Category Archives: Death

HO, HO, HO, MERRY CHRISTMAS! Or is It?

Nigeria - Left for DeadNigeria: Left for Dead
8 May 2015
Shot in the face and left for dead for refusing to deny Christ, Habila has made an incredible recovery. His love for his attackers is no less extraordinary. ‘My prayer is that they will know the truth and be saved,’ he says. ‘I love them.’

 

Below you are about to experience the truth concerning Christian persecution and martyrdom around the world including here in the U.S. This is not fiction, but fact from an organization that has supported martyrs and families of martyrs for almost 5 decades.

Voice of the Martyrs Australia was founded in 1969 and is part of a global partnership of independent missions started through the influence of Pastor Richard Wurmbrand.

Richard Wurmbrand was imprisoned and tortured by communist authorities in his native Romania for 14 years, including three years in solitary confinement. He envisioned a ministry that would focus on the persecuted church, raise a voice on its behalf and provide encouragement and assistance to persecuted Christians.

In 1967, Richard wrote Tortured for Christ, a firsthand account of the brutality he and other Christians suffered under communism. It opened the eyes and hearts of Christians in Western countries who had never heard of the terrible persecution happening to believers living in communist nations. He wrote:

“The message I bring from the underground church is:
‘Don’t abandon us! Don’t forget us! Don’t write us off!
Give us the tools we need! We will pay the price for using them!’”

Richard’s call to ‘remember the persecuted’ led to the establishment of an international ministry to persecuted Christians.

Voice of the Martyrs

Voice of the Martyrs

Throughout the world today, millions of Christians are experiencing persecution for the sake of Christ. Pastors are imprisoned or killed for proclaiming the Gospel in their churches and villages. Young people flee for their lives when their families discover they have converted to Christianity. Believers are beaten, tortured, pursued.

They are falsely accused, threatened, abused, starved, maimed and harassed.

Their homes and churches are burnt down, their Bibles and Christian material confiscated, and their businesses destroyed.

They are expelled from school and college, fired from their jobs, treated as criminals and rebels, forbidden to evangelize, and forced to meet and worship in secret.

What is Christian Persecution?

Wherever Christians go, they experience opposition. But in certain countries, this persecution is particularly severe.

Government policy or practice in some nations prevents Christians from obtaining Bibles and meeting together. Anti-Christian laws lead to harassment or imprisonment of believers for their witness.

Christians in other areas are routinely persecuted by family, neighbours or rebel groups despite the protection the government provides.

In countries such as Colombia and Nigeria, civil wars and other conflicts result in Christians facing opposition for their faith.

Hinduism
Majority-Hindu nations enforce anti-conversion laws, attempting to force new Christians to revert to Hinduism. Evangelists who supposedly perform forced conversions to Christianity are prosecuted. Political groups wanting to establish a purely Hindu nation, such as in India or Nepal, sometimes use violent tactics to try to eradicate Christians from the area.

Communism
Communist governments want control. But they can’t control the rapid growth of Christianity in countries like Vietnam and China. Government restrictions make Christian life and ministry very difficult. Pastors and leaders are arrested, interrogated and imprisoned in an attempt to stop the Church.

Islam
According to more radical streams of Islam, apostasy (rejecting your religion) is a crime that demands the death penalty. When a Muslim converts from Islam to Christianity, they bring shame on their family. They are abandoning their heritage, their very identity. Muslim background believers often face harsh opposition from the government, their family and friends.

The Real Reason for Persecution

Persecution should not surprise us. Jesus tells us that persecution from the world is part of what it means to follow Him.

Jesus says: “If the world hates you, you know that it hated Me before it hated you… If they persecuted me, they will also persecute you. John 15:18, 20.

Paul writes to Timothy that “All who desire to live godly in Christ Jesus will suffer persecution. 2 Timothy 3:12.

Just as Jesus went to the cross, He said, “Whoever desires to come after Me, let him deny
himself, and take up his cross, and follow Me. For whoever desires to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for My sake and the Gospel’s will save it. Mark 8:34-35.

Christians in more hostile nations may live far from us, but as believers we know that we are one with them in Christ’s body. We cannot ignore their suffering. Voice of the Martyrs works to help, love and encourage persecuted Christians in partnership with the church in Australia.

Why are Christians persecuted?

Wherever Christians go, they experience opposition. But in certain countries, this persecution is particularly severe.

Government policy or practice in some nations prevents Christians from obtaining Bibles and meeting together. Anti-Christian laws lead to harassment or imprisonment of believers for their witness.

Christians in other areas are routinely persecuted by family, neighbours or rebel groups despite the protection the government provides.

In countries such as Colombia and Nigeria, civil wars and other conflicts result in Christians facing opposition for their faith.

Hinduism
Majority-Hindu nations enforce anti-conversion laws, attempting to force new Christians to revert to Hinduism. Evangelists who supposedly perform forced conversions to Christianity are prosecuted. Political groups wanting to establish a purely Hindu nation, such as in India or Nepal, sometimes use violent tactics to try to eradicate Christians from the area.

Communism
Communist governments want control. But they can’t control the rapid growth of Christianity in countries like Vietnam and China. Government restrictions make Christian life and ministry very difficult. Pastors and leaders are arrested, interrogated and imprisoned in an attempt to stop the Church.

Islam
According to more radical streams of Islam, apostasy (rejecting your religion) is a crime that demands the death penalty. When a Muslim converts from Islam to Christianity, they bring shame on their family. They are abandoning their heritage, their very identity. Muslim background believers often face harsh opposition from the government, their family and friends.

The Real Reason for Persecution

Persecution should not surprise us. Jesus tells us that persecution from the world is part of what it means to follow Him.

Jesus says: “If the world hates you, you know that it hated Me before it hated you… If they persecuted me, they will also persecute you. John 15:18, 20.

Paul writes to Timothy that “All who desire to live godly in Christ Jesus will suffer persecution. 2 Timothy 3:12.

Just as Jesus went to the cross, He said, “Whoever desires to come after Me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross, and follow Me. For whoever desires to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for My sake and the Gospel’s will save it. Mark 8:34-35.

Christians in more hostile nations may live far from us, but as believers we know that we are one with them in Christ’s body. We cannot ignore their suffering. Voice of the Martyrs works to help, love and encourage persecuted Christians in partnership with the church in Australia.

GET INVOLVED

“Remember the prisoners as if chained with them, those who are mistreated, since you yourselves are in the body also” Hebrews 13:3.

The Lord’s command to remember those in prison is more than mental recollection – it is a call to prayer and action.

FIVE MAIN AIMS

Our Voice of the Martyrs ministry is based on Hebrews 13:3

1. To encourage and empower Christians to fulfil the Great Commission in areas of the world where they are persecuted for sharing the Gospel of Jesus Christ.
2. To provide practical relief and spiritual support to the families of Christian martyrs.
3. To equip persecuted Christians to love and win to Christ those who are opposed to the Gospel in their part of the world.
4. To undertake projects of encouragement, helping believers rebuild their lives and Christian witness in countries where they have formerly suffered oppression.
5. To promote the fellowship of all believers by informing the world of the faith and courage of persecuted Christians, thereby inspiring believers to a deeper level of commitment to Christ and involvement in His Great Commission.

For further information, contact VOM at or go to their website at: https://vom.com.au/

Contact Voice of the Martyrs Australia

Voice of the Martyrs Australia
PO Box 250
Lawson NSW 2783
p: 02 4759 7000
e: info@vom.com.au

In partnership with Christians throughout Australia, Voice of the Martyrs is working to meet the spiritual and material needs of persecuted Christians.

Get involved with us! Find out how you can keep informed, pray, and write to Christian prisoners in this section.

Subscribe Prayer Write to Prisoners Videos Invite a Speaker Volunteer Donate

Voice of the Martyrs

What Are the Seventy Weeks of Daniel?

The “seventy weeks” prophecy is one of the most significant and detailed Messianic prophecies of the Old Testament. It is found in Daniel 9. The chapter begins with Daniel praying for Israel, acknowledging the nation’s sins against God and asking for God’s mercy. As Daniel prayed, the angel Gabriel appeared to him and gave him a vision of Israel’s future.

The Divisions of the 70 Weeks

In verse 24, Gabriel says, “Seventy ‘sevens’ are decreed for your people and your holy city.” Almost all commentators agree that the seventy “sevens” should be understood as seventy “weeks” of years, in other words, a period of 490 years. These verses provide a sort of “clock” that gives an idea of when the Messiah would come and some of the events that would accompany His appearance.

The prophecy goes on to divide the 490 years into three smaller units: one of 49 years, one of 434 years, and one 7 years. The final “week” of 7 years is further divided in half. Verse 25 says, “From the time the word goes out to restore and rebuild Jerusalem until the Anointed One, the ruler, comes, there will be seven ‘sevens,’ and sixty-two ‘sevens.’” Seven “sevens” is 49 years, and sixty-two “sevens” is another 434 years:

49 years + 434 years = 483 years

The Purpose of the 70 Weeks
The prophecy contains a statement concerning God’s six-fold purpose in bringing these events to pass. Verse 24 says this purpose is 1) “to finish transgression,” 2) “to put an end to sin,” 3) “to atone for wickedness,” 4) “to bring in everlasting righteousness,” 5) “to seal up vision and prophecy,” and 6) “to anoint the most holy.”

Notice that these results concern the total eradication of sin and the establishing of righteousness. The prophecy of the 70 weeks summarizes what happens before Jesus sets up His millennial kingdom. Of special note is the third in the list of results: “to atone for wickedness.” Jesus accomplished the atonement for sin by His death on the cross (Romans 3:25Hebrews 2:17).

The Fulfillment of the 70 Weeks
Gabriel said the prophetic clock would start at the time that a decree was issued to rebuild Jerusalem. From the date of that decree to the time of the Messiah would be 483 years. We know from history that the command to “restore and rebuild Jerusalem” was given by King Artaxerxes of Persia c. 445 B.C. (see Nehemiah 2:1-8).

The first unit of 49 years (seven “sevens”) covers the time that it took to rebuild Jerusalem, “with streets and a trench, but in times of trouble” (Daniel 9:25). This rebuilding is chronicled in the book of Nehemiah.

Using the Jewish custom of a 360-day year, 483 years after 445 B.C. places us at A.D. 30, which would coincide with Jesus’ triumphal entry into Jerusalem (Matthew 21:1-9). The prophecy in Daniel 9 specifies that after the completion of the 483 years, “the Anointed One will be cut off” (verse 26). This was fulfilled when Jesus was crucified.

Daniel 9:26 continues with a prediction that, after the Messiah is killed, “the people of the ruler who will come will destroy the city and the sanctuary.” This was fulfilled with the destruction of Jerusalem in A.D. 70. The “ruler who will come” is a reference to the Antichrist, who, it seems, will have some connection with Rome, since it was the Romans who destroyed Jerusalem.

The Final Week of the 70 Weeks
Of the 70 “sevens,” 69 have been fulfilled in history. This leaves one more “seven” yet to be fulfilled. Most scholars believe that we are now living in a huge gap between the 69th week and the 70th week. The prophetic clock has been paused, as it were. The final “seven” of Daniel is what we usually call the tribulation period.

Daniel’s prophecy reveals some of the actions of the Antichrist, the “ruler who will come.” Verse 27 says, “He will confirm a covenant with many for one ‘seven.’” However, “in the middle of the ‘seven,’ . . . he will set up an abomination that causes desolation” in the temple. Jesus warned of this event in Matthew 24:15. After the Antichrist breaks the covenant with Israel, a time of “great tribulation” begins (Matthew 24:21, NKJV).

Daniel also predicts that the Antichrist will face judgment. He only rules “until the end that is decreed is poured out on him” (Daniel 9:27). God will only allow evil to go so far, and the judgment the Antichrist will face has already been planned out.

Conclusion
The prophecy of the 70 weeks is complex and amazingly detailed, and much has been written about it. Of course, there are various interpretations, but what we have presented here is the dispensational, premillennial view. One thing is certain: God has a time table, and He is keeping things on schedule. He knows the end from the beginning (Isaiah 46:10), and we should always be looking for the triumphant return of our Lord (Revelation 22:7).

Recommended Resource: Daniel: The John Walvoord Prophecy Commentary by Walvoord & Dyer

Related Topics:

What are the seventy sevens in Daniel 9:24-27?

What is going to happen according to end times prophecy?

Who Needs God With Andy Stanley

Who Needs God Episode 1: “Atheist 2.0”

INTRODUCTION

Americans are migrating away from religion, particularly Christianity, at an unprecedented rate. Once upon a time, Americans believed religion offered solutions. Today, religion is viewed by many as the problem.

DISCUSSION QUESTIONS

  1. What kind of faith or religion was a part of your upbringing, if any? What has been your experience as an adult with what you were taught as a child to embrace?
  2. Do you agree with the idea that when we move away from something, we are in essence moving toward something else? If so, when it comes to faith, what do you feel  you are moving away from? And as a result, what do you feel you are moving toward?
  3. Andy stated that just because something is unsettling doesn’t mean it isn’t true. What about Christianity unsettles you the most? What about atheism unsettles you the  most?
  4. Do you believe the process of walking away from faith or religion is more personal or more intellectual? Explain.

BOTTOM LINE

Walking away from something moves us in the direction of something else.

Who Needs God Episode 2: “Gods of the No Testament”

INTRODUCTION

Typically, people who don’t believe in God don’t believe in a particular version of God. But what if they have the wrong version? What if you have the wrong version? If you’ve walked away from faith or religion, it could be that your version of god never existed in the first place.

DISCUSSION QUESTIONS

  1. Where did your view of God originate?
  2. Did you inherit any of the following “growing up gods”? If so, which one(s)?

        Bodyguard god: prevents bad things from happening

On-demand god: honors fair and selfless requests

Boyfriend god: makes its presence known

Guilt god: controls through guilt and fear

Anti-science god: forces trade of the undeniable for the unreliable

Gap god: becomes the explanation for the unexplainable

  1. If at any point in life you decided to walk away from faith or religion, would you say that any of these “growing up gods” contributed to that decision?
  2. To what extent do you associate religion with guilt?
  3. During this episode, Andy said the choice between God and science is a false alternative and that, “If everything were explained and explainable, it would not explain away God.” Do you agree? Why or why not?

BOTTOM LINE

Walking away from a god that never existed doesn’t mean there isn’t one that does.

Who Needs God Episode 3: “The Bible Told Me So”

INTRODUCTION

If the Bible is the foundation of the Christian faith, then as the Bible goes, so goes the legitimacy of Christianity. But what if the Bible shouldn’t hold that much weight in the debate? In this episode, Andy explains that Christianity doesn’t exist because of the Bible any more than you exist because of your birth certificate.

DISCUSSION QUESTIONS

  1. In the stories you’ve heard from others about their decision to walk away from Christianity, or perhaps in your own story, what have been the reasons? Do any of those reasons  stem from what they’ve been told is true about God or the Bible?
  2. Describe one question or concern you have about something you’ve read or heard about in the Bible. Do you believe it must be resolved in order to further consider Christianity?
  3. How do you think 1st, 2nd, and 3rd century Christians managed to endure significant hardship and effect change in the political landscape of their time without access to a  Bible? What do you think inspired or compelled them forward?
  4. If debates about Christianity no longer centered around Is the Bible true? but shifted to Who is Jesus?, how might the conversation change?

BOTTOM LINE

Christianity doesn’t exist because of the Bible; Christianity exists because of something that happened.

Who Needs God Episode 4: “The God of Jesus”

INTRODUCTION

It’s easy to get caught between doubt and despair when we’ve always assumed God to be bodyguard god, on-demand god, guilt god, etc. If God has lost his appeal because we’ve mixed him up with a gaggle of gods that don’t exist, then how can we know what God is really like?

DISCUSSION QUESTIONS

  1. What is your reaction to the conclusion that Christianity isn’t rooted in blind faith, but in observable evidence? Do you agree with Andy that Christianity never would have made it out of the first century otherwise?
  2. Given the evidence for the viability of Christianity as it’s been presented so far in the series, do you think what Jesus had to say about the nature of God is worth considering?
  3. God is Spirit. In your opinion, is it plausible that God as “spaceless, timeless, and immaterial” could be the “first cause” that science is looking for?
  4. God is Father. Is it difficult for you to view God as a perfect father? Why or why not? What is one thing in your life that could change if God became that personal to you?
  5. God is Love. Much like in Andy’s analogy of shade requiring sun in order to exist, do you agree that evil requires good? If so, does that help to explain how God, in his essence,  could be love, despite the existence of evil in the world? What are the holes in that  idea?

BOTTOM LINE

The God of Jesus is Spirit. The God of Jesus is Father. The God of Jesus is Love.

Who Needs God Episode 5: “In-Justice For All”

INTRODUCTION

We all want to rid the world of injustice. But we can only recognize injustice if we know what justice is to begin with. We don’t always agree about what is just. So, who gets to define justice?

DISCUSSION QUESTIONS

  1. When have you seen injustice in your world? How did it influence the way you see God?
  2. Do you believe there is an objective standard of “dignity and justice for all”? If so, where do you believe it came from? Do you think it varies from one culture or society to the next?
  3. During the message, Andy said, “When we reject God because of injustice, we don’t solve injustice. We lose the definition.” Do you agree with that statement? Why or why not?
  4. Is it easier to regard pain and suffering in the world as an argument against the existence of God or as a reminder of our need for God? Explain.
  5. Does it make sense why God provided a way to save humanity from its shortcomings instead of choosing to judge humanity for them? Are you glad that God went that route? Why or  why not?

BOTTOM LINE

When we reject God because of injustice in the world, we don’t solve injustice. We lose the definition.

Who Needs God Episode 6: “I Do”

INTRODUCTION

We all want to be masters of our own destinies. We all want to feel in control of our lives. The idea of autonomy is attractive; it makes life feel ordered and predictable. One of the biggest barriers to belief in God’s existence is that we don’t want to need God. But what if autonomy is an illusion?

DISCUSSION QUESTIONS

  1. Talk about a time when you admitted you were wrong about something. How difficult was it for you to change your mind? What happened to cause that change?
  2. “People almost invariably arrive at their beliefs not on the basis of proof but on the basis of what they find attractive.” Be honest with yourself: how does this quote by Blaise Pascal  apply to your belief in or rejection of the existence of God?
  3. Assume for a moment that God does exist. What is your reaction to that notion, and how does it make you feel? As Andy describes in the episode, can you relate to feeling guilty,  accountable, or wrong?
  4. If unaccountable people make regretful decisions, to whom would you say you are ultimately accountable?
  5. What if the existence of God brings forgiveness, relationship, and truth? What is attractive or unattractive about each of those ideas?

BOTTOM LINE

Humility makes us wiser, smarter, and open to growth. Humility is the way forward.

The Way of the Cross

14-Carl-Heinrich-Bloch_The-Burial-of-Christ

“We adore you, O Christ, and we praise you, because by your holy cross you have redeemed the world.”

We brought Jesus’ body to a tomb
and I arranged it there myself,
silently weeping, silently rejoicing.
I took one more look at my loving son,                and then walked out.
They closed the tomb
and before I left, I thought,
I knew this had to be…
it had to be for you!
I would wait in faith silently.

Yes, my Lord,
this had to be
because you loved me, and for no other reason.
All you ask is that I live a good life.
You never said such a life would be easy.
I am willing to leave sin behind
and live for you alone,
in my brothers and sisters.

___________________________________

At the cross her station keeping,                                                                                                stood the mournful mother weeping,                                                                                        Close to Jesus to the last.                                                                                                        Through her heart, is sorrow sharing,                                                                                           all His bitter anguish bearing.                                                                                                    Now at length the sword has passed.

The First Station:

 Jesus is condemned to death

(kneel)

All: We adore You, O Christ, and we praise You, because by Your holy cross, You have redeemed the world.

(rise)

Reader 1: 14 Now it was the Preparation Day of the Passover, and about the sixth hour. And Pilate said to the Jews, “Behold your King!”

15 But they cried out, “Away with Him, away with HimCrucify Him!”                            Pilate said to them, “Shall I crucify your King?”                                                                       The chief priests answered, “We have no king but Caesar!”

16 Then he delivered Him to them to be crucified. Then they took Jesus and led Him away.

John 19:14-16 New King James Version (NKJV)

Jesus: Since we left the Garden last night, I’ve been accused by the scribes and elders. I’ve been brought before the High Priest in an illegal trial. I’ve been dragged to Herod’s palace. I’ve been mocked and spat upon by the soldiers. They want Me to die. Pilate had asked what to do with their king and the crowd answered ‘Crucify Him!’

Reader 2: Christ suffered for me. He gave me an example to follow, so I should do as He did. He did not sin, He never lied, people teased Him but He did not tease them in return.

Prayer: My Jesus, it was not Pilate, but my sins that condemned You to die. Help me to accept my own death at the time and in whatever way it comes.

O, how sad and sore distressed                                                                                                     was that mother, highly blessed,                                                                                                    of the sole Begotten One.

The Second Station:

Jesus takes up His cross.

(kneel)

All: We adore You, O Christ, and we praise You, because by Your holy cross, You have redeemed the world.

(rise)

Reader 1: 16 Then he delivered Him to them to be crucified. Then they took Jesus and led Him away. The King on a Cross

17 And He, bearing His cross, went out to a place called the Place of a Skull, which is called in Hebrew, Golgotha,

John 19:16-17 New King James Version (NKJV)

Jesus: When he brought Me in front of the crowd, Pilate said: ‘Ecce Homo!’: ‘Look what you have done to this Man!’ But there seems to be another voice speaking as well. The voice seems to say: ‘Look what you have done to this man, to your God.’

Reader 2: Christ carried my sins in His body on the cross. He did this so that I might stop living for sin, and do what is right. I am healed because of His wounds.

Prayer: My beloved Jesus, I thank you for all the things You have planned for me until my death, even those things that will be hard for me. The road is narrow, but I know it leads to heaven and I know You will be with me, as You promised, until the end of time.

Christ above in torment hangs.                                                                                                     She beneath beholds the pangs                                                                                                       of her dying, glorious Son.

The Third Station:

Jesus falls the first time.

(kneel)

All: We adore You, O Christ, and we praise You, because by Your holy cross, You have redeemed the world.

(rise)

Reader 1: 51 And suddenly, one of those who were with Jesus stretched out his hand and drew his sword, struck the servant of the high priest, and cut off his ear.

52 But Jesus said to him, “Put your sword in its place, for all who take the sword will perish by the sword. 53 Or do you think that I cannot now pray to My Father, and He will provide Me with more than twelve legions of angels? 54 How then could the Scriptures be fulfilled, that it must happen thus?”

Matthew 26:51-54 New King James Version (NKJV)

Jesus: The cross beam is so heavy and painful. Am I so weak from the beatings I received, or is the burden too heavy for me to bear? As I stumble beneath its weight, do you think I might feel an urge to call out to you for help? But I do not call for help, because God’s love for humanity commanded this sacrifice. I obey Him because I, too, love you so dearly.

Reader 2: When I am punished for doing wrong, there is no reason to praise me for bearing the punishment. If  I suffer for doing good, and I am patient, that pleases God.

Prayer: My beloved Jesus, not the weight of the cross, but my sins made You suffer so much pain. And Your love for me gives You the strength to go on.

Is there one who would not weep,                                                                                    ‘whelmed in miseries so deep                                                                                                 Christ’s dear Mother to behold.

The Fourth Station:

Jesus meets His mother.

(kneel)

All: We adore You, O Christ, and we praise You, because by Your holy cross, You have redeemed the world.

(rise)

Reader 1: 34 Then Simeon blessed them, and said to Mary His mother, “Behold, this Child is destined for the fall and rising of many in Israel, and for a sign which will be spoken against 35 (yes, a sword will pierce through your own soul also), that the thoughts of many hearts may be revealed.”

Luke 2:34-35 New King James Version (NKJV)

Jesus: I meet My mother along the way of the cross. I can tell from the look in her eyes that My cross has become her cross. My humiliation becomes her humiliation. Perhaps she remembers the words of Simeon when I was dedicated in the Temple according to the Law.

Reader 2: I see Mary in the midst of the Passion. She was closest to Jesus on earth. How often she must have gone over the events of His life in her thoughts. She felt what Jesus was feeling more than anyone else. It must have been like she was crucified with Him. How much she loves Jesus, and how much she must also love us to observe His pain and torment without protest. I look to her for help to grow closer to Jesus.

Prayer: My most loving Jesus, by the sorrow You experienced in this meeting, grant me the grace of a truly devoted love for Your most holy mother. Allow me to see You through her eyes of love.

Can the human heart refrain                                                                                                      from partaking in her pain–                                                                                                             in that mother’s pain untold?

The Fifth Station:

Simon of Cyrene helps Jesus.

(kneel)

All: We adore You, O Christ, and we praise You, because by Your holy cross, You have redeemed the world.

(rise)

Reader 1: 21 Then they compelled a certain man, Simon a Cyrenian, the father of Alexander and Rufus, as he was coming out of the country and passing by, to bear His cross.

Mark 15:21 New King James Version (NKJV)

Jesus: I am getting weaker and weaker, so Simon of Cyrene is pulled out of the crowd to help carry the cross because the soldiers were afraid I would not make it to Calvary. In the confusion, Simon of Cyrene appears at My side as if it were you.

Reader 2: When I see someone who needs help, even if I don’t know them, let me think about what Simon did. His family was rewarded because of what he did. His sons, Rufus and Alexander, knew what their father had done and they believed in Jesus. Later they became leaders in the church.

Prayer: My beloved Jesus, I will not refuse my cross. I will take it and thank You. Give me the strength and compassion to help others in their time of need and bring them to know about Your mercy.

Bruised, derided, cursed, defiled,                                                                                                  she beheld her tender Child                                                                                                             all with bloody scourges rent.

The Sixth Station:

Veronica wipes the face of Jesus.

(kneel)

All: We adore You, O Christ, and we praise You, because by Your holy cross, You have redeemed the world.

(rise)

Reader 1: 34 Then the King will say to those on His right hand, ‘Come, you blessed of My Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world: 35 for I was hungry and you gave Me food; I was thirsty and you gave Me drink;I was a stranger and you took Me in; 36 was naked and you clothed Me; I was sick and you visited Me; I was in prison and you came to Me.’

37 “Then the righteous will answer Him, saying, ‘Lord, when did we see You hungry and feed You, or thirsty and give You drink? 38 When did we see You a stranger and take You in, or naked and clothe You? 39 Or when did we see You sick, or in prison, and come to You?’ 40 And the King will answer and say to them, ‘Assuredly, I say to you, inasmuch as you did it to one of the least of these My brethren, you did it to Me.’

Matthew 25:34-40 New King James Version (NKJV)

Jesus: The steep, narrow streets are hot and dusty. The dust kicked up from the street gets in My eyes and nose. I can taste the dirt. But I keep going. A lady pushes past the soldiers and wipes My face with a cold wet towel.

Reader 2: There are times when I am afraid to reach out to others. I do nothing when I should act. I say nothing when I should speak. I need deeper and more courageous faith to trust that God is with me. In fact, Jesus leaves His image on every single act of love like He did for Veronica.

Prayer: My dear Jesus, Your face was lovely before You began this journey, but it no longer appears beautiful just as the beauty of my soul is soiled by my sins.

For the sins of His own nation                                                                                                      saw Him hang in desolation                                                                                                            till His Spirit forth He sent.

The Seventh Station:

Jesus falls the second time.

(kneel)

All: We adore You, O Christ, and we praise You, because by Your holy cross, You have redeemed the world.

(rise)

Reader 1: 35 And the people stood looking on. But even the rulers with them sneered, saying, “He saved others; let Him save Himself if He is the Christ, the chosen of God.”

36 The soldiers also mocked Him, coming and offering Him sour wine, 37 and saying, “If You are the King of the Jews, save Yourself.”

Luke 23:35-37 New King James Version (NKJV)

All those who see Me ridicule Me;
They showed contempt with their mouth, they shake the head, saying,

“He trusted in the Lord, let Him rescue Him;
Let Him deliver Him, since He delights in Him!”

But You are He who took Me out of the womb;
You made Me trust while on My mother’s breasts.

Psalm 22:7-9 New King James Version (NKJV)

Jesus: Since My first fall, I have met some–you, My mother, Simon, and Veronica–who have supported and comforted Me. In spite of their refreshing care, I stumble and the taunts of the crowd start again. But I get up and go on because I love you, and them, so dearly.

Reader 2: If God is with me, then no one can defeat me, no matter how much they tease and make fun of me. Even God’s own Son suffered for me.

Prayer: My most gentle Jesus, how many times You have forgiven me, how many times I have fallen again and begun again offended You? Give me grace so that in all my temptations, I will always turn to You. I love You Jesus with all my heart. I am sorry that I have offended You.

O sweet mother! fount of love,                                                                                                  touch my spirit from above                                                                                                        make my heart with yours accord.

The Eighth Station:

Jesus speaks to the women of Jerusalem.

(kneel)

All: We adore You, O Christ, and we praise You, because by Your holy cross, You have redeemed the world.

(rise)

Reader 1: 27 And a great multitude of the people followed Him, and women who also mourned and lamented Him. 28 But Jesus, turning to them, said, “Daughters of Jerusalem, do not weep for Me, but weep for yourselves and for your children.

Luke 23:27-28 New King James Version (NKJV)

Jesus: I see you weeping for Me. Let Me ask you: Do you feel guilty or do you feel pity for Me? What I want is not these, but your heart, your mind, and your life. Show Me your love by loving others more than yourself.

Reader 2: Jesus stopped to comfort others even when He was suffering so much. Could I reach out to someome else even when I am hurting or in trouble? I feel sorry and selfish when I think of the way He loves. I need to pour out my love and be filled with His love.

Prayer: My Jesus, weighed down with sorrows, I weep for the sins which I have committed against You, because of the punishment which I deserve for them, but even more so because of the displeasure they have caused You who has loved me with infinite love.

Make me feel as you have felt                                                                                                    make my soul to glow and melt                                                                                                   with the love of Christ, my Lord.

The Ninth Station:

Jesus falls the third time.

(kneel)

All: We adore You, O Christ, and we praise You, because by Your holy cross, You have redeemed the world.

(rise)

Reader 1: 38 Then He said to them, “My soul is exceedingly sorrowful, even to death. Stay here and watch with Me.”

39 He went a little farther and fell on His face, and prayed, saying, “O My Father, if it is possible, let this cup pass from Me; nevertheless, not as I will, but as You will.

40 Then He came to the disciples and found them sleeping, and said to Peter, “What! Could you not watch with Me one hour? 41 Watch and pray, lest you enter into temptation. The spirit indeed is willing, but the flesh is weak.”

Matthew 26:38-41 New King James Version (NKJV)

Jesus: For the third time, I fall to the ground. My sweat, blood and tears blend with the dust of the earth just as they did last night in the Garden of Gethsemani. I know how weak human flesh can be. It takes all of My strength and will to go on, but I do because I love you so very much.

Reader 2: Who is this Who has fallen? I don’t expect God to act this way, but There is so much in Jesus’ life and teachings that is not as I expect God to be. He has chosen to go through it all for me!

Prayer: My Jesus, by the weakness You suffered going to Calvary, give me enough strength to ignore other people’s opinions and my own weaknesses which have led me away from Your friendship.

Holy mother, pierce me through,                                                                                                    in my heart each pain renew                                                                                                            of my Savior crucified.

The Tenth Station:

Jesus is stripped of his clothes.

(kneel)

All: We adore You, O Christ, and we praise You, because by Your holy cross, You have redeemed the world.

(rise)

Reader 1: 23 Then the soldiers, when they had crucified Jesus, took His garments and made four parts, to each soldier a part, and also the tunic. Now the tunic was without seam, woven from the top in one piece. 24 They said therefore among themselves, “Let us not tear it, but cast lots for it, whose it shall be,” that the Scripture might be fulfilled which says:

“They divided My garments among them,
And for My clothing they cast lots.”

Therefore the soldiers did these things.

John 19:23-24 New King James Version (NKJV)

Jesus: The soldiers ripped off the clothes they threw on Me after they beat Me at Pilate’s palace. All My wounds are torn open again. As I hang naked on the cross, little did they know that I was about to perform the greatest miracle of all time–the salvation of the world.

Reader 2: As Jesus is stripped of His clothes, I know I need to always be aware that I must keep my body and soul pure and clean. I must work to stay pure in my thoughts, words, and actions rather than give in to the world’s view of things which encourages vanity and giving in to all our desires no matter how sinful they may be.

Prayer: My innocent Jesus, by the torments You endured by being stripped of Your garments, help me to strip myself of my attachment toward the things of earth so that I may place all my love in You Who are most worthy of my love.

Let me share with you His pain,                                                                                                 Who for all our sins was slain,                                                                                                   Who for me in torments died.

The Eleventh Station:

Jesus is nailed to the cross.

(kneel)

All: We adore You, O Christ, and we praise You, because by Your holy cross, You have redeemed the world.

(rise)

Reader 1: 33 And when they had come to the place called Calvary, there they crucified Him, and the criminals, one on the right hand and the other on the left. 34 Then Jesus said, “Father,forgive them, for they do not know what they do.”

And they divided His garments and cast lots.

Luke 23:33-34 New King James Version (NKJV)

Jesus: The nails piercing My hands and feet as I hang on the cross become My only means of support. Your hands support Me in this final hour when you reach out to help others and when you forgive those who have hurt you.

Reader 2: I can never doubt Jesus’ great love for me when I see Him crucified. I know He gave His life freely for my salvation. He forgave the soldiers even before they had finished their vile work, and even though they did not ask for it. How much more is He willing to forgive me when I am truly sorry for offending Him?

Prayer: My despised Jesus, nail my heart, mind, and soul to the cross. May I always be there to love You and never leave You again.

Let me mingle tears with thee                                                                                              mourning Him who mourned for me,                                                                                           all the days that I may live.

The Twelfth Station:

Jesus dies on the cross.

(kneel)

All: We adore You, O Christ, and we praise You, because by Your holy cross, You have redeemed the world.

(rise)

Reader 1: 33 Now when the sixth hour had come, there was darkness over the whole land until the ninth hour. 34 And at the ninth hour Jesus cried out with a loud voice, saying, “Eloi, Eloi, lama sabachthani?” which is translated, “My God, My God, why have You forsaken Me?”

35 Some of those who stood by, when they heard that, said, “Look, He is calling for Elijah!” 36 Then someone ran and filled a sponge full of sour wine, put it on a reed, and offered it to Him to drink, saying, “Let Him alone; let us see if Elijah will come to take Him down.”

37 And Jesus cried out with a loud voice, and thus breathed His last.

38 Then the veil of the temple was torn in two from top to bottom. 39 So when the centurion, who stood opposite Him, saw that He cried out like this and thus breathed His last, he said, “Truly this Man was the Son of God!”

Mark 15:33-39 New King James Version (NKJV)

Jesus: As I hang suspended between heaven and earth My eyes and mind clear for one final look at My creation. I see My Mother; whom I love with a special love. I see the disciple whom I love, I ask you take care of My mother. Recall how I said that anyone who does the will of My Father is mother, and brother, and sister to Me. I see each of you; I love you with an everlasting love. Remember that I love you even to My death on the cross.

Reader 2:  Do you remember to take some time each day to think about what Jesus did for you and to thank Him for His wonderful love? Take some time right now to speak to Jesus in your own words. Tell Him of your love for Him (pause for a few moments) . . . . . .

Prayer: My dying Jesus, I deserve, because of my sins, a terrible death, but Your death is my hope. May I die embracing Your cross, burning with love for You, no matter what it costs.

By the Cross with you to stay,                                                                                                     there with you to weep and pray,                                                                                                this I ask of you to give.

The Thirteenth Station:

Jesus is taken down from the cross.

(kneel)

All: We adore You, O Christ, and we praise You, because by Your holy cross, You have redeemed the world.

(rise)

Reader 1: 31 Therefore, because it was the Preparation Day, that the bodies should not remain on the cross on the Sabbath (for that Sabbath was a high day), the Jews asked Pilate that their legs might be broken, and that they might be taken away. 32 Then the soldiers came and broke the legs of the first and of the other who was crucified with Him. 33 But when they came to Jesus and saw that He was already dead, they did not break His legs. 34 But one of the soldiers pierced His side with a spear, and immediately blood and water came out. 35 And he who has seen has testified, and his testimony is true; and he knows that he is telling the truth, so that you may believe. 36 For these things were done that the Scripture should be fulfilled, “Not one of His bones shall be broken.” 37 And again another Scripture says, “They shall look on Him whom they pierced.”

38 After this, Joseph of Arimathea, being a disciple of Jesus, but secretly, for fear of the Jews, asked Pilate that he might take away the body of Jesus; and Pilate gave him permission. So he came and took the body of Jesus. 39 And Nicodemus, who at first came to Jesus by night, also came, bringing a mixture of myrrh and aloes, about a hundred pounds. 40 Then they took the body of Jesus, and bound it in strips of linen with the spices, as the custom of the Jews is to bury.

John 19:31-40 New King James Version (NKJV)

Jesus: I was roughly put on the cross. Now I am gently removed from it and placed, for one last time, in My mother’s arms. Perhaps she thinks of those times when she tenderly held Me as a Baby. Perhaps she thinks about the terrible work of the sins of mankind and of the Trinity’s infinite love for human beings.

Reader 2: If only I can learn to see all the good things about people while they are alive. I need to care for them and see that they are happy while they are alive.

Prayer: Jesus my Redeemer, since You died for me, allow me to love You, for I desire only You and nothing more.

Virgin of all virgins blest!                                                                                                          Listen to my fond request:                                                                                                              Let me share your grief divine.

The Fourteenth Station:

Jesus is laid in the tomb.

(kneel)

All: We adore You, O Christ, and we praise You, because by Your holy cross, You have redeemed the world.

(rise)

Reader 1: 57 Now when evening had come, there came a rich man from Arimathea, named Joseph, who himself had also become a disciple of Jesus. 58 This man went to Pilate and asked for the body of Jesus. Then Pilate commanded the body to be given to him. 59 When Joseph had taken the body, he wrapped it in a clean linen cloth, 60 and laid it in his new tomb which he had hewn out of the rock; and he rolled a large stone against the door of the tomb, and departed.

Matthew 27:57-60 New King James Version (NKJV)

Jesus: At last My place of rest is reached. You have kindly wrapped My body in a cloth and placed it in Joseph’s tomb. But you know this is not the end of the story. I came to bring you hope, not despair.

So, Do not stand at my grave and weep

I am not there; I do not sleep.
I am a thousand winds that blow,
I am the diamond that glints on snow,
I am the sun on ripened grain,
I am the gentle autumn rain.

When you awaken in the morning’s hush
I am the swift uplifting rush
Of quiet birds in circled flight.
I am the soft stars that shine at night.
Do not stand at my grave and cry,
I am not there; I did not die.

([(c) Mary Elizabeth Frye])

Reader 2: I cannot bury my hope in Jesus’ grave. No matter how hard things seem to be, they could not be more difficult than what Jesus faced in His life. Despite all His suffering, it came out all right–more than all right: He won the greatest victory ever!

Prayer: Oh, my buried Jesus, I am sad while You are in the tomb, but I know that You have left us with hope.

Christ, when You shall call me hence,                                                                                            be Your mother my defense,                                                                                                            be Your cross my victory.                                                                                                           While my body here decays,                                                                                                        may my soul Your goodness praise                                                                                              safe in heaven eternally.

_____________________________________

Death, be not proud, though the whole world fear you
Mighty and dreadful you may seem
but death, be not proud, for your pride has failed you
You will not kill me.

Though you may dwell in plague and poison,
you’re a slave to fate and desperate men;
So death, if your sleep be the gate to heaven,
Why your confidence—
when you will be no more?
You will be no more, you will be no more;
even death will die.

Death, be not proud.
Even death will die.

([(c) 2014 Audrey Assad])

Amen.

The Fifteenth Station:

The Resurrection.

(kneel)

All: We adore You, O Christ, and we praise You, because by Your holy cross, You have redeemed the world.

(rise)

Reader 1: 24 Now on the first day of the week, very early in the morning, they, and certain other women with them, came to the tomb bringing the spices which they had prepared. But they found the stone rolled away from the tomb. Then they went in and did not find the body of the Lord Jesus. And it happened, as they were greatly perplexed about this, that behold, two men stood by them in shining garments. Then, as they were afraid and bowed their faces to the earth, they said to them, “Why do you seek the living among the dead? He is not here, but is risen! Remember how He spoke to you when He was still in Galilee, saying, ‘The Son of Man must be delivered into the hands of sinful men, and be crucified, and the third day rise again.’ ”

And they remembered His words. Then they returned from the tomb and told all these things to the eleven and to all the rest.

Luke 24:1-9 New King James Version (NKJV)

Prayer: My risen Jesus, I know that You rose in glory on the third day. I beg You, by Your resurrection that I may rise gloriously to be united with You in heaven; to praise You and love You forever.

——————————————————————-

Anxiety, Depression and the American Adolescent

teen-suicide-note

The first time Faith-Ann Bishop cut herself, she was in eighth grade. It was two am, and as her parents slept, , she sat on the edge of the tub at her home in Bangor, Maine, with a metal clip from a pen in her hand. Then she sliced into the soft skin near her ribs. There was blood – and a sense of deep relief. “It makes the world very quiet for a few seconds,” she states. “For a while i didn’t want to stop, because it was my only coping mechanism. I hadn’t learned any other way.”

Adolescents today have a reputation for being more fragile, less resilient and more over-whelmed than their parents were when they were growing up. A closer look paints a far more heartbreaking portrait of why young people are suffering. It’s a phenomenon that cuts across all demographics – suburban, urban and rural. Also those who are college bound and those who aren’t.

Adolescents today have become the post 9/11 generation, raised in an era of economic and national insecurity. They’ve never known a time when terrorism and school shootings weren’t the norm. They grew up watching their parents weather a severe recession, and, perhaps even more importantly, they hit puberty at a time when technology and social media were transforming society.

Self-harm, which some experts say is on the rise, is perhaps the most disturbing symptom of a broader psychological problem – a spectrum of anger, worry, apprehension that plagues 21st century teens.teen-pills

“We’re the first generation that cannot escape our problems at all,” says Faith-Ann. “We’re all like little volcanoes. We’re getting this constant pressure, from our phones, from our relationships, from the way things are today.”

“If you wanted to create an environment to churn out really angsty people, we’ve done it,” says Janis Whitlock, director of the Cornell Research Program on Self – Injury and Recovery. Sure, parental micromanaging can be a factor, but so can school stress. Whitlock doesn’t think those things are the main drives of this epidemic. “It’s that they’re in a cauldron of stimulus they can’t get away from, or don’t want to, or don’t know how to,” she states.

It’s hard for many of us adults to understand how much of teenagers’ emotional life is lived within the small screen on their phones. But according to a report done by CNN in conjunction with researchers from the University of California, Davis, and the University of Texas at Dallas who examined the social-media use of more than 200 13-year-olds, they found that “there is no firm line between their real and online worlds.”

Phoebe Gariepy, a 17-year-old in Arundel, Maine, describes following on Instagram a girl from L.A. whom she had never met because she liked the photos this girl posted. Then the girl stopped posting. Phoebe later heard that the girl had been kidnapped and was found on the side of the road, dead. “I started bawling, and I didn’t even know this girl,” said Phoebe. “I felt really extremely connected to that situation even though it was in L.A.”

That hyperconnectedness now extends everywhere, engulfing even rural teens in a national thicket of Internet drama. Montana’s kids, for example, may be in a big, sparsely populated state, but they are not isolated anymore. A suicide might happen on the other side of the state and the kids often know about it before the adults do.

depression1

Parents are also mimicking teen behavior. “Not in all cases, but in many cases the adults are learning to use their phones in the way that the teens do,” says Megan Moreno, head of social media and adolescent health research at Seattle Children’s Hospital. “They’re zoning out. They’re ignoring people. They’re answering calls during dinner rather than saying, ‘O.K., we have this technology. Here are the rules about when we use it’.”

In the CNN study, researchers found that even when parents try their best to monitor their children’s Instagram, Facebook or Twitter feeds, they are likely unable to recognize the subtle slights and social exclusions that cause kids pain. Finding disturbing things in a child’s digital identity, or that they’re self-harming, can stun some parents.

For some parents who discover, as Faith-Ann’s parents Bret and Tammy Bishop did a few years ago, that their child has been severely depressed, anxiety-ridden or self-harming for years, it’s a shock laden with guilt.                                                                                          every-day

Self-harming is certainly not universal among kids with depression and anxiety, but it does appear to be the signature symptom of this generation’s mental health difficulties. It’s hard to know why self-harm has surfaced at this time, and it’s possible we’re just more aware of it now because we live in a world where we’re more aware of everything.

The Idea that self-harm is tied to how we see the human body tracks with what many teens are saying today. As Faith-Ann describes it, “A lot of value is put on our physical beauty now. All of our friends are Photoshopping their own photos. It’s hard to escape that need to be perfect.”

Fadi Haddad, a psychiatrist who helped start the child and adolescent psychiatric emergency department at Bellevue Hospital in New York City states that for parents who find out their children are depressed or hurting themselves, the best response is first to validate their feelings. Don’t get angry or talk about taking away their computer. “Say, ‘I’m sorry you’re in pain. I’m here for you.’” This straightforward acknowledgement of their struggles takes away any judgement, which is critical since mental-health issues are still heavily stigmatized. No adolescent wants to be seen as flawed or vulnerable, and for parents, the idea that their child has debilitating depression or anxiety or is self-harming can feel like a failure on their part.

dealing-with-depression-and-anxietyFor both generations, admitting that they need help can be daunting. Even once they get past that barrier, the cost and logistics of therapy can be overwhelming. Some of the treatment for self-harm are similar to those for addiction, particularly in the focus on identifying underlying psychological issue: what’s causing the anxiety and depression in the first place. And then teaching healthy ways to cope. Similarly, those who want to stop need a strong level of internal motivation as well as a strong support system.

Anxiety+and+Depression

What Parents Should Do

If you are worried about a child and aren’t sure what to do, heed the advice of Fadi Haddad, a psychiatrist and the co-author of Helping Kids in Crisis.

  1. Talk about the real stuff: sometimes conversations between parents and teens can be all about achievements, schedules and choices. Go beyond that. Find out what keeps them up at night. Ask – “What’s the best part of your day?” Become attuned to their emotional world so that you understand what their dreams are, what they struggle with and how their life is going.
  2. Pay attention, but don’t smother them: give teens space to grow and separate from you. Also watch for changes in their behavior. Are they giving up activities the used to enjoy? Are they staying up all hours of the night or has their appetite waned. Are they withdrawn, lethargic or do they get angry at nothing. If you are worried, say so. Show interest in their internal life without judgement.
  3. Resist getting angry: when parents find out a teen has been hiding something or is having behavior issues, the response is often anger or punishment. Instead, find out what is going on. If a child is acting out, say: “It seems like you are having trouble. I’m here to help. Tell me what’s happening to you.”
  4. Don’t put off getting help: If you are worried about an adolescent, talk to a school counselor, therapist or doctor. It is better to get help early rather than when trouble has firmly taken hold.
  5. Treat the whole family: When a child is in a crisis, many times it’s not enough to just treat the child. You have to change the family dynamic. It’s possible that something about the home environment was causing stress for the child, so, be open to acknowledging that and getting family counseling if needed.

Look, I’m writing this because I’ve spent a lifetime depressed and anxious. According to several psychiatrists and psychologists, I was born depressed. Yes, depression is inherited. Especially if the birth mother had a stressful pregnancy.

So please, don’t take this blog lightly. Find out what’s going on and do what you can to help the child cope with what he/she is going through. And like Dr. Fadi Haddad has stated – “Be open to acknowledging that there is a problem and get help.”

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Love Your Enemies

isis-flag

Isis flag: What do the words mean?

The white banner at the top of the flag reads: “There is no god but Allah [God]. Mohammad is the messenger of Allah.” This phrase is a declaration of faith used across Islam, and is known as the shahada.

Underneath is a white circle emblazoned with black writing reading “Mohammed is the messenger of God”, which is meant to resemble the Prophet’s seal, similar to that used to close an envelope.

al-qaeda-flag

Al Qaeda Flag

Jabhat al-Nusra is an Al Qaeda affiliate in Syria. Its flag includes the white inscription at the top of the flag, which is the shahada, or the Islamic declaration of faith. Underneath the shahada is the name “Jabhat al-Nusra” in Arabic. Dec 16, 2014

Shahada

The Shahada (Arabic: الشهادة‎ aš-šahādah audio (help. · info), “the testimony”; aš-šahādatān (الشَهادَتانْ, “the two testimonials”); also Kalima Shahadat [كلمة الشهادة, “the testimonial word”]), is an Islamic creed declaring belief in the oneness of God (tawhid) and the acceptance of Muhammad as God’s prophet.

The Islamic Declaration of Faith

Declaration of Faith (Shahadah) The most basic requirement of being a Muslim is to publicly state the words “There is no God but Allah and Muhammad is His Messenger”, in Arabic, with sincerity and without any reservations.

Love Your Enemies

Michael Berg, whose son Nick was beheaded in Iraq in 2004, told ABC News’ Aaron Katersky on Thursday (June 8, 2006) that he abhors that the U.S. military has killed al-Zarqawi.

“I will not take joy in the death of a fellow human, even the human being who killed my son,” said Berg, who blamed President Bush, Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld and Attorney General Alberto Gonzales — and not al-Zarqawi — for the death of his son because of what Berg said is their role in making possible the torture of Iraqis at Abu Ghraib prison near Baghdad.

“Revenge is what killed my son,” said Berg. “My son died in a perpetual cycle of revenge that goes on and on, forever. It’s got to stop somewhere. As far as I’m concerned, it will stop with me.”

“I wish the Iraqi people, and the U.S. soldiers who mistakenly believe they are protecting us, good fortune in weathering the upcoming violence,” said Berg.

A man after God’s own heart. So, why did Mr. Berg  declare to the world that “Revenge is what killed my son.” But at the same time stated, “I will not take joy in the death of a fellow human, even the human being who killed my son,”

The Bible has a great deal to say about revenge. Both the Hebrew and Greek words translated “vengeance,” “revenge,” and “avenge” have as their root meaning the idea of punishment. This is crucial in understanding why God reserves for Himself the right to avenge.

The key verse regarding this truth is found in the Old Testament and quoted twice in the New Testament. God states in Deuteronomy 32:35,

Deuteronomy 32:35 (NKJV)

35 Vengeance is Mine, and recompense;
Their foot shall slip in due time;
For the day of their calamity is at hand,
And the things to come hasten upon them.’

 In Deuteronomy, God is speaking of the stiff-necked, rebellious, idolatrous Israelites who rejected Him and incurred His wrath with their wickedness. He promised to avenge Himself upon them in His own timing and according to His own perfect and pure motives.

The two New Testament passages concern the behavior of the Christian, who is not to usurp God’s authority. Rather, we are to allow Him to judge rightly and pour out His divine retribution against His enemies as He sees fit (Romans 12:19Hebrews 10:30).

Unlike us, God never takes vengeance from impure motives. His vengeance is for the purpose of punishing those who have offended and rejected Him. We can, however, pray for God to avenge Himself in perfection and holiness against His enemies and to avenge those who are oppressed by evil. In Psalm 94:1, the psalmist prays for God to avenge the righteous, not out of a sense of uncontrolled vindictiveness, but out of just retribution from the eternal Judge whose judgments are perfect. Even when the innocent suffer and the wicked appear to prosper, it is for God alone to punish. “The LORD is a jealous and avenging God; the LORD takes vengeance and is filled with wrath. The LORD takes vengeance on his foes and maintains his wrath against his enemies” (Nahum 1:2).

As Christians, we are to follow the Lord Jesus’ command to “love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you” (Matthew 5:44), leaving the vengeance to God.

How does a man like Michael Berg love the enemies who beheaded his son? Through God’s undiscriminating love to all people

When Jesus said we are to love our enemies, He was creating a new standard for relationships.

He proclaimed to the crowds listening to His Sermon on the Mount that they knew they were to love their neighbor because the command to love our neighbor was a law of God (Leviticus 19:18).

That we must therefore hate our enemy was an inference incorrectly drawn from it by the Jews. While no Bible verse explicitly says “hate your enemy,” the Pharisees may have somewhat misapplied some of the Old Testament passages about hatred for God’s enemies (Psalm 139:19-22140:9-11).

But Jesus replaced this idea with an even higher standard: “Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, that you may be sons of your Father in heaven” (Matthew 5:44-45). Jesus explained to His followers that they should adhere to the real meaning of God’s law by loving their enemies as well as their neighbors.

By using an illustration of the sun rising and the rain falling on both the good and the evil, Jesus shows God’s undiscriminating love to all people. We, as His disciples, must then reflect His character and exhibit this same undiscriminating love for both friends and enemies. Jesus is teaching us that we must live by a higher standard than what the world expects—a standard that is impossible for us to attain by our own efforts. It’s only through the power of God’s Spirit that we can truly love and pray for those who intend to do us harm. (Romans 12:14-21)

After giving us the admonition to love our enemies, Jesus then gives us this command: “Be perfect, therefore, as your heavenly Father is perfect” (Matthew 5:48). As sons of our Father (Matthew 5:45), we are to be perfect, even as He is perfect. This is utterly impossible for sinful man to achieve. This unattainable standard is exactly what the Law itself demanded (James 2:10). So how can Jesus demand the impossible? He later tells us, “With man this is impossible, but with God all things are possible” (Matthew 19:26). That which God demands, only He can accomplish, including the demand to love our enemies. What is impossible for man becomes possible for those who give their lives to Jesus Christ through the power of the Holy Spirit who lives in our hearts.

The Pressure to Succeed

So how do I start this story? My heart is racing. I am getting heartburn. I’m not shaking outside, but inside I could make a milkshake. I’m nervous. My mind is going a million miles an hour, yet I am lacking as to what to put down on paper. I feel hot and my palms are sweaty.

I want to write something that will be of help to others, but what do I say? How do I explain my life of failures because I am a people pleaser that wants to be accepted and liked for who I am as well as what I am able to accomplish? If you were to look at my résumé, you would probably shake your head and throw it into the trashcan. More jobs than one should have because I “wasn’t perfect enough to accomplish what was expected of me”, so I gave up.

Failures! The story of my life. My dad was a good man with an extremely high IQ. The one thing you didn’t do with my dad was to pick an argument with him. You would lose every time. You had better have your ducks in a row or face rejection and disappointment because you couldn’t meet his standards. And they were high. If I got a B, he would want to know why I didn’t get an A. If I got an A, why didn’t I work hard enough to get an A+? A “perfectionist” at heart and that’s what was expected of me.

I got through college on my dad’s tailcoats because he spent almost a life time working the stock market. And yes, he wanted me to follow in his footsteps. But that wasn’t me. I loved the fine arts – classical music, dance, art, drawing. I was not and probably never will be business oriented even though at one time my wife and I ran an accounting and tax business. I started college taking courses for a business degree, changed to the fine arts, failed there and went back to the business administration side with a degree in public administration, recreation as a field. Great. NO JOBS were there, so I went into retail.

The gist of all this is the fact that it was the beginning of a very long journey trying to discover who I was and where I belonged. And yes, I’m still running the gauntlet with no success. Why you ask. Because I fear walking out my front door just to go to McDonald’s to get some milkshakes for me, my wife and step-daughter.

I feel safe inside, to a point. It’s like my safe haven where no harm or faulty expectations or demands can get to me. It’s my fortress, my bastion where I can hide from those with needs and wants I can’t fulfill because their expectations are too high. It’s my blanket that keeps the anxiety and frustrations at bay. Sounds ridiculous you say.

Yes, it does. But how do I explain to you the real feelings that are going on inside me? How do I explain something I don’t really understand the whys and hows of? What is anxiety? What is fear? Where does it come from and why can’t I gain control of it to stop it from controlling me and ruining my life? I am taking medications for depression, anxiety, glaucoma, A fib, cholesterol, restless leg syndrome. I’ve seen therapists, psychiatrists, counselors, etc., but they haven’t really done me any good. I am now fully retired and am taking care (am a caregiver) for my wife who has a degenerative/debilitating back disease and my step-daughter who has Down Syndrome, an aortic heart valve and is on blood thinners, and is diabetic.

They need me and there is no escape. I don’t want to run away because they are me and I am them. But the demands are endless; I can’t and won’t walk away from them. God gave me this responsibility for a reason and I have to believe that He will guide me and keep me strong so I can do what is necessary in caring for them.

Believe it or not, I do love life. The struggle, like all who are in the same boat as I am as far as feelings of anxiety and depression, is to find a balance in life where I can cope and heal from these perplexities. One thing I can say that may hopefully resound in your minds and mine – NEVER GIVE UP!!!

Below you will see four sets of verses from the bible. They are in the New King James Version and the New International Version (in case the New King James Version is confusing to some of you). Both Timothy and Paul are trying to tell us not to give up. We are in a race. A race for peace of mind and a fulfilled and happy life. A race that will take everything we have to run and win. A race in which the winners get to hang on to life, not lose it.

Dare to read them and dare to take them to heart. Know that we are not the only ones to have gone through what we are currently experiencing. History attests to that. The bible if full of desperate, anxious, fearful individuals whom God has used mightily. The point is you and I need to find a positive way to deal with what we are experiencing and not to give up just because we think what we are doing is not working. It is, just not as fast as maybe you or I would like it to.

1 Timothy 6:12 (NKJV)

12 Fight the good fight of faith, lay hold on eternal life, to which you were also called and have confessed the good confession in the presence of many witnesses.

1 Timothy 6:12 (NIV)

12 Fight the good fight of the faith. Take hold of the eternal life to which you were called when you made your good confession in the presence of many witnesses.

__________

 2 Timothy 4:7-8 (NKJV)

I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith. Finally, there is laid up for me the crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous Judge, will give to me on that Day, and not to me only but also to all who have loved His appearing.

2 Timothy 4:7-8 (NIV)

I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith. Now there is in store for me the crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous Judge, will award to me on that day—and not only to me, but also to all who have longed for his appearing.

__________

 1 Corinthians 9:24-27 (NKJV)

Striving for a Crown

24 Do you not know that those who run in a race all run, but one receives the prize? Run in such a way that you may obtain it. 25 And everyone who competes for the prize is temperate in all things. Now they do it to obtain a perishable crown, but we for an imperishable crown. 26 Therefore I run thus: not with uncertainty. Thus I fight: not as one who beats the air. 27 But I discipline my body and bring it into subjection, lest, when I have preached to others, I myself should become disqualified.

1 Corinthians 9:24-27 (NIV)

The Need for Self-Discipline

24 Do you not know that in a race all the runners run, but only one gets the prize? Run in such a way as to get the prize. 25 Everyone who competes in the games goes into strict training. They do it to get a crown that will not last, but we do it to get a crown that will last forever. 26 Therefore I do not run like someone running aimlessly; I do not fight like a boxer beating the air. 27 No, I strike a blow to my body and make it my slave so that after I have preached to others, I myself will not be disqualified for the prize.

__________

2 Timothy 2:10 (NKJV)

10 Therefore I endure all things for the sake of the elect, that they also may obtain the salvation which is in Christ Jesus with eternal glory.

2 Timothy 2:10 (NIV)

10 Therefore I endure everything for the sake of the elect, that they too may obtain the salvation that is in Christ Jesus, with eternal glory.

I can’t give up because God won’t let me. Otherwise I would have been dead a long time ago. So don’t you give up either. Let’s together help one another find that balance in life that will help keep us going no matter what we are experiencing at the time. No, it won’t be easy, but know you are not alone. God is there and I am there if you need a shoulder to lean on. I may need one too and it helps to know that there is one I can rely on.

Depression: God Is Not Silent When We Suffer

If we know anything about God, we know that He comes close to those who suffer.

WHAT YOU NEED TO KNOW

Never has so much been crammed into one word “Depression”. It feels terrifying. Your world is dark, heavy, and painful. Physical pain, you think, would be much better—at least the pain would be localized. Instead, depression seems to go to your very soul, affecting everything in its path.

Dead, but walking, is one way to describe it. I felt numb. Perhaps the worst part is that I remember when I actually felt something and the contrast between then and now makes the pain worse.

So many things about my life were difficult. Things I used to take for granted—a good night’s sleep, having goals, looking forward to the future—now seemed beyond my reach. My relationships with others were also affected. The people who loved me were looking for some emotional response, but I didn’t have one to give.

Does it help to know that you are not alone? These days depression affects as much as 25 percent of the population. Although it has always been a human problem, no one really knows why. But what I know as a Christian was that God is not silent when we suffer. On every page of Scripture, God’s depressed children have been able to find hope and a reason to endure. For example, take 2 Corinthians 4:16-18 (NKJV):

Seeing the Invisible

16 Therefore we do not lose heart. Even though our outward man is perishing, yet the inward man is being renewed day by day. 17 For our light affliction, which is but for a moment, is working for us a far more exceeding and eternal weight of glory, 18 while we do not look at the things which are seen, but at the things which are not seen. For the things which are seen are temporary, but the things which are not seen are eternal.

Come to God with your suffering

I started to experience an inward renewal that the apostle Paul experienced when I came to God with my suffering. God seemed far away at first. I truly believe that He exists, but it seems as if He was too busy with everything else, or He just didn’t care. After all, God is powerful enough to end my suffering, but He hasn’t.

If you start there, you’ll reach a dead end pretty quickly. God hasn’t promised to explain everything about what He does and what He allows. Instead, He encourages us to start with Jesus. Jesus is God the Son, and He is certainly loved by His Heavenly Father. Yet Jesus also went through more suffering than anyone who ever lived!

Here I saw that love and suffering can co-exist. And when I started to read the Bible and encounter people like Job, Jeremiah, and the apostle Paul, I got a sense that suffering was actually the well-worn path for God’s favorites. This doesn’t answer the question, Why are you doing this to me? But it cushions the blow when you know that God understands. I wasn’t alone. If I knew anything about God, I knew that He comes close to those who suffer, so keep your eyes open for Him.

God speaks to you in the Bible

Keep your heart open to the fact that the Bible has much to say to you when you are depressed. Here are a few suggestions of Bible passages you can read. Read one each day and let it fill your mind as you go about your life. 

  • Read about Jesus’ suffering in Isaiah 53 and Mark 14. How does it help you to know that Jesus is a man of sorrows and acquainted with grief?
  • Use the Psalms to help you find words to talk to God about your heart. Make Psalm 88 and Psalm 86 your personal prayers to God.
  • Be alert to spiritual warfare. Depressed people are very vulnerable to Satan’s claim that God is not good. Jesus’ death on the cross proves God’s love for you. It’s the only weapon powerful enough to stand against Satan’s lies. (Romans 5:6-8, 1 John 4:9,10)
  • Don’t think your case is unique. Read Hebrews 11 and 12. Many have walked this path before you and they will tell you that God did not fail them.
  • Remember your purpose for living. (Matthew 22:37-39, 1 Corinthians 6:20, 2 Corinthians 5:15, Galatians 5:6)
  • Learn about persevering and enduring. (Romans 5:3, Hebrews 12:1, James 1:2-4)

WHAT YOU NEED TO DO

Try one step at a time

Granted, it seemed impossible. How could I live without feelings? Without them I had no drive, no motivation. I couldn’t imagine walking without any feeling in my legs? It would be impossible.

Or would it? Perhaps I could walk if I practiced in front of a large mirror and watched my legs moving. One step, wobble, another step. It would all be very mechanical, but it could be done.

People have learned to walk in the midst of depression. It doesn’t seem natural, though other people won’t notice either the awkwardness or the heroism involved. The trek begins with one step, then another. Remember, you are not alone. Many people have taken this journey ahead of you.

As I walked, I found that it was necessary to remember to use every resource I had ever learned about persevering through hardship. It involved lots of moment by moment choices: 1) take one minute at a time, 2) read one short Bible passage, 3) try to care about someone else, 4) ask someone how they are doing, and so on.

I needed to do this with my relationships, too. You see, when you have no feelings, how to love must be redefined. Love, for you, must become an active commitment to patience and kindness.

Consider what accompanies your depression

As I put one foot in front of the other, I needed to remind myself that depression doesn’t exempt me from the other problems that plague human beings. Some depressed people have a hard time seeing the other things that creep in—things like anger, fear, and an unforgiving spirit. I needed to look carefully to see if my depression was associated with things like:

Do you have negative, critical, or complaining thoughts? These can point to anger. Was I holding something against another person?

Do you want to stay in bed all day? These were parts of my life I want to avoid?

Do you find that things you once did easily now strike terror in your heart? What was at the root of my fear?

Do you feel like you have committed a sin that is beyond the scope of God’s forgiveness? Remember that the apostle Paul was a murderer. And remember: God is not like other people—He doesn’t give us the cold shoulder when we ask for forgiveness.

Do you struggle with shame? Shame is different from guilt. When you are guilty you feel dirty because of what you did; but with shame you feel dirty because of what somebody did to you.

Forgiveness for your sins is not the answer here because you are not the one who was wrong. But the cross of Christ is still the answer. Jesus’ blood not only washes us clean from the guilt of our own sins, but also washes away the shame we experience when others sin against us.

Do you experience low self-worth? Low self-worth points in many directions. Instead of trying to raise your view of yourself, come at it from a completely different angle. Start with Christ and His love for you. Let that define you and then share that love with others.

Will it ever be over?

The question I continually struggled with was “Will I always struggle with depression?” That is like asking, “Will suffering ever be over?” Although we will have hardships in this world, depression rarely keeps a permanent grip on anyone. When we add to that the hope, purpose, power, and comfort we find in Christ, people who are depressed can usually anticipate a ray of hope or a lifting of their spirits.

Questions I Frequently Asked God

As a Christian, is it okay to get medication?

The severe pain of depression makes one welcome anything that can bring relief. For some people, medication brings relief from some symptoms. Most family physicians are qualified to prescribe appropriate medications. If you prefer a specialist, get a recommendation for a psychiatrist, and ask these questions of your doctor and pharmacist:

  • How long will it take before the medication is effective?
  • What are some of the common side effects?
  • Will it be difficult to determine which medication is effective (if your physician is prescribing two medications)?

From a Christian perspective, the choice to take medication is a wisdom issue. It is rarely a matter of right or wrong. Instead, the question to ask is, “What is best and wise?”

Wise people seek counsel (your physicians should be part of the group that counsels you). Wise people approach decisions prayerfully. They don’t put their hope in people or medicine but in the Lord. They recognize that medication is a blessing, when it helps, but recognize its limits. It can change physical symptoms, but not spiritual ones. It might give sleep, offer physical energy, allow you to see in color, and alleviate the physical feeling of depression. But it won’t answer your spiritual doubts, fears, frustrations, or failures.

If you choose to take medication, which I did, please consider letting wise and trusted people from your church come alongside of you (see Proverbs 11:14; Proverbs 12:15; Psalms 1:1-6; 2 Timothy 3:16). They can remind you that God is good, that you can find power to know God’s love and love others, and that joy is possible even during depression.

What do I do with thoughts about suicide?

Before I realized my depression, I could not imagine thinking of suicide. But during those deep moments of depression, my thoughts about death changed. I just wanted to get rid of the pain. A passing thought about death, then another, and another, until death became like a stalker.

Know this about depression: It doesn’t tell the whole truth. It says that you are all alone, that no one loves you, that God doesn’t care, that you will never feel any different, and you cannot go on another day. Even your spouse and children don’t seem like a reason to stay alive when depression is at its worst. Your mind tells you, “Everyone will be better off without me.”  But this is a lie—they will not be better off without you.

Because you aren’t working with all your faculties, keep things simple. Death is not your call to make. God is the giver and taker of life. As long as He gives you life, He has a purpose for your life. One purpose that is always right in front of you is to love another person. Begin with that purpose and then get help from a friend or a pastor. Get help!

Depression says that you are alone and that you should act that way. But that is not true. God is with you, and He calls you to reach out to someone who will listen, care, and pray for you.