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Standing Strong Through the Storm - July 26

THE ABCs OF VICTORY

“Commit your way to the LORD; trust in him and he will do this: He will make your righteous reward shine like the dawn, your vindication like the noonday sun.” Psalm 37:5-6

A lthough things are not perfect
B ecause of trial or pain
C ontinue in thanksgiving.
D o not begin to blame,
E ven when the times are hard.
F ierce winds are bound to blow.
G od is forever able.
H old on to what you know;
I magine life without His love,
J oy would cease to be.
K eep thanking Him for all the things
L ove imparts to thee.
M ove out of "Camp Complaining."
N o weapon that is known,
O n earth can yield the power
P raise can do alone.
Q uit looking at the future;
R edeem the time at hand;
S tart every day with worship.
T o "thank" is a command
U ntil we see Him coming
V ictorious in the sky.
W e'll run the race with gratitude;
X alting God most high.
Y es, there'll be good times and yes some will be bad, but...
Z ion waits in glory...where none are ever sad!

RESPONSE:

I am too blessed to be stressed!

PRAYER:

Thank You, Lord, for the encouragement I receive from following Your ways.

A daily devotional message by Paul Estabrooks


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Standing Strong Through the Storm - July 25

THE CHURCH – MEMBERS OF ONE BODY

“If one part suffers, every part suffers with it; if one part is honored, every part rejoices with it.”
1 Corinthians 12:26

It is a beautiful picture when the church of Jesus Christ operates as the Bible teaches for the benefit of the body.

On January 21st 2007, Dimitri from Uzbekistan was arrested and subsequently sentenced to four years in a labor camp because of his “illegal religious activities.” The labor camp in which he is being held is 850 kilometers from where his wife Marina and their three daughters live. They are allowed to visit him just a few times a year.

Marina is gratefulfor all the prayers for them and for all the encouragement which they have received through letters and cards.

“We’ve really experienced God’s faithfulness. He’s protected and blessed us, and He’s always been close when we’ve needed Him. We want to thank God, because He doesn’t leave us on our own. He helps us through tough times.

“I’ve visited Dimitri a few times and also taken the children with me a few times. His health is good and he’s even trying to encourage others. They have to get up early in the morning to start work. Often he doesn’t have the strength to pray, but then he senses that others are praying for him. He finds his strength in the Lord Jesus, tries not to become oppressed by the circumstances, and he thinks a lot about us. This helps him to survive.

“His Bible was confiscated by the guards and now he is writing out Bible texts from memory in a little notebook. In this way he has his own handwritten Word of God. He’d like to have his Bible back, but permission is still being refused.

“We’re thankful for the many friends who are supporting us and writing to us at this difficult time. I’d also like to thank everyone for their many prayers. Now I’m coming to understand what the Bible means when it says, ‘we are one body,’ because ‘if one part suffers, every part suffers with it.’”

RESPONSE:

Today I will not just think about myself, but function as a vital member of the body of Jesus.

PRAYER:

Lord, bless prisoners like Dimitri who today may be feeling lonely. May they experience the blessing of realizing they are part of Your body.

-A daily devotional message by Paul Estabrooks

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7/20/15 7:26 P

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Standing Strong Through the Storm - July 20

THE CROSS – LIVING SACRIFICIALLY – SELLING BLOOD

“In the same way, those of you who do not give up everything you have cannot be my disciples.”
Luke 14:33

Johnny Li, a former colleague and current missionary trainer in China shares about his meeting with two young pastors there.

As I entered the house, I surprised to observe the humble existence of these two mighty men of God. They were the leaders of house churches in their provinces, which had grown the past nine years to more than 200,000 Christians. They were both in their late twenties and even though they have been in the ministry since they were nineteen their enthusiasm reflected beautifully.

Everybody knew about the work of the Lord through these faithful servants. I also knew that they both spent several years in prison in extremely harsh conditions, but nothing prepared me for this humble home and modest lifestyle.

There were no ornaments, and no beds in the small house. Their clothes were hanging on the wall due to a lack of cupboards. The only furniture was a table and a chair to sit on. There was a blanket on the ground that was obviously used as the bed. Together we sat down and I started questioning them about their activities and work that was bearing much fruit.

“How often do you travel to neighboring villages?” I asked.

“As often as possible,” they replied.

“Where do you obtain your finances to do so?”

“We sell what we have,” they replied and supplied me with an explanation to the question about the empty house which I dared not ask. “We sold the chairs and we sold the cupboard,” they continued. “And that supplied much-needed funds for our outreach.”

“What happens when you have nothing more to sell?”

One pastor looked sadly down to the ground and answered softly, “We find something else to sell.”

“But what?” I kept on pressuring them. “You have already sold everything and have nothing left to sell. How will you raise money now?”

Then came the startling answer. “We sell our blood on the black market. We get about five dollars but the need is so great that we have to do something to tell the people around us about Jesus.”

“How can you do this” I asked. “How can you justify selling your blood to send out missionaries?”

Without hesitation they answered, “We have no choice! The need is so great!”

RESPONSE:

Today I will not complain about what I lack but think of what I can sacrifice for Jesus.

PRAYER:

Lord, I reaffirm today my decision to follow You. I give You everything I am and have.

A daily devotional message by Paul Estabrooks

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7/20/15 3:00 P

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Thanks Judith for sharing these wonderful testimonies. So many Christians are suffering for their belief and many American Christians take these religious freedoms for granted.
We must keep them in our thoughts & prayers.

"I wish above all that you prosper and be in health even as your soul prospers" 3 John 1:2


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Standing Strong Through the Storm - July 18

THE CROSS – TURNING THE OTHER CHEEK

“If someone slaps you on one cheek, turn to them the other also. If someone takes your coat, do not withhold your shirt from them.” Luke 6:29

An Open Doors colleague shares the following incident from an SSTS seminar in Indonesia.

I remember standing in front of nearly 800 pastors on the island of Timor facing a serious dilemma. Most of the pastors were victims of attacks by Muslims on the island of Ambon. They had lost homes, churches and even family members during these attacks. They were hurt, devastated and needed answers to the challenges they faced.

As soon as I started preaching, one pastor stood up and interrupted me; “Must we accept the persecution from the Muslims or must we retaliate? We are tired of forgiving just to be attacked again. We believe it is time to defend the honor of God and retaliate. What must we do?”

I understood perfectly the challenges. I had met those who were attacked and I have seen the scars on the bodies of those who simply accepted it. I understood there was no easy answer. Then another pastor interrupted; “No, pastor, tell this brother he is wrong. The Bible tells us to accept our suffering. We will dishonor God if we retaliate. Seventy times seven we need to forgive. Isn’t this true?”

I looked at the pastors and replied, “The Bible is clear. You MUST retaliate!”

There was silence. I sensed the division. I could see the smiles on the faces of those who agreed and saw those who disagreed getting ready to leave the hall.

“Wait, brothers!” I intervened. “Before you leave, let me finish my sentence. Luke 6 teaches us clearly to retaliate, but in doing so, we need to choose our weapons. When someone curses you, you don’t just accept it. You retaliate by blessing him. When someone mistreats you and persecute you, you don’t just accept it. You retaliate by praying for him. When someone takes your cloak you retaliate by giving your undercoat. When someone slaps you in the face, don’t stand for it. Retaliate! Turn your other cheek.”

The burden of just accepting suffering was broken. They were satisfied.

RESPONSE:

Today I will retaliate against attacks upon me using the spiritual weapons of Jesus.

PRAYER:

Lord, may I always remember how You want me to respond when others treat me badly.

A daily devotional message by Paul Estabrooks

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Standing Strong Through the Storm - July 15

TRAINING – NINA PUTS GOD FIRST

“For I am not ashamed of the gospel, because it is the power of God that brings salvation to everyone who believes: first to the Jew, then to the Gentile.” Romans1:16

Eighteen-year-old Nina lives in an Asian country where Buddhism is the faith of the majority. Since her mother is a devout Christian, she is constantly exposed to stories and lessons from God’s Word. At school, her faith in Jesus Christ is often tested. Because Nina showed great aptitude at school, she was selected to be part of a team that would compete in a high school annual science competition. On the day of the competition, however, the Vice Principal, a very strict disciplinarian, decided to take the team to the Buddhist temple first. Nina fidgeted anxiously in her seat while aboard the school bus with her teammates.

As she tried to figure out what to do upon arriving at the monastery, the first of the Lord’s 10 Commandments resonated in her mind—no other gods, except Him. I can’t disobey my God, after knowing who He is, she thought. Nina felt trapped and confused. Obeying God meant disobeying the Vice Principal. Nina uttered a silent prayer. “God, you changed the hearts of many kings before, surely you can do it again! Please Lord, speak to his heart!”

When the team reached the temple, everyone entered except Nina, who stood at the gate. As Nina’s teammates came out of the temple, the Vice Principal approached Nina with a stern look on his face. “Why did you not come in the temple with us?”

“Sir, I was born a Christian. When my mother gave birth to me, I was weak and at the point of death. Christians prayed for me and God heard their prayers,” shared Nina.

“You could have just entered with us and not participate in the ceremonies,” explained the Vice Principal, whose face and tone softened. Nina knew then that God had just answered her prayers.

“I did not have peace in my heart. I felt that I would be disobeying God if I entered the temple, sir,” Nina responded. The Vice Principal did not pursue the matter any further; neither did he chide Nina for it. The team placed third during the science competition.

Nina testified during a youth training program that Open Doors organized. “I was surprised to see how God suddenly changed his heart; he rarely speaks that way to students. He is often firm and strong…His wife has had many miscarriages. I’m praying for his wife to have a baby soon. I’m also praying for him to know Jesus Christ. I’m sure it will happen someday!”

RESPONSE:

Today I will put God first in every situation I face.

PRAYER:

Pray for all young Christians who face the cultural challenges against putting God first.

A daily devotional message by Paul Estabrooks

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7/15/15 11:26 A

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JUDITH316 what an amazing testimony. I cried. God is truly amazing.

"Consider it pure joy, my brothers and sisters whenever you face trials of many kinds" James 1:2



~ Karri
But I will sing of your strength, in the morning I will sing of your love; for you are my fortress, my refuge in times of trouble. ~Psalms 59-16


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Standing Strong Through the Storm - July 14

TRAINING – ALICE YUAN’S PERSEVERANCE

“’But my righteous one will live by faith. And I take no pleasure in the one who shrinks back.’ But we do not belong to those who shrink back and are destroyed, but to those who have faith and are saved.” Hebrews 10:38-39

Alice Yuan continues her testimony we began yesterday:

“The second trial came from the Communist party. Every day for nineteen years, I had to report to the police station, where for six hours, they put pressure on me. They said that I would never see my husband again, that I should divorce him and that I should give up my faith. With God’s help I kept going. Praying with my eyes closed, I endured the interrogations every day.

“The third trial consisted of the hard work. After I had been pressured by the security police for six hours, I still had to work for eight hours to earn a living. I had to push handcarts filled with building materials. The carts were much too heavy. I was completely exhausted and was already tired before I started. In the winter, it was even worse. Sometimes I had to shovel cement up onto a floor above my head. The work was dirty, hard and cold, but I achieved my quota. The others were surprised and wondered where I got the energy from.

“The fourth trial had to do with my natural desires. I was thirty-nine-years-old when my husband was taken away. The authorities put me under pressure to marry someone else. All my papers would be changed, so that I could start a new life without all the difficulties. I was offered money and clothing. God loved me so much that He gave me the strength to resist all these temptations. When I prayed to God, He gave me everything I needed, and even more than that.

“My favorite text is Psalm 68:6, God sets the lonely in families, he leads forth the prisoners with singing.”

It is a miracle that her husband, Allen Yuan, got out of the labor camp alive. In December 1979, he was released after twenty-one years and eight months. He was then sixty-five years old, thin but still healthy. At an age when many people are enjoying retirement, Allan again took up his vocation as a pastor. He died on August 16th 2005 at the age of ninety-one. Alice joined him in heaven in early August 2010 to hear her own “Well done!”

RESPONSE:

I resolve to persevere, with faith in a good God, through all the trials that come my way.

PRAYER:

Lord, may all Your children experiencing severe persecution today be filled with faith and refuse to shrink back. Help me to emulate these great examples of faithful perseverance.

A daily devotional message by Paul Estabrooks

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Standing Strong Through the Storm - July 13

TRAINING - ALICE YUAN’S PERSEVERANCE

“You need to persevere so that when you have done the will of God, you will receive what he has promised. For, ‘In just a little while, he who is coming will come and will not delay.’” Hebrews 10:36-37

The greatest example of Christian perseverance for me is Sister Alice Yuan from China. Her pastor husband, Allen Yuan, was imprisoned for almost 22 years for refusing to join the government controlled church in the middle 1950’s. She says:

“When my husband Allen was sent to prison in April 1958, I was told that I would never see him again. I felt completely miserable and continually blamed God. The future looked so terribly bleak. I had the care of six children and my mother-in-law. I was only earning 80 cents a day. How could I keep my family alive on that?

“When it all became too much for me, one night I heard a voice: ‘My child, I have everything in My hands. These things come from Me.’ I replied, ‘If these things come from You, please protect me and my family. Do not allow me to dishonor Your name. I want to serve You and glorify Your name’

“Then I received peace in my heart. I was encouraged by Psalm 68:19, Praise be to the Lord, to God our Savior, who daily bears our burdens. In those difficult years, people let me down, but God never abandoned me. But he did put me through trials.

“The first trial was the struggle to survive. I was only earning 80 cents a day. How could we get by on that? But God took care of us, in the same way that he took care of Elijah. He promised to be my shepherd and provider.

“One evening, my mother-in-law said that there was no food anymore in the house. The next morning, at five to six there was a knock on the door. ‘Are you sister Alice?’ asked a woman in her sixties, whom I didn’t know. ‘God wanted me to give you this.’ She put a package in my hand and disappeared. When I opened the parcel I found there was rice in it and some other food and a banknote to the value of about four month’s salary of a professor! Praise the Lord. Where man comes to an end, God begins! This was only one of the many miracles which kept us alive all those years.”

Tomorrow we’ll conclude her story of faithfulness and perseverance as well as God’s miraculous care for His own.

RESPONSE:

Today I will not complain about discomforts but thank God for all His blessings!

PRAYER:

Lord, You desire faithfulness and perseverance. Help me develop these qualities in my life.

A daily devotional message by Paul Estabrooks


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7/13/15 5:09 A

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Deuteronomy 20:4 “for the Lord your God is he who goes with you to fight for you against your enemies, to give you the victory.


We all have battles that we fight even in today’s modern world. It might not be a physical war against other human beings, but rather our struggles may be against our own thought patterns, bad habits or weaknesses. Sometimes these skirmishes revolve around confronting difficult situations and circumstances that we face that are out of our control. Whatever the case, though, this verse in Deuteronomy fills me with hope and courage. Here the author reminds us that it is the Lord who goes with us to fight for us against our enemies—whoever or whatever that may be. God not only fights for us, but he also gives us the victory. How encouraging is that!

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Standing Strong Through the Storm - July 12

TRAINING – SINGING IN PRISON

“One thing I ask of the Lord, this is what I seek: that I may dwell in the house of the Lord all the days of my life, to gaze upon the beauty of the Lord and to seek him in his temple…Then my head will be exalted above the enemies who surround me; at his tabernacle will I sacrifice with shouts of joy; I will sing and make music to the Lord.” Psalm 27:4,6

Brother Zhang, a young medical doctor and preacher in Zhejiang, China, refused to join the government Three Self Patriotic Church. He was arrested and spent eighteen years in prison eating poor food, being beaten and drowning in the stench of cellmates. He shares this testimony:

“The eighteen years were a tremendous spiritual challenge, which brought great blessings I never before thought possible in my life. Prison officials ordered me to empty the camp night-soil pit, the prison's cesspool. While I had little experience of physical labor, its hardship and suffering did not frighten me. Although most of the other prisoners dreaded night-soil pit duty as the most difficult task in prison, I accepted this assignment without complaint. The pit stored all the human excrement, both liquid and solid, from the entire camp. Once the pit was full, its human waste steeped until its foul contents were ripe enough to be used as fertilizer. Not only did I walk into this disease-ridden mess to remove it, but I had to breathe its stench as I scooped away each successive layer and dropped hundreds of shovel loads into collection buckets for others to carry to the fields.

“The night-soil pit’s pungent odors lingered with the digger at least three days, literally surrounding him with an almost maddening stench. All the guards and other prisoners avoided the night-soil pit digger to escape being overcome by the lingering odor. One reason I could enjoy working in the night-soil pit was the solitude. Surrounded only by foul air and human waste, I could sing music of praise to God as loudly as I wanted. And the guards were never close enough to protest this otherwise objectionable behavior!

“One of my favorite songs during those days was ‘In the Garden.’ My Chinese night-soil pit was hardly the garden that the composer of that hymn had in mind! But God delivered great happiness to me to be able to sing His praises in such earthly misery.”

RESPONSE:

Today I will sing praises to God no matter how terrible my circumstances turn out to be.

PRAYER:

Lord, may all Christian prisoners experience the joy of praising You in their trials this day.

A daily devotional message by Paul Estabrooks


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I Corinthians 12:28 “And God has appointed in the church first apostles, second prophets, third teachers, then miracles, then gifts of healing, helping, administrating, and various kinds of tongues.

Teaching is a gift from and designated by God. It is one of those important ministries that should be exercised within the church as well as to children and families in the community. God appointed it along with the other very important jobs in the body of Christ, because it is a necessary and valuable endeavor. Teachers are often under-appreciated, but this passage is a good reminder of their importance and value in the Kingdom of God.

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Standing Strong Through the Storm - July 6

CONFLICT – SATAN’S TEMPTATION

“Jesus turned and said to Peter, ‘Get behind me, Satan! You are a stumbling block to me; you do not have in mind the concerns of God, but merely human concerns.’” Matthew 16:23

A western co-worker was visiting the Chinese city of Dandong which borders North Korea. He shares his challenging experience at a local house church meeting:

It was the first time I had ever been called “Satan!” But no one could fault the careful exegesis as this fiery Korean preacher bellowed to the 200-member house church.

“The third temptation of Jesus,” he declared, “was when the devil offered him the kingdom without the cross. The devil was basically saying, ‘Don’t go off and make all those sacrifices, touch all those lepers, spend nights in agony praying, and end up being tortured by soldiers and dying a horrible death. Just take it all now…from my hand!’” He went on, “The church often has the same temptation. The devil offers us power without suffering. And…I’ve got to say this even though our western friend is here…this is a temptation one part of the church tempts another part of the church with. We have to call that part of the church ‘Satan,’ just as Jesus had to call Peter ‘Satan’ when he made the same suggestion later in his ministry.”

Good rip-roaring stuff, and thoroughly biblical. But I was intrigued as to why this pastor had singled out the western church as the tempter. He was happy to explain over a meal.

“I hosted five pastors from North America last year. All Koreans. They came with reading material. Good stuff as far as it went, and they were supplying a sort of formula for church growth. But could one of them even bring himself to mention suffering? No! And when I heard those Korean pastors preach, it was also absent.”

He leaned forward and whispered, “When these pastors preach to the persecuted church, and mention everything but suffering, they are taking away the cross from the Christian life. That’s why I have to say that they are bringing a satanic suggestion. Anyone who says you can follow Christ but not carry your cross is no better than the old deceiver himself. Jesus said so. He said it to Satan, and he said it to Peter. And I’m going to say it to anyone else who dares to think they can be a witness for Christ from anywhere else but on a cross.”

RESPONSE:

Today I will focus on the things of God realizing they will always require me to carry my cross.

PRAYER:

Lord, I will no longer try and eliminate the way of the cross from my Christian living. May I never again attempt to substitute power for suffering.

A daily devotional message by Paul Estabrooks


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Standing Strong Through the Storm - July 5

CONFLICT - MATERIALISM pt. 3

“Jesus looked at him and said, ‘How hard it is for the rich to enter the kingdom of God!’” Luke 18:24

How is the god Mammon conquered? The Bible offers a perspective from which to view all of life’s economic decisions. The Holy Spirit is with us; Jesus is our present Teacher. The following are some suggestions.

• Get in touch with our feelings about money. Get in touch with our fear, insecurity, guilt, pride or envy. We are afraid to be short of money. And our fears, though irrational, are real. We need to face up to these feelings before we can apply God’s promises to our financial situation.

• Stop denying our wealth. Instead of seeing the small picture of our situation, let us become world citizens, looking at ourselves in relation to all humanity.

• Create an atmosphere in which confession is possible. Much of our preaching about money has been either to condemn it or to praise it but not to help each other relate to it. Many of us feel isolated and alone. How much better if we could confess our fears and temptations.

• Discover one other person who will struggle with you through the money maze. Together form a covenant to help each other detect when the seductive power of money is beginning to win. This needs to be done in a spirit of love and graciousness but also rebuking and prodding.

• Discover ways to get in touch with the poor. One of the damaging results of affluence is allowing us to distance ourselves from the poor so that we no longer see their pain.

• Give with glad and generous hearts. Giving has a way of rooting out the tough old miser within us. The very act of letting go of money, or some other treasure, destroys the sin of greed.

Chinese house church leaders recently met together to discuss their problems. They concluded that their number two problem (after gossip) was money and the lure of materialism. There are two main sources of this. One is the rising standard of living in the coastal areas, which is tempting good teachers into commerce, depriving the church of much-needed leaders. The other is the kind, but often indiscriminate, giving of some wealthier Christians and missions to house church networks.

RESPONSE:

Today I commit to living a simple life style and not give in to materialism.

PRAYER:

Lord, I want to follow You all the way. And I want to be obedient as You direct and instruct.

A daily devotional message by Paul Estabrooks



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Standing Strong Through the Storm - July 4

CONFLICT - MATERIALISM pt. 2

“No one can serve two masters. Either he will hate the one and love the other, or he will be devoted to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve both God and Money”.

Matthew 6:24

Riches are dangerous because their seductive power often causes people to reject Christ and His kingdom. The rich young ruler who turned sadly away after being told that he had to part with his riches to inherit salvation prompted Jesus’ statement, “How hard it is for the rich to enter the kingdom of God.” (Luke 18:24; Mark 10:23; Matthew 19:23)

A desire for riches can cause people to do almost anything—even to the extent of selling their souls. The result, Scripture warns, is anguish now and damnation later (1 Timothy6:9-10). An abundance of possessions can easily lead us to forget that God is the Source of all good. The people of Israel were warned of this before they entered the Promised Land (Deuteronomy 8:11-17).

The pursuit of wealth often results in wars. James 4:1-2 says this clearly and it is amply confirmed from world history. Instead of fostering more compassion toward the poor, riches often harden the hearts of the wealthy. Rich persons are often unconcerned about the poor at their doorstep. (Luke 16:19-31; Isaiah 5:8-10; Amos 6:4-7; James 5:1-5)

Money is not neutral; it is a power with a life of its own. It is a power that is even demonic in character. When Jesus uses the Aramaic term mammon, translated as money in the NIV, (Matthew 6:24) to refer to wealth, He is giving it a personal and spiritual character as a rival god. Mammon is a power that seeks to dominate us.

Hence, money is an active agent. It is a law unto itself—capable of inspiring devotion. It is tremendously instructive to stand back and observe the frantic scramble of people for money. And this does not occur just among the poor and starving. Even the super rich still seek it furiously. The middle class continue to buy more houses, acquire more cars and purchase more clothes than they need. If money were only a medium of exchange, it would make no sense at all to attach such prestige to it. We value people in relation to their income. We give people status and honor in relation to how much money they have or appear to have.

We can have all the Christian externals and yet be complete materialists in our hearts.

RESPONSE:

I choose to serve God, so I will not give Money any place of prominence in my life or in my heart.

PRAYER:

Lord, I need Your help today to stay focused on You and not on all the “things” around me.

A daily devotional message by Paul Estabrooks


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Standing Strong Through the Storm - July 3

CONFLICT – MATERIALISM

“For the love of money is a root of all kinds of evil. Some people, eager for money, have wandered from the faith and pierced themselves with many griefs.” 1 Timothy 6:10

Satan subtly promotes the attitude that says money, property, possessions, physical comforts, as well as worldly fame and honor are the most important things in life. While God created all things and is the source of all we have, He does not condone our allowing things and money to usurp His first place in our lives. The prosperity that He so freely gives us, and wants us to have, is indeed a blessing until it takes the place of God. Materialism is thus the attitude that says money, property, possessions, physical comforts, as well as worldly fame and honor, are the most important things in life. Not to say, “There is no God,” but to say, “I don’t have any need for God!”

For Christians, materialism is much like the frog in a pan of water that is slowly being heated. He boils to death because he does not realize the danger quickly enough to jump out of the pot before it is too late.

A church leader from the country of Romania, which was once a communist-dominated land and is now free, commented, “In my experience, 95% of the believers who face the test of external persecution pass it, while 95% of those who face the test of prosperity fail it!”

Satan is ecstatic when he succeeds in luring us into this trap. This is the dark side to money and possessions that many Christians are either unaware of, or unwilling to face. As a result, the spiritual vitality of many has been sapped and the church as a whole has been weakened spiritually. Like fire, money is a good servant but a destructive master.

If the church is to survive this challenge, there is an urgent need to be aware of the true nature of materialism. Unfortunately, it has become such a vital part of our culture that Christians are often unaware of its control.

By the standard of the people around Jesus, many of today’s so called poor are very rich as well as almost all those in free societies. In Jesus’ day, a rich person was one who had more food than needed for the day and who had more than one set of clothing.

Are you a rich person?

RESPONSE:

Today I will not be a frog in the boiling water. I will be alert to Satan’s attack on the materialism front.

PRAYER:

Thank You Lord for all the material blessings I have received from You. Help me to use them for Your glory and Your kingdom.

A daily devotional message by Paul Estabrooks

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Standing Strong Through the Storm - July 2

CONFLICT - SYNCRETISM

“For although they knew God, they neither glorified him as God nor gave thanks to him, but their thinking became futile and their foolish hearts were darkened. Although they claimed to be wise, they became fools…” Romans 1:21-22

Satan has led many quasi-religious groups to unite around a mixture of religious teachings and then brand honest Christian believers as bigots for clinging to salvation in Christ alone. An outgrowth of the postmodern era in which we live is that many people no longer believe in absolute truth. A natural extension of this lack of absolutes is the widely held view that there is good in every religion and all roads lead to heaven. Individuals can then pick and choose the elements they wish from whatever faith and mix them all together. This is true syncretism. Chuck Colson refers to its impact on our faith as “salad-bar Christianity!”

Satan is delighted when people believe and expound on his lies. He does not want anyone to know the truth and come to a personal relationship with Jesus who is the truth, the way and the life (John14:6). Jesus is the only way.

One man reportedly traveled the world to find one name for God that would be universal and bring all people together. Instantly the word love came to his mind. He later wrote, “Give God the universal name of Love and we will create a golden cord to tie together the truths of all the religions of the world.”7 But love is not God’s name. It is His nature. And God expressed it most fully when He sent His Son to die for our sins (John 3:16). Only when we accept Christ’s sacrifice for us will we know the love of the one true God that can bind people together.

A few years ago, an inter-faith group of 10,000 people met at the Vatican in Rome. The group included the Pope, the Dalai Lama and Muslim Imam W. D. Mohammed. An outspoken Hindu woman was quoted as saying, “It was refreshing to note that the idea that all religions have universal truths, and are merely different paths to the same goal was accepted as a given from the outset by all delegates without a single dissenting voice.” The same delegates also endorsed a general condemnation of “aggressive” proselytizing. This is the prevailing thinking of our day and age. Satan will do all he can to cause this thinking to even invade the church and individual Christian thinking and action.

The end result of syncretism in free societies will be anti-conversion laws and a prohibition of Christian witnessing. The euphemism for this law will probably be called “religious freedom.”

RESPONSE:

Today I will guard carefully against the deceptions of Satan leading to syncretism.

PRAYER:

Lord, help me to fix my eyes on You and Your Word today so that I will not stumble.

A daily devotional message by Paul Estabrooks


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Standing Strong Through the Storm - July 1

CONFLICT – BOLD WITNESS

“Therefore, my dear brothers, stand firm. Let nothing move you. Always give yourselves fully to the work of the Lord, because you know that your labor in the Lord is not in vain.” 1 Corinthians 15:58

Lung Singh was a spirit worshipper and opium addict for 45 years in the little Southeast Asian country of Laos. When he turned to Christ, he became a powerhouse for the Lord. Dr. Jan Pit shares about the day he baptized Lung Singh:

“I’ll never forget how, after coming up out of the waters, he began singing, ‘I have decided to follow Jesus,’ Then he pointed to the ripples spreading out in the water and said, ‘Brother Jan, there goes my old life. All the old things have passed away. It’s gone. Everything now is new.’

“Still soaking wet, he clambered onto the bank on the side of the famous Mekong River and knelt down. ‘Devil,’ he shouted. ‘I’ve been your servant for 45 years. Now I belong to Christ. Now I only serve him.’

“I’ve never met a man so on fire for the Lord. After I left the country in 1973, Lung Singh continued his courageous ministry. He was constantly warned by the Pathet Lao Communists to stop his preaching, but he refused.

“’I cannot do that. Jesus saved me. He did everything for me. I can’t be quiet!’”

Years later he was executed; but not before impacting for good the kingdom of heaven.

RESPONSE:

Today I will live in the strength of Christ and fearlessly refuse to give in to my enemy, Satan’s attempts to shut down my verbal and outgoing witness.

PRAYER:

Pray for boldness for all believers to share the Gospel openly.

A daily devotional message by Paul Estabrooks


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Galatians 4:4 But when the set time had fully come, God sent his Son, born of a woman, born under the law,

The loving nature of God is so evident in his decision to send His son when He did. It was not a pleasant time in which to be born. People worshipped idols, sacrificed children, used religion to exclude and persecute, and had so closed off their heart to compassion that they could not make room for a young pregnant girl to give birth. Yet in His perfect timing, He saved them all, and us too. The very ones who would hang his son on a cross, were the ones he had sent that son to save. He could not, would not wait any longer to rescue us. Never has his timing been more perfect, and more merciful.

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Standing Strong Through the Storm - June 30

CONFLICT – CRISIS AND FEAR

“For God did not give us a spirit of timidity, but a spirit of power, of love and of self-discipline.”
2 Timothy 1:7

Satan delights in causing “panic attacks” in a crisis situation. The Chinese have an interesting lesson in the two characters chosen for their word “crisis.” One character is danger and the other is opportunity. The inference is that in every crisis experience, both elements are present. So a crisis is a dangerous situation presenting an opportunity. When you focus on just the danger, you become paralyzed by fear. Focusing on the opportunity, however, enables you to fly with wings of faith. It is we, ourselves, who choose on which of the two we will focus.

Similar reasons for our personal fears also keep us from being the voice of God in a fallen world on behalf of His church. There is a time for Christians to speak out forcefully against the injustices and sinfulness of our own society and culture. This is especially true in situations where we can help our brothers and sisters who suffer. But fear can keep us tongue-tied. As the church, we must learn to speak out and not be cowed by fear.

Pastor Simeon Popov was a recognized authority figure among the evangelical Christians of Bulgaria. Although his church was officially registered, the police were constantly watching his activities because he didn't agree with the restrictions imposed by the authorities, in particular those concerning evangelizing.

One day at a secret river baptism early in the morning, the group was all ready in their white gowns when Simeon saw some "shadows" moving behind the bushes. He realized immediately that they were agents of the secret police spying on them. One of them, who was awkwardly hidden, had a camera.

Without hesitating, Simeon called to him, “Hey, you. Come a bit closer!” The man sheepishly approached. “Since you have a camera, why don’t you take a picture of our group?” The police officer was so surprised that he just did it without asking questions. Then the ceremony of baptism took place as planned! A few days later, the secret police agent was even fair enough to give the photograph to Simeon who kept it and made copies.

Remember, when we are fearful, we can claim the promise of Scripture; “For God did not give us a spirit of timidity, but a spirit of power, of love and of self-discipline” (2 Timothy 1:7).

RESPONSE:

Today I will not walk in fear but in the power of God’s Holy Spirit.

PRAYER:

Pray for boldness for pastors today in countries where Satan tries to bind them with fear.

A daily devotional message by Paul Estabrooks


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John 16:32 “Behold, the hour is coming, indeed it has come, when you will be scattered, each to his own home, and will leave me alone. Yet I am not alone, for the Father is with me.

Jesus is talking to his disciples here about his upcoming death, and he predicts that they will all abandon him in his hour of need. But even though they will be scattered, Jesus reassures them that God the Father is always with him. Once again, this rings true for all of us, as we are never really alone—the Father is always with us. And we can receive his comfort when we seek him in prayer.

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A Prayer for Stronger Faith

“I have faith; help my lack of faith!” Mark 9:24

Difficult times can challenge your belief in God. When doubt threatens to overwhelm you, pray honestly, acknowledging that you want to believe in God’s power but need help. Ask Him to fill your heart with faith, trust and love.


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Standing Strong Through the Storm - June 28

GOD IN CONTROL

“The stone the builders rejected has become the cornerstone; the LORD has done this, and it is marvelous in our eyes.”Psalm 118: 22-23

Ron Boyd-MacMillan writes in his epic volume, Faith That Endures, “Your life’s purpose may remain a mystery to you, as may the events of your world, but that’s okay. God is in control. We are relieved of the responsibility of understanding everything and the need to change it.”

R. J. Thomas was a Welsh missionary with a burden for the xenophobic hermit kingdom of Korea in the middle of the nineteenth century. In 1865, while in China, the opportunity he had been waiting a lifetime for arrived. An American ship, the SS General Sherman, was going to steam up the Taedong River to the capital, Pyongyang, in hopes of luring the Koreans into trade. Thomas bought a berth on the ship, hoping to meet some scholars in Pyongyang who spoke Chinese, and took as many Chinese Scriptures with him as he could carry on board.

When they reached Pyongyang, they were not welcomed. They got stuck on a sandbank and the ship was set afire. As they waded to shore, they were killed by the waiting Koreans. Thomas also waded to shore. Before he could speak, a club swung with murderous force dashed his brains into the water, but his killer noticed he had emerged with books. He picked up a couple of the sodden books. Drying them off, he separated the leaves and saw that they were nicely printed. He could not read but decided to paper the outside of his house with the pages, as was the custom at the time. Imagine his astonishment when he returned from the fields a few weeks later to find a clutch of scholars earnestly reading his walls. One of these scholars became a Christian by reading a Gospel portion plastered onto the wall. A generation later his nephew assisted in the first translation of the New Testament into Korean in Shenyang, China under the supervision of another little-known missionary, John Ross from Scotland.

R.J. Thomas never lived to see the fruit of his labor. He died, his life’s purpose unfulfilled, his potential unrealized. For anyone aware of Thomas’s death, his life was a mystery for years afterward.

But his life was not in vain. The meaning of life does not consist in what we make of it, but in what God makes of it. Success is not about achievement or what we make of ourselves. It’s about placement, or what God makes of us. We take the lesson from the Persecuted Church that it is okay to die quite unaware of our life’s meaning. We can rest in trust that God, in His mercy, has used us to help build His eternal kingdom.

RESPONSE:

Today I leave my placement, my purpose, my potential in the hands of a good God.

PRAYER:

May I ever realize that You are in control and thus truly allow You to be Lord of my life.

A daily devotional message by Paul Estabrooks

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The Model Prayer

“Pray like this: Our Father who is in heaven, uphold the holiness of Your name. Bring in Your kingdom so that Your will is done on earth as it’s done in heaven." Matthew 6:9-10

Jesus’ words teach us how to grow closer to our Heavenly Father. He gave us this prayer as a model to praise, petition and honor God. Use these words that came from Jesus’ own lips and pray: constantly, specifically and expectantly to experience heaven on earth.

Ask Jesus to help you draw closer to our beloved Creator.


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6/27/15 5:38 P

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Romans 12:16 Apostle Paul tells us to readily adjust ourselves to people and things. We need to be the kind of person who plan things but doesn't fall apart if the plan does not work out (Joyce Meyer).

I'm becoming more better at this and learning we can't control what people do but we can control how we respond! emoticon

Faith & Consistency = Results :)


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Standing Strong Through the Storm - June 27

THIS IS GOOD

“And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose.” Romans 8:28

A tribal king had a close friend with whom he grew up. The friend had a habit of looking at every situation that ever occurred in his life (positive or negative) as well as the lives of others and remarking, “This is good!” He based it on two scriptures; one that says that it is God’s will that we be thankful for ALL circumstances and Romans 8:28 which assures us that God can turn every situation (good or bad) into ultimate good. The king loved his friend’s positive outlook and took him with him wherever he went.

One day the king and his friend were out on a hunting expedition. As the king fired his gun at a pheasant that flew up from the long grass, the rifle backfired and blew off his right thumb. Looking at the king’s bleeding hand; his friend remarked as usual, "This is good!"

The king was angry and replied, "No, this is NOT good!" and proceeded to send his friend to jail for his insensitivity.

About a year later, the king was hunting all alone in an area that he should have known to stay clear of. Cannibals captured him and took him to their village. They tied his hands, stacked some wood, and were going to cook him in a big pot. As they set fire to the wood, they noticed that the king was missing a thumb on his right hand. Being very superstitious, cannibals never eat anyone who is less than perfect. So releasing the king, they sent him on his way home.

Walking home he kept staring at his right hand without a thumb. “This IS good!” he said out loud. He was reminded of the event that had taken his thumb and felt remorse for his shabby treatment of his friend. So he went immediately to the jail to speak with his friend.

"You were right," he said, "it was good that my thumb was blown off." And he proceeded to tell the friend all that had just happened. "And so, I am very sorry for sending you to jail for so long. It was bad for me to do this."

"No," his friend replied as usual, "This is good!"

"What do you mean, 'This is good'? How could it be good that I put my friend in jail for over a year?"

"Well,” replied his friend, “if I had not been here in jail, I would have been out there with you!"

In our SSTS seminars we share this story early in the sessions and for the rest of the time holding up four fingers on the right hand (with a hidden thumb) communicates clearly the message: THIS IS GOOD!

RESPONSE:

Today I will focus by faith on the potential good that God wants to bring out of the negative challenges I face in my life.

PRAYER:

Pray that all persecuted Christians will respond to their daily challenges with this faith perspective.

A daily devotional message by Paul Estabrooks

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Solomon’s Prayer for Wisdom

“Give me wisdom and knowledge so I can lead this people, because no one can govern this great people of Yours without Your help." 2 Chronicles 1:10

When given the opportunity to ask God for anything, Solomon asked for the wisdom to lead his people. He prayed for knowledge to help him serve others. What a wonderful model Solomon is of generosity of spirit. Pray for spiritual blessings—wisdom, understanding, peace—so that you can better do His work on earth.


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6/26/15 5:23 A

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The Prayer of Jesus

“Father, forgive them, for they don’t know what they’re doing.” Luke 23:34

Jesus asked for mercy and forgiveness for those who crucified Him. Are you able to pray for the people who cause you pain? A true pathway to a peaceful heart is to ask God for help in showing compassion to your adversaries


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Standing Strong Through the Storm - June 25

GOD INTENDED IT FOR GOOD

"You intended to harm me, but God intended it for good to accomplish what is now being done, the saving of many lives." Genesis 50:20

Here is another of five ways God uses problems and persecution in your life: God uses problems and persecution to PROTECT you.

A problem can be a blessing in disguise if it prevents you from being harmed by something more serious. Last year a friend was fired for refusing to do something unethical that his boss had asked him to do. His unemployment was a problem—but it saved him from being convicted and sent to prison a year later when management's actions were eventually discovered.

Eritrean Christian singer, Helen Berhane, testifies that God helped her at every turn during her almost three years of imprisonment in the infamous shipping containers. She saw God repeatedly turn evil plans into good:

One day they [the guards] brought two girls to my container. Their names were Rahel and Elsa. They were both in the army before they were arrested. They were supposed to spy on me and report back, because the authorities could not understand how, despite their treatment of me, I was still defiant. However, things backfired because the girls really liked me. Very soon we had become good friends and they even told me, “We were supposed to spy on you. But we like you, and so we won’t!”

…Since the girls were not spying as they had been told to, Rahel was released, but they left Elsa in the container with me for a while. Rahel left all her spare clothes for me. This was a blessing, as for a long time I had not been allowed any more clothes, even when the old ones were worn out. I felt that this was God’s provision for me, like the ravens he sent to Elijah. It was my experience that no matter what hardship I was in, God always sent someone to help me. So, although these girls were sent to spy on me, God used them to bless me.

RESPONSE:

God is at work in my life—even when I do not recognize it or understand it. It is much easier and more profitable when I cooperate with Him. This is the way to victory!

PRAYER:

God help me to trust You to bring good from the challenges, difficulties and persecutions I might be subjected to today.

A daily devotional message by Paul Estabrooks


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6/25/15 5:39 A

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The Lord Is My Shepherd

“The LORD is my shepherd. I lack nothing. He lets me rest in grassy meadows; He leads me to restful waters.” Psalm 23: 1-2

God’s love is so great, so constant, that nothing can separate you from it. Find comfort knowing that He will supply everything you need for a happy and fulfilled life. Rejoice! Your cup overflows.


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6/24/15 10:34 A

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Today's Word with Joel and Victoria
Today’s Scripture
“In his heart a man plans his course, but the LORD determines his steps”
(Proverbs 16:9, NIV)

Stay in Sync
Have you ever tried something and got the results you wanted and then tried the same thing again and got different results? This happened to Moses in the Bible. They needed water and God told Moses to strike the rock. He struck the rock and water flowed out freely. Another time they needed water again, and God told Moses, “Speak to the rock.” Do you know what Moses did? He went over and struck the rock. He thought, “Hey, it worked last time. It’ll work this time.” But it didn’t. God had a different plan.

The point is that we have to stay open and make adjustments to stay in tune with God’s plan. You can do the same thing the same way you did last time and get different results. It may not be something major, but like Moses, maybe it’s just something small. Sometimes a small tweak, a small adjustment can make a major difference in the outcome.

Today, make sure you aren’t doing things just because it’s the way you always did it before. Instead, listen to the voice of the Holy Spirit of God inside. Follow His leading and stay in sync with the wonderful plan He has for you!

A Prayer for Today
“Heavenly Father, I submit my mind, will and heart to You. Help me to see clearly what Your plan is for me. Help me to stay close to You always, not living in the past, but pressing forward to the new things You have in store for me in Jesus’ name. Amen.”



Edited by: PURPLEPEONY at: 6/24/2015 (10:35)
"I wish above all that you prosper and be in health even as your soul prospers" 3 John 1:2


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Peter's Prayer

“Peter replied, 'Lord, if it’s You, order me to come to You on the water.... Lord, rescue me!’” Matthew 14:28, 30

Do you allow fear or self-doubt to limit you? Do you trust that God’s powers are at work in your life? The next time you feel afraid, unworthy, full of uncertainty, keep your eyes fixed on the Lord. Believe in His almighty ability to perform miracles on your behalf.


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Standing Strong Through the Storm - June 23

INSPECTED AND FOUND FAITHFUL

“When you have many kinds of troubles, you should be full of joy, because you know that these troubles test your faith, and this will give you patience.” James 1:2-3 NCV

Here is another of five ways God uses problems and persecution in your life. God uses problems and persecution to INSPECT you. An African Christian businessman shares this testimony:

Born in a rich family I was living for earning big money. My businesses were very profitable. All over town people knew me. When God revealed to me the insignificance of money and richness, I accepted Christ after a long struggle. He changed my life. No longer was I running after money but I started sharing what God had done in my life.

After some time, suddenly the police came to our house. Officers carrying guns took me to their office to interrogate me, asking me all kinds of questions, treating me as if I was a criminal. The next day the same thing happened. A lot of soldiers entered my home and stood in every room making my children cry. For over a period of six months they threatened me. Day after day they asked me and threatened me to stop sharing the good news, the gospel of Jesus Christ. Every time I responded saying: “No, I am not going to stop sharing about the life I received through Jesus Christ”

After six months they stopped. One man of the security forces told me, “The reason we could not do anything to you is because we couldn't find any lie in your life.”

A year later, I saw on television the whole group of security men that had intimidated my family and me. They were shivering with fear in front of a judge. The government had changed and those people had to appear before the court because of things they had done. It was as if God told me, "This is what happens with those that oppose you, when you share my words."

People are like tea bags...if you want to know what's inside them, just drop them into hot water! Has God ever tested your faith with a problem? What do problems reveal about you?

RESPONSE:

God is at work in my life—even when I do not recognize it or understand it. It is much easier and more profitable when I cooperate with Him. This is the way to victory!

PRAYER:

God may I be found faithful to You through every test.

A daily devotional message by Paul Estabrooks

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6/23/15 4:09 P

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Today's Word with Joel and Victoria
Today’s Scripture
“For he chose us in him before the creation of the world to be holy and blameless in his sight.”
(Ephesians 1:4, NIV)


Chosen to Be Holy
Did you know that God had a plan for you before He ever made the earth? He created you to be holy and blameless in His sight. Why? He chose you to be His ambassador, His representative. He created you to reflect His glory, His character, His righteousness, His holiness. Think about that for a moment. Part of your purpose on this earth is to be a representative for the King of kings and the Lord of lords! What a great honor! Knowing that should make you want to walk a little differently. It should make you want to talk differently. It should make you think a little more carefully about where you go and what you choose to do with your time.

Are you representing God’s holiness today? Remember, what God has called you to do, He’s equipped you to do. If there are things in your life that aren’t holy, God wants to empower you to overcome those things. Receive His strength and power today so that you can walk in holiness all the days of your life!

A Prayer for Today
“Father, thank You for choosing me today. Search my heart and remove anything that is displeasing in Your sight. I choose to walk in Your holiness today in Jesus’ name. Amen.”



"I wish above all that you prosper and be in health even as your soul prospers" 3 John 1:2


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6/23/15 5:16 A

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The Prayer of Jabez

“If only You would greatly bless me and increase my territory. May Your power go with me to keep me from trouble, so as not to cause me pain.” 1 Chronicles 4:10 (The Daily Life Bible)

God has a future filled with blessings planned for you. Seek His gifts not for your personal fulfillment but for His glory. When you rely on His multitude of gifts, you open a channel for His divine work to flow in and through your life.


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Standing Strong Through the Storm - June 22

A NEW DIRECTION

“Sometimes it takes a painful situation to make us change our ways.” Proverbs 20:30 TEV

Here is one of five ways God uses problems and persecution in your life. God uses problems and persecution to DIRECT you.

Idris Nalos was an African animist converted to the Christian faith in southern Sudan. Soon after his conversion he became an evangelist. He went out preaching in the remotest places. Within a few years, he planted three churches. Soon considered as dangerous because of his activities, he was arrested by the Islamic authorities and put in prison. There he suffered torture to make him deny his Christian faith. Beaten for hours every day, he was also totally deprived of sleep.

About to collapse, Idris prayed, “Lord, prevent me from being like Peter. I am about to give up, help me.”

And God answered in giving Idris a vision where he saw all those to whom he had preached the Gospel and who, in turn, proclaimed the Good News to other people.

“I saw those who were saved,” he said. In this vision, he realized that even if his life was taken, others had already taken up the baton. From this moment, Idris was no longer afraid for his life. After three weeks of ceaseless torment, his torturers released him without explanation.

To avoid another arrest he immigrated to Khartoum in the north, where he founded three new churches in a fundamentalist Muslim territory. He had learned how to trust and wasn’t afraid anymore. God showed him where to go and what to do.

Sometimes God must light a fire under us to get us moving. Problems and pressures often point us in a new direction and motivate us to change. Is God trying to get your attention?

RESPONSE:

God is at work in my life—even when I do not recognize it or understand it. It is much easier and more profitable when I cooperate with Him. This is the way to victory!

PRAYER:

Lord, point me in the direction of Your will. May I not need problems and persecution for You to get my attention.

A daily devotional message by Paul Estabrooks

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6/22/15 5:19 A

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Job’s Prayer

“I know You can do anything; no plan of Yours can be opposed successfully.” Job 42:2

Do you feel disappointed, betrayed or abandoned by God when bad things happen? Be assured that even in the midst of trials and sorrow, God’s plan is at work. With His help, you'll be able to see your troubles as part of a bigger picture.


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6/21/15 8:25 A

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Today's Word with Joel and Victoria
Today’s Scripture
“The mind of man plans his way, but the LORD directs his steps.”
(Proverbs 16:9, NASB)

He Directs Your Steps
What are you doing to bring your dreams to pass? Are you getting prepared? Do you have clear direction? Are you taking steps of faith? Success is intentional. You may not know what steps to take right now, but God has a good plan for your life. If you’ll do your part to seek Him and begin to make plans to succeed, God will guide you. He will direct your steps. You don’t have to vaguely go through life. God wants to show you His plan. He wants to pour out His blessing on you and see you living a life of victory.

Decide today to make plans to succeed. Write down your goals. Make time to evaluate where you are in life. Evaluate your finances, your career and your relationships. Don’t go another week without having a plan for your future. Evaluate how you’re spending your time and money. If you’ll go beyond dreaming and start making plans to succeed, God promises that He’s going to direct your steps. He will lead you down the path of His favor.

A Prayer for Today
“Father, thank You for ordering my steps. Help me to see clearly the plan You have for me today and every day. I submit every area of my life to You and trust that You are working behind the scenes for my good in Jesus’ name. Amen.”

"I wish above all that you prosper and be in health even as your soul prospers" 3 John 1:2


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Standing Strong Through the Storm - June 20

WALKING IN VICTORY

“And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose.” Romans 8:28

Our trust is not in a God who uses his power without a plan or at His whim. Rather our trust is in a loving, purposeful God who promises that all things work together for good for those who love Him.

No one believes this any more than Kim Phuc. She is known as the picture girl from the Vietnam War. The Pulitzer Prize winning photo seen around the world was snapped on June 8, 1972 following a South Vietnamese napalm attack on Trang Bang village. Nine-year-old Kim is seen running down the road toward the camera, naked and screaming in pain.

Living in constant pain as a result of the horrific injuries she suffered, Kim recalls she was bitter and filled with hatred asking the universal question, “Why me? Why do I have to suffer like this?”

As a teenager, she encountered a Vietnamese Bible in a library. Impressed with Jesus and His teaching, she became a believer in 1982. She comments that it took years, but “God freed me from hatred and enabled me to love and forgive my enemies, to trust Him and to obey.”

She still suffers daily from excruciating pain but she now finds purpose in that pain. “The pain reminds me daily to go back to the Lord in prayer,” she says. “Then he gives me peace, energy, strength and grace to face each day…The pain is for my spiritual protection and I thank God for it.”

Kim Phuc says she wants to change the way people see her, no longer the little girl crying out of pain, but now a young woman crying out for peace. She adds, “Now He uses my picture and my everyday life to glorify Him. Now I understand the purpose of why I’m still here and why I suffer. It’s to glorify the Lord. It’s not about me. It’s about Him!”

God has a plan and purpose for our lives, and through our obedience to His teaching, He is going to work in us and through us that which will ultimately bring glory to God. With this kind of faith, we will see victory.

RESPONSE:

Today I will walk in victory because I will give every part of my being to glorify God.

PRAYER:

Lord, help me to experience the purpose and meaning You have ordained in my suffering for You.

A daily devotional message by Paul Estabrooks


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6/20/15 5:13 A

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Elijah’s Prayer

"Answer me, LORD! Answer me so that this people will know that you, LORD, are the real God and that you can change their hearts." 1 Kings 18:37

When Elijah was afraid and hiding in a cave, God’s voice came as a gentle whisper encouraging him to continue on. Do you hear God’s still small voice in your life? A good way to tune into His guidance is to spend a few minutes in silence daily. Turn off the radio, television or computer and simply be in the stillness of His presence.


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Today's Word with Joel and Victoria
Today’s Scripture
“Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, the new creation has come: The old has gone, the new is here!”
(2 Corinthians 5:17, NIV)

New Creation
Everyone loves to get something new. But as a believer in Jesus, you’re not only getting something new, you are something new. You are a brand new creation! Your eternal being, the spirit on the inside of you, is re-created in Christ. The old is gone, the new has come.

The Bible also talks about working out our salvation. That means you have to retrain your body and mind to act, think, speak and live according to the new spirit within you instead of the old habits you used to have. Don’t ever get stuck in a rut thinking, “I’ll never change...that’s just the way I am.” No, the Bible says that the Spirit of God aids us in our weakness. He gives us strength to overcome. He empowers us to live as more than conquerors.

Is there something you want to change in your life today? Remember, you are a new creation in Christ. You are empowered to overcome. You are equipped to walk in the new, abundant life the Lord has in store for you!

A Prayer for Today
“Father, thank You for making me a new creation. Thank You for empowering me to live as an overcomer. I give this day to You and ask You to help me fully understand the plan You have for me in Jesus’ name. Amen.”


"I wish above all that you prosper and be in health even as your soul prospers" 3 John 1:2


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Standing Strong Through the Storm - June 19

THE CROSS – SUFFERING pt 6

“To this you were called, because Christ suffered for you, leaving you an example, that you should follow in his steps.” I Peter 2:21

In the old Museum of Atheism and Religion in Leningrad (now St. Petersburg) during the cold war era, visitors upon entry were first subjected to a major display of pro-evolution propaganda. Then came the world religions section dominated by displays of the sordid history of Christianity such as the Inquisition and the Crusades.

Towering over that display area was a huge crucifix. The museum guides would explain it this way, “Christians love to suffer. Ever since their leader Jesus Christ was crucified on a cross like this, they have had a persecution complex!”

While we are definitely not called upon to have a persecution complex, we as Christians are repeatedly reminded in Scripture that our lot is indeed to follow in the footsteps of our Lord and Master.

When Jesus gave His last major teaching session to his disciples, he included a serious prediction about the reactions of the world. In what we now call the Upper Room Discourse (John 15-17), Jesus told his closest followers—probably as they were walking along (see John 14:31b)—that they were to remain (abide) in Him as a branch in the vineyard is connected to the main stalk.

He then reiterated his command that they were to love each other as He had loved them and was willing to lay down His life for them—the highest form of love. Little did they understand that prediction. Yet it would be fulfilled the very next day.

Then he contrasts that love of the brethren with the reaction of hatred from the world. "If the world hates you, keep in mind that it hated me first…for they do not know the one who sent me" (John 15: 18-21). A little further down in the discourse, He says, “…in fact, a time is coming when anyone who kills you will think he is offering a service to God” (John 16:2b).

Jesus was indicating that as He suffered, so would His disciples. Every human being endures some suffering in his lifetime. It may be the physical suffering of sickness or injury. It may be the inner suffering caused by the death of a loved one, rejection by friends, or simply loneliness. Whatever the cause may be, we all seek to avoid it as much as possible. The scriptures make it very plain that Christians are subject to all the causes of suffering common to men, plus the added persecution that comes with taking a clear stand for Christ.

RESPONSE: Today I will walk in the suffering footsteps of Jesus, my Lord and Savior; no complaints.

PRAYER: Lord, give me grace to accept the responses of the world as Jesus did. As I abide in You, may I also show Your love to everyone.

A daily devotional message by Paul Estabrooks

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Gideon’s Prayer

“If I’ve gained Your approval, please show me a sign that it’s really You speaking with me.” Judges 6:17

Do you feel as if you need signs that God is at work in your life? The Bible is filled with God’s messages of reassurance. By reading His Word, you’ll open yourself to having Scripture speak to your heart, confirming that He is always with you.


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Standing Strong Through the Storm - June 18

THE CROSS – SUFFERING Pt. 5

“Now if we are children, then we are heirs—heirs of God and co-heirs with Christ, if indeed we share in his sufferings in order that we may also share in his glory. I consider that our present sufferings are not worth comparing with the glory that will be revealed in us.” Romans 8:17-18

Suffering and persecution turn our hearts and minds to the glory that will be ours in heaven. Jesus promises a great reward in heaven to those who suffer (Matthew 5:12). Paul says above that the sufferings of the present are not worthy to be compared with the glory of the future, and Peter agreed

(I Peter 1:6, 7; 4:13; 5:1-10). A Christian song when I was growing up says, “It will be worth it all, when we see Jesus.” Those that are living today as spiritual “refugees” look longingly toward the eternal home.

Hebrews chapter eleven helps us to understand the history of this. In the first part of the chapter which is the “hall of faith” we see faith examples of power, life and vitality. Then in verse thirty-five the list changes to those who lost their lives—some through horrendous persecution. Yet all were commended for their faith.

In his book The Barbarian Way, Erwin McManus comments about this:

All of them chose and walked the barbarian way, and they were blessed because they did not fall away on account of Jesus. They trusted Jesus with their lives, and they lost their lives on the journey. If you could interview any one of them, however, each would insist that even in the midst of suffering and hardship, he was most fully alive. They were not disappointed in God because they did not misunderstand who He was. They understood His call, and they chose it willingly. John the Baptist would join their number. Some barbarians survive the night in the lion’s den; others experience their darkest night and wake in eternity.

RESPONSE:

Today I will rejoice in the glory of heaven that awaits and makes my suffering insignificant.

PRAYER:

Help me Lord to remember during the challenges I face here, that eternity with You is infinitely better.

A daily devotional message by Paul Estabrooks


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Today's Word with Joel and Victoria
Today’s Scripture
“You make known to me the path of life; you will fill me with joy in your presence, with eternal pleasures at your right hand.”
(Psalm 16:11, NIV)

Joy in His Presence
Are you experiencing the fullness of His joy? God promises that joy is found in His presence, and if you’ve accepted Jesus as your Lord and Savior, then His presence is inside of you! Joy manifests when you focus your mind and heart on the Father and begin to praise Him for what He’s done in your life. The Bible says that He inhabits the praises of His people. When you begin to praise and thank Him, you are in His presence. It doesn’t matter where you are physically or what’s going on around you, you can access the joy that’s inside of you at anytime, day or night.

Know this: God wants you to experience His supernatural joy and peace at all times. That’s why He chose to live inside of you and give you an endless supply. Don’t waste another minute feeling overburdened and discouraged. Get in His presence where there is fullness of joy because the joy of the Lord is your strength!

A Prayer for Today
“Father, thank You for an endless supply of joy. Today, I choose to cast my cares on You and give You the praise, glory and honor You deserve. Let joy flow through me today so that I can be a witness of Your goodness to those around me in Jesus’ name. Amen.”

"I wish above all that you prosper and be in health even as your soul prospers" 3 John 1:2


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Standing Strong Through the Storm - June 17

THE CROSS – SUFFERING Pt. 4

“Consider it pure joy, my brothers, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith develops perseverance. Perseverance must finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything.” James 1:2-4

James, in his letter to the early Christians, lists the qualities that trials of many kinds develop in us.

A little girl stood outside the doorway of the church intrigued by the love and joy displayed by those inside. The missionary had asked her to come in, but she had politely declined.

This was a hostile area in the Philippines, and her father had strictly forbidden her to have anything to do with “those Christians.”

Unknown to the little Filipino girl, the missionary was praying fervently for her soul. Finally one Sunday morning, the little girl accepted the invitation to attend the Sunday school class.

There she also opened her heart to Jesus and became a child of God. The missionary presented her with a beautiful white dress, representing the fact that Jesus had washed all her sins away.

The next Sunday the little girl was nowhere to be found. Concerned for the girl, the missionary travelled to her home village. Arriving at her home, she found the young, new believer lying in the dirt. Her white dress was torn, filthy, and soaked in blood. The girl’s father hadn’t shared the missionary’s joy in his daughter’s new-found faith. In a drunken rage he had beaten her, repeatedly kicked her, and left her to die.

The missionary gently lifted the fragile girl and carried her back to the church where a doctor rushed to help. But there was nothing he could do. He removed the ragged dress and cleaned her up, but her injuries were too severe. The missionary stayed with her, trying to comfort her during her final hour.

Happily, the girl survived. Upon regaining consciousness the little girl made an unusual request. She insisted on holding in her hand the white dress the missionary had given her.

They explained that it was torn and soaked with blood and dirt. With the simple faith of a child she whispered, “I just want Jesus to know that I was willing to bleed for Him.”

RESPONSE:

Today I acknowledge that struggles and trials are exactly what I need in my life. Without them, I would be crippled. I would never fly!

PRAYER:

Lord, cause my suffering to make what I really believe to be evident to others.

A daily devotional message by Paul Estabrooks

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Today's Word with Joel and Victoria
Today’s Scripture
“And you He made alive, who were dead in trespasses and sins.”
(Ephesians 2:1, NKJV)

You are Alive
Jesus came to give us life! Think about that for a minute right now. You used to be dead in your sins and trespasses; you used to have no hope. You used to live in fear. But once you accepted Jesus as your Lord and Savior, you weren’t dead in your sin anymore. You now have hope for the future. You are alive in Christ!

God wants you to live life to the fullest today. It doesn’t matter how you may feel or what you are facing, start thanking God for giving you life. Even if He didn’t do another thing for us, giving us eternal life is more than enough reason to praise and thank Him every day. Thank Him for eyes to see and ears to hear. Thank Him for the air that you breathe. Thank Him for loving you and making you alive today!

A Prayer for Today
“Father, thank You for making me alive in Christ today. Thank You that I am new. Show me how to live every day to the fullest so that I can enjoy life the way You intended in Jesus’ name. Amen.”

"I wish above all that you prosper and be in health even as your soul prospers" 3 John 1:2


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Standing Strong Through the Storm - June 16

THE CROSS - SUFFERING Pt. 3

“Blessed are those who are persecuted because of righteousness, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. Blessed are you when people insult you, persecute you and falsely say all kinds of evil against you because of me.” Matthew 5:10-11

Jesus assures his followers there is blessing in suffering for what is right. This blessing may take the form of inner peace and joy. This is the meaning of the word translated “blessed” or “happy” in Jesus’ teaching called the Beatitudes (Matthew 5:1-12).

The New Testament writer, James, indicates that pressures are blessings in disguise and should be responded to with joyfulness (James 1:2-3). The MESSAGE paraphrase translates the verses this way; “Consider it a sheer gift, friends, when tests and challenges come at you from all sides. You know that under pressure, your faith-life is forced into the open and shows its true colors.”

Helen Berhane was severely persecuted in Eritrea’s prison system because she would not deny her faith. No matter what they did, she refused to give in. She explains:

I told the chief, “I cannot abandon my faith. If you puncture a sack of grain, the only thing that pours out is the type of grain that was in the sack. It is the same with me. I can only say what is inside me; everything that is in my heart must come out of my mouth…The more you punish me, the stronger I will be. If you keep hammering on a nail’s head it just becomes harder to pull out of the wall…”

I could not understand how they expected me to stop believing; it was impossible for me. In fact, the guards were making their own situation worse, because people began to ask what was so special about this religion that Christians refused to give it up, and they also believed. Our suffering became a glory for our faith…I am convinced that the number of Christians has doubled or tripled since they closed the churches. So perhaps God is using this terrible situation for his glory.

RESPONSE:

Today I will stand for what is right because I know Jesus will be glorified and I will receive a blessing.

PRAYER:

Ask God to give strength and courage to those around the world being pressured to deny their faith today.

A daily devotional message by Paul Estabrooks


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Today's Word with Joel and Victoria
Today’s Scripture
“I will listen to what God the Lord says; he promises peace to his people...”
(Psalm 85:8, NIV)

He Promises Peace
No matter what is going on in your life right now, the Lord promises that you can have peace. Notice that in this verse, the psalmist is making the decision to listen to what God says. When you make the decision to listen to God and follow His direction, you will have peace. You may be thinking to yourself, “God doesn’t speak to me.” But the Bible says you are His sheep and you can hear His voice, and the voice of a stranger you will not follow.

The Lord speaks in many ways—sometimes through a friend, or a song or in the beauty of nature. Sometimes it’s a simple “knowing” deep down on the inside of you. If you aren’t sure how God speaks to you, ask Him to teach you. All you have to do is open your heart and be willing to hear His voice. As you open your heart to Him, He will speak, and you will live in His peace all the days of your life.

A Prayer for Today
“Heavenly Father, thank You for Your promise of peace. I open my heart to You and ask that You teach me to hear Your voice clearly. I give You all that I am today in Jesus’ name. Amen.”

"I wish above all that you prosper and be in health even as your soul prospers" 3 John 1:2


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Today's Word with Joel and Victoria
Today’s Scripture
“...and his name shall be called...The Prince of Peace.”
(Isaiah 9:6, KJV)

The Prince of Peace
Aren’t you glad Jesus is our Prince of Peace? He rules our hearts with peace. He gives us peace that passes understanding—which means we can have peace when it doesn’t make sense. We can have peace in the midst of the storm. We can have peace in the midnight hour. We can have peace when gas prices go up and the housing market goes down. We can have constant peace because we are connected to the true source of peace!

Do you need more peace in your life? Call on the Prince of Peace. Give Him your burdens and cares. The Bible says that His yoke is easy, and His burden is light. When we are working and living the way God intends—full of peace and joy—we are carrying His “light” burden. We are working with His “easy” yoke. Don’t carry the worries and stresses of this life! Call on the Prince of Peace, and He’ll take you places that you’ve never dreamed. His peace will open doors for you that no one can shut! Walk in His peace and in the life of victory He has in store for you!

A Prayer for Today
“Father, thank You for peace that guides and protects me. I choose Your Word today which says that I can walk and live in Your peace. Thank You for being the Prince of Peace in my life today in Jesus’ name. Amen.”


"I wish above all that you prosper and be in health even as your soul prospers" 3 John 1:2


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Standing Strong Through the Storm - June 15

THE CROSS – SUFFERING pt 2

“On that day a great persecution broke out against the church at Jerusalem, and all except the apostles were scattered throughout Judea and Samaria…Those who had been scattered preached the word wherever they went.” Acts 8:1, 4

Again and again we see that in many countries, right before persecution comes, the church grows rapidly. This happened in northern Korea one hundred years ago just before the Japanese occupation and persecution.

It is helpful to remember this theme from the book of Acts: persecution does not necessarily cause church growth but church growth appears to cause persecution!

Church leaders among the many house church networks in China (the fastest growing church in the world) repeatedly share that suffering for Jesus often brings about a greater harvest of souls.

Sariman was a young student preparing himself to serve the Lord among the 30-million-strong Sundanese of Indonesia, the largest unreached people group in the world. During a violent attack on the Bible school, Sariman was killed and many other students were wounded. Sariman bravely assisted his friends although he could have saved himself. Before his death he was tortured and other students testified how Sariman was slaughtered. He was hit with a bar of wood and iron, then hacked, stabbed and his mouth was cut from the left cheek to the right cheek.

Upon hearing yet another testimony of martyrdom, many questions arise. “Why this tragedy,Lord? How long will you allow this to continue? This is such a terrible loss for this wonderful ministry. What is the sense in all of this?”

Then the Dean of the Bible School completes the testimony and indirectly answers ourquestions:

“The victory in this tragedy is that only ten days after the murder of Sariman we had ten new applicants to study atthe Bible School. Today, sixmonths after the incident, we have 98 new students who are willing to go where Sariman would have gone. The blood of the martyrsis indeed the seed of the Church.”

Paul clearly warns the Church in Galatia (Galatians 5:1) to stand firm in the midst of freedom. Freedom is not a time to relax. Freedom often creates a new kind of slavery. There is a price tag attached to freedom and we need to count the cost. It is time to open our hearts to the valuable lessons that we can learn from those that follow Christ in restricted countries—even to their death.

RESPONSE:

Today I will accept the biblical teaching and the many church growth examples that suffering often brings about a greater harvest of souls.

PRAYER:

Lord, we pray today for Your fast-growing suffering church around the world. May they be encouraged as they see many more souls added to Your kingdom.

A daily devotional message by Paul Estabrooks

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Today’s Scripture
“And walk in love, [esteeming and delighting in one another] as Christ loved us and gave Himself up for us...”
(Ephesians 5:2, AMP)

Esteem One Another
We don’t often hear the word esteem used in our culture, but the Bible tells us to esteem and delight in one another. One definition of esteem is to hold in high regard. That means we are to honor and value one another. You may not always agree with everyone around you. They may not always act honorably, but we are to honor and esteem people because they are valuable in the eyes of God.

If you had a very costly and valuable piece of jewelry, you wouldn’t just wear it to the gym or leave it on the kitchen sink. No, you would treat it carefully. You would put it in a safe place and protect it. When we see others as valuable, the way God sees them; we treat them carefully as well. We should watch how we talk to other people. We should look for the good in others and honor them for who God made them to be. The Bible tells us that the way we treat others is like sowing seeds, and it will come back to us. Choose to esteem and delight in one another. Sow good seeds, and you will see a harvest of blessing in your own life in return!

A Prayer for Today
“Father, today I choose love. I choose to honor the people around me. Help me to see the value in others the way You see the value in me. Help my actions and words to esteem and delight in others so that I can be an example of Your love and light in Jesus’ name. Amen.”

"I wish above all that you prosper and be in health even as your soul prospers" 3 John 1:2


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The Leper’s Prayer

“Lord, if You want, You can make me clean." Matthew 8:2

No matter how bad a situation seems, you are never beyond God’s healing power. Humbly go before Jesus and trust Him to cleanse your body, mind and spirit. He will restore your health and renew your soul.


Living a Healthy and Active Life style, Reach my Goal and very Happy with my Body,my eating habits,Fresh Fruits, Lot's of Green vegetables,drink 8 To 10 glasses of water daily.


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Standing Strong Through the Storm - June 14

THE CROSS - SUFFERING

“I in them and you in me. May they be brought to complete unity to let the world know that you sent me and have loved them even as you have loved me.” John 17:23

Persecution, pressure and suffering also brings about a unity that honours God. Burma is the model to which I was first exposed. Missionaries were all expelled in 1966. My first visit was in the early 1970’s. The church was a small minority in a dominant Buddhist society with a secular socialist government. On Sunday morning, I was asked to speak and break bread with the Brethren believers, in the afternoon share with the Baptists and in the evening speak at the Pentecostal church. No one asked me my denomination. I was simply a “Brother in Christ” and represented an evangelical radio organization, FEBC.

I found this unity so refreshing. And praise the Lord I have discovered it in other parts of our world, most often outside of North America. The closest geographic location is on the island of Cuba. What a joy to be with Baptist and Pentecostal pastors together who regularly spend hours on their knees before God with one another. How refreshing to attend youth evangelism meetings with a variety of denominations represented in the audience and speakers. Is there any wonder why revival continues to sweep through the island today?

Believers in North Korea's underground church recite five unifying principles, along with the Lord's Prayer, at their secret gatherings. The special place of suffering in the spiritual life of this church is striking:

1. Our persecution and suffering are our joy and honor.

2. We want to accept ridicule, scorn and disadvantages with joy in Jesus' name.

3. As Christians, we want to wipe others' tears away and comfort the suffering.

4. We want to be ready to risk our life because of our love for our neighbor, so that they also become Christians.

5. We want to live our lives according to the standards set in God's Word.

Ugandan pastor, Kefa Sempangi, shares that under the intense persecution of Idi Amin, the Holy Spirit united the hearts of Uganda’s church leaders. The emphasis became loving one another and rejecting the earlier focus on differences. He writes, “But now we heard God’s call to live broken lives before one another. We were not to build our fellowship on the foundation of baptism, tongues or liturgy. We were to build on the reconciling blood of Jesus Christ.”

RESPONSE:

Today I will rejoice in God’s plan and God’s will: that His children walk together in unity.

PRAYER:

Lord, may my love for brothers and sisters today, and the resulting unity, show the world that You sent Jesus.

A daily devotional message by Paul Estabrooks

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6/13/15 8:14 A

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Today's Word with Joel and Victoria
Today’s Scripture
“Do not neglect your gift...”
(1 Timothy 4:14, NIV)

Pursue Your Strengths
God has equipped each one of us with specific gifts and talents. It’s up to you to not only identify those gifts, but to be disciplined to develop those gifts. You have to learn to stay in your strength zone. What are you naturally good at? What do you enjoy doing? Take the time to identify your strengths and weaknesses, and as the Scripture says, give yourself to your gifts. In other words, don’t spend all your time trying to improve your weaknesses. Don’t waste valuable days pursuing things that are outside of your main gifting. Focus on your strengths.

There is something that you’re good at naturally—something you can do that comes easy to you. Step out into your area of gifting. Are you good with people? Are you good with your hands? Do you have a great voice? Find ways to develop those gifts. Know that your gifts and talents are a part of your divine destiny. If you’ll be comfortable with who God made you to be and thank Him for your unique gifting, you’ll not only enjoy your life more, but you’ll be ready to receive the abundant blessing God has in store for you!

A Prayer for Today
“Heavenly Father, thank You for equipping me with everything I need to be successful in this life. I ask that You show me how to develop the gifts within me for Your glory in Jesus’ name. Amen.”

"I wish above all that you prosper and be in health even as your soul prospers" 3 John 1:2


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Standing Strong Through the Storm - June 13

NO GREATER LOVE THAN THIS

“Greater love has no one than this, that he lay down his life for his friends.” John 15:13

Jesus says the ultimate test of true love is the willingness to die for others. Of course, He personally demonstrated this Himself in giving His life on the cross for you and me. And today he continues to call those who follow Him to make this sacrifice as well.

The mortar rounds landed in an orphanage run by missionaries. The missionaries and one or two children were killed outright and several more children were wounded including one girl about eight years old.

The medical staff who arrived to help soon realized that the young girl was the most critically injured. Without quick action she would die from shock and loss of blood.

When explained to the other children that a blood transfusion was imperative, the request for a blood donor met with wide-eyed silence.

Then one small hand went up and a young boy volunteered. He was quickly laid on a pallet, his arm swabbed with alcohol, and the needle inserted into his vein.

Through the ordeal, he lay stiff and silent but continued to sob later turning into steady, silent crying. The medical team kept asking if it was hurting but he would shake his head and continue to cry.

After a while the boy stopped crying, opened his eyes and looked questioningly at the nurse who took the needle out of his arm. When she nodded, a look of great relief spread over his face.

The boy had all along thought he was dying. He misunderstood, thinking that he was to give ALL his blood so the other little girl could live. And she was his friend.

RESPONSE:

Jesus calls me today to show sacrificial love—especially for those I consider friends.

PRAYER:

Pray that this depth of love will become a reality in the church of Jesus Christ and in your life.

A daily devotional message by Paul Estabrooks

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Standing Strong Through the Storm June 12

ECHOS OF SUFFERING

“At my first defense, no one came to my support, but everyone deserted me. May it not be held against them.” 2 Timothy 4:16

The Apostle Paul knew exactly what it was like to be alone, to be deserted by all who called themselves “brothers” and “sisters.” A colleague who has done considerable travel among the persecuted says, “It is hard to believe that Christians are the largest persecuted group in the world today. But it is even more difficult to believe that this is so seldom mentioned in our gatherings and church services. More Christians know the names of their favorite actors than their fellow believers who are in prison.

“With every trip something in my heart breaks as I hear the echoes of suffering:

• I remember the echoes of an Egyptian mother as she shared how her young boy was stuck in a haystack because she refused to deny Jesus

• I remember the sounds of weeping as fellow students in Indonesia shared how Sariman, their co-student, was hacked to death.

• I remember the cries of anguish as we walked from church to church that was burned to the ground on the island of Lombok

• I remember the tears of Rebecca in Iran as she showed the picture of her father who was stabbed to death for sharing the gospel

• I remember the voice of Pastor Daniel in Vietnam as he shared how he was chained to the ground for six months

• I remember the fear of Grace from Sudan as she shared how her church was attacked and her friend was shot through the head

• Oh, I remember the cries of Caleb in Eritrea as he shared with tears how his two dear friends were executed in front of him because of their faith.

• And I remember the tears of Joy in the southern Philippines as she shared how her fiancé was shot to death in their Church in Mindanao

• But, most all, I remember the deafening sounds of silence every time I return home.

RESPONSE:

How can I be silent today? How can I not speak on behalf of those who suffer? How can I desert those that belong to the same body that I belong to and who desperately need the encouragement of my intervention on their behalf?

PRAYER:

Lord, broaden my awareness of the needs of my suffering brothers and sisters. May I not be known for my silence.

STANDING STRONG THROUGH THE STORM (SSTS) -A daily devotional message by Paul Estabrooks


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6/12/15 11:55 A

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Today's Word with Joel and Victoria
Today’s Scripture
“This Book of the Law shall not depart out of your mouth, but you shall meditate on it day and night, that you may observe and do according to all that is written in it. For then you shall make your way prosperous, and then you shall deal wisely and have good success.”
(Joshua 1:8, AMP)

Observe to Do
When you speak the Word of God, something powerful takes place in your life. That’s why this verse says to not let it depart from your mouth. In other words, keep speaking and confessing the Word of God—no matter what your circumstances seem like. When you keep God’s Word in your mind, heart and mouth, it empowers you to obey all of the Lord’s commands. Do you need strength today to overcome temptation? Do you need power to walk in love? Declare what the Word of God says about your situation. Declare that you can do all things through Christ who strengthens you.

Notice what this verse says will happen when you are walking in obedience to God’s Word: The Word of God is the key to having abundance and success in every area of your life. As you continue to speak the Word of God, you will be empowered in every area of your life, and you will live the life of victory the Lord has in store for you!

A Prayer for Today
“Father, thank You for Your Word which gives me strength and hope. Fill me with Your power so that I can obey Your Word and walk in victory. I bless You and praise You today in Jesus’ name. Amen.”

"I wish above all that you prosper and be in health even as your soul prospers" 3 John 1:2


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Standing Strong Through the Storm - June 10

PERSISTENT AND PATIENT PRAYER

“As for me, far be it from me that I should sin against the LORD by failing to pray for you.”
1 Samuel 12:23

An important aspect of prayer is to pray patiently. God meets our needs “at the proper time” (Galatians 6:9). Too often Christians weary of praying, and give up. This is often justified on the basis that God's failure to answer means the request is not according to His will.

Remember, God can:

1. Deliver- whatever we ask in His name;
2. Delay- to fit His perfect timing (only He sees the end from the beginning);
3. Deny- and say ‘No’ because we ask amiss or give a
4. Differentand better answer.

Jesus urges us to be persistent in prayer (Luke 11:5-8). This does not mean that God does not want to meet our needs and that we need to try to persuade Him. It simply means that only God, who completely understands the whole situation, can know when and how to answer. Only when we have assurance in our hearts from the Lord, should we remove a matter from our prayer list.

Many times Christians lose heart in prayer because they do not recognize when the Lord does answer their prayers. Sometimes this is due to the fact that they did not pray specifically enough and sometimes because they have decided in advance how God must answer. Perhaps they think that only a great miracle can meet their need.

But the Lord may change the circumstances so that the need seems to be supplied “naturally.” Mature believers will recognize that the events of everyday life also come from the Lord. Our daily bread and safety are miracles of God in this troubled world Let us not presume to tell God how to answer, and let us praise Him for His daily care.

RESPONSE:

Today I will acknowledge God gives His best to those who leave the choices to Him.

PRAYER:

Lord, help me to be patient and persistent…and leave the answers to my prayers in Your hands.

A daily devotional message by Paul Estabrooks

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Today's Word with Joel and Victoria
Today’s Scripture
“...‘Oh, that you would bless me and enlarge my territory!’...”
(1 Chronicles 4:10, NIV)

Enlarge Your Territory
God wants to bless you and enlarge your territory. Your territory can be your sphere of influence or your realm of responsibility or authority. Are you ready for increase in your life today?

You may desire God’s increase, but the Bible says we have not because we ask not. Are you asking for God’s blessing? Are you asking Him to enlarge your territory? Open your heart today and ask for God’s blessing; ask for His discernment and wisdom. Ask Him to make you more effective on your job; ask Him to increase the quality of your relationships; ask for more people to love and encourage. Ask Him to enlarge your territory so that you can be a greater blessing to those around you. As you take a step of faith in prayer today, God will hear you. He’ll open doors that no man can close and pour out His abundance in every area of your life!

A Prayer for Today
“Father, today I open my heart to You and ask You to bless me. I ask You to increase me in every area and teach me to be faithful to You always. Enlarge my territory in Jesus’ name! Amen.”

"I wish above all that you prosper and be in health even as your soul prospers" 3 John 1:2


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Today's Word with Joel and Victoria
Today’s Scripture
“Then the LORD said to him, ‘What is that in your hand?’...”
(Exodus 4:2, NIV)

What’s in Your Hand?
Do you ever feel inadequate for what you are called to do? You’re not the first one! So often, when we think of Moses, we remember him as the great spiritual giant who led the Israelites out of captivity. But did you know that Moses doubted himself, too? He didn’t feel equipped. In fact, he was even self-conscious because he had a stuttering problem! God simply said to him, “What do you have in your hand?” In the next few moments, God showed Moses that it didn’t matter what equipment he thought he needed. The God of the universe can take what you have and turn it into whatever it needs to be in order for you to accomplish what you’ve been called to.

So what’s in your hand today? It may not seem like much, but God wants to use it. He wants to take you to places you never dreamed. He wants to pour out His blessing and favor so you can live the abundant life He has in store for you!

A Prayer for Today
“Father, today I release to You all that I am and everything that I have. I invite You to flood every part of my being and use me for Your glory. Thank You for using what is in my hand in Jesus name. Amen.”


"I wish above all that you prosper and be in health even as your soul prospers" 3 John 1:2


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Standing Strong Through the Storm - June 8

MEDITATE ON THE WORD

“I have hidden your word in my heart that I might not sin against you.” Psalm 119:11

Over and over the Scriptures direct us to meditate on God’s Word. This activity takes time and discipline but brings much spiritual benefit and reward. Meditation is focused thinking about a Bible verse or passage in order to discover how we can apply its truth to our own lives.

In applying Scripture, we need to ask three primary questions.

• What did it mean to the original hearers?
• What is the underlying timeless principle?
• Where or how should I practice that principle?

Here are six specific ways to meditate on a verse or passage:

• Picture it. Visualize the scene in your mind.
• Pronounce it. Say it aloud each time, emphasizing a different word.
• Paraphrase it. Rewrite the verse in your own words.
• Personalize it. Replace the pronouns or people with your own name.
• Pray it. Turn the verse into a prayer and say it back to God.
• Probe it. Ask the following questions:
- Is there any sin to confess? Is there any promise to claim?
- Is there any attitude to change? Is there any command to keep?
- Is there any example to follow? Is there any prayer to pray?
- Is there any error to avoid? Is there any truth to believe?
- Is there something for which to thank God?

When Laos was taken over by a communist government, the leading pastor, Rev. Sali was put into a prison camp for three years of "re-education." He referred to it later as his university experience. During that time he led five men to Christ in the camp. He had no Bible so he discipled these new believers on scriptures he had memorized and internalized. Later those men became leaders in the church.

RESPONSE:

Today I will learn to meditate on God’s Word.

PRAYER:

Pray for Christians in prisons of the world where they do not have a Bible.

A daily devotional message by Paul Estabrooks


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Today's Word with Joel and Victoria
Today’s Scripture
“...He gives [blessings] to His beloved in sleep.”
(Psalm 127:2, AMP)

Blessings in Sleep
The Lord longs to pour out blessings on you constantly — even while you are sleeping! Many people today struggle with sleeping at night. They stay awake or get poor sleep because they are constantly focused on their problems and worrying about tomorrow. But that’s not God’s plan for you! He wants you to enjoy your sleep as a time of blessing and refreshing.

Understand that God has His hand on your life even in the midnight hour. He wants to speak to your heart and restore your dreams. He is taking care of those things that concern you. When you cast your cares on Him and trust Him to work out every detail of your life, you’ll be able to enjoy that sweet sleep that He has promised.

Make the decision today to enjoy the blessing of the Lord as you sleep tonight. Say a prayer before you go to bed and cast your cares on Him!

A Prayer for Today
“Father, thank You for Your promise of blessing as I sleep. I ask that You teach me to receive that blessing even while I sleep. I cast my cares on You and trust that You are working behind the scenes in my life. Thank You for watching over me, protecting me and refreshing me as I sleep in Jesus’ name. Amen.”

"I wish above all that you prosper and be in health even as your soul prospers" 3 John 1:2


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Prayer for God's Presence

“God! My God! It’s You–I search for You! My whole being thirsts for You! My body desires You in a dry and tired land, no water anywhere.” Psalm 63:1

Do you make God your first priority regardless of your busy schedule or daily crises? When King David was under extreme pressure, he did not request help for his problems but only sought God’s presence. Don’t let stress take over your life, put your faith and focus on God.


Living a Healthy and Active Life style, Reach my Goal and very Happy with my Body,my eating habits,Fresh Fruits, Lot's of Green vegetables,drink 8 To 10 glasses of water daily.


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Today’s Scripture
“Who may ascend the mountain of the Lord? Who may stand in his holy place? The one who has clean hands and a pure heart...”
(Psalm 24:3–4, NIV)

Who Will See God?
Our God is holy. In order to see Him, we must be holy, too. The good news is that Jesus makes us clean and new when we surrender our lives to Him. The old is gone; the new has come. But the job of keeping our hearts pure, that’s up to us. We have to guard our hearts against strife and bitterness. We have to make sure we don’t allow temptations to contaminate us and take us down the wrong path. We have to be careful about what we watch, what we listen to and who we hang around. All of those outside influences affect us and our decisions. Always remember, what you give your attention to will shape your heart and character.

Make sure to give your attention to the Word of God. Give your attention to worship. Choose forgiveness and keep your heart pure before the Lord. Draw close to Him and rise higher and higher to the place where God is.

A Prayer for Today
“Father, I want to see You. Open the eyes of my heart. Purify me and cleanse my heart. Help me make the right choices so that I can honor You today and always. May the words of my mouth and the meditations of my heart be pleasing to You in Jesus’ name. Amen.”


"I wish above all that you prosper and be in health even as your soul prospers" 3 John 1:2


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Standing Strong Through the Storm June 5

FOREIGN RELIGION

“There is neither Jew nor Greek, slave nor free, male nor female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus.” Galatians 3:28

Satan has inspired rulers to try to force Christians to return to their former folk religions or the pagan gods of their ancestors—all in the name of patriotism or nationalism. Religious nationalism is where a particular territory or culture is staked out exclusively in religious terms.

Leaders say, “Only Hindus are allowed to stay in India.” Or, “You are a true Sri Lankan only if you are a Buddhist.” In such cases where religious nationalism reigns, Christians either must accept second-class citizen status, face daily discrimination, or leave.

Research done by Open Doors indicates that to establish a “Religious State” the Religious Nationalists require four elements: a villain, a lie, a mob, and a vacuum. They need a “villain” who can unite the people with a powerful message; a “lie” (Christians are intolerant); a “mob” to create chaos (media support helps); and a “vacuum” (absence of moderates in power to control the nation).

Some in India and Nepal argue that their country is Hindu hence other religions are foreign and imperialist. State assistance is denied to those who convert to non-Hindu religions.

At one point, the Mongolian State Intelligence Bureau described Christianity as a “foreign religion.” And today, Mongolia’s new laws imply that Christianity is “against Mongolian customs.”

In Mexico, a mayor of a community in the southern state of Chiapas has tried to justify the ongoing persecution of evangelicals with the claim that they “attack…our culture and traditions.” In reality, tens of thousands of Christians have been expelled from their homes for not joining in the syncretistic community spiritual activities.

Christians in an area of Swaziland were told by their chief that each Christian would be fined a cow for not attending the annual cultural ceremonies at the king’s royal cattle kraal. The chief announced that he had compiled a list of all his subjects who deliberately avoided two yearly ceremonies: the umhlanga (reed dance) and the incwala (first fruit). Pastors of churches accused of preaching against Swazi culture are among those fined. Pastors in the area plan to challenge the chief’s fines in a court of law.

Christians must avoid the mistake of identifying religion with nation, and nation with religion—even in the West. To do so severely hinders the growth of the Body of Christ where there is “neither Jew nor Greek.”

RESPONSE:

I will not make the mistake of identifying religion with nation…and pray for those who do.

PRAYER:

Pray for Christians who struggle to survive in the midst of religious nationalism and extreme patriotism.

A daily devotional message by Paul Estabrooks

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Today’s Scripture
“Now set your mind and heart to seek (inquire of and require as your vital necessity) the Lord your God...”
(1 Chronicles 22:19, AMP)

A Vital Necessity
What things do you consider to be a vital necessity in your life? What can’t you live without? Most people might immediately think of food, water and shelter. Yes, you need those things to exist, but we can’t really live unless our minds and hearts are set on seeking the Lord. Sure, you can exist without Him, but what would be the point? Besides, you are called to more than just mere existence; you are called to live — to thrive — to enjoy your life abundantly!

Today and everyday, set your mind and heart on seeking the Lord! Write down your favorite Scriptures and commit them to memory. Whenever you can, think about those verses. Meditate on God and His infinite love. When you require the Lord as a vital necessity, you will truly live and enjoy the abundant life He has in store for you!

A Prayer for Today
“Father, today I choose to set my mind on You. I seek You with my whole heart. Show me Your love and character today. Show me Your ways that I may walk and live close to You in Jesus’ name. Amen.”

"I wish above all that you prosper and be in health even as your soul prospers" 3 John 1:2


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