Category Archives: persecution

through many dangers, toils, and snares

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lately it seems i’ve been connected with and talked in detail to many other folks who suffer with severe, chronic physical pain.  this has had a two-fold effect on my soul.  first, it has encouraged me.   its helpful at times like this, when just getting out of bed is a challenge, to be reminded that I’m not alone.  i’m not the only one with undiagnosed issues and with the fears, pains and sorrow that accompanies these pains.  the thoughts and fears swarming my mind are not unique to me. 

I really do find much comfort in knowing this, for one thing that chronic pain does is make you feel isolated.  Its easy to think that no one understands my pain.  No one understands what I’m going through, etc…  How grateful I am to God for the reminder that these thoughts simply are not true.  He has placed me in a body where there are many others who not only understand, but who pray for me as I pray for them… who encourage me in my weakness and who point me to Jesus. 

My friends are much like the friends of the paralyzed man in the New Testament.  He couldn’t walk to Jesus, so they carried him.  My friends have carried me lately through car rides when I was too weak or dizzy to drive, through meals when I have been too tired to cook and through prayers when all I  seemed to have the energy to do was cry.  Thank you.

But on the other hand, the more i talk with other folks who suffer with chronic pain, the more my heart breaks.  I hate to see the rampant effects of sin.  I hate to see the sorrow and trials and fears that are simply part of day to day life.  the more i see suffering here, the more i long for the day when my Jesus will come back to judge evil and wipe all tears away… not just my countless tears, but the tears of my sweet friends as well… the tears of Jess C, Charissa, Jenn S, Missy, Wendy, Jess B, Sarah and so many others. 

And then to add on to the physical pain, I could list so many who have suffered in other awful ways as well…miscarriages, death, abuse, persecution, broken hearts, divided families… this world is a violent place.  But we have the promise that Jesus will wipe all tears away … what sweet hope and comfort I find in those words.

oh come Lord Jesus.  Come and rescue your Bride from this fallen world of suffering and shame.  Come in mercy to give eternal hope to your children who eagerly await their inheritance.  Come and rescue those like Gao Zhisheng who are imprisoned and beaten for your sake.  Come and give comfort to the fatherless, hope to the barren, comfort the widow with your presence, and come and give trust and peace to those like me who often live in fear of the unknown (or in regret and shame to the past).

but until that day, I will hold on to you.  Until the day you answer that prayer (could it please be today?), I will continue to cling with my feeble fingers to the ledge of your great grace.  I will hold fast to the One who will never let me go.  I will follow the example of the one who suffered in my place.  Give me grace to not grow weary as I seek to follow you.  Keep my eyes riveted on your grace when my sins begin to overwhelm me.  Grant hope … as you’ve promised is the result for enduring trials with a steadfast heart.

Oh God, my heart is steadfast on you.  You are the only hope for my life.  I am looking to you to satisfy, not to what makes sense to me.  Please, won’t you give my weary heart some hope?  You have consistently shown me hope and you have faithfully given me comfort and steadfast love.  Be faithful to once again answer my prayer.  Let my weariness find rest in you.  And care for my friends… remind them also of your unending love and care.

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this would not be the way I’d have chosen

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If I had to describe this season of my life it would be with the following phrase “this would not be the way I would have chosen.”  God; however, has chosen this path for me.  He has chosen 10 months of debilitating migraines, crippling food allergies and countless nights of restless sleep.  He has chosen to give me no medical explanation or cure.  He has chosen a path formerly unknown to me, a path of new trials and pain.  

 

My Father has tested my faith over and over again, in many ways I hope never to repeat.  He has pushed me beyond my limits and right into His loving arms of care.  He has shown me my utter inability to change my circumstances, but greater still, He has shown me His love.  

 

I love God more now than before this trial began.  I know God loves me even if this trial never ends.  I plead for it to end.  But I trust His sovereign care.  I trust that He knows what’s best and that His desire is not to harm (Lamentations 3:31-33).  He is not vindictive or harsh.  My God weeps over the pains His children endure, and as one of His children, I know without a doubt that His compassion extends to me (Psalm 103:13).  He hears my feeble cries (Psalm 145:19).  He listens to my weak prayers (Psalm 61:2).  He does not condemn my questions and doubts, but instead He cares and wants me to cast those anxieties on Him (1 Peter 5:7), He strengthens me with His promises (Psalm 119:25, 28).  He comforts me that I will never walk alone (Deut 31:8, Is. 41:8-10, Matthew 28:20), that nothing can separate me from Him (Romans 8:38-39) and that others have successfully walked this path before me (Psalm 88, 27, 91, Hebrews 11-12).  

 

You see, though in my mind, this is the path less traveled, in God’s eyes it is not.  The way of salvation is hard.  The path is rough and few follow on that path of suffering.  But the joys… oh the joys are incomprehensible.  One day, I will be with my Lord.  I will gaze in the eyes of my Savior that suffered worse pain than I could ever know.  He took what I never will – separation from His Father.  I will see others, like William Cowper, who suffered for years in pain, yet chose despite all odds to praise his loving God.  Oh, I long to talk to him about his struggles… about his many nights of depression and doubts and struggling and to hear intimate encounters between him and his God who lovingly held him through each of those nights.  I look forward to meeting those who died daily for Christ, whether by a martyr’s death or in the daily fight against sin.  I want to hear how God was bigger than each horrible circumstance that men and devils created for them to endure.

 

So, in my weakness, He is proving His strength.  In my despair, He is becoming my joy.  He is fulfilling my longings and providing all the comfort my soul needs.  In my agony, He is reminding me that He bore my eternal agony so I could know joy.  I praise Him for His steadfast love and compassion.  I rejoice, as Paul (sorrowful, yet rejoicing) in my infirmities as I see more of His power displayed through my weaknesses.  And I look to Him in faith, my tender, compassionate Father that has the power to give life to this mortal body (Romans 8:11).

read books not blogs

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over at the blazing center, the altrogge’s have posted some great thoughts about why to read books not blogs.  i’d encourage you to check it out.

i just finished reading my first book in 5 months, The Heavenly Man by Paul Hattaway.  Due to the migraines, and this season of limitation as a result, i haven’t been able to read as i once did.  i was grateful to delve into a biography of a Chinese pastor and less than a week later, emerge at the other end.  up until this book, i’ve only been able to handle a few minutes at a time before i had to stop reading.

my faith was strengthed, my God is greater, my understanding of the body of Christ groaning together through suffering is deeper, and my prayers for the little girl I’d like to one day adopt from China are now a little more personal.

Here are some samples from The Heavenly Man:

As I was paraded through the streets, a police car drove slowly in front. Through a loudspeaker they proclaimed, “This man came from Henan to preach Jesus. He has seriously disturbed the peace. He has confused the people. Today the Public Security Bureau has captured him. We will punish him severely. (63)

 

“We must go through many hardships to enter the kingdom of God.”  Acts 14:22

During my long painful van journey back to Nanyang the Lord continually comforted me saying, “Be still and know that I am God.” Psalm 46:10

 

When the police van arrived at the Nayang prison gate they took my handcuffs off the steel rail and pushed me out of the back of the van onto the frozen ground. A bitterly cold blizzard was blowing from the north. My face and hair were drenched with blood. My eyes were blackened and my face swollen. I had no shoes on my feet and the handcuffs had cut deeply into my wrists.  

 

They took me into a large interrogation room…. The man second in charge of the PSB arrogantly boasted, “Yun, you have lost the fight today. Your co-workers are already in our hands. … Your church is totally finished. You have completely failed. You are an enemy of our country and an enemy of the Party.”… (94-95)

 

“Beloved, do not think it strange concerning the fiery trial which is to try you, as though some strange thing happened to you;  but rejoice  to the extent that you partake of Christ’s sufferings, that when His glory is revealed, you may also be glad with exceeding joy. If you are reproached for the name of Christ, blessed are you, for the Spirit of glory and of God rests upon you. On their part He is blasphemed, but on your part He is glorified.” 1 Peter 4:12

A spirit of faith spoke from within me, “The gospel grows through hardship and will spread throughout the world…. Truth is always truth. Nothing and no one can change that. It will always conquer.”

 

The Lord is my light and my salvation–whom shall I fear? The Lord is the stronghold of my life–of whom shall I be afraid.” Psalm 27:1 … (95)

new mercies

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i’m grateful for new mercies every morning.  most mornings, i wake up simply longing for another 5 minutes of sleep.  and most mornings, though in my laziness, i give in to that temptation i always find myself still longing for another 5!  :(

 

i’ve been staying up too late this week… reading a new book.  The Heavenly Man: The Remarkable True Story of Chinese Christian Brother Yun.  As one man stated “you may begin reading the book on your couch, but you will finish it on your knees (source).   Halfway through the book, I have found that to be true. 

 

This man, Yun suffered greatly for his Lord.  He endured many crosses of persecution.  in God’s kindness, the more I read stories like this, the more I am encouraged with the kindness and sovereignty of my God… a God that did not forget Yun in a horrible prison with day after day of torture beyond what my american mind is able to comprehend… and a God that has not forgotten me through my “light and temporary afflictions” that tend to dominate my thoughts, desires and days. 

 

Yun rejoiced when paraded through the streets as a criminal.  What was his crime?  He preached the gospel… that his hope was found in the blood of Christ.  as i’ve read of his joy, i’ve sat on my bed often thinking of the phrase “rejoice with a joy that is inexpressible.”   my faith in a powerful God, a God that restores, a God that saves, a God that redeems and calls my life from the pit… my faith in that God has seen growth this past few days as a result of this testimony.

 

specifically what has been a challenge to me was a period in Yun’s life where he was imprisoned.  He spent months with no access to a Bible, yet he recounts scripture after scripture that that the Lord used to minister to Him during that time.  I’ve been reminded again of the message from Na* this year.  I want to value God’s Words like that.  They are my life.  Yet often I look to them as mere advice or rules.  Do I treat God’s Word with such delight that it is my joy, like this servant of God, to memorize entire books of the Bible and then share them with friends?  Or do I look for my “nugget of the day”?

 

God, i pray that you would show me yet again the feast you’ve given me.  Please don’t let me be satisfied with the little “bites” i’ve been chewing on lately.  Give me more of a hunger, more of a desire, more of a desperate need.

The God of the broken-hearted

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(J. R. Miller, “The Beatitude for the Unsuccessful” 1892)

“The Lord is near the broken-hearted.” Psalm 34:18

The God of the Bible, is the God of the broken-hearted. The world cares little for the broken hearts. Indeed, people oftentimes break hearts by their cruelty, their falseness, their injustice, their coldness–and then move on as heedlessly as if they had trodden only on a worm! But God cares. Broken-heartedness attracts Him. The plaint of grief on earth–draws Him down from heaven.

Physicians in their rounds, do not stop at the homes of the well–but of the sick. So it is with God in His movements through this world. It is not to the whole and the well–but to the wounded and stricken, that He comes with sweetest tenderness! Jesus said of His mission: “He has sent Me to bind up the broken-hearted.” Isaiah 61:1

We look upon trouble as misfortune. We say that the life is being destroyed, which is passing through adversity. But the truth which we find in the Bible, does not so represent suffering. God is a repairer and restorer of the hurt and ruined life. He takes the bruised reed–and by His gentle skill makes it whole again, until it grows into fairest beauty. The love, pity, and grace of God, minister sweet blessing of comfort and healing–to restore the broken and wounded hearts of His people.

Much of the most beautiful life in this world, comes out of sorrow. As “fair flowers bloom upon rough stalks,” so many of the fairest flowers of human life, grow upon the rough stalks of suffering. We see that those who in heaven wear the whitest robes, and sing the loudest songs of victory–are those who have come out of great tribulation. Heaven’s highest places are filling, not from earth’s homes of glad festivity and tearless joy–but from its chambers of pain; its valleys of struggle where the battle is hard; and its scenes of sorrow, where pale cheeks are wet with tears, and where hearts are broken. The God of the Bible–is the God of the bowed down–whom He lifts up into His strength.

God is the God of those who fail. Not that He loves those who stumble and fall, better than those who walk erect without stumbling; but He helps them more. The weak believers get more of His grace–than those who are strong believers. There is a special divine promise, which says, “My divine power is made perfect in weakness.” When we are conscious of our own insufficiency, then we are ready to receive of the divine sufficiency. Thus our very weakness is an element of strength. Our weakness is an empty cup–which God fills with His own strength.

You may think that your weakness unfits you for noble, strong, beautiful living–or for sweet, gentle, helpful serving. You wish you could get clear of it. It seems to burden you–an ugly spiritual deformity. But really it is something which–if you give it to Christ–He can transform into a blessing, a source of His power. The friend by your side, whom you envy because he seems so much stronger than you are–does not get so much of Christ’s strength as you do. You are weaker than him–but your weakness draws to you divine power, and makes you strong.

“He heals the broken-hearted and binds up their wounds.” Psalm 147:3

is it still going on?

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Randy Alcorn over at Eternal Perspective Ministries has posted an excellent article regarding the question “do Christians in China still suffer persecution?”  I would encourage you to read it HERE.

here are some excerpts to wet your appetite:

While China is putting on its best face to the world for the Olympics, let’s remember that it is still illegal to teach children under eighteen (how many Chinese girl gymnasts are over eighteen?) about God and Jesus. It is still illegal for three or more believers to gather for religious purposes without government approval. Eighty percent of Chinese Christians are part of unregistered illegal churches. Why do they refuse to ask to be registered? Because, they respond, Jesus Christ is Lord, and they cannot allow an atheistic government to control their churches.

A Chinese Christian told me “somewhere in China the sun is always shining, and somewhere the snow is always falling.” In other words, there’s always freedom somewhere and persecution somewhere else. Visitors to China rarely go to the countryside where much persecution takes place. They will not be given an audience with persecuted Christians. Believers will not step forward to share their stories with visitors who are escorted by or traveling under the favor of government officials!

Let’s be careful to distinguish the Chinese people we see in the Olympics-related broadcast features (which I thoroughly enjoy) from their government. For the Chinese communist party has proven time and again to have a blatant disregard for human rights. This includes the right of Christians to gather without placing themselves under the dictates of an atheistic government which demands a lordship that only Christ deserves.