Let us rejoice!

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Wonderful news from Open Doors UK & Ireland:

IMPRISONED CANADIAN CHURCH LEADER FREED

Amid escalating rhetoric between leaders in North Korea and the United States, there is good news for imprisoned Canadian-Korean church leader Heyun Soo Lim, who was released ‘on sick bail’ according to a North Korean state news agency yesterday.

As head pastor at the Light Presbyterian Church in Toronto, Lim had visited North Korea more than 100 times to distribute humanitarian aid. His church lost contact with him in January 2015. In February that same year, it transpired that he’d been detained. In December 2015, he was convicted of numerous charges, including an attempt to overthrow the government.

His release this week came on 9 August, one day after a special envoy of the Canadian Prime Minister, Justin Trudeau, had arrived in Pyongyang.

Meanwhile, three Korean-Americans are detained in North Korea, two of whom taught at the Pyongyang University of Science and Technology: Tony Kim and Kim Hak-song. A third, Kim Dong Chul, a South Korean-born businessman and naturalised US citizen, is serving a sentence of 10 years’ hard labour for ‘espionage’.

PLEASE PRAY:

  • Give thanks that Pastor Lim is now free; pray that he will make a full recovery
  • For God’s courage to strengthen the remaining prisoners, and for a swift release for them
  • For justice and mercy from the North Korean government to the tens of thousands of Christians in labour camps.

For more details about Pastor Lim’s release announced on 9 August 2017, click here.

To view news reports on the pastor’s sentencing in December 2015, click here and here.

Comfort and assurance from our LORD

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How are you feeling today, my friends? Know with certainty in your heart that you are precious in God’s sight.  There might be a variety of challenges and troubles in our lives but let us be comforted by the words of our LORD Jesus:

“Do not let your hearts be troubled.  Trust in God; trust also in me.  In my Father’s house are many rooms; if it were not so, I would have told you.  I am going there to prepare a place for you.  And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come back and take you to be with me that you also may be where I am.  You know the way to the place where I am going.” – John 14: 1 – 4

“Jesus answered, ‘I am the way and the truth and the life.  No one comes to the Father except through me.” – John 14: 6

Should we doubt whether we can ask God for help, whatever the situation, here’s a wonderful reminder…

“You may ask me for anything in my name, and I will do it.” – John 14: 14

Wow.  It’s good to revisit such a promise from our LORD Jesus every now and then.  Of course it goes without saying that we should submit to His wisdom, will and timing, even as we ask for help.

The LORD Jesus also assures all believers that He will never leave us as orphans, and that at all times, we will not only have Abba Father in Heaven not also the Holy Spirit, our Comforter, Counselor, Encourager and the Spirit of Truth…

“If you love me, you will obey what I command.  And I will ask the Father, and He will give you another Counselor to be with you forever – the Spirit of truth.  The world cannot accept Him, because it neither sees Him nor knows Him.  But you know Him, for He lives with you and will be in you.  I will not leave you as orphans; I will come to you…Whoever has my commands and obeys them, he is the one who loves me.  He who loves me will be loved by my Father, and I too will give him and show myself to him.” – John 14: 15 – 18 & 21

So at this point, let us pray for God’s wisdom and grace to continue to shine for Him, wherever He has planted us around the world.

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Let us especially remember our brothers and sisters in the Persecuted Church. May the Holy Spirit lead you so you will know which specific country or countries to pray for. It doesn’t have to be a country in the news right now.  As the Holy Spirit leads, simply obey and spend some time praying for persecuted Christians in the land revealed to you.  Let us stand in the gap for God’s love, comfort, peace and grace to envelop our fellow believers around the world – to strengthen them so that they can continue to be powerful witnesses and give Him all the glory.  Let’s also pray for their persecutors.  Pray that the scales will be removed from their eyes, that they will no longer wander in spiritual blindness but will finally see the Truth.  Pray for barriers to be removed from their hearts, that their hearts will be softened to be fertile soil that is ready to receive seeds of the Good News.  May the Holy Spirit pierce each heart and cause powerful personal encounters so that all these “Sauls” will become “Pauls” soon.  In Jesus’ mighty name, we pray.  Amen.

Will He find faith on the earth?

While major incidents in the west make it to the news, such as the heart-wrenching Grenfell Tower fire in London (reminiscent of the 1970s film “The Towering Inferno”), causing global awareness and concern, a host of other disasters (some equally or even more severe) are also happening all over the world.  These other incidents don’t receive the same media coverage.  Sometimes it’s censorship but most times it’s just due to a lack of media and public interest.

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Whatever the reality, while some people and incidents mean almost nothing to us, they mean the whole world to Abba Father.  He sees everything.  He sees the suffering.  He sees the pain.  One life lost is just as precious as the next.  And He is a God of justice and His ears are attentive to our cries for mercy.  Like the persistent widow in Luke 18, we should never stop asking, petitioning and praying, for God is watching over us…

“And will not God bring about justice for His chosen ones, who cry out to Him day and night? Will He keep putting them off? I tell you, He will see that they get justice, and quickly.  However, when the Son of Man comes, will He find faith on the earth?” (Luke 18: 7 & 8)

May our faith never waver.  And may we be found faithful when our LORD Jesus returns.

Peace I leave with you

I am not a war correspondent. Neither am I a journalist covering terror attacks or disasters. Whether it is the loss of lives in floods across Sri Lanka or terror attacks in Manchester, Minya, Kabul or London, every one of them is tragic.  What shouldn’t have happened, happened. Amidst all the pain, loss, grief, fear, confusion and trauma, wherever we are in the world, we know the first thing we can and must do – run to Abba Father and His word.

Once again, let us be comforted, strengthened and led by the Holy Spirit and the scriptures, as we continue to pray and intercede:

“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

“So do not fear, for I am with you; do not be dismayed, for I am your God, I will strengthen you and help you; I will uphold you with my righteous right hand.” – Isaiah 41: 10

The wisdom, love and truth that Jesus presents to the world are hard-to-stomach, unique and radical…

“The stone the builders rejected has become the capstone…” – Psalm 118: 22

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

“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

The Holy Spirit and scripture keep us on track…

“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

“But the Counselor, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, will teach you all things and will remind you of everything I have said to you.” – John 14: 26

“But the seed on good soil stands for those with a noble and good heart, who hear the word, retain it, and by persevering produce a crop.” – Luke 8: 15

Where there is violence, Jesus offers peace. Where there is pain and suffering, Jesus offers comfort. Where there is hatred, Jesus offers unconditional love and reconciliation. Jesus is the answer.  For God is love.

 

 

God is still in control

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Yes, it has happened again.  This time to families, especially young people and children.

The powerful home-made bomb that went off at the Ariana Grande concert in Manchester, England, on 22 May 2017 killed 22 people and injured about 60 others.  All this even while the terror attack in London on 22 March 2017 remains fresh in one’s memory.

Then two days later, on 24 May 2017, two bombs went off in Jakarta, Indonesia, killing five people, including three policemen.  And on 25 May 2017, a letter bomb went off in Athens, injuring former prime minister of Greece, Lucas Papademos. Then on 26 May 2017, gunmen opened fire on a bus carrying Coptic Christians in Minya, Egypt, with children among the at least 28 people massacred and dozens injured.  It just doesn’t stop.

Our world is moving and changing at an incredible speed.  It is getting more and more dangerous by the day, by the minute, by the second.  Many lives have been lost.  Many lives have been changed forever.

We ask ourselves: how could anyone so cold-bloodedly mastermind and execute such heinous crimes, causing injury and the loss of so many innocent lives? Then we remember all the conflicts and wars occurring around the world.  We also remember the persecuted church – Christians across the globe who are persecuted for being faithful followers of our LORD Jesus.

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“Because of the increase of wickedness, the love of most will grow cold…” (Matthew 24: 12)

O Father in heaven, we live in troubled times.  With each day, there is an increase of wickedness and godlessness, and the love of many is growing cold.  But we know that “he who stands firm to the end will be saved”.  We know You, O LORD, lift up those who are bowed down, and You, O LORD, love the righteous.  You, O LORD, watch over the alien and sustain the fatherless and the widow.  And You, O LORD, frustrate the ways of the wicked. We know that our LORD Jesus has already conquered sin, death and Satan on the cross.  So even if things don’t seem to make sense right now, we will continue to trust in You.  Our faith shall not waver.  O Holy Spirit, strengthen us.  Despite these confusing and uncertain times, we know that You, O God, are still in control.  We know that nothing is impossible with You.  We know that You, O LORD, are able to use even all the ugly bits to turn things around for good.  We know that in all things, You, O God, work for the good of those who love You, who have been called according to Your purpose.  May we also sense the times we are currently living in, and with great urgency share the Good News to all those around us, for we do not know who will be taken away from us tomorrow.  O LORD Jesus, lead and guide us.  We pray for Your grace to live purposeful lives during our own time here on earth.  Let us also stand with our brothers and sisters in the persecuted church around the world and always remember them in our prayers.  O Sovereign LORD, Your ways and thoughts are higher.  We believe that everything remains part of Your Big Divine Plan to reveal Your glory to all the nations, so that You may in turn receive all the glory You alone deserve from all the nations.  Amen.

Note:

Nun, Nuun (Arabic letter)

Untitled-3The fourteenth letter of the Arabic alphabet, nun (nuun), equivalent to the Hebrew  or Phoenician nun. The letter in all three alphabets is derived from a pictogram of a fish or serpent.

Of some significance of late because of its use by the militant Jihadist group ISIS (Islamic State of Iraq and Syria)  in Iraq.  The nun stands in for “Nasara,” or “Nazarene”, and is at the time of this writing being used to mark the homes of Christians in Mosul, Iraq.  In a mimicry of  the relatively tolerant practices of the Ottoman Caliphate, Christians whose homes have been marked have been given an ultimatum to convert, pay a steep ‘tax’ or flee.

The symbol has been taken up by Western Christians in solidarity with fellow Iraqi Christians.

Taize: Nothing Can Trouble

Try this first thing in the morning…

Find a quiet spot.  Sit upright.  Be still.  Inhale deeply.  Exhale.  Repeat several times.  Quieten your heart before the LORD.  Then listen to this simple yet powerful song from the Taize community in France:

 

Sing along with it.  Sing it acapella.

Here is an instrumental version of the song:

 

Whether you sing it or simply listen to it being sung, you will sense the comforting presence of the LORD in the silence.  Sing and be blessed.

 

 Taize: Nothing Can Trouble

Nothing can trouble

Nothing can frighten

Those who seek God

Shall never go wanting

Nothing can trouble

Nothing can frighten

God alone fills us

God is watching over His lambs and sheep

“Praise the LORD.  How good it is to sing praises to our God,

how pleasant and fitting to praise Him!”

(Psalm 147: 1)

And how wonderful it is to hear from our brothers and sisters in Christ who are persevering in the faith in the midst of trials, still encouraging and spurring one another on in the Christian journey every moment, every day.  We remind ourselves that our Abba Father in heaven sees and knows everything.  He is watching over all His precious lambs and sheep around the world…

“For the eyes of the LORD range throughout the earth to strengthen those whose hearts are fully committed to Him…” (2 Chronicles 15: 4)

Nature, Spring, Animal, Sheep, Wool

“For the LORD watches over the way of the righteous,

but the way of the wicked will perish.” (Psalm 1: 6)

“He upholds the cause of the oppressed

and gives food to the hungry.

The LORD sets prisoners free,

the LORD gives sight to the blind,

the LORD lifts up those who are bowed down,

the LORD loves the righteous.

The LORD watches over the alien

and sustains the fatherless and the widow,

but He frustrates the ways of the wicked.”

(Psalm 146: 7 – 9)

“Though the LORD is on high, He looks upon the lowly,

but the proud He knows from afar.

Though I walk in the midst of trouble,

You preserve my life;

You stretch out Your hand against the anger of my foes,

with Your right hand You save me.”

(Psalm 138: 6 & 7)

Yes, we have the LORD Jesus Christ as our great high priest, and we can press on because we know He fully understands human suffering…

“Therefore, since we have a great high priest who has gone through the heavens, Jesus the Son of God, let us hold firmly to the faith we profess.  For we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathise with our weaknesses, but we have one who has been tempted in every way, just as we are – yet was without sin.” (Hebrews 4: 14 & 15)

Therefore, fear not.  We can run to our LORD God: “The LORD is near to all who call on Him, to all who call on Him in truth”. (Psalm 145: 18)

“Let us then approach the throne of grace with confidence, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need.” (Hebrews 4: 16)

God is faithful.  He always keeps His promises.  He will help us and sustain us as we persevere in the faith…

“…let us draw near to God with a sincere heart in full assurance of faith, having our hearts sprinkled to cleanse us from a guilty conscience and having our bodies washed with pure water.  Let us hold unswervingly to the hope we profess, for He who promised is faithful.  And let us consider how we may spur one another on toward love and good deeds.” (Hebrews 10: 22 – 24)

“So do not throw away your confidence; it will be richly rewarded.  You need to persevere so that when you have done the will of God, you will receive what He has promised.” (Hebrews 10: 35 & 36)

Therefore, we shall not be men and women with feet of clay.  Let us be bold and courageous…

“But we are not of those who shrink back and are destroyed, but of those who believe and are saved.” (Hebrews 10: 39)

May the LORD our God Almighty make us stand firm, strong and steadfast.  Amen.

He is risen!

“He is not here; He has risen, just as He said…” – Matthew 28: 6

Millions of Christians around the world celebrated Easter Sunday on 16 April 2017, following a time of prayer and fasting during the Lent season from 1 March till 13 April, i.e. Maundy Thursday, as well as Good Friday (14 April) and Holy Saturday (15 April).

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The life, death and resurrection of Jesus Christ inspire all of us to live the Christian life faithfully and victoriously.  For our brothers and sisters in the persecuted church, we pray that they will always be strengthened by the many Psalms we have been using to pray for them.

We also remember the LORD’s promises in The Beatitudes in Matthew 5:

“Blessed are the poor in spirit,

for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.

Blessed are those who mourn, 

for they will be comforted.

Blessed are the meek,

for they will inherit the earth.

Blessed are those who hunger

and thirst for righteousness

for they will be filled.

Blessed are the merciful,

for they will be shown mercy.

Blessed are the pure in heart,

for they will see God.

Blessed are the peacemakers,

for they will be called sons of God.

Blessed are those who are persecuted

because of righteousness, 

for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.

Blessed are you when people insult you, persecute you and falsely say all kinds of evil against you because of me.  Rejoice and be glad, because great is your reward in heaven, for in the same way they persecuted the prophets who were before you.”

The greater the storm, the louder our song

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

May we be encouraged by the bible verses in James 1, and inspired by the lyrics to the song “Louder” by Matt Redman, even as we fix our eyes on Jesus and remember the persecuted church in our prayers

There’s a song that cannot be contained
There’s a shout that breaks through every chain
God, we won’t be silent

There’s a faith that rises through the flames
There’s a joy that chases the dark away
God, we won’t be silent

And the greater the storm
The louder our song

We lift our voices, lift our voices
Make Your praise so glorious, glorious
We lift our voices, lift our voices
Make Your praise so glorious

There’s a faith that rises through the flames
There’s a joy that chases the dark away
God, we won’t be silent

And the greater the storm
The louder our song

We lift our voices, lift our voices
Make Your praise so glorious, glorious
We lift our voices, lift our voices
Make Your praise so glorious

We’ll never stop singing (x 4)

We lift our voices, lift our voices
Make Your praise so glorious, glorious
We lift our voices, lift our voices
Make Your praise so glorious

We lift our voices, lift our voices
Make Your praise so glorious, glorious
We lift our voices, lift our voices
Make Your praise so glorious

So glorious, so glorious

And the greater the storm
The louder our song
And the greater the storm
The louder our song

We’ll never stop singing (x 4)

Treasure in jars of clay

Jars of clay“For God, who said, ‘Let light shine out of darkness’, made His light shine in our hearts to give us the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Christ.  But we have this treasure in jars of clay to show that this all surpassing power is from God and not from us. We are hard pressed on every side, but not crushed; perplexed, but not in despair; persecuted, but not abandoned; struck down, but not destroyed.  We always carry around in our body the death of Jesus, so that the life of Jesus may also be revealed in our body.” – 2 Corinthians 4: 6 – 10