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Archive for September, 2009

“Remember the prisoners as if chained with them – those who are mistreated – since you yourselves are in the body also.”  Hebrews 13:3

Lately I’ve read books and articles about the persecuted church.  I’m always shocked when I read these things, because Christianity in America is so easy.  It’s difficult to conceive of our brothers and sisters being treated so cruelly in other places in the world.  The concept is foreign to our existence.  For now anyway.

Everytime I read of someone persecuted for faith in Christ, it grips my heart, because I know that I have not remembered the persecuted church faithfully in prayer as I should.  It’s not that I don’t care.  I just don’t remember.

But what if I was imprisoned with them?  What if I was tortured with them?  Then this issue of the persecuted church would be in the very forefront of my mind at all times, because of my involvement in it.

The reality is, that because I am part of the body of Christ, I am involved in the persecuted church.  They are my brothers and sisters, beloved ones of God.  So I am asking God to help me remember them, as if chained with them, that I may offer prayers to God on their behalf.

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Changes

“….and a great many of the priests were obedient to the faith.” Acts 6:7

For the very first believers, being Jews, turning to Christ was more than just making a decision to change religions.  It was a total upheaval of life.  No longer were they a part of the religious tradition that they grew up in and that was such a large part of their culture.  This perhaps impacted none as completely as the priests who turned to Christ.  Suddenly, not only was their personal religious life affected, but also their livelihood.  How could they continue to minister at the sacrifices when they knew that the final sacrifice had been offered?  Everything had changed, all of life was different now.  Oh, but what joy that change brought!

I still remember the day I was born again.  It brought many changes into my life as well.  Everybody that knew me, knew something had happened.  I was different.  This is the life transforming power of our Saviour.

When Jesus Christ entered this world, He impacted it so thoroughly that all of time was forever divided by his appearance here.  He does the same thing in individual lives.

Self-help techniques may offer some level of superficial change, but only Jesus Christ can change someone from the very core of their being.  He offers a new heart, a new life, a new creation.

To a world crying out for change, I commend to you the great Changer – Jesus Christ.

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We must remember that the goal of prayer is the ear of God.  Unless that is gained, the prayer has utterly failed.  The uttering of it may have kindled devotional feeling in our minds, the hearing of it may have comforted and strengthened the hearts of those with whom we have prayed, but if the prayer has not gained the heart of God, it has failed in its essential purpose.

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“Therefore we do not lose heart.  Even though our outward man is perishing, yet our 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 things which are seen but at 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

In this chapter Paul is talking about the suffering he has endured in spreading the gospel.  He has faced many hardships, even death.  But for Paul, the perspective of suffering was:

• In the scope of eternity and the plan of God, our suffering is a light and momentary thing.  Although it seems horrible while we are going through it, when seen through the eyes of God and endured with the grace of God it becomes a light, not a heavy burden.

• Our suffering is working for us.  So many times our hardships can seem like they are our master, controlling our lives.  But they are our servants, meant to work for us.  And as believers in Christ, the work they are to do for us is to transform us into His image, a work we cannot do ourselves.

• The work that our suffering accomplishes produces eternal results than far exceed the difficulty of the suffering.

The condition: we must stay focused on the eternal.  Life and suffering are temporary things, but the glory of Christ in us is our hope and it is eternal.  When we learn to see our afflictions through the eyes of God, even in the midst of them we are renewed day by day.

If you are suffering today, do not lose heart.  Rather, let us rejoice that God is doing a beautiful work in us through our difficulties.

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Walking with God

How can one of flesh and blood
One here below, one formed of dirt
Creation with a fallen nature
Weak and frail, a man of earth

Commune with You, Oh heav’nly Maker
Who has hung the stars and sun
Enthroned in glory, mighty Ruler
Who may approach this Holy One

And yet not merely to approach
Is my deepest heart’s desire
But Oh that I might walk with Him
To nothing less do I aspire

In Christ, the enmity removed
His holy blood, my purchase price
Sin forgiv’n, His work complete
Yet there remains this sacrifice

To die to all that I desire
And live to know and do His will
He whose life stays on the altar
May ascend His holy hill

And from that high and holy place
Of fellowship, of heavn’ly bliss
Our eyes now see, our hearts embrace
With minds persuaded, mouths confess

How glorious, this yielded life
Though painful, soul, Oh do not falter
For never shall you live so fully
As when you die upon the altar

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I woke up this morning with a heavy heart.  I was glad it was Sunday, happy to be able to go to church.  I cried through most of the early morning prayer service, and a few times in Sunday school.  I knew that I desperately needed to hear from God, and He did not disappoint.

When my pastor got up to speak, his text was 2 Corinthians 1:3 – “Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of mercies and God of all comfort.”  I was able to receive a more God honoring perspective of my suffering and was greatly encouraged.  During the altar time after the message, we sang a song with a simple yet powerful message.  I’m sure you know it:

Jesus loves me, this I know
For the Bible tells me so
Little ones to Him belong
They are weak but He is strong

Yes Jesus loves me
Yes Jesus loves me
Yes Jesus loves me
The Bible tells me so

God is faithful and I have been sweetly comforted.

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There are times when life becomes painful, seemingly beyond what you can bear.  Circumstances beyond your control insinuate themselves into your life and as your mind is reeling over your inability to fix things and your heart is churning with emotions that threaten to overwhelm, you wonder how you will make it through this.

This is a description of my life today.

I don’t think I have ever felt myself to be in such a helpless position as I am right now.   At times I have felt like all I can do it sit and stare at the wall.  Incapable of acting, incapable of thinking and often incapable of praying.  Sometimes there just aren’t words.

The tendency of my personality is to get lost in my own thoughts, a futile replaying of events, which always leads to despair.   I have felt myself drifting that way and I know I cannot go there.  I must be able to pray.  I must be able to get the ear of God.  But how?  How can I reach so high when I am so low?  So weak?  So helpless?

“Though the Lord is on high, yet He regards the lowly”  Psalm 138:6
“The Lord is near to those who have a broken heart” Psalm 34:18
“Behold, the eye of the Lord is on those who fear Him, on those who hope in His mercy.”  Psalm 33:18

What a comfort this is to me!  What a source of hope!  I may be helpless, but I am not hopeless.  My God has not promised to make everything in my life the way I would like it to be, but He has promised that throughout the duration of it, He will be with Me.

“My grace is sufficient for you, for my strength is made perfect in weakness.”  2 Corinthians 12:9

Right now I am utterly and completely weak.  But He is always infinitely and eternally strong.  This is truth that brings rest to a weary soul.

“But the salvation of the righteous is from the Lord; He is their strength in the time of trouble.  And the Lord shall help them and deliver them; He shall deliver them from the wicked and save them, because they trust in Him.”  Psalm 37:39-40

The pain remains great, but His word brings hope that it will not always be like this.

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