The Girl With An Umbrella

As a drought continued for what seemed an eternity, a small community of farmers was in a quandary as to what to do. Rain was important to keep their crops healthy and sustain the way of life of the townspeople.

As the problem became more acute, a local pastor called a prayer meeting to ask for rain.
Many people arrived. The pastor greeted most of them as they filed in. As he walked to the front of the church to officially begin the meeting he noticed most people were chatting across the aisles and socializing with friends. When he reached the front his thoughts were on quieting the attendees and starting the meeting.

His eyes scanned the crowd as he asked for quiet. He noticed an eleven year-old girl sitting quietly in the front row. Her face was beaming with excitement. Next to her, poised and ready for use, was a bright red umbrella. The little girl’s beauty and innocence made the pastor smile as he realized how much faith she possessed. No one else in the congregation had brought an umbrella.

All came to pray for rain, but the little girl had come expecting God to answer … Yes wonder how many of us behave as the people or the little girl. So next time we pray to God friends, let us behave like the little girl, expecting an answer.

Remember ask n it shall be given, open your mouth wide n the Lord will fill it

With many prayerful blessings

Geoffrey

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Testing Our Faith

When life is interrupted with a significant but unanticipated event, we can be rocked to our core. Nothing prepares us for such disorientation. As Katey and I processed her diagnosis with MS, we lost touch with all normality.

All we observed around us felt unreal; while within me, a host of nameless emotions stirred. I wear my heart on my sleeve, so confusion visibly affected my behaviour which moved beyond both my control and life experience to date.

Consequently, I started an unexpected journey provoked by an unwelcome event. I rapidly lost sight of how to calibrate my life. God was somewhere in the mix, yet quite where, I did not know. I was in free fall and in panic I blindly hit out at friend and foe alike. This was the context for the learning which ultimately yielded that steadfast quality James describes.

While the testing of my faith eventually crafted a steadfastness within which I’d never known before, I believed at times I was losing my sanity. I feared I might do damage to others, if not myself.

Never had I experienced such anger, felt so abandoned and hard done by. I became entirely defined by my circumstances and lost all bearing. My journey was about me, and about my survival and desire to be rid of this pain.

There was no miracle cure. As friends placed a safe distance between themselves and me, which I resented deeply and added to my angry aloneness, I was left to wrestle with my own reality.

Slowly, so very slowly, I began to search for God at the heart of my own white-hot discomfort. As with Elijah, I eventually heard that still, small voice. Initially I focused upon it only because I wanted to direct all my resentment and anger at God.

However, he was cool with that. And eventually, like Elijah, I fell asleep in confused exhaustion and so began my road back towards God, and the laying of deeper foundations of steadfast reliability.

(Dr Micha Jazz)

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With many peaceful blessings

Geoffrey

The Mission of God

One of the wonderful things I discovered on becoming a Christian was just how personal it all was. Jesus knew me; had known me from before my conception.

Had watched me grow, develop and mature, and constantly longed that I might turn my gaze towards him as he steadily gazed upon me. I was encouraged by the reality that if I alone was in need of salvation, Jesus would still have endured the cross and its shame to bring me home to himself.

I soon discovered that while this personal attention was wonderful, it was also dangerous. If not careful, I might craft a Christianity that was bespoke to my preferences alone. How quickly I joined the choir of voices criticising worship and sermon alike.

Instead of fellowshipping to grow in faith, I was appointing myself judge and jury of each and every element of the church’s practice, and on no greater authority than my own preferences! While I am unique in the eyes of God, I am not alone in benefiting from God’s love.

The final words Jesus entrusted to his disciples were to go and make disciples of others, in other words, share the friendship. The early picture of the Church is one that shared together, and Paul reminds us how Jesus demonstrated the urgency of putting others’ needs over and above our own.

The social space is increasingly defined by selfishness. There appears a lack of what is called altruism – living as though the needs of others mattered. From the simplicity of a smile, to helping in support of some valuable local community initiative, remind yourself that while loved uniquely, you are not loved alone.

The mission of God is as strong as your commitment to live out God’s life of love and acceptance in everything that makes up your world today.

(Dr Micha Jazz)

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With many peaceful blessings

Geoffrey

Islamic State Continues to Kidnap, Ransom and Kill Thousands of Christians to Fund Their Terror Campaign Across the Middle East

Hundreds of kidnapped Arab Christians have been ransomed, tortured, beheaded and killed over the past year, including a priest who was chopped into pieces, in attempts to raise funds for radical Islamic terror groups and to strike fear into the hearts of Christians across the Middle East and throughout the world.

“Christians have become a form [of] currency in this tragedy,” John Newton told The Christian Post. Newton is spokesman for Catholic relief agency Aid to the Church in Need. “I know of one priest who was kidnapped for two months … they asked for a ransom of $120,000, which the family managed to raise and deliver. … But hours later, the priest was killed and his body cut up, with pieces of him sent in a box to the family.”

The process of trying to free kidnapped priests poses a difficult challenge. In many cases, Christian organizations are left in the dark with little information on who the kidnappers are or where the victims are being held.

The Syriac-Orthodox and Greek-Orthodox Metropolitans of Aleppo, Archbishops Gregorios Yohanna Ibrahim and Boulos Yazigi, were kidnapped on the road between Aleppo and the Turkish border in April 2013. At the time they had been negotiating for the release of two other priests, Michael Kayyal and Maher Mahfouz, who were themselves kidnapped in February 2013. “No one knows who took the archbishops, nor what their fate was, but the two priests they were trying to free have since been executed,” explained Newton.

  • Displaced Iraqi Christian girl
    (Photo: Reuters/Ahmed Jadallah)
    A displaced Iraqi Christian girl who fled from Islamic State militants in Mosul, eats an ice-cream at a mall still under construction, which is now used as a refugee camp in Erbil, September 6, 2014.
Catholic Franciscan Priest Dhiya Aziz is another clergyman who was kidnapped by armed men in the Idlib Province of Syria last month. He was released a few days later; however, the whereabouts of his companions, Catholic Priest Jacques Mourad and a colleague kidnapped with him, are still unknown.

In 2006, Catholic Priest Father Douglas Bazi was kidnapped by Islamists who struck his back, broke one of his legs, shot him, punched his teeth out, and deprived him of water for four days until a ransom was paid. He understands the trauma that many families have experienced and how stress and depression can deprive people of hope.

Sharing his testimony in a BBC documentary titled “Kill the Christians,” Douglas opened up his church grounds to refugees last year and created the Mar Elias Centre in Northern Iraq’s Ankawa where he cares for around 135 Christian families.

“We are Christian, so we are used to having our luggage always prepared. We always have to run away, escape from place to place,” he told the BBC.

Islamic State has openly proclaimed its plans to drive Christians out of the Arab world, prompting U.K. Prime Minister David Cameron to declare that Christianity is now the “most persecuted religion around the world” and that Britain should be “unashamed” in standing up for religious freedom, as reported by The Telegraph.

However, it is the vast majority of indigenous Christians in both Syria and Iraq, who can trace back their heritage to the very earliest centuries of the Church, who are suffering the most as they witness Islamic State’s plans to wipe Christians off the Middle Eastern map.

In Iraq, things are getting worse as each day passes. Before the Islamic State offensive against the Nineveh Plains in 2014, there were fewer than 300,000 Christians left in Iraq.

Since then, at least 120,000 Christians have been driven out of their homes with many leaving the country. Thousands had already been targeted by repeated waves of extremists’ attacks, which had driven them to the north, where they now live as refugees in their own country, according to a report by Aid to the Church in Need.

Islamic State has also routinely detroyed holy sites and torn down crosses, including the 4th century Christian Monastery of the Martyrs (Mar Behnam) in March of this year, forcing the resident monks to flee to surrounding villages, as reported by the Daily Mail. Close by, the monastery of Saint Matthew, which is one of the oldest on Earth, survived thanks to Kurdish fighters who were able to push back Islamic State fighters who are now only 4 miles away, as reported by CBS’ “60 Minutes.”

As for Syria, Newton said that around 700,000 Christians have fled so far. “There were only 1.75 million Christians before the war began, that means around 40 percent of Syria’s Christians have left,” he told CP. Ancient Christian communities found in cities like Malula – where residents still speak the language of Jesus –are dwindling. There are only a few hundred left from 3,000, following the al-Nusra attack on the city in September 2013.

In northern Iraq’s Kurdish capital Erbil, there are around 70,000 people living in temporary tents, rented rooms, or pre-fabricated units. Newton says that most of the Christian refugees in Erbil are reconciled to the fact that this will be there home, at least for the foreseeable future. “We’ve been working with the Chaldean Church to set up schools for refugee children, so they can continue their education,” he explains.

Christian workers on the ground say that most of the help being received by the Christian community in Erbil is coming from Christian charities, including both Catholic and Evangelical churches in the Middle East, America and across the world.

The UNHCR estimates that around 5.2 million people are now in urgent need of humanitarian and protection assistance due to ongoing violence and insecurity.

(Information supplied by the Christian Post)

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Please join me in praying  for all the persecuted Christians throughout the world.

May our Father God bless them mightily and give them the strength they need to overcome and endure all the terrible atrocities being perpetrated against them.

With many heart-felt blessings

Geoffrey

The Lord’s Baseball Game

I hope that you will enjoy this as much as I did.

Bob and the Lord stood by to observe a baseball game. The Lord’s team was playing Satan’s team. The Lord’s team was at bat, the score was tied zero to zero, and it was the bottom of the 9th innings with two outs.

They continued to watch as a batter stepped up to the plate whose name was Love. Love swung at the first pitch and hit a single, because Love never fails.

The next batter was named Faith, who also got a single because Faith works with Love.

The next batter up was named Godly Wisdom. Satan wound up and threw the first pitch. Godly Wisdom looked it over and let it pass: Ball one. Three more pitches and Godly Wisdom walked, because Godly Wisdom never swings at what Satan throws.

The bases were now loaded. The Lord then turned to Bob and told him He was now going to bring in His star player. Up to the plate stepped Grace. Bob said, “He sure doesn’t look like much!”

Satan’s whole team relaxed when they saw Grace. Thinking he had won the game, Satan wound up and fired his first pitch. To the shock of everyone, Grace hit the ball harder than anyone had ever seen.

But Satan was not worried; his centre fielder let very few get by. He went up for the ball, but it went right through his glove, hit him on the head and sent him crashing on the ground; then it continued over the fence for a home run!

The Lord’s team won! The Lord then asked Bob if he knew why Love, Faith, and Godly Wisdom could get on base but could not win the game. Bob answered that he did not know why.

The Lord explained, “If your love, faith, and wisdom had won the game you would think you had done it by yourself. Love, Faith and Wisdom will get you on base but only My Grace can get you Home.

Psalm 84:11, “For the Lord God is a sun and shield; the Lord will give grace and glory; no good thing will He withhold from those who walk uprightly.”

What a wonderful message to us all!

With many wondrous blessings

Geoffrey

Cherokee Boy’s Rite of Passage

Have you heard the story of the Cherokee boy’s rite of passage, I wonder?

The Cherokee boy was blindfolded and sat on a tree stump in the middle of a forest. His big test was to sit there all night until the sun rose in the morning.

The boy was understandably scared, his imagination running wild.

Every noise, he was convinced, must be a wild animal about to eat him alive!

But his courage held.

When the morning sun warmed his face the boy – now a man – whipped off his blindfold.

The first thing that he saw was his father who had silently by his side the whole night long.

If danger had threatened his father would have protected  him, just like our Father God will.

“We live by faith, not by sight” (2 Corinthians 5: 7)

With many peaceful blessings

Geoffrey

Iran Sentences 18 Christians to Prison for their Faith

It is being reported by the Christian Post that Iran’s revolutionary court is believed to have sentenced 18 Christian converts to prison for their faith in a new crackdown on Christianity in the Islamic Republic, a report said.

Fox News noted that the charges include evangelism, propaganda against the regime, and creating house churches to practice their faith. It added that the total sentences come close to 24 years, but it’s not known how many years each individual received, due to the lack of transparency in Iran’s judicial system.

“The cruelty of Iran’s dictatorial leaders knows no limits,” said Saba Farzan, the German-Iranian executive director of Foreign Policy Circle, a strategy think tank in Berlin.

A number of the imprisoned Christians were arrested in 2013, and sentenced in accordance with Article 500 of the Islamic Penal Code, which penalizes threats to Iran’s clerical leaders.

Morad Mokhtari, an Iranian convert to Christianity who fled the Islamic Republic in 2006, added: “Iranian religious authorities prefer that they [converts to Christianity] leave Iran because the authorities can’t control them,” Mokhatari said. “Just their name is evangelism. Imagine someone says he’s a Christian and has a Muslim name.”

Christians in Iran make up a tiny minority of the 78 million-strong population, and often face persecution from the government. Watchdog group Open Doors lists the country at No. 7 on its World Watch List of nations where Christians are most heavily targeted for their faith.

Open Doors points out on its website that almost all Christian activity in Iran is considered illegal, “especially when it occurs in Persian languages — from evangelism to Bible training, to publishing Scripture and Christian books or preaching in Farsi.”

It added: “In 2014, at least 75 Christians were arrested. More Christians were sentenced to prison and pressure on those detained increased, including physical and mental abuse.”

Iran’s human rights record has faced great scrutiny, especially in light of a historic nuclear deal it reached earlier this year with the U.S. and other Western nations, which promises to lift international sanctions on Iran in exchange for restricting its nuclear program.

The American Center for Law and Justice and other groups have said that the deal should not be finalized until Iran shows clear signs it is willing to improve its treatment of Christians — and release the American Christians it currently holds in its prisons, including pastor Saeed Abedini.

U.S. Senator Mark Kirt, R-Ill., has added in a statement: “The Iranian regime’s systematic persecution of Christians, as well as Baha’is, Sunni Muslims, dissenting Shiite Muslims, and other religious minorities, is getting worse not better,” Kirt said.

“This is a direct consequence of President Obama’s decision to de-link demands for improvements in religious freedom and human rights in Iran from the nuclear negotiations.”

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With many peaceful blessings

Geoffrey