Friday, July 31, 2015

Illness, Hunger Close in on Earthquake Survivors in Nepal

Illness, Hunger Close in on Earthquake Survivors in Nepal

July 30, 2015
A truck full of relief items is offloaded at a distribution site for people from remote villages.
Following Nepal's massive April 25 and May 12 earthquakes, villagers who have lost their homes are spending hours lugging corrugated metal sheets up mountains to protect their families against torrential rains. Given what precedes the mountain treks and what follows, trudging for two days up muddy trails with the unwieldy sheet metal may be the easiest part of survival.
Preceding the treks can be near riotous competition for the coveted corrugated iron. After arriving at remote villages, they must then find a way, despite the absence of other structural materials, to utilize the sheet metal to shelter hungry family members. Three months after the first 7.8-magnitude quake, food aid remains a high priority. Lacking food and clean water, adults are increasingly despondent, and children frightened, as hunger and intestinal illness grow each day, indigenous missionaries report.
The government's lack of assessment and coordination continues to impede distribution of relief aid, especially in remote villages. Indigenous ministries that already have distribution channels in place, the necessary permits and the cultural understanding and contacts to provide aid have been critical in keeping the unhoused sheltered and fed, said Christian Aid Mission's South Asia Director, Sarla.
She returned last week from a visit to victims and ministries Christian Aid assists in Nepal.
"There are a lot of NGOs [Non-Governmental Organizations] in Kathmandu right now trying to bring help, but the lack of coordination and assessment – where and who has lost what and how much, and who really needs to get help – has not really been done properly," she said. "So everybody is waiting for something to happen."
The indigenous Christian organizations, by contrast, have been distributing rice, salt, soya bean, noodles, cereals and other items to people who are struggling to protect themselves from monsoon rains. A team from one of the indigenous ministries had the means and the knowledge to conduct a two-week assessment of needs in one area, and local missionaries had the contacts and established governmental relations to glide through red tape and get relief to victims, Sarla said.
"We are sending funds to local agencies that are already aware of these issues – they know how to go about it, they know what needs to be done to get to a village, they know how to get the permits you need, they know who to call in the village, they know how to make these assessments," she said. "They are in much better position than somebody going from the outside and trying to find some local connections here."
In the official distribution process, the government is requiring villagers to bring proof of damages. The victims do not have cameras or any other means for providing such evidence of need, Sarla said. They have to rely on officials to come to their villages to make assessments, and no one in remote areas knows when that might happen.
Meantime, landslides have continued to rock affected districts, and there are tremors nearly every day, some as strong as 5.5 on the Richter scale, she said. The official death toll from the earthquakes, including May 12's 7.3-magnitude aftershock, is more than 9,000, with more casualties yet to be discovered.
Desperate villagers have become panicked at distribution of limited amounts of aid. In a remote area of Makwanpur District, a ministry team found about 200 families from various villages in need, including 52 families who had lost everything – homes, crops and livestock. A team from the indigenous ministry showed up at a distribution site with a truck full of corrugated sheet metal in the pouring rain.
"There were people from 200 families, and they were saying 'Now, my house is not down entirely down, but it's unlivable; we can't live there,'" Sarla said. "There was this tension, I thought we were looking at a riot of some sort, and the cops had come to make sure that everything went well."
The police also took copies of the distribution permits the ministry had obtained. The team then faced the challenge of providing metal sheets to 52 families and appeasing the rest, besides knowing the people well enough to know who might be sneaking in extra family representatives to try to get additional aid.
The road to recovery will be a long one for survivors of Nepal's earthquakes.
"There were some loud voices coming out," Sarla said, "and then the ministry leader said, 'Look, we have food for everybody. All 200 families are going to get the food. But the tin sheets, we are going to have to prioritize. We'll give it the 52 first.' So he had to negotiate, using his cultural skills to say, 'Look, these are your neighbors, you know, so don't go asking about someone getting something and you not getting it.' There was a lot of local knowledge and cultural nuance needed to actually implement and carry out this distribution."
Representatives from the 52 families then rolled up their long sheets of corrugated metal, loaded them onto their backs and began the climb back on washed-out donkey trails. Representatives had come from one village as far as nine hours away by foot. The closest village was four hours away.
The indigenous missionaries plan to trek up to those same villages with the message of Christ's salvation after those who have lost everything have regained their lives and livelihood.
Among 10 ministries that Christian Aid supports, leaders report 35 church buildings have been destroyed. If they receive funding, the indigenous leaders plan to rebuild church buildings before houses, as the government will be obligated to provide at least some help to citizens in need of new homes but none for places of worship. Church buildings are also important for providing community services, and in villages where worship in homes would arouse suspicion if not hostility, they serve as an acceptable place for worship.
"Christians are lining up for government assistance to families, but we don't know whether it will be sufficient or not," Sarla said.
Those who have lost their homes are taking cover under tarps, metal sheets, damaged school buildings or are staying with relatives and friends whose homes are still standing.
The indigenous ministries have worked ceaselessly to bring help. One native Christian worker reported that his organization was able to secure a helicopter from United Vision Nepal and distribute more than 270 tents, along with food. Before a church pastor identified only as Caleb reached the area, Nepalese soldiers had distributed some relief items, but villagers ended up fighting over the limited offering, the native missionary said.
"Later Caleb went with two army and security policemen, and this time when people saw Caleb, everyone came near him and cried with him," the missionary said. "While he was distributing things to them, some people brought drinks for him, some brought bread, and whatever they had, they brought for him. There was no fighting, a very peaceful environment. Caleb shared with us that the army and police were very much surprised, and later they started to salute him."
To help indigenous missionaries meet needs, you may contribute online using the form below, or call 434-977-5650. If you prefer to mail your gift, please mail to Christian Aid Mission, P.O. Box 9037, Charlottesville, VA 22906. Please use Gift Code: 702DIS. Thank you!

Seeking Cover

After a devastating earthquake in April and a severe aftershock in May that killed more than 9,000 people in Nepal, children wait with their mother for relief items at a mountain distribution site. Their remote villages inaccessible to trucks carrying aid, families braved fierce rains to collect food and corrugated sheet metal for protection from monsoons. Indigenous missionaries have provided rice and other staple items to hungry children enduring lack of shelter, schooling and safe water and sanitation because of the earthquakes. “Even after they receive the relief goods, they have to carry them for four hours to six hours,” the director of one indigenous ministry said. “In all these affected areas, they have lost houses and dear ones. Some lost all their children, and some lost their parents. After seeing their condition, I could not control my tears; they just started rolling down. Please lift them up in your prayers so they can hear Jesus, see Jesus and believe in Jesus. Jesus is the only hope for them.”

How to Overcome a Shattered Past

How to Overcome a Shattered Past

By Kurt Bubna
Give up b & w guyWe tend to see God through our shattered perspective, and that’s a big problem. With a severely damaged self-image, we generally have a broken God-image too. In fact, let’s be honest; some of us believe God is great and all-powerful, but we can’t imagine Him doing anything astonishing through our lives. We sing worship songs about His awesomeness, but we believe God is limited in what He can do with screw-ups like us.
A huge part of the dilemma is that we like to create gods in our own image. We make gods out of the rich and famous. We elevate leaders (including politicians and pastors) to god-like status. We put them on a pedestal somewhere prominent in our lives, but in the end it’s a puny little god we’ve made to worship rather than Almighty God. Here’s the problem: If our God is too tiny or too human (like us), then our faith and confidence in Him will be too small.
Deep down we want to believe that God can do anything, but we’re pretty sure He has limits when it comes to us. Time or space might not constrain God, but a craftsman is only as good as the material he has to work with, right? And we know what we are.
More mud than marble.
More sandstone than diamond.
More broken than whole.
I’m not a big fan of self-confidence. Despite what the positive thinking gurus have to say, I’m not okay (and neither are you). I can sit in a lotus position for hours chanting, “I am good. I am awesome. My life force in the universe matters.” But in my gut I know I’m not that good. In fact, I’m pretty messed up at times.
So what’s the alternative to emotional self-flogging? The substitute for self-confidence is God-confidence. (Stop and read that line again.) In other words, it’s not about me. So I put my confidence and hope in God and His ability to accomplish anything through a cracked pot like me.
The god I’ve created in my mind has limits.
The God of the universe does not.
I am broken.
He is not.
In fact, working with people who typically are relegated to the scratch-and-dent pile of life is God’s specialty.
Many of us feel we’ve gone too far and failed too miserably to ever get back on track. Even if God once had a great plan for our lives, we believe it’s too late now. But avoiding epic failure is not a prerequisite to experiencing an epic life.
Moses was a murderer. David was an adulterer. Rahab was a prostitute. Peter was a betrayer. Saul (aka: Paul) persecuted and imprisoned Christians. Yet each of them lived amazingly epic lives when they followed God.
We’re all in trouble if the path to adventure in Christ requires perfection. We must learn to get past what we’ve done and get beyond our glaring inadequacies. God is bigger than our foolishness.
Perhaps you often drift in your mind to some horrendous past sin you’ve committed. Possibly you’re devoured by your failure and overwhelmed by your foolishness. Maybe the misery of yesterday and the emptiness of today have stolen from you any joy or hope for a better tomorrow.
If that’s you, please listen to these words: God knows where you’ve been, where you are, and where He will take you. He knows your past, present and future better than you do, but He sees a sunrise of hope on your horizon.
How do you overcome a shattered and sinful past?
You simply confess your sin and rest in God’s goodness and grace. You truly can be free and forgiven because of Jesus. Let go of the things you can’t change about your past, and trust God with your present and your future. He is able to redeem, restore, and renew any life that is fully surrendered to Him.
There’s a reason why they call it amazing grace.

Friday, July 24, 2015

Taking Wise Counsel

Taking Wise Counsel

wise counsel
‘Tis great confidence in a friend to tell him your faults, greater to tell him his.
–Benjamin Franklin

I Don’t Know Everything

There have been enough people in my life through the years who have made that painfully clear to me. Therefore, I must be secure enough to say, “I don’t know.” In fact, I really need to be secure enough to say, “I have absolutely no idea what you’re talking about.”
“I don’t know” is always a good answer. Especially if it is true. “I don’t know—could you please enlighten me?” is often an even better answer. This is why it is important to listen to the wise counsel of others.
There will always be someone who knows more than you do, which is good. I strongly encourage you to find these people and take them to lunch. We can learn a lot from people who know more than we do. That’s one of the things I really admired about my dad. He talked to everyone—or I should say he listened to everyone. Most people described him as quiet, but that’s because in most conversations, he listened much more than he talked. He really felt he could learn things from other people.
To me, this is the flip side of mentoring. When you are mentoring, you are intentionally reaching out to help someone behind you on the path of life. But when you are seeking counsel, you are looking for someone who is already ahead of you, someone you can learn from. Being open to learning—to being mentored—is necessary for growth, but is difficult for someone to master. Too often, it’s a matter of ego or pride, which has a way of hindering our growth and development.

Don’t Be a Know-It-All

We all know people who lead you to believe that they know everything about everything. When I was in college, somebody said, “If after three weeks of class you don’t know who the class jerk is, then it’s you.” Make sure that you don’t become that person who thinks he has all the answers and isn’t open to counsel of others. I’ve found that this attitude is often a defense mechanism, masking feelings of insecurity or fear that you’ll be exposed for your lack of knowledge.
A good coaching staff is made up of people who are willing to listen to others. If I had all the answers, there would be no point in surrounding myself with the bright, creative coaches—and I’m sure the team ownership would be pleased with all the money they would save in salaries. The truth is, though, that we all need to surround ourselves with the very best, smartest, and most trustworthy people we can find. And then we need to turn them loose to do their jobs and offer the input necessary to make us the best we can be.
As a coaching staff, we meet every Monday to watch film and determine which things we can improve on as a team, then we watch our opponent’s film. Next, we come up with the ideas to use our strengths most effectively that week in a game plan against our opposition. I learn a lot in those times together. There’s no need for a staff, however, if I’ve already made up my mind about what the team should do and am not willing to listen to other ideas.

Don’t Resist Change or the Counsel of Others

We all know people who resist change or feel threatened if someone else comes up with an appropriate plan. This kind of person acts as if no idea is a good idea unless it’s his idea. Don’t be like that. Be open to taking counsel. After all, Proverbs tells us that “plans succeed through good counsel; don’t go to war [or play a football game!] without wise advice.” Instead, surround yourself with the best people you can find and then empower them to do their jobs.
Set the vision for the course you want to take. Recognizing how significant their differing skills and abilities are to the mission of the cause, team, or organization, and allow them to use those gifts and abilities to get you there. Let them know how important their contributions are to the group’s successes. Seek their input, listen to them, decide on the direction, and then go there together.

5 Traits of a Lasting Marriage

traits of a lasting marriage

5 Traits of a Lasting Marriage

“An archaeologist is the best husband a woman can have. The older she gets, the more interested he is in her.” Agatha Christie, novelist.
There’s that couple at the family reunion or special event that just celebrated their 50th anniversary or higher. They are beloved by those around them. Through all of the difficulties, they stayed together.  All kinds of things happen along the way that knock many off the path and out of the race. Most marriages start off pledging to make it until the end. We say, “Til death do us part,” but nobody tells us how to go about pulling that off. Marriage is hard!
The foundation of marital success is always common purpose. [Tweet This] That can be a lot of different things, and sometimes it doesn’t necessarily even include emotion. But the one “must” factor of a lasting marriage is that both must be unwavering in their dedication. In the 27th year of marriage with aging setting in harder, more painfully, and life full of complications, it’s not the romantic charms of each person that are going to sustain the relationship. It’s the foundation of common purpose.
So how do we build such a foundation? How do we actually become what we vowed we would be? Here are some thoughts on that:

1. Shared Vision

It’s recommended to share a common long-term vision. Set a course with attainable milestone goals, and follow that vision with both partners in agreement. If your wife wants one set of things and you’re thinking in an entirely different direction, it’s simply going to be a train wreck most of  the time. Individual paths such as career desires have to mesh with the overall agenda.

2. Understand the Timeline

Marriage and parenthood follow distinct timelines: honeymoon, early marriage, infants, toddlers, young children, preteens, teens, college, and release into adulthood. Understand and enjoy each moment that you are currently in and work as a team to best maximize those days. They each come with their own unique blessings and tough challenges. My wife and I are currently in the teens with our two. In our shared vision, we are planning ahead for what we call the “Free 50s.”

3. Avoid Unrealistic Expectations

In life, there is the reality that we are living, and there is the portrayal of how media and entertainment says we should live. Taking the latter seriously is a bad idea. It’s either there merely to entertain, or it’s there to sell you something. In either case, it’s not reality. The couples that survive the test of time understand clearly that each day is not going to be a bed of roses. Romance is not always going to be in full bloom. There will be days when you annoy each other, and there will be days when you want to pull your hair out. But somehow, it all blends together perfectly on the timeline as you sail along. Stay the course.

4. Respect

It cannot be overstated how important respect is to each of us. Life can be cruel and we can get kicked around, but we truly need the people we love to respect us enough to not do the same as the world might. Martin Luther wrote, “Let the wife make the husband glad to come home, and let him make her sorry to see him leave.” That’s accomplished simply by showing proper respect. Practice and apply it daily.

5. Faith in the Center

As a young husband and new dad, I decided to return to the church. I had wandered far away in action, if not in spirit. I became friends with the pastor and he was a major guide for me into true adulthood. He provided me with the best advice I’ve ever been given up until this point. “If you place Christ in the center of your marriage and keep him there, your marriage will never fail.” My wife and I did that. Though our marriage has faced the usual amount of trials and tests, we’ve kept Christ right there. We’re as strong as we were the day we pledged that. Put your faith directly in the center of your marriage.
© 2015 All Pro Dad. All Rights Reserved. Family First, All Pro Dad, iMOM, and Family Minute with Mark Merrill are registered trademarks.

How to Trust God When Your Dreams Aren’t Working Out

How to Trust God When Your Dreams Aren’t Working Out

5 truths to help sustain your hopes for the future—even when things aren’t coming together like you thought they would.
“Pursue your dreams.”
“Your dreams will come true.”
“Don’t give up on your dreams.”
Don’t these all sound familiar? Cheesy, unrealistic taglines thrown at us from the time we just start to talk to the day we graduate from high school, college and beyond. We all have life dreams. Some take shape in kindergarten where children are raising their hands in classrooms all over the world shouting out different ambitions, careers and game plans.
As we grow older, our dreams begin to shift, change, maybe even take shape and grow. Sometimes the future looks as bright as we’ve always wanted it to be. But often, we find ourselves feeling like the next couple months ahead of us are a fogged out blur, let alone the next couple years. Dreams that have been stored up within us weigh down on our shoulders mockingly.
As we ask for God to lead us, we can trust that when we move forward with plans, He will meet us in them, offering His direction and correction along the way as needed.
It can be discouraging when desires we’ve been building toward still haven’t come to life. We have plans that become increasingly complex but don’t have a set direction or time frame of when they will be put into action.
Here are five truths to help you sustain rather than abandon your hopes and desires for your future:

Commit Your Dreams to the Lord

Psalm 37:5, “Commit your way to the Lord, trust in Him, and He will do it.”
I began praying this verse over myself and my family at the tender age of 17, and I have experienced the Lord’s provision as I have continually brought my plans, thoughts, desires, hopes and dreams under His lordship. He has encouraged me so many times through those four last words, “He will do it.” When unexpected situations arise, when the future looks more bleak than beautiful, when fear begins to well up and infiltrate the Father’s perfect peace, I have come back to this truth and it has stilled my soul.
We must bring our dreams before the Lord and seek His perfect will and direction so that He might lead us and guide us accordingly.

Ask Him Where to Start

As we trust the Lord with our dreams, committing them to Him, we have to remember that this is a relationship. Saying you’re just “waiting on the Lord” to show you how to go about accomplishing your dreams doesn’t always seem like a sufficient answer. As we ask for God to lead us, we can trust that when we move forward with plans, He will meet us in them, offering His direction and correction along the way as needed.
We don’t need to be afraid to step out in faith and make practical choices in order for our dreams to take shape—whether that's applying for a job that you want, looking into ministry opportunities you feel God has been calling you to, or looking into different options for the year after you graduate college. If God is ready to see your dreams come to fruition and if they truly are His best for your life, it is going to take your obedience and trust in order for Him to see them through.

We Must Persevere

When we begin to pursue our dreams in alignment with God’s leading, there will be times where perseverance will be a necessity to take us from one day into the next. A persevering faith is required: A trust in the living God who sees your whole heart and truly wants to use you in His master plan to redeem the world.
This isn’t some self-empowerment sermon or a statement that people just need to pull themselves up by their bootstraps and get going with life. It can be tough to be plagued with a million hopes for the future but no clear path to start to fulfill them. But that’s just it—God meets us in the unknown, the unexpected. When someone is writing their first novel, working on their first album, beginning to apply to colleges, the mountain may seem all too steep and much too monumental, but we can rely on the Lord’s strength, courage and direction in order to see all things come to completion in Christ Jesus.

Dream Bigger and Brighter

Recently, the leader of my small group posed a daring question: “What is your biggest dream? And is it big enough that you know God would have to come through in order for it to be brought into fruition?”
As we went around the room, each of our hearts were expanding with faith and excitement. We started sharing dreams that some of us hadn’t ever spoken out loud because they felt so outlandish and unattainable. But we realized that is just what the Lord is calling us to—to dream dreams so big that they can only be fulfilled in Him. There are many times where I have goals and desires that I could simply work out in my own life with my own strength, but where true fulfillment and faith takes place is when we present requests to God that are bigger than we could ever achieve or attain ourselves.
We don’t need to be afraid to step out in faith and make practical choices in order for our dreams to take shape.

Take Joy Where You are Right Now

Sometimes, I find myself lost in dreams for the future instead of recognizing where God has called me to be right now as I am a student sitting in class or while I am building relationships in my college town in the middle of rural Oregon. But Paul’s words have come to me in the most opportune moments when my heart has needed to hear them most.


Thursday, July 23, 2015

Muslims turning to Christ through Leading The Way broadcasts

Muslims turning to Christ through Leading The Way broadcasts
For Immediate Release
Dr. Michael Youssef preachingHEMEL HEMPSTEAD, UK (ANS – July 20, 2015) -- As the world responds to the latest series of Islamic extremist attacks, including in Tunisia where 30 people were killed, one story that isn’t being covered in the media is that Muslims are turning to Christ.
Twenty-one-year-old Hafid* from Morocco believed in jihad and killing anyone who did not follow the laws of Islam.
However, his life was transformed when he started watching Leading The Way’s 24/7 satellite television channel, THE KINGDOM SAT.
“I started comparing Islam with Christianity and found there to be a lot of contradictions between the Hadith (the prophets’ teaching) and the Qur’an. I studied the Bible online. I wanted to tell you that I have decided to follow Jesus.”
After receiving this message, Leading The Way’s follow-up team led him to Christ.
Eighteen-year-old Samar* from Saudi Arabia also turned to THE KINGDOM SATwhen she began to question the teachings of Islam. The horrifying violence of ISIS only reaffirmed her doubts.
At risk of being killed if her family discovered what she was doing, Samar contacted Leading The Way’s follow-up team with many questions she had about the Qur’an, the Bible, and the Christian faith.
After several months of follow-up, Samar shared that she was convinced that Jesus was not merely a prophet, as the Qur’an claimed, but the living Son of God—and she prayed to receive Jesus as her Lord and Savior.
“Now I am ready to die,” she said, “because it’s easy to die for what I’m convinced is the truth.”
Leading The Way’s follow-up coordinator later said her courageous words moved him to tears.
“We thank God for many people like Hafid and Samar who have come to know truth in Jesus,” said Leading The Way Founder and President Dr Michael Youssef. “We really need to be praying for these people—their lives are on the line like nothing we’ve ever experienced in the West.”
He added: “As the actions of jihadists continue to cause Muslims to question their faith, God is using the broadcasts and follow-up ministry of Leading The Way to draw people to Christ. You won’t see these stories on the evening news, but God is at work.
“With broadcasts airing in 24 languages, reaching more than 190 countries, God has truly blessed us to be able to do this work—yet there is still so much more to do.”
To find out more about stories like Hafid’s and Samar’s, watch the special Leading The Way broadcast Testimonies of a Timely Mission.
Read more about Islam and Biblical insights on today’s world events in Dr Youssef’s recent book Jesus, Jihad and Peace at
Learn more about how you can support Leading The Way’s Gospel outreach here in the UK and in the Muslim world at or call +44 (0) 800 432 0419.
You can also follow Dr. Michael Youssef on Twitter at: @MichaelAYoussef
*Names changed for their security.
About Leading The Way:
Now celebrating over 25 years of ministry, Leading The Way's television and radio programs are broadcast to more than 190 countries in 24 languages. Leading The Way also produces DVDs, CDs, books, a monthly devotional magazine, and daily e-devotionals to spread the light of Christ. This Atlanta-based organization partners internationally with in-country follow-up teams to encourage new believers in their faith, helping God's Kingdom to grow around the world.
About Dr. Michael Youssef:
Michael Youssef, Ph.D., is the Founder and President of Leading The Way with Dr. Michael Youssef. Dr. Youssef was born in Egypt and lived in Lebanon and Australia before moving to the United States. In 1984, he fulfilled his childhood dream of becoming an American citizen. He holds degrees from Moore College in Sydney, Australia, and from Fuller Theological Seminary in California. In 1984, he earned a Ph.D. in social anthropology from Emory University. He has authored more than 30 books, including popular titles like The Leadership Style of Jesus and Jesus, Jihad and Peace: What Bible Prophecy Says About World Events Today. He and his wife reside in Atlanta and have four grown children and seven grandchildren.
Editor’s Note: For media enquiries contact Peter Wooding by phone at +44 7500 903067 or by e-mail at
Photo caption:  Dr. Michael Youssef preaching.
** You may reproduce this or any of ANS stories with attribution to the ASSIST News Service (

A Sorely Needed Lift

Refugee children from Syria play after receiving food and other basic necessities from a ministry in Lebanon. The indigenous director said the Beirut-based ministry is committed to bringing the smiles back to impoverished children's faces by reaching them with the gospel message of hope, love and salvation. Refugees from war-torn Syria are increasingly hopeless as they try to survive in Lebanon, but they find the only hope they have when they discover a saving relationship with Jesus Christ, he said. He added that the ministry is doing as much as possible to help them, with some staff members giving even from their own resources to those in need. "I was sitting next to this Syrian kid, and I said, ‘Okay, what is your name?' and when he said his name he began to cry," the director said. "His parents went back to Syria and left him, and they didn't come back. And this kid was living on the street alone. I think he was 8 or 9 years old. No one knows where the family is. We have situations like this that we're addressing."

Asia Bibi could walk free after her execution is stayed, but then could come further danger

Asia Bibi could walk free after her execution is stayed, but then could come further danger
By Dan Wooding, Founder of the ASSIST News Service
Asia BibiLAHORE, PAKISTAN (ANS – July 22, 2015) -- Asia Bibi, the courageous Christian mother-of-five, has been granted leave to appeal her death sentence by the Supreme Court of Pakistan in Lahore, and there is now the possibility that she could walk free – and then face further danger from lynch mobs who would like to kill her.
Naveed Azim who is an officer with the British Pakistan Christian Association, who attended the court hearing, broke the news in a message which said, “The Supreme Court of Pakistan has stayed execution of Asia Bibi on blasphemy charges. The full bench of Supreme Court ordered in today’s (July 22, 2015) hearing issued orders to stop implementation of death sentence till next order.
“I am pleased at this decision. It is obvious that international pressure led to this amazing decision and I thank all people who have called for her freedom. Sister Asia will have to spend more time in jail, but her freedom is now a real possibility and I believe only a matter of time.”
A spokesperson for the BPCA said, “There is still some serious legal process to follow before she can be acquitted, but this action is a serious step in the right direction. Asia is in a much more hopeful position now, but the process will be long and drawn out. Please continue to pray for her. By accepting her appeal, the Court has inferred that there is a possibility for grounds for Asia being exonerated.”
The BPCA has asked Christians around the globe to continue to pray for her freedom and for “justice to be served through the courts, a process which we now believe now has given her the impetus to finally defeat her false blasphemy charge.”
If she is finally freed, she and her family, will probably have to immediately leave Pakistan because of death threats against her, and could finish up in Paris, France, who have offered her a warm welcome.
Ms. Bibi was found guilty of blasphemy in November 2010, and has been imprisoned for five years and is currently on death row. She continues to deny accusations that she insulted the Prophet Muhammad – charges levelled at her by former colleagues.
“Human rights groups say that Pakistan's strict blasphemy laws are frequently misused by extremists, and false charges brought against Christians in order to settle personal scores or to seize property or businesses. Bibi's case made global headlines when two prominent politicians were assassinated after trying to help her,” said Christian Today in the UK.
“The imam who preached hatred towards her through a public tannoy inciting people to hatred and who forced the blasphemy charges to be laid against her; the women who first beat her and insulted her God which she could not bear despite absorbing all personal insults; and the rapists who cruelly tortured and dishonored her have all kept their freedom,” said the BPCA spokesperson.
Chairman of the BPCA, Wilson Chowdhry said: “The draconian blasphemy law of Pakistan has been condemned globally and is a tool for discrimination, vendettas and hatred. The impunity with which perpetrators of false charges can stir up community hatred, magnified by the intolerance and similar permission for mosques to preach hatred, have created a toxic situation for minorities. They are now fleeing Pakistan in their droves with thousands upon thousands being re-persecuted in South-East Asian countries such as Thailand, Malaysia and Sri Lanka.”
He added: “People across the globe can now take a deep breath, Our efforts have yielded a modicum of success and our sister although still confined and without full liberty, now knows that her freedom may be achieved. The family will still need our support both financially and in prayer. We must not stop in our challenge for justice and freedom Asia or the millions of other victims suffering in the pariah state of Pakistan.”
The US Commission on International Religious Freedom in May urged the Obama Administration to designate Pakistan a “country of particular concern”.
“The government failed to protect citizens, minority and majority alike, from sectarian and religiously-motivated violence, and Pakistani authorities have not consistently brought perpetrators to justice or taken action against societal actors who incite violence,” the Commission said in its annual report.
Photo caption: Asia Bibi. 2) Dan Wooding
Dan Wooding portrait.JPG useAbout the writer: Dan Wooding, 74, is an award-winning journalist who was born in Nigeria of British missionary parents, now living in Southern California with his wife Norma, to whom he has been married for nearly 52 years. They have two sons, Andrew and Peter, and six grandchildren who all live in the UK. He is the author of some 45 books.
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Wednesday, July 15, 2015

21 Days of Courage

Hey guys!

Thank you so much for joining me for 21 Days of Courage! Getting to walk through this journey of discovering how to have courage in the face of our fears with you has been powerful and I'm so glad you took a step of faith by even signing up.

One thing I know for sure is that everyone you know struggles with some type of fear, even if they are able to put on a brave face. If 21 Days of Courage was helpful to you, I'd like for you to think about who else in your life can use 21 Days of Courage to start their mornings.  You, of all people, know how quick and easy it is to sign up, but to make it even easier, here's the direct link. If there's a friend or family member that you know who is struggling with fear, I hope this 21 Days of Courage would be a way for them to hear truth, and start their mornings encouraged. If it's helped you, would you share it with someone who could use it?
I'll be praying for each one of you as you continue to walk through this journey of learning to trust in a God that specializes in the impossible! Lean into the uncertainty of your dreams that God has given you, trusting that God will give you the strength to walk on water!



Day 21 of 21 Days of Courage


Did you know that the most repeated command in Scripture is “Don’t be afraid”? More than anything else in the Bible God tells us to “have courage."  And do you know what this command is almost always followed up with? A promise. And the promise is “I will be with you." God doesn’t promise us there won’t be storms. He just promises that he’ll be with us in the storms.

The promise from God is not that you won’t fear. The promise is not a life that is free from trouble and worries and challenges. The promise is that he will be with you in the midst of your fear. If you get out of your boat, you will face problems. There is a storm out there and your faith will not be perfect and you will sink. But I know two other things -
When you fail, Jesus will pick you up.
And, every once in a while, friends, you are going to walk on the water!

I can’t tell you how thankful I am that we’ve had the opportunity to spend the past 21 days together. I hope it’s been helpful to you. I hope that your courage has been strengthened and you’ve been challenged to live a life of faith.

And in closing I just want to remind you - living a life of faith doesn’t mean you won’t have doubts along the way; everyone has an element of both doubt and faith.

In fact, doubt and faith have been battling the human heart - your heart - for a long time. Eventually one of the two wins out.  I’m praying that you’ll choose faith over fear. That’s what courage is all about. It’s not the absence of doubt and fear, it’s choosing faith and trust in the midst of doubt and fear.

Can’t wait to hear all about your water-walking experience. The best is yet to come!


Soldier on Leave Surprises His Six Children One by One

Day 20 of 21 Days of Courage

 Matthew 14:32 - 33

32 And when they climbed into the boat, the wind died down. 33 Then those who were in the boat worshiped him, saying, “Truly you are the Son of God.”

You know my whole life I’ve been reading this story about Peter trying to walk on water. For most of my life I thought this was a story about Peter failing. I thought the main point of the story was “keep your eyes on Jesus or you’ll sink." But lately, I've been wondering, did Peter fail?

Well, I suppose in a way he did. His faith wasn’t strong enough, His doubts were stronger. “He saw the wind.” He took his eyes off of where they should have been; he sank; he failed.

But you know what I’m learning? I’m learning there are worse things in life than failure.

And not only that but I think there were eleven bigger failures sitting in the boat. They failed quietly; they failed privately. Their failure went unnoticed, unobserved, uncriticized. Only Peter knew the shame of public failure.
Failure does not shape you; the way you respond to failure shapes you.

The other 11 disciples understood the cost of getting out of the boat. They were very much aware of the pain of potential failure, embarrassment, inadequacy, criticism and perhaps even loss of life. But what they were not so aware of was another price - the cost of staying in the boat.

But only Peter knew two other things as well:
Only Peter knew the thrill of walking on the water. He alone knew what it was to attempt to do what he was not capable of doing on his own, then feeling the joy of being empowered by God to actually do it! Once you walk on the water, you never forget it—not for the rest of your life. 
Only Peter knew the glory of being lifted up by Jesus in a moment of desperate need. Peter knew, in a way the others could not, that when he sank, Jesus would be wholly adequate to save him. He had a shared moment, a shared connection, a shared trust in Jesus that none of the others had.  
The worst failure is not to sink in the waves.
The worst failure is to never get out of the boat. 



Rick Warren Encourages Children of Fallen Soldiers

Day 19 of 21 Days of Courage

There used to be a really popular Christian bumper sticker that said, “Know Jesus, no fear.” Well, that’s a cool little Christian cliché…but it’s dead wrong.

Here is a deep truth about getting out of the boat and doing a little water-walking - the fear will never go away. Why? Because each time I want to grow, it will involve going into new territory, taking on new challenges. And each time I do that, I will experience fear again because...
fear and growth are a package deal.
About a year and a half ago I hit a wall spiritually. What I sensed God saying was, Pete, I want you to give up your need for clarity. You always want a fail-proof plan. You always want to work with guarantees that something’s going to be successful before you pull the trigger. God was teaching me, in this moment, that I don't need all of the information to be able to step out in faith.

Like a lot of you I’m driven by information, by knowledge, by knowing. We want unbeatable odds. We want guarantees. We think the more spiritually mature you are the more certainty we should have. But the fact is, the more spiritually mature you are the less certainty you need. We want to see the last step before we take the first step.
We spend so much time trying to see the end that
we never get around to the beginning.
Is it possible that right now in your life you’re paralyzed? Do you feel like you can’t start until you know how it ends? I believe to live the life God’s called you to, at some point, you’ve got to let go of that need to know every single step along the way and embrace the fear in order to grow. 


Day 18 of 21 Days of Courage

Matthew 14:30

Like most people, I like to be comfortable. I like the temperature to be 70 degrees outside. I have a particular chair in my living room that I love to sit in. I have all kinds of personal preferences that make my life comfortable. And while there’s really nothing wrong with comfort I believe... truly follow Jesus, you must renounce comfort
as the ultimate value of your life.

We’ve been talking the past few days about getting out of the boat, which means giving up your comfort. Whether it be your finances, a relationship, a job title - walking on the water will require letting go. So why risk it by getting out?  I believe there are many reasons —
  • It is the only way to experience real growth.
  • It is the way true faith develops.
  • It is part of discovering your calling.

I believe there are many good reasons to get out of the boat, but there is one that trumps them all - the water is where Jesus is.

The water looks daunting and dangerous but, the main reason Peter got out of the boat is that he wanted to be where Jesus was.

Do you want Jesus more than anything? More than success? More than fame? More than riches? If being with Jesus is your primary goal you’ll never regret stepping out of that boat.



Day 17 of 21 Days of Courage

I believe that everyone has a hiding place. Everyone has a place they want to run to when they experience fear or worry or anxiety. But I think it's important to remember that...

...the greatest purposes of your life cannot be
discovered while you're hiding.

Peter was paralyzed by fear while he was sitting in the boat, afraid of the stormy waters that were between him and Jesus. Each of us have our own kind of "boat" that is holding us back from realizing our full potential in Christ. The boat is safe, secure, and comfortable. On the other hand, the water is rough. The waves are high. The wind is strong. There’s a storm out there. And if you get out of the boat—whatever your boat might happen to be—there’s a good chance you might sink.

But if you don’t get out of the boat, there’s a guaranteed certainty that you will never walk on the water. If you want to walk on the water, you’ve got to get out of the boat.

So let me ask you a very important question: What’s your boat? Your boat is whatever represents safety and security to you, apart from God himself.

It could be - 
  • Money
  • Relationship
  • Geographical Location
  • Job title 
You know one of the most interesting stories in Scripture is the journey of the Israelites. After 400 years of slavery God sets them free. What do they do with their freedom? They complain. They couldn’t stand the unknown. They couldn’t stand being out of the boat and being on the waves and having to trust God so they actually beg to go back. That day, the Israelites proved to all of us that there’s a difference between being set free and living free.

Want to know why some of you are stuck in your past?
Want to know why some of you are living lives of mediocrity?

You choose it. I know that may sound a little harsh, but it’s true, isn’t it?

You’ve consciously—or maybe subconsciously—made a choice that you would rather stay in the predictable patterns of your past (no matter how painful they might be) than take a risk and venture into the unknown where you have to risk failure. But when you’re hiding you might be surviving, you’re just not thriving.

I’m praying for you today as you consider stepping out of the safe and comfortable, and trusting God in new and exciting ways. 



Tim Keller: Questions for Sleepy or Nominal Christians

Day 16 of 21 Days of Courage

Matthew 14: 25-29
25 Shortly before dawn Jesus went out to them, walking on the lake. 26 When the disciples saw him walking on the lake, they were terrified. “It’s a ghost,” they said, and cried out in fear.
27 But Jesus immediately said to them: “Take courage! It is I. Don’t be afraid.”
28 “Lord, if it’s you,” Peter replied, “tell me to come to you on the water.”
29 “Come,” he said.


I think most people who are experiencing any kind of fear automatically think that’s a bad thing. That it’s a sign of weakness or maybe even a lack of faith. I don’t believe that. In fact, I believe that
 Anything God leads you to do will initially involve some level of fear.

A lot of us grew up with this idea that if you were obedient to Jesus, everything was going to be great. If you were obedient to Jesus, you’re not going to have to go through storms because Jesus would never do that to you.  But look at this story. Who sends the disciples into the storm? Who allows them to float right into the midst of a really scary situation? Jesus does, right? The reality is that Jesus will
sometimes willingly allow you to walk into a storm, because it’s in the midst of the storm that He gets our full attention.

The disciples would have to learn—as do we—that obedience is no guarantee of being spared adversity.

But now that the storm had their full attention, Jesus decided it was time the disciples got to know him a little better and that often happens when we’re forced to lean into him.

Is it possible that maybe you’re exactly where God wants you to be right now? Is it possible that God might want to use this situation or this circumstance to teach you something knew about Him? Lean into your circumstances and seek God's purpose through the storm; take courage, and don't be afraid.



Day 15 of 21 Days of Courage

John 14:1
“Do not let your hearts be troubled. Trust in God, trust also in me.”


Let me set up this scene for you – Jesus had just performed an incredible miracle – he took a small loaf of bread and fish and fed 5,000 people! The people got the idea that Jesus would make a wonderful king. Obviously if he could take a little bread and fish and feed 5,000 think about what he could do for an army or better yet a whole country. So the people wanted to make him King and Jesus told him that he wasn’t that kind of king.

It’s very probable that the disciples thought that was a great idea also and they wanted to see Jesus made into the king. Jesus has to tell them no and to get into the boat, it was time to move on.
Give up your ideas of power and glory, trust me on this guys, get into the boat.
It is an act of trust and obedience.

When they get into the boat, it is still light outside. Remember, many of these guys are professional fisherman, so they were familiar with boats. But when an intense storm blows up in the middle of the night, they don’t think they are going to make it. In the midst of this storm, however, Jesus comes to the disciples, now afraid thinking they are seeing a ghost. To prove he says who he says he is, Jesus asks them to get out of the boat…to walk on water.

Can you imagine the amount of courage it would take for Peter, or any of the other disciples, to step out of that boat, into a stormy sea, to go after what appears to be a ghost? That’s a pretty big step of faith, and that’s what I want to encourage each of you to consider – becoming a water walker. Whatever your “boat” is, what will it take to get you to step out of it and walk into the plans that God has waiting for you?

I can’t tell you how excited I am for you. I have no doubt that it’s not by accident that you found this devotional. It’s not by accident that you’re reading it today.

God’s calling you, he’s prompting you, He’s placing dreams and ideas into your heart. The question is, will you trust him?

Over the next few days, I’ll be sharing with you 6 things that I think every future water walker needs to know in order to get out of the boat. I hope by the end of this, you’ll be considering taking that first step of faith and becoming a water walker.


Day 14 of 21 Days of Courage

Philippians 3:12-14

Many people are motivated to move past their fears and in the direction of their passion by activating what Bill Hybels calls “holy discontent.” In his book by the same title, Hybels explains that, when we consider the problems in our world, that particular situation we “just can’t stand” and that we cannot get out of our minds is usually the locus of our holy discontent—a passion sent from God and ignited by our particular response to some aspect of the world’s need.
For example, I know of two college students in Texas who became convicted about the problem of sex trafficking. The horror of young girls being abducted and victimized as they were sent into the maw of the sex trade was an image these two young women simply could not get out of their minds. So, they decided to take action. They founded a group called the Red Thread Movement that sponsored efforts to rescue women and girls from the sex trade, with a concentration in the nation of Nepal, where sex trafficking is a major industry. Every year, an estimated eleven thousand women and girls are trafficked from Nepal into India and other destinations. They are sold into the sex trade by their families, by their husbands, and by kidnappers.
The Red Thread Movement got its name from the simple red thread bracelets—woven by the rescued women—that the movement sells to raise money for funding its efforts. The money goes to pay a fair wage to women who make the bracelets and also to fund efforts of the border monitors and halfway houses that form the all-important first links in the chain of the rescue effort. The border monitors are women who stand at border crossings all day, watching for women who exhibit the signs of trafficking victims. Once they are identified and taken away from traffickers, the rescued women are taken to one of three safe houses operated by the Red Thread Movement’s partner organization in Nepal. There, the women receive training, counseling and, most important of all, hope.
None of this would be possible without the efforts of these two visionary and passionate young women who paid attention to their holy discontent. They found the place in their hearts, described by Frederick Buechner, where their passion intersected with the world’s deep need, and they had the courage to follow where that passion led. At last count, this grassroots organization, started by two college students, was helping to fund the rescue of some fifteen hundred victims per year.
What fuels your inner fire? It may well be that the thing keeping you up at night is not fear but passion. I urge you to listen to that passion. It may very well be the dream God has shaped for you to fulfill.
Something interesting happens to those who begin following their passion - fear is replaced by a sense of calling. They become more focused on the object of their passion than they formerly were on the fear that was blocking the path.  
When we follow our passion and allow it to be channeled into action, we realize that our former fears are not as formidable as we first thought. Instead, the uncertainties and worries that seemed so insurmountable before have receded. Propelled by divine discontent, we notice less and less our impediments and problems, while noticing more and more the opportunities lying before us and the tools God is giving us to take advantage of them. We receive the strength that comes with conviction and the vision that comes with faith. And while this does not mean that all difficulties will disappear, it does mean that we are much better equipped to handle them than we were when we were standing still, mired in fear of the unknown.


Day 13 of 21 Days of Courage

I have never been what you would call proficient at the ancient and honorable game of chess, but I am fascinated by it all the same. I’m amazed at the skill and intellect required to see not only your next move, but your opponent’s next move, and the next five or six moves after that. It boggles my mind.
One of the things I especially love about chess is the role of the pawns, those pieces lined up in the front row—cannon fodder for the fast-moving rooks, knights, and bishops. Because they can only move one space at a time and only in the forward direction, many players think of pawns as weak and valueless; they can be sacrificed with no great consequence. But some players, I’ve heard, jealously protect their pawns. They guard them carefully, saving them for the later stages of the game.
Why? Because if you can keep a pawn alive long enough to get it to the opponent’s back row, the lowly pawn can be transformed into a queen, the most potent piece on the board.
To me, that is the essence of courageously navigating the difficulties of life. When the going gets hard and you feel like a pawn, shuffling slowly from space to space, that’s the time to hang in there! For all you know, you may be almost to the finish line. You may be just about to get your promotion, your spot in the limelight.
And it is a fact that, to God, you are not a pawn. You are made in His image, born to be an agent of His unfolding design for the world. Even when things look dark and you are questioning all your most basic assumptions, there is a divine spark in you that nothing can quench. God has invested you with meaning, with a purpose that nothing can take away.
Viktor Frankl was a neurologist and psychiatrist who practiced in Vienna, Austria, until 1942, when he and his family were deported to the Theresienstadt ghetto by the Nazis. Subsequently, Frankl was transferred to Dachau while his wife Tilly was sent to Bergen-Belsen, where she died.
Frankl endured the horror of the death camps, treating patients when he could. He spent five months as a slave laborer.  Somehow, he managed to survive until his camp was liberated by the Allies in 1945.
After the horror of the camps, Frankl pondered the meaning of his experiences. The ultimate outcome of his thinking would be captured in his profoundly influential book, Man’s Search for Meaning, published in 1959. Frankl concluded that even under the cruelest conditions, life can still have meaning.
Even suffering, he reasoned, can be an achievement
if it is endured in the right way.
He relates a story of a forced march on a bitterly cold morning. The prisoner marching beside him commented, “I hope our wives are better off in their camps and don’t know what is happening to us.” Frankl was suddenly captivated by the thought of his wife—his love for her and hers for him, the way she used to look at him, her kindness and understanding. He writes:
A thought transfixed me: for the first time in my life I saw the truth as it is set into song by so many poets, proclaimed as the final wisdom by so many thinkers. The truth—that love is the ultimate and the highest goal to which Man can aspire. Then I grasped the meaning of the greatest secret that human poetry and human thought and belief have to impart: The salvation of Man is through love and in love. I understood how a man who has nothing left in this world still may know bliss, be it only for a brief moment, in the contemplation of his beloved. . . For the first time in my life I was able to understand the meaning of the words, “The angels are lost in perpetual contemplation of an infinite glory.”
I believe Viktor Frankl was onto something. What he discovered on that frigid morning, in the midst of the most hopeless situation imaginable, is that even the worst times do not define the meaning of our lives. A loving God, who longs to walk with us and know us, has placed into us a portion of His own nature. And that—not our circumstances—is what defines us and sets us apart. That is what enables us to follow our dreams, even if we have to walk in the dark.
You were made to shine like a diamond. When you endure the difficulties with courage and emerge on the other side, you will find that the experience has polished you to a harder, more durable glow. As you persist through the challenges, you will discover a bit more of the eternal spark placed in you by God.


Day 12 of 21 Days of Courage

God often uses waiting as a crucible in which to refine our character. Faithful waiting on God makes us stronger, not weaker.
Waiting is also a sign of humility. Remember that, long ago, persons of lesser rank who served nobility and royalty were said to “wait upon” them. In a similar way, they were said to “attend” to their lords and rulers. Even today, the French word for “wait” is “attend.” Maybe there is something to learn here. Maybe we should think of waiting on God less as passively sitting around until something happens and more as actively attending—listening carefully for God’s voice and watching intently for evidence of His moving in our lives and in the world around us.
Now, believe me, I understand that those of you reading these words today, who are in the midst of waiting for a miracle, or waiting for a dream to be realized, or waiting to be delivered from a dark, scary place, probably feel helpless. You feel as if you’re doing nothing, but you’re actually doing something very important. In fact, this waiting—this attending to God—may be the most important spiritual work you could possibly do. While you are waiting faithfully on God, you are also allowing your hope to grow up. And if you can’t be still and wait and hope—even when you have no reason to hope—you can’t become the person God created when He thought you into existence.
Spiritual transformation doesn’t take place when we get what we want, it takes place while we’re waiting. It is forged in us while we’re waiting, hoping, and trusting, even though we have yet to receive what we long for. Spiritual transformation happens in the waiting room.
Waiting also helps us learn the vital lesson that just because a dream is delayed doesn’t mean it is denied. When we continue to hope patiently and place our trust in God and in His schedule—not ours—we begin to gain the type of long-range perspective that allows us to have peaceful souls, even when the storms of life are raging about us. With God, we can wait out the storm and see the sun breaking through the clouds. When we trust in Him, we will eventually see the rainbow and the rebirth of our hopes and dreams.