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PERU: Extreme Possessions

PERU: Extreme Possessions

“In Peru, Christians don’t expect to get something for serving Jesus,” said Pastor Zapata. “They expect to give something.” Outside the quiet mountain village, Pastor Zapata showed his guests a row of handmade white crosses, each representing a Christian killed by Communist insurgents.

Lying in front of Pastor Zapata inside the small village home was the body of another pastor who had been killed the night before by guerrillas. His body, covered with a simple blanket, was surrounded by candles and grieving family members.

Outside in the rain, the congregation of the murdered pastor sang praise choruses. Their shoes were covered in mud. Guerrillas had destroyed their church and burned many of their homes. Yet they sang praise.

The Christians were not out of danger, because guerillas could return at any time. Pastors were often singled out, since pastors strengthened the whole village to stand against Marxist incursion.

The pastor reminded the listeners that the Bible calls on us to seek God, not the material blessings that come from God’s hand. “Why do you buy a shirt?” he asked the people. “To use it. Why did Jesus redeem you and buy you with his own blood? To use you for his kingdom.”

These impoverished believers were ready for God to use them.

When we are persecuted for our faith, it is easy to get overly focused on our losses. We may mourn former friends who have rejected us for our beliefs. We may miss the business opportunities we used to have. We feel sorry for ourselves when we are left out of social circles. However, there are many others who have lost far more than material possessions or superficial relationships. These stout believers focus on what remains to be given in Christ’s service—not on what is already lost. Many of them have lost their churches, homes, jobs, and families to religious persecution. Yet they are willing to give more in sacrifice to the cause of Christ. They recognize their earthly loss is another person’s opportunity to gain salvation.

Story from our daily devotional book. For more info go to https://vom.com.au/shop/books/extreme-devotion-with-study-guide-voice-of-the-martyrs/

JAPAN: Extreme Maturity

JAPAN: Extreme Maturity

After they all had been tried, found guilty, and sentenced to die, twenty-six Christians were marched to the place where crudely made crosses stood. Almost three months earlier, they had been arrested in Kyoto, Japan, and charged with following Christ. One of the convicts was named Ibaragi Kun.

Seeing how young Kun was, an official took him aside and urged him to recant his faith to save his life. Looking the official in the eye, Kun said confidently, “Sir, it would be far better if you yourself became a Christian. Then you could go to heaven with me.”

The officer stared, startled by the young man’s faith. Finally, Ibaragi asked, “Sir, which cross is mine?”

The bewildered official pointed to the smallest of the twenty-six crosses. Young Kun ran to the cross, knelt before it, and embraced it. When the soldiers began to nail his hands and feet to the cross, he did not cry out in pain. He courageously accepted the path God had laid out for him.

The crucifixion of the twenty-six Christians on November 23, 1596, was the beginning of a period of intense persecution of Christians in Japan. Over the next seventy years, as many as one million Japanese Christians would be killed for their faith. Many would embrace their own crosses to follow the example of Ibaragi Kun, a very mature twelve-year-old boy

Spiritual maturity is not measured by a birth certificate. Chronological age has little to do with conviction. Rather, spiritual maturity is measured one day at a time. We measure our maturity by how well we daily apply our faith. Contrary to popular belief, spiritual maturity is not how much we know about the Bible. Many people are very familiar with the Bible, yet they remain strangers to spiritual maturity. Obedience to the Bible’s commands is the mark of maturity. One question will help us know how well we are growing spiritually. We must ask ourselves each day, “How much more do we look like Jesus today than we did yesterday?” Our answer is a true reflection of our growth.

Story from our daily devotional book. For more info go to https://vom.com.au/shop/books/extreme-devotion-with-study-guide-voice-of-the-martyrs/

Laos: Extreme Decree

Laos: Extreme Decree

The ominous red seal at the bottom of the page bore the insignia of the district Communist office for that area of Laos. For local Christians, the words were even more ominous.

“If any person, any tribe, any family is deceived to believe in other religions, such as Christianity or others, they must return to the religion in which they [formerly] believed,” the document stated. “It is forbidden to propagate that religion. On the contrary, those believers will have to move and live in the new areas. If there is any village or family who believes in another religion . . . party committee members must collect the statistics and make a list of those groups of people . . . and send it to the Office for the Front for Construction. We would like to know especially how many believe in Jesus and are Christians in the district.” The docu-ment dated July 18, 1996 was signed by the “Standing Committee of the Front for Construction.”

More recently Laotian Christians have been forced, often at gunpoint, to sign a document renouncing their conversion to Christianity. For the atheistic government, it seems that any religion is more acceptable than the worship of Jesus Christ.

Despite the government’s efforts, the church in Laos is growing as Christians boldly share their faith.

When human authority contradicts God’s commands, a line is drawn; a choice must be made. Either we will resign to human authority or align ourselves with God’s commands and risk the consequences. While peace is our ultimate aim, we cannot reorder our priorities around human demands. For example, the United States government has declared prayer as an illegal activity on school grounds. However, they cannot really take prayer away from students and faculty who wish to exercise communion with their God. Others may decree a similar or worse religious restraint. However, God over-rides their authority, as he alone is king over the human heart. We can confidently choose to obey God rather than human authority as an act of our will.

Story from our daily devotional book. For more info go to https://vom.com.au/shop/books/extreme-devotion-with-study-guide-voice-of-the-martyrs/

ROMANIA: Extreme Courage

ROMANIA: Extreme Courage

It was almost midnight as the women prisoners heard the Communist guards arrive. They quickly gathered around the condemned, a young woman of twenty who had been sentenced to die for her faith in Christ. They whispered hurried good-byes. There were no tears from the young Romanian woman, no screams for mercy.

Earlier that evening, the prisoners had listened to the young woman, her face glowing with love. “For me, this grave is the doorway to a heav-enly city,” she had told them. “Who can tell the beauty of that city? There, sadness is not known. There is only joy and song. Everyone is dressed in the white of purity. We can see God face-to-face. There are such joys that human language cannot express. Why should I weep? Why should I be sad?”

She was engaged to be married, but this night, she told them, instead of being with her earthly fiancé, she would meet her heavenly bride-groom.

The pitiless guards entered the cell, and the woman stepped toward them, ready to go. As she left the cell, surrounded by guards, she began to recite the Apostles’ Creed. Minutes later, with tears streaming down their faces, the remaining prisoners heard shots. The executioners thought they had ended the young woman’s life, but they had only sent her to live forever in a much better place.

Courage is the bridge that carries us from a nominal existence on earth to an inexplicable longing for a heavenly future. Those who fully understand the certainty of heaven’s existence find it easier to exchange their comparably paltry lives on earth for eternal citizenship in heaven. Courage helps us to let go of all we cling to on earth—all the things that make us long to stay here. It takes courage to believe in a life after death. After all, life on earth is all we really know until the moment we die. We are courageous when we launch out in faith, believing Christ has made it possible for us to cross into eternity with him. Once we have made that firm decision, we can face life with purpose and death with courage.

Story from our daily devotional book. For more info go to https://vom.com.au/shop/books/extreme-devotion-with-study-guide-voice-of-the-martyrs/

THE TITANIC: Extreme Voyage

THE TITANIC: Extreme Voyage

Dr. Robert Bateman gently helped his sister-in-law into the lifeboat. “Don’t be nervous, Annie. This will test our faith. I must stay and help the others. If we never meet again on this earth, we will meet again in heaven.” Bateman dropped his handkerchief to the woman as the boat dropped toward the dark, icy water below. “Put that around your throat, Annie. You’ll catch cold.”

Dr. Bateman then gathered about fifty men at the stern of the ship and told them to prepare for death. Earlier that day, he had conducted the only religious service on the large ship, a service that ended with his favorite hymn, “Nearer My God to Thee.”

Robert Bateman had founded the Central City Mission in Jacksonville, Florida, a spiritual lighthouse in a city regularly full of drunken sailors. He had been called “the man who distributes more human sunshine than any other in Jacksonville.” Bateman went to England to study Christian social work and was returning to the United States to put into practice what he had learned.

However, late on the night of April 14, 1912, Bateman’s ship struck an iceberg. Bateman led the men with him on the stern of the ship in the Lord’s Prayer. As the band played “Nearer My God to Thee,” the great ship Titanic slid under the waves.

It is said that one sure way to make God laugh is to tell him our plans! When we accept Christ, we are embarking on the greatest adventure of our lives. In order to make the journey worthwhile, we must surrender ourselves to his command—the captain of the ship. He orchestrates our life’s journey as he sees fit, navigating through our whims and wants toward greater goals. At times, even the worst of times, his map seems antiquated and we wonder if he has lost his way. Jagged rocks jut out from the murky depths. The moonless night envelops us in its darkness. How tempted we become at that moment to resume control of our life’s plans. The voyage is a venture in faith, however, if it is anything at all. God’s plans for our lives steer us in directions we might never choose for ourselves. Yet he knows best.

Story from our daily devotional book. For more info go to https://vom.com.au/shop/books/extreme-devotion-with-study-guide-voice-of-the-martyrs/