Gratitude

“Gratitude makes sense of our past, brings peace for today, and creates a vision for tomorrow.”

-Melody Beattie

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Suffering is Not a New Truth

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Assyrian believers return to pray at their church after it was destroyed by Islamic extremist.  Photo credit – VOM-USA

 First published 11/04/16 – Eternal Persepective Ministries http://www.epm.org/blog/2016/Nov/4/suffering-not-new-truth

“Suffering is not a new truth, it is an old truth.” — Sarah Liu imprisoned and tortured for her Christian witness.

This coming Sunday the 6th day of November, 2016 is the International Day of Prayer for the Persecuted Church. Christians from around the globe will set aside time to honor, remember, and pray for our persecuted family. I am grateful for the privilege of standing shoulder to shoulder with those of whom the world is not worthy. I pray that this day is the beginning of a deeper fellowship with our persecuted family.

I rarely approach IDOP without remembering my introduction to those who suffer for their faith.  I was reading for the first time a Voice of The Martyrs newsletter. The stories were disturbing and intriguing. I found myself face to face with a reality I couldn’t reconcile. The suffering and pain was too difficult to fit into the sterile package I had stuffed my understanding of God into.

The journey I began by reading the true life stories of persecuted Christians would eventually land me at a VOM regional conference in Bartlesville, OK. It was there that a more disturbing truth came to life. That first evening I listened as a man from Pakistan described the road of suffering Pakistani Christians walk. He told of the torture and eventual murder of a young boy—someone’s son, brother, and friend. This child died at the hands of his torturers—his crime? He was a Christian. For the first time in my life I contemplated the possibility that God would not always intervene–that perhaps suffering was part of His plan.

Being shaken by the very thought of suffering of this kind, I went back to my hotel room and had a heart-to-heart talk with my God. You see, it was up until that time that I had cried “send me!” Now I was asking Him to not honor my requests.  The weight I felt upon my heart was great. Standing securely in my “mirage” of comfort, safety, and control, I laid out “my” plan for my life. He graciously listened to me try to tell Him what to do.

Day two of the conference began with me feeling assured—certainly my one–on-one talk with God had sealed the deal. I had effectively canceled out all those “send me” prayers! It was then that a young man from the Middle East began to share about his work, which includes traveling great distances into hostile territories controlled by Islamic extremists. These were places where Christians die for their faith. Pictures were displayed on a screen behind him of people receiving the Bibles he delivered. Their expressions of curiosity and delight captivated me. As he spoke, he seemed puzzled by those who ask why he goes to such dangerous places. His response was simply, “Since when has the gospel been safe?”

I felt as if I were alone with the Lord in that room. I knew He was speaking directly to me. I recalled the list of demands I called “a prayer” the night before, and heard Him say, “I did not create you that way.” I’m so glad He didn’t “create me that way.”

Since then I’ve learned that God’s love trumps suffering. Those who walk the road of suffering for Jesus Christ—never really walk alone. Their sustance for the journey? An intimacy with God reserved for those He counts worthy.

“So, instead of continuing to focus on preventing suffering—which we simply won’t be very successful at anyway—perhaps we should begin entering the suffering, participating insofar as we are able—entering the mystery and looking around for God. In other words, we need to quit feeling sorry for people who suffer and instead look up to them, learn from them and if they will let us—join them in protest and prayer.” — Eugene H. Peterson, Introduction to Job, The Message Bible 

There’s a beauty in martyrdom that one can only see through spiritual eyes. Perhaps this is why Hannelie Groenwald can say God prepared her before the Taliban attacked, killing her husband and two children. She and her family had left the comforts of home to serve God in Afghanistan. They knew the risks and refused to deny the call of God. Her family gave it all for Jesus in Afghanistan. You can listen to her story at https://secure.persecution.com/radio. Pray for Hannelie and others who are living martyrs.

“We die only once. We might as well die for Christ.” – Werner Groenwald

The church in America can join with the body of Christ around the world to pray and remember the persecuted church on November 6th. To learn more please visit www.persecution.com/idop.

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And the smoke of the incense, which came with the prayers of the saints, ascended up before God out of the angel’s hand (Revelation 8:4).

“It was not easy for me to say that I forgive the killers.” Semse said later at the memorial service. “To be honest, my heart is broken and my life feels shattered. I really loved Necati. He was the love of my life, my closest friend. But there is no one I love more than Jesus. Only because of this, I can bear it.” — Semse Aydin from Faithful Until Death.                                                                                                                                                                                                                           Also published in  – http://www.persecutionblog.com/                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                         

The Lost Son

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Lovers of prodigals, — you never walk alone.

     The man did as he had so many mornings, — stealing away to a quiet place, outside the walls of his home. He slowly made his way to a table and chairs positioned in a shady corner of his courtyard. Here he found one of his favorite spots. The morning breeze always carried with it the air of hope. It was in the solace of this place he often began his day. Something about this hour, and the beauty of his surroundings, served as a perfect beginning to each day. It was his private space — a serene place. It was here that he often came to make peace with the emotions, and realities, that fought for dominion of his soul.  A space he had carved out for personal reflection and quite trust. Here he gave himself permission to slowly sip and enjoy a cup of tea. Alone with his thoughts — or so he thought. The truth is he was never truly alone. Nothing illustrated this more than the sounds of hawkers selling their wares in the streets, and the occasional braying of donkeys. The village was awake, and alive, — and a new day had begun. His village not unlike the others in the Middle East woke with the sounds of life. 

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Rembrandts rendition of the return of the prodigal son.

     His thoughts wandered as he listened to the voices of children playing in the streets. The sounds of their boisterous and carefree moments brought him both joy and pain. He recalled the days when it was the voices of his children that could be heard outside the walls of their home.  Those were good days. He longed to hear their voices. He allowed himself a few brief moments to silently acknowledge to himself, and his God, — the pain he valiantly carried, but, only for a moment. His accute and chronic pain, forced him to not linger long in this area of his heart — he only allowed himself brief periods of time in this place.  He feared the power of the pain that lay just beneath the surface of his soul; it’s implications far too grave.      

     This man had never imagined he would be in this place. He could not tell you how many sleepless nights had passed as he searched for answers.  What had they done wrong? Worse was the moments, hours, and days, when they longed to know where their son was. Wrestling with his imagination was exhausting. Was he safe? Was he on the street? Was he alive? He carried a chronic heartache with him daily. It is in those times that he dare not even verbalize the scenes, and scenarios, that plagued his mind. He would wish this journey on not another soul.  

     He had certainly heard from many solicited and unsolicited voices as he traveled this road of pain. He was not ignorant to the murmurs spoken both privately and publicly. He heard the whispers and was aware of the unspoken opinions displayed in their eyes. He heard their questions. He too had pondered many of them himself.  Gossip, rumors, and suspicions were not unnoticed. Their residue — an undeniable presence they would learn to live with. They had however, learned to walk through the thick fog of shame with strength, and dignity.   

     The man fully understood the ramifications of a son’s actions in a culture based on honor and shame. He knew his son’s choices would surely blanket his house with shame for many years to come. Regardless, he never wavered in his extravagant love for his son. A flame of love and hope burned eternal within his heart — in the very place that only his son could fill.  

     He knew his son was what some term a “strong willed” child. He recalled the day of his son’s birth. A son brought such honor to his home. He had big dreams for this child of his. If he were honest with himself — he still did.  

     As he allowed himself to be carried away with a multitude of memories he was unaware of those who surrounded him — yet were unseen. The King had given strict orders to those who were assigned to protect this man’s household. The King and His Son looked upon the man and his family with extravagant love. The Son could often be heard talking to the Father on behalf of their beloved sons. They made sure that the man had ample strength to carry him moment by moment. You see the King understood with vivid clarity the weight of this pain residing in the heart of the man. In fact the King was intimately acquainted with this kind of loss. This is why He never allowed him to walk alone.

Lover of prodigal sons and daughters — you are not alone. There is hope. The end of the story has yet to be written.

22-24 “But the father wasn’t listening. He was calling to the servants, ‘Quick. Bring a clean set of clothes and dress him. Put the family ring on his finger and sandals on his feet. Then get a grain-fed heifer and roast it. We’re going to feast! We’re going to have a wonderful time! My son is here—given up for dead and now alive! Given up for lost and now found!’ And they began to have a wonderful time. Luke 15:22 – 27

 

Go and Make Disciples

I wrote the following blog post in August of 2014. In wake of the terrorist attacks in Brussels yesterday it seems fitting to share it again. While the names — known, and unknown have grown exponentially since then — the conclusion remains the same.

From August 2014 – My heart is heavy after being assaulted by the evil depicted across the internet last week of the American journalist being beheaded. The morning after I had the following thoughts:

As followers of Jesus Christ we must not be deterred by evil. Our mission remains the same as the day it was given to us—Go, and make disciples.

Now is not a time to halt; and count the costs. We counted the cost when we joined. We do not serve a God who revokes His call when the news is horribly grim. He is greater than the terror-filled words being screamed at the world by evil and demonic men. The Bible is filled with examples of God’s response to terrorists who taunt His people.

To many of us, the brutality we are seeing depicted on every media outlet may seem like a “new” kind of evil. While it is indeed brutal, it is not new. Christians have faced this enemy throughout the ages, and all over the world. I am struck by the fact that while I can turn off my TV, and avoid U Tube clips of the barbaric murder of our American journalist, many do not have that luxury. For many these acts are being played out in vivid color right now. If ever a time to pray, and take action, it is now. I believe today is a time for the church of Christ to step up its game. We are in, or we are out. We are hot, or we are cold. We are willing to give our life for our cause, or we are not.

Christians in refugee camp in Turkey receive a care package

photo credit – The Voice of The Martyrs USA

 

We must guard against walls of false protection being built up around our hearts, a deceptive fortress deceiving us into thinking we can hide behind it. When confronted by those whose culture and religion are unfamiliar to us, we need to reach across the self-imposed boundaries and love.

In light of the flames of persecution spreading across the globe I feel an urgency to stand up and do my part. Now is a time to run, and not walk—to be sober and alert. It’s a time to step up our efforts and give, pray, go, speak, and do whatever God calls each of us to do. We must live our faith out loud. We have no time to waste.

photo credit Milada Vigerova via UnSplash

Perhaps the façade we have cloaked ourselves with—the one that said to us “persecution only happens to ‘them’”—is being removed for our own good?

I pray we will redeem the times, and finish well.

Stand steady, and don’t be afraid of suffering for the Lord. Bring others to Christ. Leave nothing undone that you ought to do. (2 Timothy 4:5)

Therefore go and make disciples in all the nations, baptizing them into the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and then teach these new disciples to obey all the commands I have given you; and be sure of this—that I am with you always, even to the end of the world. (Matthew 28:19-20)

I am mindful of the One I follow — Jesus — this holy week. He was well aware of the danger, and pain, and suffering He would soon face. He never waivered from God’s plan, and call on His life. The carnage the world is being assaulted with today has not taken Jesus by surprise  — to the contrary — He told us this would happen. May we finish well.

21-23“When people realize it is the living God you are presenting and not some idol that makes them feel good, they are going to turn on you, even people in your own family. There is a great irony here: proclaiming so much love, experiencing so much hate! But don’t quit. Don’t cave in. It is all well worth it in the end. It is not success you are after in such times but survival. Be survivors! Before you’ve run out of options, the Son of Man will have arrived.  Matthew 10:21-23 The Message

For more information on how to help those suffering Christian persecution please see – http://www.persecution.com

Also posted at Eternal Perspective Ministries blogs – http://www.epm.org/blog/2014/Aug/22/face-evil-faith

Why I Love Prodigals

Do you know what I love about prodigals? When they find the Father waiting with open arms — they run right into them. They find it hard to resist, or reject, such love. They quickly recognize the reflection of pure adoration in their Father’s eyes — one without even a hint, of shame or disdain. Their Father isn’t intimidated by the stench of sin on their clothing. His shameless embrace aids in ridding them of the weighty clothing they have become accustomed to. The real acceptance is received, and exchanged, for a life that will never be the same.

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Rembrandts rendition of the return of the prodigal son.

Do you know what I love about prodigals? When they return broken and scarred from the torrents of life — they are rebuilt with authenticity. They will not be comfortable in the religious confines of man-made boxes. They’ve tasted death and life — counterfeits will never suffice. They are easily identified! They are the real deal.

Do you know what I love about prodigals? I love how Jesus loves them. I love how Jesus loves those who love them too.

The Story of the Lost Sheep

15 1-3 By this time a lot of men and women of doubtful reputation were hanging around Jesus, listening intently. The Pharisees and religion scholars were not pleased, not at all pleased. They growled, “He takes in sinners and eats meals with them, treating them like old friends.” Their grumbling triggered this story.

4-7 “Suppose one of you had a hundred sheep and lost one. Wouldn’t you leave the ninety-nine in the wilderness and go after the lost one until you found it? When found, you can be sure you would put it across your shoulders, rejoicing, and when you got home call in your friends and neighbors, saying, ‘Celebrate with me! I’ve found my lost sheep!’ Count on it—there’s more joy in heaven over one sinner’s rescued life than over ninety-nine good people in no need of rescue. Luke 15:1 – 7 The Message

 

 

The Reward of Tenacious Prayer

In Richard Wurmbrand’s book Tortured for Christ he shares the story of an old carpenter whose inner turmoil led him to ask God for a reward; the prize of bringing a Jew to Christ. This carpenter not only knew how to talk to God in prayer — he had the tenacity to ask for a reward.

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“My God, I have served you on earth and I wish to have my reward on earth as well as in heaven. And my reward should be that I should not die before I bring a Jew to Christ, because Jesus was from the Jewish people. But I am poor, old, and sick. I cannot go around and seek a Jew. In my village there are none. Bring a Jew into my village and I will do my best to bring him to Christ.” – Tortured for Christ, Richard Wurmbrand.

What would happen if we had the tenacity to ask God for a reward like the old carpenter did? When I read the prayer of the carpenter I hear the voices of men of old like Abraham, Jacob, and Moses. Being unafraid to ask; they gave ear to their inner turmoil and allowed it to lead them into conversation with God.

I remember joining a prayer meeting in the Middle East once. In our small group there were men and women from Brazil, Sudan, Libya, South Korea, Egypt, America, and Syria. I watched as a woman prepared the room before we prayed. She knelt and laid upon the floor pieces of paper with the names of Syria, Egypt, Libya, and Sudan written on them. One by one we all stood and stepped forward to surround the nations represented on the floor before us. We joined hands and formed a circle around the pieces of paper. Then we took turns praying for the countries and people represented. The sound of prayer in each native tongue was beautiful beyond description. We prayed passionately for a reward – the hearts of lost people.

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Among those in our circle was one of two men who had been imprisoned for their part in delivering Bibles to one of the countries we prayed for. He was imprisoned in a country that was not his own for over one year. He survived the imprisonment and torture inflicted on them while in prison. His friend did not — he died as a result of the beatings he endured. Another one of the men there has barely escaped arrest for his evangelistic activity a number of times. Today he regularly visits mosques in his country and prays quietly for the souls of those he is surrounded by. In countries hostile to the gospel men, women, and children are asking God for the reward of bringing their Muslim neighbors to Christ. The limits to God’s answers to our tenacious prayers are boundless.

How beautiful on the mountains are the feet of the messenger who brings good news, the good news of peace and salvation, the news that the God of Israel reigns! – Isaiah 52:7 NLT

     In 1844 Willem Ten Boom started a weekly prayer service for the Jewish people and the peace of Jerusalem. Later his son Casper continued in prayer for the Jewish people with his own family. The meetings continued for 100 years, until February 28, 1944 when Nazi soldiers arrested Casper and his family for hiding Jews. The Ten Boom home was open to anyone in need and provided — a hiding place for Jews and members of the Dutch underground. The end result was the rescue of 800 Jewish people.

You too can join in one voice with our brothers and sisters in hostile and restricted nations. The Voice of the Martyrs 2016 prayer map  is a great resource to use when praying. Your prayers may be the wings God uses to usher the next Saul to Paul conversion in our times. Perhaps they will be the fabric that sustains a prisoner yet another moment, hour, or day? You may not know the full effects of your prayers this side of heaven — but, be assured they are heard.  BOMPMP16

 Then another angel, having a golden censer, came and stood at the altar. He was given much incense that he should offer it with the prayers of all the saints upon the golden altar which was before the throne. And the smoke of the incense, with the prayers of the saints, ascended before God from the angel’s hand. Revelations 8:3-4 NLT

 

Order The Voice of The Martyrs free Special Issue and receive the prayer map insert at www.persecution.com.

Images – The Voice of The Martyrs – USA

Blog posted on Persecution Blog too — http://www.persecutionblog.com/2016/02/the-reward-of-tenacious-prayer.html

 

 

 

 

 

 

Beginning A New Chapter

It is this time of the year that I begin to look back over the past year and ever so gently release my hold on it. To slowly process the journey of yesterday, and embrace my story. Reviewing each chapter and acknowledging the right of the author to pen them exactly as He chose. Re-living for a moment the storms forever etched in my heart — and seeing God’s thumb print on them all.  Recalling every rocky road, uncertain path, deep valley, and mountain top written into my storyline — with humility and awe. DSCN4712 (2)
 There are chapters in last year’s story I savor, and others I gently close. Some were written through the blur of tears, and pain — but, never without a purpose; that only the author of my story may fully understand. Other chapters filled with joy and laughter and laced with love. I am grateful for the lessons of yesterday and the moral of the story — sometimes found by reading between the lines.
14 Thank you for making me so wonderfully complex! It is amazing to think about. Your workmanship is marvelous—and how well I know it. Psalm 139:14 NLT
As I release yesterday, I am met with rest for today, and impossible dreams for tomorrow. It is then that I begin to step into the storyline prepared for me in this coming year.
One of walking barefoot along the shores of a beautifully calm ocean. As cool and refreshing waters from the ocean tides gently wash across my feet; taking with them the prints left in the sand behind me. Leaving me surrounded by steady waters, and unmarked sands. Looking ahead and walking ever so closely to the shoreline — I am met with constant rhythms of cleansing waters — prepared for me. In front of me I can see that the unmarked sands and land ahead is limitless and waiting for me to step into it.
“Dreams are not fulfilled by the sensible. True passion loves the impossible” – Graham Cooke
I am thankful that God is not intimidated by my yesterdays. That I can rest knowing He is well aware of my tomorrows, and present in my today. I look forward to starting a new chapter in 2016
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A Song We Sing With Our Lives

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Image – The Voice of The Martyrs USA

I recently returned from an I Commit conference hosted in the state of Washington. While there I heard a young man named Gilbert Hovsepain share his testimony. Gilbert is one of the sons of Rev. Haik Hovsepian, who was martyred in 1994 in Iran. The documentary A Cry From Iran , tells the story of Rev. Haik and his family.

Gilbert began his testimony that morning by making a statement about the “song we sing with our lives.” Since that day I have rolled those words over many times in my mind. It has led me to ponder, — what song is my life singing?

I believe we greatly error when we listen to the stories of our brothers and sisters who have suffered for Christ from afar. When we filter their living testimonies through the lenses of — us and them. For the follower of Jesus Christ, it has never been us and them. It is us and Him. The genuine lives of our persecuted family draw us closer to the cross — in a reformed unity. Together we are one voice in harmony with  the heart of God.

There is a beauty in martyrdom that can only be viewed through spiritual eyes. Victorious shouts that reverberate throughout the heavens. A crowd of witnesses cheering the martyrs on to the finish line. A homecoming celebration for those who have overcome. My heart is filled with joy as I imagine those who spent their time on earth as persecutors, now won to Christ by a the songs of love. Once on opposite sides — now family.

I tell you that in the same way there will be more rejoicing in heaven over one sinner who repents than over ninety-nine righteous persons who do not need to repent. Luke 5:7 NLT

The entry fee to join the voices of those who suffer is simple, yet costly — we must enter into the fellowship of their suffering. The Message Bible’s introduction to the book of Job describes this fellowship eloquently.

So, instead of continuing to focus on preventing suffering — which we simply won’t be very successful at anyway — perhaps we should begin entering the suffering, participating insofar as we are able — entering the mystery and looking around for God. In other words, we need to quit feeling sorry for people who suffer and instead look up to them, learn from them and if they will let us — join them in protest and prayer.” – Eugene H. Peterson

One way to enter the fellowship of suffering is to join the chorus of those who will remember our persecuted family in prayer on the International Day of Prayer for the Persecuted church . This coming Sunday voices from all over the globe will share in remembering and praying for our persecuted family.

One of those we can remember to pray for is Farshid Fathi of Iran. Farshid was arrested in December of 2010 and remains in prison till this day. You can read more about Farshid’s story and portions of letters he has written from prison at Prisoner Alert. Farshid’s witness was the inspiration for the song titled A Letter From Prison, written and preformed by his friend Gilbert Hosvepian.

May our hearts never be satisfied with being on the sidelines. May we be a chorus of surrender alongside of our persecuted family. May our lives be melodies of living sacrifice. May we be a song of love for both those who suffer and those who persecute.      

They cried out with a loud voice, “O Sovereign Lord, holy and true, how long before you will judge and avenge our blood on those who dwell on the earth?” Revelation 6:10 ESV

The Bigger Question

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This week the world was once again assaulted by yet another senseless act of violence. This time the carnage took place in a small community many Americans may have never heard of before — Roseburg, Oregon. Eye witness accounts describe the gunman in this mass shooting at Umpqua Community College as demanding that students stand up and answer his question. Reportedly the killer then asked the students if they were Christians, if they replied yes, he said “Good, because you’re a Christian, you will be seeing God in about a one second”, then he shot them dead.

The news of this mass shooting has been spread both near and far, and across many different forms of media. The imprint  this evil act has left behind has sparked dialogues, speculation, and debates about the root of such heinous acts of violence. While this certainly merits attention; I wonder if there is a bigger question we should be discussing? A deeper inquiry into the lives of those who rose to their feet that day. What would cause the Christians who were slain in that dark moment to confirm their faith — rather than deny it? What do they possess that is of greater value then their very lives?  I think these are the same questions asked by those who witnessed the martyrdom of the twelve disciples that choose to follow in the foot steps of Jesus Christ.

Persecution of Christians always has a reverse effect. This is why Tertullian could write – “The blood of the martyrs is the seed of the church”. It’s why Jesus cried out to His Father while being crucified; asking for forgiveness for the sins of His torturers.

34 And Jesus said,“Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do.”

And they cast lots to divide his garments. Luke 23:34. ESV 

All over the world, and at this very moment, persecuted Christians are uttering the same words to God on behalf of their persecutors today

As the world began to learn more about the mass shooting in Roseburg; including eye-witness accounts of the shooter singling out Christian students for execution; a media campaign began. A new hashtag can be seen on social media profiles, and accounts, declaring —#IAmAChristian. Four words that come with a price for those who own them.

There is no exception or exemption. If you choose to follow Jesus you will suffer persecution.

And all nations will hate you because you are my followers. But everyone who endures to the end will be saved.

Matthew 10:22 NLT

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Image – UTube

Last February, Libyan Islamic State (IS) militants released video footage of the martyrdom of Coptic Christian men in Libya. The footage of their martyrdom included a caption that read — “The people of the cross, followers of the hostile Egyptian church.” The 21 men who knelt before their persecutors were identified as ‘people of the cross’, and asked to deny their faith or die. Many of the men are seen uttering their final words on this earth — “Lord Jesus Christ.”

While it was reported that all of the men where Coptic Christians from poor villages in Upper Egypt; it was later discovered that this wasn’t the case. One of the men martyred that day was identified as Mathew Ayairga; a young man from Chad. He is believed to not have been a Christian before kneeling in the sand beside the ‘people of the cross.’ Witnessing the courage and faith of the Egyptian Christians he also chose to follow Jesus.  Perhaps he understood the bigger question? Mere moments before Matthew was executed, His executors are seen asking “Do you reject Christ?” His reply was “Their God is my God.” Four costly words.

 Perhaps the answer to the bigger questions is that followers of Jesus Christ embraced the cost of being a Christian. Maybe like Stephen in the book of acts they see beyond this temporal realm we call life. Could it be they had already given up their lives? In reality not one of their lives were taken — they laid them down. They offered them up.  Could it be they had already reconciled the fact that their lives were not their own?

The martyrs who stood to face sure death and those who knelt to face certain death — now live — together alongside a multitude of their family who has gone before them. I can only imagine the reception they received as they stepped out of their earthly bodies and took in their first heavenly breath. As they each took their place alongside the multitude crying out before the throne of God.

They shouted to the Lord and said, “O Sovereign Lord, holy and true, how long before you judge the people who belong to this world and avenge our blood for what they have done to us?” Revelations 6:10 NLT

Following Jesus has never been safe. The Christians in Mosul Iraq understand the cost of being of the sect of the Nazarene. Last summer in northern Iraq, the Islamic State (IS) painted the Arabic letter ن, or “N,” on properties, homes, and businesses of Christians. Those who owned the property were identified as Christians and given the choice to deny their faith or suffer at the hands of their persecutors. They were forced out of their homes with barely the clothes on their backs.

I Am NWe may, or may not, be asked to lay this life down as our persecuted brothers and sisters have, and do, today — but, we should live as if we were. Like those in Roseburg, Libya, Egypt, North Korea, Iraq, Syria, and many other hostile and restricted countries; we can stand, kneel, speak, go, and pray.

Yes, I am a Christian — and I am N. I will stand, I will kneel, and I will go.

Remember those in prison, as if you were there yourself. Remember also those being mistreated, as if you felt their pain in your own bodies. Hebrews 13:3 NLT

  The Voice of the Martyrs is offering a tangible way to show your commitment to our persecuted family. You can show the world around you that you are “N” too. You can make your commitment to pray and stand with our persecuted family facing Islamic Extremism. Please see – I Am N bracelets at – http://www.persecution.com/.

~ The Village ~

Basam 122

Long before my arrival in the village, I had visited this place in my imagination; and visualized the people who live there. Guided by excitement and anticipation, I ran different scenarios through my mind of what my first encounters with those who call this village home may be like. Unlike others who have chosen to make eternal investments and live amongst the people, — I am a visitor. I wondered to myself; how would we be received? Who might we meet?

As we neared the village entrance I noticed women wearing the Islamic dress called hijab (scarfs or veils worn by Muslim women). Some may have looked upon them with fear and apprehension — I see a beautiful mired of colors gently covering those who are made in the image of God — not unlike myself.

The women and I exchanged smiles and my excitement grew. There is little that compares to the warm and welcome exchange that needs no translation — a heartfelt smile. I hoped and prayed that I would be given the gift of meeting these beautiful women.

I had come prepared to meet children; armed with coloring books, crayons, colored pens, bubbles, and games. It didn’t take long to recognize where the village children were gathered. We made our way over to them and found the best seat in the house — the ground. I wanted to be eye to eye with them, and hopefully set a stage that was welcoming. Thank God children error in being uninhibited, and soon we were surrounded by small people from a number of different nations.DSCN4284

One of the young Middle Eastern girls caught my attention almost immediately. She was about the size of a 10 year old child. I have learned to listen to that quite voice that urges me to pay attention, and look to see what He is saying in moments like this. I began to engage her in conversation and she was more than willing to join in. I quickly learned that her name was Samaa. She shared with me that she was 17 years old but suffered with an illness that made her appear much younger and smaller. I learned that her brother had died from a similar sickness. She spoke as one with strength, dignity, and without a hint of pity. Her bright brown eyes and contagious smile permeated my heart. She and her family are Iraqi refugees.

I could have looked quietly into her brown eyes and listened to her stories for hours, even days. She eventually asked if we would come to her home and meet her mother. We gladly accepted her invitation and joined her and her sister as we made our way to their flat. Once inside her home we were greeted by her mother who was a quite gracious woman. The family began to share with us some of the projects they enjoying doing together. I gave my best try at speaking Arabic with them which allowed for a great time of laughing together. While there Samaa drew me a picture of a flower with I love you in Arabic written above it. We spent short yet precious moments together that night. I told them I would return to see them again. I’m looking forward to that day!

I am humbled, and honored that the Lord would allow me to meet Samaa and her family. I will talk to God about them often. A chance encounter — I think not. In fact, I don’t’ believe in random coincidences. I would fly across the globe to meet Samaa and her family. I didn’t have to do that this time — I was in America. God may call you to go to the other side of the earth — or across the street; either way you will be so glad you did!

The measure of a life, after all, is not its duration but its donation.”  -Corrie ten Boom