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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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Integrity: a priceless commodity

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Integrity: adherence to moral and ethical principles; soundness of moral character; honesty.   source: dictionary.com

We don’t hear much about integrity these days. No doubt the above definition will explain part of the reason for that.

Morals, ethics, and honesty seem to be in short supply just about everywhere you look. What used to be the bedrock qualification to gain acceptance into a noble field of endeavor, is now no longer a requirement for participation.

Did you know that the Bible has a great deal to say about integrity? The entire book of Job, for example, is a testament to one man’s concern for maintaining his integrity.

The book of Job is one of the oldest in the Bible, with many scholars believing that Job was alive during the time of Abraham. It is a powerful story of good vs. evil, and brings to the forefront the age old question of why do bad things happen to good people?

As we open this particular book, we see that Satan has presented himself to God and proceeds to ask Him to remove the protective hedge from Job. This was Satan’s vain attempt to prove whether Job’s love for God was rooted in his wealth and prosperity, or if in fact it was rooted in Godly integrity.

God then permitted Satan to afflict Job, which he does by causing the loss of all ten of his children, all of his wealth, and all of his material possessions. In spite of all of this unspeakable sorrow, Job held on to his integrity.

In all this Job did not sin nor charge God with wrong.   Job 1:22

Unfortunately for Job however, his time of testing was far from over. The day came when Satan once again presented himself to God.

Then the Lord said to Satan, “Have you considered My servant Job, that there is none like him on the earth, a blameless and upright man, one who fears God and shuns evil? And still he holds fast to his integrity, although you incited Me against him, to destroy him without cause.” Job 2:3

Did you see that Job held fast to his integrity?

So Satan answered the Lord and said, “Skin for skin! Yes, all that a man has he will give for his life. But stretch out Your hand now, and touch his bone and his flesh, and he will surely curse You to Your face!”   Job 2:4,5

After this Satan was then permitted to afflict Job physically, yet was ordered to spare his life. This is where we find Job being afflicted with boils from the top of his head to the soles of his feet. So severe was this torment, that even his wife urged him to put an end to it all by cursing God and dying.

There is much that we can identify with in the story of Job. All of us have suffered loss,whether it was through death, divorce, or abandonment.

Many can relate to losing their wealth and seeing their finances shattered to the point of bankruptcy. Indeed, there are many among us that have enjoyed life in the penthouse, only to see it all crumble before our eyes, leaving us to wonder how this could be.

As I write this I wonder how many readers are at this very moment suffering from a debilitating disease or an incurable condition? Have you been to the brink where you just wanted to end it all and put an end to your suffering?

If so, you can identify with Job.

Job had three friends who came to see him upon hearing of all the calamity that had befallen him. Like Job, in times of despair and suffering we need people to lean on, to draw comfort from. Of course, we need real friends, not the type who cast one accusation after another at Job.

Through all of the pain and suffering, the abandonment of those he once thought were his best friends, and most importantly the silence of God, Job maintained his integrity. How was this possible you may ask?

I believe Job had a “big picture” view of life. He knew that this life was filled with its mountains and its valley’s. Though he was the “greatest man in all the East”, he also knew that all of it could vanish in an instant.

This is why he continually offered sacrifices on behalf of his children. If they had inadvertently sinned he wanted to make sure they were covered.

Job lived by the creed that his integrity could not be bought nor compromised. Read the following words he spoke to his friends as he declared his intentions to hold fast to his integrity to the very end.

As long as my breath is in me,
And the breath of God in my nostrils,
My lips will not speak wickedness,
Nor my tongue utter deceit.
Far be it from me
That I should say you are right;
Till I die I will not put away my integrity from me.
My righteousness I hold fast, and will not let it go;
My heart shall not reproach me as long as I live.   Job 27: 3-6

What a difference it would make in this world if more people lived like they believed this! Can’t you just imagine what it would be like in our churches alone if all of us who profess Christ lived this way?

While we may not hold influence over the masses to the point of convincing them that this is the better way, we can do our part to see that we ourselves adopt the same convictions that Job had.

Integrity is a priceless commodity.

The good news for all of us is that we don’t have to purchase it, nor could we. Jesus Christ did that for all mankind when he died on an old rugged cross. Our integrity is rooted in Him, for He is our righteousness!

Be blessed!

Ron

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

faced with the appalling loss of his possessions, his children, and finally his own health, Job still refuses to curse God.

 

What do YOU see?

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It’s been said that God sees everything, and I have no doubt that He does.

He sees the good, the bad, and the ugly.

Whether we’re at our best or worst, God sees it all.

All of it.

What do YOU see when….

*You are forced to walk around a homeless person on the street?

*You see a young girl carrying a child she is not prepared to raise?

*Yet another drug addict has fallen into despair?

*The evening news tells one horrific story after another of abuse?

*You see the line of people that stretches around the block at the food pantry?

God sees all of this. He sees the suffering and the pain of every one of these people. People that His only Son suffered and died for. People we are commanded to love.

Do you see the suffering? Do you see the pain?

Or are your eyes focused only on the cause?

Do you see fault?

Do you see blame?

When Jesus reminded us that the poor would always be with us (Matt. 26:11) he was letting us know that the problems of humanity are perpetual. That is a sobering thought isn’t it?

Now,we can choose to look at this in one of two ways. We can throw our hands up in despair at the seeming hopelessness of the plight of the poor and suffering.

Or we can choose to take the words of Jesus as a challenge to understand that these issues are not going away,therefore we must plan accordingly to do our best to alleviate the plight of the unfortunate among us.

I don’t pretend to have all the answers as to how best to accomplish this. But I am firmly convinced that it must begin with the church. Not the government. The church. Alleviating the suffering of the poor and unfortunate has always been the responsibility of the church.

It all boils down to what we see when we observe the pain and suffering of the poor.

I believe God sees their hurting.

I wonder what we,the people under the steeple, see…