A common statement I hear more and more today is how near we are to the return of Jesus Christ, the Messiah. It is not just hype thrown out to get people excited or spiritually jazzed, but rather as an encouragement to get our houses in order as well as finishing the race well. The imminent return of Jesus is also bringing an increase of persecution. In many locations of our world it has become very intense–such as in the Middle East.
The nearer we come to the devil’s confinement to the bottomless pit, the more his own desperation and rage will be on display. We are now very near to the time of the Great Tribulation and not only is the devil going all out with his destructive plans, but so is Almighty God going all out, quickly gathering the harvest before the great storm hits this planet.
The reaction of evil is well displayed in Acts 7. After Stephen had defended himself before his accusers, the Bible gives this account in verses 54-60:
When they heard these things they were cut to the heart, and they gnashed at him with their teeth. But he, being full of the Holy Spirit, gazed into heaven and saw the glory of God, and Jesus standing at the right hand of God, and said, “Look! I see the heavens opened and the Son of Man standing at the right hand of God!” Then they cried out with a loud voice, stopped their ears, and ran at him with one accord; and they cast him out of the city and stoned him. And the witnesses laid down their clothes at the feet of a young man named Saul. And they stoned Stephen as he was calling on God and saying, “Lord Jesus, receive my spirit.” Then he knelt down and cried out with a loud voice, “Lord, do not charge them with this sin.” And when he had said this, he fell asleep.
There is a great evil and a senseless out-of-control “blood-lust” being unleashed on the true Church today. The devil hates the human race, and he especially hates those who have committed themselves to their Creator. There have been more Christians martyred since the the turn of the century than in all of the centuries combined since the birth of the early Church–and it is escalating. It will however soon come to an end. When the KING of Kings sets up His millennial kingdom, righteousness and justice will be on display for the whole world to see. When the devil is permanently thrown into the Lake of Fire after the Great White Throne Judgment, evil will have been destroyed for eternity.
As our regular readers know, less than two weeks ago, Pastor R**** was protected from a huge bomb blast, likely a missile. His personal tent was destroyed, as was the large meeting tent that he had been using to teach and train volunteer missionaries. Considering the severe injuries he has received at other times, it was a blessing that R**** was unscathed this time. I believe in prayer and I am sure we will find out someday that God answered the many prayers of Christians around the world and kept him safe.
Through a financial miracle, the costs to replace the tents were met. This included the cement and other equipment needed for set-up due to the size of the large one. A former sheikh, now a believer, met another need by making a piece of land he owns available to set the meeting tent up on. This was also a great answer to prayer as it is a bit safer for the purpose of teaching and training than an open area, or an area crowded with refugees. Thank God for His provision! This tent is now up and already being put to use. On Wednesday, October 15, another group of 100 volunteer missionaries will be sent out. Thursday, another 100 will begin their training. Pastor R**** told me today that the Lord has graciously granted him two younger men to help him with the teaching. This takes at least some of the heavy strain off of him.
A few days ago Pastor R**** decided to take a few days alone between himself and God. The weight of ministering, teaching, and trying to meet the constant needs of those who look to him for leadership had worn him out and he was discouraged. He was in need of a spiritual uplift from the Lord and decided to take this time for fasting and prayer, determined not to quit until he heard from God.
I received a call from R**** from Syria this morning (Sunday) with an unusual story. I want to pass this on to you and let you ponder the details. Yesterday morning (Syrian time zone) a man dressed in casual Arab clothing came to the tent where R**** was and asked if he could have a drink of water. R**** said he had a little water he could share and gave him some. The man then asked him if he had any food he could share. All R**** had was a couple soft tomatoes or so that were not very fresh and a little bread that was getting a bit crusty and stale, but he offered it to him just as it was. The man told him that he would like to break bread with him.
As the men began to eat and drink together, R**** said he was quickly shocked at how good the “not so good” tomatoes were! The bread also tasted like it had just been freshly baked! As they shared this small meal, they began to talk–or rather, R****’s visitor began to talk. The visitor looked at him and said, rather matter-of-fact like, “Your name is R****…” R**** could only confirm and say, “Yes, that is my name!” The visitor told R**** that he was there to tell him how much God loves him.
Then, in light of R****’s condition as a paraplegic, the stranger asked him to do a very odd thing. He asked him to get up from his chair, walk over to where he was and give him a hug. R**** could only look at him dumbfounded, wondering if he had heard him right! The man then repeated himself, telling him to get up from his wheelchair, walk over to him, and give him a hug–which of course is a proper greeting in Mideast culture. R**** again just looked at him but then slowly pushed himself up from the wheelchair until he was standing. After gaining his balance, he took slow, short, shuffling steps, until he reached the stranger. He reached over, gave him a hug as he had asked him to do, and slowly walked back and forth for a bit, hardly believing what was happening.
After letting him walk for a few short minutes, the man told him it was now time for him to sit back down in his wheelchair. As Pastor R**** sat back down, the man looked him in the eyes and told him that he was there to tell him that he was very much loved and prayed for by many people around the world. The visitor also told R**** that God was aware of his work and his heart for ministering to the people and the work he had been doing in today’s harvest field. He told Pastor R**** that it was God’s sovereign plan for him to stay in his wheelchair for now for His own reasons. He also said that God would continue meeting his needs and that he should be encouraged because time is now extremely short! The man said again that God had sent him to confirm to him how much Abba Father and all of heaven loved him……as well as his close friends in ministry that he loved so much, and he named Brother Jack (Jake) and Sister Anne.
The impact of this stranger naming us personally was an added confirmation for R**** that this was not just a man, neither was he a prophet. This was an angel who came in the form of a man to encourage R**** who has been carrying an enormous burden and has gone through things most of us can’t even imagine. God answered his sacrifice of prayer and fasting by providing him the encouragement he needed so much. The fact that he told R**** his name was a surprise to him, but there are those in the area who know who he is, and so some might discount the miracle. The fact that the angel used two other names, from the other side of the globe, is not something that is likely to happen without knowledge from God Himself, but I’m sure some would ignore that as well. Touching Pastor R****’s body was a miracle to let him know that God was well aware of his injuries and the fact that it happened as a result of being severely beaten and stoned. Why God would keep him in the wheelchair is something only God knows for sure. God however is sovereign. God did not remove the Apostle Paul’s thorn in the flesh either. One thing that R**** told me was that he could not help himself but to cry for hours afterward because God loved him so much that He would go to such lengths to reach him right where he was at. I have to admit; I understand the feeling of this as well. God is so very personal and intimate–if we allow Him!
There will always be those who have a difficult time believing these stories. I understand this. For me, it is not so hard because, regardless of how difficult it has sometimes been to understand every little detail, my experiences joining in prayer with R**** for the past 30 months is beyond anything I have ever experienced in my 65 years–powerful agreements in prayer because of the binding together accomplished by the mighty Holy Spirit of God. R**** has also felt and been blessed by the prayers of so many of you around the globe as we have joined together with him through the Holy Spirit in petition for God’s purposes and plans to be performed. We will not know for sure how much has been done by the Lord through this unique relationship until we are on the other side. Then the Lord will show us all. I know this: The Lord promised that He would bring about “fruit” from every single Bible provided…in fact, God added that there would be much fruit. This is what has happened, week after week; month after month!
The sacrifices of lives continue. Tragically, 12 HOB missionaries were trapped by ISIS in Iraq a couple days ago and slaughtered. Four more near the Turkish border in Syria. During the same time however, there were a great many reached with the Gospel of Jesus Christ, in Iraq, Iran, Syria, Jordan, and the Kurdistan area. God is so good!
I asked Pastor R**** how many House Of Blessing missionaries there are in the Middle East today. He said with the 100 newly trained ones this coming Wednesday, there will be 383, plus “The Widow Sisterhood”, which is 116 women including Mafidah, their leader.
A great many of our brothers and sisters have been killed, but a great many more are added to the list of names of the Saved. No matter what the fallen one does, he cannot kill all of the Christians. The Mosul area does not have any churches anymore but that does not mean there are no longer any missionaries. The missionaries can be found scattered all over the Middle East. It is a continuing miracle!
Please keep praying with us. Let’s keep them supported. They live for one thing and one thing only, and that is to serve their Master, Jesus Christ. Let’s you and I do the same!