Fear not little flock…

So, where is your anxiety level these days, level orange? Our culture of fear has provided lots of munchies to feed our fear monsters: terrorism, angry and unstable people (could be a neighbor who seems normal but keeps to himself) committing acts of violence, eratic North Korea, Russian involvement in the current administration, the confusion of our political system, the future of health care, the debt-ridden-no-budget economy of Illinois, West Nile virus, Ebola, SARS… do you remember these last ones?

The world-wide fear over SARS (severe acute respiratory syndrome) which originated in China in 2002-3 is a fascinating study of how an irrational fear properly fed, grows out of proportion to the danger of the crisis. SARS had infected over 5,000 people worldwide and killed over 300, which was a tragedy.  However, at the same time in the U.S. alone 700,000 people died from heart disease and 550,000 from cancer. In 2012, the West Nile virus infected 4100 in the U.S. and killed 286, again a tragedy. However, during the same period 71,000 people died of diabetes and 62,000 of pneumonia.

Mysterious diseases, political intrigue, acts of violence and terrorism make big stories and media hype tends to report the reality disproportionately.  If you still watch the evening news on tv, you almost need a sedative afterwards.  Such news feeds our fears and diverts our attention from dealing with present issues and concerns, as well as stepping out of our bubble and taking risks for the sake of the gospel.

In “Break Open the Sky” Stephan Bauman (former president of World Relief) says, Fear is popular today because it’s profitable. Producers of media in all its forms have become merchants of fear, stoking fires of controversy, threat, or anger in search of larger audiences. Politicians, both conservative and progressive, traffic in fear to secure support and shore up votes. Corporations employ fear to make us buy more of their products. Friends warn us of the latest health scare, food allergy, or crime epidemic. Even religion, as an enterprise, makes use of fear. 

We Americans are experts at trying to control our own lives. We are self-sufficient and we tend to provide for ourselves quite well, thank you! We reduce our risks to the minimum, fix all our own problems, and anticipate all eventualities- well, at least we try. When something comes along like a new strain of flu bug for which (we are told) no antedote yet exist, we feel helpless, frustrated, and out of control — a feeling that Americans hate.  We also start to connect our present fear to all the rest in our anxiety-arsenal and overwhelm ourselves with worry and precaution and a bit of paranoia –because it might be terrorist related.

Earlier Christians (and many in the third world today*) lived in unsafe and hostile societies which were vulnerable to constant war, natural disasters without warning, and real incurable diseases. They had little control over their lives and had little sense of a bright earthly future. However, they did have faith in a God who never forgets the cross and would never forget them.  Their antidote to fear was not an inoculation but trust in a sovereign and loving God who has all things under control.

When the prophet Habakkuk looked at his uncertain future he was overcome with fear. However, he did not allow this fear to paralyze him and he chose to do two things: focus on the character of God who never changes (1:12); listen to God’s counsel to quell his fear.  “The just shall live by his faith” (2:4). The antidote for fear is not courage but faith.

So if we really want to listen to a Sovereign God who never changes then we must begin by hearing the consistent message spoken to the people under the old covenant and to those of us under the new… DO NOT BE AFRAID!

I won’t list all these passages but will mention one found in Luke 12:32 where Jesus told his disciples, “Fear not little flock, for it is the Father’s good pleasure to give you the Kingdom.” I wish I had a visual of Jesus speaking to this insigificant little band of wide-eyed men who were ready to be sent out into a violent world to spread the gospel, with little provisions and seemingly little hope of success. And yet Jesus said My little flock- those who are my special ones under my care whom I love- FEAR NOT! The reason not to fear is becuase your Father is absolutely delighted to give you a future, the very Kingdom that you are being sent out to share with others will be your eternal inheritance. And since he will bestow upon you a future glory that you cannot imagine, you do not need to worry that He will provide everything you need in this life as you risk it for His Kingdom.

“He who did not spare his own Son, how will he not also along with Him give us all things.” There is nothing that will come to you that does not first pass through the hand of your heavenly Father and is designed to make you more like Jesus. FEAR NOT…

 

 

*In an essay “The Epidemic of Worry,” David Brooks wrote, According to the World Health Organization, 18.2% of Americans report chronic anxiety while only 3.3% of Nigerians,

 

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How can God carry the burden of this world? 

I am at a place in my life where I can hardly pray without my heart being so burdened with the weight of the requests that it really feels like it is breaking. I have a dear friend who just passed away, another who has cancer, another who is in recovery from a broken neck, another who is recovering from back surgery. In addition, prayer for  the suffering places of the world where hunger and deprivation reign and where innocents suffer from the greed of the powerful. Lastly, prayer for the victims of senseless acts of violence wrought by terrorists or those motivated by anger in the workplace or by road rage.

Who can bear the burden of prayer for these things? And yet there is God… He hears my requests and yours as well, and the cries of those who are suffering alone and forgotten– constantly and all at once! He is not limited by the boundaries of a finite nature, a changeable character, or the whims and oddities of emotions.

I have never before thought of the infinitude of God in relation to prayer.  There is no waiting list or pecking order to his attentiveness.  There is no favoritism to his love. His answers don’t always come immediately nor in the shape of our desires or passionate pleas, which any parent can understand, but they will come because he hears them all.

He does not hear us according to our worthiness, but according to his love for us in Christ. Nothing that comes from his hand is meant for evil nor for our punishment, though it may involve suffering and hurt like … There is no one so sinful that God will not hear his cry of repentance.  There is no one so prodigal that she will not have the Father’s embrace.

The only prayer that God rejects (at least that I know of) is the prayer of the self- righteous heart.  In Luke 18:9-14 Jesus compares the prayer of the Pharisee who is obsessed with his own virtue with the prayer of the despised tax collector who humbly asks God for mercy. Jesus said,”I tell you this man (the tax collector), rather than the other, went home justified before God.”

So my dear sister or brother, why do you hesitate to pray? Are you afraid that you are not worthy enough or that God has more important things to do than listen to you? Do you feel you have prayed and prayed and God has not answered? Do you feel that what you are facing is the punishment for the sins of the past? Do you no longer feel like praying? I have felt all of these deceptive hindrances to prayer and found only one solution; to just pray!  After all this is what faith does; it humbly acts on what it knows to be true even though everything in and around it screams the antithesis.  One Puritan preacher said that when Jesus cried out “my God, my God, what have you forsaken me” faith was evidenced not at the nadir of joy and peace but at the meridian of darkness.

Ye fearful saints, fresh courage take; the clouds ye so much dread, are big with mercy and shall break in blessings on your head. 

Judge not the Lord by feeble sense; but trust him for his grace; behind a frowning providence he hides a smiling face.

William Cowper, 1774

So your life isn’t perfect, but it’s the only one you have…

I’m not sure why I titled this blog as I did, but perhaps it captures the feeling more than the content of what I am going to say. I finished reading through the Bible again. A wonderful discipline that I picked up by example from my dad. I have begun to read in Genesis again and, as is my custom, am using a different version to gain another perspective. It will take me a year and half, but who’s in a hurry?

Over half of Genesis is about Jacob; even the huge section about Joseph is about how God preserved Jacob (Israel) in famine and gave his people favor in the eyes of Pharaoh. However, the life of Jacob from beginning to end is about family dysfunction; favoritism, jealousy, abuse in all forms, rejection, hatred, incest, prostitution, to name just a few. Substance abuse is not specifically mentioned like it was with Noah and Lot, but it would not be much of an interpretive stretch to think that the fruit of the vine may have fermented and fomented much of what we see.

The point? Not much is hidden from us about the individual, familial, and generational sins of God’s Covenant people. And not much should surprise us about our own family history and the patterns of generational sin that we may have uncovered or even experienced. You don’t need to pay money to do an Ancestry,com DNA search to reveal that sin runs deep even in the people of God.

The point? The gospel of God’s gracious act of forgiveness through the death, burial, and resurrection of Jesus Christ (God’s Son, but also a descendent of Jacob through Judah) is the only hope we have of dealing with our individual and generational sins. We cannot undo the things we have done or have been done to us, but we no longer need to be defined by these things and consigned to live a “plan B” life. Through a life of repentance and faith in Jesus Christ (daily preaching the gospel to ourselves), we can end patterns of individual sin, forgive others who have sinned against us, and stop the cycle of sin from being passed on to our children and grandchildren. Some of us will need a little extra help in the process and should be encouraged to seek out a Christian counselor. No, our lives won’t be perfect and, yes, we will always have our past, but by God’s grace even our sinful past can be used for His glory and not our shame.

Perhaps a personal example will help clarify what I mean. My mom wrote out some of her painful family remembrances just a few years before she died. It was a 10-page, double-spaced, typewritten document titled, “Where Would I Be Without the Lord?” In this testament she shared about growing up in alcohol-infested family where her parents were in and out of separation so much that she was shipped off to live the first 8 or 9 years of her life with three different aunts. Finally, her mom divorced and remarried another alcoholic (a hotel and bar owner), and mom was brought home to live with 4 step-siblings she had never met. Her mom, my grandmother (Nanny), also had alcohol issues, and would often take her anger out on mom by beating her with a broom and locking her in closets. Unfortunately, Nanny got the same treatment from her husband when he was drunk. Mom described one incident where he dragged Nanny up the stairs by her hair and then threw her back down. I will spare you other awful details.

My mom became a nurse and married my dad when he got out of the Army. My dad had issues of his own, which were also alcohol related. My two sisters and brother were born, and four years before I was born my mom and dad came to believe the gospel applied to them and became followers of Christ; at 34 and 36 respectively. It did not change their past or the things done by them or to them, but it did change the way they interpreted those things and how they chose to respond to them. My mom, in particular, was the most kind and gentle person you could imagine. You would definitely want her for your nurse if you were sick. She was a wonderful mother who never laid a finger on me or any of my siblings. She reversed the curse and ended the cycle of abuse and rejection with which she had lived. She loved and respected her mom throughout the rest of Nanny’s life. Mom also had a chance to reconcile with her own father (who sold her crib for booze) when she requested to take care of him as his nurse in a convalescent home where he was dying. My dad also made a 180 with alcohol and became one of the most ardent evangelists (he was a cop) you would ever want to meet.

This was the family I grew up in. My sisters became believers and married godly men. They each have four children who love Jesus and they have in turn begotten twenty-three grand and great grandchildren. My brother who passed away many years ago chose not to embrace the faith and yet had seven wonderful children who have in turn produced thirteen grand and great grand kids. Finally, Gloria and I have five kids and seven grandchildren.

The point? Fifty-six people (this is not even including the spouses of the children /grandchildren who have married into the McDowell family) whose lives have been directly affected by my parents becoming believers in Jesus and choosing to follow a new direction in life not defined by their past; “to the third and fourth generation.”

So on this Memorial Day, let us remember those who have served our country by giving their lives in sacrifice. Perhaps you have someone in your own family who has paid that price. We would also do well to remember the sacrifice of our Lord Jesus on the cross as the price for redeeming us from sin. Our life may not be perfect, but it is the only one we have. By God’s grace let us learn to deal with our sin in the light of Christ’s forgiveness.  Let us also choose not to be defined by our past, but by how God can use it to help others and glorify himself.

I cannot change the past but I can learn from it… 

I will not fear the future because I cannot control it…

I will gladly live in the present, for that is the arena in which my trust in God is displayed and his glory through me is revealed. 

Blessed Ascension Day!

Today the Church celebrates the Ascension of our Lord Jesus “into Heaven and sitteth on the right hand of God from whence He shall come to judge the living and the dead.” (The Apostle’s Creed).  Most of us find little practical importance in this, especially since the week isn’t even over and we have so much left to do before we get to the weekend. I suppose it is our human-centered tendency to demand that a great theological truth has to be meaningful to us before we consider it. I also realize that I tend to be most overwhelmed by life when I am most “underwhelmed” by God.

So, don’t beat yourself up. Let me give you a simple meditation on the Ascension of our Lord. I have arranged an acrostic (A S C E N D) to guide us in this meditation so here it goes:

A rrange a place for us. John 14:2, 3 – “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 with me that you also may be where I am.”  We are not sure what this preparation consists of or what kind of place it will be, but the very fact that Jesus said this assures us that our final home in heaven will be with Him. When you or a Christian loved one faces death, isn’t this truth far more important than the latest news from the White House?

S ession. This old term used to mean “the act of sitting down,” and it contains the thought of Hebrews 10:11, 12:  “Day after day every priest stands and performs his religious duties; again and again he offers the same sacrifice, which can never take away sin.  But when this priest had offered for all time one sacrifice for sins, he sat down at the right hand of God.”  By design, there were no chairs upon which a priest could sit in the Jewish Temple.  This was because the priest’s job was never finished since sin could not be ultimately dealt with through animal sacrifices.  But when Jesus Christ, who is both the final Sacrifice for sin and the Priest that makes that sacrifice, completed his work on the cross, He sat down in heaven. This means that all the work needed to obtain our salvation was finished.  There is no longer any sacrifice for sin (Heb.10:18). For what I am powerless to do (save myself) God did for me “by sending his own son in the likeness of sinful man to be a sin offering” (Romans 8:3).

C oming Again.  In Acts 1, the angel told the disciples that Jesus would return in the same way he had been taken. Hebrews 9:27, 28 – “Just as man is destined to die once and after that face judgment, so Christ was sacrificed once to take away the sins of many people; and he will appear a second time, not to bear sin but to bring salvation to those who are waiting for him.”  At Christ’s return our mortal bodies, whether dead or alive, will be changed into glorified spiritual bodies and our salvation will be complete. Thus without the Ascension, there is no second coming; and without the second coming there is no resurrection from the dead; and without the resurrection, there is no hope.

E xalted over all Creation. Jesus is at the right hand of God, which indicates that he has received authority over all creation. “Jesus Christ…has gone into heaven and is at God’s right hand- with angels, authorities and powers in submission to him” (1 Peter 3:22). “God raised him from the dead and seated him at his right hand in the heavenly realms far above all rule and authority, power and dominion, and every title that can be given, not only in this present age but also in the age to come” (Ephesians 1:20-23). The Ascension is seen in Scripture as the coronation or enthronement of Jesus as King over the universe. The right hand of God is a position of honor and power (Ps. 110:1).  Satan once tried to tempt Jesus to attain the kingship of this world without suffering and death. However, Christ refused and was faithful, “who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God” (Heb. 12:2).  Jesus is now is the supreme ruler of the cosmos and all heavenly creatures are continuously worshipping him (Rev.5:8-14). All authority has been given unto him in heaven and earth, and that is why we go and make disciples of all nations, spreading the gospel of the kingdom of God revealed in Christ. That is why in most Byzantine Churches there was an icon of Christ Pantokrator– Ruler over all.

N egotiate on our behalf. Romans 8:34 – “Who will bring any charge against God’s elect? It is God who justifies.  Who is he that condemns?  Christ Jesus, who died- more than that, who was raised to life- is at the right hand of God and is also interceding for us.” Negotiate is probably not the best word but I had to find a synonym for intercede that started with an “N.”   Jesus’ ascension into heaven means that he is using all of his authority to represent you and me before the Father (Heb.9:24).  In 1 John 2:1, we read “My dear children, I write this to you so that you will not sin. But if anybody does sin, we have one who speaks to the Father in our defense- Jesus Christ, the Righteous One.” Jesus is called our Advocate- paracletos– one who speaks to the Father in our defense. Although Christ has completed the priestly work of sacrifice, his work as our Mediator before God continues. Would you rather have more money or know you are forgiven by God?

D ispense the Holy Spirit. John 16:7 – “It is for your good that I am going away.  Unless I go away, the Counselor will not come to you; but if I go, I will send him to you.”  What Jesus said here has always intrigued me.  It almost seems like he was saying that it would be better for us that he leave us and goes back to heaven, so that the Holy Spirit could come. Why was it important that Jesus leave and the HS come? What would it be like to have Jesus still physically present on earth, but no Holy Spirit dwelling in you or the Church? I’ll let you think about that.

PRAYER:  God, Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, we thank you for the mystery and beauty of the story of Jesus’ return to you. We praise you for reminding the disciples and us, that when the Lord Jesus returns for us is none of our business, so that we can concentrate on being your witnesses where we live and to the ends of the earth.  We thank you for the men and women through whom the gospel is being proclaimed around the world and who are serving the poor and suffering in your Name. Help us to find great joy that our Lord Jesus is sitting on his throne next to yours, especially as we face the battles of our daily lives.  Thank you that he is preparing a place for us as well as praying for us and protecting us. Thank you also that he will return for us and will someday bring perfect justice into this unjust world.  Thank you for giving us your Holy Spirit to help us live in our homes, schools, jobs, and church in such a way that pleases you. In the name of our ascended Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ, we pray. AMEN.

Is this the greatest Easter painting of all time? – Mike Frost

http://mikefrost.net/homepage/greatest-easter-painting-time/

An Ash Wednesday Meditation: “Incline our Hearts, O Lord…”

In Psalm 119:33-40, the Psalmist recognizes his complete dependency upon God to do for him what he cannot do for himself. This is nowhere more clearly stated than in v. 36, “Incline my heart to your testimonies and not to covetousness.”

There are two things gleaned from this verse to consider on this Ash Wednesday, the day when we publicly declare our frailty and sin, as well as the hope of forgiveness that we have in the cross of Jesus Christ:

1)  In this verse there is a clear recognition of our sinful condition and corruption; that we are not naturally inclined to the things of God. David asks God to incline or bend his heart, which is not inclined to the law of God and not to leave him to his natural bent, which is to covetousness. (cf. Ps 141:4)

There are things towards which we are naturally inclined, but they are not the things of God. Paul’s depiction of the human condition in Romans 3 is hauntingly accurate; not only is there “no one righteous, no not one,” but there is “no one who understands or seeks after God. All have turned aside; together they have become worthless; no one does good, no not one.” The Scripture is filled with examples of those who followed the natural inclinations of their hearts to covetousness at the expense of love and obedience to God:

  • Balaam whose desire for earthly gain caused him to rebel against the very strong warnings of God.
  • Ahab, whose desire for power blinded him to prophetic warnings and drove him to murderously possess what wasn’t his.
  • David, whose covetousness took the form of lust and brought sexual dysfunction into his family.
  • Achan, whose covetousness led him to steal and bring death to his family.
  • Judas, whose greed led him to betray our Lord Jesus and bring overwhelming guilt to himself.
  • Gehazi, whose greed led him to misuse his authority, lie to Elisha, and inherit Naaman’s leprosy.

This is why we believe (must believe) that God is sovereign in salvation and it is only by the power of the Holy Spirit that anyone can overcome the inclinations of their own corrupt hearts and come to faith.

Jesus said, “This is why I told you that no one can come unto me me unless my Father draw him.” (John 6); “Flesh and blood did not reveal this to you but my Father who is in heaven.” (Matt 16); “Unless a man is born again, he cannot perceive the kingdom of God.” (Jn 3) Also, in Acts 16 we read, “And the Lord opened Lydia’s heart to pay attention to what Paul was saying.” (Acts 16)

And so, the Psalmist acknowledges the natural corruption and crookedness of his own heart and asks that he be bent in a God-ward direction. “Incline my heart to your testimonies and not to covetousness.”  I think David put this request in another way when in deep repentance he cries out in Ps 51, “Create in me a clean heart, O God, and renew a right spirit in me.”

2) The second thing I glean from Ps 119:36 is that we need to be vigilant and pay close attention to the condition of our souls, even as believers. Paul warned the Ephesian Elders to “pay attention to yourselves and to your flock” and told Timothy to “pay attention to yourself and to your teaching.”

The reason is, once again, that even as believers (those for whom Christ died) we are still engaged in a struggle between the flesh and the Spirit; between the law of sin in our members and the law of our mind; between the things towards which we are naturally inclined and the things of God. St Augustine and Martin Luther both described our natural inclination as incurvatus in se, to be curved in upon ourselves. We are naturally drawn to those things which are a means to the end of satisfying and glorifying ourselves. SELF- the greatest enemy of the follower of Christ which is why we are told to deny ourselves, take up our cross and follow Christ. SELF- is the greatest enemy of the church; a failure to consider others above ourselves. SELF- the greatest enemy of relationships, especially marriage where I have learned that the opposite of love is not HATE, it is SELF!

There are a thousand forms of covetousness which flow out of our self-preoccupation and which dis-incline us to love and obey God:

“You cannot love God and mammon… you cannot serve two masters.” (Matt 6) “But the worries of this life, the deceitfulness of wealth, and the desires for other things come in and choke the word, making it unfruitful.” (Mk 4) “But those who desire to be rich fall into temptation, into a snare, into many senseless and harmful desires that plunge people into ruin and destruction.” (1 Tim 6) “For Demas, in love with this present world, has deserted me…” (2 Tim 4)

Summary:

And so, we must come to the place along with the Psalmist and daily ask God to bend our hearts to His testimonies so we might listen, turn our eyes away from worthless things, and to love our God with our whole heart. This is the way of repentance, not just for today, but every day it should be our constant prayer; that our hearts be bent towards God, towards love and good works, and away from the natural inclination to love ourselves. If we are not vigilant in this repentance, then the weeds will grow and will begin to choke out the very life of God from our souls and make us unfruitful.

I will lift up my hands into your commandments which I have loved. Open my eyes and I shall see, incline my heart and I shall desire, order my steps and I shall walk in the way of your commandments.

O Lord, be my God, and let there be no other before you. Grant me to worship you and serve you according to your commandments: with truth in my spirit, with reverence in my body, with the blessing upon my lips – both in private and in public…

Help me to overcome evil with good, to be free from the love of money, and to be content with what I have. Help me to speak the truth in love, to be desirous not to lust, or to walk after the lusts of my flesh.

O Lord, help me: To bruise the serpent’s head. To consider the end of my days. To cut off occasions to sin…To make a covenant with my eyes. To bring my body into subjection. To give myself to prayer. To come to repentance. Through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.

 (A Prayer by Bishop Lancelot Andrewes, 1555-1628)

Could I Endure Torture?

I wanted to share with you some thoughts about an article I read in the most recent Voice of the Martyr’s magazine. Ashamedly, I have often become inured to a lot of the stories I hear about the plight of persecuted Christians around the world. However, the Lord used this particular article to stir my heart and I wanted to share that with you.

The article was titled “Do Not Fear” and the author wrote about two people in Muslim countries who were arrested, interrogated, and jailed for their Christian faith. The first was a man by the name of Hussein (not his real name), who was a leader of a house church. He was arrested and jailed, and became very anxious about what he would say at his coming interrogation. Would he break and reveal the names of other Christians? As he obsessed about this in prayer, he was overcome with the sense of God’s presence with him in that solitary cell. “I was in the presence of Jesus, and I was praying more boldly and confidently (recognizing) that Jesus had brought me there for a purpose. To hear God, like you hear water or anything else, I heard God…Jesus said to me, ‘There is no need for you to say anything because I am going to tell you what to say. Why are you afraid?'”

Hussein is still in prison, but he has experienced the favor of some of his guards and been given some amazing opportunities to share the gospel with other prisoners, especially some who will probably be executed.

The second account was about a woman named Shani, whose husband had already been arrested as a leader of a house church. For three months she had no word as to his whereabouts or even what the charges were that were filed against him. She knew her husband would not break, but could not imagine herself ever being arrested or interrogated. One night she prayer, “Dear God, please don’t allow them to find me. I can’t handle torture. I can’t handle a jail cell. You said you would not give us more than we can handle, so please make them not come and arrest me.” Have you ever prayed a similar prayer about something you feared?

The very next morning she was awakened by the police who arrested her and carted her off to jail. She remembers saying to the Lord, “Whatever happens now, God, it’s your fault.” That night they came and pulled her out of her cell into the interrogation room. A man sat across the table from her and angrily began to question why she evangelized; why she talked to Muslims about Jesus and what she and her husband hoped to gain from this illegal activity. Suddenly she felt a peace come over her as she looked at the man and said, “I have a right to evangelize and I am happy to do it. This is a commandment from Jesus Christ. Everyone needs to hear this good news. You need to hear this good news. God sent me here to tell you about Jesus. You are a poor man. I feel bad for you. You don’t have peace, you don’t have joy, you don’t have hope. You don’t even know why you are alive. The only way to truth is Jesus Christ. You are an interrogator, but one day you are going to stand before the ultimate judge, Jesus Christ, and he is going to examine you. Without him, you have no hope. And Jesus is going to ask you why you did these things to his servants.”

She couldn’t believe she said all that and neither could the interrogator who sent her back to her cell and told her he would deal with her later. In her cell that night she felt she had made a serious mistake and decided she would apologize to the interrogator the next time and take it all back. Two more times she was dragged before the same man with the intent of apologizing to him, and each time the Holy Spirit led her to share the gospel with him. On the fourth night, he came to her cell and said, “How did you know that my life is so crazy? I’ve tried everything in my religion and I could never seem to be happy. I learned from you that the only savior is Jesus Christ. When you were talking in the interrogation room, that really wasn’t you. I saw myself in God’s presence. Please help me to be saved.”

The article concludes by saying, “Maybe you have prayed prayers like Shani’s: Lord I can’t handle cancer. Lord, I can’t work for this difficult boss one more day. God, I can’t handle a rebellious teenager. Lord, I can’t endure the betrayal of my unfaithful spouse or the possibility of parenting alone. Shani told God that she couldn’t handle arrest…yet three times this seemingly timid, fearful woman shared the gospel with her interrogator.” And a fearful Hussein was given the comfort and peace of the Holy Spirit as he faced his tormentors.

So, it is really not about us and our fears, or about whether we could endure torture or suffering for for our faith or whether we would lose our courage, is it? It is really about the power of the Holy Spirit working through us in situations that we would never chose for ourselves. “It is about the Holy Spirit giving us the words to say or the ability to forgive or an opportunity to tell someone what Jesus has done for us.” This is why the Bible tell us on 366 occasions “don’t be afraid.” As Richard Wurmbrand, the founder of VOM, once said, “366 times, not merely 365, to account for leap year.” DON’T BE AFRAID!