We need them more of them than we need leaders, whether in their workplace, their city, their states, or even their countries.  It is these humble servers who hold the hearts of the people and carry them with love.

be-a-light

Let God’s light shine through you!

Wherever these gentle servants of God are found, the world is a bit brighter, and the things of life seem to fall into place.  Why?  Because they are quietly filling the gaps of human life with whatever is needed, be it helping a person in need, putting extra time in at work to help keep the project on schedule, volunteering at a senior center, a hospital, or a community event., and so much more.  They are the glue that keeps life livable.

You can cut such a person off in traffic, and rather than hearing them cuss, or wave a one-finger wave, unknown to you, they are saying a prayer for your safety.

A gentle answer turns away wrath, but a harsh word stirs up anger. (Proverbs 15:1)

You can pass them, speeding past on the berm of the highway, and rather that judge you as a jerk, they stop and consider the need that has caused you to do such a foolish thing, and once again turn to prayer on your behalf.

What do you prefer? Shall I come to you with a rod of discipline, or shall I come in love and with a gentle spirit? (1 Corinthians 4:21)

Yes, these people exist.  I just wish there were more of them.  As I grow in the Spirit, I find myself becoming, ever so slowly, one of these.  And as I grow in gentleness, I am filled with more peace and joy.

Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls.  (Matthew 11:29)

So, in closing, I pray that as the New Year approaches, each of you will also seek to grow in the fruit of the Spirit, especially gentleness.  We need you humbly, but strongly, purposefully, and with dedication, serving.

Some will wonder what makes you tick?  Some will make fun of you.  Amazing, but true.  Still you serve.  Still you comfort.  Still you listen to the lonely, the tired, the desperate.  Still you serve, and the world is a better place.

But even if you should suffer for what is right, you are blessed. “Do not fear their threats; do not be frightened.” But in your hearts revere Christ as Lord. Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have. But do this with gentleness and respect, keeping a clear conscience, so that those who speak maliciously against your good behavior in Christ may be ashamed of their slander.. (1 Peter 3:14-16)

Holy Father,

Grow the fruit of your Spirit in us that we might be Jesus’ hands and and feet in this world.  Grow the fruit of your Spirit in us that we might bring light into dark places.  Grow the fruit of your Spirit in us that we might hear and see the needs of so many, and provide them some comfort and care.  Thank you Holy One, that you have given us lives to live for you.  May we live in such a way that you receive much glory.

In the name of Jesus of Nazareth, I pray.

Amen

 

 

 

Faith in the face of Jesus

Faith Word Showing Spiritual Belief Or Trust

 

But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faith, gentleness, self-control. Against such things there is no law.  (Gal 5:22-23)

Now faith is confidence in what we hope for and assurance about what we do not see. (Hebrews 11:1)

 

In other words, faith stems from our willingness to accept, as truth, that which we are not able to see, taste, touch, smell, hear, or fully understand.  In the Bible we can read about people who were visited by God (Abraham who ate with God), who were spoken to by God (Moses at the burning bush), and who touched God (Jacob wrestling with God at night).  But, again, it takes also takes faith to believe these stories because it takes faith to first believe in God, and then to believe God cares about us, talks to, guides, provides for, protects, and loves each individual person who has or ever will exist.  Our faith, however, is greatly rewarded.

Enter Jesus, Emmanuel, “God with us.”  The blessing of Christmas, Emmanuel arrives.  God comes to live with us for 33 years.  The entry of “God with us”, Emmanuel, took away all excuses of worship and dedication to a God we cannot see or touch.  People ate with, walked with, listened to, touched, smelled, and witnessed God with us.  The whole New Testament is the testimony of that event and how it shaped the lives of people for the next 60+ years.  The world changed when Jesus was born.  There is no other person who has ever changed the world so dramatically, and who is still doing so today.  None, Nada, Zero, Zip.

And yet Christians today are persecuted for their faith all around the world.  Even in the United States where we have freedom of religion, Christians, although not physically persecuted, are slandered with statements such as “Christians are threats to the public.”

“But the Left, ever-vigilant against group-based slights on behalf of favored constituencies, is only too eager to label orthodox Christians as threats to the public. This bigotry has a purpose. It serves to demonize the last significant constituency standing in the way of sexual revolution radicalism. After all, unless you demonize your opposition, the general public will have little appetite for forcing Christians to pay for abortion pills, forcing Christian groups to open up to atheist leadership, or forcing Christian bakers or photographers to help celebrate events they find morally offensive.” (http://www.nationalreview.com/corner/416176/want-evidence-hysterical-anti-christian-bigotry-look-no-further-boycottindiana-david)

Hillary Clinton went so far as to say, “And deep-seated cultural codes, religious beliefs and structural biases have to be changed”.  (http://shoebat.com/2015/04/24/hilary-clinton-christians-in-america-must-deny-their-faith-in-christianity/)

Christians lose their jobs and businesses for standing up for their faith, (examples: cities who refuse to allow Chick-fil-A to open up any restaurants in their city.  Cake bakers, photographers, and more who have lost businesses because of their beliefs.

(http://www.foxnews.com/opinion/2015/01/07/atlanta-fire-chief-was-fired-because-my-christian-faith.html)

(http://rightwingnews.com/religion/choosing-god-over-government-cheese/)

Christians have been taunted and threatened for their beliefs.

“expressions of support for Prop 8 have generated a range of hostilities and harms that includes harassment, intimidation, vandalism, racial scapegoating, blacklisting, loss of employment, economic hardships, angry protests, violence, at least one death threat, and gross expressions of anti-religious bigotry”.  (http://www.heritage.org/research/reports/2009/10/the-price-of-prop-8)

Christians have been maligned and slandered by name calling and other verbal abuse.

http://www.desiringgod.org/articles/you-will-be-persecuted-with-words

All this make faith a big deal.  It becomes more difficult to be strong in faith when we come up against such disparagement.  While some of it is self-inflicted, most is not.  There are Christians in name only, who live lives that are far from reflective of Jesus’ teaching.

“‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.’ This is the first and greatest commandment.  And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments.”  (Matthew 22:37-40 NIV)

When we forget to love our neighbor as ourselves, we have forgotten what it means to be a Christian, having faith in our Lord, and believing in what he taught.  We bring shame on the name of our Christ.  It is not a small thing, and needs to be taken seriously by each and every Christian.

Faith is a challenge for all these reasons, but when we walk in faith our lives are transformed and infused with joy and peace that cannot be fully explained to someone who has not experienced it.

As we near the day we celebrate the birth of our Lord, let us take time to do some introspection and self-check our faith and trust in the one whose name we carry, Christ, our Lord.  

 

Hold strong.  We are a light in a dark world.

Refresh your faith, and carry your light high.

You serve a might God.

You are loved by the King of Kings.

 

God bless you and Merry Christmas.

 

Would God call you “good”?

 

wreath_13117ac

But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faith, gentleness, self-control. Against such things there is no law.  (Gal 5:22-23)

Paul wrote a letter to the people of Galatia (an currently part of modern day Turkey) around 49AD.  In that letter he encouraged the young church to continue to grow in godliness.  In the passage above, which we have been considering for the last several posts, Paul is explaini

ng the growth process that occurs in a person once they put their faith in Christ.  He calls this “fruit of the Spirit.”

If we are growing in faith, then these character developments are an expected result.

Today let’s consider “goodness.”  If you search for the word
“goodness” in the Bible you find verses like these:

And the Lord said, “I will cause all my goodness to pass in front of you, and I will proclaim my name, the Lord, in your presence. (Ex. 33:19)

may your faithful people rejoice in your goodness. (2Ch 6:41)

They ate to the full and were well-nourished; they reveled in your great goodness. (Neh 9:25)

Surely your goodness and love will follow me all the days of my life, and I will dwell in the house of the Lord forever. (Ps 23:6)

Answer me, Lord, out of the goodness of your love; in your great mercy turn to me. (Ps 69:16)

Consistently the people remarked on God’s goodness.  If God was, (is, and forevermore will be) good, then his Spirit in us should produce the same.  We know that when we genuinely recognize and repent from our sins and ask God for forgiveness, that God, in his love and grace, offers his son, Jesus.  Jesus, the great Emmanuel (God with us) was God’s gift to each of us that we might, indeed, be fully made righteous (cleansed free from sin).  When we accept God’s gift, God’s Holy Spirit fills our being.

Now think about this carefully.  If God’s Spirit is living in us, then we have within us the power to live progressively more and more godly lives.  That increasing growth in godliness is what Paul called “fruit of the Spirit.”

That leads me to ask, is goodness growing in you?  If not, why not?

Have you acknowledged that you are a sinner?  If not, why not do that right now.

Have you asked for forgiveness and accepted the gift of Jesus?  Christmas just might be a really good time to accept the best gift you could ever be given.

If you have done all that, and have not seen the growth of love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faith, gentleness, and self-control in your life, then maybe you have put God on a shelf, safely tucked away for emergency use only.  I have news for you.  God wants to be your everyday God.  With the Holy Spirit living in us, we have moment by moment access to the love, guidance, power, and peace of God.

Get out your Bible, dust it off, and ask God to teach you and guide your life through His word.  You will not be disappointed.  God never refuses to answer that prayer, not ever!

With this in mind, we constantly pray for you, that our God may make you worthy of his calling, and that by his power he may bring to fruition your every desire for goodness and your every deed prompted by faith. (2Th 1:11)

Can kindness take the stress out of Christmas?

But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faith, gentleness, self-control. Against such things there is no law.  (Gal 5:22-23)

Kindness. This is one of the fruits of the Spirit that grows in us as godliness grows in us. This is a great “fruit” to taste and share this Christmas season, and beyond.  During this Christmas season, we are likely to run into many grumpy, or unpleasant people.  When we do, we have two choices, and we have to make an almost instant decision how we will react.   If we respond in kind, which is sometimes our gut reaction, we increase the ugliness and negativity both for them, for others who might be near, and in our own lives.  If we respond in kindness, there is a chance that the offender might ease up, but at the very least, those around us might take note of our actions/words, and be blessed by them, while we are spared from being pulled into the negativity.

I think this just might make a bigger difference in our lives than we think at this time.  For that reason, I am going to practice this to the best of my ability this month, and take note of the results.  First I must stop myself from making those instant reactions when someone I know or don’t know offends me, angers me, hurts me, etc.  Second, I must make a quick choice to respond with kindness.  Lastly, I must make a note of how the other reacted and how I felt afterward.  There will be plenty of opportunities to practice this during the month.  It has always amazed me how one of the most joy-filled times of the year can be so joyless.  Stress just seems to mount to such high peaks.

I’d like to see if I can make a bit of a difference in that this year.  And if I could make a bit of a difference, what if all of us decided to make a bit of a difference in our world of influence?  You know, it might really make more than a “bit” of a difference.  It really could be huge.

Let’s make this a research project this Christmas, as we are at parties, and shopping, and even driving in chaotic lines of traffic.  I’d love you to share your experiences with me and the others.  This could really be quite fun.  Are you up to the challenge?  Shall we go forth in kindness?  I’m in, what about you?  Leave a comment below if you are in on this challenge/experiment in kindness and Christmas.

Share this with others.  Let’s get as many on board as we can.

Look out world….true kindness is about to make a BIG CHANGE for the better.

God bless you all!   Have a very merry, joy-filled Christmas indeed!

 

 

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