Saturday, June 29, 2019

Day of the Christian Martyr 2019

This weekend, many Christians are honoring the memory and legacy of those who have sacrificed their lives for the advancement of the gospel. According to early church tradition, the Apostle Paul was martyred on June 29 in Rome during the reign of Emperor Nero in the mid-to-late sixties of the first century AD. The Voice of the Martyrs (VOM), an interdenominational Christian missions organization that has been serving our persecuted brothers and sisters worldwide since 1967, maintains a memorial to martyrs at its Oklahoma headquarters (all photos courtesy of VOM).

This year, VOM will add a plaque honoring Werner, Rodé and Jean-Pierre Groenewald, who were murdered by the Taliban on November 29, 2014 while serving in Kabul, Afghanistan. On the day of the attack, Taliban fighters (one reportedly wearing a police uniform) scaled the walls of the Christian compound, and began firing with AK-47s. Werner, along with several afghans, were shot to death while he was teaching a leadership-training class. The two teens, Jean-Pierre, 17, and Rodé, 15, were killed in the Groenewald’s upstairs apartment, also with an AK-47. Gunfire and explosions could be heard for over an hour. Werner's wife Hannelie, who was working at a nearby clinic that day, was the only family survivor.

The Groenewalds: Rodé, Hannelie, Werner, Jean-Pierre

It is said of the Groenewalds, like many other Christian martyrs before and after, that "they counted the cost. They knew Christ was worthy, and they willingly put their lives on the line and paid the ultimate price."

We encourage our readers to watch the induction ceremony, as well as read more of their inspiring story at VOM's Day of the Christian Martyr 2019 webpage. It is also a great reminder for us to continue praying for the persecuted worldwide.

The VOM memorial, similar to the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier, also has a plaque labelled "KNOWN BUT TO GOD - We honor countless Martyrs with names unknown on Earth, but whose witness and sacrifice are celebrated in Heaven - Psalm 116:15". The writer of Hebrews undoubtedly had both known and unknown martyrs in mind when he wrote these words:

And what more shall I say? I do not have time to tell about Gideon, Barak, Samson and Jephthah, about David and Samuel and the prophets, who through faith conquered kingdoms, administered justice, and gained what was promised; who shut the mouths of lions, quenched the fury of the flames, and escaped the edge of the sword; whose weakness was turned to strength; and who became powerful in battle and routed foreign armies. Women received back their dead, raised to life again. There were others who were tortured, refusing to be released so that they might gain an even better resurrection. Some faced jeers and flogging, and even chains and imprisonment. They were put to death by stoning; they were sawed in two; they were killed by the sword. They went about in sheepskins and goatskins, destitute, persecuted and mistreated— the world was not worthy of them. They wandered in deserts and mountains, living in caves and in holes in the ground. - Heb 11:32-38
Hebrews chapter 11 is often called "The Faith Chapter". The books of the Bible were not divided into chapters until the sixteenth century AD, so immediately following, we read these words:
Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles. And let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us, fixing our eyes on Jesus, the pioneer and perfecter of faith. For the joy set before him he endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God. - Heb 12:1-2
So, even though all Christians will not have to die a martyr's death, we are to follow the example of these ever-increasing "great cloud of witnesses" by following the Lord Jesus wherever He leads.

Sunday, November 11, 2018

Honoring our Veterans – Veterans Day Weekend 2018

Each year, November 11 is recognized as a day of solemn reflection throughout many nations in honor of those who bravely served them. The day is known by many names, including Armistice Day, Remembrance Day in British Commonwealth countries, and Veterans Day in the United States. This year also marks the 100 year anniversary of the armistice to end World War 1, signed between the allied countries and Germany at Compiègne, France on November 11, in 1918. The armistice went into effect at 11am Paris time, on the 11th hour of the 11th day of the 11th month.

In the United States this year, Monday, November 12 is set aside to commemorate and honor and recognize their service to the nation. Although we should honor our veterans every day, please make a special effort to thank all of those you know. Although most veterans don’t seek attention, it shouldn’t be difficult to find one. There are over 20 million former and active veterans in our country today. Even if you can’t thank them in person, please observe a moment to thank God for our brave men, women and their families.

Marine Corps Birthday 243rd Birthday

Coinciding with this Veteran’s Day weekend is the 243rd birthday of the US Marine Corps, whose origins trace from an October 1775 plan by the Continental Congress to use Marines to oversee a mission to intercept ammunition shipments from Britain during the Revolutionary War. The following month, a resolution was adopted that officially created a standing Marine Corps force on November 10, 1775, the date that became the USMC birthday. True to their humble roots, the Marine Corps Birthday is not a federal holiday, but observed only internally by the military branches; although some local government and civic organizations sometimes hold various events to honor the men and women of the Marines. The primary historical celebration is the traditional Marine Corps Birthday Ball. The first known Birthday Ball was held in 1925 Philadelphia, but is now held annually in our nation’s capital.

WWI Memorial Cross in Jeopardy

This Veterans Day Weekend also coincides with the recent Supreme Court’s agreement to hear arguments in the case of the Bladensburg Peace Cross. The dispute began in 2014 when members of the American Humanist Association filed a lawsuit to have the memorial removed, claiming it discriminates against soldiers who were not Christian. The humanists were later joined by the Council on American-Islamic Relations in their efforts to destroy the cross that has stood for almost 100 years, and was financed by the American Legion and private donors.

Stella Morabito at the Federalist has a must-read article in which she writes:

Sadly, precious few Americans today know a single thing about World War I. This is unconscionable, because we can still feel its aftershocks all over the world today. Forgetting our history has very damaging consequences if we ever hope to attain real progress in this world. And the point of war memorials is to remind us of such things, and to bid us never to forget.

So there is great poignancy in the timing of the Supreme Court’s recent agreement to consider the case of The American Legion et al. v. the American Humanist Association et al. The court will decide whether a World War I memorial in Bladensburg, Md., may remain standing, or if it constitutes an illegal mix of church and state. The American Legion is appealing the Oct 18, 2017, decision of the Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals that the memorial must go, which overturned a previous ruling allowing the memorial to stand.

Ms Morabito also explains the religious and historical aspects of why we need the memorial cross. Other excellent articles are from World Net Daily, a concise story on the SCOTUS taking the case, and the Daily Signal, who has the perspective from actual veterans on their thoughts about the efforts to remove the memorial cross.

Please be in prayer for the families of these veterans and all others involved in this very important religious freedom case.

WWI and Technology

WWI tank We’ll end this post on a lighter note. I was reading through this month’s issue of Electrical Construction and Maintenance (EC&M) Magazine, when I came across an article on Electricity and World War I. The subject of the article was the pivotal role that electricity played in the First World War. This article is also the source of the old photos used in this post.

The article notes some of the “firsts” that were introduced into combat during the First World War, in addition to rapidly developing electrical technology such as warplanes for bombing, steel helmets, blood banks, and guide dogs. In 1917 and 1918, the Holt Manufacturing Co and General Electric Co collaborated to invent the Holt gas-electric tank, the first prototype tank built in the United States. The tank used a gasoline engine connected to an electric generator to provide power to its various parts. Unfortunately, the tank was prone to overheating and lacking maneuverability, so the machine was the only one of its kind built. Fortunately, it was not needed since not a single American-made tank ever saw service in the war, and the US dominated technical development and manufacturing afterward.

In other technological gains, incandescent and carbon-arc searchlights became game changers for the allies. These lights were crucial for nighttime operations such as navigation, illuminating enemy ships, blinding enemy troops to allow torpedo boats to navigate closer to enemy ships, and for spotting and guiding warplanes during bombing raids (no GPS in those days).

WWI battleships also benefited greatly from advancements in electrical technology. Most devices and equipment were electrically power and operated, many by remote control. In addition, electricity was now being used to pivot and aim guns, and to lift ammunition from the magazines up to the guns.

The various weapons such as rifles, machine guns, artillery, mortars, and flamethrowers, led to millions of human injuries and created a medical crisis. In response, Marie Curie, a Polish and naturalized-French physicist and chemist who became the first woman to win a Nobel Prize, invented the “radiological car” (aka the “Curie car”). This vehicle contained an X-ray machine (a recently invented medical diagnostic tool) and photographic darkroom equipment. This invention allowed medics to bring this new technology to the battlefield. Ms Curie also incorporated an electrical generator into the car to power the X-ray machine.

WWI also resulted in the establishment of the first blood bank. Oswald Robertson, a US Army doctor came up with the idea of storing blood prior to the arrival of casualties. He established the first blood bank on the Western Front in 1917, from where it was transported to various medical stations as needed. This idea is credited with preventing thousands of deaths.

Finally, we mention that after the war, Dr Kurt Huldschinsky, a German pediatrician of Polish descent, noticed that many of his young patients were extremely pale. In addition, it is thought that about half of Berlin’s children suffered from rickets (a softening, weakening and/or deformation of skeletal bones). Since sunlamps had been used throughout the war to help treat soldiers’ wounds, the doctor began placing a few of the children under mercury-quartz lamps which emitted ultraviolet (UV) light. His patient’s bones slowly became stronger and the following summer (1919), he also began having them sit in the sun. The doctor’s research eventually led to the discovery that the process of Vitamin D strengthens the bones with calcium is triggered by UV light. Thus, God used the circumstances of the war to cure this children’s ailment.

In closing, we ask once again that we pray for, and honor all our veterans and their families.

Sunday, November 4, 2018

International Day of Prayer for the Persecuted Church 2018

Today marks the annual International Day of Prayer for the Persecuted Church (IDOP), a day on which churches, Christian groups, and individuals across our nation and the world join together in prayer for our persecuted brothers and sisters in the Faith. This year’s observance coincides with breaking news of another deadly attack on Christians in Egpyt, and a critical turning point in a decade-old case in Pakistan.

In Egypt, several Christians were killed and over a dozen injured in the second bus massacre in the past year. Two church buses were returning from a visit to a desert monastery when they were violently attacked by masked gunmen. One bus driver managed to escape with his passengers unharmed, but the second, including family members returning from a baptism, suffered the casualties.

The Islamic State, who frequently targets Egypt’s Coptic Christians, has claimed responsibility for the attack. This was merely the latest in a long string of attacks on the Coptic Christian community, who proclaim to trace their roots back to Mark, the companion of Peter and writer of the second Gospel. Let's please keep this group in our prayers.

Asia BibiThe second story is undoubtedly one of the highest profile cases over the past decade. It involves the acquittal of a Christian woman, Asia “Bibi” Noreen, after spending eight years on death row in Pakistan for the false charge of blasphemy. Since her arrest, countless Christians, including ourselves, have been fervently praying for her release. This is a long story so we’ll give the highlights and include links for those interested in learning more details.

Ms Bibi’s ordeal began in 2009, when she brought a bucket of water to some Muslim co-laborers who were harvesting fruit. The women claimed that, since Ms Bibi was a Christian, she had made the cup “unclean” and as a result, they could no longer drink from it. They later beat Ms Bibi at her home, and after she refused to convert to Islam, her co-workers complained to the police. They accused her of “blasphemy” and claimed she even confessed during the beating. This resulted in to her arrest; after which she was convicted of blasphemy and sentenced to death by hanging.

Pakistan added blasphemy as a separate article to their penal codes in 1986. These blasphemy laws, which carry a recommended sentence of death or life imprisonment, are extremely controversial and almost impossible to defend against, since the law code does not even define what actually constitutes “blasphemy”. Thus, it is often used (or more accurately, abused) in disagreements with, and to target religious minorities.

After Ms Bibi’s conviction, she spent eight years in prison while her appeal hearing was repeatedly delayed, until finally receiving a hearing and being freed this past week (Oct 31, 2018). Yet, this could turn out to be only a temporary victory. The Tehreek-i-Labaik (TLP) party, an Islamic extremist group, immediately organized and launched nationwide protests calling for Ms Bibi’s execution. Due to these protests, her lawyer fled to Europe for his own safety. Even more troubling however, Pakistani officials, in an agreement with the extremists to stop the protests, agreed to ban Ms Bibi from leaving the Pakistan even though several countries have offered her asylum. We must continue to pray for Ms Bibi’s safety since many attempts have already been made on her life, and likely will continue until she is allowed to leave.

For more information, the BBC has a good article on Why Pakistani Christians are Targeted, and Open Doors USA writes about Five Things Christians Need to Know about Asia Bibi and the Church in Pakistan.

I find very few things as inspiring as listening to the stories of Christians that are being or have been imprisoned, persecuted and even martyred for their faith. I rarely hear them request prayers for their own comfort. Instead, they typically ask for grace to forgive their persecutors (Mt 5:43-44, Rom 12:14) and for courage to continue to spread the Word (Ac 4:29), even to those who are oppressing them. In these faithful saints, we’re seeing true first century Christianity displayed before our very eyes. Please continue to pray (Heb 13:3).

Sunday, May 27, 2018

Memorial Day Tribute 2018

We wanted to begin by alerting our readers to a new temporary display this year in our nation's capital near the Lincoln Memorial.  According to

poppy fieldThe Poppy Memorial is a translucent structure that measures 133 feet long, 8 1/2 feet tall and is filled with more than 645,000 poppy flowers — honoring every man and woman who gave their life in service of our nation since World War I.  USAA is sponsoring the installation.  Inspired by John McCrae's World War I poem, “In Flanders Fields,” the poppy is a widely-recognized symbol of remembrance.

“The poppy flower symbolizes those who gave the last full measure in defense of our freedoms,” said Vice Admiral (Ret) John Bird, USAA Senior Vice President of Military Affairs.  The Poppy Memorial visualizes the magnitude of that sacrifice and reminds us all of the price that was paid.  We are grateful to the National Park Service for allowing us to display this inspiring and educational exhibit among the permanent monuments, as a testament to the enduring bravery of our men and women in uniform.”

In conjunction with the memorial, USAA has set up a website, Poppy in Memory, where anyone can dedicate a poppy to a fallen hero, and the poppy will then be added to the display.

For our annual Memorial Day Remembrance, see our 2018 Memorial Day Tribute to our fallen heroes who made the ultimate sacrifice for our freedoms. God Bless our Troops!

Saturday, March 3, 2018

Finding The Right School Before Moving

Guest Post by Tilda Moore of OpenEducators:

Note: The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and may not necessarily reflect those of ad Dei Gloriam Ministries.

Whether it’s because you found a great job or you just want to change where you live, you are planning a big move. With all the work you have to put into finding the house, hiring movers, and dealing with mortgages, it’s easy to forget about finding the right school.

Image Source: Pixabay
girl studying Your kids’ school will have a huge effect on their development both in terms of education and social life. You make friends for life in school, and it obviously impacts your college chances. That’s why it pays to find the right school before moving. You need to start by looking at where the schools are in your new hometown.

The Neighborhood Matters

Urban planning and school district boundaries cannot be perfect. That means you can find a great house and still have a bad school. That’s why you have to look at the neighborhood where the school is at as well as your new home.

The New York Times explains that the longer your children go to school in a bad area, the worse things get for them. The quality of a neighborhood affects those who live in it. Since your kids spend so much of their time at school, that area can mean more than where your home is located.

Several questions you have to ask about the school’s immediate area are:

  1.   Is there a lot of graffiti?
  2.   Are there abandoned buildings nearby?
  3.   Do you see many school-age children running around when school is in session?
  4.   Do you suspect illegal activity nearby?
All of these are indicators that the surrounding area is bad, which typically means the school isn’t doing well either.

Contact Them Online

Even if a school is located in a good neighborhood, that doesn’t guarantee the school itself is good. That’s why you should contact local schools before you move. Ask them about their curriculum, discipline, and funding. Although school funding isn’t always tied to student achievement, how many bad schools do you find in rich areas?

You should also make sure all teachers are certified and, for elementary schools, that recess is still offered. Young kids need recess to establish good exercise habits and burn off excess energy.

But what type of school should you look for? These days, there are often several choices for people moving into a new home. These include:

  •   Public schools
  •   Magnet schools (which are usually still public)
  •   Charter schools
  •   Religious and private schools
Some communities even offer virtual schools where students stay at home and attend classes online.

How To Change Your Mind

You did your research and found what looked like the best choice. But a few weeks or months into the school year, you start to realize that you made a mistake. That’s not uncommon as you really never know until you enroll there. What can you do?

Although the law states children must attend school, says you still have some school choice. Before you leave, talk to the school administration about your concerns. If they cannot be addressed, you have to send a formal withdrawal letter to the school. Then you can enroll your kids elsewhere or even homeschool them.

The Right School Is So Important

Admittedly, it’s hard to find a great school before you move. But there are things you can do to tip the odds in your favor. Check out the school’s neighborhood and talk to them before enrolling. You often have a choice of schools these days, so don’t be afraid to withdraw from a school that’s not working out for your kids. After all, they’re the important ones in this scenario.

Sunday, February 25, 2018

Untold Story of North Korea at the Winter Olympics

By now, we’ve all seen the fawning headlines and stories of the media’s lovefest with Kim Yo Jong, the sister, close adviser and confidant to North Korean dictator Kim Jong Un. We haven't seen adoration like this from the media since the death of Fidel Castro. Here’s a small sampling:

NY Times: Kim Jong-un’s Sister Turns on the Charm, Taking Pence’s Spotlight

Washington Post: The “Ivanka Trump of North Korea” captivates people in the South

Associated Press: At Olympic Games, Kim Jong Un’s sister takes VIP seat

Reuters: North Korea heads for diplomacy gold medal at Olympics

Yahoo: All swagger and smiles, Kim Jung Un's mysterious sister gets her star turn at Winter Olympics

The winner of the “KJU Fan Club Best Propaganda Award” predictably went to CNN for a story entitled “Kim Jong Un's sister is stealing the show at the Winter Olympics”. The article began with

If “diplomatic dance” were an event at the Winter Olympics, Kim Jong Un's younger sister would be favored to win gold.

With a smile, a handshake and a warm message in South Korea's presidential guest book, Kim Yo Jong has struck a chord with the public just one day into the PyeongChang Games.

Seen by some as her brother’s answer to American first daughter Ivanka Trump, Kim, 30, is not only a powerful member of Kim Jong Un’s kitchen cabinet but also a foil to the perception of North Korea as antiquated and militaristic.

CNN thus implies that, KJU’s sister flashing a smile offsets all the images and other news coming out of N Korea. Evidently, all the military parades, missile tests, and the killings of vast numbers of their citizens were totally misinterpreted by those outside of the media. CNN gives us further enlightenment of how we’ve further misunderstood N Korea in a separate article.

Babilina Hwang, a visiting professor at Georgetown, told CNN that “Kim Yo Jong is the perfect counterpart to [Ivanka Trump]. And it also is a signal that North Korea is not this crazy, weird former Cold War state -- but it too has young women that are capable and are the future leadership.”

So according to CNN, if you’re a young woman looking for a great career with advancement opportunities, send your resume to Kim Jong Un today! To CNN’s credit, the writer did include some information that distinguished the article from that of a a press release written by the N Korean public affairs office.

But as North Korea's brutal dictator, Kim's brother has ruled with an iron fist since coming to power, operating Nazi-style prison camps, repressing political opposition and even executing senior officers and his own family members in an effort to consolidate power.

CNN also included the fact that Kim Yo Jong is a close aide to her brother, but you have to look for it deep into the article. The writer also mentioned the 2-3 million N Koreans that have starved over the past couple of decades, but blamed this on famine caused by withdrawal of food subsidies from China and Russia, collective farming [state-run and controlled], flooding and droughts. There was no mention of the millions and millions of dollars of foreign aid for food that was routinely diverted to the military, including nuclear facilities, but this would have contradicted CNN’s portrayal of N Korea as a modern peace-loving progressive society.

The North Korea that the Media Ignores:

We’re all familiar with North Korean dictator Kim Jong Un’s constant threats of nuclear war, but there are many other stories that get ignored by the media. We often see videos of enthusiastic cheering by his military leaders and others around him, but no mention that KJU imprisons and tortures anyone who he even suspects of hinting at disloyalty to his regime. His government has systematically destroyed churches and attempted to eradicate any signs of Christianity except for a few “token” churches left open to promote his claims of religious freedom. Any true Church leaders and Christians are routinely rounded up and sent to prison camps.

Even associating with a Christian can result in being detained for questioning. In shades of Nazi Germany, children are targeted early for government propaganda and brain washing (the American left has also very successfully adopted this strategy). During school days, a few children are assigned the “honor” of keeping watch while the other students are studying or playing at recess. What do they watch for? They are told to watch for incoming bombing raids by American war planes. This is one of the reasons for lack of resistance to the N Korean nuclear program. People are taught from childhood that attacks by the West are imminent. Children are also taught to spy on their parents and neighbors, so Christians must pray with their eyes open and worship secretly, even in the “privacy” of their own homes.

“Offenders” are typically sent to prison camps for the smallest of infractions. There are two types of prison camps in N Korea. Both are basically concentration camps in which prisoners are used as harsh slave labor for government-owned factories, and are also subject to torture and public executions. The Kyohwaso is a re-education type camp for those accused of “lesser” offences. Theoretically, prisoners are eligible for release after completing their sentence and deemed to be “rehabilitated”, but many don’t survive the harsh conditions. The Kwanliso camps are for more “serious” crimes such as criticizing the government or attempting to flee the country. Prisoners in these camps are considered beyond redemption, so are basically under a life sentence in order to “protect” society.

Some Christians might be “fortunate” to be sent to a Kyohwaso camp, but many are sent to one of the Kwanliso camps since Christianity is considered as dangerous as narcotics in N Korea. Christians are also seen as political prisoners, since Christianity is viewed by the NK government as a means by which the West attempts to “invade” and infiltrate the country with Western and capitalist ideas. Nearly 40 percent of prisoners die from the beatings and/or starvation. Many others manage to barely survive by eating some of the rats that infest the camp. It is estimated that about 30% (30,000) of 100,000 N Korean Christians currently are imprisoned in one of the Kwanliso camps.

The Seed of the Gospel from a Highly Unlikely Source

Yet, even in the darkness is a glimmer of light, as reported in The Voice of the Martyrs February 2018 Newsmagazine. Here, we find the story of “Kyung-ja” (names changed for protection), a mid-fifties North Korean woman detained because her daughter had defected to South Korea. As Kyung-ja was being beaten with a club, she drifted in and out of consciousness and heard the guard shouting out unfamiliar words like “God”, “Jesus” and “Bible”.

After two months of beatings, it was determined that Kyung-ja had no ties to Christianity so we was sent to a Kyohwaso camp for “re-education”. Her curiosity had been peaked however, so one day she asked a fellow prisoner, “What is God, and what is a Bible?” The prisoner whispered that “There is such a thing, but you must not ask [for your own safety]”.

After six months, during which she witnessed many atrocities and deaths of fellow prisoners, Kyung-ja was released. Eventually, her daughter was able to raise enough money and obtain the aid of a pastor to help Kyung-Ja defect to S Korea. Only then, was she able to obtain some answers to her questions about Christianity.

Today, Kyung-ja never misses a worship service or an opportunity to share her testimony with others. She also works with a VOM-sponsored ministry that reaches out to N Korean Christians and defectors. The irony is not lost on her that, if she had never been arrested, she would have never heard of Christianity, and that the seeds of the Gospel were planted by a N Korean guard attempting to eradicate Christianity.

Kyung-ja story is amazing, but not as uncommon as we might think. Similarly, we continually see large numbers of Muslims turning to Christianity due to the brutal tactics of groups like ISIS, Boko Harem (W Africa), Al Shabaab (E Africa), Al Qaeda, FARC (Colombia), and others. I heard of one case about 18 months ago, where Muslim neighbors hid Christians in their homes after their village church had been attacked and burned by Islamic terrorists. Just as in the first few centuries in which the blood of the martyrs was the seed, we now see unequaled numbers of Muslims coming to Christ.

Let’s continue to pray for Christians in restricted and hostile nations.

Saturday, December 16, 2017

Open Doors

We’ve just published a new article, Should Christians Celebrate Christmas? on our main site. We always attempt to write all articles with a good balance of conviction and charity, particularly on articles that may involve polemics and gray areas of the Bible. Although we try our best, we often fall short of the ideal, usually on the side of favoring conviction over charity. This subject can be a very emotional one for those on both sides of the argument, so we’ve attempted to make an extra effort to present a balanced account of the evidence. We mention this article because one of the arguments for the celebration of Christmas is that it opens many doors to share with non-believers about the real meaning of the holiday.

When the Scriptures speak of an open door, the author is often referring to an opportunity to share the gospel of Jesus Christ. At the end of Paul’s first missionary journey, he reported back to the church at Antioch how God had opened the door of faith to the Gentiles (Ac 14:24-28). He also spoke of a door that God opened for Him at Troas (2Cor 2:12).

In Paul’s final instructions to the Colossian Church, he had a prayer request. Devote yourselves to prayer, being watchful and thankful. And pray for us too, that God may open a door for our message, so that we may proclaim the mystery of Christ, for which I am in chains. Pray that I may proclaim it clearly, as I should (Col 4:2-4).

Of course, when God opens a door for us, we can almost always count on opposition from adversaries. Near the end of his first letter to the church at Corinth, Paul writes that he plans to visit them soon, but that he will “stay on at Ephesus until Pentecost, because a great door for effective work has opened to me, and there are many who oppose me” (1Cor 16:8-9).

Yet, Paul saw adversity as an opportunity to rely on God’s great strength rather than his own weaknesses. We do not want you to be uninformed, brothers, about the hardships we suffered in the province of Asia. We were under great pressure, far beyond our ability to endure, so that we despaired even of life. Indeed, in our hearts we felt the sentence of death. But this happened that we might not rely on ourselves but on God, who raises the dead. He has delivered us from such a deadly peril, and he will deliver us. On him we have set our hope that he will continue to deliver us, as you help us by your prayers. Then many will give thanks on our behalf for the gracious favor granted us in answer to the prayers of many (2Cor 1:8-11).

In other places, the open door refers to access to God, either in fellowship or in a salvific sense. We first see this in the account of the great flood. After Noah built the ark that was a picture of Christ, the rains came down, Noah’s family and the animals entered the ark, and the Lord shut the door (Gen 7:11-16). Just as the open door represented life, the closed door resulted in a judgment of death for the wicked.

Likewise, in the parable of the bridesmaids (Mt 25:1-13), the ones that were not prepared for the bridegroom (Jesus) when He came, arrived after the door was shut. They called out “Lord, Lord, open the door for us!” But he replied, “Truly I tell you, I don’t know you”. (See also Luke 25:22-30 for the similar parable of the narrow door).

The prophet Isaiah gives us the account of God placing Eliakim as the main “storekeeper” under King David. I will place on his shoulder the key to the house of David; what he opens no one can shut, and what he shuts no one can open (Is 22:22). This gave Elaikim control of the palace among other duties and privileges, but the greatest power is that he controlled who had access to the King. He could allow or block anyone from entering into the king’s throne room. In Revelation, Jesus says to the church at Philadelphia, “These are the words of him who is holy and true, who holds the key of David. What he opens no one can shut, and what he shuts no one can open” (Rev 3:7). Here, Jesus is declaring that He holds the key to the throne room of the Divine King, the throne of Heaven.

So, we see that it is God who opens and closes the doors in all these cases. Yet, there is one case in which we must open the door for ourselves. Going back to the churches in Revelation, Jesus says to the church at Laodicea, “Those whom I love I rebuke and discipline. So be earnest, and repent. Here I am! I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears my voice and opens the door, I will come in and eat with that person, and they with me” (Rev 3:19-20).

There has been some disagreement on the addressee of this statement. It is in the context of His address to the church, yet he also says “that person”. In addition, the next two verses read To him who overcomes, I will give the right to sit with me on my throne, just as I overcame and sat down with my Father on his throne. He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches (Rev 3:21-22). These last two verses are obviously admonishing Christians to take heed of what was being said to the seven churches in chapters 2 and 3. If verses 19 and 20 are part of the address to the churches, they are an appeal for individuals within the church to let Him into closer fellowship. If the verses are part of the address to individual Christians, it could be taken as an evangelistic call.

The former interpretation is probably the most likely, however we know that Jesus came to seek and save the lost (Lk 19:10), and that He is the door to Heaven (Jn 10:9). Therefore, when we are called, we must respond to the Gospel by opening the door by faith. If we do so and confess Jesus as Lord, we will be sealed with the Holy Spirit and adopted into the family of God as co-heirs of the Kingdom (Rom 10:9-10, Eph 1:13-14, Rom 8:14-17).

Thursday, November 2, 2017

Pray for our Persecuted Christian Family 2017

We should be praying daily for those who are imprisoned, persecuted, and are suffering for their faith, but Sunday, November 5th is the annual day set aside as a special International Day of Prayer for the Persecuted Church. Below are ten ways that church groups and individuals can pray for persecuted Christians. These prayer requests and photos are courtesy of The Voice of the Martyrs.

The Voice of the Martyrs is a dedicated ministry providing spiritual, economic, educational and other support to persecuted Christians and their families worldwide. VOM celebrated their 50th anniversary last month. Their founder, Pastor Richard Wurmbrand, was imprisoned for 14 years in Communist Romania for his faith in Christ, and his wife, Sabina, was imprisoned for three years. In 1965 they were ransomed out of Romania, and shortly thereafter established the global network of missions of which VOM is a part.

We believe VOM to be one of the most important Christian ministries in existence today. We urge all our readers who are not already supporting this vital ministry to please consider doing so. Anyone can visit their website and sign up for their free monthly newsletter that is filled with inspired stories of faithful Christians risking all to serve their Lord and Savior under the most hostile conditions.

10 Ways to Pray for our Persecuted Christian Family

Pray that they will …

1. Clearly Sense God’s presence

Be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid or terrified because of them, for the Lord your God goes with you; he will never leave you nor forsake you. (Dt 31:6)

2. Know the body of Christ is praying for them

I thank my God through Jesus Christ for all of you, because your faith is being proclaimed all over the world. (Rom 1:8)

3. Experience God’s comfort when persecuted

May our Lord Jesus Christ himself and God our Father, who loved us and by his grace gave us eternal encouragement and good hope, encourage your hearts and strengthen you in every good deed and word. (2Th 2:16–17)

4. See God open doors to evangelism

And pray for us, too, that God may open a door for our message, so that we may proclaim the mystery of Christ, for which I am in chains. Pray that I may proclaim it clearly, as I should. (Col. 4:3-4)

5. Boldly share the gospel

Now, Lord, consider their threats and enable your servants to speak your word with great boldness. (Ac 4:29)

6. Forgive and love their persecutors

I tell you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, that you may be children of your Father in heaven. (Mt 5:44-45)

7. Be granted wisdom in covert ministry work

After many days had gone by, there was a conspiracy among the Jews to kill him, but Saul learned of their plan. Day and night they kept close watch on the city gates in order to kill him. But his followers took him by night and lowered him in a basket through an opening in the wall. (Ac 9:23–25)

8. Remain joyful amid suffering

So they went on their way from the presence of the Council, rejoicing that they had been considered worthy to suffer shame for His name. (Acts 5:41 NASB) But if you suffer as a Christian, do not be ashamed, but glorify God that you bear this name. (1Pe 4:16)

9. Mature in their faith

…to equip his people for works of service, so that the body of Christ may be built up until we all reach unity in the faith and in the knowledge of the Son of God and become mature, attaining to the whole measure of the fullness of Christ. (Eph 4:12-13)

10. Be rooted in God’s Word

All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness, 17so that the servant of Goda may be thoroughly equipped for every good work. (2Tim 3:16–17)

We mentioned above that we should be continue to pray each day for persecuted Christians, not just one day a year. Please visit I Commit to Pray for additional prayer needs and requests.

Continue to remember those in prison as if you were together with them in prison, and those who are mistreated as if you yourselves were suffering. (Heb 13:3)

Wednesday, August 30, 2017

Avoiding Scams while Helping the Victims of Hurricane Harvey

Natural disasters tend to bring out the best in most people, but the worst in others. For the past few days, most of us have marveled at the tireless efforts of the rescue workers (many are unpaid volunteers) in the wake of Hurricane Harvey's destruction and flooding in South Texas. We couldn't be prouder of our fellow Texans. We are also deeply appreciative of those from other states sacrificing their time and efforts for their fellow Americans.

Unfortunately, disasters also attract predators who typically exploit others for their own gain. No, I'm not talking about the "mainstream" media. Actually, many reporters did a pretty good job in their coverage, although the usual outlets (CNN, MSNBC etc) attempted to add their typical political spin, however unbelievable they may sound to any thinking person. I'm speaking instead of the charity scam artists, who take advantage of the generous charitable nature of people in order to bilk donors of monetary aid that is intended for the victims. It has been estimated that almost $2 billion dollars went to bogus charities after Hurricane Katrina.

The Federal Trade Commission offers the following common sense advice when dealing with Charities:

  • Donate only to charities that you know and trust, and have a proven track record of dealing with disasters. Beware of those who use a very similar names to a well-known reputable charity.
  • Check out the charity with the Better Business Bureau's (BBB) Wise Giving Alliance, Charity Navigator, Charity Watch, or GuideStar.
  • Avoid those who ask for donations in cash, ask you to wire money, or offer to send a courier or overnight delivery service to collect the donation immediately.
  • Specify the exact disaster that you would like your donation to go toward. Many charities, the Red Cross in particular, sometimes stockpiles donations during a disaster, then moves a portion to the general fund that goes to pay for expenses such huge salaries, fund raising, advertising etc.
  • When texting to donate, confirm the number with the source before you donate. The charge will show up on your mobile phone bill, but donations are not immediate.
You can find many more tips at Before Giving to a Charity.

What about the Red Cross?

The Red Cross began as a Christian organization, but sadly has devolved primarily into a very profitable "non-profit" secular agency in order to work more closely with governmental agencies and large corporations that typically will not donate through the much more efficient Christian charitable agencies. I remember a few years ago when a Red Cross office worker was threatened with termination if she didn't remove an ornament from her desk that contained a bible verse.

After Katrina, a deputy marshal was asked to leave a Red Cross shelter because he was praying with stranded refugees. In addition, an Albany, Louisiana church shelter took in a family who stated that they were kicked out a Red Cross shelter because they were reading from their family bible. The Christian shelter workers thought that there must have been a misunderstanding, until three other families later arrived after being booted for the same reason. No one had complained about the prayers or bible readings, but Red Cross representatives defended the decisions with the usual statement that their shelters take in families from diverse backgrounds, and didn't want to offend anyone (except for the Christians that were kicked out to fend for themselves in the extreme weather conditions).

The Red Cross also has a history of mismanagement. After a year long congressional investigation into Red Cross activities following the 2010 Haiti earthquake, a congressional committee headed by Iowa Senator Chuck Grassley released a report in June of 2016 showing that, of the $500 million in donations for earthquake relief, almost $125 million was spent on internal expenses. Many questions from investigators went unanswered, and the Red Cross was unable or unwilling to explain where the money went.

In addition, the Red Cross typically sends a much smaller percentage of received donations to the victims than various Christian charities such as Samaritan's Purse, The Salvation Army, Southern Baptist Disaster Relief, or multiple other fine organizations.

This is not to say that the Red Cross does not provide good humanitarian aid, and we certainly would not group them with the scammers or frauds. We are troubled by the anti-Christian bias coming from their top management, but we also personally know of many dedicated Christians who are working very long hours with them at the regional and local levels. We choose to donate through various Christian charities because a larger portion of our donations generally go to the victims, but urge our readers to follow their own conscience regarding these matters.

Finally, we'd like to say "Thanks Again" for all those who are helping in so many ways. We also ask for your continued prayers for both the spiritual and physical needs of the victims and the dedicated workers.

Update: Shortly after posting this, we received info from the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) that many homeowners and renters are getting robocalls stating that their flood premiums are past due and that, in order to have coverage for Hurricane Harvey, the consumers are being told they must submit a payment immediately through various means. DO NOT do this. Contact your insurance agent instead. If you suspect fraud, you can also call the FEMA Disaster Fraud Hotline toll free at 1-866-720-5721.

Wednesday, March 8, 2017

Marine Recruit Easter Letter Project

Marine Boot Camp - San DiegoWe'd like to alert our readers to a great opportunity to help encourage some of the brave service men who have been injured while training to defend our nation. On the Eve of Easter (Saturday) for the past fifteen years of so, Mike Atkinson of Mikey's Funnies has been visiting marine recruits who have been injured at Marine Boot Camp in San Diego.

A few years back, my son Justin was injured at this same boot boot camp during basic training. In spite of the injuries, he was still able to complete the training and two deployments to Afghanistan. A marine recruit is fiercely loyal, both to his country and to his fellow marines, so to be injured during this time not only affects them physically, but emotionally as well.

So, Mike and his family joins with other families each year to visit with injured recruits, and to deliver patriotic bags filled with lots of donated goodies to these discouraged recruits. Perhaps the most uplifting part of the visit is the delivery of hundreds of letters of encouragement from children and others during this time of healing. Many of the recruits have said that they were very close to giving up, but the letters gave them a renew resolve to complete the training so that they could fulfill their mission to serve and protect our country as a US Marine. The recruits also attempt to answer as many of the letters that they can.

More information on the event (including pictures from previous years) can be found at Mike's Easter Letter post.

We'd like to encourage anyone who would like to write a letter to a recruit, please send it to arrive by March 27, 2017 at the following address:

Marine Moms Online Easter Project
C/O Mike Atkinson
3755 Avocado Blvd
Box 402
La Mesa CA 91941

We're hoping for thousands of letters this year to help brighten up the recruits' Easter holiday. Please also pass this along to any friends and groups that might like to help. This will not only bless our recruits, but everyone who participates as well. Thank you.