THE PERSECUTED CHURCH
1 Peter 4:12-19
If anyone suffers as a Christian, let him not
be ashamed, but let him glorify God in this matter.
- 1 Peter 4:16
One October morning in 2006, a woman and her six children
were forced to witness an attack on their husband and father. His
assailants tried to force him to deny Jesus but he refused. He
continued to proclaim Christ as Lord and died praying for his
family. The family is determined to follow Christ, even in their
Another man was sentenced to 3 years in prison for allegedly
insulting another religion. He's an outspoken Christian with a
passion for Christ. He and his wife and children continue to be
faithful and refuse to deny Him.
Persecution for the Christian faith is as real in our world
as it was for the Jewish believers in the early church to whom
Peter wrote. He prayed, "May the God of all grace.... after you
have suffered a while, perfect, establish, strengthen. and settle
you" (1 Peter 5:10). Today is the International Day of Prayer for
the Persecuted Church. These prayer points from Open Doors USA, a
ministry that's committed to encouraging persecuted Christians,
can help guide us as we pray:
* Pray for the safety and faith of the secret believers in
countries where it is illegal to share about Christ.
* Pray for the health, perseverance, and encouragement of
believers who are imprisoned for the gospel.
* Pray that those whose loved ones have died due to martyrdom
will rely on God for their strength. Together, let's bring our
fellow believers before the Lord in prayer. - Anne Cetas
THE BLOOD OF THE MARTYRS IS THE SEED OF THE CHURCH. - Tertullian
We should not trust in ourselves but in God.
- 2 Corinthians 1:9
The geological features at Yellowstone National Park
fascinate me. But when I walk among the geysers, I'm aware of how
close I am to danger. I am walking atop one of the largest, most
active volcanoes in the world.
When I read the book of Job, I feel as if I'm walking
through Yellowstone on a day when the volcano erupts,
exploding the earth's fragile crust and bringing disaster.
Like tourists at Yellowstone, Job was enjoying life. He was
unaware that only a hedge separated him from disaster (Job
1:9-10). When God removed that hedge and allowed Satan to
test Job, his life exploded (vv.13-19).
Many believers live in circumstances where it seems as if
God, for some reason, has removed His hedge of protection.
Others, also for reasons unknown, live in relative calm,
seemingly unaware of their fragile existence. Like Job's friends,
they assume that nothing bad will happen unless they do something
to deserve it.
As we learn from Job, however, God sometimes allows bad
things to happen to good people. Although disaster can strike at
any moment, nothing has the power to destroy those who trust
Christ (2 Cor.4:9). No disaster can separate us from God's love.
- Julie Ackerman Link
Though darker, rougher, grows the way, And cares press harder day
by day, With patience in His love I'll rest, And whisper that He
knoweth best. - Pentecost
GOD'S LOVE STILL STANDS WHEN ALL ELSE HAS FALLEN
It is written, "Man shall not live by
bread alone, but by every word of God.
- Luke 4:4
We've all seen and heard advertisements that entice us to take
shortcuts to happiness. Buy our product and make no payments for
one year! Instant gratification!
When the devil tempted Jesus (Luke 4:1-13 ), he offered a
shortcut to "satisfaction." He tried to tempt Jesus to take
matters into His own hands rather than trust His Father.
When Jesus was hungry from 40 days of fasting (v.2), Satan
suggested that He use His power to turn stones into bread. Had
the Lord done so, He would have been using His powers
for His own benefit, but He refused.
Why didn't Jesus accept the devil's offer of ruling all the
kingdoms of the world right away? (vv.5-7). He could have avoided
the cross. But that would have gone against God's plan for Him -
to give His life on the cross, to be resurrected, and to sit at
the Father's right hand in His kingdom. Satan's offer of a
shortcut was no deal at all.
Beware of enticements that seem to cost little for the
present. Satan hopes to get you to do things his way. And he
doesn't give up easily. Even after Jesus overcame a third
temptation, Satan left only "until an opportune time" (v.13).
Whenever you are offered a shortcut to happiness, watch out to
see who's behind the cashier's counter! - C. P. Hia
Lord, help me see the devil's offers for what they are -
enticements to sin. Help me to keep my eyes focused on
You and Your Word, and my ears attentive to You in prayer. Amen.
THE BEST WAY TO ESCAPE TEMPTATION IS TO RUN TO GOD.
JOY IN THE MIDST OF GRIEF
The people could not discern the noise of the shout of joy from
the noise of the weeping.
- Ezra 3:13
After only a few art lessons, 10-year-old Joel decided to
try his hand at painting a flower. By looking at a color
photograph of a Rose of Sharon, Joel was able to paint a
beautiful mixture of blue, purple, red, green, and white. This
made the flower, which had been photographed on the day Joel's
aunt died, seem to come to life. To the family, his painting
symbolized a bittersweet mixture of feelings. While it
provided a lasting reminder of the loss they had suffered, it
also carried a shout of joy from the celebration of Joel's newly
discovered artistic gift. The painting gave joy in the midst of
When the people of Judah returned to Jerusalem from
captivity in Babylon, they too had a bittersweet experience.
As they began rebuilding Solomon's temple, many in the crowd sang
songs of praise. At the same time, some older people, who had
seen the beauty of the original temple that had been destroyed by
war, wept aloud. We are told that "the people could not discern
the noise of the shout of joy from the noise of the weeping"
Grieving can be like that. While there is sadness in looking
back, it also includes a promise of joy in trusting God for the
future. Even in a devastating loss, we have this hope: The Lord
provides joy in the midst of grief. - Dennis Fisher
We sorrow not as others do, Whose hopes fade like the flowers;
There is a hope that's born of God, And such a hope is ours. -
EVEN IN THE BLEAKEST TIMES, CHRISTIANS HAVE THE BRIGHTEST HOPE.
THE PROBLEM WITH SELF-SUFFICIENCY
I know your works, that you are neither cold
nor hot. I could wish you were cold or hot.
- Revelation 3:15
The city of Laodicea had a water problem. One nearby town
had fabulous hot springs and another had cold, clear water.
Laodicea, however, was stuck with tepid, mineral-laden water that
tasted like sulphur. Not hot. Not cold. Just gross.
Given those facts, the words of Jesus to the Laodicean
believers in Revelation 3 must have stung. Jesus rebuked them for
being "neither cold nor hot" (v.15). And when He thought I know
your works, that you are neither cold nor hot, He felt like
vomiting (v.16)--like the effect of their drinking water.
What was their problem? It was the sin of self-sufficiency.
The Laodiceans had become so affluent that they had forgotten how
much they needed Jesus (v.17).
When we say we have everything we need, but Jesus isn't at
the top of the list, He is deeply offended. Self-sufficiency
distracts us from pursuing the things we really need that only He
can give. If you'd rather have cash than character, if your
credit cards are maximized and your righteousness is minimized,
if you've become smart but aren't wise, then you've been shopping
in all the wrong places. Jesus offers commodities that are far
He's knocking at your heart's door (v.20). Let Him in. He
will give you all you really need! - Joe Stowell
We must be careful to avoid All self-sufficiency; If sinful pride
gets in the way, God's hand we will not see. - Sper
WE ALWAYS HAVE ENOUGH WHEN GOD IS OUR SUPPLY
The lesson of the Laodicean church is also the PRIDE of thinking
you have ALL you need SPIRITUALLY! They will not, it seems
cannot, admit they need some CLEANSING in certain parts of their
life. They cannot see they have some sins, have some things very
wrong in their "church" life, things they need to REPENT of, be
CLEANED FROM. They have been led astray into thinking they are
spiritually just fine and dandy, but the Lord calls to them to
get some eye slav and really see the whole of their condition.
Far too many today have their religion formed around a human
person. The Roman Catholics believe the Pope is "God on earth."
The Seventh Day Adventists believe Ellen White was God's end time
apostle, fully inspired. Certain sects of the Church of God
believe Herbert Armstrong was God's inspired end time apostle. It
would seem none of these groups can see with the spiritual eye
that their "church" has errors because of the individuals they
have set up to look to as "inspired" - they will not it seems
admit the errors of these people. Hence they go along BLINDLY
with spiritual PRIDE believing they have spiritually grown to
perfection. Laying back on the spiritual easy-boy chair with feet
up thinking all is perfectly well, when it is far from being so,
is putting yourself in the hands of the enemy who is smiling away
at having so many spiritually deceived.
The fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace,
longsuffering, kindness, goodness, faithfulness,
- Galatians 5:22-23
How much would you be willing to pay for a piece of fruit?
In Japan, someone paid more than $6,000 for one Densuke
watermelon. Grown only on the northern Japanese island of
Hokkaido, this beautiful dark-green sphere looks like a bowling
ball. The nearly 18-pound watermelon was one of only a few
thousand available that year. The fruit's rarity brought an
astronomical price on the market. Christians have fruit that is
far more precious than the Densuke watermelon. It's called the
fruit of the Spirit:
"love, joy, peace, longsuffering, kindness, goodness,
faithfulness, gentleness, self-control" Each "fruit" is a
different aspect of Christlikeness. In the Gospels, we see
how Christ exemplified these virtues. Now He wants to produce
them in our hearts - in what we say, how we think, and how we
respond to life (John 15:1-4).
A rare and delicious fruit may bring a premium price in the
marketplace, but Christ-like character is of far greater worth.
As we confess all known sin and yield to God's indwelling Spirit,
our lives will be transformed to the likeness of Christ (1 John
1:9; Eph.5:18). This spiritual fruit will fill our lives with
joy, bless those around us, and last into eternity. - Dennis
Think not alone of outward form; Its beauty will depart; But
cultivate the Spirit's fruits, That grow within the heart. -
D. De Haan
FRUITFULNESS FOR CHRIST DEPENDS ON FELLOWSHIP WITH CHRIST.
HELP WITH A HOME RUN
1 Peter 4:7-11
As each one has received a gift, minister
it to one another, as good stewards of the
manifold grace of God.
- 1 Peter 4:10
Sara Tucholsky, a softball player for Western Oregon
University, hit the first home run of her life in a game against
Central Washington. But she nearly didn't get credit for it. As
she rounded first base in excitement, she missed it! When she
wheeled back to correct her mistake, she injured her knee.
Crying, she crawled back to the base. By rule, she had to touch
all four bases on her own for the home run to count. Her
teammates could not assist her in any way. Then Mallory Holtman,
the first baseman for the opposing team, spoke up. "Would it
be okay if we carried her around?" After conferring, the umpires
agreed. So Mallory and another teammate made a chair of their
hands and carted Sara around the bases. By the time they were
through carrying her, many were crying at this selfless act of
compassion, and Sara was awarded her home run.
The lesson for followers of Christ is clear. When fellow
Christians stumble and fall, we need to follow the example of
these ballplayers. Reach out. Lift them up and carry them along.
It's a wonderful opportunity to "minister ... to one another, as
good stewards of the manifold grace of God" (1 Peter 4:10). -
When a fellow Christian stumbles And he needs some help to
stand; Don't ignore his circumstances--Offer him your out-
stretched hand. - Sper
NO ONE IS USELESS IN THIS WORLD WHO LIGHTENS THE BURDEN OF
ANOTHER - Charles Dickens.
THERE YOU HAVE IT FRIENDS - 52 DAILY BREADS - ONE FOR
EACH WEEK OF THE YEAR. AND SEVEN FOR EACH WEEK - SO
ONE FOR EACH DAY OF THE YEAR.
YOU CAN ALSO JUST HIT ONE ANYWHERE FOR EACH WEEK, AND
STUDY AND MEDITATE ON EACH FOR EACH DAY OF THAT WEEK.
HOWEVER YOU USE THESE DAILY BREAD LESSONS, USE THEM TO
GROW IN GRACE AND KNOWLEDGE OF OUR FATHER IN HEAVEN AND
HIS SON CHRIST JESUS.
Keith Hunt (November 2009)