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Real heroes of the faith are still among us: part 2

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I am of the opinion that real heroes of the faith are still among us. They are not likely to be found however on TBN, Daystar, SBN or EWTN. You will not find them hawking their latest sermon series or music DVD at a church ministry conference.

You will find them however in the house churches in Iran, North Korea, Somalia, Afghanistan, Pakistan, Sudan, and other nations hostile to the gospel of Jesus Christ. While we here in the West live in relative peace and security,there are an ever increasing number of countries that are now hostile to the Gospel, as evidenced by the following “top 50 map”.

2018 watch list

You will find these heroes living in unimaginable conditions in the prisons of the above mentioned countries. You will also find them in unmarked graves after being tortured and murdered for their faith.

Pastor Youcef Nadarkhani, Yasser Mossayebzadeh, Saheb Fadaie and Mohammad Reza Omidi are names you probably don’t recognize, however they are truly modern day heroes of the faith.

Who are they, and why are they heroes of the faith?

These are four Christian men who happen to live in Iran, a nation that is extremely hostile to the Gospel. Because Christianity is viewed as a threat to Iranian national security, the Christian religion is severely persecuted there.

Their church looks a lot different than yours or mine. Church services must be held in secrecy in the homes of believers or other nondescript locations in order to avoid detection and arrest.

No steeples, no ornate stained glass windows, no neon sign out front welcoming attendees.

These four Christian brothers were recently given 10 year prison sentences for partaking in Christian worship. It was originally thought that they would receive “only” six year sentences, given their original charge of “acting against national security”.

The charges were upgraded however to “promoting Zionist Christianity” and running house churches”, thus an additional four years were added to their sentences.

But wait, there’s more. Two of the four were also sentenced to two years’ internal exile, far away from their families.

Additionally, “Mr Omidi, Mr Mossayebzadeh and Mr Fadaie are waiting to hear the outcome of an outstanding appeal against their September, 2016, sentencing of 80 lashes for the consumption of communion wine at the time of their arrest in May, 2016.”

Did you catch that? 80 lashes. EIGHTY LASHES for partaking of communion!

We here in the West seem to have a very cavalier attitude about church, worship, and all things God compared to those suffering persecution abroad. We decide when and if we want to go to church. We decide how serious (if at all) we wish to become about our faith.

We choose whether or not to attend church or go fishing (or countless other fun activities). We choose whether to believe the Bible or not, and in some cases choose to ignore certain parts of the Bible that may not line up with our personal feelings about it.

We Christians in the West seem to have a lot of freedom of choice, don’t we?

Maybe that’s why there are so few (if any!) real heroes of the faith living here. Having faith here costs us nothing compared to our brothers and sisters in Iran, North Korea, Afghanistan, Pakistan,etc.

We who live here get by on a cheap, easy believism type of religion that demands nothing of us. Count the cost as commanded by Jesus? I don’t think so. Count our blessings for certain, but we want no part of a religion that costs us anything.

We have succumbed to the spirit of Anti-Christ that says God exists solely to bless you and cause you to prosper. This is the same spirit that seeks to elevate man to a god-like status while denying the true God of the Bible.

You will find no heroes of the faith in such a religion. What you will find instead are greedy, selfish, all about me individualists determined to control their own destiny rather than submit their lives to Christ.

Rather than partake of Christ’s suffering as taught in the Word, what we really want is a pie in the sky genie ready to blow gold dust on us just because we have somehow convinced ourselves that we are a superior brand of Christian.

Contrast this so called Christian lifestyle with those living in places where just the mention of the name of Jesus can land you in prison, or much worse. One must conclude that these two groups cannot possibly be worshiping the same God!

There are real heroes of the faith living today, heroes who have forsaken all for the cause of Christ. The men and women who are being imprisoned, tortured, and killed are examples of the faith that the Church should be holding up as the gold standard.

Who knows, you and I might one day be required to look to their sacrifices as the model of faithfulness and endurance needed in order to overcome that which has come upon us.

Be blessed,

Ron

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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The day two “only son’s” met

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How many of us have ever been at the end of our rope? Like many of you, I’ve had my back to the wall so many times I’ve lost count.

Well, if this describes you, or if you’ve ever been to the point of hopelessness, I have good news for you.

God will meet you at your place of brokenness and despair. He doesn’t wait until your world is back on track and all is well before he decides to come to you. No, He comes in the midst of whatever struggles you may be facing, and no one does it better than our Lord.

Jesus’ ministry revolved around people. Broken people. People who, just like you and I, were at the end of their rope. Such is the following story from Luke’s gospel. There is something so incredibly powerful about this story that I just had to share it. I trust that it will bless you today.

Now it happened, the day after, that He went into a city called Nain; and many of His disciples went with Him, and a large crowd. And when He came near the gate of the city, behold, a dead man was being carried out, the only son of his mother; and she was a widow. And a large crowd from the city was with her. When the Lord saw her, He had compassion on her and said to her, “Do not weep.” Then He came and touched the open coffin, and those who carried him stood still. And He said, “Young man, I say to you, arise.” So he who was dead sat up and began to speak. And He presented him to his mother. Then fear came upon all, and they glorified God, saying, “A great prophet has risen up among us”; and, “God has visited His people.” And this report about Him went throughout all Judea and all the surrounding region.   Luke 7:11-17

On this particular day a mother was in the funeral procession of her only son. The fact that her son was dead was made even more tragic because this mother was also a widow.

The Bible doesn’t give us the details about the deaths of her son or her husband, and I suppose it really doesn’t matter because in reality, in turns out that death wasn’t the real story here after all.

What is important to know however is that during this period of time, if a man died his sons were expected to become the caretaker and provider for the remaining family members.

Losing her only son meant that this woman would likely become destitute, as women in those days had no viable means of supporting themselves. A quick glance at the story of Ruth and Naomi gives us a glimpse into the world of poverty and desperation that she was about to enter.

Not only was the woman consumed with grief, but I have no doubt that a feeling of complete despair had come upon her. How would she live? How would she provide for any other children?

I’m sure she must have been thinking that her world had collapsed around her after losing first a husband, and now her only son! Wouldn’t the average person be thinking ‘how much more can I bear’?

She was destined to become dependent upon the kindness of others in order to survive. Fortunately, if she had anything at all going in her favor, it was that the large crowd assembled for the burial indicated this family was well known and respected in the community.

Her future, if you could call it that, was bleak indeed.

I imagine all of this was going through the mind of Jesus as he approached the funeral procession, and he was moved with compassion for this family because He knew what was in store for this widow if he did not intervene.

Now, here is what I find so powerful about this particular encounter: On this day two “only son’s” met, no doubt for the first time. One son was dead, yet destined to live; one Son was alive, yet destined to die.

Isn’t that amazing? Do you see the irony in that? Who but God could do such a thing as this? He is an on time God my friends!

The message here is clear: even when it looks like all hope is lost, Jesus Christ is the death defeater. He is a way-maker even when there doesn’t seem to be a way out. When you’ve exhausted all of your abilities and resources, let go and let God!

A widowed mother had her only son restored to her, while God was soon to lose His only Son as a sacrifice for us all.

And yet He is not dead, but alive forevermore!

Be blessed in Jesus name!

Ron

 

 

 

What are you settling for?

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God has called us to live an Abundant Life, just as Jesus describes in John 10:10.

The thief does not come except to steal, and to kill, and to destroy. I have come that they may have life, and that they may have it more abundantly.”

I’m thinking that we are settling for far less than an Abundant Life, especially as Christians, the Body of Christ. For example…

By all appearances, we are content to go to church, listen to a few songs, settle in for a nice sermon that was designed to make us feel better about ourselves, then head quickly for the door in order to get a seat at our favorite restaurant.

Mediocrity Green Road Sign with Dramatic Clouds, Sun Rays and Sky.Content to leave exactly as we came.

Content to settle for yet another dry, lifeless, powerless church service.

 

The only thing worse than this is doing it all over again.

Every

Single 

Week

Surely, the enemy of our souls is watching all of this, gleeful in that we have succumbed to the spirit of slumber. This, in spite of Paul’s warning to the church at Rome:

And do this, knowing the time, that now it is high time to awake out of sleep; for now our salvation is nearer than when we first believed.” Rom. 13:11

This is what settling does to us. It allows complacency to overwhelm our senses to the point that we no longer are even aware of what we don’t have!

Our churches have all kinds of musical talent for example. From keyboards and guitars to drums and full orchestra’s. Music fills the rafters. Yet it’s one lifeless, cold, ritualistic note after another, void of any anointing that might sear the conscious or break through a heart hardened by sin.

So we settle. And we clap. And we sing. And we clap some more.

And leave exactly the same way we came.

We have learned to be OK with settling. In fact, settling is now normal.

Our ministers now have access to scriptural knowledge like at no other time in history. Thanks to the Internet, entire volumes of reference materials are at our fingertips. Huge libraries containing thousands of works published by sold out men and women of God are accessible via a click of a computer mouse.

Yet for all of this available knowledge and wisdom, what we are presented on Sunday mornings are short sermonettes containing tidbits of scripture, but filled with stories about being a better you, or how to live your best life. To more than a few, this is a great time to take a nap!

bored_in_church-300x270

charleyreeb.com

These sermonnettes are nothing more than pulpit cheer-leading. They prompt us to feel the “rah rah rah” of the moment, but cannot prevent the euphoria from draining away when life suddenly interrupts our version of “churchianity”.

For that, we need the whole counsel of the meat of God’s Word.

Do you want to know the secret to living your best life, and how to be a better you? The secret is to die daily. That’s right, draw nigh to God and in the process you will crucify this flesh that demands more and more of the pleasures of this world.

Would it shock you to learn that God isn’t the least bit interested in whether or not you are living your best life? Would it surprise you to learn that what He is really interested in is that you submit your entire life to Him?

But seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness, and all these things shall be added to you.  Matthew 6:33

Give Him all of you FIRST, then the things you desire will come. Anything less than this is settling. Yes, seeking the kingdom of God first is a costly endeavor. It will cost you your WILL.

Nothing worth having is free, nor does it come easy. The rewards however, are priceless.

Why then do we settle for less than the Abundant Life Jesus spoke of?

What exactly are you settling for?

Be blessed,

Ron

 

 

“Sometimes it takes a storm”…

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All of us endure storms in this life of one type or another. Most of the time they catch us unaware as they strike without warning. Having little or no time to prepare, more times than not we’re forced to endure the best way we can.

Truthfully, just hanging on is sometimes the equivalent of a major victory.

One of life’s great lessons however is that no one gets a free pass, everyone must confront their personal storms. There is no other way.

The good news in all of this? We don’t have to confront the storms alone. The Bible tells us that “God is a very present help in the time of trouble”(Psalm 46:1). He is our helper when life is teetering out of control.

In Mark’s gospel,there was an event that took place that caused all of the disciples to fear for their lives. What started out as a simple boat ride soon turned into a confrontation with a violent storm that threatened to destroy all of them.

35 On the same day, when evening had come, He said to them, “Let us cross over to Crisisthe other side.” 36 Now when they had left the multitude, they took Him along in the boat as He was. And other little boats were also with Him. 37 And a great windstorm arose, and the waves beat into the boat, so that it was already filling. 38 But He was in the stern, asleep on a pillow. And they awoke Him and said to Him, “Teacher, do You not care that we are perishing?”

39 Then He arose and rebuked the wind, and said to the sea, “Peace, be still!” And the wind ceased and there was a great calm. 40 But He said to them, “Why are you so fearful? How is it that you have no faith?” 41 And they feared exceedingly, and said to one another, “Who can this be, that even the wind and the sea obey Him!”               Mark 4:35-41

Had Jesus not been there,how different this story might have ended! But the fact is Jesus was there with them in the boat,and the disciples knew their only hope was to awaken the Master.

A crisis will do that to us won’t it? Sometimes it takes a storm to enable us to better see the sun.

Do you know that the same thing happens when we call upon the Lord during the times of storm? He will calm the troubled waters of your soul, because He is the peace speaker.

If today you find yourself in the midst of a raging storm, there is a Savior who will rise up and speak to that storm and say “peace…be still”.

All you are required to do is call upon the Master.

Please listen to this beautiful song if you are in need of shelter from the storm.

Sometimes it takes a storm”, by Jessica King

Have a blessed day, in Jesus name!

Ron

Like a bubbling fountain

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Outside of my living room windows stands a bubbling water fountain. The sound it makes is very relaxing, and I enjoy listening to it whenever I get the opportunity. fountain

After hurricane Irma passed through a couple of weeks ago the water in the fountain was extremely dirty. With winds in excess of 100 mph we had dirt and debris flying everywhere,so naturally the fountain was coated in dirt.

After a thorough scrubbing the fountain was filled with clean water, and once again we had a beautiful bubbling water fountain to enjoy.

One of the things I’ve noticed about owning a fountain is that you have to turn it on frequently or else the water will become stagnant and dirty. In fact, unless the water is kept clean, not even the birds want anything to do with it.

We are not so different, if you really think about it. Aren’t we in danger of becoming stagnant unless we have a supply of fresh water bubbling up within us?

Unless we keep the Spirit bubbling within us we will become like the fountain that never gets plugged in, that never gets cleaned, that tries to get along with the same old dirty water.

And no one will want anything to do with us.

“You are the salt of the earth; but if the salt loses its flavor, how shall it be seasoned? It is then good for nothing but to be thrown out and trampled underfoot by men.   Matthew 5:13 (NKJV)

May our fountains be constantly refreshed with Living Water.

Ron

 

 

A Watchman…A Warning

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Long before the advent of modern electronic technology such as telegraphs, telephones, and most recently the Internet, cities used to depend upon the town crier, or watchman, to alert them of impending danger.

An alert watchman would see an approaching army, for example, and would begin to warn the city’s residents to take the necessary actions to defend themselves.

Conversely, should the watchman fall asleep on duty, destruction was almost certain to be the end result because by the time people realized what was happening, any attacking army would be upon them.

There are many examples of Biblical watchmen, most of whom were faithful to their task, yet the position of watchman was considered to be so important that the Lord issued a warning should they be derelict in their duties.

But if the watchman sees the sword coming and does not blow the trumpet, and the people are not warned, and the sword comes and takes any person from among them, he is taken away in his iniquity; but his blood I will require at the watchman’s hand.’”     Ezekiel 33:6 NKJV

Obviously, to understand that trouble is coming and to do nothing would be something akin to high treason. In the New Testament,we know that Paul understood this when he said “For if I preach the gospel, I have nothing to boast of, for necessity is laid upon me; yes, woe is me if I do not preach the gospel!”                       I Corinthians 9:16 NKJV.  Emphasis mine

An appointment, or calling to be a watchman is a grave responsibility, which Paul acknowledged by saying that out of necessity he MUST preach the gospel. In other words, Paul was called of God to a task he could not deny, for if he did the souls of untold millions would be required at his hands.

Throughout the Old Testament we find example after example of warnings that were sent from God to His people Israel. These messages were delivered by prophets, or watchmen, that God had called for this specific purpose.

Unfortunately, these messages more often than not fell upon deaf ears, such as in this example: 

“Thus says the LORD: “Stand in the ways and see, and ask for the old paths, where the good way is, and walk in it; then you will find rest for your souls. But they said, ‘We will not walk in it.’

Also, I set watchmen over you, saying, ‘listen to the sound of the trumpet!’ But they said, ‘We will not listen.’”      Jeremiah 6:16-17

In this example, we find that God has sent his watchman Jeremiah to deliver a warning to the people to turn around and walk in the old paths, where the good way was, and to listen to the sound of the trumpet, that is to listen to what the watchman had to say.

In both of these instances we find the response from God’s children to be “we will not”. Having historical knowledge as our reference, we understand that there was severe punishment inflicted upon God’s children for their stubborn rebellion, which led to the eventual scattering of an entire nation to the four corners of the earth.

Today, God still uses watchmen to cry out to the people of the world to repent and turn their hearts to God. There are also watchmen crying aloud to the Church for her to repent, and return unto the Lord that redeemed her.

Alas, I am afraid that the response from both the world and the Church are nearly identical: “we will not”!

I believe, as many of you do, that we are living in what the Bible refers to as “the last days”. It doesn’t take a scholar to understand that we are seeing the fulfillment of many of the scriptures that foretold of His coming.

I will spare you the list of evils being perpetrated on a daily basis. After all, what’s the point? We are neither blind nor deaf. We all see and hear with our own eyes and ears what is happening all around us.

Or do we? Do we really see the depth of sin that has enveloped our world? Do we really hear the cry of anti-Christ rhetoric emanating from every corner of the earth?

I am afraid that we have ignored the watchman’s cry and said “we will not” one too many times, thus deadening our spiritual senses to what “thus saith the Lord”.

In His Revelation message to the seven churches in Asia Minor, Jesus said “he who has an ear let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches”. He repeated this no less than seven times, once for each of the seven churches.

I wonder, do we have “ears to hear”, or have we become so hardened that we scarcely give God’s word a second thought?

As I write this post, hurricane Irma is bearing down on the area I live in, taking aim to inflict a direct hit upon us as a Cat 4 or Cat 5 storm. For a solid week or more the warnings have been going out to prepare, prepare, and prepare some more for an unprecedented storm that threatens this entire area.

Storm surges of up to fifteen feet of water are predicted just south of where I am. That’s right: a solid wall of water fifteen feet tall is about to engulf much of SW Florida. Millions are now under mandatory evacuations.

Yet would you believe that with less than 24 hours until the expected landfall, people are still trying to find plywood, bolts, screws, bottled water, gasoline, etc.? To this relative newcomer, I can hardly believe this!

Complacency is rampant among the citizens here. Far too many are saying “that’s what they said about the last one and nothing that bad happened”.

Wait, isn’t that what the world and the Church are saying about the watchman’s warnings to “turn around and walk in the old paths, where the good way was”?

A Watchman.   A Warning.

When will we learn?

NOTE: this post is being published at 5:00 AM Sunday. The hurricane is expected to hit here in approximately 12 hours. All of us here covet your prayers.

Be blessed!

Ron

 

 

 

Ashamed of the Gospel?

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We hear a lot of talk today about shaming. Whether it’s body shaming, food shaming,gender shaming or whatever else comes to mind, it’s all a form of ridicule. Taken to the extreme,which is of course how we think in our society today, any type of criticism or critique can be labeled as shaming.

I have found another type of shaming however that garners very little attention,if any, in the media. It’s called Spiritual Shaming. It happens when a Christian chooses to be led by God’s Word rather than the prevailing opinions of the age.

A Christian today is labeled insensitive, intolerant, a bigot, unloving, uncaring, and on and on it goes. Interestingly enough, all of these labels can more easily be attributed to the very ones using them than to Christians. But I digress.

As I said, no one seems to want to mention this type of shaming, do they?

Ridicule can be a very effective tool in Satan’s toolbox. It is used to damage, hinder,or even destroy ones Christian testimony. It is certainly not a new phenomenon, in fact here is an example from nearly two thousand years ago:

“Therefore do not be ashamed of the testimony of our Lord, nor of me His prisoner, but share with me in the sufferings for the gospel according to the power of God, who has saved us and called us with a holy calling, not according to our works, but according to His own purpose and grace which was given to us in Christ Jesus before time began, but has now been revealed by the appearing of our Savior Jesus Christ, who has abolished death and brought life and immortality to light through the gospel, to which I was appointed a preacher, an apostle, and a teacher of the Gentiles. For this reason I also suffer these things; nevertheless I am not ashamed, for I know whom I have believed and am persuaded that He is able to keep what I have committed to Him until that Day.”    ‭‭II Timothy‬ ‭1:8-12‬ ‭NKJV‬‬.  emphasis mine

One can only wonder how much of the New Testament would not have been written had Paul been as thin skinned as many of us appear to be today. Ridiculed, or shamed continuously, he marched on, confident that his Lord would see him through every situation. He remained unashamed.

Where is that mindset among believers today?

I know that some Christians become offended at the Word of God. It convicts us of our sinful life styles and reveals the dark places of our hearts, and we don’t like that one bit. The Word demands that we do something about US!

That’s right, the Word will never deflect our own shortcomings elsewhere, it demands that we own them and do something about them!

It doesn’t change with every new fad, nor does it change with popular opinion. It remains unchanged,true, and steadfast. It doesn’t even ask if we like it! It does however require us to conform to it, not the other way around.

Ashamed of the Gospel? There was a time when I was new in the faith, and the case could be made that I was indeed ashamed of the Gospel. I didn’t like the shaming, the ridicule that came with my new faith,because it hurt. My lack of spiritual maturity caused me to take it personally.

That was a long time ago, and my once new faith has matured to the point that I now fully understand that it’s not about me, it’s all about Him. Shaming, ridicule, all of that is actually directed at the Christ in me, not me personally.

Because of that truth, I have nothing to be ashamed of.

“For I am not ashamed of the gospel of Christ, for it is the power of God to salvation for everyone who believes, for the Jew first and also for the Greek.”   Romans 1:16

Have a great day!

Ron

 

 

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