For many of us, 2021 was a difficult year due to the COVID-19 pandemic. For many believers around the world, however, it was yet another year of trials amidst persecution. The severity of Christian persecution can vary from one country to another. Persecution can come from the government or even from members of one’s family. Below is a snapshot of Christian persecution which occurred in 2021.
In 2021, the Taliban captured Kabul and former prime minister Ashraf Ghani fled Afghanistan.
This is the first Taliban government in 20 years. Members of the Taliban are now in search of people who have worked with the previous government, as well as those who profess the Christian faith. Apostasy is a crime punishable by death under shariah law. Christians are at extreme risk of being targeted with deadly violence.
In addition to all of this, according to the UN, more than half of Afghanistan’s population of 39 million faced a severe food shortage in 2021. Christians desperately need our prayers.
There is a reason for hope: as the new Taliban government tightens its grip on Afghanistan, and the difficulties increase, people are beginning to recognise the darkness of Islam and they are open to the good news of the Gospel.
Voice of the Martyrs is committed to assisting Christians who have remained in Afghanistan. We will continue to provide them with practical and spiritual aid.
Boko Haram and Fulani Islamic militants continue to work together to attack Christians throughout northern Nigeria.
In April 2021, Boko Haram took control of 42 communities in eastern Niger State, putting its flag approximately a two-hour drive from Abuja, Nigeria’s federal capital. As it stands today, Boko Haram controls approximately 500 communities in eastern Niger.
Nearly all Christians in north-eastern Nigeria have lost family members in attacks by Boko Haram or Fulani militants. Entire congregations have been displaced, and many pastors have been forced to leave the region.
Voice of the Martyrs continues to support children who have lost parents in Islamist attacks, as well as train and equip pastors in the north. We also provide study Bibles, New Testaments and Christian discipleship literature for believers.
Christians in Pakistan are considered to be second-class citizens and their experience of poverty and sickness has only worsened during the COVID-19 pandemic.
The blasphemy laws, which prohibit the insulting of Islam, continue to be an opportunity for Christians to be falsely accused by Muslims which can result in imprisonment or even death.
The People’s Commission for Minorities’ Rights (PCMR) and The Centre for
Social Justice (CSJ), two Pakistan-based organizations, have reported a record rise in forced conversion cases of minority girls in Pakistan since 2020. According
to their report, 36 underage non-Muslim girls in Pakistan have been kidnapped and forcefully converted to Islam since the beginning of 2021. This is a 177% increase from the thirteen cases reported in 2020.
VOM continues to provide medical treatment for impoverished believers, vocational training for vulnerable Christian women, education for children, pastor support, and legal and political advocacy for Christians susceptible to injustice.
Hindu extremists continue to believe that India should rid itself of Christianity. The growing intolerance towards Christianity has been marked since the coming to power of the BJP (Bharatiya Janata Party) in 2014.
Hindu extremists continued to attack churches and individuals in 2021.
Christians have suffered particularly in India during the COVID-19 pandemic. Many have been overlooked for food aid. They believe religious nationalism is behind the discrimination which maintains that Christians and Muslims are not true Indians.
Voice of the Martyrs continues to respond to persecution incidents and supports persecuted pastors and their families as well as frontline workers. We provide Bibles and other practical help for Christians living in India’s most hostile areas.
” And the Spirit and the bride say, Come. And let him that heareth say, Come”
Amidst the current noise and clamor of the secular and religious worlds, there is a fear-mongering that affects the hearts of many. There is a growing distrust, rancor, and animosity within the whole spectrum of society. The internet has given the opportunity to anyone and everyone to voice their conflicting views and to further inflame the anger and malice. What is truly disturbing is to see the same things among those who name the name of Christ.
The above verse says those who are of the Bride, and those who hear in the Spirit, cannot help but put forward the Call to draw nearer to the One for whom all creation is longing. The Holy Spirit has one desire: to communicate to all who will hear, the crucified and resurrected one. Anything else is more data that just adds to the noise and confusion.
Those who hear deep within their hearts the cry of the Spirit to make Him known can only echo to all the world around them the divine invitation: “Come”. There is an overriding passion to make Him known, to bring others to the person of Jesus Christ! The closed and isolated sects within the Christian landscape who do not feel the necessity to reach out into the lives around them are not hearing the call and the voice of the Spirit. Too many of the invitations sent out by churches are to join them, or an event or program, rather than an invitation to come, taste, and see that the Lord is good! The Great Call of God to “make” disciples unto Jesus becomes perverted when men and women seek to “have” disciples unto themselves. The difference between these two agendas is the difference between heaven and hell.
When asked who he was, John the Baptist declared: “I am the voice of one crying in the wilderness”. He understood this singular and passionate purpose to which he had been called. So should be the echo in our own hearts. The foundational truth of all ministry is: “That which we have seen and heard declare we unto you”. Those who hear little, feel little and see little have little to share. Those who hear cannot help but declare to others, “come”.
There is a pulse reverberating within the hearts of those who hear the unction and cry of the Spirit of God. Both the wheat and the tares are coming to the harvest and the true nature of each is becoming evident. There is a nation arising from every tongue and ethnos which transcends the divisive names of denominations, the elitism of closed and isolated fellowships, or the misguided devotion of those who meet in the name of a teacher, a prophet, or any other man. This joining of the Body of Christ is based only on a pure and singular relationship with Him who is the Head. The “Valley of Dry Bones” (Ezk.37) is being fulfilled as “bone to HIS bone” are being drawn by His Spirit into a oneness in Christ alone.
Jesus prayed for this “oneness”. He gave His Life for it, and it must come to pass here on the earth.
“…that they also may be one in us: that the world may believe…”
This Oneness is a unity born of His Spirit; as Paul declared in his epistle, “The Unity OF the Spirit”. There must be those who live and dwell in the Spirit to know of this UNITY. This unity is not for the casual, for those who confess something to ease and validate their relationship to God’s saving grace (even though this aspect of salvation is true). But this unity for which the Son prayed, and for which the Holy Spirit has been sent into the earth to ensure its fulfillment, will only be known by those who can truly say: “for to me to live is Christ”. This alone is their summation of life. Nothing else holds their attention or interest; neither the political concerns of this world, teetering on the edge of destruction, nor of the religious world with its attempt at a compromise to make Christ more palatable to the culture and wisdom of the age. Just as the religious order of the Jewish leadership hated and yet conspired with the Roman government in its need to facilitate His crucifixion to save itself, so once again there will be a portion of the “church” of this day that will become instrumental in the persecution of the true Church!
“Did ye never read in the scriptures, The stone which the builders rejected, the same is become the head of the corner: this is the Lord’s doing, and it is marvellous in our eyes?”
Religious builders will always in the end reject the “cornerstone” of God’s purpose, for it is the nature of man to control and build things unto themselves. Like Cain, they build cities and name them after themselves and their work. Fallen man needs an identity, a name to rally around and to be a part of.
“And they said, Go to, let us build us a city and a tower, whose top may reach unto heaven; and let us make us a name, lest we be scattered abroad upon the face of the whole earth”
This fallen nature also infiltrates the people of God. They need a name to build around, to differentiate them from others so those in leadership may hold places of pre-eminence and power. Everything man builds must have a leader but within the Body of Christ, He alone is the Head. His Life is the Life that holds and fuses together the vast variety of His expressions in ONE SPIRIT. Those who are OF HIM know and feel this growing dynamic. Those who rest in confessions and in the organizations of men, though beloved of Him, will never touch the Unity of The Son.
It is the Bride and those who hear with every fiber of their being who declare… COME! They have nothing to do with division, they do not draw others to a sect, a denomination, or to themselves. True ministers live to see all things brought under the feet of Jesus.
“Now I beseech you, brethren, by the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that ye all speak the same thing, and that there be no divisions among you; but that ye be perfectly joined together in the same mind and in the same judgment.”
1 Corinthians 1:10
What was the atmosphere of the Church at Corinth?
11 For it hath been declared unto me of you, my brethren, by them which are of the house of Chloe, that there are contentions among you.
12 Now this I say, that every one of you saith, I am of Paul; and I of Apollos; and I of Cephas; and I of Christ.
13 Is Christ divided?
Paul says later “Are ye not carnal?”
Those who are of the Spirit recognize others who are of the Spirit because they instantly bear the witness of God and feel the love of God. This joining is not done by human hands. It is the Divine Nature of God within which binds the deep in one to the deep of another, a joining of life to life. There is no sound of a hammer, the striving of men, the hashing out of doctrinal persuasion. Read prayerfully the wisdom of God in Romans 14 to understand the enormity of the love and the forbearance of The Life. The scriptures make no room for division, unforgiveness, and strife. The binding agent of His Kingdom is not compromise, but love and truth.
“But if we walk in the light, as he is in the light, we have fellowship one with another, and the blood of Jesus Christ his Son cleanseth us from all sin.”
1 John 1:7
The scripture does not declare that if we talk of the light, if we teach many great things, or even if we by the gifts of the Spirit perform great works, we will have fellowship by which the power of God is released in our midst. We must WALK in the Light. If we abide in the LIGHT, and if our conduct is ruled by the Light and Life of Christ, THEN we have fellowship with one another.
Carefully read the context of what Jesus is saying. May He free us from the subverted gospel of words and bring us to the necessity of His Life as the ONLY means of our fellowship in Christ!
20 “Wherefore by their fruits ye shall know them.
21 Not every one that saith unto me, Lord, Lord, shall enter into the kingdom of heaven; but he that doeth the will of my Father which is in heaven.
22 Many will say to me in that day, Lord, Lord, have we not prophesied in thy name? and in thy name have cast out devils? and in thy name done many wonderful works?
23 And then will I profess unto them, I never knew you: depart from me, ye that work iniquity.
24 Therefore whosoever heareth these sayings of mine, and doeth them, I will liken him unto a wise man, which built his house upon a rock:
25 And the rain descended, and the floods came, and the winds blew, and beat upon that house; and it fell not: for it was founded upon a rock.
26 And every one that heareth these sayings of mine, and doeth them not, shall be likened unto a foolish man, which built his house upon the sand:
27 And the rain descended, and the floods came, and the winds blew, and beat upon that house, and it fell: and great was the fall of it.
28 And it came to pass, when Jesus had ended these sayings, the people were astonished at his doctrine”
Matthew 7:20-28 (let the context of His words speak to our hearts)
This doctrine will always astonish the adherents, the casual believer, and the carnal ones of the church today.
The lives which will stand in the unprecedented storm which is about to break will not be those who hear His words only, but those who DO them. Those who DO His commandments are those who love Him. These are not the words of men but the declaration of Christ Himself.
“He that hath my commandments, and keepeth them, he it is that loveth me: and he that loveth me shall be loved of my Father, and I will love him, and will manifest myself to him.”
“He that loveth me not keepeth not my sayings: and the word which ye hear is not mine, but the Father’s which sent me.”
“As the Father hath loved me, so have I loved you: continue ye in my love.”
Jesus continues in John 15 by presenting the disciples with the way for them to enter the Great Call and to remain in His empowering love and grace.
“If ye keep my commandments, ye shall abide in my love; even as I have kept my Father’s commandments, and abide in his love”
There can be no misinterpretation of the enormity of His call. Discipleship is not a comfortable teaching. It is not a popular invitation, nor an aspiration for those who seek a life of ease and respectability. It is a call of full surrender to the Will and purposes of God, a life of subservience to His Ways. A true disciple obeys His commandments to abide in the power of His Love. Love is the only motive able to transform a selfish, egotistical, and lost soul through the workings of the Cross. In dying to self, we discover the pure wonder of a Love so encompassing, so vast and so freeing that the cost is considered nothing in comparison to the “weight of glory” we will know.
“And he that taketh not his cross, and followeth after me, is not worthy of me”
There is something radical, even unnerving in His Call. Accepting the offer of Christ is not a trendy and popular decision. It is a Call to selfless living and selfless giving. Obedience is not optional to the disciple. But the Love we hold, or more correctly which holds us to His Way, culminates in pure joy. The context of John 15 leaves little doubt as to His Call or His purpose. Let us see through the eyes of the Spirit the power of all Jesus is implying.
John 15:9 “As the Father has loved me, so have I loved you. Abide in my love.”
John 15:10 “If you keep my commandments, you will abide in my love, just as I have kept my Father’s commandments and abide in his love.”
John 15:11 “These things I have spoken to you, that my joy may be in you, and that your joy may be full.”
In verse 9 Jesus presents to us the all-encompassing love of God; a Love of heavenly origin. It is a Love that knows our condition, that feels the agony and the lostness of humanity. It was a Love that sent Jesus into this world to walk as a man, to feel the oppression of mankind’s sorrow, to experience the corrupt and self-serving religious and political systems of the day. He spoke the truths of love in the parables of everyday life. The common man, the addicted, the afflicted, and the wounded were His focus. He exposed the religious elite who walked in the pride and arrogancy of hypocrisy. The Parable of the Good Samaritan revealed the beauty of a selfless life, caring for others more than ourselves. He called out to the poor and the needy to come and find the solace of heaven. He took notice of the offerings of the poor widow and saw the value of her mite; He was unimpressed with the rich who flaunted their offering. He was God in the flesh. His compassion, His uncompromising and unflinching walk was a source of anger and hate for the religious but a source of inspiration for the common man. He was the breath of heaven clothed in human form. He was and is the image of God’s purpose for all humanity.
Mat 20:25 “But Jesus called them to him and said, “You know that the rulers of the Gentiles lord it over them, and their great ones exercise authority over them.”
Mat 20:26 “It shall not be so among you. But whoever would be great among you must be your servant,”
Mat 20:27 “and whoever would be first among you must be your slave,”
Mat 20:28 “even as the Son of Man came not to be served but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.”
The nature of man apart from Christ is one of self-seeking, self-pleasing, and self-gratification. This focus on ourselves is the source of our own misery. Ask the addicted, the abused, and consider the countless stories of human sorrow which we have all known. It is to this crisis of human nature that the Cross is presented. In its deep work, we find rest, freedom, and the Divine enablement to love as He loved. We are free to forgive injustices and the tyranny of the human condition; to offer to all who would hear the wonder of freedom found in the Love of God!
Feel the depth of the Great Call of God in Christ:
“Come unto me, all ye that labour and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn of me; for I am meek and lowly in heart: and ye shall find rest unto your souls.”
The Call goes forth to all who would hear and respond. The “yoke” of Christ is His invitation to enter a rest for our weary souls. The “yoke” of Christ is His Cross whereby we are freed from the poison of self to know His Joy in our hearts. This life of joy cannot be known by sitting in a pew, believing in a teaching, or adherence to a doctrine. It can only be known through the intimacy of a relationship, walking in the yoke of His grace and love.
Jesus spoke of His true intention for us being captured by His Love to a growing obedience:
“…that my joy may be in you, and that your joy may be full”
“As the Father hath loved me, so have I loved you: continue ye in my love.”
The Great Call of God to each of His Own is to remain in the power of HIS Love. It is a life-long call. It is a call that causes us to forsake anything that weakens His influence and power over our hearts. We, of our own volition, order our steps, make decisions, and choose our friends to facilitate His Kingdom within our lives. Everything is subservient to this one thing. The Book of Jude is a short, but fiery admonition to the growing pollution of a pervading influence of the world within the Church. There was an increasing tolerance of sin resulting in apathy and lethargy. The love of many was becoming cold*. We read his passionate exhortation to contend for THE FAITH; to fight the ethos of moral decay by which His people flagrantly used the concept of the grace of God to continue in sin, rather than understanding grace as the power of God to deliver them from their sin.
“I had necessity to write to you, exhorting [you] to fight for the faith once delivered to the holy ones…”
“For certain people have crept in unnoticed who long ago were designated for this condemnation, ungodly people, who pervert the grace of our God into sensuality and deny our only Master and Lord, Jesus Christ.” Jude 1:4
What is the great sin? It is a gospel which “perverts the grace of our God” to tolerate sin, sympathize with sin, thereby denying Him of His lordship in our lives. This perversion brings the grace of God into the realm of the senses. Where human sympathy subverts God’s Word, it twists and perverts His purpose into a demonic understanding as first evident in the Garden of Eden. The serpent beguiled Eve with this reasoning: “you shall not die”. In other words, do not fear God. Surely, He will not judge you for this act. We see this same “human” sympathy at work in Peter when he wanted to prevent Jesus from fulfilling Calvary’s call. Jesus rebuked him:
“Get behind me, Satan! You are a hindrance to me. For you are not setting your mind on the things of God, but on the things of man.”!
One thing is certain. There can be no true fellowship with those who esteem sin lightly. To walk in the Light of Christ is to hate sin and love righteousness. They who walk in this light know the power of true fellowship (1 John 1:6-7). Jude continues:
“Now I want to remind you, although you once fully knew it, that Jesus, who saved a people out of the land of Egypt, afterward destroyed those who did not believe.” Jude 1:5
The people in Jude’s day knew this truth. The Apostolic ministrations made known the vital truth that we must “continue” in His Love. We must fight the fight of faith to remain under the power of His Grace that we are not “shipwrecked” as Paul spoke of those who started out well but failed to “continue” in the faith.
“Holding faith, and a good conscience; which some having put away concerning faith have made shipwreck”
1 Timothy 1:19
And again in Jude:
“Woe to them! For they walked in the way of Cain and abandoned themselves for the sake of gain to Balaam’s error and perished in Korah’s rebellion. These are hidden reefs at your love feasts, as they feast with you without fear, shepherds feeding themselves; waterless clouds, swept along by winds; fruitless trees in late autumn, twice dead, uprooted; wild waves of the sea, casting up the foam of their own shame; wandering stars, for whom the gloom of utter darkness has been reserved forever.”
People who live without a healthy “fear of the Lord” are those who have fallen to this perverted grace. The fear of the Lord is simply an attitude of heart that knows its utter need and dependence to abide in Him to live godly in this world. There is an understanding that allowing sinful thoughts to invade our hearts will lessen the influence of His Spirit and leave us vulnerable and captive to sin’s destructive ways.
“continue ye in MY love”
Our only hope of remaining true in this hour is to abide in Christ. If I lightly esteem His salvation, I will walk in this deadly world without His keeping power. Inevitably I will succumb to a worldly life while still confessing His Name. I will walk “sensually”, meaning subject to the senses and reasoning of this world, sympathizing with sin, feeling little or no remorse for my sinful inclinations. The deadliest aspect of sin is that it numbs us to its own devastating power. Only in Christ do we value exhortation, rebuke, and admonition. The natural man avoids these things, for the natural man cannot receive spiritual ministrations (1 Corinthians 2:14). The “fruit” of the perverted gospel of grace is people who only want to hear “smooth things” (Isaiah 30:10), pleasant things, with no desire for the two-edged sword of the living word of God (Hebrews 4:12).
Jude ends his fiery ministration with a plea to all who would hear:
“Keep yourselves in the love of God”
Keep yourselves under the influence of His grace. Keep yourselves in the fervency of His love. Fellowship with those who have not succumbed to the ethos of a gospel that alleviates His people from their responsibility to walk with God and abide in Him. Keep yourselves from living without fruit or purpose. The comfort of this human-centered gospel message is designed to assuage the conviction of the Holy Spirit.
“Having a form of godliness, but denying the power thereof: from such turn away”
2 Timothy 3:5
In the Book of Revelation Jesus says to His Church at Ephesus:
“But I have this against you, that you have abandoned the love you had at first”
What was God’s remedy?
“Remember therefore from where you have fallen; repent, and do the works you did at first…”
In God’s eyes, to live outside of this “pre-eminent love” (Greek), is a fallen state which requires repentance and a returning to what they did when they first started. The KJV uses the phrase “first love” in verse 4 and in verse 5 it uses the phrase “first works”. It takes the “first love” in order to DO the “first works”. It is impossible to hold the love of God in our hearts and be without the works of God. Utterly impossible. The branch which abides in the Vine “bears much fruit”.
May the magnificent words of Jesus resound within our hearts:
“As the Father hath loved me, so have I loved you: continue ye in my love.”
* Note: Jesus spoke concerning the “beginning of sorrows” that during this time there would be people with cold hearts because iniquity would be rampant. He is not speaking of the world for they have not been given the love of which Jesus spoke.
“And because iniquity shall abound, the love of many shall wax cold.” (Matthew 24:12)
For iniquity to abound requires a gospel in which iniquity, sin, and loose living are tolerated.
“As the Father hath loved me, so have I loved you: continue ye in my love.”
In reading this powerful discourse to His disciples we must pause to note the depth, the power, and the decisiveness of the words Jesus uses. There was nothing common or mundane about His speech. Every word was filled with the majesty and weight of truth. Having declared His incomprehensible love for them, He now addresses the need for them to stay in that love.
“continue ye in MY love”
The Greek translated “continue” means to dwell, abide, and remain in that love. The Love of God is more than a sentiment; it is an atmosphere, a power, and an all-pervading influence by which He rules and subdues our whole being. Those who know Him love because He is love. This love is of an entirely different nature than anything this world has to offer. It is not a love that we can fabricate. It is beyond the scope of human origin. It emanates from God and the pure delight and privilege of His children are to simply abide in its sphere.
The Love of God can only be realized by relationship. In making known to His disciples the wonder of this love Jesus clearly communicated their need to continue, to abide, and to dwell within the source of its inspiration. The secret to the Christian life is to remain within its warmth and power.
There are many who view His Love as a teaching or a doctrine. This reduces His love to a thing. But this concept negates the intent of God to rule by that love in their hearts and instead enables them to justify their cold indifference to walk in His Ways. His Love is not a thing to be taken for granted but an influence by which our lives are to be governed.
The whole discourse of John 15 can be summed up in ONE pervading truth: ABIDE. He is the source of Life and Love, and the Christian Life is simply one of partaking and drawing from Him. There is a joy that fills our hearts as we grow into the realization that we are free from trying to work up this life. It is not in us, nor of us that the verity of this influence is to be found. May we hear with the simplicity of child-like faith, “Abide in Me”.
“I am the vine, ye are the branches: He that abideth in me, and I in him, the same bringeth forth much fruit”
In my own journey, it has taken a long time to realize that many of the New Covenant scriptures are statements, not suggestions or doctrinal teachings. This has been revolutionary in understanding my life in Him. “He that abideth in me…bringeth forth much fruit”. A simple declaration of a fact. A healthy fruit tree bears fruit consistent with its nature. Lives which bear His fruit testify of Him. Lives that are barren and unfruitful are not abiding in the Vine regardless of their confession.
“As the Father hath loved me, so have I loved you…”
This partial scripture is staggering. The incomprehensible Love of the Son for us is of the same magnitude that the Father has for His own Son! Selah. May the Spirit of God cause us to pause here and let the immensity of this word pierce our hearts. Let it drive out thoughts of our inadequacy, meanness, and self-loathing.
“As the Father hath loved me, so have I loved you…”
If we can read these words without being overwhelmed, we need to spend more time in His Presence. Let these words impact how we see ourselves and more importantly how we are to see others. It is one of those scriptures that will take us eternity to grasp the significance of its message. Only by His Holy Spirit can we be transformed by its singular vein of thought. Let it break any vestige of pride and arrogancy within and free us from seeking to validate ourselves before men and before God.
Love is the heart and soul of every disciple. The Love which bound the heart of the Son to the pure will of God will also bind those who know its grasp upon their hearts. The love which bound the Son to the Cross will bind us to the Will of the Father unto the same obedience. Without love, there can be no true discipleship.
Until His Love has ravished our hearts, stolen our hearts away from the love of this world, we know little of our salvation. Where the love of God is resident, it will be accompanied by the Fire of God for love is the fire burning within.
“Many waters cannot quench love, neither can the floods drown it: if a man would give all the substance of his house for love, it would utterly be contemned.”
Song of songs 8:7
Throughout the ages, there have always been those whom the Love of God has sealed unto Himself. There has always been a remnant whose lives were His to do with as He willed. He that spared not His Only Begotten Son did not spare them. Whatever they lost here was compensated in the resurrection.
“…who through faith overcame kingdoms, worked out righteousness, obtained promises, stopped the mouths of lions, quenched the power of fire, escaped the mouths of the sword, acquired power from weakness, became strong in war; made armies of foreigners to yield. Women received their dead by resurrection; but others were beaten to death, not accepting deliverance, that they might obtain a better resurrection”
(The Greek Word for better means stronger, greater in power)
The secret of the life of a disciple is the love of God, burning, purifying, and bringing His own to the path of obedience. Love produces greater sacrifice, greater offerings, and purer motives. Love is the great gift of Himself to us.
“Now the end of the commandment is charity out of a pure heart, and of a good conscience, and of faith unfeigned: From which some having swerved have turned aside unto vain jangling…”
1 Timothy 1:5-6
“The wisdom of the wise is to understand his way…”
The wise walk circumspectly before the Lord. They do not drift carelessly through life. The wise measure their words and consider their ways for they have an awareness of being always before Him.
“Wherefore we labour, that, whether present or absent, we may be accepted of him.”
2 Corinthians 5:9
The wise have an overriding desire to carry themselves uprightly before their King. They do not rest in professions or beliefs but hold themselves to a deeper call: to honor Him in all they do. There is joy in this journey for life is filled with purpose and wonder. Every day has lessons to be learned, glories to be seen, and lives to touch. God is the author of our way and as such, we welcome His leadings to bring us into a deeper knowledge of Him and His grace.
The wisdom of the wise is to consider the path we take and make it a priority to understand His way. It takes a lifetime to cultivate this sensitivity to His presence. The light of His witness teaches us to order our steps rightly in a world full of temptation and sorrow
“The one who offers thanksgiving as his sacrifice glorifies me; to one who orders his way rightly I will show the salvation of God!”
“We have no more but five loaves and two fishes; except we should go and buy meat for all this people.”
“When Jesus said “Give ye them to eat”, it was not because He expected His disciples to have a plan, but because He wanted them to expect a miracle. Like us, however, they chose the easier way, the way which does not require the exercise of faith or prayer. Their solution was to “go and buy”. It was a proposal unworthy of disciples; it could as well have been made by the Pharisees or even Sadducees. It displayed no faith, no trust in Him. As John’s Gospel makes plain, their thoughts were in their pockets. They had not enough money!
We only see what we can do. We shut our eyes to God and His inexhaustible resources. But God is not to be measured by us. Never mind what we can do or cannot do; He is waiting to show us His miracles.” – Watchman Nee
God’s purpose is to bring us to the place of measuring our circumstances in the greatness of His provisions.
“And He did not many mighty works there because of their unbelief”
Faith is the atmosphere in which His Holy Spirit moves. God has made a covenant with humanity. It is a covenant based on faith, no longer dependent upon the arm of flesh, the energies of self, or the wiles and methods of men.
“Therefore it is of faith, that it might be by grace; to the end, the promise might be sure to all the seed; not to that only which is of the law, but to that also which is of the faith of Abraham; who is the father of us all…”
Today many speak of faith and many teach about the grace of God. But the crux is that true faith and grace reveal the power, the righteousness, and the character of Christ in our lives that we might BE a “sign and a wonder” in this world.
“Behold, I and the children whom the LORD has given me are signs and portents in Israel from the LORD of hosts, who dwells on Mount Zion.”
Much of Christian thinking equates “signs and wonders” with the miraculous. Of course, that is part of our inheritance but Jesus also declared “An evil and perverse generation seeketh after signs”. Jesus testified of John the Baptist:
“For I say unto you, Among those that are born of women there is not a greater prophet than John the Baptist”
This John performed no miracles nor produced any signs but the Word declares the power of his life was the “voice of one crying out in the wilderness”. God looks for those who allow their lives to be so transformed by His power that we may be witnesses by the Life we live and the Word we declare.
“By this shall all men know that ye are my disciples, if ye have love one to another”
The true authentic love of God can only be revealed in those who are His disciples. A love that overlooks sin, that does not reach out to the world, and is unmoved by the unction and power of the Holy Spirit, falls short of revealing the true nature of God. Religious love spares the outworkings of the cross. It refuses to step into the arena of faith to contend for the righteousness of God. The result is that the Church has dimmed the revelation of Jesus Christ. A faith that expects little, desires little, and costs nothing is a faith without value. The boisterous faith of those who walk in the light of their own counsels and energy will reveal little but themselves.
True faith, regardless of its “size”, will reveal the One who is its Author. Faith the size of a mustard seed will remove the mountain that stands in its way.
May we hear the call to discipleship afresh. Let us pick up our own cross, acknowledge our responsibility to Him, that this world will once again behold His True Nature! The signs and wonders of His power will follow those who are pure in their devotion to Him.
“And these signs shall follow them that believe; In my name shall they cast out devils; they shall speak with new tongues…”
There are those who follow signs and wonders to their own sorrow but God is raising up a people where the signs and wonders will follow them. Jesus called one an adultress generation (Matthew 12:9; 16:34) and the other a blessed generation.
Recently, while considering prayer and the keeping power of God, I was struck with the analogy of under-water swimmers. Their lives depend on the oxygen above. If they do not surface for the pure air they will drown in the dark depths of their surroundings. So, it is with Christians. Prayer is the lifeline of our spiritual lives in a dark and dank world.
The deception comes when we feel safe and comfortable in our material world. Things generally seem to work out, day after day goes by and we can easily take life for granted; life which is ours only because of the breath of heaven. Prayer is not something to be scheduled or orchestrated by human design. Prayer is simply drawing near unto the One who has begun the great work of salvation within us. His desire is to bring the rule of His Life into the lives of His own. A man’s natural tendency is to want control and religion often placates this desire. But the prayer and communion of His Spirit brings the fresh fragrance of Christ into our stale air.
Prayer enlarges our world. Lives lived outside of prayer are shallow, limited in scope, and have little contact with the world around them. Without the love of God beating in our hearts it is impossible to feel His compassion for others, to know His ministry of outreach. His breath in our hearts expands our horizon and desires to make Him known.
The beginning of Man in the garden was the result of the breath of God. Just as the first Adam became alive by the breath of God so too do we become alive by the Breath of the Second Adam (1 Corinthians 15:47).
“And the Lord God formed man of the dust of the ground, and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life; and man became a living soul”
We see Jesus in the Book of John, prior to His resurrection, breathing upon the disciples the breath of the Holy Spirit. Though it was a temporary ministration it transformed their lives and prepared them for the coming of the indwelling Spirit on the Day of Pentecost.
“And when he had said this, he breathed on them, and saith unto them, Receive ye the Holy Ghost”
As with all things in God, that which is external is transient and temporary. But the breathing on them as they walked with God was to become an internal reality. God’s full purpose is that we may live UNTO Him for eternity. Prayer is the essential breath of the New Man. His Spirit is the fire of His presence burning and purifying us within.
God’s instruction to us:
“But ye, beloved, building up yourselves on your most holy faith, praying in the Holy Ghost, Keep yourselves in the love of God…”
Christians with unforgiveness, bitterness and stagnation are those who fail to inhale afresh the atmosphere and substance of God. This breath cannot help but bring change and transformation to our lives!
“But we all, with open face beholding as in a glass the glory of the Lord, are changed into the same image from glory to glory, even as by the Spirit of the Lord.”
2 Corinthians 3:18
“Believers keep up and maintain their walk with God by secret prayer. The spirit of grace is always accompanied with the spirit of supplication. It is the very breath of the new creature, the fan of the divine life, whereby the spark of holy fire, kindled in the soul by God, is not only kept in, but raised into a flame”
– George Whitefield