At the beginning of today’s Mideast Update, I would like to include the 23rd Psalm and some brief observations. It reads like this in the New King James version of the Scriptures:
The LORD is my shepherd; I shall not want. He makes me to lie down in green pastures; He leads me beside the still waters. He restores my soul; He leads me in the paths of righteousness for His name’s sake. Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil; for You are with me; Your rod and Your staff, they comfort me. You prepare a table before me in the presence of my enemies; You anoint my head with oil; my cup runs over. Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life; and I will dwell in the house of the LORD forever. (Psalm 23:1-6)
Often the question is asked how a passage of Scripture like this applies to Christian people who are going through horrendous persecutions as they are today in the Middle East and so many other places. It is a good question.
We find here that God has promised the beauty of rest beside still waters, restoration of the soul, a table before our enemies, and goodness and mercy following us all the days of our lives. Yet, besides the “normal” struggles of life we all experience, millions of Christians have been murdered for their innocent belief in their Creator God and the Saviour of the world, Jesus Christ. How does this fit with this passage of Scripture?.
The Bible has warned us that life would hold troubles. In John 16:33, Jesus said: “…in the world you will have tribulation; but be of good cheer, I have overcome the world.” In James 1:2, we find the brother of Jesus, and later Apostle James saying: “My brethren, count it all joy when you fall into various trials…” One version of the verse tells us to see our trials and tribulations as “friends!” At first glance at that Scripture many would say, “That’s ridiculous! That’s insane!”
The Bible has also made a distinction between the typical trials and tribulations we go through in a fallen world, and the persecutions we go through for the sake of our commitment to Jesus, our Messiah. This is what is referred to in Matthew 5:11-12:
Blessed are you when they revile and persecute you, and say all kinds of evil against you falsely for My sake. Rejoice and be exceedingly glad, for great is your reward in heaven, for so they persecuted the prophets who were before you.
So, as we read a passage like Psalm 23, we need to keep in mind that God is in ultimate control of all things, including our individual situation, no matter what that might be. No matter which we are experiencing, whether it has to do with the trials of life or the persecutions we endure for our testimony of Jesus, we can face the valley of the shadow of death knowing that God will never, ever leave us alone. If He doesn’t lead us around the problem, He will guide us through it, giving us the supernatural strength to be victorious, no matter what.
The Psalm also tells us that goodness and mercy shall follow us all the days of our lives. This tells us that even if we are going through the worst gut-wrenching experiences or persecution, and it doesn’t feel like we are resting in lush green grasses next to a beautiful stream of water, those very things will be reserved for us for eternity. Once true believers in Jesus have been ushered into the presence of the KING of Kings and His Kingdom, they will never hurt again, will never hunger, thirst, or suffer again…for the rest of eternity! Yes…goodness and mercy truly will follow a believer for the rest of their existence!
These comments of course only provide a very simplified commentary on a difficult subject, but with these Scriptures in mind, let’s look at what has transpired in the last few days with the House of Blessing missionaries in the Mideast.
Our friend Pastor R told me that Sister Mufiedah is presently ministering in the Damascus area again. As she worked with the injured and prayed for them, she was able to witness the power of God healing 22 of these folks outright. Each one of them has become a follower of Messiah Jesus as well. She continues as she has for so very many months since she lost her husband, former head-sheikh Nabeel, to martyrdom.
Speaking of martyrdom, another of HOB’s missionaries was killed in Syria in the past few days. During this same time, in northern Syria, Sister Hafezah and Ferial have resumed serving communion to many hundreds. As we have made clear in the past, each and every person who participates in these communion services has genuinely prayed the sinner’s prayer and has become a follower of Messiah Jesus. Many of these people are healed, and the majority of them are also baptized with the Holy Spirit, just as in the early Church in the Book of Acts. These faithful widows, who are part of “The Widow Sisterhood,” have been serving 1,600-1,700 per week!
In northern Syria, the HOB missionaries see that Turkey is rejecting a great many people who are trying to escape from Syria. These people end up coming back to the refugee camps they had hoped to escape. How hopeless it must seem for these people who have lost everything!
As I have mentioned before, the Kurdistan area is becoming more and more volatile. Turkey’s attacks on the Kurdish people are increasing, and this area which had been a bit more safe than other areas in the Middle East is becoming more and more dangerous. This also makes it more difficult for the missionaries. But, they are continuing to minister as well as continuing with their School of Ministry classes.
In Iraq, things are becoming more and more difficult as well. In the city of Mosul, thirty of HOB’s missionaries were killed. Praise God though, these missionaries were able to reach about 500 souls with the gospel of Jesus and witness their commitment to Him as LORD, just before they lost their lives and entered into the presence of their Master.
In Fallujah and the surrounding area, tens of thousands of people are under siege. They are surrounded by ISIS. The Iraqi army is battling with the terrorists in order to break their stranglehold, but in the meantime, people are starving to death. The situation is being described as horrible. However, in the last few days, the recent 320 new graduates of HOB’s School of Ministry were able to reach 2,000 souls–just by being willing to share a piece of their own bread with them. The question is always asked, “Why would you share your last piece of bread with me, a stranger?” This opens the door wide to share the love of Jesus. It is the love of God that overcomes!
Suicide bombers are a major issue in Iraq; in fact, it seems to be increasing of late. There are many innocents who are losing their lives in this way. Also, reports say that American soldiers are attacking ISIS in many locations. Pastor R has urged HOB missionaries to use wisdom and care in where they go and how they go about ministering. This is the case all over the Mideast, including within Iran. They really need our prayers.
Sister Fatima (former head-sheikh Salem’s widow) has also resumed offering communion to the believers. She has reportedly served between 1,200-1,800. As in Syria, many are healed right in front of everyone, and hundreds continue to be baptized with the Holy Spirit! What amazing things are coming about in our day!
Pastor R is still suffering but continues to teach his hand-picked men about four hours per day. These men are becoming powerful men of God. Pastor R is asking the Lord to bring them to a level of spiritual wisdom and strength as brother Omar was before he and his wife were murdered in their beds by ISIS. Omar and his wife are seed that was planted which will produce by the thousands. This is what God has been doing for many months now.
Thousands continue to be signed up to take the School of Ministry classes. Whereas so many churches in the West are struggling to fill the seats, here where there are hardly chairs to sit on, there is only a lack of enough teachers and locations to use to teach the multitudes becoming part of the Kingdom of God!
In closing, I want to ask again for you, the reader, to link your spiritual arms with these that are on the front lines of today’s spiritual war. They all know they could lose their life at any moment, and all they ask is for our prayers and support as God directs. What if this were the last opportunity for us to be part of what God is doing on this earth? What if He were to call His true Church home before the end of the year? None of us knows if this is the case, but the signs of the times tell us that the clock is about to hit midnight. The fields are white and need harvesting, but the night is coming when no man will be able to work…Let’s finish well!
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