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Archive for December, 2012

family-christmas-dinner I hope that everyone is having a wonderful Christmas holiday with family and friends. We are still blessed to live in America where we can worship Jesus Christ openly.

However, there are places in the world where Christians are suffering for their faith. They are not allowed to worship Christ with their families, let alone in public.

One place that we should remember is China and we should pray for our sisters who are separated from their husbands and fathers.

Gao Zhisheng, Liu Xianbin, and Guo Quan are all serving long sentences in prisons in China. Their crime – appealing to their government for religious freedom. This is not allowed in the communist regime and these men were arrested, tried, and convicted. Often their families are not allowed to visit them. Their families are under threat of harm or imprisonment as well.

Gao’s wife, Liu’s daughter, and Guo’s wife have taken the courageous step to emigrate to the United States. Here they are safe, and they also have the opportunity to tell the world about what is happening in China.

These three families represent many thousands of persecuted Christians in China. Their stories remind us that we still have much freedom here and we should be thankful. We should also pause sometime during the middle of all of our holiday fun and pray for these Chinese families and the persecuted Christians everywhere.

They are not having so Merry a Christmas.

Geng He, wife of Gao Zhisheng, fled China on a train through a rugged mountain region. geng he 305When she and her children got across the border, rescuers from China Aid met them. They received help to come to the United States in 2009. Gao was offered the chance to flee but he chose to stay in China. He believed that he was called by God to stay and work for religious freedom. A month after his family was safe in America, Gao disappeared. He was tortured mentally and physically by Chinese authorities. He was briefly let out and then sent back for twenty more months of torture.

Geng and their two children miss their father. Geng is lonely but she continues to bring Gao’s story to officials to try to get publicity for the plight of religious groups in China.

Bridgette ChenBridgette Chen was only fifteen years old when her father was arrested and sent to prison. Her father, Liu Xianbin was a human rights activist. He was one of a number of dissidents who signed a pro-democracy document that was condemned by Chinese officials. He is currently serving a ten-year sentence. Bridgette was about fifteen years old when she was offered a safe home in this country by a pastor and his family. She was sad to leave her mother but the family thought it was for the best. She is hoping that the Chinese officials will eventually let her mother come to America. In the meantime she is receiving a good education. She also is presenting her father’s case to U.S. officials in order to get some relief for her father.

Li Jing, wife of Guo Quan, waits and prays while her husband serves a ten-year sentence in Li Jing-guo-quans-wife-305China for writing about democracy and human rights. He continued to write even after threats, but he believes that as a professor he has some responsibility to society. He was arrested in 2008 and sentenced in 2009.

The authorities persecuted Li by making her employer reduce her hours at work until she could no longer provide for her son. She made the decision to flee. First, she wanted to make sure it was all right with Guo.

Her visits to the prison were strictly monitored so she tried something daring. She wrote in tiny letters on the end of her thumb, “I take our son and go to the U.S.” While she was talking to Guo she pressed her thumb on the glass that separated them. He nodded slowly. She knew that she had his approval, but the hard part was just beginning. She had to be very careful in her plans to escape. She got permission from the authorities to visit relatives in a nearby country. She discussed this on the phone with friends on purpose knowing that officials were probably listening in on her calls.

As soon as she was across the border, she and her son defected. She was helped to get to Los Angeles where workers from China Aid met her. Li was surprised that her plan worked but thankfully stated, “I think God arranged it. It’s amazing.”

A month later, Li Jing and Geng He went together to Capitol Hill to testify before the Congressional-Executive Commission on China. They presented the plight of their husbands and requested a meeting with White House officials. They never received a reply.

Perhaps it was because our arrogant president Obama was meeting on that same day with the Chinese Vice President, Xi Jinping in the Oval Office. Jinping received the salute of a 300-man honor guard and a 19-gun salute at the Pentagon.

Li and Geng are still hopeful that they can press their cases. They also pray that conditions in China will change and their will be more religious freedom.

These courageous women deserve our respect and our prayers.

This Christmas as you delight in the warmth and love of your family around you, remember the persecuted, lonely Christians around the world who do not have this privilege. Take a moment to thank God for the gift of the Savior and the gift of freedom.

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When Elizabeth heard Mary’s greeting, the baby leaped in her womb; and Elizabeth was filled with the Holy Spirit (Luke 1:41).

Glory to God in the Highest and Peace and Goodwill Towards Men

 

At this time of the year there is much anticipation in the air. Children can’t wait to be done with school for a while and have a nice break. Of course, the main object of their anxious waiting is Christmas!

Moms and Dads are filled with anticipation of the happy Christmas morning when they can christmas_gifts_under_tree_edit_shutterstock_41106952__largesee their children’s eyes light up when they come into the family room and see the beautiful tree and all of the presents.

These are wonderful traditions. I pray that at this Christmas everyone will take time out and remember that the One that they should be anticipating is the Lord Jesus Christ. The presents under the tree are fun, but the best gift ever is from our Heavenly Father.

Our best gift is the Savior Who can give us a better life and an eternal home with Him.

In Luke’s Gospel we encounter the story of the Savior’s birth along with many details surrounding it. Luke gives us a glimpse into the lives of the people who would be special in the life of the baby Jesus. Last Christmas, we talked about His mother Mary. This Christmas it seems appropriate to talk about a relative of Mary’s family, Elizabeth.

Who was this woman and why was she so special that the evangelist Luke should commemorate her story?

We don’t have many details, but what we know is important. Both Elizabeth and her husband, Zacharias, were descended from Aaron (Moses’ brother) and therefore they were both in the priestly line. Therefore, their child, John the Baptist, would be from the priestly line from both sides of his family. John the Baptist was the great prophet who was foretold in the Old Testament who would introduce Jesus at the beginning of the Savior’s ministry. Elizabeth had the privilege to be the mother of this great person.

Elizabeth understood that God had chosen her for a special task. Like some of the other women we have studied, such as Sarah and Hannah, Elizabeth was childless for a long time. In Jewish society barrenness was both embarrassing and humiliating. It was assumed that the woman had disobeyed God somehow and was being punished with childlessness. Elizabeth responded to God’s blessing by praising Him. “This is the way the Lord has dealt with me in the days when He looked with favor upon me, to take away my disgrace among men” (Luke 1:25). Of course we know that God has His own purposes for how He deals with us. The stories of these women are a great encouragement to those who are suffering misfortunes in their lives.

We are told specifically that sinfulness was NOT the reason for Elizabeth’s condition. Luke tells us that both Zacharias and Elizabeth were “righteous in the sight of God, walking blamelessly in all the commandments and requirements of he Lord” (Luke 1:6). The Father was merely waiting until the time was right to bless Elizabeth with motherhood. God’s timing is perfect; He was also about to visit Mary the future mother of Jesus. These women were relatives.

Elizabeth:MaryAfter Mary became pregnant with Jesus she went to visit Elizabeth. A wonderful thing happened. As soon as Elizabeth heard Mary’s greeting, the baby in her womb leaped for joy. Even her unborn child recognized the nearness of the Savior of the world. Elizabeth was filled with the Holy Spirit and rejoiced saying to Mary, “Blessed are you among women, and blessed is the fruit of your womb! And how has it happened to me, that the mother of my Lord would come to me? For behold, when the sound of your greeting reached my ears, the baby leaped in my womb for joy. And blessed is she who believed that there would be a fulfillment of what had been spoken to her by the Lord” (Luke 1:42-45).

Note especially the last verse, “And blessed is she who believed that there would be a fulfillment of what had been spoken to her by the Lord.” Elizabeth believed and was blessed.

This year as we anticipate the wonderful Christmas season, my prayer is that all will believe and be blessed. Jesus is the Son of God the Most High Who will reign forever; His kingdom will have no end.

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A blessed Christmas to you and your families.

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And this love for souls grew even stronger as death came near. ‘Eva,’ she exclaimed to one of her daughters, as she lay racked with agonizing pain, ‘don’t you forget that man with the handcuffs on. Find him. Go to Lancaster Jail; let somebody go with you, and find that man. Tell him that your mother, when she was dying, prayed for him, and that she had a feeling in her heart that God would save him; and tell him, hard as the ten years of imprisonment may be, it will be easier with Christ than it would be without Him.’”

booth-catherine Catherine Booth was first and foremost a soul winner. Catherine was so grateful for her own salvation that she could think of nothing else that she would ever want to do than to tell others about the Savior.

The Mother of the Salvation Army was born on January 17, 1829 in Derbyshire, England. She was a shy child and very sickly. She lay on her back for most of a three- year period with a spinal problem. She found a way to read books and study. She also knitted and sewed. God would use all of these lessons later in her life as she cared for eight children.

Some doubted whether Catherine would ever walk again, but her strength gradually improved. Catherine never wasted time and she had little patience for lazy people. She never spent time reading silly novels; she concentrated on her Bible and good books written by scholarly theologians.

God would put all of her skills, knowledge, and good habits together so that she could fill the special purpose He had in mind for her. The shy, sickly girl would never have seen herself standing in front of a large group teaching about Christ. But eventually the Holy Spirit gave her the strength to put her own feelings aside and think about how lost the people who came to hear her were. Hell is real. Catherine wanted to prevent as many souls as possible from going there.

Her husband, William Booth started out as a traveling evangelist. In the early part of their marriage, up through the birth of four of their children, the Booths were very poor and seldom had a home of their own. Then one night as William was coming home from a meeting he passed the doors of a gin palace in East London. This was the part of London where unfortunate people lived – alcoholics, criminals, and prostitutes. William had been preaching in places like West London, where upper class people lived – people who could put enough money in the hat when it was passed to put at least some food on the table at the Booth household.

William thought he heard an urgent voice speaking to him, a voice that would ask a great sacrifice from him and Catherine. The voice asked, “Where can you go and find such heathen as these, and where is there so great a need for your labours?”

Catherine believed that they should answer this call, though she knew that they would never be able to ask the East-Enders for money as they had been able to before from their “respectable” audiences. This was huge step of faith and William and Catherine trusted the Lord to take care of them.

For Catherine it was all about the glory of God and the salvation of souls. And so the little Whitechapel mission would turn into the Christian Mission and eventually into what we know today as the Salvation Army.

Mobilizing this army of Christians would require a lot of work. The Booths believed that the army of Christ is made up of both men and women. While William started out doing most of the preaching, there came a time when Catherine followed her calling to stand up and talk in front of the gathering.

Catherine had been leading groups of girls in Bible study and other practical lessons. She had been asked many times to stand up and say a few words at the Sunday night service. She always refused. She did not want to look like a fool. One day, she realized that this was Satan’s ploy to keep her silent. As long as the focus was on herself and not others, she had an excuse to sit still. One day the Holy Spirit impressed on her Paul’s wisdom from the Bible, but God has chosen the foolish things of the world to shame the wise, and God has chosen the weak things of the world to shame the things which are strong, (I Cor. 1:27).

At this point, Catherine was willing to be a fool for Christ. After her husband was through with his sermon, she rose from her seat and walked up the aisle to the front of the meetinghouse. Everyone was astonished to see this shy woman coming forward. William stepped down and said, “What is the matter, my dear?” He was so taken by surprise that all he could say was, “My dear wife wishes to speak!” He sat down and a trembling Catherine told her story of God’s love and faithfulness.

William had been encouraging Catherine to speak for years. After this occasion, Catherine spoke often at the meetings. She had already been speaking at temperance movement gatherings. She was always well prepared using only her Bible and a concordance.

William and Catherine would found the Salvation Army. It grew out of their combined efforts inbooth2 city mission work. Catherine worked tirelessly to rescue women out of prostitution. Most of the women were from poorer classes, but a surprising number had come from upper classes. Catherine responded to this need by opening a home where the “lady portion” of the prostitutes could be trained to fill a more useful occupation.

From the very beginning, women were welcome to work with the Salvation Army.
In spite of all of the humanitarian work that the Salvation Army was doing, they met with opposition from every sector of society. From thugs to high churchmen the Army was treated with scorn. The ridicule in the streets even turned to violence on occasion. In 1882, for example, more than six hundred assaults were reported. One third of those were women, one even died from her wounds.

Catherine Booth died of cancer in 1890 at the age of sixty-one. Her last years were devoted to teaching and to rescue work among young teenage prostitutes.

As time went on, the Salvation Army came over to the United States. The familiar bell ringers are part of Christmas all across the country. They have been featured in many heartwarming movies and the work done by the Salvation Army among the poorest people in our country is tremendous. Untold thousands have benefitted from this devoted Christian organization.

salvation army

Unfortunately in our day, the Army has become the objects of derision again. Many stores wishing to bow to political correctness have asked the cheerful bell ringers to stay away from their doors. I was happy to see last year that many people boycotted some of those stores. Now, the local Wal-mart near us has asked the bell ringers to return after banning them a couple of years ago. I know that their motive is only profit, but I am happy to see Americans insisting on what is right. If your local store has banned the bell ringers, please consider shopping somewhere else.
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Take time to go in and tell the manager that you and your friends will not support a store that discriminates against Christians, especially ones who do so much good for the poor.

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“She said,” Ms. Stahl recalled, “ ‘Here I am, a stranger, asking them to place their child in my care. They ask if I can guarantee their safety. I have to answer no. Sometimes they would give me their child. Other times they would say come back. I would come back a few days later and the family had already been deported.’ ”

Irena SendlerThough she rescued more than 2500 children and babies from the Warsaw ghetto during WWII, Irena Sendler remained a humble woman taking no credit for her heroic work up until her death, at the age of 98 in May 2008. She said that she wished she had done even more.

Irena Sendler was one of the most courageous women who has ever lived. She not only put her life on the line to rescue Jewish children right under the noses of the Nazis, but she also had to do it in an atmosphere of ambivalence or even hatred from her fellow German countrymen. Many who called themselves Christians in Germany were too afraid to help the Jews. In my last blog posting I asked whether or not doing nothing about the human trafficking problem in our day is considered a sin of omission. Many in Germany during WWII were certainly also guilty of this sin by ignoring the plight of the Jews.

I really admire the way that Irena Sendler went about defying the Nazis. She did not start riots or create anarchy in any way. She merely went about quietly saving the lives of babies and children. We do not have to cause trouble in order to reject wicked laws; it is enough to at least rescue and care for the victims. This kind of love and courage was exemplified in Irena’s life.

Here is a summary of the life of this remarkable woman and a link to a YouTube video that you might enjoy looking at.

Irena Sendler was born in 1910 in Otwock, a town located about fifteen miles southeast of Warsaw. Her father was a doctor and many of his patients were poor Jews.

When the Nazis invaded Poland in 1939 they murdered many thousands. At that time Irena was a Polish social worker. She was able to help many Jews by giving them fictitious Christian names. Others were protected when Irena reported that their homes were afflicted with highly infectious diseases such as typhus or tuberculosis. The Nazis avoided them.

This worked for a while, but in 1942 the Nazis herded hundreds of thousands of Jews into a 16-block area that came to be known as the Warsaw ghetto. The area was sealed off and the Jews were just awaiting death. Eventually their numbers would dwindle to only about 55,000 and then the Nazis would send those remaining to the death camps.

Irena was shocked and sickened. She joined a Polish underground movement and began her efforts to rescue Jewish children.

Irena managed to be able to enter the ghetto legally by getting a pass as a worker for Warsaw’searly Sendler photos Epidemic Control Department. She took in as much food, medicine, and clothing as she could, but 5000 people a month were dying. She tried to convince some mothers to let her smuggle their children out.

Irena talked some friends, many only teenagers, into helping her take aid into the ghetto and children out of the ghetto. They hid the children on trams and garbage wagons. Some children left the ghetto in body bags or gunnysacks. At least one child left in an ambulance. Some children lay under the floorboards of a wagon that had a large dog on top whose barking could cover their cries. They led some children out in underground passageways and through the city sewers. They obtained forged Catholic birth certificates so that the children could live safely in the homes that volunteered to take them.

The children were taught prayers and how to behave in a church. In this way they were able to prevent the arrest and execution of those who were brave enough to adopt the children by fooling the Nazis into thinking they were Christians. Lest you think Irena was only proselytizing, she fully intended to unite as many children as she could after the war with their parents. She put the names of the more than 2500 children that she rescued into jars. She then buried the jars in the neighbor’s yard under an apple tree.

The Nazis eventually caught on to what she was doing. She was arrested on October 20, 1943, and imprisoned and tortured. The Nazis broke both of her feet and her legs crippling her for life. Under this torture she never revealed a single name of a co-conspirator or any other people who were helping. By this time there were many children living in convents, but Irena never gave away anyone who was helping the children. The punishment for helping Jews was instant death.

At one point, Irena was sentenced to death, but she was saved at the last minute when the Polish underground was able to bribe a Gestapo agent to set her free.

After the war Irena dug up the jars and tried to search for the children’s parents. Unfortunately, most of the Jewish adults had died in the death camps. The children had only known Irena by her code name, Jolanta, and it was difficult for them to try and find out what happened to their parents. However, there were many happy stories. Years later a man who saw Irena’s picture in the paper called her. He said, “I remember your face. It was you who took me out of the ghetto.”

Sendler photosIrena was honored by many organizations, including Jewish organizations. In 1965 she was given the title of Righteous Among the Nations by the Yad Vashem organization in Jerusalem and in 1991 she was made an honorary citizen of Israel. She also received Poland’s highest award, the Order of White Eagle. She has officially been designated a national hero in Poland. Schools have been named in her honor.

Irena was a candidate to receive the 2007 Nobel Peace Prize, but the honor was not awarded to her. Instead it was given to Al (“I invented the computer”) Gore. The International Federation of Social Workers expressed their disappointment, “However IFSW is deeply saddened that the life work of Nobel nominee Irena Sendler, social worker, did not receive formal recognition. Irena Sendler and her helpers took personal risks day after day to prevent the destruction of individual lives — the lives of the children of the Warsaw ghetto. This work was done very quietly, without many words and at the risk of their lives. “

Truly Irena deserved the award more than the actual recipient. Perhaps in the years ahead this wrong will be righted.

Poland honored her at a special ceremony in their upper house of Parliament. It was very fitting that Elzbieta Ficowska, who was six months old when she was saved by Irena read out a letter on Irena’s behalf: “Every child saved with my help is the justification of my existence on this Earth, and not a title to glory,” Irena Sendler said in the letter, “Over a half-century has passed since the hell of the Holocaust, but its spectre still hangs over the world and doesn’t allow us to forget.”

The world should be grateful for courageous women like Irena Sendler.

Here is an interesting site:

 

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