How ISIS Helped Salmaa Become a Christian

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Egyptian Martyr

Due to the risk of her safety, Salmaa’s name has been changed and other identifying details have been left out. Her story, however, is true and wonderfully encouraging. Pray for many more like it.

 

Salmaa’s journey to knowing Jesus was spurred on by emptiness. She lacked peace and longed to know who God was and what purpose He might have for her life. She was raised in a Middle Eastern country where she and everyone around her believed that Allah was the one true god.

But as Salmaa read the Quran, she only found deeper emptiness as she was confronted with a god who was mean, unkind, and unpredictable. After much study, she closed the Quran. She was dissatisfied and left without answers, but the longing to be near to God remained.

By God’s grace and wonderful sovereignty, Salmaa was given a Bible and heard the good news about Jesus. She heard that He was not just a prophet, but was God in the flesh who mercifully died and rose to forgive anyone who would believe in Him.

As she read the Bible, she was drawn to the One who seemed to speak through its pages. As she read, she became convinced that the Bible was indeed the “word of Life” that pointed to the “Word of life.”

Seeking to know Him came with many obstacles and danger, but Salmaa continued to pursue Him. The longing to have peace, righteousness, and nearness to God could not be quenched. And in recent days, her longing to know Jesus has intensified by the most unlikely of circumstances.

As Salmaa watched the news and saw the murder of 21 Ethiopian Christians by the hands of ISIS, she was strangely drawn to the peace she found on the faces of the men who knelt in honor of Jesus.

How could they be at such peace with God?

How could they look so comforted in their final moments?

Salmaa knew there was a power in them that she did not understand, but knew it must have come from the God she had read of in the Bible—and she wanted to possess that same peace.

Days later, as the testimonies of the families of those martyred brothers emerged, she was once again left baffled. The families offered forgiveness for those whom murdered their sons, brothers, and fathers. One mother said she praised God that her son was in heaven now and that she would like to invite the ISIS soldiers into her home so she could tell them more about the Savior her son loved so much.

How could those family members forgive these murders of their sons and husbands and fathers?

This too, she knew, was not a response that could come from natural man, but from God.

She shared that ISIS thinks they are destroying and ending Christianity by killing Christians, but what they do not understand is that their evil acts are causing people to look not at them, but at these who are dying with the peace of Jesus. They are seeing faces of peace, comfort, and power and this is causing them to seek answers, and to come to know the One who is the Way, the Truth, and the Life.

Salmaa’s eyes are being opened by the graciousness and mercy of our Lord. And she is not the only one, this is the testimony of many Muslims whom God is drawing to see that Jesus is indeed more than a prophet.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, we have a God who is able to take the most horrendous of evils and use them for His glory and the good of those He calls to Himself (Genesis 50:20; Romans 8:28; Colossians 2:13-15). 

Father, strengthen your church to suffer well and know Your peace as their blood is shed for the One who shed His blood for them (John 16:33). And we pray that you would open the eyes of many more Muslims like Salmaa. Show them that Jesus, Your Son, is the true God who can give them peace which Allah cannot (John 14:27), in the Name of Jesus—Amen. 

 

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His Way Was Through The Sea

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Red Sea Crossing

Psalm 77:19 “Your way was through the sea”

Very often the Lord’s way is not our way. His perfect path is not the same path we foresaw for ourselves. His way is higher and wiser and better.

After Israel’s deliverance from Egypt, the Lord led His people toward the Promised Land. His pillar of cloud led them by day and His pillar of fire led them by night (Exodus 13:21). He was their guide and they made their steps with easy and comfort, because He was with them.

But then the Lord lovingly took His children on a detour to both test and teach them. He called them to camp on the beach in front of the Red Sea (Exodus 14:1-2). He ordained their curious campout because He knew that a hardened Pharaoh would see it as an opportunity to pounce on the people once again (Exodus 14:3). God called His people to camp there so that they would be pressed hard by uncertain circumstances.

What strange love this is, that God would put His people in a position of danger and distress—on purpose.

And as God predicted, Pharaoh rallied his army and pursued Israel as they camped in their most precarious position. As the chariot wheels bore down upon their resting place, their backs were pressed against the shore of the Red Sea.  What would God do? All they could imagine was that God had brought them out of Egypt to die on a barren beach like abandoned children (Exodus 14:10-12).

They had no way of escape; but the Lord had a way, He always does.

As Pharaoh and his blood-thristy army gained ground on Israel, “Moses said to the people, ‘Fear not, stand firm, and see the salvation of the Lord” (Exodus 14:13). Their campground of certain death was about to be transformed into a stage on which God would display His faithful love.

God had a plan to deliver His people.

What was His way? Psalm 77:19 “Your way was through the sea, Your path through the great waters.”

God’s way was the unforeseen way. It was the unimaginable path. They would not, in ten thousand years devised the plan God had known for all eternity. Moses could never have included the shortcut through the sea on the itinerary of the Canaan-bound children of God.

God’s way was through the sea.

God’s ways are not our ways. His ways are higher than ours. They are wiser than ours. They are better than ours (Isaiah 55:8-9).

Remember this child of God, our Father often acts unconventionally. He regularly chooses the unseen path for His people to walk on. He always has a way to save His people, but very often it is through the sea. He will always provide, but it is often from sources they would not have suspected (1 Kings 17-7; Matthew 6:25-34).

God is faithful, but He is rarely predictable.

God is trustworthy, but He is marvelously creative in the way He cares for us. He seems to delight in bringing us home by the way of the sea so that once we have set our feet on the dry land of our destination we can say nothing except “God did this.” In the end, God ordains His way through the sea that “I will get glory” and so that all “shall know that I am the LORD” (Exodus 14:4).

What more clear example of this truth can we have than God’s provision of salvation through Christ. Who could have ever imagined that God would save rebels by becoming like them and dying for them and rising from the dead to provide salvation for them?

“Oh, the depth of the riches and wisdom and knowledge of God! How unsearchable are his judgments and how inscrutable his ways!” Romans 11:33

I am not sure what provision or protection or direction you are seeking from God today, but rest in this truth: God’s way is very often through the sea.

He puts His children in precarious positions on purpose. He does not do this to destroy our faith, but to strengthen it. For once He has helped us to step across the threshold of our straining circumstances, we will see that God is the wise and trustworthy Savior of His people.

He ordains His way through the sea so that His children can forever look back on their lives and see that time and again His ways are good and His love is faithful.

Trust Him today child of God, wait upon His way—even if it is through the sea.

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Loving Christians Who Are Tough To Love

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“Whoever loves God must also love his brother.” 1 John 4:21

After love for God, the most basic mark of the Christian is love for other Christians (Matthew 22:36-40). But love for our fellow blood-bought brothers and sisters isn’t always easy.

As a pastor friend of mine used to say:

To live above with saints we love; Ah that will be glory,

To live below with saints we know; Well, that’s another story.

Just because someone is a Christian, doesn’t mean they are easy to love. Sanctification is a slow process (sometimes really slow) that doesn’t transform our personality quirks, theological peculiarities, and sinful tendencies over night.

Love requires patience—and perspective.

Help from Heaven

Having an eye toward eternity helps our hearts to love even the most difficult of believers.

John Newton captures what I mean in a letter he wrote to another pastor who was about to write a letter to a fellow Christian he strongly disagreed with. Here’s a portion of his advice,

As to your opponent, I wish that before you set pen to paper against him…you may commend him by earnest prayer to the Lord’s teaching and blessing. This practice will have a direct tendency to conciliate your heart to love and pity him; and such a disposition will have a good influence upon every page you write.

If you account him a believer, though greatly mistaken in the subject of debate between you, the words of David to Joab concerning Absalom, are very applicable: “Deal gently with him for my sake.”

The Lord loves him and bears with him; therefore you must not despise him, or treat him harshly. The Lord bears with you likewise, and expects that you should show tenderness to others, from a sense of the much forgiveness you need yourself.

In a little while you will meet in heaven; he will then be dearer to you than the nearest friend you have upon earth is to you now. Anticipate that period in your thoughts; and though you may find it necessary to oppose his errors, view him personally as a kindred soul, with whom you are to be happy in Christ forever.

You can read the letter in its entirety here.

Remembering Empowers Love

Let’s consider three reflections from this letter to help us love our “tough to love” brothers and sisters in Christ.

1. Remember how God has loved you.

“Be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, as God in Christ forgave you.” Ephesians 4:32

God serves fresh grace to our hearts when we recall the ways He has loved us. It would do you (and others) well if you take a moment to consider how Jesus has loved you.

Think of His persistence in pursuing you, even in spite of your resistance to His pursuit.

Reflect on how many transgressions He has blotted from your account with His own blood.

Consider specific ways He has shown you compassion despite of your defiance.

God has been kind to you. His heart has been tender toward you. If you are in Christ, He has forgiven your debt in full. Shouldn’t your love for others be affected by His love for you?

“Beloved, if God so loved us, we also ought to love one another.” 1 John 4:11

2. Remember that we will soon be with them in eternity. 

There will be a day when all God’s children will stand together before His throne of grace. On that day, all disputes will be forgotten and all irritations will be abolished. Why allow those quarrels to steal love from your brother on this day?

I’m not in any way suggesting that all disputes are small or all disagreements are insignificant. There are weighty things in this life, some which are very difficult to endure. But what I am suggesting is that all of our relationships must be guided and guarded by the fact that one day we will stand alongside our fellow Christians before the Savior who died for them.

That kind of perspective helps us to extend love to those who are not so easy to love. Perspective grants us patience and compassion. Let the sourness of a relationship today be overcome by the sweetness of that everlasting day to which you are traveling together. Ask the Lord to help you see others in light of the love you will share together in the eternal dwelling Christ is preparing for you (John 14:1-2).

3. Remember that you aren’t so easy to love either. 

Spurgeon rightly reminds us “if you cannot bear with your imperfect brother, take it for certain that you are very imperfect yourself.” Our inability to love others perfectly is a faithful reminder that we don’t have it all together either.

Humility about our own lovability serves as a gracious help in extending love to others. What sinful patterns do you have a tough time fighting against? When have you said hurtful words? Where do you still have room to grow in spiritual maturity? How do you think those shortcomings affect those around you?

I’ve found that when I’m concerned with confessing my own sins before the Lord, I’m less irritated with the sins of others. Regularly confessing your sins to God keeps you downwind of yourself and helps you to remember that you’re probably just as as tough to love as the next person.

 

Though no relationship will be perfect on this side of eternity, I am convinced that the more our hearts are set on heaven, and the more that we are sobered by our own need for a Savior, the more our love for others will reflect the love of Christ—including those who are tough to love.

 

 

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Jesus is the Greater Aaron – John Newton on Leviticus 8:7-9

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This week I’m teaching through the book of Leviticus in a early morning “boot camp” format. As I came to Leviticus 8 and began considering how Jesus fulfills the role as our High Priest, my heart was warmed by this poem by John Newton in a collection called the Olney Hymns.

I encourage you to read it out loud and then give God praise for how Jesus is the greater Aaron.

The True Aaron

See Aaron, God’s anointed priest,
Within the veil appear,
In robes of mystic meaning dressed,
Presenting Israel’s prayer.
 
The plate of gold which crowns his brows,
His holiness describes;
His breast displays, in shining rows,
The names of all the tribes.
 
With the atoning blood he stands,
Before the mercy-seat;
And clouds of incense from his hands,
Arise with odour sweet.
 
Urim and Thummim near his heart,
In rich engravings worn,
The sacred light of truth impart,
To teach and to adorn.
 
Through him the eye of faith descries
A greater Priest than he;
Thus JESUS pleads above the skies,
For you, my friends, and me.
 
He bears the names of all his saints,
Deep on his heart engraved;
Attentive to the state and wants
Of all his love has saved.
 
In him a holiness complete,
Light and perfections shine;
And wisdom, grace, and glory meet;
A Saviour all divine.
 
The blood, which as a priest he bears
For sinners, is his own;
The incense of his prayers and tears
Perfume the holy throne.
 
In him my weary soul has rest,
Though I am weak and vile;
I read my name upon his breast,
And see the Father smile.

Newton

 

 

“Since then we have a great high priest who has passed through the heavens, Jesus, the Son of God, let us hold fast our confession.For we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but one who in every respect has been tempted as we are, yet without sin. Let us then with confidence draw near to the throne of grace, that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need.” Hebrews 4:14–16

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Till Death Do We Part – Keeping the Vow Till the End

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A member of our church named Julie recently shared the story of her Grandparent’s love with me and my wife so I thought I’d pass it on to you.Groom waiting on Bride

“My Grandparents truly had a lifetime love affair. Their marriage was imperfect of-course, but was marked by a consistent, devoted, and tender love for one another.

Their love remained steady in times of plenty and in times of need. In all the days and nights I spent at their house, I never heard an argument between them. And while I’m certain difficult days came and went, I never witnessed one disrespect the other.

Shortly before my Grandparent’s 54th wedding anniversary, my Grandma became gravely ill. Watching his beloved bride suffer made those days very difficult, but Grandpa stayed by her side until she safely reached her heavenly home.

As he grieved and planned for her funeral, he wanted to honor his wife one last time and fulfill his vow “until death do we part.” So on the day of her funeral, he stood at the altar one last time. As the doors opened and the pallbearers brought his bride down the aisle, he waited for her in the same spot he stood 54 years earlier when she walked down to become his bride.

That day he fulfilled his vow and committed her into the hand of the One who had given her to him. He was faithful, all the way to the end.”

 

“Husbands, love your wives as Christ loved the church…” Ephesians 5:25

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Daddy, Are They Going To Kill The Christians?

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Haddon

“Daddy, are they going to kill the Christians?”

My four-year-old son’s question broke the silence during our trip to school.

Earlier that morning he heard me praying for the 90 Assyrian Christians ISIS soldiers kidnapped from their homes during morning raids on their villages. He could tell I was distraught and began to ask questions.

“What happened to the Christians, daddy?”

I told him there are bad people in another part of the world who hate Christians and are trying to hurt them.

“Why do they want to hurt them?” he asked.

I explained that some people don’t like Christians because they follow Jesus. Jesus is the King of the world and people don’t like having a King ruling over them, so they sin by turning away from Jesus. Jesus tells us that if we are going to follow Him, some people won’t like us either (John 15:20).

He asked a few more questions and then we went back to our morning routine. But, during the ride to school, he broke the silence with the question that couldn’t escape his little heart,

“Daddy, are they going to kill the Christians?”

I told him they might. Many other Christians have already died because they follow Jesus. This happens all over the world to Jesus’ people.

“Daddy, what is Jesus going to do about it?”

These are the moments Christian parents know are important. When a child’s heart is stirred and their mind searches for answers. It’s also times like these that parents are pressed to find simple words to explain complex realities.

I told him that Jesus is going to save some of the people who hurt the Christians and He is going to stop some of the others.

“Why would Jesus want to save them?”

His perception caught me off guard. I knew the right answer, but I felt the same tension my son felt in his heart.

Why would God do such a thing as save ISIS soldiers?

Why would God save people that slay His bride?

Why would God redeem sinners who rape His children?

Why would God give mercy to villains when they withhold mercy from His people?

I told him it is because God is not like us. God is a God who loves His enemies and does good to all people, even evil people (Matthew 5:43-48). God doesn’t delight in evil people perishing, but loves to see them be saved (Ezekiel 18:31-32, 33:11; 1 Timothy 2:3-4). I told him that Jesus loved people in that way, including him and me. That is why Jesus died and rose—to rescue us from our sins (1 Corinthians 15:1-4).

In that moment I was sobered by my son’s child-like wonder. Trying to find clear and simple words to help his four-year-old mind process such mysterious love pressed me in a sweet and uncomfortable way.

What wonder it is to consider that Jesus left a world filled with voices crying “Holy! Holy! Holy!” to enter into our world filled with voices that cry out “Crucify Him! Crucify Him!” for one reason—to glorify His name by saving sinners (Isaiah 6:4; Matthew 27:22-23; 1 Peter 3:18; 1 John 4:9-10).

On the cross God shows us that He is a God who loves His enemies and is willing to shed His blood for those who shed His (Romans 5:8). There He put on display His compassion for compassionless killers (Psalm 103:8). What kind of love is that? It is amazing love. Worthy of our trust. Worthy of our lives.

As my son hopped out of the car and scurried off to class, I was moved by praise and to prayer.

 

Praise and a Prayer

While I’m grieved that my son has to ask those kinds of questions, I praise God that He does. We live in a world of brokenness and pain, and to watch him enter in is difficult to observe. But while that is true, I am also grateful that my son has an opportunity to consider the cost of following Christ.

In God’s perfect plan, he is learning what it means to be a Christian in a sobering time in history. Christians have been laying down their lives for thousands of years, but the modern day assault by Islamic radicals feels unique—and shows no signs of slowing down.

I praise God that my son and his siblings face the call of Christ in a context that will help him to see the cost more clearly. I pray that He will see the immeasurable value of having a Savior who does not flee from us when we are in trouble or are in danger. In fact, if the incarnation teaches us anything, it teaches us that God moves toward our danger and toward our trouble.

I praise God that this is the Savior I can call my son to follow—no matter what it might cost him.

 

Father, we pray for our brothers and sisters who are suffering around the world. Give them strength to trust you as so many of them are being asked to surrender their lives for Your Name’s sake. Give them strength to endure to the end so they might be saved.

We also pray that we would be sobered and count the cost of what it means to follow Christ. We pray that our children and our churches would learn from our persecuted brothers and sisters who are teaching us what it means to take up the cross of Jesus.

 Might you give us courage and wisdom to follow their example of faith, trusting that You are the Rewarder of those who seek You (Hebrews 11:6). And Father, I ask for my son, that you might save his soul and make him a man, who like those captured Christians, the world is not worthy of (Hebrews 11:39-40). Spare us from suffering, but if not, give us grace to endure it in a way that brings you honor.

 

Come Lord Jesus, come.

 

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A Pattern Among Fallen Pastors – Lessons for Us All

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normandy beach

 

During my time in seminary I took a leadership course taught by the late-great Dr. Howard Hendricks. As we studied the life of David, Prof shared a study he conducted with a group of men in full-time ministry who had fallen into a morally disqualifying sin.

At the time, I had only been a Christian for a few years, but unfortunately the subject was all too relevant. During my early days I had witnessed several men whom I loved and respected fall into serious sinful compromises. At one point in those days, the falls came so frequently I felt as if I was on the spiritual beach of Normandy watching buddies lives get blown apart all around me.

Prof’s study was of 246 men in full-time ministry who experienced moral failure within a two-year period of time. As far as he could discern, these full-time clergy were men who were born again followers of Jesus. Though they shared a common salvation, these men also shared a common feat of devastation; they had all, within 24 months of each other, been involved in an extra marital affair.

After interviewing each man, Dr. Hendricks compiled 4 common characteristics of their lives.

1. None of the men were involved in any kind of real personal accountability. 

2. Each of the men had all but ceased having a daily time of personal prayer, Bible reading, and worship. 

3. Over 80% of the men became sexually involved with the other woman after spending significant time with her, often in counseling situations.

4. Without exception, each of the 246 had been convinced that sort of fall “would never happen to me.”

As I reflect on this study, a few lessons come to mind. These are applicable for pastors, plumbers, stay at home moms, and anyone else who seeks to follow Christ.

  1.  Sin thrives in isolation.

Satan lives in the darkness and longs to keep us there as well. He does this because lies live best in the darkness. God knows this, which is why when He calls us to Himself, He calls us into the church.

God has created the church to be many things, one of which is to be a community of people who help each other fight sin and love Him. He calls us into relationships where we speak truth to one another (Ephesians 4:15, 25), confess sins to one another (James 5:16), and love each other enough to chase after each other if we stray (Matthew 18:10-20; Galatians 6:1-2; James 5:19-20).

The question I want you to ponder is this: Who knows you? I mean who really knows you? Who not only has permission, but is currently acting upon the permission to ask you penetrating questions? Are you answering those questions honestly or are you hiding details and painting up your sin to guard your image?

Do not hide from God’s gracious aid of loving relationships.

  1. If you flirt with sin, you will fall into sin.

Sin’s slope is a slippery one. The longer you walk along the edge of the abyss, the more certain that your foot will slip. The men in the study put themselves in dangerous situations again and again. They ignored the words of Solomon who warned his sons to “keep your way far from her, and do not go near the door of her house” (Proverbs 5:8).

These men did not guard their hearts, or the hearts of the people they were supposed to be protecting. Instead, they became blinded by the deceitfulness of sin (Ephesians 4:22; Hebrews 3:13) and were led into the ditch of destruction (Matthew 15:14).

What ways are you flirting with sin? What provisions are you making for the flesh in regards to its lust (Romans 13:14)? What guards have you stepped over? What details are you hiding? What emails are you deleting? What search histories are you erasing?

Sin is crouching at your door (Genesis 4:7) and the tempter is looking for an opportunity to pounce (1 Peter 5:8). How are you making his aim easier?

Flee from sin, don’t flirt with it (Genesis 39:6-12; Proverbs 5-7, Romans 6:12-13; 2 Timothy 2:22; 1 Peter 2:11).

  1. Pride blinds us to our weakness.

Many of us think this sort of serious sin would not happen to us, just as those fallen pastors thought. But 1 Corinthians 10:12 warns us “let anyone who thinks that he stands take heed lest he fall.” Let us not forget that Samson—the strongest man in the Bible, Solomon—the wisest man in the Bible, and David—the man after God’s own heart, were all overcome by the temptations of sexual sin (Judges 14-16; 1 Kings 11:1-8; 2 Samuel 11-12; Psalm 51). No one is above the temptation to sin in grievous ways. If you doubt this, you are on your way to a great fall.

Brothers, beware. Proverbs 16:18 “Pride goes before destruction, a haughty spirit before a fall.”

  1. Purity is cultivated by loving Jesus.

Somewhere along the line, each of the men in the study began to drift. Prayers became less passionate. The promises of God in His Word grew dusty. Love for Jesus became something spoken of in the past tense.

The seduction of sin and enticement to sacrifice all to satisfy inner longings became too strong to resist.

But Christ is stronger. Hear these words of promise afresh:

Hebrews 4:14–16 “Since then we have a great high priest who has passed through the heavens, Jesus, the Son of God, let us hold fast our confession. 15For we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but one who in every respect has been tempted as we are, yet without sin. 16Let us then with confidence draw near to the throne of grace, that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need.”

Brothers and sisters, there is no sweeter assurance of help than Christ Jesus the Lord. He stands ready at God’s right hand to supply the grace and mercy we are in such need of.

Do not allow your hearts to grow cold toward the Lord who loves you so. Draw near to Him daily, moment by moment, in hopeful expectation that He is better than any fleeting pleasure that might entice your heart. Do not seek Him only in days of desperation, but seek Him daily. Walk with Him. Rekindle passion. Plead with Him to help you. He is able to do it, and He delights to do it.

Jude 24-25 “Now to him who is able to keep you from stumbling and to present you blameless before the presence of his glory with great joy, 25to the only God, our Savior, through Jesus Christ our Lord, be glory, majesty, dominion, and authority, before all time and now and forever. Amen.”

 

Come Lord Jesus, come.

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Jesus’ Message to ISIS Signed in Blood

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In recent days, ISIS militants led twenty-one Coptic Christians onto a secluded beach in Libya. With faces covered, they forced the Christians to their knees, in preparation for their execution. Standing with his knife drawn, one militant mockingly said to a praying prisoner, “Safety…is something you can only wish for.

21 coptic

They proceeded to cut off all their heads with knives.

Oh, if only that masked man knew how safe that beheaded brother is now. If he did, he would have joyfully thrown down his knife, taken off his mask, and surrendered his life along side those heroes of the faith.

God’s word assures us that those twenty-one Coptic Christians have nothing to fear any longer. Militants may have killed their bodies, but their soul will never die (Matthew 10:28). Their faith has been made sight and they join the many other believers who have laid down their lives in similar ways.

Revelation 6:9–11 “When he opened the fifth seal, I saw under the altar the souls of those who had been slain for the word of God and for the witness they had borne. 10They 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?” 11Then they were each given a white robe and told to rest a little longer, until the number of their fellow servants and their brothers should be complete, who were to be killed as they themselves had been.”

Those brave brothers have been given a robe and told to rest a little while longer. There is more time until their blood will be avenged. More Christians will be called to shed their blood for the testimony of Jesus. More believers will join those martyred saints.

But there is a day coming when the blood that is shed will no longer be Christian blood. It will be the blood of all those who will not repent of their sins. That includes ISIS militants. ISIS soldiers may raise their swords and shed the blood of Christians today, but a day is fast approaching when Jesus will unsheath His own sword to avenge the blood of His people.

Revelation 19:11–16 “Then I saw heaven opened, and behold, a white horse! The one sitting on it is called Faithful and True, and in righteousness he judges and makes war. 12His eyes are like a flame of fire, and on his head are many diadems, and he has a name written that no one knows but himself. 13He is clothed in a robe dipped in blood, and the name by which he is called is The Word of God. 14And the armies of heaven, arrayed in fine linen, white and pure, were following him on white horses. 15From his mouth comes a sharp sword with which to strike down the nations, and he will rule them with a rod of iron. He will tread the winepress of the fury of the wrath of God the Almighty. 16On his robe and on his thigh he has a name written, King of kings and Lord of lords.”

One day soon, Jesus will return, not as a lamb, but as a lion (Genesis 49:8; Matthew 24:30). His robe will be stained with the blood of His enemies (Isaiah 63:2-3), including the men who slit the throats of those twenty-one Christians. The day of God’s vengeance is coming soon.

The only hope those murderers have of escaping the Day of Justice is to repent of their evil and look to Jesus who willingly laid down His life in a way much like those twenty-one men on that beach.

But what Jesus did on the cross was far greater. Jesus was the sinless Son of God who came for the purpose of saving sinners like them, like us. The Apostle Paul, once a persecutor of Christians said it this way “Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners, of whom I am the foremost. But I received mercy for this reason, that in me, as the foremost, Jesus Christ might display his perfect patience as an example to those who were to believe in him for eternal life” (1 Timothy 1:15-16).

When Jesus stopped Saul in his tracks on the road to Damascus, He said “Saul, Saul why are you persecuting Me? (Acts 9:4). He would say the same thing to ISIS militants today.

The video that recorded their murder of our brothers was titled “A Message Signed in Blood to the Nation of the Cross.” Well, Jesus has a message to ISIS signed with His own blood. It is this, “repent of your disbelief in Me and repent of your murdering My people and you will live, but if you continue to deny Me, you will pay with your own blood.”

Today is a day of grace, but the sands of time are sinking from the hour glass of God’s mercy. The Day of Judgment is coming. For those of us who are in Christ, we long to see mercy extended, but we also long to see justice served. We are tired of burying our brothers and sisters in Christ.

So what ought we do as we wait Jesus’ return? We must pray.

  1. We must pray for our enemies. Jesus commands us to “Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you” (Matthew 5:44). Pray for their conversions. Pray for them to be haunted by the prayers of those Coptic Christians. Pray for them to be converted by the Gospel they have heard proclaimed by so many they have killed. Pray for them to be born again. Jesus can save all sorts of sinners. If he can save us, He can save them.
  1. We must pray for our persecuted brothers and sisters. Hebrews 13:3 commands us to “remember those who are in prison, as though in prison with them, and those who are mistreated, since you also are in the body.” When one part of the body of Christ suffers, the whole suffers (1 Corinthians 12:26). Pray for the persecuted church around the world to be brave in the face of such terrifying hostility. Pray for them to have courage to speak the Gospel and to not deny the Lord, no matter what the cost. Pray for them to know the peace that only God can give during such times of testing.
  1. We must pray for ourselves and our churches. Pray that we will be sobered by the call of following Christ. Pray that we will put away our silly squabbles and whining over petty discomforts. Pray that we would have courage if one day we were forced to kneel on a beach for the name of Jesus. Pray that the Lord would raise up from among us people who will take the Gospel to lands where it is not safe to proclaim Christ. Pray that we would be willing to shed our blood to get the Gospel to those who want to shed ours.

Brothers and sisters, there is much to consider at a time like this. May God give us sobriety about what it means to be a Christian and certainty that the joy set before us is worth despising the shame—no matter what the cost.

“Come, Lord Jesus!” Revelation 22:20

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Helping Your Spouse To Heaven

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Helping Each Other To Heaven

 

“Exhort one another every day, as long as it is called “today,” that none of you may be hardened by the deceitfulness of sin.” Hebrews 3:13

God designed the church to be a community of people who actively and intentionally help each other to heaven. And I’d like to suggest that in marriage, God does a very similar work.

When God brings a Christian man and woman together as husband and wife, He provides them with one of the most potentially potent discipling partners on the planet. Your spouse knows you like no one else does and together you can serve each other’s deepest spiritual needs—including helping each other persevere in love for Jesus, until death do you part.

In fact, I’d like to propose that one of the the primary purposes of a Christian marriage is to glorify God by helping each other to heaven.

What follows are four observations from Hebrews 3:13 that apply to the way husbands and wives should strive to help each other persevere in faith until the end.

 

#1 – Encourage each other.

The word “exhort” shows up 109 times in the New Testament. Depending on how it’s used, the word can be translated “to speak words of encouragement,” “to invite,” “to beg,” “to urge,” “to persuade,” “to plead,” and “to implore.”

The heart behind this word is one of passion in which one person is doing all they can to help another person do something important. In the context of marriage, it is a call for the couple to inspire each other toward Christ. Husbands are to speak words of encouragement to lift their wife’s heart to find strength in God. Wives invite their husbands to come to the banquet table of grace by reminding them of promise in God’s Word. Together, couples are to urge each other on toward heaven.

While this type of encouragement is wonderful, I suspect we can also recognize the potential difficulty in it. My flesh resists people exhorting me and imploring me. I’m prone toward being defensive and irritated, especially toward those who are closest to me. And if I’m honest, I’m often fearful to challenge and encourage my wife because I don’t want to come across as nagging or judgmental.

But God knows that we need this kind of help from each other and that is why He calls us to fight through all our sinful excuses to engage in it.

In what ways do you think your spouse needs encouragement to more fully rely upon God?

What ways could you spouse help you? Have you shared this with them?

What kinds of fears do you feel when you think about giving and receiving exhortations with your spouse?

How are you openly warring against cowardliness and defensiveness in your marriage?

 

#2 – Encourage each other daily.

In Hebrews 3:13 the command to “exhort” shows up as a present, active, imperative verb. That means it’s something we’re commanded to be doing in a consistent way. We could literally translate the command “you are to keep on encouraging each other every day.” Date nights are great for your marriage, but daily encouragements are better.

God calls husbands to consistently invite their wives to not lose heart after an exhausting day. The Lord commands wives to relentlessly plead with their husbands to fight their insecurities by clinging to God’s Word. Husbands and wives are exhorted by God to daily exhort each other to strive through dark seasons of doubt and despair.

What a wonderful portrait of how Christians are called to enduringly love each other!

Again, this is where our sinful nature will rear its ugly head and call this kind of persistent love an annoying intrusion. Do not believe this lie. God initiates love with us each day (1 John 4:19; Lamentations 3:23) and never takes a day off from showing us His faithful commitment to us (Psalm 136:1; Jeremiah 31:3).

Jesus has shown us a relentless love, and He has called Christian husbands and wives to show that same kind of love to one another (John 13:34, 15:12; Ephesians 5:22, 25, 28, 33).

While there is no formula that works for every couple, here’s a few ideas of how to encourage each other daily toward heaven.

  1. Go to bed at the same time and close your evening by praying together.
  2. Get on the same Bible reading schedule and share one thing each day that you saw from the reading. This won’t work for everyone, but try it for a week or a month and see how it goes.
  3. Memorize verses or portions of the Bible together. By doing this you will both be meditating on the same scripture and can share insights from that text to situations you are facing.
  4. Share with your spouse the promises from God’s Word that most edify your soul. Set up a plan of how they can approach you and use them when you are in need of this kind of encouragement.

 

#3 – Encourage each other daily to protect your hearts from sin.

The context of Hebrews 3-4 is essential to understanding the urgency of encouragement. Here, the author is exhorting the church to not harden their hearts against God like the Exodus generation who faltered in faith and fell under His judgment (Psalm 95:6-11). To ensure this doesn’t happen to us, God commands His people to provide daily exhortations to each other reminding them of hope that lies before them.

In the context of marriage, Christian husbands and wives are commanded by God to exhort each other to not fall prey to sin’s deceitful offerings. Satan is daily seeking to lure us away from God, so we must daily be exhorting each other to remain faithful to God. This kind of regular encouragement is one of God’s prescribed antidotes to the satanic poison that leads to apostasy.

Do you know how your spouse is currently being tempted to harden their heart against God (Hebrews 3:12, 3:15)?

What plan do you and your spouse have in place to help each other war against the sin that so dangerously hinders our progress toward our heavenly home (Hebrews 4:11)?

How are your regularly calling each other toward the throne of grace to gain help in your times of need (Hebrews 4:14-16)?

Talking to our spouse about how we are being tempted can be tricky for many couples. For some, there is a fear of being exposed, while others wisely know their spouses’ God-given limitations when it comes to hearing about certain sins. I would however strongly encourage couples to find a way to talk about their battles with sin in a way that works for them.

For a help in considering how to discuss temptations with your spouse, consider the principles in the article “Should I Tell My Spouse About My Struggles with Sexual Purity?”

 

#4 – Encourage each other daily to protect your hearts from sin, until death do you part.

Our text challenges us to “Exhort one another every day, as long as it is called “today.” There is a day when “today” will turn into “the day” we will see the Lord’s face (Hebrews 10:25). But between now and then, husband and wives are to help each other strive forward in faith.

As Christians, our marriages are commitments that last until death separates us. Because of this, we must take the long view and encourage each other despite all our differences and difficulties. Marriage is not easy because it is a union of two sinners, but the grace of God is sufficient to help us make it home.

The day is coming soon when we will see the Lord Jesus, our hope will be realized and we will forever thank Him for the way He used others, including our spouses, to help us persevere and see Him face to face.

Oh what a day that will be—come Lord Jesus, come!

 

A Few Final Action Steps:

  1. Encourage your spouse to read this article and set up a time to discuss its implications in your marriage.
  2. Humbly share the hopes and fears you have about encouraging and challenging each other in your walks with God. Don’t give into the temptation to hide from your spouse—that is exactly what sin wants you to do.
  3. Prayerfully select another couple from your local church that can help you grow as a couple. Encourage them to read this article and talk openly about things the Lord challenges you with.

 

May the Lord give you and your spouse grace as you help each other toward heaven.

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Only What Is Done For Christ Will Last – C.T. Studd

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sunset

We are not all promised the same things in this life. Some of us will know much joy, others of us much sorrow. Some will be given fame and fortune, others nothing but obscurity and poverty.

But one thing we are all promised is that our life will soon end and we will stand before the judgment seat of Christ (2 Corinthians 5:10). There, before our Maker, we will give an account of how we used the days, words, relationships, dollars, skills, and opportunities God entrusted to us.

Charles Thomas Studd, who served as a British missionary to China, penned a famous poem that helps us to consider the only worthy way to use the life God has given to us—for Christ! May God help us to be ever mindful that only what is done for Christ will last. Lord, help us.

Only One Life

By C.T. Studd

Two little lines I heard one day,

Traveling along life’s busy way;

Bringing conviction to my heart,

And from my mind would not depart;

Only one life, ’twill soon be past, 

Only what’s done for Christ will last.

 

Only one life, yes only one,

Soon will its fleeting hours be done;

Then, in ‘that day’ my Lord to meet,

And stand before His Judgement seat;

Only one life,’twill soon be past,

Only what’s done for Christ will last.

 

Only one life, the still small voice,

Gently pleads for a better choice

Bidding me selfish aims to leave,

And to God’s holy will to cleave;

Only one life, ’twill soon be past,

Only what’s done for Christ will last.

 

Only one life, a few brief years,

Each with its burdens, hopes, and fears;

Each with its clays I must fulfill,

living for self or in His will;

Only one life, ’twill soon be past,

Only what’s done for Christ will last.

 

When this bright world would tempt me sore,

When Satan would a victory score;

When self would seek to have its way,

Then help me Lord with joy to say;

Only one life, ’twill soon be past,

Only what’s done for Christ will last.

 

Give me Father, a purpose deep,

In joy or sorrow Thy word to keep;

Faithful and true what e’er the strife,

Pleasing Thee in my daily life;

Only one life, ’twill soon be past,

Only what’s done for Christ will last.

 

Oh let my love with fervor burn,

And from the world now let me turn;

Living for Thee, and Thee alone,

Bringing Thee pleasure on Thy throne;

Only one life, ’twill soon be past,

Only what’s done for Christ will last.

 

Only one life, yes only one,

Now let me say,”Thy will be done”;

And when at last I’ll hear the call,

I know I’ll say “twas worth it all”;

Only one life,’twill soon be past,

Only what’s done for Christ will last. 

“So teach us to number our days that we may get a heart of wisdom.” Psalm 90:12

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