Hate This Election? Love one another.


I have a friend who I am convinced is the smartest guy around. This past summer, he turned off the TV news. He has no Facebook, Twitter, or other social media accounts. But he does have a joyful disposition and peace in his soul—even in the midst of this excruciating election cycle. This election isn’t pretty. There is no viable candidate with integrity. None worthy of even a tepid endorsement. Christians across the country are perplexed, distressed, outraged, and disgusted. Our choice appears to be between Constantine and Diocletian.

love-one-another-simpleThe truth is, we might be more than a little distracted. Perhaps we need a fresh look at first things. We must first love God with heart, soul, mind, and strength. Second, we must love others as we love ourselves. This election is challenging our love for others in general, and our love for one another in particular. And that’s a shame.

The mark of the Christian is love for one another. “By this shall all men know that you are my disciples, that you love one another,” (John 13:35). Suffice it to say, for American Christians, love has not been the most noticeable Facebook trend. Nevertheless, we carry on. There are great victories being won around the world as the gospel goes forward, and Christians continue to love one another fervently from the heart.

I thought this might be a good time for a few examples of Christian love:

In South Sudan, Christians are living among tribes that have no written language. These Christians are helping the Toposa people learn the good news of Christ and the gospel through songs. The Toposa people are an oral culture—no books, no sermon notes, no writing tablets. But they love to sing and dance. So Christians are helping them continue their songs and dances, while introducing the good news of God’s redemption through music. Check it out here: https://www.imb.org/singing-the-gospel-how-oral-learners-encounter-truth/

Another example of Christian love comes from across the Atlantic. London, England, is a world unto itself. The city has at least 8.6 million inhabitants (that’s the official census figure, experts think the real number is much higher). Among the millions of people, there are at minimum 300 different languages spoken. Into this ethnic and cultural mix, Christians are intentionally moving in and living among the many unbelievers. London has become a magnet for ordinary Christians (not full-time missionaries) to work in their professional capacity by day, while staying focused on loving others with the good news of God’s love in the evenings and on weekends. See the full story: https://www.imb.org/london-making-disciples-in-the-capital-of-the-world/

idop-20-yearsFinally, there may be something more important than the election happening this November! Sunday, November 6th (and Sunday the 13th), the International Day of Prayer (IDOP) will celebrate its twentieth anniversary. Originally begun in 1996 by the Religious Liberty Commission of the World Evangelical Association, the International Day of Prayer is now a global movement of millions of Christians joining together in prayer for those suffering persecution. Open Doors USA, The Voice of the Martyrs, and the World Evangelical Alliance all make resources available so your church can participate in this important event to serve fellow Christians through prayer. Fulfill John 13:35 by joining with other Christians to pray for suffering saints.

How Do You Obey Hebrews 13:3?


Christian persecution Mosul IraqSome years ago, I had a conversation with T. W. Hunt, a well-known prayer warrior. He had come to lead a conference on prayer at our church. At the time, I was a volunteer representative for Voice of the Martyrs. When he realized my concern for the persecuted church, his eyes lit up, and he enthusiastically retorted, “I pray for the persecuted church every day.”

As we spoke further, he revealed his method for remembering to pray for the persecuted church (as we are called by Hebrews 13:3 to remember the persecuted and ill-treated because we, too, are in the body). His method was simple. Each month, he received the VOM Newsletter. Upon receiving it, he would start at the front cover and work his way to the back, praying for each person’s name mentioned in that newsletter. He would make sure that he prayed for every person mentioned in the newsletter every month.

Though I never adopted his method for remembering on a consistent basis, I did realize that we must take extraordinary steps to obey Hebrews 13:3.  It is not a natural command for us to fulfill. We do not naturally identify with the persecuted church; thus we must be commanded to remind ourselves not to forget about our suffering brothers and sisters in Christ. I have set up these reminders in many different ways over the years.

For instance, I once wore a “Pray for Sudan” arm band. I also wore a “Bound with Them” bracelet to keep prisoners on my mind. One of the most effective ways I found was to make myself as familiar with Christians in prison as I was with Greek vocabulary—so I literally made flashcards of Christians in prison and kept them on a little ring which I could carry with me and flip through, praying as I went through the names on the flashcards.

Today, I am keeping things a little simpler still. My prayers are focused on Asia Bibi because her life is, literally, in the Asia Bibi Persecution Pakistan Praybalance. In 3 weeks, a judge will decide if this wife and mother of five will live or die. She is under the sentence of death in Pakistan on account of her faith in Jesus Christ. I have changed all my social profile pics to a prayer reminder until after October 16th so that I do not fail to remember this sister in prison in her time of great need.

I’m sure there are many other ways to remind ourselves to obey Hebrews 13:3. Please feel free to share how you remember to remember the persecuted (and thus obey Hebrews 13:3). Talk about it with your friends and ask them to share. The more we hear ideas from one another, the more likely we are to “stir one another up to love and good works” like remembering those who are ill-treated on account of their faith in Christ.

Remember the prisoners, as though in prison with them, and those who are ill-treated, since you yourselves also are in the body (Hebrews 13:3, NASB).

Some Simple Ways to Pray for Asia This Week


Praise the Lord! A number of folks have changed their profile pics to the “Pray for Asia Bibi” reminder seen here. As I pointed out, that is a great way to remind ourselves and others to pray for Asia Bibi between now and October 15th. Her judge in Pakistan has said that he will delay no more, and the next meeting date is final: It is life or death.

We can help her through our prayers. Remember Paul’s words to the Corinthians. They helped him when he thought he was going to die:

Asia Bibi Persecution Pakistan PrayFor we do not want you to be unaware, brethren, of our affliction which came to us in Asia, that we were burdened excessively, beyond our strength, so that we despaired even of life; indeed, we had the sentence of death within ourselves so that we would not trust in ourselves, but in God who raises the dead; 10 who delivered us from so great a peril of death, and will deliver us, He on whom we have set our hope. And He will yet deliver us, 11 you also joining in helping us through your prayers, so that thanks may be given by many persons on our behalf for the favor bestowed on us through the prayers of many. (2 Corinthians 1:8-11)

Here are a few ways we can be praying for Asia Bibi in her current distress:

  • Pray for her faith not to fail, that God would strengthen her soul to faithful endurance.
  • Pray for her husband to trust Christ and stay fixed on Him clearly, especially in this next month.
  • Pray for her children to see Christ and the Holy Spirit at work through the faith displayed by their parents throughout this ordeal (She has 5 children).
  • Pray for her judge to have the courage to execute justice (rather than executing Asia Bibi).
  • Pray for this judge to do what is right, even though his life will then be in danger, as radicals would likely try to kill him if he allows Asia Bibi to go free.
  • Pray for those who have persecuted Asia and caused her 5 years of imprisonment, that they will be broken by the beauty of her faith and the holiness of her suffering for Christ’s sake. Pray they will be convicted of sin and converted to Christ.
  • Pray for the church in Pakistan to be strengthened through Asia’s faith, even as Paul says that the church was strengthened by seeing how God worked through his suffering.
  • Pray that the gospel would increase in Pakistan in the same way that it increased when Stephen was martyred and Paul was imprisoned.

My wife made the picture above her iPhone wallpaper so that every time she turns on her phone she gets a reminder to pray. Get creative!

I’m sure that you can think of many other ways to be praying during these last few weeks. Please feel free to share how you are praying for Asia. That will likely help all of us to pray with focus and intensity. Please continue to pray and continue to share these prayer requests with others. We have a genuine opportunity to see how the fervent, faithful prayers of the righteous can accomplish much on behalf of Asia Bibi.

Should Christians Stage Protests Against Persecution


So, in part one of this post, we saw that prayer was the first response of the Italian Bishops to the crisis of Christian persecution in Iraq and Nigeria. While not exactly endorsing their view of invoking the Virgin Mary in their prayers (I’m Protestant!), I still commend the bishops for a biblical recourse to prayer. The Apostle Paul constantly cried for Christians to help him through his suffering by joining with him in prayer (Eph 6:19, Col 4:3, 2 Thess 3:1ff).

Christians Protest PersecutionPrayer is no small part of our aiding our suffering brothers and sisters in Christ. Prayer is effective (James 5:16).  And yet, we always feel that we should do something more. So the question rises, can we do more? More specifically, we must ask, Is it good for Christians to protest Christian persecution? All around us, folks in our democratic republic have determined to protest publicly, thereby raising awareness and calling for government action on behalf of their special political concerns.

In America especially, protesting has been employed as an instrument of righteousness, calling both the government and the country at large to notice injustices like inequality for blacks and women. Of course, some—like the misguided Westboro Baptist family—abuse the privilege of protesting. But protesting is not altogether unbiblical.

While the New Testament did not arise from the context of 21st century America and, thus, does not have recourse to staged protests on Capitol Hill—the New Testament does offer a small dose of the spirit of government protest. For example, Paul and Silas were thrown into prison unlawfully in Philippi. While there, they were beaten without having first been tried. So, when their release orders came, rather than celebrating their release and taking off to preach the gospel (or just getting the heck out of town), Paul and Silas staged a protest instead.

“Paul said to the officers: ‘They beat us publicly without a trial, even though we are Roman citizens, and threw us into prison.  And now do they want to get rid of us quietly? No! Let them come themselves and escort us out’” (Acts 16:37, NIV).

More recently, in response to the slaughter of Christians in Iraq, displaced Iraqi Christians in Australia and Canada have begun staging protests, calling on government and citizens to take action, leveraging the power of the state in favor of aiding desperate Christians. I think we can support the actions of these brothers and sisters of faith. While our primary thrust must always be to avoid trusting in Australian chariots and Canadian horses, we are stillChristian persecution Mosul Iraq a part of those democratic governments. As citizens ourselves, we are still salt and light and should make use of every instrument available to us to endorse righteousness before God and man.

Christians ought to write letters to prisoners, write letters to congressmen and senators and governors. Christians ought to protest as they feel led. Christians ought to write songs, make movies, write books and articles, and stage events which remind the church and the culture at large that our king has come and will return, bringing with him great rewards for those who embrace the life He came to give.

Protesting, while neither the first nor the best response to persecution, is a legitimate biblical response. Just as John the Baptist held Herod accountable for his unrighteous deeds, so, too, Christians can graciously and prophetically call leaders to correct their unrighteous behavior—especially when that unrighteous behavior is directed specifically against the body of Christ. So, we can be thankful that Christians in Australia and Canada are speaking out. And we Christians in America may want to think about what more we can do in addition to our prayers.

How to Pray for Christians in Iraq (4 Ways)


Thank you all so much for your willingness to stand with our brothers and sisters in Iraq. Many of you have been using the Arabic “N” symbol below on your Facebook or Twitter profile to show your concern for Christians being targeted for extortion and/or extinction by soldiers of the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS).  God bless you for identifying with our brothers and sisters under attack.

Christian persecution mosul IraqOthers are understandably cynical about simply changing a profile pic as a reminder to pray. You think it’s too small of a gesture—that we must do more. And of course you are right! We all share some of that same attitude, I think.  Our American “can-do” mentality begs for a place to direct our anguish. We want to “do” something about the situation.  I spoke with a zealous young man today who graciously—yet excitedly—challenged me to “do something.” “We have to do something. Tell me what to do!” He cried.

My first response was to embrace his angst wholeheartedly. We really must do something. Our Christian brothers and sisters have been marked for death.  Their wages have been stolen.  Their homes and their homeland is now instantly closed to them. If they stay, they will be killed. If they leave, they will lose everything they once relied upon—houses, cars, money, jobs, friends. The situation is brutal.  Surely we can do more than pray!

And yet, upon further reflection, I reminded my young friend that prayer is no small thing. We ought not too quickly dismiss its potential for saving our fellow saints.  As James reminds us, “The effective prayer of a righteous man can accomplish much” (James 5:16).  James uses the example of Elijah whose prayers both caused and cured a drought in Israel which lasted 3 ½ years.  Imagine—a man with a nature like ours altering meteorological phenomena for more than 1,000 days in a row!  (Talk about man-made global warming!) James could have chosen many other examples such as the prayers by Israel which brought about her Exodus from Egypt and Egypt’s destruction:

Christianity Today Mosul Christian Persecution #WeAreN

Mosul Christian Home (source: Christianity Today)

During those many days the king of Egypt died, and the people of Israel groaned because of their slavery and cried out for help.  Their cry for rescue from slavery came up to God.  And God heard their groaning, and God remembered his covenant with Abraham, with Isaac, and with Jacob.  God saw the people of Israel—and God knew” Ex 2:23-25 (ESV).

God knew! Are we to wonder whether God—now that Jesus and the Holy Spirit have been more clearly revealed—is still near and dear to His people? May it never be! Jesus Himself swore that He would never leave nor forsake His people (Hbrws 13:5) and that He would be with them even to the end of the age (Matt 28:20).  And so the all-powerful, all-knowing God of infinite love remains faithfully concerned for His people and capable of accomplishing great things on their behalf. With that in mind, we can (and must?) pray in at least these four ways:

Fervently from the heart.  Our prayers must be urgent, zealous, fearful, yet fully-fired with faith. Think of it this way: What would you do if you came home from work this evening only to discover that a gang had captured your sister and informed her that she had 24 hours to pay a ransom or die?  Would that not be a fiery trial that would cause you to cry out to God on her behalf? Would you not shriek with horror and beg for mercy? Fiery trials no doubt beget fiery prayers. There is a sword at the throat of our family. Pray!

Second, Despairingly—from a position of weakness. This may sound odd, but I take my cue from the Apostle Paul in 2 Corinthians 1:8-11,

For we do not want you to be unaware, brethren, of our affliction which came to us in Asia, that we were burdened excessively, beyond our strength, so that we despaired even of life; indeed, we had the sentence of death within ourselves so that we would not trust in ourselves, but in God who raises the dead; 10 who delivered us from so great a peril of death, and will deliver us, He on whom we have set our hope. And He will yet deliver us, 11 you also joining in helping us through your prayers, so that thanks may be given by many persons on our behalf for the favor bestowed on us through the prayers of many.

Notice how Paul admitted being excessively burdened—beyond any human strength. Is that not the burden our brothers and sisters are under now in Iraq?  What earthly power is (a) willing to save them and (b) able to save them?  Some (like the U.S. Military) seem able but not willing.  Others perhaps are willing but not really able.  So, where are Christians to turn?  As we pray for our brothers and sisters, we should pray from the position of complete and utter despair of human deliverance.  In that position, Paul says, we find our sure hope of trusting not in ourselves but in God who raises the dead!

Third, Victoriously—as though Christ has truly been raised from the dead. Who could ever have imagined that eternal life would spring from the humiliating execution of a stricken, smitten Jewish carpenter?  And yet, our Christ has been raised from the dead!  The Apostle Paul took courage and believed in his own deliverance from the mouth of death because of the Resurrection life of Christ.  Pray for our brothers and sisters to move from the Christian persecution Mosul Iraqdespair of their current situation to the victory of Christ’s Resurrection.  God is no less able to deliver today than he was when Paul was preaching the gospel in Asia (and the Middle East). So pray to God that he would raise the dead to new life in Mosul, Iraq. Pray for the current loss to be made gain.  After Stephen was martyred (Acts 7), the early church was scattered on account of the increasing persecution. Nevertheless, the gospel went forth with power everywhere the Christians fled.  Even so, God’s gospel will triumph somehow. Pray for His people in Iraq to trust God’s purposes by faith.

Fourth, Effectively—as though you expect your prayers to affect much. The prayers of saints saved Paul’s life. Why not now? Why not the lives of those in Mosul, Iraq?  If, as we see in 2 Cor 1:11, the churches were able to secure Paul’s release from certain death, then why would not be possible today for our prayers to be the very means God uses to deliver Iraqi Christians from what appears a certain death? Is our God no longer able to deliver? Surely, God is no less powerful now than He was on the day He delivered Daniel or Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego!

My friend and I talked about how we would love to help others learn to pray for the persecuted church. We will continue thinking about our prayers for the persecuted, and we hope to be providing much more helps in the future, Lord willing. So, stay tuned…

This Simple Prayer Request May Be the Best Request of the Year!


There is no spiritual equivalent to the Academy Awards. Could you imagine a gala event in Nashville where Billy Bob Johnson from Plano, TX, wins this year’s Golden Bible for “Best Supporting Evangelist”?  John MacArthur and Mark Driscoll could slug it out for “Best Argument over Spiritual Gifting.” Admittedly, the concept is mildly grotesque.

Christians North Korea PersecutionBut if there were an award for “Best Prayer Request of 2014,” I would nominate the following:

“Pray with us.”

Doesn’t sound like much, does it? But consider the origin of this request. It comes from a Christian living in North Korea. Many have called North Korea the worst place in the world to be a Christian. You might remember back in March 33 Christians were scheduled for execution on account of their work in the underground church.

Yet Eric Foley, a missions strategist intimately acquainted with Christians in North Korea, makes a strong case against thinking of North Korea as the worst place to be a Christian. Foley says,

“I think that if people say the ‘worst’ and mean the costliest, then that’s an accurate statement. I’ve never met a casual Christian in North Korea! But if we mean that it’s a place where God’s power is least evident, or where Christians feel the most forsaken, then North Korean Christians would deny that adamantly,” he explains.

“North Koreans insist that they receive everything they need from God in order to be faithful. So they say: ‘Don’t pray for us, pray with us. God will find us faith where he calls us, and he will provide’…”

There it is! Believers in North Korea—where if caught they will be sent to a concentration camp or killed—do not feel defeated. They do not want us to pray for them, as though they are needy. They want us to pray with them—for the gospel to triumph in North Korea! What a difference a little preposition makes!

A simple preposition makes this prayer request one of the most profound I’ve ever heard. It shatters complacency. It kills any hint of defeat—or even retreat! It says the gospel is alive in North Korea. It bids us join with our prayers for the victory that one day will come. Won’t you join the fight and pray for our brothers and sisters in North Korea?  Don’t you think this simple prayer request demonstrates the Spirit and power of Christ?

 

 Christians in the Worst Prisons

Persecution Terribly Real in North Korea

North Korea NOT the Worst Place to Be a Christian?

 

5 Reasons to Pray for the Persecuted Church


I have a close brother in the ministry who sent a text to me last night asking me to pray for him as he ministered to a family in need. Another brother needs me to pray for his daughter who is recovering from a complicated surgery. Yet another friend needs prayer because she is struggling with forgiving someone.

Greg Cochran Prayer for Persecuted ChristiansI, too, am struggling with discipline, devotion, and evangelism. I, too, need prayer. What Christian doesn’t need prayer, right? Have you ever asked someone to pray for you? Did you mean it? Do you really think it matters?  Of course, you do. You know that you are often sustained by the prayers of the saints lifting your cause before God’s throne of grace.

We all wish others would pray for us. Therefore, prayer for others—maybe especially for the persecuted church—falls under the rubric of Christ’s “Golden Rule” found in Matthew 7:12, “In everything, therefore, treat people in the same way you want them to treat you, for this is the Law and the Prophets.” Do you want or need folks praying for you? Pray for them, especially for those suffering the greatest needs.

Second, the Bible almost commands us to pray for the persecuted. I know that’s weird to say, but there is no direct command which says, “Pray for the persecuted church.” I think that’s because the Spirit makes it so obvious that we don’t really need to be commanded to do it. What Christian would think there is no need to pray for those Christians whose home has been destroyed and whose lives are in constant danger (as is currently the case in Iraq)?

Even if there is no direct imperative to pray, there are several commands in Scripture which point to that end. Paul commands the church at Thessalonica to pray for him and his team so that they will speak effectively and be rescued from the evil of their persecutors (2 Thess. 3:1-2).  If Paul needed Christians to pray that he might be faithful through persecution, then, perhaps, Christians suffering persecution today need prayer, too.

In addition, Christians are told to pray concerning their own experiences of suffering (see Matthew 24:20, for instance). And Christians are commanded to pray for those who are persecuting Christians. It seems to me that such a command argues that we ought to pray not only for the persecuted, but also for the persecutor.

Third, there are biblical examples of prayers being effective on behalf of the persecuted. One great example concerns the Apostle Paul. In 2 Corinthians 1:8-11, Paul tells of a desperate situation he suffered while in Asia. The situation was so bad, he says, that “he despaired even of life itself.”

And yet, he was miraculously and powerfully delivered from what seemed to him certain death. How was he delivered? Ultimately, he says, he was delivered by God, who raises the dead. Yet he also commends the church for the role she played in his rescue: “you also joining in helping us through your prayers.” We can conclude that the prayers of the righteous are effective for delivering needy brothers and sisters from desperate situations of persecution. The church helped Paul survive his suffering in Asia. And the church can help those suffering today through faithful prayers.

Fourth, praying for other brothers and sisters in their times of suffering helps Christians to obey the command of Hebrews 13:3. While not a direct command to pray for the persecuted, Hebrews 13:3—the command to remember the persecuted—surely includes prayer. Indeed, it is a more broad command than simply praying. Remember Christians in prison, as though in prison with them. Remember those suffering ill treatment on account of Christ. Yet surely such remembering includes praying for the persecuted.

Finally, our praying for suffering Christians reflects the love of Christ Himself for the church.  Christ stood to receive Stephen, the first martyr after him (see Acts 7). He is as concerned for the suffering church as a groom is concerned for the appearance of his bride (Ephesians 5). What if wedding congregants were to spit upon the bride, curse at her, kick her, and beat her while she made her way down the aisle? Would the groom not erupt in violent anger?

So it is with Christ. He is working to make His bride ready for the final consummation. According to Ephesians 5, Christ is working to make His bride—the church—spotless and blameless, to present her to the Father in all her splendor. This means, of course, that those who persecute the church are persecuting Christ’s bride and body. It is impossible for Christ to be more intimately linked to others than He is with His church.

There is no question that Christ lives to make intercession for His church. Thus, when we intercede on behalf of our suffering brothers and sisters, we imitate Christ. We can believe it is the Spirit of Christ who so compels us to pray for the persecuted.

Why Pray at All? (Awesome Privilege of Prayer)

A Simple Morning Prayer for You

Should We Pray for Satan?

Pray for the Persecuted and the Persecutor

Christ’s Heart for the Persecuted: A Simple Explanation with Current Illustrations


I know a woman whose life was very hard through no fault of her own. She and her husband had 8 children together when he was murdered, leaving her a widow with very little means to survive. Family members offered to take the younger children so she could try to survive with the older ones. She told them they might as well have asked for her arms, or legs, or her very heart. She could not part with any of her children.

Christ love persecuted churchHer children remained poor, but they were loved. This simple, widowed mother was asked one time which child she loved the best. That question would shock some of us, as we might wrestle within ourselves with guilt over the tension and frustration we feel toward some of our own kids. I mean, I could see wrestling with the question and having to ask myself, “Oh, no! Is there a chance I love one child more than another?” –I don’t, mind you, but my emotional weakness would cause me a little anxiety.

But the question did not cause this woman even the slightest angst. She was not flummoxed by it a bit. Her answer was simple and to the point. When asked which child she loved the most, she quickly and calmly replied, “Whichever one is hurt.” The child who is hurting is the one most in need of a mother’s love and, thus, the one to whom her love must be directed. It’s a simple, profoundly true concept.

I know it is not appropriate to take our own illustrations and project them upward, onto God. Yet, the truth of love and its direction toward the needy must correlate to some extent. It might be better to say it this way. The reason a mother (or father) knows instinctively to love the child in need is that we have a heavenly Father whose heart is toward the needy, the suffering, and, especially, the persecuted–those who suffer explicitly because they belong to Him.

When Christ’s martyr Stephen was stoned, Christ was standing there to receive him (Acts 7). When Christians are called on by governors and authorities to answer for their faith in Christ, they are instructed by Him not to prepare what to say because His very Spirit would speak through them in that hour:

they will lay their hands on you and will persecute you, delivering you to the synagogues and prisons, bringing you before kings and governors for My name’s sake. 13“It will lead to an opportunity for your testimony. 14“So make up your minds not to prepare beforehand to defend yourselves; 15for I will give you utterance and wisdom which none of your opponents will be able to resist or refute. (Luke 21:12-15, NASB)

We could continue on–Christ identifies Himself as the object of persecution when He calls Saul to account (Acts 9). He takes it personally: “I am Jesus, whom you are persecuting.”  And, Christ is pictured in Revelation as holding all time at bay until the full number of his saints are martyred, then the reckoning will follow, and his angels of vengeance will reap full justice on the earth (Revelation 6…). The principle seems sound to me. Christ is particularly present with his saints who are suffering on account of Him.

So, below, I have listed a few examples of Christians who may be the objects of Christ’s particular love and affections–where He may be particularly present in this hour of need. Let us, too, draw near to Him and offer prayers for these suffering saints since we ourselves are in the body.

From Back to JerusalemMuslims in Syria recently crucified two Christian teenagers for refusing to convert to Islam. The story was crosses persecution Christian syriareported on a Croatian Catholic website by Sister Raghida, former head nun at the Christian School in Damascus who witnessed the atrocity.  (This story is graphic. Villages were stormed and Christians killed mercilessly. Some were beheaded, and the killers “played soccer” with their heads).

Lela Gilbert reminds us of the plight of Asia Bibi: Nonetheless, since 2009, this falsely accused woman has been on death row in a filthy prison cell, wondering if and when her death sentence will enforced. She longs for husband and five children. Day and night, in squalid surroundings, she fights off her fears, endures physical illness and prays.

And from Nigeria: Muslim herdsmen armed with guns and machetes on Friday night (March 14) launched attacks on three villages in Kaduna state, killing more than 100 Christians and destroying homes, sources said. 

May the Lord indeed be present with His people in their darkest hours, as we help them through our prayers (see 2 Corinthians 1:5-11).

Should We Pray for the Persecuted?


It is a curious thing that the New Testament does not command us to pray for the persecuted church. Before asking for food, shelter, safety, deliverance, or even a copy of the Scriptures, most persecuted believers ask first for prayer. Praying for those suffering persecution is as natural to the Christian as praying for loved ones as they are heading into surgery. We really don’t have to be taught to do it. We just know that it’s right.

Christian persecution pray for the persecutedWe do need to be commanded to pray for our enemies, however. As Jesus points out in the Sermon on the Mount, we have already heard that we should love our neighbors and hate our enemies. What we need to hear by way of divine command is “Love your enemies, and pray for those who persecute you.” Isn’t this strange?

We are not commanded to pray for the persecuted in the Sermon on the Mount. We are told to pray for the persecutors! What is Jesus thinking? What could possibly be the reason for such a seemingly impossible command?

We might think the reason would be to pray for the conversion of the persecutor. That way, a double victory is won, both with a victory for the persecutor in moving from an anti-Christian rebel, headed for destruction, to becoming a saint with all the privileges of a child of God, including eternal life. The double victory portion would be found in the fact that the converted persecutor would stop persecuting—it’s a win-win. And a win-win would be good, right?

Maybe such an outcome would be terrific for all involved, but it is not the reason Jesus gives for praying for the persecutors. Why pray for the persecutors?  Jesus gives the reason in Matthew 5:45,

so that you may be sons of your Father who is in heaven; for He causes His sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous.

The idea found in Matthew 5:45 is simply this: Reflect the glory of God with your life. God pours out love on us who are naturally unloving and unlovable. So, why would we refuse to offer it to others? Because we have the spirit of Christ, we, too, can reflect the glory of God by showing His love to our enemies. Show the world the grace God has bestowed upon you. We are to be like God, extending love aggressively in the face of hostility.

Now let’s step back to our original dilemma. We are commanded to do the difficult (almost impossible) task of praying for those who persecute us, but we are not commanded to pray for the persecuted—even though they are asking for us to pray for them. How do we make sense of this biblically? We turn to Paul and 2 Corinthians 1:8-11,

For we do not want you to be unaware, brethren, of our affliction which came to us in Asia, that we were burdened excessively, Christians Praying for the Persecutedbeyond our strength, so that we despaired even of life; indeed, we had the sentence of death within ourselves so that we would not trust in ourselves, but in God who raises the dead; 10 who delivered us from so great a peril of death, and will deliver us, He on whom we have set our hope. And He will yet deliver us, 11 you also joining in helping us through your prayers, so that thanks may be given by many persons on our behalf for the favor bestowed on us through the prayers of many.

Notice, first, how desperate the situation was for Paul and his companions. Second, notice the role of prayers in Paul’s deliverance. And, third, notice the reason Paul thinks God will deliver him and his persecuted companions through the prayers of other saints.

Paul reached his physical and emotional limits. But God helped him and saved him through it all. The prayers of other saints were crucial in this process according to Paul. The situation was so bad that only God could provide deliverance. And God did so in accordance with the way the saints were praying. The reason God orchestrated the events of Paul’s severe persecution the way He did was so that the whole church could celebrate the goodness and power of God when God provided a miraculous deliverance in accordance with the prayers of the saints.

Today, when we pray for our brothers and sisters in need, we, too, become instruments through whom God is bringing deliverance to His people. Part of our reward is celebrating in the Thanksgiving of answered prayers offered to the Father on behalf of Christ’s people. We don’t have to be commanded to do what we know God wants us to do. We know more than God’s commands. We know God Himself. And we know how He works in and through His people.

Simple Ways to Stay Informed about Christian Persecution


Not long ago, I posted a couple of articles concerning why Christian persecution is such a neglected topic both among Christians and non-Christians alike. I’m sure those articles had a negative tone about them because it is difficult to understand why so many people neglect such an important Christian priority. Yet, as Christians, our message and our lives are inherently oriented in the Resurrection of Christ toward the positive–always toward redemption! And I want this to be reflected in my thinking and my writing.

Prayer Persecuted Christian persecutionSo, I was graciously reminded yesterday of how the Lord is stirring His people to share His concern for His suffering church. Two young men came to my office to ask for help in leading a ministry of prayer for the persecuted church. They will be meeting on Thursday nights on the campus of California Baptist University to pray for persecuted Christians around the world. This movement is so refreshing and encouraging. Young Christians are aware of and concerned for the persecuted church.

And these young Christians are not alone. There are a number of good ministries working to serve the persecuted church and to raise awareness for those suffering on account of Christ.  Among those paying attention to Christian persecution, a few organizations stand out.  First, there are ministries dedicated to serving the persecuted church. Three of the more popular ministries are Voice of the Martyrs (www.persecution.com); Open Doors (www.opendoors.org); and Barnabas Fund (www.barnabasfund.org), the latter of which operates out of the United Kingdom.  These three organizations have long track records of ministry to the persecuted.

Second, there are research agencies dedicated (at least partially) to discovering the extent Christians are being persecuted around the world.  Among the largest and most respected of these is the Pew Research Center, particularly the Center’s Religion and Public Life Project, which publishes an annual report each January detailing religious hostilities around the world (www.pewforum.org).  In addition to the Pew Research Center’s work, other entities provide global documentation of Christian persecution:

  • The United States Commission on International Religious Freedom (USCIRF), chaired by Dr. Robert P. George, is a bipartisan commission which produces an annual report to the Congress of the United States detailing issues germane to religious freedom around the world (www.uscirf.gov).
  • WorldWatch Monitor is a news agency which focuses on the persecution of Christians around the world (www.worldwatchmonitor.org).
  • Forum 18 is a Norwegian human rights organization which covers religious freedom all over the world, but focuses primary attention on the former Soviet countries (www.forum18.org). The name is derived from Article 18 of the UN Declaration of Human Rights, which promises freedom of religion.
  • The Hudson Institute Center for Religious Freedom provides publications, Op-eds, and information related to religious freedom in the U.S. and around the world (http://crf.hudson.org/).
  • China Aid is a human rights organization focused on religious liberty issues in China. Founder Bob Fu was instrumental in negotiating the escape and eventual release of the blind legal activist Chen Guangcheng in 2012 (www.chinaaid.org).
  • The Center for the Global Study of Christianity is a research institution which works diligently to uncover accurate demographic data “to the ends of the earth.” This center is an outgrowth of work begun by David Barrett and his World Christian Encyclopedia research. This center resides on the campus of Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary (http://www.gordonconwell.edu/resources/Center-for-the-Study-of-Global-Christianity.cfm).

The Southern Baptist Convention’s Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission provides information about and raises awareness of religious liberty issues in the U.S. and around the world (www.erlc.com).

We have more access to information about persecution than at any time in history. The internet is an amazing resource if we employ it for good. I am so thankful that many Christians and human rights organizations are employing this resource for the good of the suffering Bride of Christ. May the Lord prosper these ministries.

International Day of Prayer for the Persecuted Church


prayer persecuted church idopHopefully, you will be attending an International Day of Prayer (IDOP) event for the persecuted church.  I have been part of the IDOP movement for 13 years now, and it provides encouragement for me year after year.

Specifically, I am always encouraged in two ways. First, I am encouraged by the joy of the persecuted. Like the Apostle Paul says in Romans 5, Christians exult in their tribulations, knowing that tribulation brings about perseverance. Perseverance brings about proven character, and proven character brings about hope, which can never disappoint.  The expectation going into one of these events for the persecuted church is that it will be a somber, dour time of hearing about suffering and oppression. The reality is that victory is more pronounced than defeat!

Second, I am always encouraged by the unity of the body of Christ. Christians from many different churches (1/2 million different churches!) will gather for the one body of Christ still suffering on earth.  That is glorious. We frequently referred to our IDOP event back in Kentucky as “One Night for the World.” The idea was that our differences would not divide us, but bring us together for one night to proclaim to the world that we are the body of Christ, and our identity is ultimately bound up in our Head, our Lord, Jesus Christ.

I hope you will be encouraged by your attendance at the International Day of Prayer. I am speaking in Van Dyne Gym on the campus of California Baptist University at 6:30pm, Sunday, November 10.

 

Do You Believe in Miracles? (Part 1 of 3)


This article is part one of a three-part defense of miracles.

Against the backdrop of growing skepticism in Britain and the west, C. S. Lewis wrote an important little treatise in

Christ pharisees miracles

Christ and the Pharisees
(Public Domain)

defense of miracles.  As the progress of science became more and more intertwined with Darwin’s evolutionary schemes of human origin, philosophers and academics became less and less comfortable speaking about miracles.  Yet, Lewis stepped in and placed before the world a stunningly clear explanation and defense of miracles.  Lewis wrote, “Miracles are a retelling in small letters of the very same story which is written across the whole world in letters too large for some of us to see.”

The point Lewis made, of course, is the same one made by the psalmist nearly two thousand years before him: “The heavens declare the glory of God, and the sky above proclaims his handiwork. Day to day pours out speech, and night to night reveals knowledge” (Psalm 19:1-2, ESV).  What the stars sing in the background, the miracles recite specifically.  God speaks plainly through creation, but not all people listen to what is being said.  So, God speaks even more plainly through miracles. But what do the miracles say?

The miracles say that God is at work among humankind.  In John 3, Nicodemus affirms what was commonly believed among the religious leaders of Jesus’s day.  The miracles of Jesus were a clear sign that he had come from God, for no one could do such miraculous signs, “unless God is with him” (John 3:2).  When Peter preached his great sermon at Pentecost, he, too, affirmed what Nicodemus knew—that Jesus was a man who was attested to by God with mighty works and wonders and signs (Acts 2:22).  Nicodemus, like both the Apostle Peter and C. S. Lewis who came after him, was convinced that miracles indicated the near presence of the living God.  The miracles of Jesus make plain that Jesus Christ himself came from God.

Jesus taught his disciples that miracles were designed to confirm his identity as the Son of God. After John the Baptist had been thrown into prison by Herod, he sent his own followers to Jesus in order to confirm that Jesus was in fact the Messiah sent to earth from Heaven.  One can understand John’s concern. He was, literally, about to lose his head for the cause of Christ. He needed to be sure that Jesus was, indeed, sent from God.

To confirm his own identity (and to put John the Baptist at ease), Jesus reported to John’s followers that they had already seen enough of his miracles to conclude that he was from God.  Luke reports that at the very same time the followers of John came to inquire of him, Jesus was healing diseases, casting out evil spirits, and giving sight to the blind (Luke 11:21).  Jesus told the followers of John to go back and report to their master all the miracles they had witnessed.  In short, Jesus appealed to his miracles as support for the presence of God in his ministry.

Jesus made clear that his miracles demonstrated the presence of God at work.  Yet, some viewed the signs and wonders of Jesus as evidence that he was a false prophet.  Though no one doubted whether or not Jesus was performing miracles, some—like the Pharisees—were certain that the miracles condemned his ministry rather than affirmed it in the eyes of God.  This condemnation sounds strange at first, but when one understands the Old Testament instruction on miracles, he can see what it was that caused the Pharisees to stumble in the matter of the signs and wonders of Jesus.

Is Praying Now Bullying?


 

William Law once said, “There is nothing that makes us love a man so much as prayer for him.” Nothing is more natural or loving for the Christian than prayer.  Jesus, early in His ministry, taught His disciples how to pray (Matthew 6).  The Apostle Paul later taught Christians to “pray without ceasing,”  (1 Thessalonians 5:17). Those prayers are to be made on behalf of all people (1 Timothy 2:1).  From Jesus’s own ministry, we understand that prayer is to be made on behalf of the sick especially.

Far from being called loving, such prayers might now be considered bullying. In the UK (Nailsea, Somerset), a

Olive Jones prayer fired persecution

Picture: The Telegraph

teacher has been fired for offering to pray for a student. Olive Jones has been teaching for more than 20 years. She took a position at Oak Hill Short Stay School in order to teach students who were suffering from illness. She wanted to help.

On a visit to the home of one of her students, Ms. Jones offered to pray for the child. The response was sharp: “We are from a family that does not believe,” the child said.  So, Ms. Jones did not pray. Apparently, the offer to pray was offensive enough to the mother of the child. She complained. Ms. Jones was dismissed from her job as a teacher. And the matter was investigated as a possible incident of bullying.

Possibly, there is more to the story. Maybe Ms. Jones badgered the little girl and preached to her rather than spending their time together teaching math. That is possible, but the original story clearly indicates that the offer to pray caused trauma.  Is this a sign of things to come? Is prayer an act of love, as Law said, or is it a power play to oppress the sick and weak, as the school indicated by its termination of Ms. Jones?

 

Should We Pray for Satan?


Should the Christian pray for Satan?  If anyone stands in need of prayer it is Satan.  He is facing the most awful form of eternal torment for his role in leading humans astray and in fueling the flames of rebellion against the Creator and against his redeemer.  Satan is referred to as the father of lies who speaks in lies and deals out murder.  This lying and murdering comes forth from him because it was his nature from the beginning (John 8:44).  Satan is a creature without hope of reclamation.  There are two reasons that Christians ought not to pray for him.

First, prayers for Satan would prove to be futile in the end.  Satan will remain true to his nature for eternity.  God has not purposed to remedy his condition but, rather, to punish it through the eternal exercise of his justice.  Satan was a murderer and the father of lies from the beginning, and he will prove to be so to the end.  There is an eternal fire of judgment already prepared for Satan, and to that eternal destruction he will most assuredly go (Matthew 25:41; Revelation 20:10).  We have the Word of God assuring us of what Martin Luther sang regarding Satan: “Lo, his doom is sure. One little word shall fell him.”  The Word of God will put Satan under Jesus’ feet forever (Hebrews 1:13; 10:12-13).  So, why pray against what God has already revealed as  certain to take place?

Likewise, a second response follows up this line of thinking.  If God has declared that Satan’s doom is sure, then this determination is also the will of God.  Christians dare not pray against the will of God.  Nowhere are Christians instructed to pray for Satan against the will of God.  Instead, Christians are instructed in many strategies by which they can overcome the power and influence of the devil.

Christians are instructed, for instance, to resist the devil so that he will flee (James 4:7).  In context, this instruction means at least that Christians are to draw near to God as a means of resisting demonic influence.  Drawing near in this passage appears to be related to obedience.  Likewise, Christians are instructed to take up faith as a shield in order to extinguish the devil’s fiery missiles (Ephesians 6:16).  And again, Christians are to be transformed by the renewing of their minds.  They are to take every thought captive in obedience to Christ as a means of breaking down the strongholds of Satan (2 Corinthians 10:3-5).

These and other strategies are to be employed by the Christian in his fight to remain safe against the attacks of Satan (1 Peter 5:8-9).  As Christians employ these strategies, they demonstrate faith.  They believe what God’s word says about Satan and about their own vulnerability to his attacks.  The safest ground in this fight is ground which Christ has already claimed.  So, the Christian will stay close to Christ, giving Satan no audience.  The Christian must always keep his eyes fixed on Jesus, the author and finisher of faith. He cannot afford to glance away from Christ even long enough to say a prayer for Satan; it is too dangerous.  So, stay fixed on Jesus.

One final comment still seems in order.  Though Satan is a defeated enemy, and the matter with him is fixed and firm, that same kind of finality does not exist with human beings trapped under his power or dead to Christ on account of the curse.  Christians are—as your question points out—instructed to pray for their enemies.  Jesus taught that Christians are to love their enemies and pray for those who persecute them, thus proving to be children of their heavenly father.  Such instruction is significant in light of John 8:44.  Everyone has a spiritual father.  Love for others—even for enemies—is an indication of heavenly fatherhood.

The Apostle Paul echoes these sentiments, saying, “Bless those who persecute you; bless and do not curse them” (Romans 12:14).  Paul (a former persecutor himself) understood all too well that a persecutor might yet be claimed for the kingdom of Christ.  The faithful witness of those persecuted might prove to be powerful to save human beings who persecute Christians.  Yet, even with his background, and even with his command for Christians to bless their persecutors, Paul still says plainly in this same chapter: “hate what is evil, hold fast to what is good.”  So, while Paul may say we ought to pray for those persecuting us, he would still say to hate Satan who is evil. Cling to Christ, who is good.

Instead of praying for Satan, Jesus taught us to pray daily that our heavenly Father would protect us from the evil one (Matthew 6:13). That prayer, then, is the safest and best prayer of all.

Prayer and Fasting 1


Our church has just begun a three-week prayer and fasting campaign for our community. We long to see Christ exalted in our county.  We are hungry for souls captured in sin to be set free.  We are not blind to our own shortcomings either.  So, in weakness, we submit ourselves before the Almighty in the hope of his all-sufficient supply to empower us.

Prayer:

Why are we praying? We are praying because the living God is real.  We make no religious pretense about

Christians Praying for the Persecuted

prayer. We join no cultural cliché when we announce to someone, “I am praying for you.” What we mean by that line is nothing less than the fact that we have an audience with the king of the universe. Further, we mean that when we are granted access to his presence and even offered permission to speak to him, we will be sure to speak to him about their cause.

Imagine what we are saying when we say that we will pray.  Have you ever met a very famous person?  Typically, we live our lives and never get alone in a room with the people we admire most. How hard would it be to gain access to Peyton Manning, President Obama, or Sarah Palin?  (I understand you may not want to have access to some or all of these, but stick with the point).  It would be quite difficult for us to demand an audience with any of them, or with any of our evangelical leaders. Could we call John Piper or R. C. Sproul on the phone at any hour?  Important people offer very limited access.

How much more important than any of these—or than all of these combined—is the God who created them and who sustains their every breath?  If you were to speak with any of these mentioned (or with your own favorite person of fame), what would you say?  You finally get alone in a room with them, and what will you ask?

I remember I once ended up in a bookstore with John Piper. I hated to interrupt him, knowing that alone time in public is probably a rarity for him.  Yet I also knew that I would never be alone with John Piper again.  So, I had to make the most of the opportunity. I decided I had to learn something from him. I had to gain wisdom from him in this instant, providential encounter. So, what would I ask him?

I asked him what I should do about people in the church who have no joy.  Without being callous, his reply was simply that I had to outlast them.  His point was that joy will spread, but it will also be opposed. Some folks are born as wet blankets, and they are very good at fighting fires. Their gifts are useful when the burning fire is destroying kingdom work, but their gifts are harmful when the burning fire is fueling kingdom labors.  So, Piper’s counsel was that I had to maintain an unshakable joy that would eventually come to characterize the congregation.  I remember he told me that leaven works both ways and that a little leaven (of joy) will eventually leaven the whole loaf.

Back to the point of this post, I have remained encouraged by the wonder-filled encounter I had with John Piper that day.  When I gained his attention, I cherished it. I was determined to extract the sweetest nectar of truth from it.  Yet, who is John Piper that I should be so in awe of his wisdom?  He is a great man, but I already possess greater access than any chance encounter Dr. Piper could match.  I have access to the living God through Jesus Christ.  I have a great high priest who intercedes for me.  I have been raised up and seated with him so that I can have an audience with Almighty Holiness.  What will I say in His presence?

I will give over this awesome privilege to plead with him to show mercy to a few people with whom I intend to share Christ.  These are not wealthy people. These are not influential people.  These are not people who will enrich the kingdom or enhance the marketing image for kingdom advertisements (if there were such awful things).  These are people no better than I am.  These are people who have, in fact, rebelled against God.  These are people with whom He is rightfully angry.

And yet, I am asking God not to be angry with them any longer. I am asking him to inject faith into their hearts to believe Jesus Christ.  I am asking God to be gracious to them and not condemn them along with the rest of the world (which is condemned already).  Why should God listen to me? Why should he give a care about my concerns? Why should he hear me and turn from his anger against them?

He shouldn’t. There is no reason I can think of which would explain why God should hear me on behalf of other sinners.  And yet, I have his word that he will in fact hear me for Christ’s sake. I have his word that I can make my requests known to him and know that he cares for me as a father cares for his child.  I have gotten word from him that I can call him “Abba,” or “Dad.”

And so, We now pray to him, as Jesus taught us, “Our Father in Heaven, your name alone is to be honored as holy…”  We approach His Holiness as Our Father.  Let us approach with trembling joy, making the most of our opportunity and being quite eager to get the most out of it–especially for unbelievers living without hope.

Christians in a Muslim Egypt


I have been reading more to understand the situation in Egypt and throughout the Middle East. Freedom is indeed on the march throughout the Arab world. It is something that few thought was even a remote possibility. President Bush deserves credit for believing the impossible was possible throughout the Middle East (see here).

However, the significance of Egypt is much more than political.  The future of Christians in the Arab world could well follow the course of Christians in Egypt.  Will there be a place for Christians in Egypt?  Christians aren’t sure.

Part of the reason for the uncertainty is the uncertainty in the movement itself.  No one seems to have expected this uprising. There was no planned revolution.  No one is in charge of this sudden demand for democracy.  So, not surprisingly, Christians were surprised, too.  Christians were not sure of how to respond.  Protestant and Roman Catholic leaders were originally supportive of the status quo.  On February 1, they were still supportive of the Mubarek regime.  The Orthodox Christian Pope declared that the demonstrations were not from God.

Yet, by February 9th, Protestant, Roman Catholic, and Eastern Orthodox leaders were encouraging their followers to join the protests for freedom in Egypt.  Now, Christian lawyers and professionals are joining with other professionals in Egypt to draft a new constitution.  The hot wind blowing throughout Egypt these days is the wind of democratic change. While their air right now is as filled with the hope of freedom as our air will be filled with pollen in the spring, Egyptians still have a long way to go—especially Egyptian Christians.

The main point of contention in the constitution is Article 2, which states that Egypt is Islamic.  Some are insisting that the new Egypt be an Islamic Egypt.  Others are hoping that the new Egypt will be a free Egypt which will allow the Christian minority to express freedom of religion.  Christians represent about 10% of the population of Egypt.  Of that 10%, only a tiny fraction is Protestant.  Most of Egypt’s Christian population is Orthodox.

Will Christians be allowed in the new Islamic Egypt?  Christians are hoping so.  They are asking us to pray for it in fact.  As this report makes clear, Christians view the prospect of freedom of worship to be a “second miracle.”  They never dreamed of democratic freedom.  Now that it is on the horizon, might they dare dream of the freedom of religion?

A major hindrance to the freedom of religion will be the role of the Muslim Brotherhood.  Whatever some Western elites might be saying about the “new” Muslim Brotherhood, the truth of the matter is that major Islamic terrorist organizations have their roots in the Muslim Brotherhood of Egypt.  Needless to say, Christians in Egypt aren’t excited about the prospect of an Egypt under their

Christians protecting Muslim Prayers

command.  Christians in Egypt admit that they have lived with the fear of the Muslim Brotherhood for the past 20 years.  They are not looking forward to 20 more years under their control. So, what role will the Muslim Brotherhood have in the new Egypt?  The verdict is still out.  Christians are praying that the future of Egypt is not given into their hands.

Finally, I mentioned the prayer protection ring earlier, and it has happened again since. The good news is that it proved reciprocal.  Christians encircled Muslims to protect them during their Friday prayers, and Muslims surrounded Christians during their Sunday worship service to protect them from the protesters.  Surely, this is a good message for all to hear concerning the potential for peace in Egypt, but it is not at all the end of the matter.  There are years and years of historical tensions between Muslims and Christians in Egypt. The future remains an open question. So, maybe it is time for us to form our own prayer circle around Egypt for the protection of the saints.

Secret Church


A year or two ago, Daniel Wilson and I listened to a sermon by David Platt and heard him explain what he does with his church–devoting 6 hours to prayer together built upon specific Bible teaching.  We later turned around and did this at Cedar Grove with our men early one Saturday morning.

Now, I am very excited to announce that the event at David Platt’s church will be simulcast across the nation.  Southern Seminary is going to be a host site.  Registration for this prayer event is now open, and I think I am going to look into getting a group together.  We should begin praying about this event and put on our calendars Friday, April 22.  Check out the details here.

Living Up to My Name


The website (like my email) refers to me as “Doc” Cochran.  The reason I picked this name is that I have known for some time that the Lord was calling me to further study, including study to the point of earning the PhD.  I believe I have now accomplished that task.  I must only complete the formatting corrections related to my dissertation, and I should graduate in May with a PhD.

Now, the task is to live up to the title.  So, I am prayerfully considering how to continue to study and what to continue to study.  I am leaving in the morning for the Philippines, where I will be serving for 2 weeks.  I hope you will pray for me during that period, as I am seeking from the Lord direction for further study and for putting into usefulness what I have learned thus far.  I am not seeking a position, a different pastorate, or anything like that.  I am seeking to be a useful servant for Christ’s sake.  Thank you for praying for me.

Avail Much


I remember the King James version of James 5:16, “The effectual fervent prayer of a righteous man availeth much.”  Though some of the language is outdated, surely the thought is as fresh and powerful as ever.  We understand what this means.  It means that we can and should pray much.  And, we should pray for others often and fervently and see how God works through our prayers.  I think of this today because I read the story of Isaac and Rebekah this morning.  Genesis 25:21 says that Isaac prayed to the Lord for his wife because she was barren.  And the Lord heard his prayer, and Rebekah his wife conceived.

Isaac’s prayer was answered for his wife to conceive of a child.  Don’t we imagine that Rebekah herself had been praying for a child?  Yet, the Lord was pleased to answer Isaac’s prayer for his wife.  In fact, there was a 20 year window between the time these 2 got married and the time that twins (Jacob and Esau) were born to them.  Jacob, no doubt, prayed fervently and effectively for his wife Rebekah.  And the Lord answered his prayers.

We have every reason to expect that He would answer ours, too, which we offer by faith through Christ.

Obama Approved Prayers


Some prayers meet with Obama’s approval, and some do not. Dr. Mohler has a post today concerning the recent disclosure that the Obama administration is vetting prayers before allowing them to be offered at public events. As this post points out, prayers in Jesus’ name are too volatile. For the first time in U.S. History, Jesus is going to be unwelcomed at the White House and in its prayers. There are theological concerns related to what this means, and there are also concerns about freedom of speech and freedom of religion.  We were promised change, and it looks like we are getting what we were promised.  Read Dr. Mohler’s excellent blog on prayer.

Two Examples of Taking a Stand


I link today two good examples of Christians taking a stand against the bullying of the ACLU and AUSCS.  The first example has to do with a high school in Arkansas.  The other example concerns a locally elected vice mayor in Virginia.  Kudos to those who humbly and boldly take a stand for truth.