So What Now?

presidential-election-1336480_1280

You could almost hear a collective sigh of relief from Christians across America as we watched the election results on Tuesday night. What we thought was impossible actually became possible as we watched states start to turn red. I am still shaking my head that–

A. Donald Trump is the President Elect of the United States.

and

B. That I actually voted for and am glad that Donald Trump is President.

I feel like I have fallen into some alternate universe or something. What a crazy year. And what an upset. And here we are– with a guy who has few morals– and even less experience– about to run this country.

While I consider this a huge victory and answer to prayer, it certainly isn’t because of who became President but strictly because of who didn’t become President. Hopefully, we will now witness a halt or at least a slowing down of the aggressive liberal and socialistic agenda that has been the passion of our current President.

Before this election, many Christian pastors and bloggers reminded us that our hope is in the Lord. We felt hopeless, we felt powerless. We Christians needed to be reminded of where we should find our hope.

But with what happened this week, we may be tempted to start hoping again in the wrong things. Let us be careful we do not place our hope in a man. On Tuesday night we watched  as reporters almost stuttered in their shock and amazement over what was taking place on that map. Even staunch Republican insiders saw no hope for a win. But, while this is most certainly a wonderful surprise, we need to continue to pray! God is still our only hope. He is still the one who raises up and removes kings. Only He controls the nations. We must be careful not to place our trust in a man or in a government.

Trump is historically liberal in where he stands morally. While he may not be as aggressive in pushing immorality, it is unlikely that he will make sweeping changes to the morality of this nation. This was not a victory for Christian principles in this country.

In my opinion, this wasn’t really a win for Christians as much as it was a win for those who desire a return to sanity. Progressives are deeply mourning what they believe to be a move backwards for this nation. One has to wonder how well they know the histories of civilizations. When a country starts to break down in a way ours has been, complete destruction is never far behind. And so I believe we are simply backing away from the edge of the cliff for a few years. And, in so doing, may we continue to pray. Not only for the direction of this country but also that there would be opportunities to reach the lost. This respite will hopefully give us four years free of the persecution that we saw looming ahead of us. It may give us four more years of free speech. May we redeem this time and use it to proclaim the Gospel!

 

Why Are We Praying What We Are Praying?

prayer

There has been a rousing call to prayer for this country by Christians everywhere. This election, perhaps more than any other in history, has burdened our hearts for the future of this nation. But as I sat in prayer this morning, I was convicted by something.

What if I am praying that God would take America back to its Christian roots for my own benefit? For my own comfort and convenience and safety?

Because, if I am honest, that is what I am most afraid of losing.

But what if–what if–God’s purposes include bringing this nation to its knees? What if His glory can best be served by letting this nation continue to spiral downward? What if His kingdom here in America can expand best by the true church being persecuted? What then?

Do I lose faith because I am no longer comfortable? Do I stop trusting God because I am being persecuted? Do I cry out in despair because my prayers weren’t answered the way I want?

I am in no way suggesting that we stop praying for this nation, but instead that we make sure we are praying with an attitude of “Thy Will Be Done, Lord”. We don’t know His purposes, but only see a small pinpoint of activity on the timeline of history. Let’s pray for this nation! But let’s not grow discouraged if we don’t see the answer we want to see. God is using all that happens for His glory and purposes and we need not fret. Let’s be ready to yield our wills and desires to the King of Kings. Because we know that–

And He changes the times and the seasons;
He removes kings and raises up kings;
He gives wisdom to the wise
And knowledge to those who have understanding.

Daniel 2:21

I guess this really could apply to all that we pray, couldn’t it? How many of our prayers are prayed out of selfish motivation? It is quite sobering to consider. May we always pray that God’s Will be done, first and foremost, and be ready to yield our will to His, no matter what the request. This is short and sweet today but it was on my heart. Let’s keep praying for this nation but with a heart and mind submitted to God’s Will, no matter what lies in store.

With Acceptance Comes Peace

winter night2

When you get to be my age, sometimes you look back over your past and you realize just how much you have changed in certain areas. Oh, in many ways, I am still the person I was but–praise God!– in so many ways I am not.

Sometimes it seems that all we hear about the Christian life is brokenness and imperfectness and how that unites us all. And, yes, we are all broken. I actually prefer the term sinful. It’s what we are and it is how we are born. But there is some victory over the years in the life of a servant of God who truly desires to obey the Word of God. I’d like to share one of those small victories with you today. I am not sure I was even aware of it until a conversation took place a few weeks ago.

This person was not happy with their circumstances. They kept reminding me of how unfair it all was and questioning why life wasn’t going a bit more according to their plan.

As I listened, vague memories of my own dissatisfaction with my life circumstances came to my mind. I remembered feeling much the same way about my life situation when I was a young wife with a houseful of small children and a workaholic husband. If you remember, we were building a business. And businesses take hours and hours and hours. My husband has never worked less than 55 hours a week. Many times it was more. (It probably still is). And, of course, in the beginning years, there was little money to show for it. It was a lot of hours for little reward.

I could feel myself growing slightly resentful. I’d hear of things other husbands were doing and how they were able to help their wives and I’d think to myself: That’s just not fair.

But somewhere in that time of my life when I could have grown bitter and resentful over this, the Lord opened my eyes to a wonderful truth–

With acceptance comes peace.

This particular phrase was coined by Elisabeth Elliot. I am using it because it is the simplest, most profound way to say what I learned.

My life was my life. I was not changing my husband. I knew enough to know that. So I could choose to be joyful in my circumstances or I could choose to be a miserable grump. The choice was all mine. And the ramifications of that choice would ripple out across my family.

As I understood this more fully, I came to understand that the only thing I could change was me. Was I so arrogant as to believe that I somehow I had it all together? Did I think my husband had it so easy to be married to me?

Yes, as the Lord opened my eyes to accepting my circumstances, he also opened my eyes to my own bad attitudes, unkind words, and impatience. And it was not a pretty sight.

As I started climbing out of the pit that complaining and dissatisfaction had kept me in, I started realizing just how good I had it. Sure, my husband worked long hours but he loved his family. He was there for the kids whenever he possibly could be, making it to more games and events of theirs than most dads who don’t work those same hours. We had winters together–a few quiet months each year to catch our breath and regroup as a family.

As I started to focus on the positive and not the negative, our family life changed. As I started focusing on fixing myself instead of fixing my husband, our marriage changed.

Oh, I’d like to say I never experienced defeat in this area again, but, of course, life isn’t like that. But remembering that accepting my circumstances is the key to peace (and joy, too) in my life has helped me navigate many an unfair circumstance in my life. That lesson I learned as a young mom has helped me through many difficult times.

Let’s face it–we could all have a reason to be dissatisfied with our lot in life in one way or another. And if the thing we struggle with could be fixed tomorrow, we’d find something else to be unhappy about. It is the very nature of our humanity. We actually have to work against our selfish nature to rise above it and reach acceptance.

Now, let me just add this one thing–

Acceptance is not the same thing as resignation.

Accepting our circumstances does not mean we resign ourselves to the fact that our circumstances will never change. We still pray and ask the Lord to convict those who need to change. We ask Him to turn hearts to Him or to work in an area of our life or someone else’s life that needs changed. Oh, how we neglect the power of God to change people when we don’t get on our knees with diligence and perseverance.

But while we wait for God to work, we have to accept His timing and His sovereignty in the situation and work on our own selves–humbly recognizing our own sinfulness and need for growth.

Yes, this can all be extremely difficult, but the sweet and abundant fruit we yield when we do so is so much different than the bitter, ugly fruit we yield when we don’t.

And, so, there is some victory in the life of a believer truly dedicated to God and His Word. 2 Timothy 3:16-17 is so true, isn’t it? —

 All Scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness, 17 that the man of God may be complete, thoroughly equipped for every good work.

The Word of God will change us–but only if we spend time studying it with a humble and yielded heart.

 

Lessons from a Snowstorm

IMG_3335rev

To say my weekend turned out nothing like I planned would be an understatement. It started off with a phone call on Friday morning that forced me to change my plans for the whole day. As I drove home on Friday night the snow was coming down much earlier than had been forecasted and the weather reports seemed to be raising the amount of snowfall expected. Our landscape company does snow removal, so I knew we were definitely in for an interesting weekend.

As the snow fell on Friday night everyone gathered at our house and we turned on a movie. But it was not a normal relaxed movie night as my husband, son, and son-in-law kept their eyes on the weather and wondered how they were going to handle such a huge storm.

Three days later, it is mostly over. Although as I sit here at my laptop, my guys are still clearing snow in their efforts to get normal life back up and running for folks. Oh, how I respect and admire them for this. I don’t think I could do it. They have been going nonstop since during the night on Friday with just a few hours of sleep. I don’t know about you, but I know that I couldn’t do that. I am so thankful for the men in my life!

My job is to take the inevitable phone calls, which is always an adventure. One of our secretaries made it into the office this morning, so I am finally getting the opportunity to sit down and write on this Monday morning. My thoughts feel a little scattered, so I am going to try to pull them all together.

The weekend was full of interesting stories and tidbits, but instead of relaying everything, I thought I’d just summarize a few lessons that I learned (or was reminded of yet again)–

1. God is faithful. I never fail to be amazed at how God works out all the details when these days come. We have breakdowns and we have problems, but God is there in the midst of it. Without question. I know skeptics call this coincidence. But really–is there such a thing?

2. Most people are still generally nice. At least that is what I experienced yesterday. Because of the huge amounts of snow, we had run into the unusual circumstance of our normal snow equipment not being adequate for all of our jobs. This meant contracting subcontractors with bigger machines. But most people were patient and very kind when they called to ask about their driveway.

3. Some people are not so nice and they are the ones who remind me that I still have such a long way to go in the sanctification process. At one point, one lady called to complain about something. Her complaint was certainly legitimate, but it was made with such anger and accusations that I had a very difficult time holding on to my temper. I did manage to do so, but I got a little sarcastic and felt quite a bit of glee informing her that I was one of the owners when she demanded to speak to one of them. It is people like this that remind me that I still have such a long way to go in loving others–especially the ones that are selfish and unkind.

4. God answers prayer. In the midst of the weekend, we ended up having quite the crisis. Without going into details, I felt so helpless and really had to reign in the worry and fear that was rising quickly inside me, threatening to overtake me. I learned again that when I am faced with circumstances far outside my control, that I am not that spiritually mature, after all. I enlisted a few people to pray and God answered in an amazing way. We feel undeserving but offer our deepest and most humble thanks to Him!

5. A thank you in the midst of something like this is like a balm to the soul. This morning, before I switched the phones back to the office, I answered a call from a local business that we plow for. As most calls are usually negative, I prepared for the complaint that was sure to come. Instead, they had called to thank us for doing such a great job. Wow. What a blessing! Just a simple phone call, so easy to do, and yet so many of us never take the time to do this. I am thankful that this man did so. It means so much to our guys to hear words of praise once in awhile. We are always so quick to complain but most of us rarely offer a thank you. This phone call reminded me of the importance to express my gratitude to others.

6. I won’t die if I can’t leave my house. One of the things I have had to get used to is being the last one plowed out. Even now, my driveway is full of snow and drifts. This used to really get to me and I would grow a little angry. But as I have gotten older, I have realized that it was just my selfish desire not to be stuck here that drove my anger. Now I just try to be patient and not to be an extra burden that my husband has to worry about. When I feel a little claustrophobia rising in me, I just remind myself that I have people who could pick me up if there was an emergency!

 

These are just a few of things I learned this weekend. I am sure I could come up with more, but I need to go get busy and see if I can get my life back to some semblance of order! Hope you have a great day!

 

 

Is There a Wrong Way to Pray?

praying

I saw the movie War Room on Friday night. While I sat watching the big screen in front of me, I found myself contemplating my own prayer life and the great need for growth in that area of my walk with God. While there are a few things in the movie to concern the biblically discerning viewer (I’ve listed them at the end of this post), I think it does remind people of a very important principle of the Christian life that we often forget:

We need to fight on our knees.

Oh, how often we get caught up in our daily lives, barely squeezing in a chapter or two of the Word and a few sentences of prayer each day. It is interesting to reflect on just how much this world would change if we Christians would pray longer, more often, and more sincerely.

But one of the things that worries me is, while I do think it is a good idea for Christians to pray more, I am also very concerned that Christians– moved by this movie to create their own War Room– will pick up unbiblical resources on prayer. And, oh, there are so many of them! This subject of prayer has been hijacked by the enemy and it’s one of the quickest ways for him to gain access to our hearts.

One of the most popular ways to pray right now is called Contemplative Prayer. This prayer focuses on saying the same word or sentence over and over and then being still and “emptying and opening” your mind for God to speak to you. However, prayer is never described in this way in the Bible.

Many people use Psalm 46:10 to promote this type of prayer. And yet, to do so would necessitate taking this verse very much out of context. If we read the whole chapter we will see that the verses before verse 10 are focused on God’s help in our time of storm. It is clear to see that when  we get to this phrase “Be still and know that I am God” that it is referring to resting in the Lord, even in the raging storm, because God is still in control. This is a great example of how damaging it can be to take a verse out of its context.

There is a short, very helpful article over at gotquestions.org on this topic of Contemplative Prayer. I really encourage you to read it, so that you will be able to better discern the information you read or hear about prayer. But let me share a paragraph of that article here–

Contemplative prayer, by design, focuses on having a mystical experience with God. Mysticism, however, is purely subjective, and does not rely upon truth or fact. Yet the Word of God has been given to us for the very purpose of basing our faith, and our lives, on Truth (2 Timothy 3:16-17). What we know about God is based on fact; trusting in experiential knowledge over the biblical record takes a person outside of the standard that is the Bible.

The pattern for prayer that we are to follow was given to us by our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ in Matthew 6:6-15. As we read through the Lord’s example of praying, we will notice that He gives us no indication whatsoever that we are to sit still for hours, waiting for God to mystically speak to us, neither before we start speaking to God or after we are done speaking to Him. In fact, there really is no mention of this anywhere in the Bible.

And if we do just a little research, we will find that this practice of emptying and opening our minds for supernatural messages comes straight from false religions and has nothing to do with biblical Christianity.

So, yes, there is a wrong way to pray. And we need to be very careful. As I’ve mentioned so many times before, Christianity today is full of land mines. We need to constantly keep our guards up and be looking for red flags. Not in a “witch hunt” type of way, but in a concerned and prudent way, comparing everything that comes across our path to what the Word of God says.

If you are truly interested in strengthening your prayer life, as I am, then where can we turn for some good biblical resources on this subject of prayer? Unfortunately, we have to go back a few years to find the best resources. If you’ve never read some of these classics, I highly encourage you to do so.

Perhaps you say to yourself, “I just can’t read stuff like that.” Well, then, let me tell you a little story. I was right where you are. I felt the same way. I found them dull and dry and could barely get through any nonfiction book, much less an old, musty one written by a guy who lived fifty or more years before I was born. But, one day, I simply made the decision to push through the book Humility by Andrew Murray. And that book changed my life. Not only with what was written within its pages (which is excellent, by the way!), but by showing me that I could not only read those books but also that they would be a great asset to my growth as a Christian. Yes, it was work to get through the first book like this and sometimes I had to read a paragraph three times before I got it, but, oh, it was so very worth it! And the good news is that it grows easier and easier with each one. You are never too old to train your mind.

So did my little story convince any of you to pick up one of these books on prayer? I hope so! I asked my brother, Pastor Dean, for his favorite books on prayer. Here is the list he gave me–

A Call to Prayer by J.C. Ryle (this one is more of a booklet and a great one to pick up first)

A Privy Key to Heaven by Thomas Brooks

Prayer by John Bunyan

A Method for Prayer by Matthew Henry

If you do prefer to read more recent authors, then I would recommend this book. I found it to be biblically sound and extremely helpful–

Alone with God by John MacArthur

Prayer is a very important topic and we can’t treat it lightly. Contemplative, mystical prayer has become almost the norm. Test all things through the scriptures–no matter how good and “spiritual” it sounds–as you work to build a stronger and deeper prayer life.

 

 

Issues and concerns from the movie War Room for the biblically discerning viewer–

  1.  There is a scene where the main character moves throughout her house shouting at the devil to get out of her home. But I can’t find anywhere in scripture where we are ever encouraged to have a conversation with the devil. I believe that God will take care of that for us. He fights for us and we can rest in His hands. Getting into that shadowy world of speaking to Satan and demons is dangerous and unbiblical business. Here is a great post on this topic if you’d like to study this further.
  2. I think this movie may have the possibility of leading us to the grave danger of treating our heavenly Father like He is our own personal genie, waiting to do our beck and call. While I understand the dilemma presented in this movie for the producers–they had to show the mighty power of God and how He can work and so we needed a happy ending–I would hate for anyone to think that God is going to make life perfect if they just start praying. The truth of the matter is that many women pray for years and years for their husbands to be saved. If you read last Thursday’s post, you will remember that my friend prayed for 32 long years before her husband came to know the Lord. Just because we get on our knees and pray does not mean we will get the answers we want in the time frame we desire. Prayer is not some magical formula that puts all the puzzle pieces of our lives together. Now, can God work? Oh, my goodness! Yes! I have seen Him do marvelous things! But does He always choose to? No. And the fact that this wayward husband turned to the Lord so quickly, while making for a nice happy ending, was pretty unrealistic. If you are a wife who was convicted to pray for her husband by this movie, please, please don’t get discouraged if things don’t end up like this. It might take years. It may even take a lifetime. I remember reading once of George Muller’s prayer list of five unsaved people. In his lifetime he watched three of those people come to know the Lord. But the final two never got saved until after he died. We need to keep praying, even when we don’t get the results we want. And that may be the hardest thing of all.

Ironing for Jesus

ironing-403074_1280

The other day, as we prepared for yet another wedding, I watched my brother and sister-in-law. They efficiently and diligently did every task asked of them without complaint or attitude. I have seen them do this before. Since they never complain and no job is too small or “beneath” them, they are wonderful to have around! While we have had so many helpful relatives and friends give us a hand these past few weeks, on this particular day there were just a few of us and I watched my brother and his wife closely. As they quietly worked, much got done and there was no drama. They willingly and gladly did anything necessary to help. By the end of the day, I was convicted.

On the way home that day, I asked the Lord to help me be more like them. I told him that I wanted to stop complaining when a task is boring or hard. Or when I’d rather be doing something else.

Little did I know that God would present me with a situation that would test my earnest prayer the very next day.

We had tablecloths to iron. Lots of tablecloths to iron. Somehow I ended up at an iron (probably because no one else wanted to do it!) But these weren’t just any tablecloths. These things were so difficult to iron. There was no feeling of accomplishment even when I’d spend 15 minutes on one tablecloth. I am convinced that many of the wrinkles in these rented cloths were permanently in place.

This made for a pretty discouraging task. For a variety of reasons–

It was hot.

It was boring.

And there was no possible way to do it well.

As I watched everyone having all the fun of decorating the venue, I stood at the ironing board, dutifully doing my “mom” thing but not with a very good attitude. I was bummed and started complaining inside my head. And then the complaints started spilling out of my mouth.

And that’s when the Holy Spirit challenged me.

Did you really mean what you prayed yesterday? Because this is a test.

No, I didn’t hear the words. But I was convicted.

I made a choice to stop complaining in that instant. What did it matter? Why not spare someone else from having to do this awful job and let others have the fun? The only reason I even cared was because I was thinking only of me. If this was my job, then I would do it cheerfully. I went to work and, instead of being resentful about missing out on all of the fun, I put on some uplifting music and chose to enjoy watching all of the activity.

Thankfully, God was so kind to me and provided my mom to help me with the ironing a little later on. But not before I learned a good lesson. Sometimes we don’t get to do the fun job or the job we think we should. Instead we are asked to do the job that we don’t want to do. The one that perhaps we think we are too good for. And that’s when our true character shows, isn’t it? That’s when we see who we really are inside. Because anyone can be pleasant and diligent when they are doing what they want to do.

Thankfully, the Lord hasn’t given up on me yet and so, while this could have ended up as one of my many spiritual failures, in this particular instance I made a choice, through the nudging of the Holy Spirit, to respond correctly and started ironing for Jesus.

One of my favorite verse came to mind while I did so–

Colossians 3:23-24  And whatever you do, do it heartily, as to the Lord and not to men, knowing that from the Lord you will receive the reward of the inheritance; for you serve the Lord Christ.

Are you doing your mundane or hated tasks with a joyful heart and pleasant attitude? If not, I encourage you to, this day, think through your attitude. For it is here that Satan can so easily ensnare us. We Christians don’t always view our bad attitudes as sinful, but that doesn’t change the fact that they are sinful.

Let’s improve our characters by making the conscientious choice to smile in the boring tasks. To praise God through the difficult demands. And to be humble when asked to do something we think is beneath us. For in doing so, the light of our Lord and Savior will shine ever so brightly through us!

 

Diamonds and Axeheads

Diamond Necklace

Several years ago, I lost a necklace. Not the big, chunky kind made out of brightly-colored beads. This was a delicate chain with a small diamond charm. The special kind your husband gives you to celebrate a special milestone or anniversary.

I had taken it off at the end of a long day and placed it on the end table. When I thought of it the next day, it had completely vanished. I searched everywhere. I couldn’t find it.

We came to the conclusion that it had probably fallen in the small trash can next to the table. I sadly realized that it was lost forever. We have a big dumpster which holds all of the trash that our sizable company discards. The bag holding this necklace was in that dumpster. The chances of finding a tiny little gold chain inside a large trash bag in an even larger dumpster were slim to none. We didn’t even know which trash bag was the right one.

My husband decided to look, anyway. That’s just the kind of guy he is. I sent up a little prayer letting the Lord know that I would greatly appreciate finding this special necklace.

Within just a few minutes, Eric came inside the house holding the chain in his hand. Unbelievable. Why would God care about such a thing?

A few years later, I lost my anniversary band. It was a little big and when the weather grew cold and my fingers shrunk even further, the band must have slipped off. How well I remember that Monday at lunchtime. I looked down at my hand and realized it was gone. We searched everywhere for it. But my heart sank, knowing full well that it was unlikely that we would find it.

For several weeks, I prayed that it would somehow miraculously turn up. This ring meant even more than the necklace, as it was bought to celebrate our 25th wedding anniversary. It was very special and also rather expensive. I was heartbroken.

It never turned up.

But when my birthday came around a few months later, my husband presented me with a small wrapped box. When I opened it, I found the exact same ring that he had purchased over a year earlier. He had bought me this because he knew just how disappointed and upset I was about the loss of that ring. And you know what? This ring means almost more than the first one. It symbolizes unconditional love even through my failures and stupid moments. It shows me commitment and willingness to go above and beyond. He could have been furious and never bought me another piece of jewelry again. Instead he bought me a replacement for the ring I had lost.

So why am I telling you this?

These events came to mind as I read the account of the floating axehead in 2 Kings 6. Elisha’s servants decide to build a new dwelling. At least one of them is so poor that he needs to borrow an axe to fell the trees. While they are working by the Jordan, his iron axehead falls into the Jordan. He is in much despair over this, because it is not his and he does not have the money to replace it. Elisha asks him where it has fallen, throws a stick in the water, which causes the iron axehead to float, and the servant picks it out of the water.

This whole story takes place in only six verses. It’s only a minute portion of the Bible, but there is much to learn here. This man’s life was not in danger. His home, his wife, his children, his education are not mentioned. We know nothing about him.

What we do know is that iron was very expensive in those days and this lost axehead would cause him financial difficulty.

What we do know is that God cared enough about this man and his seemingly trivial problem to provide a miracle on this man’s behalf.

Now, I’m sure this didn’t happen every day and there were probably some axeheads that sat on the floor of the Jordan at the great displeasure and inconvenience of their owners and borrowers. God did not make every axehead float.

But in this instance, God decided to intervene.

This incident shows us that, just like my diamond necklace, God cares enough to help in the little things. Sometimes He chooses to show Himself in an amazing way.

But sometimes, as in the case of my ring, He instead has a lesson to teach us or something to show us by not interceding. And that’s okay, too.

No matter how God chooses to answer us, He knows best. We can count on Him to take care of us all the way. He will give us the strength and grace that we need–and even occasional little miracles–as we go.

And we come once more to the necessity to rest wholly in God’s Sovereignty. I am convinced that this one thing is what will bring us joy and peace as we travel through life. God cares about us. He cares about even the smallest thing. We know that He is in control, no matter what comes our way. What a comforting thought!

 

Wednesday Wisdom: A True Story of Revival

As you know, I stopped doing Wednesday Wisdom officially about a year and a half ago. However, occasionally, I come across something that I can’t resist sharing–like this testimony of a pastor from the former USSR. His memories of what his country was like is so eerily similar to what’s going on in America, that I thought this may help us find the silver lining to the dark cloud. Perhaps true revival will come to America, as well!

By Georgi P. Vins
(Pastor in USSR who spent 8 years in Soviet prison camps for his faith | Author of The Gospel in Bonds)

forest-gathering-color

Photo: A communion and worship service in the persecuted church in 1984 in Kiev, Ukraine (taken from The Gospel in Bonds; from the personal collection of Georgi Vins’ daughter, Natasha Velichkin; used with permission)

Revival

At the beginning of the 1960s, the Lord sent a spiritual revival among the Evangelical Baptists of the Soviet Union. The revival preceded a great assault from the atheistic authorities. Soviet newspapers and magazines spewed an endless flow of articles against believers and the Christian faith, against the Bible and God. Radio, television, and movies were used for anti-religious propaganda. Believers were fired from their jobs, and Christian young people were kept out of educational institutions.

In 1960, the Soviet leader, head of the Communist party, Nikita Khrushchev, announced a twenty-year program of definitively creating communism in the Soviet Union. By 1980, there was not to be a single Christian left, nor one church. All citizens of the USSR would have to become atheists and confess only Communist ideology.

In Evangelical Baptist churches, sermons on salvation were forbidden, and children under the age of sixteen were not to be permitted to be present at church services. As a primary measure, it was also forbidden to baptize young people under the age of thirty. This decision of the leadership of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union was enforced by the KGB, the police, and other authorities.

 Unfortunately, some of the ministers of Evangelical Baptist churches, fearing persecution, accepted these ungodly decrees as the basis for their ministry and actively began to implement them in the church. The churches were going through great testings. Many thousands of believers raised their voices in fervent prayer to the Lord for help and deliverance. The Lord heard those prayers and answered His people, as it is written in His Word: “It is time for thee, Lord, to work: for they have made void thy law” (Psalm 119:126).

A spiritual awakening began. New churches started to take shape, and groups of believers who refused to compromise with atheism proclaimed the Word of God as the absolute authority in all matters of faith and life. Young people and children attended newly formed congregations whose worship services often took place in crowded private homes or in forests. These meetings were subject to cruel disruption by the KGB and police, with the police beating up believers, and throwing them out of the meeting houses into the snow. Bulldozers were sometimes used to destroy the places where the meetings took place.

The atheistic authorities went to believers’ work places with threats of arrests and trials. But no one could stop the revival, because the Word of God says, “Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? shall tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or peril, or sword? As it is written, For thy sake we are killed all the day long; we are accounted as sheep for the slaughter. Nay, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him that loved us” (Romans 8:35-37).

By 1966, several hundred independent fundamental Baptist churches had formed. Sixty to seventy percent of the membership of these churches were young people between the ages of fifteen and thirty. The hearts of believers burned with great love toward God, courage, and selflessness in ministry. My poem “Revival” was written in January of 1966, and five months later, in May of 1966, I was arrested in Moscow for taking part in the revival.

My Savior! How I love Your precious call
To slaves of unbelief, by sin defeated.
You long to bless and have each one delight
In all the joys of our eternal promise.

My Jesus! Mighty is Your matchless love,
Your hands are full of tenderness and kindness,
As constantly You lift to life anew
The sons of earth, to save them from destruction.

Our brethren You have visited once more
With Your pure flame of heaven-sent revival!
For exploits and for suff’ring You inspired
To stand for truth and infinite salvation.

When I behold the vibrant Christian youth
With glowing faces, joyous and exultant,
Their gladness like a boundless ocean’s tide,
Burst forth in ever glorious songs of triumph. . . .

And when I listen to a youthful soul
For the first time, his heart to God uplifting:
Scarce breathing then I reverently pray,
While in my thoughts the sufferers recalling. . . .

I know that not in vain their blood was spilt!
They did not bear the pain and grief for nothing.
For now I see our youth’s pure, fervent love
Their hands stretched out to Christ in supplication.

For the revival burning in our church
And for our youth rejoicing in the Savior—
We may, without misgivings or dismay,
Lay down our very lives in distant prisons.
January 1, 1966
Kiev

Praying for Our Children

prayer

Many years ago, when I was just a young girl, I became aware of the fact that I had some grandparents praying for me. I also learned that my parents were praying faithfully for me. I know that their prayers affected the course of my life and the life of my brother (and cousins). I can see now how God worked despite some less than perfect circumstances.

And so when our children were born I realized the importance of prayer because of this godly heritage with which I had been so incredibly blessed.

When we met our oldest daughter for the very first time, we felt so overwhelmed and even a little scared. We knew the instant we held that first baby in our arms that we had been blessed with an awesome responsibility.

The heaviness of this settled in through the next few weeks, as we took our newborn home and got settled in. This wasn’t just a baby. This was a new life with the potential to do great good or great evil in this world. It was a life with the potential to bless others or to cause great pain. And this new little life was born a sinner (Romans 3:23) and in great need of a Savior (John 3:16).

Along with recognizing the seriousness of this responsibility, came the awareness that who she married also had the great potential to make or break her life.

I wondered how in the world we would be able to bear these great responsibilities, especially the ones that were outside our control– such as who she would marry.

And so, early on, I started praying for her and for her future husband. I had no idea who he was, but I was praying for him. As the other kids came along, I did the same. So I can confidently tell the young men and woman that my children are marrying that I have prayed for them for most of their lives!

Through the years, as I would pray for my children, I would find it easy to get distracted by the problems and trials that loomed in front of me at that moment and I would find myself praying directly about these situations. And there wasn’t anything wrong with that.

But somewhere along the line, I learned that I needed to be praying for their spiritual health most of all. If they weren’t right with God, then their career and who they marry wouldn’t be chosen well. This means that how they would raise the future generation would be in jeopardy.

And so I latched on to Mark 12:30 and have been praying that for my kids for a very long time.

And you shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength.

I’ve asked the Lord to help my kids to do this.

I’ve prayed through this verse for them when I would fall into bed exhausted after watching four young children.

I’ve prayed through this verse for them when they were teenagers and their spiritual future looked very, very bleak.

And I continue to pray this verse as I watch them start their own lives and make choices completely independent of their parents.

A few years ago, I was talking to my brother (Pastor Dean) about this subject of praying for our children and he mentioned that he also regularly prays that his daughter will love righteousness and hate evil. As he spoke, I realized the wisdom in such a prayer. The Psalms talks about this subject over and over again. If you are reading the Bible Challenge with me, you will have just read through many of these with me. And so I started praying this for my kids, as well.

Another prayer that I try to pray on a regular basis is that my kids would love God’s Word. The keys to a healthy spiritual life are held within its pages. There is no possible way to be a godly man or woman without reading and studying the Word.

And, finally, I pray very regularly for my future grandchildren and great-grandchildren. I pray that they would be bolder and stronger Christians than me. That our family would grow deeper spiritual roots, instead of being one of those families that gradually falls away from God.

My kids are not perfect and we’ve had our struggles and continue to do so. In fact, we will sometimes talk about how we wouldn’t want to be judged for our parenting skills on how our kids behaved as teenagers. How they were in school was not always the best example and they did not always make the best choices. Adolescence can be a very difficult time. But I just kept on praying through it, sometimes with many tears.

The spiritual battles continue and I continue to pray. Satan wants the hearts of our kids. If he can distract us by the temporal and keep us focused only on the present trials in our praying, he will have won half the battle.

God is faithful. He has answered so many of my prayers for my kids. There were times that I doubted and feared that we had lost a couple of them. But God heard our prayers and saved them. I get choked up thinking about his great mercy and kindness to us through those difficult times even now.

Our prayers will never make our kids perfect and they will still struggle and make bad choices and still have so far to go. But then I guess so do you and I.

This reminds me of something I once heard John MacArthur say: It is about direction, not perfection.

If our kids are headed in the right direction, we have much for which to be thankful.

So let’s keep praying for our kids. God is faithful. He knows them better than we do. And He loves them even more than we do!

While We Were Sleeping

anesthesia

I went in for minor surgery the other week. I never love the idea of going under. It’s so strange, isn’t it? One second you are listening to the conversation going on around you and the next you are totally conked out.

As I awoke in the recovery area, I slowly became aware of my surroundings. The nurse asked me if I was okay. My sluggish thoughts gathered enough to say “I think so.”

I was definitely awake enough to realize that I was incredibly thirsty.

She put me off drinking anything for a half hour.

Finally, she set a plastic cup with a straw in front of me. Ginger ale never tasted so good!

After explaining the surgery and giving me a small dose of extra pain meds, she brought my mom back and told me I could get dressed. I still had not seen the doctor.

I finally asked, “Isn’t the doctor going to come in and talk to me?”

The answer I got stunned me: “She already did.”

Wait? What?

I had NO recollection of that, whatsoever. None.

But, apparently, I had answered and responded to her.

That is a little scary, if you think about it!

As I pondered this over the next week, I thought about unbelieving friends and family and wondered if they aren’t a little like I was when I was under? In that they are listening and responding, but, spiritually, they are asleep.

Until they are awakened spiritually by God (John 6:44), they are talking in their sleep. They are blind and cannot understand (2 Corinthians 4:4).

Look, I don’t know how this works together with free will. I know they both exist– man’s free will to choose God and God’s election. Somehow they work together in a parallel way that is incomprehensible to us.* I do not need to understand it. Why do we think we need to understand this?

Do you remember when you first came to know the Lord? For some of us, it was totally life-changing–a dramatic change of lifestyle. For others of us, it wasn’t a very drastic life change since we were children or adolescents in Christian homes. But in understanding God’s salvation plan, whether the life change was minimal or drastic, we became aware that we were sinners and needed to repent and turn a different direction. We became aware that the death of God’s Son paid for my sin on the cross and made a way for me to be reconciled to Him. God removed our blinders. We woke up.

So what is my point?

I have three, actually–

1. Never, ever underestimate the power of prayer in winning someone you love to Christ. You can argue, cajole, debate, and sweet-talk–and some of these things will plant seeds that the Lord will use later– but never lose sight that God does the waking up. Pray earnestly and frequently for your unsaved friends and family.

2. Don’t take the conversations and interactions you have with unbelievers too personally. This one can be difficult. When we are in a conversation about God, people can get pretty touchy. They can say things they shouldn’t as we share the gospel with them. They may hurt our feelings or attack us personally. They may grow resentful of us and try to cause us to stumble as we try to hold to a biblical standard. Does it help to remember that they are, in essence, still sleeping? They have not awoken yet to the glorious promises of God’s amazing grace and wonderful mercy.

3. We have the important task to respond with love and gentleness to all–even the meanest, vilest person. I have heard several testimonies of the most unlikely people becoming saved when a Christian has been kind and loving to them, even while being teased and tortured mercilessly. No one is beyond hope! There is no place for flaring tempers and sulkiness in this business of sharing the gospel. Let’s be a help and not a hindrance to our heavenly Father as we share the Good News.

As we share the true gospel in the midst of this foreign land we find ourselves in, let’s remember to be kind, to not take anything too personally, and–most importantly–to pray for the salvation of those God has put in your life’s path. Pray for the glorious day of awakening!

 

*If you struggle with this concept, listen to this excellent sermon by John MacArthur, explaining that we can NEVER understand how these work together. He has been very misaligned in this area of election, so if you have heard that he is unbiblical in this area but have never heard his view from his own mouth, then I encourage you to listen to this sermon. You will find that this isn’t the case at all.