Graeme was part of a group of self-proclaimed Satanists at my school. By God’s grace, he came to Jesus during an outreach event, began growing in his faith, and eagerly attended church youth groups. But one day I noticed he looked quite sad. When I asked why, he said his parents didn’t approve of his newfound faith. They wanted him to go back to his former way of life that included partying.
During the dark days of the communist regime in Romania, a light shone from the souls of believers in Jesus. Two believers, Nicolae Moldoveanu and Richard Wurmbrand, were lying face down on the ground in a prison courtyard on a cold December day. Their crime was their belief in Christ. To distract himself from the cold, Nicolae prayed that God would give him a song. Once they were finally allowed to return to their cell, he shared the song with Richard: “Not only future heaven to be in my speech daily, but may I have heaven and a holy celebration in life right here!”
I had a friend who questioned his Christian workplace’s views of a particular disputable theological matter. Not long after voicing his concerns, he was labeled by co-workers as being theologically suspect. He no longer works for that ministry. But he recently found out that his accusers and the denomination with which the workplace was affiliated ended up agreeing with his stance. Unfortunately, he never received an apology from the group.
I heard a story about a college student who became trapped in a 17-inch space between two buildings. After zigzagging up a fire escape, he planned to jump from one rooftop to another. Instead, he fell into the slim chasm—dropping three stories until he was wedged in the narrow space between the buildings, unable to move. Finally, rescuers bored a hole through one of the buildings and pulled him to safety.
There are few events of greater historical significance in the 20th century than China’s Cultural Revolution. The Communist Party instituted changes at every level of society to enforce its ideology. These included the persecution of the nation’s Christians, with many sent to labor camps. It’s estimated that the Cultural Revolution resulted in the death of 30 million Chinese people and forced the church underground. But decades later, it turns out that the efforts to wipe out Christianity had the opposite effect. Experts believe that there are more Christians worshiping in underground churches in China than there are total believers in the US!
It was with gut-wrenching horror that I watched the video of 21 Coptic Christians being forced to kneel on a Libyan beach before being beheaded by terrorists. Later, I learned that a relative of some of the men who were killed said that many of them cried out the name of Jesus with their dying breath—a testimony to their faith in Him. Though the terrorists had hoped for the opposite effect, they had actually strengthened the faith of the Coptic Church by proving that even imminent death couldn’t snatch away their brothers’ love for Christ!
In her blog, Gayla wrote about rescuing a cactus from the garbage bins of an apartment building in her neighborhood. She found a single stem that showed some signs of life. With some pruning, the seemingly dead plant blossomed once again and is now thriving. She shared the details of the cactus transformation in order to help those who think that their cacti are beyond hope.
In Jesus’ Love. He closed his email message with those words. And as I read them, I realized how poignant they were. For this young man—who I had seen come to a saving faith in Jesus, who I’d baptized, whose faith was maturing—was back home for a stay in his birth country, a place not known for kindness toward believers in Jesus. He mentioned receiving “strange looks” from nationals as he prayed before his meal in a restaurant, the coolness his friend showed toward his faith, and that he was lonely. So I strived to encourage him by writing, “I’m so proud of you. God is using you to spread His presence in your city!”
Look at what you’ve done by becoming a Christian. You’ve deserted the family tradition. Your father feels like a failure. He couldn’t keep the family together.” My mother tried to reason with me to forsake my newfound faith. And I wavered. It pained me to see my parents’ sadness and disappointment. In my collectivism-based culture,group is esteemed greater than the individual. So I thought, By becoming a Christian, did I become a bad child?
Several days after my wife had open-heart surgery, a friend asked me if there was anything I needed. I jokingly told him that it would be great if he could finish writing an Our Daily Journey devotional for me that was due later that day. My buddy, who happens to be a fellow ODJ author, enthusiastically offered to give me feedback on the piece I was working on—until he remembered that he didn’t actually have the time to do it! His swamped schedule simply had no margin.
Shane (name changed to protect his identity) took a big job at a well-known company. Within a few months of overseeing its operations, he discovered some dark financial secrets. Doing his job, he delved into a morass of monetary fraud. As he exposed the impropriety, an unexpected thing happened. He was brought before the board of the company and threatened. Shane, a believer in Jesus, stood his ground. His integrity shone brightly even though he was released by the company’s board under false pretenses.
Cameron, a friend of mine, didn’t share my spiritual beliefs. He openly opposed Christianity and some of its moral tenets. One day in my previous workplace, he led a seminar on domestic violence and used it as a chance to bash the Bible. His “correlation” was illogical and inappropriate. The book that tells husbands to “love their wives as they love their own bodies” and instructs fathers “Do not provoke your children to anger by the way you treat them” does not condone violence in the home (Ephesians 5:28, 6:4).
In February 2015, a terrorist group in the Middle East released a video showing the gruesome beheadings of 21 Coptic Christians (all men) on a beach in Libya. It is reported that prior to losing their lives, many were mouthing the name of Jesus, calling out to Him. It’s also reported that none of them denied their faith in Jesus. When our Christian brothers left their homes and families in Egypt to find work in Libya, they had no idea that they would become martyrs who stained the sea red with their blood.
When missionary Adoniram Judson entered Burma (Myanmar) in July 1813, he found an unreached people in a hostile land. Today, there are some 3,700 congregations who trace their origin to Judson’s pioneering ministry. His primary legacy, however, is the complete translation of the Bible into Burmese—still in use today. Judson’s path was difficult, for he faced opposition, rejection, imprisonment, serious illness, pain. He also lost two wives and seven children to death. But through it all he persevered for the cause of Christ.
For all its warts and challenges, the church is still the body of Christ—the means that God has established for His kingdom to grow on earth. Renowned pastor and theologian John Stott wrote: “The church lies at the center of the purpose of God. God’s purpose, conceived in a past eternity, being worked out in history, to be perfected in a future eternity, is not just to save isolated individuals and so perpetuate our loneliness, but rather to call out a people for himself to build his church.”