Thursday, October 30, 2014

Free Kindle E-book on How People Change, Free Downloadable Resources for Persecution Sunday, Persecution Stories and How the Church is Overcoming and Opportunities to Help

How People Change
by Timothy S. Lane and Paul David Tripp
Free on Kindle for a limited time

Free Resources for the International Day of Prayer for the Persecuted Church (Downloads)  
IDOP is November 2nd   


Petition Calling for the Immediate End to the Persecution of Non-Orthodox Christians in Eastern Ukraine (International Christian Concern)

A memorial service for four protestant Christians murdered by pro-Russian militants in Eastern Ukraine.

On Sunday morning, June 8th, Viktor and three other ministers were taken from their church and stuffed into a car by men carrying automatic weapons. A month later, their burned bodies were found in a mass grave. Three of the ministers had been executed at point blank range. Viktor was shot in the back as he tried to flee his captors.
These Christians weren't murdered in Nigeria, Iraq, or Pakistan. They were killed in Europe, shot dead by armed separatists in Eastern Ukraine. Tragically, their case represents only a tiny fraction of the persecution that has swept war-torn Crimea and Eastern Ukraine.

ICC has received eye-witness testimonies from local ministries revealing that dozens of Protestant and Catholic Christians have been abducted and violently tortured because of their religious identity. Four ministers have been murdered and scores of church buildings have been destroyed or taken over by pro-Russian militants.

The time to end this is now. Even in war, no one should have to fear being executed or abducted because of their faith.

Sign our petition to the Russian ambassador calling for an immediate end to this unprecedented modern day wave of persecution in Eastern Europe. Your voice can make all the difference!


Please submit all signatures by December 6, 2014.

"Free those who are wrongly imprisoned; lighten the burden of those who work for you. Let the oppressed go free, and remove the chains that bind people." - Isaiah 58:6 (NLT)

A letter from a brother serving in the conflict zone of Ukraine:

Dear Brothers and Sisters, deacons and pastors of the Church of Christ!

I writing to you on behalf of the churches and ministers in Lughansk region. A real war has filled our cities and our villages inevitably bringing with it destruction, pain, death, sickness and hunger. I’m not writing about this as someone who is looking on from a distance but as someone who is directly involved in these tragic events. God called me to personally to experience this horror, fear and pain of war.

My city, Pervomaisk has been terribly destroyed, for more than 50 days there has been no water, electricity, no gas, no stores and no food, no pharmacies and no medication. Explosions, bombs and rockets. The dead are counted in the hundreds. Our wonderful church building “Revival” has been burnt to the ground. The city is empty. The lives of the church leaders have been threatened. The Church has been scattered. The people are left without even blood, they have lost everything they had. This is only a small part of what’s happening – it’s a drop of water in a sea of suffering that is storming our area. The situation in other cities is a little better. Lugansk is destroyed. Thousands of refugees. Church buildings in Antratsit and many others have been seized.

But thanks be to God, He is faithful and he has not forgotten us!

I want to thank you brothers for your active participation in our suffering, and in our ministry!

I know that in many churches they are regularly praying for us -THANK YOU! I ask you to continue praying! Many churches and families opened their homes to refugees from our region -may the Lord take care of you! Many churches gather food and clothes and I assure you that these are needed and valued! (In a few areas of our region the humanitarian catastrophe is such that people are waiting days for bread and water.)

I ask you and I exhort you to do the following:

Don’t stop praying for us. Pray for peace and for freedom in our area. Pray for repentance. Pray for the ministers and the churches that are carrying out this ministry in such difficult circumstances.

I ask you to open your heart to all who are going through tough times, to those who have lost their house, their work, their pay and their retirement. Open your heart and the doors to your homes. Accept these people and bless them!

I ask you and I call on you to help! Help churches, help the refugee camps, help the ministers who stayed behind in the conflict zone! This is extremely difficult, but we see how God is blessing our toil through those seeking God, repenting and being baptized.

We know that God will calm this stormy cruel sea! We believe that He is powerful to transform the suffering and pain of our people into joy and peace!

This is what we pray for with you, rejoicing that through the blood of the Lamb we became close family in order to suffer together, support each other and come to the aid of one another.

May the Lord bless!

Your brother in the Lord

Elisha Pronin – Area Association of Churches, Evangelical Christian Baptist, Lughansk Area

You can give through ABWE's Ukraine Crisis fund here.

SYRIA/IRAQ and the surrounding countries taking refugees

SAT-7 Gives Hope to Middle-easterners

Iraq (MNN) — “They’re not going to school. They’ve been uprooted from their homes. They don’t know maybe where their parents are. They don’t have any sense if they’re even alive.” Speaking of children, Dr. Rex Rogers, President of SAT-7 USA, a Christian satellite television ministry to the Middle East and North Africa, says they are the ones most affected by ISIS attacks.

More than ever, children–and their parents–need a message of peace. This message is being aired on SAT-7 24 hours a day, on 6 different channels, in three different languages: Arabic, Farsi, and Turkish. SAT-7 programming is produced by Middle Easterners, for Middle Easterners.

Rogers says, “We broadcast who we are. We share Christ and Christianity. We talk about human rights, like liberty and respect for property, respect for religious worship for all people. And we try to reinforce values of peace or dealing with conflict in a different way other than violence.

Role of the Bible Grows Following ISIS Attacks in Northern Iraq
October 23, 2014

People of all religious backgrounds and ages are eager to receive Bibles in Kurdistan.

In Iraq’s northern areas, where Islamic State (ISIS) militants have extended their brutal campaign to establish a caliphate, coveted copies of the Bible are playing a key role in the lives of displaced people from a myriad of religious backgrounds.

Supply is limited – some Bibles are available locally while others need to be shipped in – but the demand appears to be endless, especially among refugees and internally displaced peoples.

“Every time we try to open a box or container to distribute Bibles, we get ‘attacked’ by people in their eagerness to get a copy,” the director of a locally-based ministry said. “We have never had a problem giving them away.”

Nominal members of historic churches are seeking the Bible, as are Yazidis and Sunni and Shia Muslims. Yazidis practice a blend of Christian, Islamic and Zoroastrian rituals.

“The religious nature of the region makes faith matters of great interest and an important part of their lives, and the search for the truth has become one of the priorities of the Muslims,” he said, adding that ISIS militants’ religiously motivated murders of civilians have provided a golden opportunity to present the “loving and peaceful Christ.”

The native ministry, which Christian Aid Mission assists, provides Bibles along with material aid, such as food and blankets. While meeting their immediate needs is crucial, the knowledge of God found in the Bible provides refugees a more enduring benefit, said Christian Aid Mission’s Middle East director.

Because of restrictions by countries in the Middle East to print and distribute Bibles, there is a continual need to purchase Bibles, he added. Whole Bibles in Arabic, Aramaic and Kurdish languages are sought, as well as children’s versions of the same. Also needed are New Testaments in Kurdish, Sorani, and Bahdinani languages. The ministry also distributes Christian literature as well as illustrated Bible stories for all ages, designed for Muslims who know nothing about Jesus.

The books of illustrated Bible stories and the children's Bible cost $5 each. A whole Bible costs $4, with hardcover copies going for $5 to $8. New Testaments printed locally cost $2.

“For the hundreds of thousands of refugees in the tents in the fields everywhere, in the mountains and the Kurdistan area, it’s the right time for us to give Bibles.” the Iraqi ministry director said. “I strongly believe God’s hand is in this situation, and God brought all these people to us and wants us to act as fast as we can.”

To help indigenous missionaries to meet needs, you may contribute online using the form below, or call 434-977-5650. If you prefer to mail your gift, please mail to Christian Aid Mission, P.O. Box 9037, Charlottesville, VA 22906. Please use Gift Code: 444SHM. Thank you!

Read more at:


Fear was present, faith was stronger

Iran is #9 on the Open Doors World Watch List, a list of the 50 worst persecutors of Christians. Seeking out God or spreading the gospel in Iran can lead to imprisonment or other serious consequences. And though fear was present, a stranger slipped a note to a young Iranian woman on the bus. This note explained to the woman what the Gospel was and how she could accept Christ.

The Iranian woman we’ll call “Sara” disregarded the note for eight years, until a TV channel caught her eye. SAT-7, a Christian satellite television ministry to the Middle East and North Africa, reminded her of the note she received many years ago.

Compelled, she called the phone number displayed on the screen and was able to receive information from a SAT-7 counselor. She learned more about the Gospel and how to connect with Christians near her. Sara was even blessed to find a house church nearby to attend.

In Sara’s case, she is quite fortunate to have found a house church. Small groups usually meet together in private, but they’re hard to find and slow to grow due to fears of raids and imprisonment.

Often those who seek out fellowship with other Christians cannot attend church since churches have even been pressured to ban Farsi-speaking Christians from services. Identification is even required before entering.

With SAT-7 PARS, God has provided a way for Farsi-speaking Christians to learn more about Him and His Word. The ministry is broadcasted in Iran, Afghanistan, and Tajikistan, offering engaging and biblically-sound programming options that help to present Christ and strengthen those with Christian faith.

SAT-7 PARS also offers programs to inspire individual Christians as well as programs for children who can watch from the safety of their own homes. 
It is providing much-needed answers to life’s greatest questions each and every day for people who cannot learn biblical truths in almost any other way.

SAT-7 is completely donor-funded. If you would like to make a donation, click here. Your gift of $10 supports 10 viewers for 1 year!

Pray that the Farsi-speaking Christians would find ways to connect with other Christians and that they would grow in their faith.


Good news regarding Ebola
CRU (Campus Crusade for Christ)

First door of opportunity is a campaign called “Ebola kills, Jesus heals.” This campaign is an ongoing community effort to stop the spread of the virus using two primary approaches:

Public Service Training — The usage of PowerPoint presentations and video clips of the virus with emphasis on the cause, how it kills and preventive measures. The PowerPoint presentation transitions from the negative effect “Ebola kills” to the gospel message “Jesus heals,” providing the audience the opportunity to make decisions for Christ. This campaign started on the 7th of August and ended on the 12th due to the imposition of a night curfew. However, 266 people watched the presentation, and 20 prayed to receive the gift of salvation!

Second door of opportunity: Community Task Force Training — Every community has set up a task force to fight against the spread of the virus. Two communities invited us to help train their task force with focus on the history of Ebola, the cause, preventive measures, contact tracing, the usage of the Personal Protection Equipment (PPE), and the gospel presentation. This training brought together 110 participants. Thirty-two persons made decisions for Christ.

The third Door of Opportunity provides students the ability to help with ongoing distribution of medical and food supplies in several places, including hospitals with Ebola Treatment Units (ETUs), quarantined communities, and disabled communities. The humanitarian aid supplied was provided by our major donor, GAiN International, based in Plano, Texas, USA.

The fourth door of opportunity involves the “In Touch Messenger.” This device contains the New Testament Bible and prerecorded inspirational messages by Rev. Charles Stanley. Our primary focus is to give each device to an Ebola survivor to help him or her understand that if no one will accept them as they get reintegrated into communities, Jesus will. On the 7th of October, 21 Ebola survivors were discharged from Ebola Treatment Unit at E.L.W.A. Each received a copy of the device.

It is so unfortunate that there is not much publicity regarding Ebola survivors being discharged from ETUs across the country. There are more than 500 confirmed cases in which infected people have survived. It is even more frustrating that few resources exist to help survivors rejoin their communities after losing almost everything during their misfortune. As students make follow-up visits in communities where survivors have returned, it is so disheartening to note that some return to empty homes with no mattress, food, clothes, or other basic necessities.

Fortunately, the students have begun distributing humanitarian aid to survivors, and include the In Touch Messenger. By meeting the physical and spiritual needs of Ebola victims, and by equipping communities to confront the Ebola crisis, the name of Christ is shining brightly in the darkness.

Note: to save you time since the day for the persecuted church is so near, the articles listed above are in their entirety unless otherwise noted. Please consider following a link and donating to a worthy cause that will help reach people for Jesus or encourage the saints in the midst of war, disease or persecution.

Wednesday, October 29, 2014

The Problem of Evil and Suffering and the Goodness of God

Bart Ehrman is an atheist author who states he was a “devout and committed Christian.” He denied this faith because he couldn’t reconcile evil and suffering with God’s goodness. 

He states that for most of his life he was a Christian. While in High School, Bart attended a Youth for Christ club and had what he called a born again experience. Later, Ehrman went to what he called a fundamentalist Bible college (Moody Bible Institute) to study for the ministry. 

Bart claimed he could recite whole books of the New Testament from memory. He finished college at Wheaton then off to Princeton for an Master's in Divinity and a Phd in New Testament studies. After having served as a youth pastor, Bart stated that he began to lose his faith. Now, he no longer attends church, no longer believes or even considers himself a Christian. 

But what happened was that Bart first started questioning the Bible’s authority and inerrancy. To him, it was “a very human book with all the marks of having come from human hands: discrepancies, contradictions, errors and different perspectives” to use his words. 

Ehrman claims he remained a committed Christian even as he came to believe some parts of the Bible were untrue. He wishes for us to believe that his lack of faith in Scriprure had nothing to do with his loss of faith in God. 

What I just described was Randy Alcorn’s summary of Bart Ehrman’s life and words. Alcorn adds this warning. When we doubt God’s Word “we replace it with trust in our own feelings, opinions and preferences, or those of our friends and teachers – all of which can drift with popular culture, including academic culture.” 

He cautions that the problem of evil and suffering must be approached with a Christian worldview that’s rooted in the reliability of the Bible as God’s Word. 

“If we vacillate on that conviction, we will first reinterpret the Bible, then outright reject it.” (If God Is Good, 95-97)

C.S. Lewis, The Problem of Pain 

While he was an atheist , Lewis observed the pain and suffering that is afflicted through things like “crime, war, disease and terror, with just sufficient happiness interposed to give them, while it lasts, an agonized apprehension of losing it, and when it is lost, the poignant misery of remembering . . . If you ask me to believe that this is the work of a benevolent and omnipotent Spirit, I reply that all the evidence points in the opposite direction. Either there is no spirit behind the universe, or else a spirit indifferent to good and evil or else an evil spirit” (The Problem of Pain, 13, 15). 

Jerry Sittser lost his four year old daughter, Diana Jane, in a car accident. That accident also took the lives of his wife Lynda and his mother Grace. He described their deaths as “sudden and brutal” but also one that set him on a spiritual journey. Jerry wrote a book called When God Doesn’t Answer Your Prayer. In it, he states, “we often turn to God at our most vulnerable moments, when all seems lost unless God steps in. Why does God remain distant, silent and hard when we call on him? If God doesn’t respond when we need him most, then why pray at all?” (When God Doesn’t Answer Your Prayer, 11)

When that accident happened, the family was all together. 3 died and 4 survived. Jerry described the accident scene as apocalyptic, like out of a disaster film. It took nearly an hour for an emergency vehicle to arrive and another hour for it to get to the hospital. Jerry prayed for his 3 traumatized children as they headed to the hospital together but then it occurred to him, “Why are you praying, Jerry? You prayed for Diana Jane’s protection the morning of the accident and look what happened . . . can you take prayer seriously, ever again?” (When God Doesn’t Answer Your Prayer, 17-18). 

When his mom was stricken with cancer, C.S. Lewis was just nine years old. The doctor performed surgery right there in their home. Fifty years later, he could still vividly describe the scene, the smells, the sounds. He prayed desperately for her healing. It was all in vain, it would seem. The impact of her death on his young life, on his father’s character, on his home, his world, led Lewis to reject Christianity (many of you know that he regained it years later to become one of the great defenders and promoters of Christianity). (When God Doesn’t Answer Your Prayer, 23 – with exception of parenthesis). 

Gordon MacDonald ministered at Ground Zero in the days after the 9-11 terrorist attacks in 2001. He said the following: “In all my years of Christian ministry, I never felt more alive . . . as much as I love preaching the Bible . . . being on that street, giving cold water to workmen, praying and weeping with them, listening to their stories was the closest I ever felt to God. Even though it sounds melodramatic, I kept finding myself saying, ‘This is the place where Jesus most wants to be.’” (When God Doesn’t Answer Your Prayer, 45-46). 

Our nation was shocked and horrified at the Colombine High School shooting that left so many dead. Darrell Scott lost his daughter Rachel on that evil day. When asked what we should do to prepare for evil and suffering, without hesitation, Darrell Scott replied, “Become a student of God’s Word.” 

His view of God was already firmly established when his daughter was cruelly ripped from his life. By faith, he believed, that God had a purpose. This enabled Darrell to move ahead, despite the pain, trusting in God instead of resenting him (If God is Good, 38). 

Before preaching this sermon, I spent two weeks on the origin of evil, suffering and sin. In the heart of Lucifer (the Devil/Satan), is where it all began. 

This adversary of ours and God’s, his purpose is to get us to believe that: 1) God doesn’t exist; 2) if God exists, he doesn’t care about you; 3) your life is meaningless, hopeless; and 4) you would be better off dead

Those are his lies. – To get through suffering and evil, we must fight his lies with God’s truths

Let me give you a couple of examples of that: 

Gianna Jessen never should have been born, humanly speaking. Her mom sought to abort her but the abortion failed. She was born alive. It was a saline abortion. As a result, “the lack of oxygen to my brain is what caused my gift of cerebral palsy.” Did you hear that? She didn’t see God just permitting or using her suffering. She sees her cerebral palsy as a gift from God’s hand (If God is Good, 40). 

As Lt. Col Brian Birdwell recounts it, “an 80 ton 757 came through at 530 miles an hour with 3,000 pounds of jet fuel and I’m still here and the plane isn’t,” and he adds, “You don’t survive that because the Army made you tough. You survive it because the Lord’s got something else in mind for you.” 

Lt. Birdwell was working at the Pentagon on Sept. 11, 2001. The nose of the wrecked plan was mere yards away from where he lay burning and bleeding. Nearly 60% of his body was blistered and his lungs were seared. He prayed as he expected to see Jesus that day but he didn’t. Six days later, he said a final goodbye to his 12 year old son, but again, he defied the odds and lived. Almost 100 days followed of treatments, physical therapy, thirty-nine surgeries (including facial reconstruction). During those early days, a pastor told him, “God never wastes our pain.” 

Birdwell dismissed his words at the time but in 2002, he was asked to visit and encouraged a badly burned young man. That experience led to more of the same and his wife and he began a ministry to critical burn survivors, “helping them see beyond their pain to eternal spiritual realities” (If God is Good, 42-43). 

Randy Alcorn, in his book, If God is Good: Faith in the Midst of Suffering and Evil, gives some benefits of suffering. One of them is the following: 

Suffering helps us grow and mature

Mountain climbers could be dropped by helicopter on the summit. But their purpose is conquest not efficiency. Sure they wish to reach the top but to do so the hard way by testing their resolve and character.

Alcorn stated that God could have created scientists, mathematicians, athletes and musicians but he didn’t. He created lives that could grow and by a long process achieve those roles. “We learn to excel by handling failure.” Only in cultivating discipline, endurance and patience do we find satisfaction and reward (If God is Good, 392-3). 

1. God has a very good reason for not giving us that very good thing for which we asked

(sometimes we get what He is up to but often it is by faith we believe it is for the good) 

The Apostle Paul experienced all kinds of hardships and persecutions in his life that included beatings/whippings, shipwrecks, imprisonments and even a stoning that even his associates thought had killed him.  In his second letter to the Corinthians, Paul shares a "thorn in the flesh" that he asked God over and over again to heal.  The Lord refused to do so and here Paul explains why.

2 Corinthians 12:7-10 (NIV)

. . . because of these surpassingly great revelations. Therefore, in order to keep me from becoming conceited, I was given a thorn in my flesh, a messenger of Satan, to torment me.  Three times I pleaded with the Lord to take it away from me.  But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me. 1 That is why, for Christ’s sake, I delight in weaknesses, in insults, in hardships, in persecutions, in difficulties. For when I am weak, then I am strong.

2. God never wastes our pain – we understand others’ pain much better, having gone through before what they are currently experiencing

Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of compassion and the God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our troubles, so that we can comfort those in any trouble with the comfort we ourselves receive from God. 2 Cor. 1:3-4 (NIV) 

One paraphrase puts it this way:

All praise to the God and Father of our Master, Jesus the Messiah! Father of all mercy! God of all healing counsel! He comes alongside us when we go through hard times, and before you know it, he brings us alongside someone else who is going through hard times so that we can be there for that person just as God was there for us. The Message

3. As for persecution, Jesus never promised us peace with the world but just the opposite. However, the persecuted church has hope and joy because they don’t expect what Jesus never promised but they cling on to the hope of heaven and their mission: to see people come to Jesus

a. it helps to recognize that Jesus promised us opposition from the world

If the world hate you, ye know that it hated me before it hated you. If you were of the world, the world would love his own: but because you are not of the world, but I have chosen you out of the world, therefore the world hates you. Remember the word that I said unto you, The servant is not greater than his lord. If they have persecuted me, they will also persecute you; if they have kept my saying, they will keep yours also. John 15:18-20

Love not the world, neither the things that are in the world. If any man loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him. 1 Jn. 2:15

b. it helps us to see that Jesus’ example was to forgive and allow God the Father to judge the wrongdoer

Then Jesus said, “Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they do.” And they divided His garments and cast lots. Lk. 23:34 (NKJV)

Stephen grasped this example and followed it: 

And they stoned Stephen as he was calling on God and saying, “Lord Jesus, receive my spirit.” Then he knelt down and cried out with a loud voice, “Lord, do not charge them with this sin.” And when he had said this, he died. Acts 7:59-60 (NKJV – with alt. ending for “he fell asleep”)

In Romans 12, Paul gives this advice from the Lord:
Vengeance is mine, says the Lord, I will repay

- Leave that judgment up to God

c. It helps us to remember that Jesus said we should take up our cross and follow Him. 

(The Apostles before the Sanhedrin/Jewish rulers)
 . . . when they had called for the apostles and beaten them, they commanded that they should not speak in the name of Jesus, and let them go.  So they departed from the presence of the council, rejoicing that they were counted worthy to suffer shame for His name. And daily in the temple, and in every house, they did not cease teaching and preaching Jesus as the Christ. Acts 5:40-42 NKJV

d. It helps us to remember that we are not of this world, that He is preparing a place for us and that our reward and rest wait for us there

If you were of the world, the world would love his own: but because you are not of the world, but I have chosen you out of the world, therefore the world hates you. Jn. 15:19 

“Let not your hearts be troubled. Believe in God; believe also in me. In my Father's house are many rooms. If it were not so, would I have told you that I go to prepare a place for you? And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again and will take you to myself, that where I am you may be also. Jn. 14:1-3 (ESV)

e. It helps us to remember that God is the Judge of all the Earth and He will have the final say (Reward for the faithful and punishment for the guilty)

It is a righteous thing with God to repay with tribulation those who trouble you, and to give you who are troubled rest with us when the Lord Jesus is revealed from heaven with His mighty angels, in flaming fire taking vengeance on those who do not know God, and on those who do not obey the gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ. These shall be punished with everlasting destruction from the presence of the Lord and from the glory of His power, when He comes, in that Day, to be glorified in His saints and to be admired among all those who believe, because our testimony among you was believed. Therefore we also pray always for you that our God would count you worthy of this calling, and fulfill all the good pleasure of His goodness and the work of faith with power, that the name of our Lord Jesus Christ may be glorified in you, and you in Him, according to the grace of our God and the Lord Jesus Christ.  2 Thess. 1:6-12 (NKJV)

2 Peter 3:9 – the Apostle Peter reminds us that “the Lord is not slack concerning His promise as some men count slackness but is longsuffering toward us, not willing that any should perish but that all should come to repentance.

What is the greater good, that God destroy your enemy or make him a child of God, forgiven, transformed and doing God’s work instead of the Devil’s?

Do you believe in the goodness of God despite what happens around you? 

Do tragedies and evil cause you to question God’s existence?

Question His goodness? 

Question His care of you? 

Or do they cause you to draw nearer to Him, though you don’t understand?

Faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things unseen -- Heb. 11:1

It was through faith in the promises of God that our predecessors made it through difficulties. 

Will you cling to God’s promises? 

The Bible’s declarations of God’s goodness? 

Or will you turn away because God didn’t do what you wanted, when you wanted – even if what you wanted seemed to be a real good thing? 

If you turn from Him, then you aren’t really trusting Him.

However, if, with tear-stained faces, we run to Him and hold onto Him, we may not find out the whys and wherefores but we will find peace. And someday it will all be clear. 

Works Cited:

Randy Alcorn, If God is Good: Faith in the Midst of Suffering and Evil (Colorado Springs, CO: Multnomah Books, 2009). 

C.S. Lewis, The Problem of Pain (New York, NY: Macmillan Publishing, Twenty-first Printing, 1978). 

Jerry Sittser, When God Doesn’t Answer Your Prayer (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 2003). 

Unless otherwise indicated, all scripture taken from the New King James Version. Copyright 1982 by Thomas Nelson, Inc. Used by permission. All rights reserved.

English Standard Version (ESV)
The Holy Bible, English Standard Version Copyright © 2001 by Crossway Bibles, a division of Good News Publishers.

The Message (MSG)
Copyright © 1993, 1994, 1995, 1996, 2000, 2001, 2002 by Eugene H. Peterson

New International Version (NIV)
Holy Bible, New International Version®, NIV® Copyright © 1973, 1978, 1984, 2011 by Biblica, Inc.® Used by permission. All rights reserved worldwide.

Tuesday, October 28, 2014

God Had a Churchill Too: the Impact of C.S. Lewis on Britain First then the World

Many people content themselves to read just one biography of a great man or woman. Yet it is in devouring more than one that one comes to realize that a biographer has all kinds of choices to make when writing his or her perspective on the life and influence of any famous person. There are a million details, some everyone agrees is important, and, even in those, the writer must decide on what to emphasize, what to summarize and how to weave the picture together. Often the starting point varies and, believe it or not, the ending point does as well as great people’s legacies outlive the year etched on the right hand of their tombstone.

I believe Paul McCusker does a great job with his portrait of C.S. Lewis. Something he chooses to do is to give background information on the BBC, what life was like in Britain during the Second World War as well as the expected background story to Lewis’ life that included his upbringing, early trauma, his service in the World War I and the relationships that he had both good and bad. These additional items take up space so a writer needs to feel passionately about the need to bring them out, especially within a book that is just shy of 200 pages.

McCusker covers many facets of Lewis’ life and career well. I don’t think you would come away from reading it like you were robbed for the sake of space or bored to tears with too much detail. As described by the author, Lewis was “one of the foremost writers and Christian apologists of the twentieth century.” Apparently not full of himself, “Jack” once stated that he expected to be the kind of author that people might read and soon forget what they read. He doubted that his royalties would last past a few years. C.S. Lewis & Mere Christianity demonstrates how wrong he was on that count.

When Britain needed a voice of reassurance and calm; one that would help them to see God in the fog of war, sacrifice and misery, they got one in C.S. Lewis. World War II and Britain’s part in it became the platform from which Lewis made his mark on Britain and eventually the world. C.S. Lewis & Mere Christianity: The Crisis That Created a Classic tells the story of how Lewis got there, the opportunities and obstacles he faced and what happened after in a clear and engaging way. If you’re going to read about C.S. Lewis, this is a good place to start or to continue your journey.

I received this complimentary copy in exchange for an honest review from Tyndale House Publishers

Monday, October 20, 2014

For the Pastors Out There, Especially the Pastors of Small Churches and Struggling Ministries: Thank You So Much and I Cannot Wait to See Your Reward in Heaven

I want to start off by saying this is NOT a large church bashing post. The purpose for me writing this is NOT to beat upon mega-church pastors. However, it is not oriented toward them since I am a small church pastor and don't have the experience to speak to the unique challenges and concerns of a mega-ministry.

Having said that, I believe that there are a LOT of pastors who serve small to moderate size congregations. These individuals also work hard and stick it out through some difficult circumstances. Their pay isn't great and their savings toward retirement is mediocre at best. They may have as many critics as they have fans. More than likely, they are the pastor, the secretary, perhaps even the janitor or security guard.  In other words, they wear many hats. A good number of them are bi-vocational.  

And they love their churches and they love their people.  God has called them and they have answered.  These shepherds had dreams, and if they have been around as long as I have, they have seen these dreams go through a serious reality check.  And that is depressing, to be honest. Not every pastor has been designed by God to be a large church pastor.  Yet everyone who has been called and has been faithful should "stay in Ephesus."  Don't abandon ship because the ship you are on seems akin to a paddle boat compared to those radio preachers' churches. 

Pastor, I don't know where you are in your ministry.  Maybe you have thought of quitting this ministry or even the ministry entirely. You could be wondering about your calling; if you somehow misunderstood and should instead be selling insurance, real estate, teaching in a school or plying a trade.  Can I give you a suggestion? Stop it. 

Don't let the obstacles you face cloud your mind.  Resist the urge to give in or to give up.  Go back to when you felt the call of God. Didn't it seem clear back then?  

What has happened since then?  Did you do something disqualifying?  Have you betrayed trust in a major way?  Don't see yourself as a failure because you are not meeting some metrics that you set for yourself a decade or more ago. Who is the one who alone can rightly evaluate your ministry?  Isn't it the Lord, whom you serve?

October is Pastor Appreciation Month (now often called Clergy Appreciation Month).  I used to dislike it.  The reminders were like being told that it was your birthday and everyone, or nearly everyone, had forgotten. There have been a few (and some of those were really nice) exceptions but most of you small church pastors know of what I am saying.  You also know that many of your congregants listen to Christian radio and they are hearing those very same reminders that you are hearing but . . . 

But you don't have to be that way.  Shrug it off.  We labor for the Lord and the reward that is eternal.  May I suggest you turn it into something positive? 

Being a pastor, you know what it is like, so take your lemons and make some fine lemonade and serve it up to your fellow ministers. Tell your mentor how much you appreciate the investment he has made in your life.  Your fellow servants in your community and among your clergy friends, they need encouragement too.  Genuine words of appreciation are like a healing balm so spread the cheer. 

Make Pastor Appreciation Month not about you but about Him and a great opportunity to tell other laborers that their labor is not in vain in the Lord and how much you thank God for their service, friendship and sacrifice.  Remind them of their eternal reward. And I pray, as the years go on, that you will also find others doing the same for you.  

And if no one tells you this, pastor, let me tell you:

1) you are not forgotten
2) you are being prayed for
3) you are a blessing to others, whether they tell you or not
4) you have reasons to rejoice
5) and probably, if you focus on the blessings, you can recall some very encouraging comments that have come your way this month

Suggestion: save encouraging cards and notes for the down times and read them then.  If you got more positive feedback from a sermon, write that on the top of your sermon notes before you file it away. When people give you a gift that had nothing to do with a birthday or anniversary, write it down somewhere, perhaps even in an encouragement journal. Remember, we are not to keep a record of wrongs but God doesn't discourage a record of rights.  


Let me pray for you:  

Father God, I thank you for the faithful pastors who minister without much notice or fanfare.  I pray especially for the ones hurting deeply.  Perhaps like I did for so many years, they see this month as reinforcing how insignificant they feel. Too often, ministers compare themselves to one another and this leads to disrespect from one direction and a feeling of being judged from the other.  Let us not find our worth in numbers who attend, get baptized or saved, especially when contrasted with others' numbers. You, O Lord, are our judge and one day You will evaluate based on one metric: faithfulness.  Lord, help us to continue to be faithful, planting seeds, watering them and trusting you for the increase.  

In Christ's Name, Amen.  

Here's a great offer at an unbelievable price (on the Kindle): 

Answers to Pastors' Faqs  
By Howard F. Sugden and Warren W. Wiersbe

Pulled from decades of pastoral experience, Wiersbe and Sugden provide answers that you won't find in seminaries—answers that both new and experienced pastors need to know to survive and thrive in ministry.

In honor of Pastor Appreciation Month...Only $0.99!
On Vyrso (logos) too for the same price

It's Your Call: What Are You Doing Here? Free
20 Titles on Leadership from Zondervan for $2.99 each on Vyrso
good throughout October

For those pastors who cannot afford expensive sermon prep software or a big commentary library, try building a Kindle library of great commentaries when they are on sale. I have repeatedly used about three commentaries on my Kindle that I got for a song! Believe me, I know what it is like to build your library out of your own pocket.  And you don't need a Kindle device to do this (there are apps for smartphones and for your personal computer).  Here are a few current deals:

Genesis-Leviticus (The Expositor's Bible Commentary) $7.99

Daniel-Malachi (The Expositor's Bible Commentary) $7.99

Romans-Galatians: 11 (The Expositor's Bible Commentary) for $7.99.  That is Romans, 1 and 2 Corinthians and Galatians.  

The Expository Bible Commentary is a multi-set commentary that is great at helping you dig deeply into God's Word.  These deals represent saving over $30 per volume.  


For non-clergy members:
If you are reading this and you are not a clergy member but would like to appreciate your pastor in some tangible way, here is a resource for you
- if you are a little late, you could surprise your pastor all the more or be more prepared for next year.

Ministering to Your Pastor by John Piper