56 posts categorized “Devotional”

April 14, 2014

Old Wrapping Paper Launches Mission Movement in India

Ancient Israel comprised 12 tribes camping around the tabernacle. In the same way, Christianity has always contained various camps, tribes and denominations, often closely related and working together for the Kingdom. One of the fastest-growing in early America was the Freewill Baptists of New England, started when New Hampshire’s Benjamin Randall was converted in 1770. Freewill Baptists aggressively pursued evangelism and education in Northeast America and were among the loudest voices against slavery.

The extension of the movement overseas was ignited by a handful of old wrapping paper.

The General Baptists of England had sent Amos Sutton to India in 1830 as a missionary doctor. The load was too great, and his American wife, worried about his health, suggested he write to Freewill Baptists, appealing for help. Sutton immediately penned a long letter ending with, “Come, then, my American brethren, come over and help us.” On This Day

Unfortunately, Sutton had no address for the Freewill Baptists, so his letter rested in his desk many months. One day he received a package and, opening it, saw a fragile item wrapped in discarded newspaper. The paper proved more valuable than the gift, for it was the Morningstar, publication of the Freewill Baptists. Dr. Sutton immediately posted his letter to the listed address. The Freewill Baptist Foreign Mission Society was soon established, and Sutton made a dramatic visit to New Hampshire. Pale and emaciated, he told 3,000 assembled Christians, “As I arise to speak, I seem to see the millions in India with bended knees and tearful eyes, saying, ‘Sir, plead our cause—plead it effectually!’” He did, returning to India with 21 workers. Many of them died, others suffered greatly, but still more followed. And on April 14, 1839 the first small Freewill Baptist chapel in India was dedicated to Christ to accommodate the new converts.

“Could the friends of missions have witnessed our little assembly quietly seated on their mats, listening to the Word of eternal life with serious attention,” wrote a missionary, “they would have rejoiced with us, and would have praised the name of that God who had here made room for us.”

The person that mailed the gift to Dr. Sutton may have never known the impact of the discarded paper that he wrapped it in. Yet in God’s sovereignty that “trash” led to souls being won in India. Has God ever used something unique or something the world would see as rubbish to guide you or assist you in finding His will? Please share your story in the comments to this post.

Story excerpted from “On This Day in Christian History: 365 Amazing and Inspiring Stories about Saints, Martyrs and Heroes” by Robert J. Morgan. Disclosure: VOM is part of the Amazon Associates program. If you click on the links in this post and purchase the book from Amazon, VOM will receive a very small percentage of your purchase as a referral fee.


April 9, 2014

Little Love Leads to Little Forgiveness

Luke 7:47 tells the story of Jesus at the home of the Pharisee named Simon. As they were eating, a woman of ill-repute slips in and proceeds to show gratitude and love to Jesus by anointing him with alabaster oil. Simon comments in a rather judgmental manner. If Jesus was really a prophet he would know the kind of woman who was performing these deeds of kindness to Jesus, implying that he would reject her. Simon was most troubled by the fact that Jesus told her that her sins were forgiven without having to perform rituals of the law to get forgiveness. Jesus responds to Simon’s criticism by telling a story about who was forgiven most, the one who had sinned a lot or the one who sinned little. The point Jesus makes is that since she had been forgiven a lot, she shows a lot of gratitude and love. Jesus was also speaking to Simon in an indirect manner. If you would recognize your sinfulness and ask forgiveness you, also, would show much love and gratitude because he who is forgiven much loves much. Conversely, he who loves much also forgives much. Simon lacks both love and forgiveness. He did extend a cordial welcome to Jesus as was custom for guests in one’s home.

VOMClassroomTaking this truth (he who has been forgiven much loves much), we could apply this to the situation of those who are persecuted and the persecutors. The persecuted who forgive their persecutors have already experienced forgiveness in their lives and, because they have the spirit of forgiveness and love, they are able, out of gratefulness, to extend forgiveness to those who persecute them. For the persecutors, they like Simon need to experience forgiveness for their sin. The witness of those who are persecuted and are showing love and forgiveness is clearly seen by the persecutors, and this may be the first glimpse that such a spirit and attitude is even possible in this life. Through the acts of forgiveness and love the persecutor may begin to see their own sin and the darkness that pervades their heart.

Assuming that many of us are not being persecuted for our faith at the moment as many in our extended Christian family are, how do we apply this truth to our situation? It is here where our brothers and sisters who are being persecuted are an example and inspiration. If we cannot show love and forgiveness to people who wrong us, although not to the extent of persecuting us, then we need to hear the words that were spoken to Simon. Apparently we do not show love and gratitude because we have not been forgiven much. If the truth were known, we need to confess the extent of our sins and receive great grace and forgiveness from God. Then we would have the heart of forgiveness and gratitude.

Jesus also said that if we do not forgive others we will not be forgiven (Matt. 6:15) because it reflects an attitude and spirit that fails to show genuine gratefulness for the extent to which we have been forgiven. To have an unforgiving spirit will injure and destroy our relationship with God. If we graciously extend forgiveness to others, we are in fact expressing our love and gratitude toward God for lavishly pouring his grace of forgiveness upon us. To God be the glory!

Roy Stults, PhD, is the Online Workshop Coordinator and Educational Services Coordinator for The Voice of the Martyrs. He graduated from Olivet Nazarene University (BA and MA), Nazarene Theological Seminary (M.Div.), Trinity Evangelical Divinity School (Doctor of Missiology), and The University of Manchester (England) with a PhD (theology). A Vietnam veteran, Dr. Stults served as a missionary for 19 years and pastored U.S. churches for eight years. Prior to joining VOM, he was a Professor of Religion at Oklahoma Wesleyan University.


April 1, 2014

I'd Rather Have Jesus

This morning in the VOM chapel service for staff and volunteers, we sang a song that relflects so clearly the heart of our persecuted brothers and sisters that it is worth offering as today's blog post. Perhaps you know it and have sung it many times; perhaps you've never seen these words before. Either way, the song's lyrics invite us into reflection about where we place Jesus on our life's list of priorities and values:

  • I’d rather have Jesus than silver or gold;
    I’d rather be His than have riches untold;
    I’d rather have Jesus than houses or lands;
    I’d rather be led by His nail-pierced hand
    • Refrain:
      Than to be the king of a vast domain
      And be held in sin’s dread sway;
      I’d rather have Jesus than anything
      This world affords today.

 

  • I’d rather have Jesus than men’s applause;
    I’d rather be faithful to His dear cause;
    I’d rather have Jesus than worldwide fame;
    I’d rather be true to His holy name

 

  • He’s fairer than lilies of rarest bloom;
    He’s sweeter than honey from out the comb;
    He’s all that my hungering spirit needs;
    I’d rather have Jesus and let Him lead

~Rhea F. Miller, 1922 (Public Domain)


March 28, 2014

LAOS: “If I wasn’t a real Christian…”

Recently I had the privilege to travel to Laos and to meet Christians there who face persecution. One of the brothers we met with is an evangelist who leads people to Christ almost every day. He has seen numerous people miraculously healed through the power of God, and many overcome drug addiction with God’s help. He told us that his cel phone rings regularly with people who say, “I need help.” Laos-map

“I tell them, ‘I can’t help you. But Jesus can help you,’” he said, and he introduces them to the Savior.

One of those that he reached, we’ll call him “Phong,” lived in a village where there were no other Christians. Phong quickly won six other people to Christ in the village. But such outreach upset the village leaders, and they expelled Phong from the village. Forced to leave, he and his wife and their two children moved in with relatives in another village; relatives that were not yet believers in Christ.

Our evangelist friend asked Phong, “Are you discouraged?”

“No. This is God’s plan.”

“How do you feel about this?” the evangelist asked.

“I feel honored. This is in the Bible! I’m not disappointed. If I wasn’t a real Christian, this wouldn’t have happened.”

If I wasn’t a real Christian…

I was reminded by his statement of a verse that is a troubling one for many American Christians like me, II Timothy 3:12: “Yes, and all who desire to live godly in Christ Jesus will suffer persecution.” How do we, who aren’t currently facing persecution, read that verse? What does it mean to us? If we aren’t being persecuted, does it mean that we don’t truly desire to “live godly in Christ Jesus”?

Matthew Henry’s commentary on this passage sheds light on some of those questions:

When we know the afflictions of good people but in part, they are a temptation to us to decline that cause which they suffer for; when we know only the hardships they undergo for Christ, we may be ready to say, "We will renounce that cause that is likely to cost us so dear in the owning of it;’’ but when we fully know the afflictions, not only how they suffer, but how they are supported and comforted under their sufferings, then, instead of being discouraged, we shall be animated by them, especially considering that we are told before that we must count upon such things (v. 12): All that will live godly in Christ Jesus shall suffer persecution: not always alike; at that time those who professed the faith of Christ were more exposed to persecution than at other times; but at all times, more or less, those who will live godly in Christ Jesus shall suffer persecution. They must expect to be despised, and that their religion will stand in the way of their preferment; those who will live godly must expect it, especially those who will live godly in Christ Jesus, that is, according to the strict rules of the Christian religion, those who will wear the livery and bear the name of the crucified Redeemer. All who will show their religion in their conversation, who will not only be godly, but live godly, let them expect persecution, especially when they are resolute in it.

Even though he is young in faith, Phong seems to have grabbed hold of these truths deeply. He understands that false or shallow Christians don’t suffer the persecution he and his family currently suffer. So he can say “I feel honored” to suffer such mistreatment, for he sees it as a mark of his growing faith and God’s faithfulness. It is the same honor that the apostles felt after being questioned by the Jewish leaders and beaten: “they departed from the presence of the council, rejoicing that they were counted worthy to suffer shame for His name” (Acts 5:41).

Please pray for “Phong” and his family, and for other Christians in Laos.

YOUR TURN: If you were persecuted for your Christian faith, do you think you would be able to think of it as an honor? How would you respond?

Todd Nettleton has served the persecuted church and VOM more than 15 years. He has been interviewed more than 2000 times by various media outlets. He's the author of Restricted Nations: North Korea, and served on the writing team for FOXE, Extreme Devotion, Hearts of Fire and other VOM books.


March 25, 2014

Wise as Serpents and Harmless as Doves

In giving instructions to his disciples as they set out on a limited mission to Israel (Matt 10:16), Christ tells them that he is sending them out as sheep among the wolves, so they needed to be shrewd and not be seen as a threat. They were to remain innocent but not be foolish. While the instructions were meant for this limited mission, it makes good sense in our approach to the world. There is no need to rush out, foolishly crashing headlong into the opposition. That would be reckless. Why purposefully provoke those who are hostile when the point of the mission is to win those who are hostile to Christ? The message may invite and incite hostility but our behavior should not provoke them. VOMClassroom

We do not seek difficulty or trouble but we are foolish to believe that we will not face it. As hard as it is for many, the point may come when civil disobedience is required of us. Sometimes it requires us to request due process of the law and fairness in interpreting the law. In the story of Rev. Christo Kulichev (found in Holcomb, Imprisoned for Christ), the pastor (Kulichev) makes a good point during his interrogation. He mentions that he was being interrogated for preaching but that in reality the Committee (the Communist Party) had not officially taken this right away from him nor had any accusations been written or issued against him. So, he argued, he was being arrested illegally. In doing this, he was clarifying the issue so that the interrogator would recognize that he (the interrogator) was in an illegal position. While it may not matter in the ultimate outcome of the trial, at least the Christian does not appear to be weak or passive. Reasoning with those who are perpetuating injustice allows the Holy Spirit to work in their hearts.

Sometimes careful reasoning and civil dialogue with our accusers is not an option. James Howell, in his book Servants, Misfits, and Martyrs, tells the story of Paul Schneider, who was a pastor in the Rhineland during Hitler’s time in power. While preaching a funeral for a youth who was a part of Hitler Youth and who died in a tragic accident, a leader of the Nazi youth organization exclaimed that the youth was now one of Horst Wessel’s heavenly storm troopers. Schneider responded by saying that there are no storm troopers in heaven. For three years he continued to speak in Christ’s name. Finally, the Gestapo arrested him and sent him to prison camp where each morning they tried to force him to salute the swastika and pledge allegiance to Hitler. He was tortured and cast into solitary confinement, where he preached as loudly as he could from his cell. The SS officers would beat him senseless each time. Finally, he was given a Strophanthin injection which abruptly ended his preaching and his life.

He chose the only righteous path open to him. He did the right thing and died for it.

Roy Stults, PhD, is the Online Workshop Coordinator and Educational Services Coordinator for The Voice of the Martyrs. He graduated from Olivet Nazarene University (BA and MA), Nazarene Theological Seminary (M.Div.), Trinity Evangelical Divinity School (Doctor of Missiology), and The University of Manchester (England) with a PhD (theology). A Vietnam veteran, Dr. Stults served as a missionary for 19 years and pastored U.S. churches for eight years. Prior to joining VOM, he was a Professor of Religion at Oklahoma Wesleyan University.


March 12, 2014

Extreme Places

ROMANIA: PASTOR RICHARD WURMBRAND

Blessed are you when people insult you, persecute you and falsely say all kinds of evil against you because of me. Matthew 5:11

Richard Wurmbrand, a Romanian pastor who suffered in prison for fourteen years, once told a story that he had heard from a fellow prisoner. It had helped him through his most difficult times of torture. The brother told him:

“I once went to a circus and witnessed a most impressive scene. A sharpshooter placed a burning candle on his wife’s head. He then stepped out of the center of the arena and, from quite a distance, shot the candle off her head."

“After the show was over, I approached her and asked if she was ever afraid the arrow would strike her. She replied, ‘Why should I be? He was aiming at the candle, not at me.’” ED_Cover

When Pastor Wurmbrand heard this story he thought, “Why should I be afraid of the torturers? They don’t aim at me. They may beat my body but my real being is Christ within. I am seated with him in heavenly places, and therefore they cannot touch my real person. From this incredible viewpoint I can look down and see the futility of their efforts.”

Pastor Wurmbrand lived through years of suffering and had neared death many times. But he was encouraged with this simple lesson and even flourished spiritually because he knew his place with Christ was secure, no matter what happened to his body.

Persecution, though indescribably painful, has its limits. Neither physical torment nor emotional trauma can destroy the deepest parts of who we are. What we carry on the inside is the most valuable part of ourselves—our souls. Christ’s Spirit lives within us and protects our soul from emotional and physical harm. True, our enemies may strike us and even kill our bodies. However, when our enemies take a swipe at us, they are really maligning the name of Christ—the one who lives within. And he can never die again. However personal and pointed the opposition, it is really part of a bigger picture. The battle may involve us, but it concerns an overarching war between good and evil. 

This is one of the readings from the book, Extreme Devotion, available from VOM’s online bookstore. You can also receive devotional thoughts daily via email. Sign up here.


February 26, 2014

Extreme Weakness

RUSSIA: REVEREND MIKHAIL

But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” 2 Corinthians 12:9

"If you will renounce your faith and trample the cross, you will go free,” the Bolshevik gang said. “If you do not, we will kill you.”

Reverend Mikhail had seen eighty thousand of his fellow Russian Orthodox leaders and lay people murdered by the Communists. Amidst all of that pain and suffering, he decided that God, if he did exist, would not have allowed such misery. Ed_cover

“I don’t believe,” he thought as he faced the gang. “What does a cross mean to me? Let me save my life.”

But when he opened his mouth to go along with the gang’s orders, the words that came out shocked him. “I only believe in one God. I will not trample on the cross!”

The gang put a sack around his shoulders as a royal garment and used his fur hat for Jesus’ crown of thorns. One of them, a former member of Mikhail’s church, knelt before him, saying, “Hail, King of the Jews.” They took turns beating him and mocking his God.

Silently, the reverend prayed. “If you exist, please save my life.” As he was beaten, he cried out again, “I believe in one God.”

His show of faith made such an impression on the drunken gang that they released him. When he arrived in his house, he fell face down on the floor, weeping and repeating, “I believe.”

The Christian faith is full of paradoxes. Die to live. Lose to win. Be weak in order to be strong. In fact, unless we are willing to embrace our own failures, we cannot experience God’s strength. When we undergo hardship and trial or even witness the unjust suffering of others from afar, we may begin to doubt God’s goodness. That is a human, natural response. However, God does not reject our human weakness. He restores our weakness with his strength. Therefore, we can rejoice in our failures because they remind us that human strength is no substitute for godly power. We may fail, but our God remains strong. What are you learning about your own weakness? What does that teach you about God’s strength? 

This is one of the readings from the book, Extreme Devotion, available in print from VOM’s online bookstore. You can also receive devotional thoughts daily via email. Sign up here.


February 25, 2014

Jesus Freaks: How NOT to Pray

Each month VOM produces "The Jesus Freaks Minute," a daily radio-PSA that shares the stories of the persecuted church with Christian radio listeners all over the United States and around the world. Here's the script for one of the spots that aired this month, a spot entitled DON'T PRAY:

[LYRICS:]  What will people think when they hear that I’m a Jesus Freak?  What will people do when they find that it’s true?

[TOBYMAC:]  Hey, this is TobyMac with  truth every Jesus Freak should hear from the Voice of the Martyrs.

[VOM:]  Jesus taught us to pray.  But he also taught us how not to pray.  In Matthew, Jesus said, “don’t pray on street corners so you can be seen by others.”  And also, “do not use meaningless repetition” as the heathen do.

The Voice of the Martyrs has also heard from persecuted pastors around the world of ways not to pray.  A pastor in Israel said, “Don’t pray for my protection; [instead] pray that I will understand what God is trying to teach me.”

A Vietnamese pastor said, “Don’t pray that our border will be opened.  Pray that heaven will be opened.”  For more on making your prayers powerful, go online to persecution.com.

Please share in the comments where you've heard the Jesus Freaks Minute radio broadcasts.


February 20, 2014

Diocletian's Dream

“I found it necessary to write to you exhorting you to contend earnestly for the faith which was once for all delivered to the saints” (Jude 3).

Hagia Sophia - web
I recently traveled to Turkey, where I was honored to meet with some incredible brothers who are “fighting the good fight” in a very difficult place. Turkey has long been a distinctive junction, bridging Europe and Asia in the historic city of Istanbul, which was sometimes historically referred to as “Islambol,” meaning “City of Islam.”

These brothers traveled to meet with me in the shadow of the Hagia Sophia, the former church that witnessed the slaughter of Christian martyrs after the fall of Constantinople.  As we talked about their own experience of persecution in their city, they lit up with joy as they related how God continues to work in the very city where Emperor Diocletian’s palace was discovered following an earthquake in 1999. The brothers I met with are actively overseeing an indigenous-led community of Christians that meets just steps away from this palace.

Why is this so remarkable? The Roman Emperor Diocletian instituted an empire-wide persecution of Christians soon after he assumed leadership in 284 A.D. During a period that is now referred to as the “Diocletianic Persecution,” or the “Great Persecution,” he launched the most aggressive and far-reaching attempt to destroy Christianity in Roman history. He specifically issued four edicts in an attempt to destroy Christianity. Diocletian’s first edict fiercely forbid Christians to assemble and ordered the destruction of Bibles and meeting places.

The day prior to Diocletian’s first edict, he demanded that the church at Nicomedia, where he spent his winters, be burned along with all of its Bibles. Diocletian’s dream was to wipe Christianity off of the face of the earth. But, of course, that is not the end of the story.

One of the Turkish brothers I met with is now pastoring a church literally feet away from Diocletian’s winter palace. After foreign missionaries were forced to leave, he stepped up and is leading a thriving congregation in the same neighborhood where martyr’s blood once stained the streets. He has been directly targeted by his adversaries, and he and his family have endured much suffering.

When I asked him about his suffering, he reflected thoughtfully on the persecution that he endured and said, with a smile, “It was not a pleasing experience, but it was a powerful experience.”

Join with me in praying for our brothers and sisters who are earnestly contending for the faith in Turkey, and let’s pray that God will enable us to stand strong wherever He has called us.

Dr. Jason Peters serves in VOM’s International Ministries department, traveling frequently to meet with our persecuted brothers and sisters around the world. He lived overseas for five years and has ministered in more than 30 countries as diverse as Cuba, Nepal, Iraq, Nigeria and Indonesia. He and his wife, Kimberly, along with their five children, count it a great honor to serve with the persecuted church.


February 7, 2014

Jesus is Cheaper Than the Witch Doctor

A young girl in Laos named “Alani” was extremely sick from a pain in her stomach, to the point that she couldn’t even eat.  Her parents first took her to the hospital where they spent a large sum of money running tests, but the doctors couldn’t find anything wrong with her.

After this, her parents believed Alani must be possessed by an evil spirit, so they took her to countless witchdoctors, spending more of their money, but none of them were able to help. Finally they took her to the most powerful witchdoctor of all. Before he would even see their daughter, he charged them an enormous sum of money; they drained all of their money to pay the sum, as they certainly thought it was their last hope. Laos-map

While the witchdoctor was with Alani, a snake was seen crawling behind her, and the witch doctor was terrified! He called Alani’s parents and told them he could not handle this kind of spirit and that they should take her to see the Christian’s God.

Alani’s parents took her to a pastor in a nearby village who they heard knew about this God. They were shocked when upon meeting the pastor he didn’t ask for any money. The pastor started by telling Alani and her parents about Jesus Christ and his power for casting out evil spirits and healing sickness. Then he told them about how Jesus wanted them to be saved and have eternal life. The parents refused to accept Christ for fear of their village but they allowed Alani to because they wanted her to be helped in any way.

They stayed with the pastor for the next four days where the small church joined and prayed for Alani. At the end of the four days, Alani was completely healed from the evil spirit and the pain in her stomach!

After returning home, the communist party members of their village would not allow Alani to go back to the Pastor’s church and neither would her parents, but Alani is still trusting in the Lord who freed her, healed her and didn’t charge a dollar for it.

This recent testimony is a reminder for all of us. We may not be suffering from an evil spirit or be tempted to seek out a witchdoctor. Yet how many times are we tempted to seek help from a solution other than Jesus? Like Alani’s parents, it can be so easy for us to look first to other people or things that capture our attention, time, energy and finances. Instead we should remember that Jesus is always standing with his arms wide open, telling us to lay down our burdens, fears, worries and problems- free of charge because He already paid the debt.

Please keep Alani in your prayers, that her faith would be strengthened. Pray also for the salvation of her parents and for openness to the gospel in her village.

"Grace Taylor" serves on the staff of VOM. She was first introduced to the ministry of VOM by her parents and grandparents, who received the VOM newsletter, and through the VOM book Jesus Freaks. She has served in 12 different countries and is passionate about helping expand God’s Kingdom throughout the nations of the world.