To Be Blessed of God!

I recently wrote on the thought of being blessed.

Are You Blessed?

god bless

Our idea of being blessed of God often only looks at the physical or material aspects.  A nice home, a good marriage, a great job.  While these ARE blessings of God for which we should be thankful, the Bible is clear these kind of blessings are temporary.  The real blessings of God are those that will last throughout eternity.

And receiving those blessings require more than just a “God bless you” that we share with each other in passing.

Just a few thoughts on God’s blessings and how to obtain them.

Blessed is the man who walks not in the counsel of the wicked, nor stands in the way of sinners, nor sits in the seat of scoffers; but his delight is in the law of the Lord, and on his law he meditates day and night. He is like a tree planted by streams of water that yields its fruit in its season, and its leaf does not wither…..Psalm 1

It appears that receiving God’s blessings requires us to be careful whose advice we take and how much time we spend thinking of His Word.

God's word

But even if you should suffer for righteousness’ sake, you will be blessed…..1 Peter 3:14

Whoa!  Blessings from God might include suffering?  

Blessed is the man who remains steadfast under trial, for when he has stood the test he will receive the crown of life, which God has promised to those who love him.

Wait a minute here!  Blessings from God might require trials?  And the blessing is not a promotion at work but eternal life.

Blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called sons of God…..Matthew 5:9

Come on now!!!  When I seek to bring peace to others rather than pushing for my own agenda I will be blessed?  And the blessing is the privilege of being called a son of God?

peace

But he said, “Blessed rather are those who hear the word of God and keep it!”

Again, it seems God’s blessings are somehow connected to knowing His word – and obeying it.

God's word 2

I could go on and on, but I hope you get the idea.  We Americans count blessings from God almost as a right rather than a privilege.  When we do not get that promotion at work, when we get that diagnosis of cancer, when someone makes fun of us for being a Christian, we are so quick to complain or feel like somehow God has failed us.

If God’s blessings are so tied to material things, how do we explain the Christians who live in a third world country and often wonder where their meal is coming from?  Who are persecuted, put in prison, even killed for their faith in Jesus Christ?

God is much more than a genie in a lamp.  He does love us, He does want to bless us (yes, even in material things) but more than that, He desires a real relationship with Him.  One that loves Him for who He is more than for what He does.

May God truly, really bless you!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Greetings – Chairein – Joy to You

Jesus laughing

I love this picture of Jesus laughing!  I think too often we vision Him as somber, even stern.  But He talked about giving us joy.  At His birth, the angels proclaimed “Joy to the world.”

Studying the book of James this week I again realized how much we miss when the Bible is translated from the languages of Hebrew and Greek into English.  James begins his letter by saying what is translated in most of our English version as “Greetings.”

To me I have just thought James was basically saying hello.  Just the kind of start to a letter we often would use (in the days when we really wrote letters instead of texting or posting on Facebook).

Hi!  How are you?  I am fine.

As I began to take a more serious look at this word, I find it has much more meaning than just “hi”.

The word James used is “chariein” and it means basically “to rejoice exceedingly” or “to be well.”  Used as a greeting James was essentially saying “joy to you.”

“Joy to you” seems a great way to start a letter to friends.  Hey, I’m wishing you joy, happiness, that you do well.  We do this for birthdays, anniversaries, Christmas.

joy

 

joy baby

 

 

 

On continuing to read this letter it is clear that James is not just being friendly in wishing his readers joy.  After saying “joy to you” he immediately speaks of times of difficulty, trials, tests.

Dear brothers and sisters, when troubles of any kind come your way, consider it an opportunity for great joy.

Hold on there a minute James!

You just wished joy and well-being to your readers and then you talk about troubles.  What gives?

James was writing to the Jewish people who had accepted Jesus as the Messiah but who were now experiencing difficulties because of their belief.  He indicated difficult times can be opportunities not just for joy – but great joy.

Hold on there a minute James!

Difficult times bring joy?  Trials, tests bring joy?  What are you – some kind of Pollyanna?

James is not suggesting to his readers that they thank God when a loved one dies, when they get cancer or lose a job.  (These are the things we think of as trials.  The people James was writing to were probably experiencing more severe trials such as real persecution because of their stand for the Messiah, not just experiencing the normal cares of life that we characterize as trials.)  Rather he was telling them they should recognize that these difficult times, while not in themselves something to take joy in, would bring about a real change in them – and that would be something to rejoice about.

When all kinds of trials and temptations crowd into your lives my brothers, don’t resent them as intruders, but welcome them as friends! Realize that they come to test your faith and to produce in you the quality of endurance. But let the process go on until that endurance is fully developed, and you will find you have become men of mature character with the right sort of independence.

Hey James, I think you are right.  As I look back at times of real trials (like becoming a widow with two young girls at 33 or getting aggressive and advanced cancer at 53) I realize that those times brought me much closer to God and gave me a strength I would never have had without those difficult times.  While I will never thank God for the death of my precious husband, for seeing my body deformed after surgical removal of a breast or for the effects I still suffer in my body because of chemo and radiation, I am thankful for the growth I gained because of those trials.  I am thankful that I have truly discovered what Jesus was talking about when He spoke of the joy and peace He was giving us.  

Finally, James not only tells his friends to find joy in difficult times, he lets them know how they can do that.

And if, in the process, any of you does not know how to meet any particular problem he has only to ask God—who gives generously to all men without making them feel foolish or guilty—and he may be quite sure that the necessary wisdom will be given him

You make it sound simple James!  But life is not simple!

Oh I get it!  That’s the beauty of the gospel.  It is simple.  Trust and obey.  I sometimes make it so hard.  My mind doesn’t want to just trust.  I want detailed answers to my questions.  I want to know the end before I take that step of faith God is asking me to take.

Peter sums it up pretty good in his letter to the church.

And though you have never seen him, yet I know that you love him. At present you trust him without being able to see him, and even now he brings you a joy that words cannot express and which has in it a hint of the glories of Heaven; and all the time you are receiving the result of your faith in him—the salvation of your own souls.

Yes that it is.  It is a joy that words cannot express.  Joy unspeakable and full of glory!  To all my friends who follow me on my blog, chairein!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Feeling Persecuted?

It’s that time of year again!!!!

Temperatures are dropping as the leaves on the trees also fall to earth.  Clocks have been set back an hour and the evenings get dark so much earlier than before.  In the stores some are already putting up Christmas decorations, even playing Christmas music.  Many of my friends love this time and think it is never too early to begin playing Christmas music.  Others feel we should at least get through Thanksgiving before playing the carols.

And the annual debate begins again!

Is it:

mc

OR is it:

thCAGYR1QJ

NO – this post is not about that.  

I have written plenty about that in the past.  Let’s not beat a dead horse.  If you really want to know what I think about that debate you can visit my earlier posts on the subject.

Do we “Keep Christ in Christmas” or “Keep Christmas in Christ?”

But every year as I hear how Christians in America are being persecuted I hear things like:

  • People are saying “Happy Holidays” to me instead of  “Merry Christmas.”
  • They have taken prayer out of the schools (I think the Bible is clear prayer belongs in the home and I always wonder if those complaining about no prayer in the schools actually pray with their children at home).
  • They want to take “In God we trust” off our money.  Is your trust in God based on  having that on your money?  (And who uses money anyway these days.)

But is this really persecution?

Let me share some real persecution that is happening around the world.

  • There are reports from North Korea of forced starvation of Christians and forced abortion. Some Christians have been hung on crosses over fire, and others have been crushed by steamrollers. Protestants and Catholics are ranked among those least sympathetic to the state, which limits their access to food, education, and health care. Christianity is linked with American influence, and Christians are executed as spies.
  • In Sudan, the government’s pursuit of an extremist Islamist agenda led to orders to tear down Christian churches. Christians are arrested for alleged proselytism, and women face fines for wearing “obscene” or immodest dress. The government stripped citizenship rights of people with origins outside Sudan, leading many to leave for their ancestral homelands in South Sudan. Many had lived in their homes for three decades or more.
  • In Pakistan, banned fundamentalist cells pose a great threat to Christians, but some charge that the government’s failure to crack down on these groups worsens the problem of violence. On Easter Sunday 2016 as many as 24 Christians were killed in targeted violence in Lahore. A faction of the Pakistan Taliban claimed responsibility for the attack.
  • Christians in Egypt suffered a major suicide bombing attack in December 2016 and again on Palm Sunday in April 2017. Dozens were killed and more injured in both attacks, for which the Islamic State group claimed responsibility.
Marks of Christ

Here’s what real persecution looks like!

If you want to know the story of this smiling young man check out my post from last year:

“Miracle Boy”

I could go on and on, but I think you get the picture.

Still feeling persecuted?

As we enter into the holiday season and begin decorating our homes, buying presents, planning parties and family events and baking dozens and dozens of cookies, I want to challenge you to spent some time thinking of those who are really being persecuted for their faith.  Let’s follow the apostle Paul’s admonition and

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.

My prayer is that all my readers will have a great Thanksgiving and Christmas with family and friends enjoying all the blessings we have as Christians in the United States, but that you will also take some time to remember those who are really being persecuted for Christ.

 

 

“Miracle Boy”

Love and forgiveness among unbelievable tragedy

A few days ago I posted a blog regarding the persecuted church and showed a picture of a young boy whose face was horribly mutilated during an attack on his village.  (http://barblaneblog.c`om/2015/11/27/i-will-not-let-them-suffer-alone/)

Thirteen–year–old Danjuma Shakaru was critically injured during an attack on his village in northern Nigeria on January 28, 2015.  Muslim militants struck Danjuma on the head, arm and body with their machetes. His right eye was carved out, his genitals were cut off. Seeing his mangled, lifeless body covered in blood, the villagers who found him dug a grave for him.  Before he could be buried, he regained consciousness and began crying and shouting.  Taken to the hospital at the nearest city, workers there could not believe he would survive.

But survive he did!

Today, though his face is marked by horrendous scars where his right eye was carved out, his face shows a bright smile of joy for God had other plans for Danjuma.

In spite of what he has suffered, Danjuma is certain that God is still in control. He has no anger toward his attackers. “There is no problem,” he said. “I have allowed God to handle everything.”

I forgive them

Asked about his attackers, he said “I forgive them because they don’t know what they are doing,” he said, echoing the words of Christ. “If they had love, they wouldn’t behave that way.”

A defiant joy

While the attackers stole so much from Danjuma, they couldn’t take his joy. It is still evident on his face and in his voice. “The joy comes from the Lord,” he said.

Danjuma said his relationship with God has only grown stronger since the attack. He continues to pray regularly and seek God’s guidance. “God continues to guide and protect,” he said.

And today –

He recently had an operation that frees him from having to carry a bag for his urine.  Voice of the Martyrs is sending him to a school for the blind where he can learn Braille.  The hospital staff refers to him as “Miracle.”

Could/would I do the same?

As I read about this young man I have to ask myself, could I – would I forgive?  I think of the times I get all upset because someone said something unkind about me – or they did not respond to my phone call or text.  The words of Jesus ring in my ears:

You have heard that it has been said, You shall love your neighbor and hate your enemy.  But I say unto Love your enemies, bless them that curse you, do good to them that hate you, and pray for them that despitefully use you, and persecute you; that you may be the children of your Father which is in heaven: for He makes His sun to rise on the evil and on the good, and sends rain on the just and on the unjust.

For if you love only those who love you, what good is that?  Even scoundrels do that much.  If you are friendly only to your friends, how are you different from anyone else?  Even the heathen do that.

Be you therefore perfect, even as your Father in heaven is perfect.

What if we really did that?

What kind of a world would we have – how full would our churches be if we really completely did that?

 

I will not let them suffer alone!

Marks of Christ

A wonderful Thanksgiving!

It was a great Thanksgiving this year.  Our youngest granddaughter spent the night before with us – and slept all snuggled up next to me.  The morning brought her mother and father and while I made the scalloped potatoes and banana pudding that my family love, my daughter fixed all the rest of the food.  Afterwards, my husband and son-in-law cleaned up.

The family gathered around the table was not as many as in years past as our children and grandchildren are scattered all around the USA, but I was thankful for the calls and texts from many of them.

So much to be thankful for:

  • While we have aches and pains, none of my family have any life-threatening illnesses.
  • My children all have jobs/homes.
  • I have a terrific husband.

But what about the rest of the world?

As we all rush out to find great bargains on this “black Friday” I think of those who did not sit down yesterday to a table loaded with delicious food.  Those who did not lay their body down last night on a soft, comfortable bed with warm blankets.

My thoughts last night were especially of my Christian brothers and sisters who are being persecuted for their faith in Jesus Christ.  For them, there was no big meal with family and friends all gathered around.  Many are in prison and have not seen their families in weeks, months, even years.  For them, there was not a big shopping day.

But what can I do about it?

Many times we feel like there is nothing we can do about people suffering on the other side of the world.  We do not have enough money, enough political power, no army.  What can we do?

There is much we can do!

Start with prayer.

We often say to someone who shares a need that we cannot fix, “All I can do is pray.”  But never under-estimate the power of prayer.

Samuel M. Zwemer, a missionary and Christian scholar on Islam, said: “The history of missions is the history of answered prayer…it is the key to the whole missionary problem. All human means are secondary.” J. Oswald Sanders said: “[Prayer] is fundamental, not supplementary…. All progress can be clearly traced back to prevailing prayer.”

How can we pray?

  • Pray for God to move in the hearts of Muslims, Buddhists, Hindus, so that they may know Christ (1 Timothy 2:4).
  • Pray for God to change  the hearts of governmental authorities (Proverbs 21:1).

Pastor Wurmbrand (founder of Voice of the Martyrs) writes how God used him while he was in prison.  He credits having the courage and strength to be a witness and survive the harsh treatment of prison to the prayers of God’s people.

This is part of his story!

In Romania, Pastor Wurmbrand was interrogated many times during his 14 years in prison. One of his interrogators, Lieutenant Grecu, questioned Pastor Wurmbrand about his activities with the underground church. Wurmbrand described Grecu as “a tough young man… indoctrinated with the belief that he was making a better world.”
After accusing Pastor Wurmbrand of lying about his contacts, Grecu ordered him to write out all the rules that Pastor broke in prison. Pastor Wurmbrand willingly sat at the table to write out his “declaration.” It had been two years since he had held a pen, so it was difficult to write. He persisted in writing all the rules he had broken, ending his “confession” with: “I have never spoken against the Communists. I am a disciple of Christ, who had given us love for our enemies. I understand them and pray for their conversion so that they will become my brothers in the Faith….”
When Grecu read the “declaration,” he was overwhelmed that Pastor could write of his love for a government that had put him in prison and tortured him. Grecu said, “This is one of your Christian commandments that no one can keep.” To that, Pastor lovingly responded: “It’s not a matter of keeping a commandment. When I became a Christian, it was as if I had been reborn, with a new character full of love. Just as only water can flow from a spring, so only love can come from a loving heart.”
Over time, Pastor had more opportunities to talk about Christ with Lieutenant Grecu. One day he had the wonderful privilege, in his own prison cell, to see Grecu come to Christ.

Don’t let them suffer alone!

Pray.  Write letters.  Educate yourself about the persecution in the world.   Check out http://www.persecution.com/

 

Ten Ways to Pray for Our Persecuted Family

I recently shared some information about a very important organization, VOM.  (The Voice of the Martyrs)

I would like to share more information about how you can pray for those who are being persecuted around the world for their faith.

  1. Pray that persecuted believers will sense god’s presence.
  2. Pray that they will feel connected to the greater Body of Christ.
  3. Pray that they will experience God’s comfort when their family members are killed, injured, or imprisoned for their witness.
  4. Pray that they will have more opportunities to share the gospel.
  5. Pray for their boldness to make Christ known.
  6. Pray that they will forgive and love their persecutors.
  7. Pray that their ministry activities will remain undetected by authorities or others who wish to silence them.
  8. Pray that they will rejoice in suffering.
  9. Pray that they will be refreshed through God’s Word and grow in their faith.
  10. Pray that they will be strengthened through the prayers of fellow believers.

Jesus – Lord, Liar, Lunatic?

Jesus – Lord, Liar, Lunatic?

Growing up as a Christian I have met people who did not accept the Bible or have any belief in Jesus Christ as the Son of God.  While I have never agreed with them, I can understand how someone might reject the Gospel.  A Muslim, a Hindu, a Buddhist or simply an atheist might reject the truth found in the Bible.

But what has always puzzled me is the people I meet who tell me they do not believe Jesus is the Son of God, but they accept Him as a good moral teacher.  They even quote Him and His teachings and say we should use them as a guide for our living.

But that has never made sense to me.  When you read what Jesus said and did, I think you have to either accept Him as Lord – as the Son of God – or reject Him as a liar or a lunatic.

If he actually knew He was not the Son of God but claimed He was – then He was NOT a good moral teacher, but a liar!

And what a liar!

  • Making promises He could never keep if He was not the Son of God.

And as Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, even so must the Son of Man be lifted up,  that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have eternal life.    For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life. 

  •  Encouraging people to give up everything to follow Him with those great promises.

So Jesus said to them, “Assuredly I say to you, that in the regeneration, when the Son of Man sits on the throne of His glory, you who have followed Me will also sit on twelve thrones, judging the twelve tribes of Israel.  And everyone who has left houses or brothers or sisters or father or mother or wife or children or lands, for My name’s sake, shall receive a hundredfold, and inherit eternal life.  But many who are first will be last, and the last first.

  •  Claiming to be able to forgive sins.

And some of the scribes were sitting there and reasoning in their hearts,  “Why does this Man speak blasphemies like this? Who can forgive sins but God alone?”  But immediately, when Jesus perceived in His spirit that they reasoned thus within themselves, He said to them, “Why do you reason about these things in your hearts?  Which is easier, to say to the paralytic, ‘Your sins are forgiven you,’ or to say, ‘Arise, take up your bed and walk’?   But that you may know that the Son of Man has power on earth to forgive sins”—He said to the paralytic,   “I say to you, arise, take up your bed, and go to your house.”

If He was not the Son of God, but thought He was – He was an honest man – but also a lunatic!

And what a lunatic!

  • Believing that the prophecies in the Old Testament (the Tanakh) were speaking about Him and that He could give eternal life to those who followed Him.

 You search the Scriptures, for in them you think you have eternal life; and these are they which testify of Me.  But you are not willing to come to Me that you may have life.

 

  •  Believing that He had authority over all flesh given to Him by God and that God has sent Him to bring this eternal life to the people.

Jesus spoke these words, lifted up His eyes to heaven, and said: “Father, the hour has come. Glorify Your Son, that Your Son also may glorify You,  as You have given Him authority over all flesh, that He should give eternal life to as many as You have given Him.   And this is eternal life, that they may know You, the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom You have sent.

  • Believing that His death would bring a payment for the sins of the world.

Just as the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give His life a ransom for many.”

C.S. Lewis sums it up so well in his book, Mere Christianity:

I am trying here to prevent anyone saying the really foolish thing that people often say about Him:  “I’m ready to accept Jesus was a great moral teacher, but I don’t accept His claim to be God.”  That is the one thing we must not say.  A man who was merely a man and said the sort of things Jesus said would not be a great moral teacher.  He would either be a fanatic–on a level with the man who says he is a poached egg–or else he would be the Devil of Hell.  You must make your choice.   Either this man was, and is, the Son of God, or else a madman or something worse.

You can shut him up for a fool, you can spit at Him and kill Him as a demon; or you can fall at His feet and call Him Lord and God.  But let us not come with any patronizing nonsense about His being a great human teacher.  He has not left that open to us.  He did not intend to.

Lord, Liar, Lunatic – which is He to you?