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Discussion Forum : Devotional Thoughts :  Extreme Devotion

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Though he was being burned at the stake on the order of Spanish authorities, Antonio Herrezuelo’s pain was in his spirit. He realized his wife had renounced her faith in Christ to escape a similar death.

Antonio could have also saved his life and received life in prison like his wife. Perhaps he would have someday been pardoned and been reunited with his wife.

But he would not recant. The last words he uttered, before soldiers gagged him, were pleas for his wife. “Please return to Christ and be forgiven. We will be united together in heaven. Please return!” he yelled to his wife. Although he had no earthly hope of reunion, he wanted to be with her in eternity.

After her husband’s death, Mrs. Herrezuelo was brought back to the prison to serve out her life sentence. For eight years she wrestled with God and her own spirit. She could not find peace about her fateful decision.

Finally, she publicly returned to faith in Christ, taking back her previous denial even as the sixteenth-century inquisitors threatened her. A judge sentenced her to death at the stake—now for the second and final time.

She was eager to die and be reunited with her husband. Mrs. Herrezuelo, though dying, was again at peace. Her first words would be to tell him of her return to the faith.

What a marvelous reunion heaven will be! All those who suffered and died for their faith in Christ will shine like beacons of his grace and mercy. Families who were separated by evil regimes will be gathered together once more. Husbands and wives. Mothers and daughters. Friends and neighbors from entire countries that were rounded up and exiled will see each other again. Underground church members and congregations from persecuted nations will be there with their tales of angelic rescues in tow. The stories alone could take eternity to recount—testimonies from generations of martyrs about God’s faithfulness. Will you be there in heaven to listen? Better yet, will you have your own story to tell?

 2008/3/25 15:10


“You are lying!” Lieutenant Grecu screamed at the imprisoned pastor, Richard Wurmbrand. “Tell us the truth about your Christian activities and about others in your church! Here, you must write out for me all the rules that you have broken in the prison.”

Wurmbrand sat and quietly wrote down all of the prison rules he had broken. When he was finished, he added one final paragraph: “I have never spoken against the Communists. I am a disciple of Christ, who has given us love for our enemies. I understand them and pray for their conversion so that they will become my brothers in the Faith.” He signed his name boldly at the bottom.

Grecu read the “declaration.” His face softened as he got to the end, overwhelmed that Wurmbrand could write about loving a government that had arrested and tortured him. “This love,” he said. “That is one of your Christian commandments that no one can keep.”

“It’s not a matter of keeping a commandment,” Richard replied gently. “When I became a Christian it was as if I had been reborn, with a new character full of love. Just as only water can flow from a spring, only love can come from a loving heart.”

In the following months, Wurmbrand spoke of Christ’s love many more times to Lieutenant Grecu, who eventually prayed to receive Christ!

Declaring your faith in Christ is simply saying it loud enough for others to hear and receive it. It doesn’t mean you’re obnoxious. It doesn’t mean you must be extraordinarily extroverted. It simply means you are an open book for others to read about Jesus Christ. And you’re willing to read it aloud when necessary. We are often hesitant in our witness for Christ. We don’t wish to offend. We don’t want to be ill received. And yet our taciturn testimony may cause us to miss the opportunity to lead someone to faith in Christ. What would it mean for you to declare your faith in Christ today? To whom should you define and deliver God’s message of grace?

 2008/3/26 11:06


“Before we finish this funeral service,” her words rang out clearly to the thousand people in attendance, “I want to tell you what my husband told me before dying. He asked me to tell all his murderers that he goes to heaven loving wholeheartedly everybody, including his assassins. He has forgiven all for what they have done because Jesus loves and will also forgive them.”

She stood over her husband’s coffin. There were tears in her eyes, but her voice was strong. The bruises on her body told the mourners that she, too, had been beaten.

As Christians, she and her husband had refused to take a Kikuyu tribal oath that wasn’t consistent with their Christian faith. For this, her husband was beaten to death, and she was beaten and hospitalized.

The crowd was still, silenced by the power of the widow’s words, and her will. Many living in Kenya in 1969 had also faced harassment and attack for valuing their faith over tribal loyalties.

“I, as his widow, also tell all of you, in the presence of my dead husband, that I hate none of those who killed him. I love the killers. I forgive them, knowing that Christ has died for them too.”

No one in attendance that day would ever forget the widow’s words or her example of extreme forgiveness and grace.

Forgiveness is an extreme example of what it means to be like Christ, to extend his grace to others. No one has ever had to forgive more than Jesus Christ. Nothing can compare to the weight of an entire world’s sins on his shoulders at Calvary. Therefore, when we forgive those who hate us, we are never more like Jesus than at that moment. Forgiveness does not make the wrongs that were done to you right. Forgiveness makes you all right. Forgiveness does not mean letting your perpetrators off the hook. Forgiveness means letting yourself off the hook and getting released from the tyranny of vengeful thoughts. Forgiving others for their wrongs gives you a chance to shine for Christ like never before. Where will you shine the light of God’s forgiveness today?

 2008/3/27 6:50


Barto was on the brink of starvation. Once a Communist Party official and prosecuting attorney, he was now considered expendable by the same party. He was sentenced to labor in a Romanian prison camp. His stomach, once full, was now wasting away. He wondered how much longer he could go on.

Seeing Barto’s frail stature, a fellow prisoner came up to him and offered to share his rations of food. “Thank you, my friend,” he said to the other prisoner. “How long must you be here?” Barto asked as he woofed down the food.

“Twenty years,” replied the prisoner. His eyes seemed to question Barto.

“What crime did you commit?”

“I was tried and sentenced for giving food to a fugitive pastor who was being chased by the police,” the man stated calmly. Barto noticed his voice didn’t carry bitterness like Barto had heard from so many others.

“Who gave you such a harsh punishment for doing a good deed?” demanded Barto.

The prisoner replied humbly, “Sir, you were the state prosecutor at my trial. You don’t recognize me now, but I remember you.”

The man went on. “I am a Christian. Christ taught us to reward evil with good. I wished then for you to realize that it is right and good to give food to a hungry man—even your enemy. Now, I can show you.” Barto began that day to understand that his own spiritual needs far outweighed his physical ones.

Kindness is the way to our enemies’ hearts. And it may do something for their souls. God uses kindness as his strategy of choice when dealing with us. Instead of giving us exactly what we deserve for our offenses against him, he deals with us kindly. His kindness is an example of how we should fashion our own approach to those who offend us. Kindness arrests their attention. It is as unexpected as it is undeserved. Like Barto, our kindness toward an enemy may awaken a spiritual hunger for the source of our compassion. However, regardless of their response, we must follow the example of our Lord when dealing with our enemies. Who needs your kindness today?

 2008/3/28 19:35


[url=] Isreali Christian Boy Recieves A Deadly Gift[/url] - JERUSALEM, Israel - Last week, 15-year-old Ami Ortiz, the son of an Israeli pastor opened a holiday package during the Jewish celebration of Purim. He thought it was a gift. Instead it was a bomb.

Bomb Heard Around the Globe

News of this terror attack has reverberated throughout Israel and around the world.

The bombing took place in the Israeli town of Ariel in Samaria. It destroyed the family apartment of David Ortiz, a Messianic pastor. The force of the blast was so strong it shattered car windows three stories below.

His son, Ami, suffered major injuries including second and third degree burns, shrapnel in one lung, and wounds from head to toe.

Despite the life-threatening injuries, Ami survived - an outcome doctors called a miracle.

Police are investigating the bombing and attempted murder. A family source told CBN News police suspect either Palestinian terrorists or ultra-religious Jews.

Messianic Believers Under Fire

Some see the bombing against the Ortiz family as an unprecedented attack on Messianic believers - Jews who believe Jesus - or Yeshua - is the Jewish Messiah and see no contradiction between being Jewish and believing Jesus was the Son of God.

"One of the most difficult things for the family is that when the press originally brought the story out in Israel in Hebrew, they said that someone from a radical missionary cult was injured," said Calev Meyers of the Jerusalem Institute of Justice.

The Ortiz family asked Meyers to act as a family spokesman.

"The reason the press treated it this way is that the Messianic community in Israel are the victims of ongoing vicious propaganda against the community - especially in the ultra-religious media," Meyers said.

"The ongoing vicious propaganda that comes against families like this and against the Messianic Jewish community lays the basis for radical events or attacks like this against the community and that's what we're really trying to fight," he said.

The bombing highlights the harassment Messianic Jews have been suffering. In the city of Arad, an ultra orthodox sect has harassed the Messianic community there for years. In Jerusalem last year, a building used by three Messianic congregations as a house of worship was firebombed.

However, many have condemned the most recent bombing, including Ariel Mayor Ron Nachman.

"I know that if that event is based on religious reasons or something like that I condemn it because you cannot disturb anybody from doing what they want in their own private home," Nachman said. "And I will defend this idea as much as I can. And as the mayor of Ariel, I will do everything to help the family. The child is only 15 years old and it's terrible."

Ortiz Family: We Won't Give Up

In the meantime, Ami is still fighting an uphill battle to recovery.

The Ortiz family is asking believers around the world to pray for Ami's complete physical healing as well as forgiveness for those who committed this crime and that God himself would turn this situation meant for evil around for good.

They say it won't stop them.

Meyers said, "One of their messages would be, 'We're not giving up and we're going to continue to build the Kingdom of God in Israel, even in the face of this kind of aggression."

*Original broadcast March 26, 2008.


[url=]Update On Ami[/url]

 2008/3/29 11:34


In restricted countries, Christian children often suffer alongside their parents. When fathers and mothers are arrested because of their church activities, the children are often left as orphans. If they are lucky, their family members or friends can care for them. However, at worst, they are sent to orphanages or state run institutions. No more bedtime Bible stories and no more family prayers before meals.

However, the letters from the children to their imprisoned parents display tremendous courage and tenacity during the difficult times of separation. Their words convey hope of a reunion.

“God bless you dear Mommy. Don’t be troubled by our temporary separation—it won’t last forever. Our joy will return soon—let that thought encourage you. Mommy, I can’t imagine the feast we will have when you return. I have been keeping up with my schoolwork. Now it is night—tomorrow will be another day. Day after day it drags on, but I know we will be together soon. I embrace you. Your loving daughter.”

“Dear Mom, when you come home, I will not think about the loneliness and pain anymore. I beg you not to cry, Mommy. I love you. I wrote a little poem for you:

You have a heart of gold,
You are young at heart, not old.
The Lord observes you from on high,
We’ll be together soon, you and I.”

Children are often the last ones considered when it comes to the effects of persecution. For every imprisoned parent, there is a child left behind. However, as Jesus pointed out on numerous occasions, a child’s faith is significant. If a child can demonstrate incredible courage amid intense circumstances, then what is our excuse? Instead of growing resentful toward the circumstances that are beyond their control, the children of persecuted Christians are growing in grace. Can we say the same about our lives? As adults, we risk focusing too much on the blows and beatings life brings. We could benefit from modeling the resilient faith of children. In what ways do you need to grow in childlike faith? Begin today by remembering the children.

 2008/3/30 13:47


It was like no protest the world had ever seen. Most riots around the world are violent, with slogans being yelled, signs and banners being waved, and even rocks being thrown. But on May 16, 1966, five hundred Soviet Baptists gathered in the courtyard of the Communist Central Committee. However, unlike most protestors, they did not shout slogans or demands.

They stood together praying and singing hymns. Georgi Vins and Gennadi Kryuchkov presented a petition to the Soviet government on their behalf, requesting the official recognition of their churches, a plea to stop governmental interferences, the release of imprisoned believers, and freedom for Soviet citizens to teach and be taught religious faith.

On the morning of the seventeenth, soldiers and KGB agents surrounded the peaceful gathering. Around 1:00 P.M., a number of buses closed in and the soldiers attacked, beating them and forcing them into the buses. No one fought back. Instead, the demonstrators linked arms and started singing again over the screams of the attacking soldiers. All of this was done in public with many bystanders gathering around to watch the steadfast faith of the Christians. They were then taken to prison.

Even in prison they continued to pray and sing. The Communists had refused the pleas of these peaceful protestors, but they had not broken their spirits.

People who turn Christianity into a cause run the risk of confusing violence for obedience. However, nothing could be further from the true description. Radical obedience means we protest whatever is contrary to Christ’s teachings. However, like the Soviet Baptists, we aim for peace and not to provoke harm. Those who are persecuted for their faith leave an example of peaceful demonstration and determination. They do not return evil for evil, yet they calmly accept the consequences of their obedience to Christ’s commands. If you want to be a radical Christian, you must fully obey Christ’s commands. In what area of your life is God calling you to radical obedience for him? What does it mean to you to be a radical Christian?

 2008/3/31 11:23


The cause, not the suffering,
makes a genuine martyr.


 2008/4/1 7:58


“Why is it that so many Christians sing only once a week? Why only once? If it is right to sing, sing every day. If it is wrong to sing, don’t sing on Sunday.”

The pastor had spent several horrifying years in prison at the hands of the Communist authorities. He was jailed for his belief in Christ, and though he remembered the tortures there, he did not focus on them much. Instead he spoke of the times of joy in the presence of his Lord. He and his fellow Christian prisoners formed a community of praise—in the middle of prison.

“When we were in prison we sang almost every day because Christ was alive in us. The Communists were very nice to us. They knew we liked to praise God with musical instruments, so they gave every Christian in prison a musical instrument. However, they did not give us violins or mandolins—these were too expensive. Instead, they put chains on our hands and feet. They chained us to add to our grief. Yet we discovered that chains are splendid musical instruments! When we clanged them together in rhythm, we could sing, ‘This is the day (clink, clank), this is the day (clink, clank), which the Lord has made (clink, clank), which the Lord has made (clink, clank).’” What a joyful noise unto the Lord!

To those who have yet to experience it, persecution seems to focus entirely on loss. The loss of freedom. The loss of hope. Even losing one’s life. However, those who have suffered for their faith in Christ overlook what’s missing and focus on new discoveries. They relish what little freedoms they have instead of regretting what they lack. In this story, Communist captors robbed believers of most of life’s freedoms and dignity. However, these stout believers focused on what remained—their joy in the Lord. If it is good to sing to the Lord when you have everything—it is good to sing to him when you have lost it all, too. What will you do today to make sure you do not lose your Christian joy?

 2008/4/2 10:21


They relish what little freedoms they have instead of regretting what they lack.

 2008/4/2 10:33

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