“Christian Courage”, by John Piper (Faithful to Truth, Trusting God, Bold Prayer)

Christian courage is the willingness to say and do the right thing regardless of the earthly cost, because God promises to help you and save you on account of Christ. An act takes courage if it will likely be painful. The pain may be physical, as in war and rescue operations. Or the pain may be mental as in confrontation and controversy.

Courage is indispensable for both spreading and preserving the truth of Christ. Jesus promised that spreading the gospel would meet resistance: “Then they will deliver you to tribulation, and will kill you, and you will be hated by all nations because of My name” (Matthew 24:9).

And Paul warned that, even in the church, faithfulness to the truth would be embattled: “I know that after my departure savage wolves will come in among you, not sparing the flock; and from among your own selves men will arise, speaking perverse things, to draw away the disciples after them” (Acts 20:29-30; see also 2 Timothy 4:3-4).

Therefore, true evangelism and true teaching will take courage. Running from resistance in evangelism or teaching dishonors Christ. There is a kind of cowardice that tells only the truths that are safe to tell. Martin Luther put it like this:

If I profess with the loudest voice and clearest exposition every portion of the truth of God except precisely that little point which the world and the devil are at that moment attacking, I am not confessing Christ, however boldly I may be professing Christ. Where the battle rages, there the loyalty of the soldier is proved, and to be steady on all the battlefield besides is mere flight and disgrace if he flinches at that point. (Quoted in Parker T. Williamson, Standing Firm: Reclaiming Christian Faith in Times of Controversy [Springfield, PA: PLC Publications, 1996], p. 5)

Where then shall we get this courage? Consider these pointers.

FROM BEING FORGIVEN AND BEING RIGHTEOUS – “The wicked flee when no one pursues, but the righteous are bold as a lion” (Proverbs 28:1). “Seeing their faith, Jesus said to the paralytic, ‘Take courage, son; your sins are forgiven'” (Matthew 9:2).

FROM TRUSTING GOD AND HOPING IN HIM – “Be strong and let your heart take courage, all you who hope in the LORD” (Psalm 31:24; see also 2 Corinthians 3:12).

FROM BEING FILLED WITH SPIRIT – “They were all filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak the word of God with boldness” (Acts 4:31).

FROM GOD’S PROMISE TO BE WITH YOU – “Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous! Do not tremble or be dismayed, for the LORD your God is with you wherever you go” (Joshua 1:9).

FROM KNOWING THAT THE ONE WITH YOU IS GREATER THAN THE ADVERSARY: -“Be strong and courageous . . . for the one with us is greater than the one with him. With him is only an arm of flesh, but with us is the LORD our God to help us and to fight our battles” (2 Chronicles 32:7–8).

FROM BEING SURE THAT GOD IS SOVEREIGN OVER THE BATTLES – “Be strong, and let us show ourselves courageous for the sake of our people and for the cities of our God; and may the LORD do what is good in His sight” (2 Samuel 10:12).

THROUGH PRAYER – “On the day I called, You answered me; You made me bold with strength in my soul” (Psalm 138:3; see also Ephesians 6:19-20).

FROM THE EXAMPLE OF OTHERS – “Most of the brethren, trusting in the Lord because of my imprisonment, have far more courage to speak the word of God without fear” (Philippians 1:14).

 (@JohnPiper) is founder and teacher of desiringGod.org and chancellor of Bethlehem College & Seminary. For 33 years, he served as pastor of Bethlehem Baptist Church, Minneapolis, Minnesota.

Source: Desiring God.org

“All The Love in The World”, from L.Willows (The Lordship of Christ Jesus, Our Hearts, Day by Day)

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Many hearts are feeling the lament of the suffering that exists in the world right now.  We approach Holy Week, tomorrow is Palm Sunday – most of us are in the experience of home isolation. I don’t believe that anyone could have fathomed that this would be what life looks like a few months ago. Here we are. Our hearts seek the Lordship of Jesus Christ our Lord.

We must bring our hearts to God and trust that He hears every prayer now more than ever before. I am thankful that His Love is always faithful and Near.

In my own life, I have needed the Lord’s Presence countless times in these weeks. Remarkably, I have been witness to many miracles even though there have been times when I felt lost. I have seen bold prayers answered in the lives of many that I know. His Nearness is vivid and palpable.

These are not normal times. I find that there is no way to prepare for life “now”. The only way to live is by putting complete trust in God.  To me, that meant for everything, large and small and in-between.

Proverbs 3:5-6 “Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways submit to him, and he will make your paths straight.”

I needed to pause and step back, to go again to God and ask for His Help. Prayer has been a way of life. Needing the guidance of the Holy Spirit is the most essential protection. Most of all, for my heart- I need to be filled with the Love of God. It is the Bread, the only Bread that will sustain and feed me or any of us throughout this and our lives.

John 6:35  “Jesus said to them, “I am the bread of life; whoever comes to me shall not hunger, and whoever believes in me shall never thirst.”

Acts 2:46-47 “And day by day, attending the temple together and breaking bread in their homes, they received their food with glad and generous hearts, praising God and having favor with all the people. And the Lord added to their number day by day those who were being saved.”

We are in days, unique times- but not the first times in the history of mankind when all have gathered in homes to pray to God and ask for His leadership and favor.

We need to open our hearts with gratitude for what we receive from Him. He offers us daily bread. Help us to see it and receive it. His Love, wisdom and the power of His Lordship is here for us.

God provides all the love in the world. The power of His love is here.

John 3:16 “For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life.”

Romans 8:37-39 “No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us. For I am sure that neither death nor life, nor angels nor rulers, nor things present nor things to come, nor powers, nor height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.”

We are in the safe grasp of The Lord. His comfort is near to each of us. Nothing that happens in this world, no matter how grave the crises, or close up the danger feels- can or will ever alter the truth of who God is, and of His Promises to us. This time that we are all in, as difficult as it can be is to walk through, is part of a trial that we each are called to courageously face.

We cannot face it with our own strength alone. We need God’s strength. We need to call upon His Love. It is a remarkable Power.

God’s Love is granted to us as a Treasure to be given out.

Our hearts not only need to be filled by His Love for personal healing and restoration, but we are also His people- His ‘responders’, able to fulfill His will and purpose on behalf of others.  We do not have such knowledge but by allowing the treasure of His Love, His pure character to move through our hearts, we become instruments of His Love.  In this way, we are equipped to respond generously to the world around us. There is a call for us to love one another in courageous ways right now.

Acts 9:15 “But the Lord said to him, “Go, for he is a chosen instrument of mine to carry my name before the Gentiles and kings and the children of Israel.”

John 14:27 “Peace I leave with you; my peace I give to you. Not as the world gives do I give to you. Let not your hearts be troubled, neither let them be afraid.”

Christians who have spent years in prayer and had the privilege of community and study now have an opportunity to live their faith boldly, to entrust to God all of their hearts and with full belief in His enduring goodness – take all and every action in their immediate surroundings using every gift, ability, and talent for the benefit of others so that His Love is forwarded outward. What was entrusted to us, needs to be given selflessly.

Joshua 1:9 “Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous. Do not be frightened, and do not be dismayed, for the Lord your God is with you wherever you go.”

Isaiah 43:2 “When you pass through the waters, I will be with you; and through the rivers, they shall not overwhelm you; when you walk through fire you shall not be burned, and the flame shall not consume you.”

We are connected by our need for God.

Now, more than ever we live in a world that needs to be bound together by love. As we witness daily counts of how many are dying worldwide of COVID 19 our response can’t be fear. We need hope. We know that death is not the end of life. Yet the suffering that exists is in many other forms of loss. It is one that my words do not need to repeat.

Each reader knows too dearly what the sources of suffering are both in their own lives and in their communities near and far. It is a loss beyond words. It is economic, cultural, national, spiritual and deeply personal. It takes hearts and presses them in ways that I cannot write.

The most important thing is that suffering brings our hearts to God. We need Him desperately. He answers and is vividly Present. I am reminded that in scripture we have not been promised that life is exempt from suffering, but that it is like a refiner’s fire that strengthens us, more as we are given mercy and comfort from God- we are able to be merciful and comforting to others.

Romans 5:3-4 “Not only that, but we rejoice in our sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance, and endurance produces character, and character produces hope.”

2 Corinthians 1:3-4 “Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of mercies and God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our affliction, so that we may be able to comfort those who are in any affliction, with the comfort with which we ourselves are comforted by God.”

The Way that God Loves us.

We need to pray that God’s immeasurable Love runs like rivers of mercy. 

Today and in the next days and weeks, I pray that you will receive fresh fillings of God’s Love in your hearts. Jesus Christ is our Lord. Most especially, remember as I hope that I do- it is a time to love one another. If we each search our hearts we will find that there are some that we need to reach out to and others that we need to forgive. We may have burdens on our hearts that need to be brought to the Lord. He is There, miraculously able to be with each of us to transform it all in the Power of His Love. It is personal. The Lord Jesus Christ is a personal God that we can call at any moment of the day or night.  

God is always with you. His Love is constant, unwavering, steady and faithful.

1 John 4:7  “Beloved, let us love one another, for love is from God, and whoever loves has been born of God and knows God.”

1 John 4:16 “So we have come to know and to believe the love that God has for us. God is love, and whoever abides in love abides in God, and God abides in him.”

Each day as we mark this time, we can remind our hearts that it is also a beginning. We can start the days with a remembrance of God’s call to each of us to Love faithfully as He does, to remember to be generous with the Love that pours to each of our hearts and to open our hearts softly towards Him with trust, listening to the calling of His Spirit. We each have specific “instructions” on the way we need to walk forward. We will know. We will feel His prompting. God’s Loving Hand is always with us. He is always leading. Call upon the Lordship of Christ Jesus. 

 

He is giving us all of the Love in the world. He Is All of the Love in the World.

Deuteronomy 7:9 “Know therefore that the Lord your God is God, the faithful God who keeps covenant and steadfast love with those who love him and keep his commandments, to a thousand generations.”

Pray boldly. Be Strong and Courageous. Put your life and heart into the Lordship of Christ Jesus. 

© 2020 Linda Willows

“A Long Time Ago, but We Have Now”, from L.Willows (Live Love, Courage, Bold)

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Joshua 1:9 –“Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous. Do not be frightened, and do not be dismayed, for the Lord your God is with you wherever you go.”

A long time ago, I traveled very far away. It was a different time, my perspective was immersed in the experience. (a humanitarian initiative) I did not have colleagues from the US with me. My reflective life was on the inside of my heart and in prayer. The times asked for courage.

It was 1993. I gathered with many others in the old cushioned seats of the historic Sarajevo National Theater, a majestic structure that had been constructed in 1899. It was during the second year of the Balkan war. Though there was shelling from the nearby mountains and snipers lined an unseen circumference in the ridges, there was nothing that stopped the people of the city from attending a performance at the cherished Theater. The local performing artists worked to continue performing during the war. I remember that a small orchestra group also played regularly outside for all to enjoy each day. These were bold people.

That evening, I remember the feeling of being together with several hundred others in the cathedral-like opera house gathered together gazing towards the stage. It smelled a little bit musty, maybe of a perfume that I was not familiar with. It was semi-dark because it was only lit by an old generator. It felt wonderful to enjoy laughter at the comedy that was presented. There was joy even during the war. It was a relief to be together in the Theater.

No one had electricity at that time. There was no heat. It was winter-time in Sarajevo. Just being in the audience was a victory. Crossing the streets to arrive meant that you had risked the snipers that targeted civilians. I noticed that no one ran across the streets. Everyone learned to walked with heads held high. They had reasoned that there would be an appointed time to live and a time to die.  This was the time to laugh.

The actors on the stage were immersed in the play. I was far enough forward that I could see their expressions. It helped me to understand and be swept into the joy of the moment. Laughter rippled through the Theater. Then, suddenly, there was a loud thunderous sound. Then it happened again. It wasn’t us clapping. It was an interruption that everyone knew well. It was shelling from the mountains that landed next to the Theater if not upon an adjacent wall. My ears rang. My heart shook. No one moved. The play stopped. Everything became completely dark and still.

It was understood that the generator had been struck. No one moved towards an exit or left their seat. I sat in my seat and waited. I could feel the breath of the people around me. It was very cold in there.

I had learned to be still and expectant. Everyone sat together and waited in the darkness without moving for some moments, I don’t know for how long. Because of the thunderous shelling outside, the decision to stay may have meant living or dying. It seemed that the Theater was the target. It was a landmark. The next shell could have hit us all. It was the same as deciding when or how to cross the street.

God really does have your life in His Hands. We live and die for Him. This was one of those moments. There were many in that war. It felt like a collective decision to be together in the Theater with the expectancy of faith.

Suddenly a small light appeared on the stage. It was a candle. One of the actors was placing candles on the perimeter of the wide half-circle of the stage’s edge where the stage-lights had been. The actors were lighting the candles. One by one they were lit. In moments the lights revealed a wondrous view, one that was more spectacular than before.

Then, in the glow of a very special evening, with the pop-pop of shelling in the background and the occasional thunder of larger threats, the play continued in candlelight. The play was wonderful. I am not certain that I ever really knew what it was about but I laughed and was filled with joy.  It was a night to remember forever. Though it was very cold, I felt warm.

Later, walking to the room that I stayed in on those icy and snow-filled streets, I felt like I was in a neighborhood regardless of the threats that appeared to still be all around. Though I was not carrying one of the candles from the stage with me, I felt the glow of the room. The sense of faith and expectancy stayed with me. I did not have fear later that night when I was alone and the night war thunder.

We all seemed to be together, still in one larger room – not scattered individually throughout a city divided. God protects each of us, like a Light with and within every heart.

And now, (2019) if I hear thunder I am comforted. I remember that God is with each of us everywhere. I know that in some places and in some lives, we face times that feel dangerous or isolating but I know that He is always with us and never apart from anyone. I know that even when things happen that seem to cause moments that looks like a temporary “disconnect” – if we wait with hope, faith, and expectancy, especially with and for one another, and in fellowship – our Lord God responds bountifully and generously.

His Love and Light and His Spirit shine into our lives and hearts vividly. They warm us in ways that are transformative. We enter into bold new ways to tell His story, of how His Love has altered our lives and the landscape of our hearts.

He has mine. My story is one of the ongoing triumph of the Love of Christ in my heart and how it brings peace to me.

Joshua 1:9 -“Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous. Do not be frightened, and do not be dismayed, for the Lord your God is with you wherever you go.”

God is with you. He is with us all the time. He gives us strength and courage. I pray that we are each given the gift of many chances to step forward as bold Christians that walk fearlessly and lovingly towards the Life that we are given with generous and loving hearts.

© 2019 Linda Willows