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Standing Strong Through the Storm - August 27

LEAVES ARE ALWAYS GREEN

“But blessed is the one who trusts in the LORD, whose confidence is in him. They will be like a tree planted by the water that sends out its roots by the stream……its leaves are always green…” Jeremiah 17:7-8

Trees were not plentiful in Israel and most grew by sources of water like an oasis or a stream. Jeremiah’s simile indicates a person with confidence in the Lord is like a deep-rooted tree by the stream (see Psalm 1), whose leaves never die but are always green.

Aunty Esther is the first Christian I met inside China. She is adiminutive elderly Chinese medical doctor with a soft, kind voice that masks the many years of suffering through which she has passed.

“During the Cultural Revolution,” she says, “I was called in by my superior one day. At that time I was in charge of eight large pediatric wards in my hospital.

“The communists were cracking down on people who did not toe the current party line. My superior warned me that I should deny my faith and join the communist party or I may have to face the serious consequences of job demotion and salary reduction.

“A few days later, I was rudely awakened by four nurses who roughly pulled me from my bed and marched me to the hospital. En route they stopped at a barbershop and shaved off half of my hair. In front of the rest of the staff, I was confronted to renounce my faith in Christ and join the communist party.

“I responded, ‘I can’t deny Jesus. I love Jesus!’ At the mention of his name they threw me down on the ground and cursed. Later, the communist cadre at my hospital tore the stethoscope from my neck and said, ‘You are no longer Esther; you are now The Fool.’

Esther continues. For the next eleven years she lived in the basement of the hospital and obediently submitted to her new task—cleaning the floors and toilets of the hospital wards that she previously headed. Her already meager salary of 50 dollars per month was reduced to 15 dollars. And she had to buy the cleaning materials from it. The rest was used up on food.

But Esther practiced the presence of Jesus in her job. She sang as she toiled. With a twinkle in her eyes she adds, “My hospital had the cleanest floors and cleanest toilets in all of China!”

Hospital staff would come to her and with great envy question her source of joy in spite of her troubles. Esther responded, “When you have Jesus in your heart, it doesn’t matter what job you do or what position you have. It only matters that you love him and are faithful and loyal to him!”

When the Cultural Revolution period ended, Aunty Esther was reinstated in her original job and given back pay for all that she had been deprived during those eleven years. This amount enabled her to send one of her children to the USA for higher education.

RESPONSE: I will allow my roots to grow deep in the Lord so that my leaves will always be green.

PRAYER: Lord, thank You for the example of faithful Aunty Esther whose life reflected Your love.

A daily devotional message by Paul Estabrooks


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8/26/16 6:11 A

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August 26

Psalms 107:14

He brought them out of darkness and the shadow of death, and brake their bands in sunder.

Mabel made sure that children in her neighborhood got a better start than she had. Each day she would invite children into her home, and she would help them with their reading. She would labor long and hard with some, but she was determined that they would never have to face a life lived in darkness and ignorance. Illiteracy was a terrible kind of slavery that no one should suffer under. Mabel's special ministry of love helped children in her area break free from the bonds of ignorance and led them into a bright and exciting light.

God has given us minds to use and wonderful technologies. There is no excuse for living in fear and darkness in our world today. He has liberated us from ignorance and has granted us knowledge and wisdom beyond measure. Take hold of the great gift of the mind, and thank God daily for it.

Prayer: Shed Your light upon my heart and mind, fath er, that I might know all that I can about You, Your creation, and Your will. Be the source of my understanding and my liberation. Amen

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8/25/16 1:57 P

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August 25

Psalms 107:2-3

Let the redeemed of the Lord say so, whom he hath redeemed from the hand of the enemy; And gathered them out of the lands, from the east and from the west, from the north, and from the south.

The missionaries were prepared to share the Word of God with the natives of the small isle off the North Africa coast. They were well stocked with crosses and Bibles, and they had become well versed in the native tongue. Nothing, however, prepared them for the shock when they deplaned and were greeted by a band of natives singing out, "God bless you; Jesus loves you!"

The reality of God has spread to the four corners of our globe. Voices sing out His praises continually, and it is often true that our poorer brothers and sisters have the clearest and loudest voices. We can learn a great deal from those people who live day to day in the shadow of poverty, who truly understand how fortunate they are to be alive. Let every woman, man and child sing forth in praise to God. He has been good to us all.

Prayer: I have been transformed by a love far beyond my understanding. Thank You, Lord, for taking my life and making it something holy and special. Make my life a glory to Your name. Amen.

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8/25/16 7:53 A

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Standing Strong Through the Storm- August 25

VICTORY – COMMISSIONING COMMITMENT

“Then he said to them all: ‘Whoever wants to be my disciple must deny themselves and take up their cross daily and follow me.’” Luke 9:23

The personal and trusting relationship between God and His followers now leads the believer to the commissioning aspect of commitment—a task that is characteristic of being His true followers—“and follow me.” This commitment is not to a task but to a person. To be a follower of Jesus is to be a disciple of Jesus. A disciple is one who follows the teaching of another; one who is like another; one who models after another.

What is the task to which he has called us? The task is none other than the words of what we call “The Great Commission”:

Then Jesus came to them and said, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.” ((Matthew 28:18–20)

The Christian’s task is nothing short of being a servant of Jesus Christ proclaiming the message of Jesus Christ and helping others become followers of Jesus. Our primary responsibility is neither overthrowing governments nor opposing ideologies but a proactive one of making disciples of all nations.

In the course of our obedience to God’s authority, we may come in conflict with the existing government. We have been called to be good citizens and history has proven that Christians are generally law-abiding and hard working. But when conflicts come, the Christian is ready to choose his commitment to Christ over his or her commitment to local authorities (Acts 4:19–20).

RESPONSE: Today I complete my commitment to follow Jesus in sharing His love with others.

PRAYER: As a true disciple, I give myself, Lord, to the task of world evangelization starting where You place me today.

A daily devotional message by Paul Estabrooks

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8/22/16 7:22 A

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Standing Strong Through the Storm-August 22

THE CHURCH – NORTH KOREAN TESTIMONY

“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.” Romans 8:17

Gyeong Ju Son, a young woman from North Korea who lost her mother and father, gave her moving testimony at The Third Lausanne Congress on World Evangelization in Cape Town, South Africa in October 2010. The 4200 participants from over 190 countries, went away stunned—many moved to tears. She said:

“I look back over my short life and I see God’s hand everywhere. Six years in North Korea, eleven in China and now in South Korea. Everything I suffered: all the sadness and grief, all that I have experienced and learned; I want to give it all to God and use my life for His Kingdom. In this way I also hope to bring honor to my father.”

Still a student, the intention of this young and vibrant follower of Christ is to go to university to study political science and diplomacy, and then work for the rights of the voiceless in North Korea. She concluded:

“Brothers and sisters here in this place, I humbly ask you to pray that the same light of God’s grace and mercy that reached my father and my mother and now me, will one day soon dawn upon the people of North Korea, my people!”

RESPONSE: Today I will continue to believe that God takes terrible situations and turns them into good.

PRAYER: Lord, we pray that you will call many youths like Gyeong Ju to minister among the needy people of North Korea.

A daily devotional message by Paul Estabrooks

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8/21/16 5:05 P

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Standing Strong Through the Storm - August 21

THE CHURCH – EVANGELISM IN NORTH KOREA
“I consider my life worth nothing to me; my only aim is to finish the race and complete the task the Lord Jesus has given me—the task of testifying to the good news of God’s grace.”Acts 20:2

Left in China, North Korean Gyeong Ju Son, who we first met yesterday, was adopted for a while by the family of a young pastor, and it was their love, care, compassion and protection that made a deep impression on her. When they left for America she was given the opportunity to go to South Korea.

While staying at the Korean Consulate in Beijing, waiting to go to South Korea, the young girl’s life was dramatically and irrevocably changed when Jesus came to her in a dream. She says:

“He had tears in His eyes. He walked towards me and asked ‘Gyeong Ju, how much longer are you going to keep me waiting? Walk with me. Yes, you have lost your earthly father, but I am your heavenly Father and whatever has happened to you, was because I love you.’”

Praying to God for the very first time, she gave Him her heart, soul, mind and strength, asking that she would be used at His will. A deep love for the lost people of North Korea and the need to bring the love of Jesus to them, has subsequently become her life purpose.

RESPONSE: Like Paul and Gyeong Ju, today I commit to use my energy and focus to share Jesus’ love with others.

PRAYER: Lord, help me pray like Paul that my life is worth nothing to me unless I use it to complete the evangelism task You have committed to me.

A daily devotional message by Paul Estabrooks

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8/21/16 4:53 P

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The Beginning of Joy - UpWords - Week of August 19-25

by Max Lucado

In Matthew 11:28 Jesus says, “Come to me, all you who are weary and I will give you rest.” You’ve been there. You’re turned your back on the noise and sought his voice. You’ve stepped away from the masses and followed the Master as he led you up the winding path to the summit. His summit. Clean air. Clear view. Crisp breeze. The roar of the marketplace is down there, and the perspective of the peak is up here. Gently he invited you to sit on the rock and look out with him at the ancient peaks that will never erode.

Just remember, he says, you’ll go nowhere tomorrow that I haven’t already been. Truth will still triumph. Death will still die. The victory is still yours. And delight is one decision away--seize it! Joy begins by breathing deep up there before you go crazy down here!

From The Applause of Heaven

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8/17/16 4:19 A

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Standing Strong Through the Storm - August 17

THE CROSS – SOURCE OF PEACE

“Peace I leave with you; my peace I give you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid.” John 14:27

Five Christian students were walking home from an Open Doors seminar in east Africa and passed a young Muslim man walking into the bush with a rope in his hand. He tied the rope around a tree. The students asked, “What are you doing?”

“I want to kill myself,” he replied.

“Why?”

“I say my prayers five times a day and I read the Qur’an. I have money, a wife and children, but I have no peace. I want peace. That is my one big wish.”

The students applied what they have learned and witnessed to this man named Keder. They told him that the Qur’an teaches that Jesus is a prophet but He is also the Savior of everyone who accepts Him as Lord. He is the Prince of Peace. Keder left the rope in the tree and decided to give this Savior a try. The students took him to church and after prayer Keder said, “I’ve found the peace I was seeking.”

The following day Keder showed up at the seminar. A stranger wearing a Muslim hat scared the teacher at first but he continued. In the afternoon, Keder asked to give his testimony. “Until now, Islam was the only genuine religion for me because it was straightforward. I studied the Qur'an for five years and I did my rituals daily but none of that gave me peace. That is why I decided to kill myself. Then I met five of you Christians yesterday. I used to hate Christians, but when you witnessed and prayed for me, everything changed. Muslims are hurting without the knowledge of the Scriptures, therefore pray for them."

Keder is now secretly studying the Bible and attending church. He is the first Muslim in his area to accept Christ. His Bible study leader says that he attends regularly and arrives early to talk about Jesus before the Bible study starts. Jesus’ peace makes him unafraid and he wants to witness. He is even prepared to die for Jesus.

RESPONSE: Today I will rest in the promises of the Prince of Peace and not be fearful.

PRAYER: Pray for Muslims who are hurting from the lack of knowledge of the Scriptures and the source of true peace.

A daily devotional message by Paul Estabrooks


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8/15/16 2:15 P

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August 15

Psalms 103:15

As for man, his days are as grass: as a flower of the field, so he flourisheth.

Deanna built a career on her looks. She had been the dream girl of Hollywood and had loved living the fast life. Now, her looks were fading and Deanna had nothing to fall back on. She had believed her charmed life would never end, but the hard reality was that she no longer could bank on her beauty.

We are given each day as a gift. Once a day is gone, it can never be recaptured. Too often we live our lives as if they are going to go on forever just as they are. Lives change, and we need to be ready to change with them. God helps us to accept where we are and to grow to new levels of maturity. Before this day passes and is gone, call upon the Lord to help you make the most of it. Then, when the new day dawns, be ready for the challenges it brings.

Prayer: Help me to live for what is important this day, so that I might truly be ready for all the days to come. Your gifts are so won derful, Lord. Please don't allow me to take them for granted. Amen.

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8/14/16 8:27 P

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Standing Strong Through the Storm- August 14

THE CROSS – NO ORDINARY LIFE

“And if anyone wants to sue you and take your shirt, hand over your coat as well. If anyone forces you to go one mile, go with them two miles. Give to the one who asks you, and do not turn away from the one who wants to borrow from you.” Matthew 5:40-42

An Open Doors co-worker shares this personal experience from the Middle East:

The serenity of the pastor walking beside us seemed to calm the hustle and the bustle of the small village. He suddenly came to a stop, carefully looked around and then said, “Some time ago, exactly on the spot where you are standing now, a Christian brother was slaughtered to death because of his faith. He was abducted and brought here to be executed. Life in a mid-east village like this is not easy if you confess Jesus to be the Son of God. It could cost you your life.”

I looked at this servant of Christ and asked him the obvious question “Why do you choose to live here? Why do you choose to follow Christ under such severe circumstances?”

Without hesitation he looked at me and his reply became a challenge and guideline for my walk with the Lord, even if it is in the safety of my home. He replied “I refuse to live an ordinary life in Christ.”

As Christians we are called to refuse an ordinary life in Christ. We are commanded to reject worldly standards, to reject mediocrity, to reject compromise and to value people more than possessions, even more than our own lives.

To truly follow Jesus means His will is more important than my life. As well, while alive, I must adopt a lifestyle that puts people ahead of possessions, even one of my most valuable possessions—time! We tend to cherish stuff and comfort more than souls. In the Shepherd of Hermes, an early church writing, we are urged, “Instead of fields, buy souls that are in trouble according to your ability.”

RESPONSE: Today amid the comforts of my environment I will refuse to live an ordinary life but seek to be more like Jesus.

PRAYER: Lord, I want to live the Jesus way, valuing people more than things even to the point of sacrifice. Help me to escape the bonds of the ordinary Christian life.

A daily devotional message by Paul Estabrooks

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8/14/16 1:39 A

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Standing Strong Through the Storm - August 13

THE CROSS – DOING THE HARD THING

“Then Jesus said to his disciples, “Whoever wants to be my disciple must deny themselves and take up their cross and follow me.” Matthew 16:24

Jesus was the last person Sundar Singh was looking for as a late teenager in India at the turn of the 20th Century. After all, Jesus was the “foreign god” of the Christian teachers at his school. A zealous Sikh, Sundar had publicly torn up a portion of the Bible to protest its claims. One night as he prayed he became conscious of a light shining in the room. He looked outside to make sure it was not someone shining a light. Gradually the light took the form of a globe of fire and in it he saw the face of Jesus. Sundar threw himself on the ground and surrendered His life to Jesus.

The following months proved to be very difficult for Sundar and his family. Becoming a follower of Christ was not taken lightly by his family nor his community. He was excommunicated. He cut his hair, a gesture that did not make things any easier with his family who were convinced he had renounced his Sikh heritage.

A month after he was baptized in the year 1905, he took the vow of a sadhu. He gave away his meager possessions, put on a saffron robe and became a barefooted wandering man of God. Among Christians the world over, this barefoot Sadhu was later called the “apostle of the bleeding feet” because the soles of his feet were often covered in bloody blisters. The life of a sadhu is hard and entirely dependent on God. Sadhu Sundar Singh’s needs were met entirely through the kindness of people he met wherever he went.

Sundar Singh is credited as the first missionary to cross the Himalayan Mountains to take the gospel to Nepal and Tibet. At 36 years of age he made his last trip over the mountains. He never returned and is assumed to have been a martyr for Jesus.

In his diary left behind he had written, “It is easy to die for Christ. It is hard to live for Him. Dying takes only a few minutes—or at worst an hour or two—but to live for Christ means to die daily to myself.”

RESPONSE: Today I will do the “hard” thing: die to myself and live for Jesus and others who need His love.

PRAYER: Help me Lord to live worthy of the calling as Your disciple. Show me the cross You want me to carry today.

A daily devotional message by Paul Estabrooks


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8/12/16 9:27 P

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Standing Strong Through the Storm - August 12

THE CROSS – REJOICE IN PERSECUTION

“He was in the world, and though the world was made through him, the world did not recognize him. He came to that which was his own, but his own did not receive him. Yet to all who received him, to those who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God…” John 1:10-12

The most recent edition of the famous prayer manual, Operation World, was published in November 2010 and was quick to highlight as a global trend, “...The rise in levels of persecution – especially for Christians.” The editors of the Operation World explained why:

“The end of the European colonial era, the end of Christianity’s status as state religion in most of the West and the resurgence of religious sentiments globally, especially fundamentalism, all mean that Christians generally no longer operate from a position of power or privilege. Christians are subject to persecution in much of the world. Evangelicals are subject to even more due to their proselytism and commitment to the uniqueness of Christ. The presence of persecution and hardship in the life of the Church appears to be normative in Scripture; contexts where persecution does not exist at all should be as much a cause for concern as places where it is intense.”

Open Doors’ Dr. Ron Boyd-MacMillan concludes:

In the end, the rise of persecution is paradoxically for Christians something to protest and to celebrate, for as a Beijing house church pastor says, “The church is always persecuted when it does something right...it shows Christ to a world that rejects him.” Persecution is the continual replaying of John chapter one verses ten and eleven: “[Jesus] came into the very world he created, but the world didn’t recognize him. He came to his own people, but even they rejected him.” And so in the challenging words of a Palestinian pastor, “Every Christian must rejoice to be persecuted, and fight for Christ to be recognized in the midst of suffering, for suffering is the gift by which we see our need of Him who came for us and loves us.”

RESPONSE: As Christians, persecution is not something to avoid but to celebrate.

PRAYER: Lord, help me to rejoice when persecution comes my way – whether mild, medium or hot! And help me to fight for Christ to be recognized in the midst of the suffering.

A daily devotional message by Paul Estabrooks

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A Radical Reconstruction - UpWords - Week of August 12-18

by Max Lucado

God promises a special blessing. A sacred delight. It’s not a gimmick to give goose bumps or a mental attitude that has to be pumped up. No, Matthew 5 describes God’s radical reconstruction of the heart. Observe the sequence in the Beatitudes. We recognize we are in need--we’re poor in spirit. Next, we repent of our self-sufficiency--we mourn. We quit calling the shots--we’re meek. We are so grateful for his presence that we yearn for more--we hunger and thirst. We forgive others--we’re merciful. We change our outlook--we’re pure in heart. We love others--we’re peacemakers. We endure injustice--we’re persecuted.

It’s no casual shift of attitude. It is a demolition of the old and a creation of the new. The more radical the change, the greater the joy. And it is worth every effort, for this is the joy of God! A special blessing....a sacred delight.

From The Applause of Heaven

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Standing Strong Through the Storm - August 8

RESOURCES – EFFECTIVE PRAYER

“The prayer of a righteous person is powerful and effective.”James 5:16B

For 15 years from 1981 to 1995, in one Chinese city there were many cases of murder, armed robbery, rape, gangs of thieves, local village local tyrants were rampant and small children were being kidnapped, taxis were being robbed and taxi drivers being killed. People’s hearts were nervous. Traffic related disputes were increasing and society was not in a peaceful state. There were less than 3000 believers in the city.

At this time, the Holy Spirit moved Sister Zhou to the city. This Christian sister helped the church there for over one month. She received a burden while praying that the church should set up a prayer watch. So, the first prayer watch group was established. When it started, there were only 6 people. On Sundays these 6 people would all watch and pray simultaneously.

After almost six months of this kind of prayer, the national police cleaned up and eliminated the triad gangs and local village tyrants and brought about a change for a better environment in the city.

At the time when children were being kidnapped, old Sister Chang began to fast and pray. Every day she would pray saying, “O Father God, save and rescue these children. Send an old granny to look after them!” After a year’s time, the problem of children being kidnapped was transformed.

One problem would be solved and then another problem would come up for prayer. The rate of deaths in that city due to traffic accidents was an average of 1 –2 people per day. Many more than that were injured daily. They then decided to make the city’s traffic safety to be a special prayer topic. They prayed and relied on God to solve the traffic problems.

From 1995 until now, small groups of prayer watches have expanded from one to three core groups. Each person prays at a designated time and the time for prayer rotates to another person in the group. It has now expanded into a large prayer network. Now the city is peaceful and safe. The work of the gospel is stable and steadily expanding. There are more than 30,000 Christians in the city attending meetings.

The people’s attitudes and appearance all seem like they are renewed. Although there are many laid-off workers, they seem to be able to find enough work to still be able to feed their families. This truly is the effect of prayer. It is the work done by our Father for the city.

RESPONSE: Today I will recommit myself to believe in the power of prayer and practice that belief.

PRAYER: Pray for the problems in your city or community. Ask God for like-minded partners.

A daily devotional message by Paul Estabrooks

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Standing Strong Through the Storm - August 7

RESOURCES - PRAYER

“And pray in the Spirit on all occasions with all kinds of prayers and requests. With this in mind, be alert and always keep on praying for all the Lord’s people.” Ephesians 6:18

Prayer is mentioned in the context of the wardrobe of the Christian warrior but not as a specific weapon of war or a piece of armor. That’s because prayer is the key to consistent victory in our warfare. Therefore, prayer is one of the most important things we can do when fighting the enemy.

David's battle with Goliath was not won when the stone flew from the sling. It was won in David's close relationship with the Living God. Our battles are won or lost in the way we walk with God. Prayer is talking with God and letting Him talk with you. Prayer is taking a stand against the spiritual forces of darkness that influence events and circumstances in the world.

Prayer is asserting God's victory before we walk into battle. But prayer is more than kneeling before God. Prayer is as much an attitude as it is an act. Prayer is keeping your heart open to His leadership. Prayer is the constant communion with God needed to face the challenge of completing Jesus’ mission.

A Bible courier recounts; “We walk up to the customs with our suitcases full of Bibles. We know that at that moment there are as many as a hundred people praying for us. And can you feel it! We feel peace and joy as we push our trolley of suitcases towards the customs desk. I am absolutely certain that we are surrounded by angels. It sounds strange, but I just know.

‘Excuse me, ladies, do you have anything to declare?’ At that moment, a good friend rushes up to the customs officer. They greet each other profusely. The customs man no longer sees us. We walk on, and a moment later we are standing with all our suitcases, which have not been opened, waiting for a taxi.

“I feel small and think, ‘Who am I? I only walk past the customs with my suitcases and I don't even have to answer any questions. That’s all that God asks of me. And it’s He who does the rest - incredibly!’”

RESPONSE: Today I commit myself to being a person of prayer as I put on the whole armor of God.

PRAYER: Pray today with all kinds of prayers for all of God’s people. A great challenge and a great opportunity!

A daily devotional message by Paul Estabrooks

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Standing Strong Through the Storm - August 6

RESOURCES – SWORD OF SPIRIT

“…and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God.” Ephesians 6:17

Scripture is God’s word to us. Get to know it. It is the source of truth, assurance and comfort. Learn its lessons. Let God use it to speak to your heart. Look to it to cut through the enemy's lies and spiritual deception, and to reveal the truth. Use it to persuade others about God's love and forgiveness.

When God’s Spirit impresses us with a verse or a passage of Scripture to use in our battle against the enemy in a particular conflict, we are able to defeat our enemy. The Bible calls this taking the sword of the Spirit.

Jesus defeated Satan the three times he was tempted in the wilderness by using the sword of the Spirit. (see Matthew 4).

Ruth’s worldchanged when she chanced to find a Bible. When she was fifteen she was rummaging through her Muslim family’s library. She found it hidden behind the other books. She says, “I quickly read a few pages and the message immediately touched my heart, even though I understood practically nothing of it. Secretly I began to read the Bible regularly in my room. I knew that I had to do more with this. I wanted to get to know Jesus better.”

She adds, “I don’t remember how it happened, but my family realized that I was showing too much interest in Christianity. My whole family was against me, especially my mother.”

“You're a Muslim,” she said. “Why are you throwing your life away? Why aren’t you like other girls? You'll soon be going to university and then you’re going to marry a respected Muslim!”

Ruth’s voice falters and for a moment, she doesn’t say anything. “I suffered a lot,” she continues. “But still I kept reading the Bible in secret. The Lord Jesus keeps drawing me closer to Him.”

RESPONSE: Today I take the sword of the Spirit so I can expose the tempting words of Satan.

PRAYER: Lord may the two-edged sword of Your Word be ready in my hands today and in the hands of those reading it for the first time.

A daily devotional message by Paul Estabrooks


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Joy Stealers

by Joyce Meyer - posted August 04, 2016

For my sighing comes before my food, and my groanings are poured out like water. For the thing which I greatly fear comes upon me, and that of which I am afraid befalls me. I was not or am not at ease, nor had I or have I rest, nor was I or am I quiet, yet trouble came and still comes [upon me].
- Job 3:24-26

People dread many things, and most don't even realize what dread does to them. It sucks the joy right out of the present moment. The life God has provided for us through Jesus Christ is a precious gift, and we should enjoy every moment of it.

Dread is insidious and can insert itself into even the most innocuous of circumstances. For example, once I was getting a facial and enjoying it extremely. I glanced at the door and saw my clothes hanging on the hook and thought, Oh, I dread getting up and putting on my clothes and driving all the way home. Then I realized I was letting dread do its dirty work again. It was stealing the joy of the present moment.

Pray and ask God to show you every time you begin to dread any task or something lurking in your future that you're not quite sure of. Merely eliminating dread from your life will release more of your God-given confidence and help you experience more joy.

Lord, make me aware of what I dread. It's such a part of my life that it's easy to not even notice. Help me to retain my joy and walk in all the confidence You've given me. 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 - August 4

RESOURCES – SHIELD OF FAITH

”In addition to all this, take up the shield of faith, with which you can extinguish all the flaming arrows of the evil one.” Ephesians 6:16

The Roman shield was the defensive piece of armor that was almost always used together with the sword. It was used to ward off a blow from the opponent while making your own sword-thrust. Likened to a shield, our faith in God is that piece of spiritual armor that enables us to withstand attacks by the enemy that are too much for the mind and body. The shield of faith has a three-fold duty.
1. It is a saving faith that is the inward confidence in God.
2. It is a serving faith that inspires our servant hood.
3. It is a sanctifying faith that lays hold of the power of God for our daily lives.

When you come under enemy fire, take shelter behind your faith in God. Do not be deceived by circumstances and events. Walk by faith, not by sight. Be confident that God has secured victory. Stake your life on His faithfulness. Trust Him to deliver you as you wear the shield of faith.

A colleague tells the story of Gabriel in violence plagued Colombia. His calling is to share the gospel with guerrilla soldiers hiding in the mountains. As he approaches a camp site with his bag of Spanish Bibles, a perimeter guard often steps out and sticks his AK-47 in Gabriel’s stomach.

“What are you doing here?”

“I’ve come to tell you about the love of Jesus which you can read about in these books.”

“We don’t want your books. Get lost or I’ll kill you!”

It’s at this point that Gabriel’s faith rises. Pushing the barrel of the gun aside he casually answers, “No you won’t! You can’t kill me until God says you can kill me,” and he boldly walks ahead into the camp where he distributes Bibles and preaches the gospel to those who will listen. He is still on the trail and has not been killed yet. He is convinced the day will come when his life will be taken. But his faith is solidly grounded in the assurance that it will only happen in God’s will. Meanwhile he is a powerful witness to the truth of the Gospel because of his faith.

RESPONSE: Today I take the shield of faith so I will not be vulnerable to spiritual defeat.

PRAYER: Lord, help me be strong in faith, ready for Satan’s fiery darts of doubt, denial and deceit. Give me bold faith like Gabriel’s.

A daily devotional message by Paul Estabrooks


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And here is # 2 Daily Devotional for you today...Enjoy...

Standing Strong Through the Storm - August 1

RESOURCES – BELT OF TRUTH

“Stand firm then, with the belt of truth buckled around your waist…” - Ephesians 6:14

The Roman soldier’s wide leather belt held the various garments and pieces of armor securely in place. Loose armor was not only uncomfortable, but also unsafe. The belt also held the scabbards for swords and daggers. It was foundational to keeping everything balanced and in place.

Truth secures everything in our spiritual life. We can’t know what is truly right or wrong apart from truth. In this spiritual warfare we wage, we “put on” Christ, Who Himself is the “truth” (John 14:6). This is our positional application of the belt. Putting on Christ Himself who is the truth enables us to talk, walk and “fight” proclaiming Christ, the truth.

On another application level, buckling the belt of truth around your waist is more than just seeking truth to find out facts. The servant-soldier of Christ who puts on the armor of God must be willing to overcome his own prejudices to find out the truth. He must struggle against his pride, which clings to his preconceived ideas and makes him unwilling to re-examine them and change his opinions.

Second, to wear the belt of truth means binding one’s whole nature together with inner integrity. The belt of truth refers to the knowledge of one’s own inherent wickedness, weaknesses and propensity to sin (Matthew 15:19; 7:4). King David said, “Surely you desire truth in the inner parts; You teach me wisdom in the inmost place.”(Psalm 51:6). This is why a servant-soldier must review the basics of having a humble spirit, mourning to God, seeking His meekness and hungering for righteousness.

Truth directly opposes Satan, the father of lies. His first challenge to Eve was to even question God’s truthfulness. When we know and walk in God’s truth, it sets us free (John 8:32). .

Wuillie Marcelino Ruiz, an attorney and an evangelical Christian, was wrongly accused of and sentenced to twenty years at the maximum-security Castro prison in Lima, Peru for the crime of ‘terrorist collaboration’ by a special faceless court. Growing up in a close-knit family, his mother’s death during the first year of his imprisonment was a cruel blow for him.

During a visit by an Open Doors team, Wuillie said, “Not everything inside the prison is sadness. Many of our fellow inmates are receiving Jesus Christ as the deliverer of their souls... God is touching the hearts of the authorities in Peru; here in the prison we are not treated so harshly anymore. As the Scriptures tell us, we are not confined because the truth makes us free.”

Jesus is the Truth. Truth is on your side. Truth will win over the enemy’s lies. Fill your heart with truth and stand by it. Put on the belt of truth!

RESPONSE: Today I put on the belt of truth so I can stand strong against Satan’s lies.

PRAYER: Lord, help me fill my heart with truth today for it will set me free. May innocent Christian prisoners also know that freedom also.

A daily devotional message by Paul Estabrooks


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Sharing 2 Devotionals with you today, Here is # 1...Enjoy...

Make God Your Refuge - UpWords - Week of July 29 - August 4

by Max Lucado

Refuge is a favorite word of David’s. You will count as many as forty-plus appearances in some Bible versions. But never did David use the word more poignantly than in Psalm 57. The introduction to the passage explains its background: “A song of David when he fled from Saul into the cave.” Lost in shadows and thought, he has nowhere to turn. Go home, he endangers his family; to the tabernacle, he imperils the priests. Saul will kill him. Here he sits. All alone. But then he remembers he’s not. And from the recesses of the cave a sweet voice floats:

“Be merciful to me, O God!
For my soul trusts in You; and in the shadow of Your wings I make my refuge.” (Psalm 57:1)

Make God your refuge. Let Him be the foundation on which you stand!

From Facing Your Giants


Edited by: JUDITH316 at: 8/1/2016 (19:05)
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Standing Strong Through the Storm- July 31

NEVER SHAKEN

“Truly he is my rock and my salvation; he is my fortress, I will never be shaken.” - Psalm 62:2

In December 1999, a Muslim mob attacked the Doulos Bible School on the outskirts of Jakarta, Indonesia. One of the main aims of this Bible School is to evangelize among the 30-million-strong Sudanese, the largest unreached people group in the world, who live in west Java. One student died and 44 other students were wounded. About eighty percent of the buildings were destroyed. Domingus is a young student who was injured. He shares his personal story of the events that fatal evening:

That night I was asleep in bed so I didn't know what was happening. Suddenly a friend woke me up and shouted that we were being attacked. The building was already burning and I did not know where to run to. I knew if I ran to the main gate I would be killed. I ran to the back of the campus where my friend lived. I prayed “Lord, if I die, I know I will go to heaven.”

Suddenly the crowds arrived and they shouted to kill me. They grabbed me and blindfolded me. The Lord spoke to me “Don't be afraid, I will be with you.” They hit me with a big stick and I lost consciousness. I felt my spirit leave my body. Through a sequence of events I was brought to a place where people were singing and worshipping God. I saw a very bright light and I closed my eyes and bowed down. A voice said “Your time has not come yet; it is time to go back!”

I regained consciousness and realized where I was. I tried to look at my watch but I discovered my neck was very badly cut. I saw all the blood. I prayed that the Lord would send someone to take me to hospital. I thanked the Lord that I could be persecuted for the gospel and that through this I could meet Him.

When the police arrived they asked, “Where did you find this corpse?” They took me to hospital. I tried to open my eyes and I still saw the angels around me. The doctors said I would be paralyzed but as you can see I am not.

Upon the conclusion of his testimony, Domingus was asked the obvious question: “What now? They will come back to finish the job and kill you. What do you want to do with your life Domingus?” He replied with great conviction, “I just want to serve Jesus.”

RESPONSE: Today I reaffirm my faith in God as my only protector who does not allow me to be shaken.

PRAYER: Thank You Lord, that only in You can I find safety and protection. You have promised that You will always be with me.

A daily devotional message by Paul Estabrooks


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Standing Strong Through the Storm- July 28

RON BOYD-MAC MILLAN

“If the world hates you, keep in mind that it hated me first. If you belonged to the world, it would love you as its own. As it is, you do not belong to the world, but I have chosen you out of the world. That is why the world hates you. Remember what I told you: ‘A servant is not greater than his master.

/ If they persecuted me, they will persecute you also. If they obeyed my teaching, they will obey yours also. They will treat you this way because of my name, for they do not know the one who sent me.” John 15:18-21

Ron Boyd-MacMillan concludes his two-part analysis of religious freedom in our country:

It was a persecuted Christian in the Middle East who gave me the eyes to see that religious freedom always needs protecting, wherever one is.

“Freedom is fragile,” she said. “Religious freedom is not about having the right laws to protect belief—that’s a myth put out by the human rights community. No, religious freedom is protected not by laws, but by a climate of respect and openness that ensures the laws are correctly applied. A toleration law, for example, can be used for or against Christians. Christians always have to fight to ensure the climate is tolerant.”

She added, “I don’t care what country or state you live in, you also live in a culture that hates Christ. That’s your fight, and every Christian on the earth has the same fight, whether you belong to a so-called Christian society or not.”

She was right. A climate of prejudice against Christians has crept up by stealth in Western cultures, even in apparently Christian ones. We are in a battle in our own backyard. Thank you, Persecuted Church, for awakening me to the fight!

RESPONSE:

Today I will walk with my eyes open to the reality of anti-Christian prejudice. And I will retaliate with the only weapon Jesus authorized: love for all others—even my perceived enemies.

PRAYER:

Lord, I know that because of Your life in me I am bound to generate negative reactions. Help me to respond in a truly loving manner as You exemplified.

A daily devotional message by Paul Estabrooks


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Standing Strong Through the Storm- July 27

RON BOYD-MAC MILLAN

“So if the Son sets you free, you will be free indeed.” John 8:36

Ron Boyd MacMillan is a perceptive communicator. He writes for the next two days about an experience in the Middle East.

As my plane touched down after a trip to the Middle East, I breathed a big sigh of relief. I was back where I did not have to watch my back, be careful what I said, or where I went. Whew. I was back in a country that had religious freedom. I prayed to God, “Thank you for the men and women who fought to bring me this freedom. Thank God they won.”

Then three incidents happened one after the other that made me think again.

I was at an art exhibition and looking at a painting entitled, Man startled on a horse. I sought out the artist and said, “Was that the Apostle Paul on the Damascus road you were depicting?” I thought he would be pleased I had figured it out.

But he looked horrified, and glancing around he hissed, “For goodness sake keep quiet. Do you want me to get labeled as a religious artist? I’d never sell another painting if that happened.”

Then I was talking to a priest in charge of a large church in my city. His church had just received a large sum of money from the state for the refurbishment of a church hall. Then he said, “Well, we had to sign an agreement that the church would be available for everyone of any religion, and that we would not try to convert anyone. But we were happy to do that. We just want to be a community resource.”

Suddenly I became aware that I had to fight for religious liberty in my own country. I had thought that because certain toleration laws were in place, I was safe.

But no, it was clear from the artist that to admit one’s Christian faith in a public context was professional suicide.

How did my society suddenly get so prejudiced?

And look at the priest blithely giving up his right to evangelize, without a thought to the long-term cost. Who was asking him to refrain from evangelizing? And how could he be so unaware of the freedom he just signed away?

RESPONSE:

Today I will not assume that freedom is automatic. I will stand up for the truth of God’s Word and be truly free.

PRAYER:

Lord, may I never take the free expression of my faith for granted. Help me to understand the challenges that representing Your truth will bring.

A daily devotional message by Paul Estabrooks


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Standing Strong Through the Storm- July 24

KOREA

“And let us consider how we may spur one another on toward love and good deeds, not giving up meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing, but encouraging one another—and all the more as you see the Day approaching.” Hebrews 10:24-25

In the summer of 2010, I led an excellent team of Open Doors staff and supporters on a visit to North Korea. We were allowed to pray publically in the areas we visited and of course were presented with a formal church service on Sunday morning at one of the three churches functioning in Pyongyang. It was a well-executed performance–especially the choir. On its website, the Korean Christian Federation claims that there are ten thousand Protestant Christians in North Korea meeting at five hundred designated centers. In reality, Christians in the country experience tremendous challenges in worshipping publically.

Brother Simon, the leader of the Open Doors work in North Korea, says that the true church must operate underground in the country. “They can’t simply go to church to sing and to listen to the sermon. It is clear that being a Christian in North Korea is a lonely business.”

Simon’s thoughtsturn to Sundays in North Korea. “It happens only sporadically that Christians consider themselves safe enough to meet together in small groups. Usually gatherings consist of only two people. For example, a Christian goes and sits on a bench in the park. Another Christian comes and sits next to him. Sometimes it’s dangerous even to speak to one another, but they know they are both Christians, and at such a time, this is enough. If there is no one around, they may be able to share a Bible verse which they have learned off by heart and briefly say something about it. They also share prayer topics with each other. Then they leave one another and go and look for a Christian in some other part of their town or village. This continues throughout the Sunday. A cell group usually consists of fewer than twenty Christians, who encourage and strengthen one another, plus one-to-one meetings in people’s homes.

“Only if the whole family has turned to Christ is it possible to have something like a real fellowship gathering, as long as you keep your faith hidden from the neighbors. Besides this, it is sometimes possible to hold a meeting in remote areas with a group of ten to twenty people.

Very occasionally, it is possible for Christians to go unobtrusively into the mountains and to hold a ‘service’ at a secret location like a cave. Then it may be the case that there are as many as sixty or seventy North Korean Christians gathered together.”

In spite of severe limitations, believers can fulfill all five biblical functions of the church.

RESPONSE:

I will thankfully take my place in the assembly of believers to fulfill the church’s functions.

PRAYER:

Thank you Lord for the faithfulness of Your church in North Korea against all obstacles.

-A daily devotional message by Paul Estabrooks

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Focus First and Most on God - UpWords - Week of July 22-28

by Max Lucado

Giants. We must face them. Yet we need not face them alone. Focus first, and most, on God. Read 1 Samuel 17 and list the observations David made about Goliath. I find only two. One to Saul and one to Goliath’s face, “Who is this uncircumcised Philistine that he should defy the armies of the living God” (1 Samuel 17:26). David asks nothing about Goliath’s skill, age, or the weight of the spear, the size of his shield. But he gives much thought to God. The armies of the living God; The Lord of hosts, the God of the armies of Israel. In all, the God-thoughts outnumber Goliath-thoughts nine to two.

How does this ratio compare with yours? Is your list of blessings four times as long as your list of complaints? Are you four times as likely to describe the strength of God as you are the demands of your day? That’s how you face a giant.

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July 20

Psalms 90:17

And let the beauty of the Lord our God be upon us: and establish thou the work of our hands upon us; yea, the work of our hands establish thou it.

Cheryl loved her artwork. She could express so many things with canvas and paint that she couldn't express any other way. She showed the depths of her soul. All her work had a spiritual sense to it. It came from a deep and beautiful place inside her own soul. Cheryl felt that the image of God in her was best displayed through the works of her hands and heart.

Within each of us is a wellspring of beauty that comes from God above. How we express it varies from person to person, but it is there, nonetheless. Reach deep into your soul and share the wealth of beauty buried there. To do so is to share God.

Prayer: Enter into my life, O Lord, and make it something beautiful and special. Whatever talents I have are Yours. Bless them, that they might produce much, Father. Amen.

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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

Edited by: JUDITH316 at: 7/20/2016 (11:21)
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7/17/16 7:49 A

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Wisdom from the Psalms- July 17

Psalms 89:15

Blessed is the people that know the joyful sound: they shall walk, O Lord, in the light of thy countenance.

Magic! No matter where the children were, they heard it. It called them from their homework, their play, their naps, their chores. In an instant, heads came up, slightly cocked, in order to hear the delicate chimes. The ice cream man! No greater sound could be found. From every corner of the neighborhood, children with beaming faces were drawn magically to the little wine cart, with its row of silver bells.

When the voice of the Lord calls out to us, may we respond to it with the same childlike glee that our youngsters demonstrate at the approach of the ice cream man. May the name of the Lord bring joy to our hearts and smiles to our faces.

Prayer: Fill me with a joy that remains untouched by the trials of the day. When I hear Your name, Lord, let me respond in jubilation. Be the source of my comfort and peace. Amen.

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Standing Strong Through the Storm - July 11

TRAINING – LOVING YOUR ENEMIES

“For whoever wants to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for me will save it.” Luke 9:24

One of the Anabaptists of the 16th Century who died in flames was Dirk Willem. His story is particularly touching, because he forfeited a real chance to escape prison and death when he turned back to help one of his pursuers.

Dirk was captured and imprisoned in his home town of Asperen in the Netherlands. Knowing that his fate would be death if he remained in prison, Dirk made a rope of strips of cloth and slipped down it over the prison wall. An alert guard began to chase him.

Frost had covered a nearby pond with a thin layer of ice. Dirk risked a dash across it. He made it to safety, but the ice broke under his pursuer who cried for help. Dirk believed the scripture that a man should help his enemies. He immediately turned back and pulled the floundering prison guard from the frigid water.

In gratitude for his life, the man would have let Dirk escape, but a Burgomaster (chief magistrate) standing on the shore sternly ordered him to arrest Dirk and bring him back, reminding him of the oath he had sworn as an officer of the peace.

Back to prison went Dirk. He was condemned to death for being re-baptized, allowing secret church services in his home and letting others be baptized as adults there. The record of his sentencing concludes; "all of which is contrary to our holy Christian faith, and to the decrees of his royal majesty, and ought not to be tolerated, but severely punished, for an example to others; therefore, we the aforesaid judges, having, with mature deliberation of council, examined and considered all that was to be considered in this matter, have condemned and do condemn by these presents in the name; and in the behalf, of his royal majesty, as Count of Holland, the aforesaid Dirk Willems, prisoner, persisting obstinately in his opinion, that he shall be executed with fire, until death ensues; and declare all his property confiscated, for the benefit of his royal majesty."

Dirk was burned to death on May 16, 1569. He showed love to his enemies and “saved” his life.

RESPONSE:

Love for our enemies even surpasses the love of our own lives. This is the Jesus way of the cross!

PRAYER:

Help me, Lord, to show love to those who are my enemies—even giving up my life.

A daily devotional message by Paul Estabrooks


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7/9/16 6:18 A

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Give Thanks - UpWords - Week of July 8-14

by Max Lucado

Some things just weren’t made to coexist. Long-tailed cats and rocking chairs? Bulls in a china shop? Not a good idea. Blessings and bitterness? The mixture doesn’t go over well with God. Combine heavenly kindness with earthly ingratitude and expect a sour concoction. Perhaps you’ve sampled it. Gratitude doesn’t come naturally. Self-pity does. Bellyaches do.

Grumbles and mumbles—no one has to remind us to offer them. Yet they don’t mix well with the kindness we’ve been given.

Gratitude gets us through the hard stuff. To reflect on your blessings is to rehearse God’s accomplishments. To rehearse His accomplishments is to discover His heart. Gratitude always leaves us looking at God and away from dread. “Give thanks for everything to God the Father in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ” (Ephesians 5:20).

From You’ll Get Through This

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7/8/16 1:23 P

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Standing Strong Through the Storm- July 8

RESOURCES – PRAYER

“You did not choose me, but I chose you and appointed you so that you might go and bear fruit—fruit that will last—and so that whatever you ask in my name the Father will give you.” John 15:16

The first request of us from the persecuted church is that we pray for them. And correspondingly, they are usually great models of people of prayer which we can emulate. But we often need to be reminded that they do not ask us only to pray for them but also to pray with them. If we only pray for them, we will pray for their safety and the termination of their persecution. They want us to pray with them which means we will pray for: the advance of the gospel in their land; that they will bear fruit that will last; and for perseverance and fearless courage in the face of suffering.

Pastor Samuel Lamb from Guangzhou, China, has an interesting prayer for severe situations of persecution which expressed his trust in a great God. He prays; “Lord, I rejoice in how You are going to work this out.”

Moses Xie, a Chinese Church leader who spent more than twenty years in jail for his faith, says that when asking visitors to pray for him he is really after three distinct outcomes:

“First, I want them to experience the blessing of prayer for themselves. They will go to God on my behalf, but they will receive a great blessing from being in the presence of God. Second, I know that as they pray, their burden for the persecuted will increase, and as their burden grows, so their commitment to assisting us in all sorts of other ways will increase also. Prayer alone makes them be the body. Third, I want them to release more of God’s power into our situation through intercession, since I know that God has bound Himself not to act until we ask.”

Today is a great day to glorify God in our lives and those of the persecuted church.

RESPONSE:

Today I will not only pray for the persecuted but I will also pray with the persecuted.

PRAYER:

Lord, may my life glorify You today and may I be a lasting fruit bearer who only desires that Your will be done.

A daily devotional message by Paul Estabrooks

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7/8/16 12:09 A

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Standing Strong Through the Storm- July 7

CONFLICT – OVERCOME EVIL WITH GOOD

“Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good.” Romans 12:21

Colleague Ron Boyd-MacMillan shares an interesting incident from his home country of Scotland:

I was walking my dog when I saw a black BMW. It was the local drug dealer, who wanted to tempt people in the neighborhood to use drugs. With a group of Christians, we met together to discuss the matter and we asked each other, “What can we do about this?” We wanted to do more than just pray.

We decided that every time we saw the car, we would phone one another and then a number of us would go outside. We laid our hands on the car and began to pray. Of course the man opened the window. He wanted to know what we were doing. “We're praying for your salvation and that you will stop drug dealing. And we’re not going to stop before you do so.” He drove off.

Did everyone approve of what we were doing? To start with, the police weren’t happy, but later they came round when they saw that what we were doing was good. We were criticized by one church, who accused us of fundamentalism. One day when we were at the house of one of the former drug addicts for a prayer meeting, a bullet shot through the window. We were extremely shocked. But it was also an awakening. We realized that they would not do that if we weren’t making a difference. Find the evil and threaten it. Then you will get a response. You are then not only working for the Persecuted Church, but you are also part of it.

RESPONSE:

Today I will respond to the evil around me and overcome it with good.

PRAYER:

Lord, I need Your power and strength to effectively overcome the evil I experience.

A daily devotional message by Paul Estabrooks


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7/6/16 9:10 P

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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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6/29/16 3:45 A

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Standing Strong Through the Storm- June 28-29

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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Today’s Scripture
“In the morning, Lord, you hear my voice; in the morning I lay my requests before you and wait expectantly.”
(Psalm 5:3, NIV)

In the Morning
In the Bible, David was called a man after God’s own heart. He knew God and saw amazing miracles throughout his life. But notice in this verse what David did. He set the tone for his whole day by spending time with the Lord in the morning. It didn’t matter what was going on in his life, David had his priorities set. Even though he was mistreated by his family, manipulated, made fun of, hunted down by King Saul, and even made some major mistakes on his own, David realized that each morning held the promise of new hope.

Just like David, if you’ll make spending time with God a priority in your life, you will see Him move mightily on your behalf. Make it a habit to seek Him first every single day no matter what is happening. Set the tone for your day and set your course for victory!

A Prayer for Today
“Father, I choose to put You first in everything that I do. I choose to set the tone for my day by starting it with You. Draw me close to You and empower me by Your Spirit to fulfill the dreams and destiny that You have placed within 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 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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Standing Strong Through the Storm- June 22-23

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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6/15/16 2:48 P

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Standing 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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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.

A daily devotional message by Paul Estabrooks

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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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Standing Strong Through the Storm - June 6

INTOLERANCE

“Make every effort to live in peace with all men…” Hebrews 12:14

Other religious groups are one of the most threatening tactics Satan uses against the Church of Jesus Christ. In the book of Acts we see over and over that the primary opposition to the spread of the gospel in the early church was from religious groups. Again we must never view these groups as the enemy. We know who our real enemy is. In some parts of the world, the small percentage of extremists among Hindus, Buddhists and Muslims have encouraged mob violence and other forms of persecution against Christians. Our attitude toward them should be as one acronym for ISLAM suggests: I Sincerely Love All Muslims.

The tactic that our enemy uses in these major religions of the world is the same. It comes from his character of deceiving and lying. Some people are able to perceive elements of truth within the major religions of the world, but their essential teachings are deceivingly false.

Wherever possible, missionaries of cults and other religions do whatever possible to encourage Christians—usually those who are Christian in name only—to convert to their religion. Unfortunately, in countries such as Egypt, a significant number do convert to a cult or to some other religion. The lure to convert can be marriage, money, employment, social acceptance, and any other similar attraction.

Hardini was born to a devout Muslim family in Indonesia where everyone must go to the mosque every day to pray. Her father had strict rules for everyone in the family. One rule was that Hardini should never associate with Christians. Despite Hardini’s devotion to Islam, her heart was heavy and she longed for inner peace. A Christian with a great sense of joy and peace befriended Hardini.

Hardini had the courage to tell her new friend about her spiritual hunger, and the friend offered to pray for her in the name of Jesus. After the Christian girl prayed, peace filled Hardini’s heart and her life radically changed.

When Hardini’s family discovered she had become a Christian, they spent hours and hours trying to entice her with force to recant her new faith. Hardini remained steadfast. Finally her parents made a painful decision—they totally disowned their daughter. That left Hardini with the choices of either recanting her faith or fleeing from her home and family. She chose to flee.

RESPONSE:

Today I will pray for believers like Hardini who experience religious intolerance.

PRAYER:

Lord, help me to sincerely love all Muslims and people of other faith systems.

A daily devotional message by Paul Estabrooks

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Standing Strong Through the Storm- June 3

MERCHANTS AND MOBS

“But the Jews were jealous; so they rounded up some bad characters from the marketplace, formed a mob and started a riot in the city. They rushed to Jason's house in search of Paul and Silas in order to bring them out to the crowd.” Acts 17:5

The next two groups of external tactics Satan used in the New Testament are merchants and mobs. Merchants or businessmen represent the economic establishment and are often opposed to Christians purely because Christians are a threat to their business.

The two clearest examples of opposition from businessmen in Scripture are when Paul visits Philippi and later Ephesus (Acts 16 and 19). In Philippi, Paul and Silas ended up in jail because of the actions of the owners of a demon possessed slave girl who was healed. Seeing their source of income disappearing because of her conversion, her owners pressed a false case against Paul, and had him jailed for “disturbing the peace.” But the Scripture makes clear their economic motive, “when her owners saw that their hope of making money was gone…” (Acts 16:19).

Then when Paul gets to Ephesus the impact of his preaching is so great it causes the former members of the Artemis cult to hold a bonfire of their trinkets and shrines. A shop steward called Demetrius, on behalf of the silversmiths of the town, figures anything that reduces the appeal of the temple of Artemis is going to be bad for business. He stirs up a riot and Paul has to hurry out of the city.

Mobs play a major role in persecution, often when an elite group cannot induce the government to do their dirty work for them. Mobs are manipulated. They can be believers swayed by the heady rhetoric of clerics, or ruffians ready to commit grievous bodily harm for the sake of money.

Christians in Pakistan and Indonesia face the constant threat of annihilation of their property by mobs. A news agency journalist said, “I am amazed at how quickly a mob can get going in Pakistan. It just takes three phrases from a mullah at Friday prayers, and five minutes later thousands are streaming out into the streets bent on inflicting injury or even killing Christians.”

RESPONSE:
Our enemy, Satan, uses every tactic possible to come against those in the Kingdom of God.

PRAYER:
Pray for Christians in areas noted above that they will be protected from Satan’s arrows.

A daily devotional message by Paul Estabrooks


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Standing Strong Through the Storm- June 2

SINGING IN THE BATTLEFRONT

“After consulting the people, Jehoshaphat appointed men to sing to the LORD and to praise him for the splendor of his holiness as they went out at the head of the army, saying: ‘Give thanks to the LORD, for his love endures forever.’ As they began to sing and praise, the LORD set ambushes against the men of Ammon and Moab and Mount Seir who were invading Judah, and they were defeated.” 2 Chronicles 20:21-22

The overflow of singing praises amid great difficulties has tremendous spiritual power for helping to win the spiritual battle. Paul and Silas set the biblical pattern in the prison in Philippi. Pastor Jack Hayford enjoys sharing the story as told by his favourite black preacher. Paul and Silas' prison cell singing was heard all the way to the throne room of God. He began to tap his toe to the music. And since heaven is his throne and the earth is his footstool, that toe tapping created an earthquake!!!

Ivan Antonov spent twenty-four years in Russian prison camps for preaching the Gospel. He later shared how he survived.

I would sing hymns. I was really glad that I knew so many. I had memorized about one hundred seventy hymns, and in order not to forget them, I reviewed several every day. So over a time, I sang through all of them. I want to emphasize to my young friends that you should worship God with songs and poems and memorize them. They will come in handy...I sang hymns every morning and at night before going to bed...In those quiet [morning] hours, I would go outside in the fresh air and sing hymns of praise to God and pray.

Then I went in for breakfast with everyone else.

China's notable pastor Wang Ming-dao shared upon his release from prison that he frequently sang praises to God to buoy his spirits. The songs that meant the most to him were "All The Way My Saviour Leads Me" and "Safe In The Arms Of Jesus." His contemporary, Allen Yuan shared with me two songs which he repeatedly sang aloud throughout his twenty two years in prison. One was "The Old Rugged Cross" and the other "Psalm Twenty-Seven" from the Chinese Psalter. It was always an emotional highlight to hear him sing these songs.

RESPONSE:

Today I will sing praises to the Lord my God.

PRAYER:

Lord, help me to rejoice and sing praises to You, especially when I feel the challenges of spiritual warfare.

A daily devotional message by Paul Estabrooks

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Standing Strong Through the Storm - June 1

SINGING IN THE BATTLEFRONT

“After consulting the people, Jehoshaphat appointed men to sing to the LORD and to praise him for the splendor of his holiness as they went out at the head of the army, saying: ‘Give thanks to the LORD, for his love endures forever.’ As they began to sing and praise, the LORD set ambushes against the men of Ammon and Moab and Mount Seir who were invading Judah, and they were defeated.” 2 Chronicles 20:21-22

The overflow of singing praises amid great difficulties has tremendous spiritual power for helping to win the spiritual battle. Paul and Silas set the biblical pattern in the prison in Philippi. Pastor Jack Hayford enjoys sharing the story as told by his favourite black preacher. Paul and Silas' prison cell singing was heard all the way to the throne room of God. He began to tap his toe to the music. And since heaven is his throne and the earth is his footstool, that toe tapping created an earthquake!!!

Ivan Antonov spent twenty-four years in Russian prison camps for preaching the Gospel. He later shared how he survived.

I would sing hymns. I was really glad that I knew so many. I had memorized about one hundred seventy hymns, and in order not to forget them, I reviewed several every day. So over a time, I sang through all of them. I want to emphasize to my young friends that you should worship God with songs and poems and memorize them. They will come in handy...I sang hymns every morning and at night before going to bed...In those quiet [morning] hours, I would go outside in the fresh air and sing hymns of praise to God and pray.

Then I went in for breakfast with everyone else.

China's notable pastor Wang Ming-dao shared upon his release from prison that he frequently sang praises to God to buoy his spirits. The songs that meant the most to him were "All The Way My Saviour Leads Me" and "Safe In The Arms Of Jesus." His contemporary, Allen Yuan shared with me two songs which he repeatedly sang aloud throughout his twenty two years in prison. One was "The Old Rugged Cross" and the other "Psalm Twenty-Seven" from the Chinese Psalter. It was always an emotional highlight to hear him sing these songs.

RESPONSE:

Today I will sing praises to the Lord my God.

PRAYER:

Lord, help me to rejoice and sing praises to You, especially when I feel the challenges of spiritual warfare.

-A daily devotional message by Paul Estabrooks

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5/31/16 1:02 A

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Standing Strong Through the Storm- May 30

BATTLEFRONT

“For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms.” Ephesians 6:12

A Filipino pastor, who is a former Muslim, lives on the island of Mindanao in the southern Philippines. He was a notorious gang leader and spent years in prison for robbery and murder. But there in prison he met Jesus Christ.

After his release, he was so effective in leading Muslims to Jesus back home in Mindanao that Muslim extremists in his area kidnapped his fourteen-year-old daughter. They would only return her, he was told, if he stopped preaching about Jesus and returned to Islam.

He and his wife prayed intensely about this and felt they could not give in to this blackmail. He continued to preach faithfully for three years with no definite news about his little girl.

He concludes, "Despite the terrible things they have done to my daughter, I fear no one but God alone! Pray for my daughter and that I will continue to preach Christ."

Three years later, he received a letter from his daughter. She shared with her parents that she had been sold into prostitution in neighboring East Malaysia. But God had helped her escape. She was then taken in by a sympathetic Malaysian family and hidden for her safety. And then she fell in love with a young man and married him. She and her parents planned to visit together in a safe place.

Spiritual warfare is the cosmic conflict that rages between the kingdom of God and the kingdom of Satan. Remember we are not talking about two equal kingdoms battling-it-out for victory. Satan is only a created being. Christ has all authority and power. Satan's power was broken at the cross. The Apostle Paul records for us in Colossians 2:15, "And having disarmed the powers and authorities, he made a public spectacle of them, triumphing over them by the cross." So the only power Satan has today is the power to deceive the people of the world - to blind them from seeing the glory of God (II Corinthians 4:3-4).

Satan's primary strategy is to divide and conquer. His key tactics include accusation, deception, and the interruption of our relationships with the Father and with each other. He is actively leading mankind to defile the land, which is God’s, in order to keep humanity in darkness. This is one reason unity in the Body of Christ is so critical for the fulfillment of the Great Commission.

Why would someone lost in the chaos of the world want to be part of a fellowship of people that is disorderly, dysfunctional, and even destructive? The Church of Jesus Christ must be ruled by love. We must be a refuge, a place of safety!

RESPONSE:

I will be alert to Satan’s spiritual warfare tactics today without getting distracted from the Lord’s primary ministry directions.

PRAYER:

Pray for witnessing brothers and sisters on the frontlines who experience Satan’s greatest fury.

A daily devotional message by Paul Estabrooks



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5/26/16 7:13 A

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Standing Strong Through the Storm- May 26

COMPLETELY FORGIVEN

“They overcame him by the blood of the Lamb and by the word of their testimony; they did not love their lives so much as to shrink from death.” Revelation 12:11

On the cross Jesus conquered forever the worst that sin and evil could do to Him. He met the full assault of evil and overcame it. Those who have entrusted their lives to Him share in that victory over evil.

In the context of this verse, Satan is noted to be the “accuser” of the brethren. It is also through the sacrifice of Jesus on the cross (the blood of the lamb) that sin is forgiven. When we receive by faith what Christ has done, our sins are wiped out. We are cleansed by faith in Christ’s blood. His saving grace and a willingness to receive us as sinners saved by grace is the key to this principle, not our feelings of worthiness.

And when we are forgiven there is nothing for which we can possibly be accused by Satan. There is no possible accusation he can make against one who is completely forgiven! Thus we overcome him first, by the blood of the lamb.

Charles Wesley wrote about it in this verse in one of his beloved hymns:

No condemnation now I dread;
Jesus, and all in Him is mine!
Alive in Him, my living Head,
And clothed in righteousness divine,
Bold I approach the eternal throne,
And claim the crown, through Christ my own.

RESPONSE: Today I will overcome my enemy, Satan, by faith in the shed blood of Jesus, the Lamb of God.

PRAYER: Thank You Lord for providing all I need to be an overcomer.

A daily devotional message by Paul Estabrooks


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Standing Strong Through the Storm - May 21

HEALING HURTS

“…to prepare God's people for works of service, so that the body of Christ may be built up.” Ephesians 4:12

Another function of the church is ministry. As Christians we need to be aware of the spiritual needs of others and sensitively seek to help them at every opportunity—both fellow-believers and non-believers. A word of encouragement or a small act of kindness may be the deciding factor in whether or not a struggling friend is able to stand against the enemy.

in a tribal area of northeast India, the poor Christians of one tribe made great sacrifices and took great risks to aid and encourage the new believers in another tribe after their leader, his wife and ten-year-old daughter were killed for their witness.

Ministry is demonstrating God’s love to others by meeting their needs and healing their hurts in the name of Jesus. Each time you reach out in love to others you are ministering to them. The church is to equip the saints to do the work of ministry.

A co-worker and his family were visiting in the southern part of the Ukraine. As they entered the hotel after a tiring day in the streets, their daughter came sobbing into their room. “I saw a man today begging for money. He had no legs and was sitting on a skateboard. He looked so poor and lonely.” The tears rolled down her cheeks. She truly felt compassion for a sight that they didn’t even notice.

“I think Jesus wants us to give him a Bible when we see him again,” she commented after they prayed together.

The following morning early, as they started their journey through the streets of Odessa, it wasn’t long before she saw him. They knew that there was a certain amount of risk involved in handing out Bibles in the streets and thus didn’t want to make it too obvious. He opened the Bible and slowly started paging through it. He reached down and took all the money in the handkerchief next to him and offered it to them.

They suddenly realized that he must be under the impression that they were selling the Bible on the black market and therefore the offer of all his savings. “Nyet, gift, gift,” and they pushed back his hand with the money. He took the Bible, pressed it against his chest and then tears started rolling down his cheeks. He opened the Bible spending several minutes reading and paging through a book that he had obviously heard about but had never seen. They left him with hearts overflowing with gratitude.

Jesus made ministry so simple. It can be as easy as offering a thirsty person a glass of water in His name!

RESPONSE: Today I will look for opportunities to minister to needy hearts in Jesus’ name.

PRAYER: Lord Jesus, I ask You to show me today those to whom I can minister in Your name.

A daily devotional message by Paul Estabrooks


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A Big View of God - UpWords - Week of May 20-26

by Max Lucado

Exactly what is worship? I like King David’s definition in Psalm 34:3, “O magnify the Lord with me, and let us exalt his name together.” Worship is the act of magnifying God, enlarging our vision of him, and observing how he works.

Of course his size doesn’t change, but our perception of him does. As we draw nearer, he seems larger. Isn’t that what we need? A big view of God? Don’t we have big problems, big worries, and big questions? Of course we do. Hence, we need a big view of God. Worship offers that. How can we sing, “Holy, Holy, Holy” and not have our vision expanded? How can we sing these words and not have our countenance illuminated? A vibrant, shining face is the mark of one who has stood in God’s presence. God is in the business of changing the face of the world! Let him begin with yours!

From Just Like Jesus

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Standing Strong Through the Storm- May 20

ARE YOU WORKING OR FUNCTIONING?

“Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit…” Matthew 28:19

Johan Companjen, past President of Open Doors International, was travelling in the Philippines. Finding it extremely hot in his hotel room, he called for a staff person. “Is the air-conditioning not working?” he asked. “Oh yes sir,” the man replied, “It’s working. It’s just not functioning!”

Jesus Christ ordained five functions for His church to be involved in for Him. We are to evangelize (Matthew 28:19); to disciple or train those who are evangelized (Matthew 28:20); to minister or serve people demonstrating God’s love (Matthew 22:39; Ephesians 4:12); to fellowship together (Ephesians 2:19; Galatians 6:10); and to worship together (Matthew 4:10; John 4:23). In the Bible, there is not necessarily a priority order for these five purposes. They are all equally important.

Evangelism is one primary function. If we really have come to know Christ as Lord and Savior, we will want to share this wonderful experience with those we love. It sometimes seems hard or embarrassing to share the Gospel with our friends and relatives. But if we really love them, and if we really believe that without Christ they will suffer for eternity separated from God, we will tell them no matter how oppressive the culture or the political situation may be.

Restrictions on the church cause new creative means of evangelism to arise. In a restricted country of Asia, one such creative method is to hire a bus and invite relatives and friends to a free outing to the beach. Once in the bus, the pastor with a hand-held loudspeaker starts preaching to his “captive audience” about the love of Christ. At the beach the sharing and fellowship continues…as well as a water baptism for new believers.

In Soviet Russia, a group of Christians took advantage of the funeral of a small daughter of one of the members to present a public evangelistic witness. On the way to the cemetery, they stopped every few hundred meters to sing triumphant songs of praise. The father of the dead child also gave a clear message of salvation in Christ. Many listeners along the way were deeply touched.

In Vietnam, Pastor Ho Hieu Ha spent over six years in prison for pastoring a growing church right under the noses of the unhappy authorities. But he felt that his imprisonment was not a waste because he used the time to witness to others who were also in prison. When he was released, he had led 96 people to Jesus and discipled them.

RESPONSE: I am committed to sharing Christ’s love with others. It is a primary function of the church.

PRAYER: Pray for those in restricted environments as they creatively find ways to witness about their faith.

A daily devotional message by Paul Estabrooks


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Standing Strong Through the Storm - May 16

FLY TO JESUS

“Our fathers disciplined us for a little while as they thought best; but God disciplines us for our good, that we may share in his holiness.” Hebrews 12:10

Christmas is a time of peace and joy for those who are fortunate enough to celebrate the birth of their Savior in freedom. For Marko and his two fellow believers it was the fifteenth Christmas that they had to celebrate behind the bars of a prison cell in a Muslim country.

The next day some colleagues felt they had to visit Marko and his friends as an encouragement and confirm to them once again the love of Immanuel—God with us.

Even though they often heard the saying that a prison cell in the Middle East is the closest to hell that you will experience on earth, nothing prepared them for the sense of hopelessness that they experienced in that waiting room of despair.

As the prisoners entered, it was not difficult to recognize Marko and his two friends. Beaming eyes and smiling faces immediately assured them Marko and friends knew they had not been separated from the love of God.

Tears flowed freely as they shared how lonely they were on Christmas day and how joyful they were to know that they were not forgotten.

“It was so difficult yesterday.” Marko spoke softly. “Apart from being Christian prisoners in a Muslim prison, it was also a fast day of Ramadan. We were not allowed out of our cells and we were not allowed to talk to anyone. Fortunately, a week ago the three of us got hold of pieces of a cake and we hid them underneath our cushions especially for Christmas day. Yesterday, when the fast was broken, we simply walked to one another, held the slices of cake together and said “Merry Christmas!”

The visiting hour flew past and soon it was time to say goodbye. Before being marched back to his prison cell, we looked at Marko and asked him a final question. “What are you going to do when you get to your cell and are once again all alone?

Marko smiled and answered, “I will simply spread the wings of my spirit and fly to Jesus.”

RESPONSE: Today I will seek to understand the biblical principle that suffering makes our lives more holy.

PRAYER: Lord, help me, like Marko, to keep my eyes fixed on You regardless of my circumstances.

A daily devotional message by Paul Estabrooks

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Standing Strong Through the Storm - May 12

JESUS, HELP ME

“Forgive us our debts, as we also have forgiven our debtors.” Matthew 6:12

Corrie ten Boom often thought back over the horrors of Ravensbruck prison camp and realized that it was hard to find forgiveness in her heart—the true Christian attitude for the former Nazis that would reveal through her the Spirit’s goodness. Where was love, acceptance, and forgiveness in a horror camp where allegedly more than 95,000 women died? How could she ever forget the horrible cruelty of the guards and the smoke constantly coming from the chimney of the crematorium?

A few years later, Corrie was speaking in a church in Munich, and when the meeting was over she saw one of the cruelest male guards of Ravensbruck coming to speak to her. He had his hand outstretched. “I have become a Christian,” he explained. “I know that God has forgiven me for the cruel things I did, but I would like to hear it from your lips as well. Fraulein, will you forgive me?”

Conflict raged in Corrie’s heart. The good Spirit of God urged her to forgive. The spirit of bitterness and coldness urged her to turn away. “Jesus, help me. I can lift my hand. I can do that much.” As their hands met it was as if warmth and healing broke forth with tears and joy. “I forgive you, brother, with all my heart.” Later Corrie testified that “it was the power of the Holy Spirit” who had poured the love of God into her heart that day.

Philip Yancey gives a pragmatic reason why we must forgive that seems very foundational. Forgiveness alone can stop the cycle of blame, pain as well as vengeance and violence. The meaning of the New Testament word “forgiveness,” he says, is literally “to release, to hurl away, to free yourself.” The only way to break the chain or cycle of hurtfulness is to stop and ask forgiveness. This allows a relationship to start over and begin anew. The Russian writer, Solzhenitsyn, believed this forgiveness is what truly makes us different from animals. Only humans can perform that most unnatural act of forgiveness that transcends the relentless law of nature.

The only thing harder than forgiveness is the alternative. A teacher once told each of her students to bring a clear plastic bag and a sack of potatoes to school. For every person they refused to forgive in their life's experience, they chose a potato, wrote on it the name and date, and put it in the plastic bag. They were then told to carry this bag with them everywhere for one week, putting it beside their bed at night, on the car seat when driving, next to their desk at work. The hassle of lugging this around with them made it clear what a weight they were carrying spiritually, and how they had to pay attention to it all the time to not forget and keep leaving it in embarrassing places…Too often we think of forgiveness as a gift to the other person, and it clearly is for ourselves as well!

RESPONSE: Today I will give myself the gift of forgiveness. Is there someone I need to forgive?

PRAYER: Father, I pray today for the power of Your Holy Spirit to enable me to release any cycles of hurtfulness in my life by forgiving others.

A daily devotional message by Paul Estabrooks

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Standing Strong Through the Storm - May 9

FORGIVENESS

“For if you forgive men when they sin against you, your heavenly Father will also forgive you. But if you do not forgive men their sins, your Father will not forgive your sins.” Matthew 6:14-15

A Spanish father and son were estranged. The father later went to search for his son. When he could not find him, the father put the following ad in the Madrid newspaper.

"Dear Paco, meet me in front of this newspaper office at noon on Saturday. All is forgiven. I love you. Your father.”

Saturday noon, 800 Pacos showed up at the office looking for forgiveness and love from their fathers.

Forgiveness is one of the most powerful actions that Christians can perform. The world does not understand the ability or reasons to do this because it is most unnatural in a dog-eat-dog world. There is also pain to be overcome because behind every act of forgiveness lies the wound of betrayal; but there is far more pain and emotional, social, physical damage done when we do not forgive.

An Asian Christian apologist says, “If I am asked what separates Christianity from other religions, or ‘what’s different about Christianity, aren’t all religions the same when you get down to it?’ one of the first things that I would say is bound up in this one beautiful word: forgiveness.”

Peter asked Jesus how many times he should forgive a brother who sins against him. He thinks he is magnanimous and suggests seven times! Jesus makes his famous reply, “…not seven times, but seventy-seven times” (Matthew 18:22).

Jesus then shares a parable about a man who, after much pleading for mercy, was forgiven for much and yet would not forgive another person who owed him little. In the parable, the master throws the man into jail to be tortured until he pays back his large debt. Then comes the conclusion, “This is how my heavenly Father will treat each of you unless you forgive your brother from your heart” (Matthew 18:35).

RESPONSE: Today I will forgive others who hurt me because God has commanded it and because my own forgiveness depends on it.

PRAYER: Lord, give me a spirit of forgiveness toward others who hurt me, just as You have forgiven me.

A daily devotional message by Paul Estabrooks


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Standing Strong Through the Storm - May 7

PRAY FOR THOSE WHO MISTREAT YOU

“But I tell you who hear me: Love your enemies, do good to those who hate you, bless those who curse you, pray for those who mistreat you.” Luke 6:27-28

In Luke chapter six, Jesus defines persecution with four verbs: hatred, exclusion, insult and rejection (Luke 6:22). But later in the chapter Jesus gives much more emphasis on how you and I are to respond to persecution that comes our way.

One of the great lessons from the Persecuted Church is praying for those who persecute you. This is a parallel principle with loving your enemies. Multiple examples can be shared how God has honored this principle of prayer.

Noskie was a former Imam in the southern part of the Philippines. He was a devout Muslim and one who generated respect from that little community in which he lived. Coming home from a fishing expedition one day, he was shocked to discover that his two daughters had converted to Christianity. He was well aware of the shame that this would bring to the whole community.

In his anger, he mercilessly beat them hoping that they would renounce their new faith. But the daughters remained faithful. They loved their father and knew that nothing was impossible with God so they started praying for their father’s conversion.

Sometime later, while fishing, Noskie felt a sudden piercing pain in his stomach. As the pain intensified, his belly began to balloon. He writhed in unbearable pain. He prayed but nothing happened. In desperation he cried out to the God of his daughters, Jesus Christ, and was instantly healed.

Noskie emerged from the experience a new person. He submitted his heart and surrendered to the Lordship of Jesus Christ. Today he faithfully serves the Lord as a lay pastor. His daughters help in the ministry.

RESPONSE: I am committed to respond to persecution with non-violence as Jesus taught.

PRAYER: Lord, I realize today that when I pray for my enemy and love my enemy, he is no longer my enemy. Help me to always respond this way.

A daily devotional message by Paul Estabrooks


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5/4/16 6:49 A

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Standing Strong Through the Storm - May 4

FREEDOM TO CHERISH THE BIBLE

“Now that you have purified yourselves by obeying the truth so that you have sincere love for your brothers, love one another deeply, from the heart. For you have been born again, not of perishable seed, but of imperishable, through the living and enduring word of God. “ 1 Peter 1:22-23

The Bible has always been an important resource to those who have not had access to it… especially those in prison. Christian singer, Helen Berhane shares how she smuggled a Bible into a shipping container prison in Eritrea and later was moved to another container which already held eighteen Christian women who had refused to give up their faith. She writes in her book, Song of the Nightingale, how the word of God impacted her and the other women.

“We were very overcrowded, but I was happy to join a Christian group again. Since I was the longest serving prisoner, I took charge. I wanted to help them as much as I could, because I knew they would be comforted by the thought that someone cared for them. I would fold the older ladies’ blankets when they went out to the toilet in the morning, and I would stay behind to clean the container [of human waste].

“Many of them were worried about their husbands and children, so I tried to keep them busy and establish a routine. I would start by preparing breakfast; at this point we got four bread rolls each, two in the morning and two in the evening, with weak lentil soup, and a cup of tea.

Then I would lead a Bible meditation and then I would sing. A month after I was first imprisoned I had managed to smuggle a Bible past the guards. I can’t tell you exactly how I did it, as people still use this method and it is important that the authorities don’t find out how it’s done, but I can say it was a whole Bible split into five smaller sections. This made it easier for me to hide it. Previously I had just read it alone, but now we did group readings every day. I also sang new songs to the group that I had written in prison.

RESPONSE: Today I will cherish my Bible and make sure that in my freedom I internalize it as much as those in prison for the faith.

PRAYER: Pray that all Christian prisoners will somehow gain access to a Bible or the message of the Bible today for encouragement and hope.

A daily devotional message by Paul Estabrooks

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5/2/16 2:37 A

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Standing Strong Through the Storm-May 1

BE NOT AFRAID!

"I sought the Lord and he answered me; He delivered me from all my fears.” Psalm 34:4

The one positive fear that the Bible endorses is the fear of God. Wise Solomon said fearing God is the beginning of wisdom. It was Oswald Chambers who added, “The remarkable thing about fearing God is that, when you fear God, you fear nothing else; whereas, if you do not fear God, you fear everything else.”

In Eritrea, Helen Berhane was frequently tortured during her almost three years in the shipping container prison. In spite of that she had no fear. Once when interrogated for teaching the Bible to the guards outside her cell, she replied, “I am always looking for opportunities to talk about my faith and to spread the news about Jesus. I am not ashamed of the gospel and I will talk to anyone and to everyone. Jesus does not just want me to tell the prisoners about him, he wants me to tell the guards too. Even if the president were to visit the prison, I would tell him about the gospel.

“I am not afraid of you. You can do what you want to me, but ultimately all you can do is kill my body; you cannot touch my soul. You cannot even kill me unless it is God’s will that I should die.”

Her persecutors had no answer and returned her to her shipping container.

David Aikman writes in his book Great Souls about the personal life of Pope John Paul II—especially his personal prayer life. When he became pope in 1978, the result of all that personal prayer was evident in his inaugural sermon. “Be not afraid!” he said.

He recognized that fear is a sin because it denies the sovereignty of God. And he recognized that as a leader of a large Church, and unwaveringly opposed to the powerful communist Empire, he had to give people the courage to resist evil.

And courageous he was. When he saw Russian tanks poised to invade Poland, the Pope announced he would go and stand with his people if the Soviets crossed the border. The Soviet tanks did not move.

The Pope knew he might face assassination—and indeed, someone did try to assassinate him—yet he continued to tell the world, “Be not afraid.”

RESPONSE: Today I will live in the fear of God so that I will not fear anything or anyone else.

PRAYER: Pray that all Christians in fearful situations today will have the attitude of trust in the Lord and not fear for their lives.

A daily devotional message by Paul Estabrooks


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Standing Strong Through the Storm- April 26-27

THE WINNER!

“But thanks be to God! He gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ.” 1 Corinthians 15:57

The five-year-old soccer goalie of Team One was an outstanding athlete, but he was no match for three or four on Team Two who were also very good and they began to score on him. The goalie gave it everything he had, recklessly throwing his body in front of incoming balls, trying valiantly to stop them.

After the third goal was scored against him, he could see it was no use; he couldn't stop them. He didn't quit, but he became quietly desperate. Futility was written all over him.

After the fourth goal, the little boy needed help so badly, and there was no help to be had. He retrieved the ball from the net and handed it to the referee - and then he fell to his knees and cried the tears of the helpless and brokenhearted.

His father ran onto the field and said, "Scotty, I'm so proud of you. You were great out there. I want everybody to know that you are my son."

"Daddy," the boy sobbed, "I couldn't stop them. I tried, Daddy, I tried and tried, and they scored on me."

"Scotty, it doesn't matter how many times they scored on you. You're my son, and I'm proud of you. I want you to go back out there and finish the game. I know you want to quit, but you can't. And, son, you're going to get scored on again, but it doesn't matter. Go on, now." The little guy ran back on to the field and they scored two more times. But it was okay.

I get scored on every day. I try so hard. I recklessly throw my body in every direction. I fume with rage. I struggle with temptation and sin with every ounce of my being - and Satan laughs. And he scores again, and the tears come, and I go to my knees - sinful, convicted, helpless. And my Father rushes right out on the field - right in front of the whole jeering, laughing world - and he picks me up, and he hugs me and he says, "Son, I'm so proud of you. You were great out there. I want everybody to know that you are my son. And because I control the outcome of this game, I declare you - The Winner!"

RESPONSE: Today I will rejoice in my Father’s love and support. I will not give up as the battle rages.

PRAYER: Thank You Lord for Your love and for declaring me a winner!

A daily devotional message by Paul Estabrooks

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4/23/16 12:58 P

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Standing Strong Through the Storm- April 23

THE TRUE CHURCH

“Day after day, in the temple courts and from house to house, they never stopped teaching and proclaiming the good news that Jesus is the Christ.” Acts 5:42

The place in which a church meets varies. The use of big buildings, complex organizations, involved programs, huge budgets that provide for schools, hospitals, orphanages and other social activities are only possible in financially strong unrestricted societies.

Although the Lord has blessed these activities in many places in the world, we must recognize that they are not essential to the existence of the church. In some countries these activities are forbidden by the government, while in others, the local economic situation makes them impossible. Still the church can thrive, because it is not dependent on these things. Serious problems have arisen when Christians have become confused on this point.

A number of years ago, for example, some Vietnamese leaders thought that their lack of funds for such things was the cause of the slow growth of Christianity there. On one occasion, the following conversation was overheard.

"Do you have communists in your part of the country?" the observer asked.

"Most assuredly. They are there," the leader replied.

“Are they growing in numbers and influence?" he then asked.

The leader hesitated momentarily, then admitted sadly, “Yes, they are growing very fast."

“Can you show me their meeting places and schools or introduce me to their leaders?" the observer continued.

"Certainly not," the leader said in disgust. "If they are known, they will be arrested."

"You mean they are secret, without buildings or property and still they grow in number?" the observer asked in amazement.

"Yes, you could say that," the leader responded.

"Then it must be that their growing influence does not depend on such things. If they can be wrong in their beliefs and still grow without money and buildings, why do you think the church of Jesus Christ needs these things?" the man concluded.

If God provides these things, then use them for His glory. If He does not, remember that the New Testament church had none of these things, but they turned their world upside down (Acts 17:6). The early Christians did not confuse the church’s functions with methods. If they had done so, the church would have died in the bondage of Jewish legalism. The early churches were not encumbered by the presence of buildings, nor hindered by the lack of them. They met in public places, when they were permitted to do so, but when they were not, they went from house to house.

RESPONSE: I will no longer confuse the forms of the church with the biblical functions of the church.

PRAYER: Thank you Lord for those who use their homes as centers for Your worship and declaration of the good news of Your love.

A daily devotional message by Paul Estabrooks

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Today’s Scripture
“But the path of the righteous is like the light of dawn, which shines brighter and brighter until full day.”
(Proverbs 4:18, ESV)

Enjoy the Journey
Oftentimes, people tend to get wrapped up and busy with things that don’t really matter in eternity. It’s easy to get consumed by your career and stay focused on your goals. It’s good to work hard, but you’ve got to learn how to play hard, too, so that you can stay in balance. I heard somebody say, “It’s not that life is so short, it’s that we wait so long to begin living.” If we want to truly enjoy the journey of life, we have to take time to stop and smell the roses. Do you appreciate the people you love? Do you hug your children before you leave each day and give your spouse a kiss? When was the last time you called your parents to tell them how much you love them? That’s how we can enjoy the journey.

If you’ll stay determined to enjoy the journey of life, you’ll live with no regrets. You’ll see your path shine brighter and brighter, and at the end, you’ll be able to say, “I made the most of my life. I enjoyed my family. I enjoyed my friends. I finished my course with joy.”

A Prayer for Today
“Father, thank You for the people You have placed in my life. Teach me to enjoy my relationships more because they are all that matter in eternity. Help me to enjoy the journey of life as my path shines brighter and brighter until the full day 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 Scripture
“Enlarge the place of your tent, stretch your tent curtains wide, do not hold back...”
(Isaiah 54:2, NIV)

Increase Your Capacity to Receive
God has many blessings in store for you! He has favor in your future like you’ve never imagined. He wants to take you places that you’ve never even dreamed. But in order for us to partake of all these blessings, we have to increase our capacity to receive.

Think about this: if you have a one-gallon bucket and someone has fifty gallons to give you, the problem is not with the supply. The problem is that you don’t have the capacity to receive the fifty gallons. But, if you get rid of that small container and get something larger, then you will be able to receive more. It’s the same way with God. If we think we’ve reached our limits, the problem isn’t that God doesn’t have the resources or the ability. The problem is that our container is too small. We have to enlarge our vision and make room for the new things God has for us. Our attitude should be, “Yes, the economy is down, but I know God is still on the throne. I know wherever I go His goodness and mercy follow me.” When you have that kind of attitude, you’re increasing your capacity to receive so that you can live the abundant life He has in store for you.

A Prayer for Today
“Father, today I choose to increase my capacity to receive from You. I let go of limited thinking and old mindsets, and I open myself to everything You have in store for me. Show me Your ways that I may walk with 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- April 20

LOVING CHRIST ABOVE ALL

"If anyone comes to me and does not hate his father and mother, his wife and children, his brothers and sisters—yes, even his own life—he cannot be my disciple.” Luke 14:26

A Christian medical doctor in China shares his experience when he refused to bow down or "kowtow" to an image of Mao because of his love for Jesus. After severe beatings did not succeed in influencing him, the authorities resorted to a more subtle strategy by getting his whole family to stand around him and weep.

“I had seven children, he said, “as well as my wife all surrounding me and weeping. Crying bitterly, my wife said to me, ‘If you don't kowtow you will surely die and then what will we do?’ For three days they stood around me weeping until my wife’s eyes were dreadfully swollen.’“After you have died, what will happen to these children? Please, for the sake of your family, just kowtow.’ They cried and cried. I really did not know what to do. I felt that I had no more strength so I prayed, ‘Lord I have no strength left, what must I do?’

“On the third day, the Lord’s word [Luke 14:26] came,Hallelujah! There is no word of the Lord that is without power. The Lord through His Word filled me with the life and power of God. I said to my wife, ‘Stop crying. It’s no use your crying. I am the Lord’s disciple. For the Lord’s sake I am ready to die!’

“Then the day came when the authorities called me and said, ‘You had better consider your situation carefully. If you want to live, you must kowtow otherwise it will mean certain death for you. Tonight we will make you eat the “steel bean” (bullet). You will be executed! This is your very last opportunity!’ And so he sent me back to think it over.

“There was, however, no need for me to think it over. I was ready for the bullet. But the night passed without my being called. Next day I saw that outside folk were running hither and thither and I wondered whatever had happened to cause such alarm. Later I was to learn that immediately after I had left the office, black swellings appeared on the prison warden’s legs and it was frightfully painful. Because he was the chief, all the doctors in the hospital were rushed to his side to give him aid. But within twenty-four hours he was dead.”

The doctor was later released from prison and returned to his family and medical practice.

RESPONSE: I recommit myself to the Lord. My love for Him will be even more than my love for family.

PRAYER: Lord, help to prove my love for You above all others regardless of the circumstances.

A daily devotional message by Paul Estabrooks

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4/18/16 6:29 P

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Standing Strong Through the Storm- April 18

THE BLOOD OF AN OVERCOMER

“But he was pierced for our transgressions, he was crushed for our iniquities; the punishment that brought us peace was upon him, and by his wounds we are healed.” Isaiah 53:5

Dr. Felix Ruh, a Jewish doctor in Paris, had a granddaughter who died of black diphtheria.

Vowing to find out what had killed her, he locked himself in his laboratory for days and emerged with a fierce determination to prove, with his colleague, Louis Pasteur, the germ theory. The medical association had disapproved of Pasteur and had succeeded in getting him exiled, but he hid in the forest near Paris and erected a laboratory for his forbidden research.

Twenty beautiful horses were led out into the forest to the improvised laboratory. Scientists, doctors, and nurses came to watch the experiment. Ruh opened a steel vault and took out a large pail filled with black diphtheria germs, which he had cultured carefully for months.

There were enough germs in that pail to kill everyone in France.

The scientist went to each horse and swabbed its nostrils, tongue, throat, and eyes with the deadly germs. Every horse except one developed a terrific fever and died. Most of the doctors and scientists wearied of the experiment and did not remain for what they thought would be the death of the remaining horse.

For several more days this final horse lingered, lying pathetically on the ground. While Ruh, Pasteur, and several others were sleeping on cots in the stables, the orderly on duty had been instructed to awaken the scientists should there be any change in the animal's temperature during the night. About two a.m., the temperature showed a half degree decrease, and the orderly wakened Dr. Ruh. By morning the thermometer had dropped two more degrees. By night the fever was entirely gone, and the horse was able to stand, eat, and drink.

Then Dr. Ruh took a sledgehammer and struck that beautiful horse a deathblow between the eyes. The scientists drew blood from the veins of this animal that had developed the black diphtheria but had overcome it. They drove as fast as they could to the Paris municipal hospital and forced their way past the superintendent and the guards. They went into the ward where three hundred babies lay, segregated to die from black diphtheria. With the blood of the horse, they inoculated every one of the babies. All but three lived and recovered completely.

The blood of an overcomer saved them. The blood of an Overcomer has also spiritually saved many people. He too had to die to bring life to others.

RESPONSE: Today I will repeatedly praise Jesus for the blood He shed as an Overcomer for my sin.

PRAYER: Thank you, Lord, for sacrificing Yourself, an Overcomer, so that I might have abundant and eternal life.

A daily devotional message by Paul Estabrooks


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4/17/16 2:31 A

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Standing Strong Through the Storm- April 16

LOVE YOUR ENEMIES

“But I tell you: Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you…” Matthew 5:44

Perhaps the most difficult of Jesus’ commands is to love even our enemies. A true Christian always seeks another person’s highest good—even when mistreated. Brother Andrew says “The Christian’s only method of destroying his enemies is to ‘love’ them into being his friends.”

Romanian pastor, Dr. Paul Negrut, was visiting an old friend in Romania named Trian Dors in his humble home. As Paul entered, he realized that Trian was bleeding from open wounds. He asked, "What happened?"

Trian replied, "The secret police just left my home. They came and confiscated my manuscripts. Then they beat me."

Paul says, "I began to complain about the heavy tactics of the secret police. But Trian stopped me saying, 'Brother Paul, it is so sweet to suffer for Jesus. God didn't bring us together tonight to complain but to praise him. Let's kneel down and pray.'

"He knelt and began praying for the secret police. He asked God to bless them and save them. He told God how much he loved them. He said, 'God, if they will come back in the next few days, I pray that you will prepare me to minister to them.'"

Paul continued, "By this time I was ashamed. I thought I had been living the most difficult life in Romania for the Lord. And I was bitter about that."

Trian Dors then shared with Paul how the secret police had been coming to his home regularly for several years. They beat him twice every week. They confiscated all his papers. After the beating he would talk to the officer in charge. Trian would look into his eyes and say, "Mister, I love you. And I want you to know that if our next meeting is before the judgement throne of God, you will not go to hell because I hate you but because you rejected love." Trian would repeat these words after every beating.

Years later that officer came alone to his home one night. Trian prepared himself for another beating. But the officer spoke kindly and said, "Mr. Dors, the next time we meet will be before the judgement throne of God. I came tonight to apologize for what I did to you and to tell you that your love moved my heart. I have asked Christ to save me. But two days ago the doctor discovered that I have a very severe case of cancer and I have only a few weeks to live before I go to be with God. I came tonight to tell you that we will be together on the other side."

RESPONSE: Today I will destroy my enemies only with love.

PRAYER: God give me Your kind of love for my enemies—so they too will love You.

A daily devotional message by Paul Estabrooks

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4/15/16 1:59 A

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Standing Strong Through the Storm-April 14

PRAY, SING AND TALK

“For everything that was written in the past was written to teach us, so that through endurance and the encouragement of the Scriptures we might have hope.” Romans 15:4

In Eritrea, Helen Berhane, with more than twenty other young women, was imprisoned in a shipping container that held only eighteen people. In her book, Song of the Nightingale, she shares what happened.

“When [the guard] had locked us in and left, many of the women were furious and upset, and began to complain and cry. I tried to find ways to encourage them, and to make our situation more bearable. I encouraged everyone to sit on the floor in a circle and I began to speak to them.

Remember that the walls of Jericho came down because of praises. If we keep complaining, we cannot win. Instead we must continue to pray, praise and sing. Satan wants to use discouraging words as a weapon against us, so we must continue to praise God in all circumstances. I could see some of the women nodding.

I continued, when the Israelites were approaching the Promised Land they sent spies ahead. Many of them returned saying that the people were so huge the Israelites could not hope to beat them, and so they cried all night. But crying and complaining cannot solve our problems. Let us be like Caleb and Joshua. The larger our enemies are, the more of a feast they will make for us! Just think about the woman who suffered from bleeding and who believed that if she only touched the hem of Jesus’ robe she would be healed. In the crowd she was the one who had faith and it was rewarded. We should not be like these people endlessly fighting amongst themselves. We should just reach out to Jesus and have faith.

This helped us to feel more accepting of our situation, and so we got into the habit of talking about the Bible, praying and singing in the container every day. “

RESPONSE: Today I will pray, sing, and talk about the Bible rather than focus on my discouraging situations and relationships.

PRAYER: Lord, may I use Your Word as an encouragement to endure with hope in You.

A daily devotional message by Paul Estabrooks


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4/13/16 2:36 P

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Standing Strong Through the Storm-April 13

TRAINING

“Everyone who competes in the games goes into strict training. They do it to get a crown that will not last; but we do it to get a crown that will last forever.” 1 Corinthians 9:25

A young Romanian Christian was called in to the secret police for interrogation. He had dreaded this moment. Fear gripped him throughout and he was unable to give a categorical rejection to the police offers of good treatment and security if he would only inform on his fellow-believers. He did not accept the offer either, but his inability to reject it unquestioningly brought personal agony.

He could not sleep that night because of his fear and guilt. The next morning led of the Holy Spirit, an older Christian came to visit the family. He was unaware of the young man’s dilemma. Being a former prisoner for his faith, he was able to counsel the young man from Scripture about his situation. He built up the young man in fellowship, training him for the next ordeal. It came the same afternoon when the youth was taken in for his second interrogation. The same thing happened and the young man was still upset by his answers. Again the older believer came to encourage him.

Three days of more interrogations passed. Eventually the young man was able to reject the police offer completely. With no further hold on him, the police let him go. Counsel, prayer and patient caring had brought him through and trained him in righteousness.

To maintain biblical integrity, let us consider training as a prescribed course in righteousness in which each individual is disciplined through practice to be obedient to God’s direction for mankind and able to withstand the schemes of the devil.

People who commit themselves for a cause have a right to expect training in the job for which they have been selected. In some of the trades, this is called “apprenticeship.” In medicine, it is known as “internship.” In the military, it is referred to as “basic training.” In Scripture, it is referred to as “discipleship.” However, in our modern day, training is often by-passed due to the pressures of time, need and a low value placed upon the office to be filled. This was not the case with Jesus in His selection and training of His disciples.

After calling His men to be with Him, he challenged them to commit themselves to following after Him – to be “fishers of men.” Jesus then began to train them to become His kind of “fishers of men.”

RESPONSE: I want to be a trained disciple of Jesus Christ. I will submit to His guidance and discipline.

PRAYER: Lord, help me to realize and accept Your “training” process as I follow You today.

A daily devotional message by Paul Estabrooks

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