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Archive for the ‘Persecution’ Category

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Someone must have torn a few pages out of my calendar, or so it seems, because spring just wrapped-up a few weeks ago and now summer is almost over. Consequently, I’ve been reevaluating all the ‘stuff’ that fills my days. What needs to stay, I’ve asked myself, and what needs to go; what needs to improve?

Writing has been on my mind a lot lately. I      haven’t done much of that all summer and truthfully, I’ve wondered why. After four years of devotional blogging, I figured I just needed a break, but that still, small voice inside my heart kept urging me to keep writing –to share the awesome love of God in a world gone crazy.

My intentions were good, but my discipline was lacking. Time kept flying with breakneck speed, and the pages stayed blank. Then it happened; the desire to write began to burn inside me again. Everywhere I turned there was another sign, another reminder, that writing was part of the ‘stuff’ that I am supposed to fill my days with.

Where do I start? I inquired of the LORD. “What do you want me to write about first?  His answer: to remind you, dear reader, that “Blessed are….” Jesus begins his ‘sermon on the mount’ by encouraging and instructing his listeners:

Blessed are the poor in spirit: for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. Blessed are they that mourn: for they shall be comforted. Blessed are the meek: for they shall inherit the earth. Blessed are they which do hunger and thirst after righteousness: for they shall be filled. Blessed are the merciful: for they shall obtain mercy. Blessed are the pure in heart: for they shall see God. Blessed are the peacemakers: for they shall be called the children of God. Blessed are they which are persecuted for righteousness’ sake: for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. Blessed are ye, when men shall revile you, and persecute you, and shall say all manner of evil against you falsely, for my sake. Rejoice, and be exceeding glad: for great is your reward in heaven: for so persecuted they the prophets which were before you. (Matthew 5:3-12).

Amen! I cannot think of a better message for today. May you, dear reader, be blessed, and may you ever be a blessing.

See you next week.

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My raven-haired beauty was only four years old when she glued her library book to the bed.
I’m still not sure how she found the bottle of wood glue in the first place, but I do admire her creativity in solving what she considered to be a big problem. Of course, I didn’t approve of her method, but I had to smile at her reasoning. She explained, “Liz-a-biff kept trying to take my book. I had to stop her!”

Reading has always been an important part of my children’s lives. They were each given their own library card from the time they were old enough to toddle into the library. There, we spent many happy hours searching for just the right story to fuel their imaginations, and the perfect books to expand their knowledge about science and history, and all the other fascinating wonders of life. You see, their father and I wanted to instill the love of reading, and learning, into our children from a very young age, in the hopes that their love of such would be life-long.

Most importantly, we wanted our children to love God’s Word. They each had their own picture Bible before they could even talk. By the time they worked their way up to the good ole King James, all of our children knew more about the Bible than many adults do. In fact, this same raven-haired beauty once climbed a tree and began preaching to the people on the streets when she was only seven.

How I wish I would have been raised knowing God’s Word like that! Sadly, I didn’t learn any of it until I was an adult. But, it’s never too late to start. I have now been a student of the Word for over twenty years, and enjoyed every minute of it. I am so thankful that we live in a country that allows us the freedom to read our Bibles without persecution. Tragically, this may not always be the case. It is quite probable that Americans will soon join the ranks of countless others who have been persecuted for their faith in Jesus Christ.

If this ever happens, I can assure you that gluing our Bibles to the bed won’t prevent them from being taken away. However, there is something that we can do -starting now. The psalmist said, “Thy word have I hid in mine heart, that I might not sin against thee” (119:11). I pray, dear reader, we would all do likewise. After all, once God’s holy Word is hidden in our hearts, no one can ever take it away from us!

I admit that memorizing Scripture, especially long portions of it, can be hard work–especially for us older folks. Even so, there are few pursuits in life that are more rewarding and beneficial. How then do we start, if we haven’t already? Simple, we can learn from the children on this one.

Have you ever watched a young child recite the words of her favorite story book to an audience of stuffed animals without having to look at the book? She is able to do this because she has read it (or had it read to her) so many times that it became a part of her. And because she loves the story so much, she can’t help but enthusiastically share it.

That’s how we should be with God’s Word. Because the Bible is so much more than just words on a page –it is God’s personal instruction to mankind- we should absolutely love to read it over and over until it becomes a part of us. And, we should care enough about our Holy book that we would rather glue it to the bed than let anyone take it from us.

Dear reader, it would be really silly of me to tell you “Don’t glue your book to the bed.” I would like to encourage you, however, to keep the Holy Bible “glued to your face.” If you’re not familiar with that expression, just ask my raven-haired beauty what it means; she still has a book glued to her face most of the time. That’s my girl!

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photo credit: alatoni.com

Black olives may not please everyone’s palate, but my family –half of us, anyway– devour them like candy. In fact, whenever we have a build your own pizza night, my daughter’s pizza is usually black when she pops it in the oven due to serious olive overload. I can’t say I blame her; I’m one of the other olive lovers.

You can only imagine how elated I was the first time I realized my relatives, who lived in Phoenix, had several black olive trees growing in their back yard. “Go ahead, eat as many as you want,” my cousin told me.

Anxiously, I bit into the first one with great expectation. But I spit it out with disgust. Unbeknownst to me, those pleasant-looking fruit are bitter enough to turn your teeth inside out –until they are cured in lye, that is. Yes, I said lye.

Do you have any idea how hazardous lye can be? It can cause chemical burns, scarring, blindness, or respiratory failure; and probably even death under certain circumstances. Yep, that sounds like the kind of substance we need to treat our food with (Uh- NOT). I was stunned further to learn that manufacturers use lye to treat several other foods as well. But let’s talk about olives for a moment.

Did you know that olives are really good for our bodies? Not only do they contain a fair amount of iron, vitamin E, copper (an essential mineral) and fiber, they also have phytonutrients,  the organic components of plants which promote human health. Olives are said to:

 Contain antioxidants to fight disease.
 Have anti-inflammatory properties.
 Help decrease high blood pressure.
 Reduce the risk of cardiovascular disease.
 Lower bad cholesterol.
 and more

It really boggles my mind that something as caustic as lye can take the bitterness right out of the olive fruit. What astounds me even more is that the caustic attacks of other people can take the bitterness right out of us.

How? First we must understand that “The building of character is the most important business of life. It matters little what works a man may leave in the world; his real success is measured by what he has wrought along the years in his own being…. True character must be built after divine patterns…” J.R. Miller, 1894

Jesus Christ is our divine pattern. What did he teach?

But I say unto you, Love your enemies, bless them that curse you, do good to them that hate you, and pray for them who despitefully use you, and persecute you (Matthew 5:44).

Bless them that curse you, and pray for them which spitefully use you (Luke 6:28).

More profound still,  while Jesus Christ, who was falsely accused, was being led to Mount Calvary to face an unjust crucifixion, he demonstrated for us the most noble of character:

He was oppressed, and he was afflicted, yet he opened not his mouth: he is brought as a lamb to the slaughter, and as a sheep before her shearers is dumb, so he openeth not his mouth (Isaiah 53:7).

Why would the Son of God allow Himself to be beaten, spat upon, and ultimately murdered, without speaking one word in His own defense? It is because our Heavenly Father had a plan. Jesus Christ, our LORD and Savior, was absolutely perfect as both man and God. But with His every word and action, Jesus gave us a pattern of how to live so that we might be perfected into His own image.

However, we are mere mortal men and we fail. Sometimes we allow the unjust actions of others to cause bitterness deep within our hearts. It is in times like these, I believe, that God allows caustic men and women to “crucify” us so that we may be “cured” and our fruit (the fruit of the Spirit – Galatians 5:22-23) may be sweet.  And more importantly, so that this sweetened fruit may then be used as a catalyst to help heal the spiritual diseases of others.

Dear reader, the next time you or I encounter a caustic, abrasive person, let us remember the words of our precious LORD and pray for him (or her). And in so doing, may he or she see the character of God through us.

In closing, I offer this final thought; relationship battles can often be won through peace– I wouldn’t lie.

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The man was not home when they came to assassinate him for his faith in Jesus Christ, but his family was. Why they did not kill his wife is uncertain. Perhaps they thought it a far crueler “punishment” to kill his sons and force their mother to watch as they were shot to death by bullets which were far less steely than their own hearts. And so they did just that.

“When will you flee this place?” the woman was asked after this life-shattering tragedy.

“Not until I see God’s revenge on these men,” she answered. “These were my children; I changed their diapers I fed them and nurtured them. I loved them, and I had hopes that they would grow to be pastors or doctors; men who would help our people. And now, their lives have been cut off –they will never grow to be men.”

Concerned, her fellow Christian asked, “What do you mean by God’s revenge? What revenge?”

“I need God’s revenge!” she reiterated. “Please ask the churches to pray God’s revenge on these men that killed my sons — I need to see these men go to Heaven. I want the churches to pray for their salvation!”

Her statements seemed odd to me at first. Then I realized what she meant: our Lord said, Never take your own revenge, beloved, but leave room for the wrath of God, for it is written, “VENGEANCE IS MINE, I WILL REPAY,” (Romans 12:19 NAS). This mother knew that God would avenge her sons’ blood and was therefore seeking mercy on their behalf. She had forgiven those men and prayed that God would as well. Like Jesus upon His cross of crucifixion, she was pleading, ‘Father, forgive them; they know not what they do!’ As I listened to this account of the persecuted church, the Lord spoke to my heart. “Would you – could you –forgive even this?”

I wanted to say, without hesitation, “Yes Lord!” But the truth is, I am not certain whether I could or not. One never knows what they will do in certain situations until faced with it. My childhood and adolescence was excruciatingly painful, yet I learned to completely forgive my tormenters. However, my own experiences pale in comparison to those of the persecuted church in other lands. How would I handle this kind of agony – the cold-blooded murder of my precious children? Could I truly forgive and ask that God’s revenge for them be salvation and eternal life in Heaven for their murderers? I pray so.

Then, I listened intently to the speaker’s own powerful testimony. He was born and raised in the same hate-riddled part of the world as this woman was. In fact, it was he who encouraged her to flee. He managed to do so himself, but not until he was imprisoned five times and inflicted with such inhumane tortures as being hung upside down, beaten with metal cable, and having boiling oil poured on his feet.

Yet he more than forgave –he learned to see them through God’s eyes and love them as He does! For the past thirty-plus years of his life, this man has been involved with an evangelistic ministry and continues to minister to the people in and around his homeland – even those barbaric non-believers who torture and kill Christians.

As he recounted his own sufferings, I couldn’t help but smile every time he said, “We must continue to have the faith of Jesus!” You see, with his still-thick accent, he pronounced the word faith as ‘face.’

Yes, my brother, we desperately need the face of Jesus! I was reminded, as he spoke, of Numbers 6:24-26: “The LORD bless you and keep you; the LORD make His face shine upon you and be gracious to you; the LORD lift up His countenance upon you and give you peace.”

It is only by the grace of God, by His countenance upon us, that we can ever find healing for a heart that has been shattered. It is only by forgiveness that we can find true peace. And it is only by loving our enemies that we can pray with utmost sincerity, ‘Forgive them Father; they know what they do.’

May we, the body of Christ, never forget to pray daily for the persecuted church AND for those who persecute us!

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