in life, our faith in God waivers in and out. We might roll our eyes when confrontation
is before us and shun the real strength we prayed for in difficult times. But then
we return to the very spot we waivered from in the beginning. Our Almighty God always
remains with us, though, with welcome arms and forgiveness of our bad decisions.
night my eyes were opened a little wider by a word God whispered to my
conscience. I woke in fear of trying to comprehend His message. So I picked up
my Bible for protection and tried to find the meaning of the word He sent me. As
many knows, I’m a man of great faith. I’m not a Bible scholar by any stretch of
the imagination, but I do my digging when times like this are derived from God.
I tell you what the Holy Spirit spoke to me, you must know this word is written
in scriptures only three times. It was used in the Old Testament in 543 B.C. by
Samuel. He, too, was a man of great faith who led the Israelites to a battle with
the Philistines for over forty years. The Israelites lost twice, but then
Samuel looked to God and set up an Ebenezer between two mountains. He said, “Lord
God, You are my stone of faith, my rock I shall not break.” (1 Samuel) Scriptures
say, “The Lord thundered loudly against the Philistines that day and threw
them into such confusion that they were defeated by the Israelites.” From
that day forward, Ebenezer became the name of an altar for God to protect the
the bigger question is, why did God send me the word Ebenezer? Is it
because I, too, am fighting two personal battles, and God came to tell me it
will be Ok? Is it to inform you that your struggles are being watched over by
the Lord? Yes, all the above is true! Remember, your enemy is not greater than
God. He can make miracles occur with a stroke of His hand.
word for the day, Ebenezer, is the moment you realize you could not have
made it through the fires without God’s help. Your faith is like a stone, and
only God can bring you through these impeachable battles.
Ebenezer is as powerful of a word today as it was with Samuel in the Old Testament. We all bear our crosses, and as Christians, we must realize it is only God who protects us. Our awesome Father will come to our rescue in times of need. All you have to do is humbly pray for His help. May your Ebenezer be an altar as it was for Samuel. God bless.
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Last night I told my mom. when she said she was grateful 2019 was almost over, there were good things which happened in 2019.
Be grateful for the good things in 2019 and leave behind the rest.
I say again: BE GRATEFUL FOR THE GOOD THINGS IN 2019 AND LEAVE THE REST BEHIND.
Going further, be grateful for the lessons learned from the bad things that happened in 2019.
Overall, move in 2020 with a grateful heart. Forgive the events, people, and perhaps most importantly, yourself. Gratitude for the what was and gratitude for what will be. This is the best way to progress into the next decade.
I end with my favorite Scripture. Philippians 4:4-9:
Rejoice in the Lord always. I will say it again: Rejoice!
Let your gentleness be evident to all. The Lord is near.
Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God.
And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.
Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable–if anything is excellent or praiseworthy–think about such things.
Whatever you have learned or received or heard from me, or seen in me–put it into practice. And the God of peace will be with you.
This is my prophetic word video for December 2019 from YouTube channel Carly’s Niche. I really sense God wants us to use our assertiveness this month and let go of unbelief. This could apply to any month but I sense especially for December. I hope you enjoy. 🙂
What makes a woman powerful? Is it money, fame, a
political position, or is it an Oscar-winning actress? Any of these attributes
may be true in today’s society, but not in biblical days. Many excellent
examples of strong, influential women grace the pages of the Bible, and I will
review two a week for the next four Sundays. Our ladies, now two thousand years
later, may find much wisdom in the biblical females. Use them as a guiding tool
in your personal lives and to develop a relationship with God.
The last point I want to express is “behind every
successful man is a strong and wise woman.” So true of these most powerful
women in the Bible! I hope you enjoy my review.
Mary of Magdala lived in a comfortable village of many
Greeks in Galilee. They depicted her as a prostitute in town. According to
scriptures, the single Mary Magdalene had a serious sickness caused by ‘seven
demons,’ so many people assumed she was a fallen woman. But, in biblical times,
certain illnesses such as schizophrenia, blindness, heart disease, and epilepsy
were thought to be demonic. The Bible is unclear what her specific situation
was, but bible scholars agree she was not a prostitute.
At some point in her life, Mary met Jesus in one of the
many villages He ministered to, and He healed her afflictions. She became an
immediate follower and a leader of a group of women who traveled with Jesus and
helped to support His ministry. Only a strong, self-confident woman would be so
brave to spread the Gospel in biblical days.
Jesus had two groups of people who accompanied Him – a
group of men led by Peter the Apostle, and a group of women led by Mary
Magdalene. However, according to religious tradition, females were meant to be
seen and not heard, but Mary, in controversy, was very close to Jesus. Just as I
wrote in the past, God chooses people to be His disciples that we least expect
to reach this broken world. Mary was one such example. Her great faith earned
special attention from Jesus.
On the day they crucified Jesus, Mary Magdalene, along
with two others, stood at the base of His cross and watched Him breathe His
last breath. Her heartbreak must have been unimaginable! In the Bible passages of Luke 23 and Matthew
27, Mary prepared Jesus’ body for burial by making a spice anointment for the
linens. She observed from afar as they placed His body in the rock tomb. Mary
visited His burial site every day as if waiting… did she know something?
In the early morning light, the following week, Mary visited
the tomb. As she sat and prayed an earthquake erupted and forced the rock away
from the entrance of the grave. Mary jumped up to look inside, and it was
empty! Suddenly, God’s angel appeared before her.
“Woman, why are you weeping?”
With tears streaming down her face, Mary replied, “They
have taken away my Lord, and I do not know where they have laid him.”
Suddenly a voice from behind her spoke, “Mary! Why are
you weeping? Whom are you looking for?”
Not recognizing the face, she said to him, “Sir, if you
have carried Him away, tell me where you have laid Him, and I will take Him
away.” He responded with, “Mary!” It was Jesus standing before her.
She dropped to her knees, grabbed His hands, and said in Hebrew “Rabbouni!” Jesus told her not to hold on to Him because He had not ascended to the Father yet. Instead, He ordered her to go tell the disciples he was resurrected.
Mary ran to them and announced, “I have seen the Lord.”
It is interesting that in a society where women were held
in low regard, Christ showed Himself first to a woman. Mary loved her Lord, and
she was His truest, faithful follower.
What made Mary Magdalene a powerful woman?
She taught us to live courageously and faithfully for Christ. Jesus set her free by eliminating her ‘demons,’ and instead of going about her own life, Mary worked for Him. Even when she faced difficult times, and people called her hopeless, she allowed Jesus to work through her.
Mary was more loyal to Jesus than His own disciples. They hid as Jesus was led to His crucifixion, but Mary stayed with Him. She also anointed His linen with spices.
Mary was given the honor of being the first person to see Jesus after His resurrection. She was very important to Christ, or He would not have revealed Himself to her before the other disciples. It may be safe to comment Jesus changed the way women were viewed in society.
Mary teaches us that even if our lives are in terrible disarray, it is never too late to find hope in God.
Peter, one of Jesus’ closest friends and His apostle, ostracized her work as a disciple. In the Gospel of Thomas, he said, “Let Mary leave us, for women are not worthy of the Life,” but her strength of character and love of God gave her the courage to move forward. Today, she is often called the first woman evangelist.
What happened to Mary Magdalene
after Jesus’ resurrection? Much controversy exists about this topic. One theory
suggests fourteen years after the crucifixion, she was put into a boat by Jews
and set adrift without sails or oars. The boat landed in southern France where
she lived in solitude in a cave.
Another theory claims she
accompanied John to Ephesus, where she died and was buried. Some say she
evangelized Provence, France during her last thirty years.
A recent book titled The Lost
Gospel even claims Mary and Jesus were secretly married and had two children,
but someone’s imagination was a little overextended.
Today, in the Russian Orthodox
church, they know her as the patroness of sinners and penitent women. One of
the world’s best-known monuments is the Church of Mary Magdalene in East
Hannah is an inspiring and
wonderful story of humanity and all its flaws. No one is the leading character
in the story of their own life.
Elkanah lived in the Ephraim
hills of a small town thirteen miles to the northeast of Jerusalem. He practiced
polygamy through his Levite religion. Hannah was his first wife, and he adored and
loved her, doting on her every need. But, she was infertile, and his family
name needed to be honored with children, so he married another woman. Peninnah
was envious of the love Elkanah had for Hannah. She cruelly taunted Hannah to
tears each time she gave birth to their ten sons, and Hannah lost her sense of appetite.
One day, Hannah traveled to the
sanctuary, and she spoke to the priest about her inability to have children.
Her soul was crushed as the tears flowed down her lovely face. She dropped to
her knees before the altar and prayed.
if you’ll take a good, hard look at my pain, if you’ll quit neglecting me and
go into action for me by giving me a son, I’ll give him completely,
unreservedly to you. I’ll set him apart for a life of holy discipline.”
Before the year was out, Hannah
conceived and gave birth to a son named Samuel. She told Elkanah she asked God
for this son. Hannah also explained when the child was weaned, she would
present him before God, where he would remain forever. He agreed with her
The day arrived when Samuel was
no longer dependent on Hannah for nutrition. She took him to Shiloh along with
a butchered bull, flour, and wine and presented him to the priest, Eli. “I
prayed for this child, and God gave me what I asked for. And now I have
dedicated him to God. He’s dedicated to God for life.”
Hannah and Elkanah dedicated their lives to God as they watched their son grow up among the priests. Hannah made Samuel little white robes cut to his size, and they took them to him. Eli often said a prayer over her on those visits, “God give you children to replace this child you have dedicated to God.” His blessings and prayers were heard as Hannah and Elkanah had three more sons and a daughter.
Today, we acknowledge Samuel as a
prophet by Jews, Christians, and Muslims, an equal to Moses. He wrote the story
of his life, including his mother, Hannah, in the Book of Samuel.
What made Hannah a powerful
Hannah’s main attribute was perseverance. She prayed for many years for God to give her a child. She had faith in the power of the Lord and never doubted He would answer her prayers. Hannah teaches us never to give up, even when we think something is impossible. Her faithfulness to the Lord bled into her son, who became a great man.
Her boldness, strength, and devotion were like no other for she was a mother who gave up her first-born to the Lord. I’m sure most parents would rethink this decision. But, Hannah recognized all things are God’s possessions, even our children. He honors parents with children as merely a gift, a temporary gift. We are to mold them in the ways of the Lord as a blessing to all nations. In Hannah’s case, because she fulfilled her promise to God, He blessed her with a legacy of five more children.
Hannah’s power is also demonstrated through a promise which she kept to God. Her integrity is in the commitment of handing her child over to God. She never went back on her word, for if she did, she might never have conceived any more children. God rewards us for loyalty.
Thank you, Hannah, for teaching
us we must trust in the Lord in everything in our lives. Life is not always a
bowl of cherries, but with persistent prayer, miracles can and will happen.
Dedication to the Master who created us, along with integrity, will reap you
blessings beyond your wildest imagination.
Hannah is buried in the Tomb of
Samuel in the West bank, beside her son Samuel, on top of a steep hill just north
of the Jerusalem neighborhood of Ramot.
We hope you enjoyed Part One and will return next Sunday for two more powerful women in the Bible.
The year was 46
A.D., and with the death of King Herod, the church was again free to preach the
gospel. However, the persecution of Christians in Jerusalem by the Jews and
Roman authorities increased; they forced many believers to leave the area.
Paul and Barnabas headed
to Jerusalem to meet Cephas (birth name Simon but later renamed Peter, by Jesus).
Cephas was the fourth child born to Noah after the great flood. The men spent fifteen
days fasting and praying. One day, news arrived the melting pot church in
Antioch (in Syria) wanted missionaries to preach to the Jews and Gentiles. Many
believers moved during the upheavals in Jerusalem, and they needed churches
throughout the region.
The Holy Spirit
spoke to the church elders in Antioch, “Set apart for me Barnabas and
Saul for the work to which I have called them.” (Acts 13:2) The church
laid their hands on Paul and Barnabas in 47 A.D., and they boarded a ship headed
to the island of Cyprus on their first missionary trip.
They arrived in
the port city of Salamis. The Roman influence was everywhere – public baths, a
large theater, and a temple dedicated to Zeus. The Graeco-Roman world was ready
for the message of the gospel. Focusing on the Jews, Paul and Barnabas wasted
no time proclaiming the word of God in local synagogues. Most who spread the
word of God were Jews who scorned and persecuted Christian missionaries. But
many believers were ready to receive Paul’s ministry across the island.
passed, and the two disciples decided to walk westward to Paphos, the seat of the
Roman government. It was the worship center for the goddess Aphrodite (Venus).
Word spread quickly they arrived in town. Soon a message arrived – the island’s
Roman governor, Sergius Paulus, wanted to meet them and hear God’s word. It was
also an investigation who was causing all the commotion in his community.
When the governor
entered the room, Elymas (also called Bar-Jesus), a threat to the Christian community,
strayed in behind him. Paul heard about this false prophet (sorcerer), and he
became infuriated of his intentions, but just the same, they spoke the message
for the governor. Elymas
turned to the official and urged him not to pay attention to their untrue
words. Paul was livid and stared Elymas in the eyes. He remembered his own
experience in Damascus and knew blindness would humble a proud man.
son of the devil, full of every sort of deceit and fraud, and enemy of all that
is good! Will you never stop perverting the true ways of the Lord? Watch now,
for the Lord has laid his hand of punishment upon you, and you will be struck
blind. You will not see the sunlight for some time.” (Acts 13:10-11)
back, and a mist and darkness came over his eyes.
“Help me! I can’t
see! Someone, please, take my hands and guide me out of here!”
eyes opened wide, and he proclaimed the gospel as truth.
*SPECIAL NOTE: This incident was a critical turning point for Paul and his ministry. He became the team leader, initiated by Barnabas because Paul showed unusual faith and courage. The move showed Barnabas was selfless enough to set the good of others above personal glory. Instead of always striving for power, it is always seeking to help.
PERGA/ PISIDIAN ANTIOCH
Paul and Barnabas
set sail once again, this time to the mainland of Turkey. They arrived in
Perga, an ancient city of Pamphylia, and proceeded onward to the Roman colony, Pisidian
Antioch. On the Sabbath, they visited a synagogue and the church leaders
invited them to speak.
Paul lifted his
hand and began his speech. He started with the Israelite history, and finally,
he introduced Jesus.
one of King David’s descendants, Jesus, who is God’s promised Savior of Israel!
Before he came, John the Baptist preached that all the people of Israel needed
to repent of their sins and turn to God and be baptized… Brothers – you sons
of Abraham, and also you God-fearing Gentiles – this message of Salvation has
been sent to us!” Acts
He told the story
of Jesus’ crucifixion and the laws of forgiveness. Paul ended his speech with
these final words:
listen! We are to proclaim that through this man Jesus there is forgiveness for
your sins. Everyone who believes in him is made right in God’s sight –
something the law of Moses could never do. Be careful! Don’t let the prophets’
words apply to you.” Acts
Many of the Jewish
and Gentile listeners were so enthralled, they invited him back the following
week. This time, the whole city gathered to hear the news. Angry, jealous Jews
stood in the crowd slandering, and they created arguments with Paul. Persecution
soon followed Paul and Barnabas. In a state of frustration, they declared they
would no longer preach the word of God to Jews…
you have rejected it and judged yourselves unworthy of eternal life, we will
offer it to the Gentiles. For the Lord gave us this command when he said, ‘I
have made you a light to the Gentiles, to bring salvation to the farthest
corners of the earth.’”
Acts 13: 46-47
Gentiles spread the Lord’s message throughout the region. They celebrated their
conversion to Christianity. However, the furious Jews gathered prominent
members of the city to expel Paul and Barnabas from their city. They did not
want the missionary’s blasphemy in Antioch. So be it…
With a smile in
their heart, and the happiness of converting many Jews and Gentiles to
Christianity while in Pisidian Antioch, Paul and Barnabas headed southeast to
Iconium. They preached much in synagogues, and the Lord gave them the power to
perform miracles. The city became divided in their beliefs of the Good News –
is it Judaism or Christianity? Upheavals ensued, and the opposition grew in
strength. A huge plot to kill Barnabas and Paul spread across the town. Rumors
of their impending death instigated the missionaries to flee Iconium. Paul and
Barnabas left immediately and traveled to the remote city of Lystra, just
twenty miles away.
little city laid within tall Roman walls and many beautiful temples dedicated
to Greek Gods stood tall and proud. The temple of Zeus was the most popular for
he was the father of the Greek gods. Paul and Barnabas settled right into their
new surroundings. They continued to minister in the synagogues and converted
many to Christianity.
One Sunday, Paul
looked out over the audience and noticed a man with crippled feet intently
absorbing his spoken words. Paul thought, “He needs the faith of God.”
Stand up!” Paul yelled to
the man. The startled man jumped to his feet and started walking. (Acts 14:
A loud gasp of
shock, then cheering erupted from the crowd. People everywhere shouted, “These
men are gods in human form!” (Acts 14:11)
The priest of the
temple of Zeus and a crowd of people began laying wreaths of flowers and some pulled
bulls to the town gates. These were signs of sacrifices to Paul and Barnabas.
The people mistakenly thought Barnabas was Zeus and Paul was Hermes. The
apostles tried to convince the crowd they were mere men.
why are you doing this? We are merely human beings – just like you! We have
come to bring you the Good News that you should turn from these worthless
things and turn to the living God, who made heaven and earth, the sea, and
everything in them.” (Acts
It was impossible
to restrain the crowd. In the distance, Paul and Barnabas saw some Jews from
Antioch in Turkey and Iconium arrive on the scene. Were they here to support
them? No! The Jews yelled out to the masses.
“These men are
imposters! They are blasphemous! Stone them! Stone them!”
The crowd, in
great anger, surrounded the apostles and pounded Paul with rocks and stones.
(It was never disclosed if Barnabas was also stoned in the Bible). In the agony
of pain, Paul passed out, so the angry people dragged him out of the city. A
small group of believers gathered around him for they thought he was dead, but
God had different plans. The Lord miraculously healed Paul on the spot, and he
got up off the ground and walked right back inside the city.
The next morning
Paul and Barnabas made the grueling thirty-mile walk to Derbe in central Turkey.
Paul preached the
Bible with great success in Derbe, and in each town, he established priests to
say Mass and celebrate the sacraments. The early Christian churches were
quickly establishing themselves as a stronghold in every city he visited on his
mission trip. Eighteen months passed, and they felt it was time to go home.
REVISIT TO LYSTRA, ICONIUM, AND PISIDIAN ANTIOCH
Though victims of
persecution, Paul and Barnabas decided to retrace their steps. They would
return through Lystra, Iconium, and Antioch on their way to the ship. The
apostles strengthened and comforted believers and they appointed elders in the
church of each city. Paul was confident the Lord would protect these early
GOING HOME TO ANTIOCH OF SYRIA
Paul and Barnabas
returned home by ship to Antioch of Syria in 48 A.D. Paul gathered his church
together and reported all of his good deeds while in each city. “…we’ve
opened a door of faith to the Gentiles,” he exclaimed with delight. The
gospel spread far and wide. Paul’s journey was a preparation of more to come.
successful missionary trip gives us an idea of the very beginning of Christian
churches in the world. King Herod’s reign boasted fear and hatred, particularly
amongst the Jews. After he died, Christianity took hold of the land for many
witnessed the life and resurrection of Jesus. The church of Antioch of Syria
was the foundation for sixteen more Antioch’s built in the ancient world. They
had several outstanding leaders of which Paul and Barnabas were two of them.
What can we learn
about the early Christian churches?
God selects who will disciple His word, the early churches developed the skill
of leadership. They meticulously trained their missionaries and ministry teams
which came from many diverse backgrounds. Strong support for their apostles
came in the form of prayers, education, and mentoring skills.
first Christians were Jewish Christians, either by conversion or birth. They
revered the Hebrew bible in religious text which was often in Greek. They were a
sect of Judaism in Rome.
early Gospels spread only by word of mouth, so training of leaders was critical
for success. Preaching included the history of Jesus and His parables,
salvation, and forgiveness.
Paul built many
early Christian churches in this eighteen-month trip. His first journey covered
the regions of south-central Asia Minor, Turkey, and Syria. He traveled about
1,400 miles spreading the Good News.
missionary trip teaches us several Christian highlights:
met with horrible opposition and much persecution. As I’ve always said, history
repeats itself for this perplexing situation still continues today. God warns
all Christians; many will not believe in Him. Walk away from non-believers and
pursue those who want to find a better way of life. In Paul’s case, he always
began teaching to the Jews, but the Gentiles became the church’s followers.
is a virtue and is a mark of great spiritual maturity. A strict dedication to
God is the only way to covert doubters to believers.
It is unnecessary
to fully convert non-believers. God uses Christians just to plant the seeds.
demonstrated the ultimate meaning of forgiveness. They expelled him from Perga,
plotted his murder in Iconium, and almost died from stoning in Lystra, yet he
walked back into every city and pardoned their people. He prayed for their
forgiveness of sins.
perform unusual miracles, but they were done as a last resort – to testify of
God’s power and strength.
In conclusion, I pray for those who do not know the light of God. Let us never give up planting seeds, but remain in constant prayer… just as Paul.
My life is full of
memories, and like the seasons, they fall short in the shadows of the branches.
The earliest was being the curse of my Mom’s divorce. Sibling rivalry recounts many
quarrels. Callused friends also couldn’t compromise, and we parted company
before psychological differences made life not worth living. But as Jesus
taught, we are under obligation to forgive others because refusing to forgive
is a sin. God, alone, seeks justice.
For many, we leave
adolescence and venture into the unknown as young adults with damaged hearts of
childhood memoirs. We try to stay out of the direct sunlight and seek a place
where the branches sway with a refreshing breeze of freedom. But even so, life
is incomplete… harmonies are out of tone. We live with skeletons in the closet.
The ladders of success look so inviting, but we’re afraid of heights. Our heart’s
gear may be wounded if we take a jump. Even the love we search for away from
home fails from the bitterness in our soul. Lord, can you guide me through the
insecurities of life? Will you fill the empty spot scorned by storms and the
scorching sun?Help me find a place where the trees sway in tempered
life moves on, sorrows mourn, and forgiveness becomes good medicine for the
broken heart. Pain is re-trained by a willingness to release the offender from
the wrong, and it sets us free. But, those who live in remorse of the past will
become sick, infected with a virus called resentment. Under the trees sway, God
will wait for their heart to forgive so His gentle wind can renew their hope once
Forgiveness is the
positive connection linking the past to the present. Everyone is at fault of
holding grudges, yet only God shall judge the sinners. His love, which carries us
through life, generates through our faith. When faith runs out, we fill our
body (God’s temple) with hatred, and He will not forgive us of our sins. Do not
be guilty of a proud heart! If repentance is genuine, it must always be
forgiven, even if it is the same sin over and over again.
Today, I pray God
will be with you, and I hope prayer will protect your faith. Only you can
forgive past sorrows and hurts. Each of us carries heartaches, but it is God who
makes the trees sway to eradicate the memories and filth from its branches. God
Unexpected results and problems are part of life. In difficult times, negative thoughts will tell you, “it’s never going to change, you’re never going to get out of this problem.” But down deep you’ve gotta know, things are going to be alright,
Human can live about 20 days without food. About 3 days without water, 5 minutes without air, but not a second without hope.
Yes, always be hopeful, set your hope wholly and unchangeably on the grace of the divine. God is working on it. Keep reminding yourself that God is watching and he always protects his children. Hope till the end, keep believing for God’s favour.
Wake up in the morning expecting it to turn around. You cannot be defeated. You may be in a tough time, but that setback is simply a setup for a greater comeback. The winds that are trying to stop you, all God has to do is shift the direction of that blowing wind, and instead of holding you back, they will push you forward. You are about to be thrust into the fullness of your destiny. If you will have this attitude of faith, knowing that you cannot be defeated, God will do for you what you couldn’t do on your own. You gonna rise above every obstacle and become everything God has created you to be.
Just be patient and have faith!
Learn to embrace pain and burn it as a fuel for your journey. Remember that setbacks, failures and tragedy are a part of life. Whether we manage to find joy and success in the daily struggle of life is largely dependent on our ability to persevere through even the toughest adversity.
These seemingly long phases of disappointment and pain are just brief insignificant moments of time that will always pass!
The immediate issues of the day can often obscure other long-standing and important problems in the modern world. That is especially true when many of the immediate issues are also critically important, as is the case today.
For buried beneath the news of dangerous threats from Iran, the overwhelming numbers of illegal aliens creating an emergency at America’s southern border, the advance of Jihadist Islam, the squawking of the increasingly insane Left against anything associated with President Trump is an ancient struggle for the ultimate well-being of every person on earth.
It is a war carried on through more than two millennia between Christianity and the rest of the world. The lone exception to this is traditional Judaism in modern times because the world also aligns generally against Israel today, but that is another article.
Christianity Is Besieged by Persecution
The very existence of the Christian population is under a greater peril from persecution today than at any time in history. This begins with the hundreds of millions of Christians in nations where the faith is illegal and the suffering is palpable.
For example, according to Voice of the Martyrs, in most of the Muslim-majority nations in Asia and Africa,
Bibles are considered propaganda and are not allowed to be imported or printed. VOM supports covert Bible operations in this region so Christians have access to God’s Word.
This means that VOM workers and associates must get Bibles, or portions of Bibles, to Christian by smuggling the Scriptures into those countries. The same situation exists in Communist regimes such as North Korea.
If caught with a Bible, Ri Gun would be sent to a labor camp … or worse. So she tucked her small Bible into the fronds of a special mop intended for cleaning the portraits she was required to display of former North Korean leaders Kim Il Sung and Kim Jong Il. VOM workers smuggle both print and digital Bibles into the country.
There are those in the Christian community who object to illegally smuggling Bibles and even object to the “house” church movement in China. The Christian church in China is under the control of the Communist government.
Christianity is not technically illegal in China, however, the churches must be approved by the Party and incorporated under the “Three-Self Patriotic Movement.” “House” churches are those which do not register with the TSPM and are thus illegal.
Yes, Christianity in China is legal, and yes, churches can meet publicly under the TSPM banner. But this comes with consequences. The TSPM reserves the right to censor and control their churches to the extent they deem necessary and appropriate.
Under the TSP, churches must register and are not allowed to form anything other than local congregations under the authority of the community-level Party loyalists. These churches are also monitored overtly and covertly.
The Communist Party is fixated on the absolute control of Christianity. So much so that there are reports they are working on their own translation of a Chinese-Communist-friendly Bible.
The underground “house church” movement, therefore, operates in a very risky and dangerous territory should they be caught defying the government. The main reason such Christians take these risks is simple.
This is the house-church stance. Extend all the apparent olive branches you want, but Jesus Christ is still the head of the church, not the TSPM and not the CCC.
The stance that Jesus Christ is the LORD and only head of the church is common to all Christians under active persecution from atheistic Communist regimes as well as Islamic theocracies around the globe. The numbers of those who take this stance and suffer for it are mind-boggling.
According to the “Open Doors” organization which, along with VOM, are the largest and longest-operating bodies that aid persecuted Christians worldwide, in 2018 an estimated 215 million Christians lived “under high levels of persecution.” This number has increased in 2019 to 245 million people.
Christians living “under high levels of persecution” face threats against their lives, against the destruction of their church buildings and homes, and threats of arrest and imprisonment for practicing their faith. A personal story of brave believers from North Korea and Iran will shed some light upon the dangers awaiting those who risk all to follow Christ.
Faithful Sufferers for Christ
In February of 2006, a reluctant but faithful recipient of 10 Korean Bibles secretly smuggled into North Korea took a prayerful chance by leaving eight of them hidden in a package of pants at the front door of another man whom he heard humming a Christian tune. A few months later, due to a secret informant, the man, “Min-jae,” was arrested and sent to prison.
In prison, he met a former friend who had been arrested because of his Christian faith. And as they talked, Min-jae came to realize that the man he gave the Bibles to was his friend’s uncle. That man had also been arrested and was being held in a different cell in the same prison.
Moreover, that had given the Bibles to his relatives and the whole family of 27 people began to secretly meet to pray and study the Bible as a group. They were also arrested and thrown into prison after a suspicious neighbor turned them into the police.
After seven months in prison, Min-jae was released. However, his friend, his friend’s uncle and the 27 family members were all sent to a concentration camp (a REAL one for AOC’s information where they do hideous things to prisoners including torturing and killing them) and Min-jae has never seen them again.
As for Min-jae, in 2014 he managed to escape and defected to South Korea. He still feels pangs of guilt about his friend and the family because he supplied the Bibles which resulted in their being imprisoned.
Yet he also knows that God ultimately gave those Scriptures and God is with those who are suffering even now. Moreover, he has faith that the LORD will deliver them as well.
I believe that these 27 people are children of God and that God will somehow release them miraculously.
Min-jae now lives in South Korea and operates a small coffee shop there. He still carries the Bible that was given to him when he was visiting China and accepted the LORD Jesus as his Savior.
His sincere wish is that others in North Korea hear the gospel. He is getting some support from organizations like VOM, and he has a request for fellow believers.
[Min-jae] asks Christians in the United States to pray that more North Koreans will learn of God’s love for them.
Stories of such incredible faith and action for Christ can be found in every place where the gospel is being restricted by direct government force. A second example comes from a pastor of an underground ‘church’ who was imprisoned, along with his family, for over three years in horrific conditions.
In order to be released, this pastor had to sign a letter,
acknowledging that if they were caught joining an underground church or participating in any Christian activity, they would be imprisoned for life. [Pastor] Houmayoun signed the letter.
However, Houmayoun had no intention of not continuing his Christian efforts and did so in secret for a while. Eventually, after he and his family realized they were being watched and after several threats, they and several other Christians moved to a nearby country with fewer restrictions on the faith.
Houmayoun and his family hope to return to Iran one day. He often thinks about all the inmates the Christians shared the gospel with, especially those who accepted Jesus. “Some of them are out of jail, and we are still in touch with them,” he said. “Some have life sentences, and some are getting ready to be executed.”
However, one of the inmates the pastor shared the gospel with is now with them and attends their house church in their new country. While he was in prison, Houmayoun was sent for a time to be disciplined in a part of the prison named “Hell,” for its terrible conditions.
Now the pastor rejoices that even the gates of a place called Hell couldn’t stop the spread and power of the gospel. In part two of this series, we will examine some other ways in which Christianity is under siege in today’s world.
He said to them, “But who do you say that I am?” Simon Peter replied, “You are the Christ, the Son of the living God.” And Jesus answered him, “Blessed are you, Simon Bar-Jonah! For flesh and blood has not revealed this to you, but my Father who is in heaven. And I tell you, you are Peter, and on this rock I will build my church, and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it. Matthew 16:15-18 [ESV]
Sources: The Holy Bible, English Standard Version, Crossway Bibles, 2001
Everyone comes into
life to serve a great purpose. That is our destiny. We extend a hand in life to
help the broken, but it’s Christ who chooses the believers He wants to
represent Him. Faith is a large part of the commitment, but it’s the renewed
spirit which Christ blesses each time. I, too, am not worthy to wipe the dust
from our Father’s holy feet, but for an unknown reason, God duly elected me. I
am a representative of Christ, an emissary, an evangelist of His word. But, I was
the man most people least suspected to be His ambassador. This is how God works
among humanity. He selects the defeated, renews their heart and mind, and sends
them into the world as a witness of His great love.
My heart filled
with emotions, and it danced with a joy I didn’t think was possible. All I
could do was reverently thank God for the opportunities He opened up before my
eyes. It’s a select few picked to serve our Lord on a greater platform,
representing Him in the interim of His great return. Yes, this includes
ministers, pastors, priests, missionaries, and then just the ordinary… like me.
Do you know how
Christ chooses who will live in His shadow as disciples? Millions live in a
holy relationship with the Lord, but a genuine disciple usually is considered a
social outcast. They have a more profound knowledge of God and wisdom; perhaps
a miraculous incident occurred with Him. Often, they are rejected by family and
friends and considered “weird” or a false prophet. Demon possessed people react
strongly to them, and immature Christians spew insulting comments their
direction. Disciples, or anointed chosen followers, stand alone in a mocking
world. I’ve experienced all of these things, but with God by my side, I endure
all the accusations and criticisms, knowing He is my strength and power.
In the Bible,
Jesus’ biological half brothers rejected Him and His ministry. King David was
ridiculed for obeying and following the Lord. Isaac, the son of Abraham and
Sarah, was born supernaturally for his parents were aged one hundred and ninety
when he was conceived by God’s miracle. Moses was appointed at birth to
represent God and was the target of terrible criticism from the Israelites and
even his own brother and sister. Christ filled John the Baptist with the Holy
Spirit before he was born. He was ultimately beheaded because no one believed Christ
chose him. Not one person in scriptures chosen and anointed as a representative
of Christ had an easy life. They had to set themselves apart, and I’m sure they
felt very isolated.
So, today I ask,
are you chosen by God to be His ambassador? Are you afraid to take a leap of
faith for fear of rejection? Please read Psalm 91 as it is God’s promises to
His chosen and anointed people:
God will reward the fruits of our accomplishments at the end. Pick up your staff and walk my friends. Be strong in your commitment, now more than ever as the world’s flocks of sheep are like a pack of wolves. They hungrily circle God’s chosen to wait for the perfect chance to ensnare and devour your devotion. Be not afraid to stand in the barley and dance in the shade. Christians, we were born to represent Christ Jesus.