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hand of a prisonerOpen Doors reports a significant increase in attacks against Christians during 2014-2015. Last year, more than 7,000 Christians were killed for their faith, which they note is “almost 3,000 more than the previous year.” The largest areas of growing Christian persecution occur in the Middle East, Africa, and Central Asia. Those numbers are expected to scale upward.

In general, persecution of Christians is increasing, “and the rate of increase is accelerating”, said Lisa Pearce, chief executive of Open Doors UK and Ireland. The nature of persecution was also changing, she added. “It used to mean several years in a forced labour camp. Now it means watching your loved ones being beheaded.” TheGuardian.com

In a nation uniquely founded upon the Judeo/Christian ethic and “Freedom of Religion”, Americans have been witnessing committed Christians being persecuted in their own country. Over the last six-plus years, there have been rapidly expanding attempts to marginalize, demonize, and criminalize the free practice of the Christian faith in the US Armed Forces and in the United States in general. Restoring Liberty

The astounding increase in persecution around the world should not surprise us. The Bible warns us about increased persecution in the last days. Jesus painted a vivid picture for his disciples:

Later, Jesus sat on the Mount of Olives. His disciples came to him privately and said, “Tell us, when will all this happen? What sign will signal your return and the end of the world?”

Jesus told them, “Don’t let anyone mislead you, for many will come in my name, claiming, ‘I am the Messiah.’ They will deceive many. And you will hear of wars and threats of wars, but don’t panic. Yes, these things must take place, but the end won’t follow immediately. Nation will go to war against nation, and kingdom against kingdom. There will be famines and earthquakes in many parts of the world. But all this is only the first of the birth pains, with more to come.

“Then you will be arrested, persecuted, and killed. You will be hated all over the world because you are my followers. And many will turn away from me and betray and hate each other. And many false prophets will appear and will deceive many people. Sin will be rampant everywhere, and the love of many will grow cold. (Matthew 24:3-12 NLT)

Paul described last days persecution to Timothy this way:

You should know this, Timothy, that in the last days there will be very difficult times. For people will love only themselves and their money. They will be boastful and proud, scoffing at God, disobedient to their parents, and ungrateful. They will consider nothing sacred. They will be unloving and unforgiving; they will slander others and have no self-control. They will be cruel and hate what is good. They will betray their friends, be reckless, be puffed up with pride, and love pleasure rather than God. They will act religious, but they will reject the power that could make them godly. Stay away from people like that! (1 Timothy 3:1-5 NLT)

lightstock_62135_xsmall_user_6214500Ignoring the reality of the horrors of persecution taking place around the world . . . and on the beginnings of persecution right here in the United States . . . will not make it go away. It’s here to stay. And it will impact our lives more and more.

So what can we do? God doesn’t want us to leave the answers to others. Every believer needs to act according to God’s individual plan for him or her. Some may run for political office. Others may take a stand against the evil by making others aware of what is happening. Some may join organizations that are making a positive difference. Different gifts. Different callings. But every believer needs to pray. And to pray most effectively we need to be aware of what is happening here and around the world.

Pray in the Spirit at all times and on every occasion. Stay alert and be persistent in your prayers for all believers everywhere. (Ephesians 6:18)

On FindChristianLinks.com you will find links to websites and ministries that can help keep you informed and guide you in biblical ways to pray. I am searching for more links to help all of us make a kingdom difference. Please visit a page I just added: Praying for Persecuted Christians. On this page you will find links to more information about persecution taking place and well as links to prayer guides. I had been praying for those being persecuted but wasn’t sure the best ways to pray. These links offer biblical ways to pray. I’ve been using one of them and plan to use others. Very helpful.  Please send me links to websites you have found helpful so I can add those as well.

Other pages that could help you stay informed and suggest ways you can make a difference include News from a Christian Perspective and Blogs from CBN .

Would love to hear your thoughts. Please get in touch.

Karen Burkett

 

 

Embracing Victory

Contributed by guest blogger Dawn Marie Woroniak

And they have overcome him by the blood of the Lamb and by the word of their testimony. (Revelation 12:11 NIV)

Most of my life, I have struggled with depression . . . a dark and hopeless place that was numbed by binge drinking when it became too much for me to handle. At the time, I thought it would help ease the pain of the emotional and physical abuse that had occurred during childhood. At an early age, I became insecure, lonely, depressed, and a perfectionist . . . all in the hopes of overcoming, but I never overcame.

Even after saying “yes” to Jesus, I struggled with binge drinking. Knowing, that I needed help, I began to receive counseling. Unfortunately, within a couple of appointments, I would convince myself that I was okay, only to discover the harsh reality that I was not—a cycle that lasted longer than it should have because of my stubbornness and unwillingness to work through the pain. Working through pain brings healing, but at the time I was not cooperating with God’s healing plan for me. Condemnation and shame consumed me. After all, how could I be a Christian and still struggle like I was? I doubted God’s forgiveness because of the prison I kept myself in. God gave me the keys to break free when I said “yes” to Him, but in my absolute foolishness . . . I did not use them. In essence, I was oblivious to the free gift of salvation He had given me.

During my healing process, I have learned that God has a very good sense of humor. At times, when God calls us . . . it can be in the “midst” of our pain and darkness. For it is in the “midst” of things that God shows up in greatness!

When He called me to write Victory Embraced . . . I was not only cleaning dishes . . . I was still in the “midst” of struggling with depression, which I have discovered is partly due to heredity. However, I now know I have God’s DNA . . . and because of this, I will always be victorious!

Dawn Marie Woroniak_bookcoverWhile collecting testimonies for the book, I began to experience symptoms of PMDD (Premenstrual Dysphoric Disorder), which is a major mental depressive disorder and definitely has a few extra edges than regular PMS, occurring only to 3 to 8 percent of women. I have been told many times that I am quite unique . . . not only in my sense of humor but also in how I process and see things in life. Now there is indisputable evidence that what has been said for years is true! Yep, this definitely proved it . . . not only to myself but also to those closest to me.

PMDD usually makes its ugly appearance in women who are in their late 30s or mid-40s. Mine showed up when I was 36. With all the hormone shifts, I also started having simple-partial seizures, which are rarely noticed by others. They begin with a feeling of deja vu followed by staring that can last a few minutes.

In my potential for perfectionism, I happen to have all of the symptoms of PMDD . . . not just the four or five that classify the disorder and help to make a diagnosis. Symptoms of PMDD include anxiety and a feeling of being on edge, memory issues, severe mood swings, crying for no reason, extreme sensitivity to abandonment and rejection, anger and increased conflict with the ones you love, decreased interest in usual activities, feelings of being overwhelmed as well as feeling out of control, joint and muscle pain, weight gain, insomnia, and headaches. Yes, a long list of symptoms, but nothing God cannot handle. Sometimes one month can be worse than another. During the more intense months, I pray for it to be over quickly and at times have felt as if I am holding on to Him for dear life. I have a neurologist for the seizures, which are now under control with the medicine. After two years of being seizure free, my doctor can begin lowering the dosage until I am completely off it. My psychiatrist is to help take the edge off of the PMDD. Through it all, I have the most renowned doctor in the world by my side overseeing things . . . my sweet and precious God.

I am learning there are things I can do to help relieve the symptoms of PMDD such as hormone therapy, taking nutritional supplements, antidepressants, exercise, drinking less caffeine. My hardest to follow through on is eating less chocolate, cheese, and carbohydrates. Yes, it is true . . . sometimes chocolate is a girl’s best friend.

I have learned that with any disorder—not only in my life, but with others as well—there is hope because God has the power to take any disorder and create order out of a total mess, He can create beauty. And because I have learned the character of God and who He says He is, I have absolute faith that He will provide the avenues for my healing even if that means He balances all my hormones through early menopause. A pure miracle in itself! I do not put anything past God . . . He can do all things! Being in the process of healing does not mean failure because obtaining victory is a continuous motion of moving forward.

We are a work in progress . . . always under construction. With God, seven months of intense counseling has helped transform my life. I have learned to put God first in all I do . . . and to depend on Him for all I need. I am blessed to have a very loving husband who has been supportive, understanding, and patient with me along my journey of Embracing Victory Over the Storm of Depression.

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Dawn Marie Woroniak

Dawn Marie Woroniak

Many thanks to today’s guest blogger Dawn Marie Woroniak. Eight years ago, she started gathering testimonies throughout the United States for a book called VictoryEmbraced. The testimonies in this encouraging book are from people in various professions as well as some who are well-known and respected in ministry. Dawn Marie says, “It is my prayer, and the prayer of those who have shared their stories, that you will be blessed and forever changed!”

Learn more about Dawn Marie and her ministry at www.victoryembraced.org. It’s a ministry of prayer and healing . . . powerful testimonies . . . changed lives . . . and renewed hope.

We Are Not Alone

lightstock_157088_medium_user_6214500“But when faced with the reality that God wants more than twenty minutes of my day or a day of the week, the foundation I stood on was shaken. . . . In order to love God at all, I must give him my all.” -Seun Otukpe

The loss of a loved one. Divorce. Natural disaster. Cancer diagnosis. . . . The list could go on and on regarding events that cause pain and anguish in our lives. It’s in the immediate aftermath of these events that we become susceptible to wallowing in our fears and pain, and ultimately become particularly vulnerable to Satan’s lie that we are alone and that we must carry the burden on our own. We put validity behind this lie of Satan by believing that giving God everything is equivalent to giving him one day of the week, or even twenty minutes every day. In essence, we put God in a box and believe that “school, love, family, friendships, food, and even pain” are our responsibility (Seun Otukpe in “Give It to God”). When in reality, God wants us to trust Him in the midst of our pain, to deliver us from our pain in His timing, and in every other aspect of our lives.

But how do we show we trust Him with these things? Even before that, how do we build this trust? Prayer. Philippians 4:6-8 (ESV) says it this way:

Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus. Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things.

The words of Vaneetha Rendall help to further express what “prayer” means with regard to building trust in the Lord to deliver you from despair . . . “And when I [say] pray, I don’t mean a rote recitation of requests and mindless words. I mean really praying. Speaking to God as honestly as I would a friend. Praying through a Psalm. Desperately crying out to him. Asking him for specific help. Expecting him to answer.” It is this type of prayer and communion with the Lord that builds our trust in Him and ultimately transforms us.

So I challenge you, don’t (intentionally or unintentionally) put God in a box by believing some aspects of your life are meant for you to deal with alone, while others are for Him. ALL aspects of your life are His as “every square inch of this universe exists under his sovereignty.” Check out Seun Otukpe’s full article here.

Complete Surrender

Receiving healing“You will never find the right by holding onto the wrong. And you will never find the purpose by holding onto the pain. Let go, and let God.” -Trent Shelton

What is it that you have been clinging so desperately to, placing all of your hope and identity in, only to see it fail you time and time again? Maybe it’s not someTHING but someONE. Maybe a previous situation you experienced is the source of heartache in your life today, but instead of releasing that pain to the only one who can make you whole again, that being Jesus Christ, you continue to hold onto it and allow it to make you someone God never intended for you to be. Even if you’re attempting to be especially careful to not let this happen, possibly even dedicating yourself to focusing intently on discovering God’s purpose behind the heartache, you may still become completely oblivious to the fact that the pain you’re holding onto is causing bitterness in your own life toward people who had nothing to do with the original heartache. Contemplate this, especially if you don’t agree with the aforementioned comment: without COMPLETELY surrendering the pain to the Lord, you will allow bitterness to always have a place in your heart. With that bitterness remaining inside of you, your heart will be unable to be like His . . . unable to view people in the way He views them (especially those who are the source of your heartache) . . . and unable to treat people in the way Christ calls you to as a believer. Matthew 6:24 (NIV) says, “No one can serve two masters. Either you will hate the one and love the other, or you will be devoted to the one and despise the other.” Thus, with bitterness remaining in your heart, how do you expect to be able to serve the Lord wholeheartedly?

Complete surrender, complete trust, and complete reliance in the Lord is the only way. To go even deeper, check out this video.

The Hands and Feet

lightstock_176466_medium_user_6214500A few days ago I came across an article entitled “There’s a Way to Stop Mass Shootings, And You Won’t Like It.” Considering the number of these types of incidents that have happened recently within the U.S., I decided to read the article to see what the solution was that I “wouldn’t like.” The author, Rob Myers, makes several valid points. The most crucial calls us to befriend the “strange kid sitting by himself at lunch each day” or the “gawky, awkward guy at work.” Or more simply stated, those who are isolated. Jesus gave us the same principle in Matthew 25:35-45 …

For I was hungry and you gave me something to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you invited me in, I needed clothes and you clothed me, I was sick and you looked after me, I was in prison and you came to visit me.’

“Then the righteous will answer him, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you something to drink? When did we see you a stranger and invite you in, or needing clothes and clothe you? When did we see you sick or in prison and go to visit you?’

“The King will reply, ‘Truly I tell you, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me.’ (NIV)

Considering the number of Christians within the U.S. (I am one of them), I can’t help but wonder why Myers’ challenge is so profound to us, of all people? Shouldn’t this be the way we carry ourselves every day? John 13:35-35 says we are to love one another, just as Jesus has loved us, and Galatians 6:2 calls us to carry one another’s burdens.

Even though it is much more comfortable and easy to look the other way when you see those who are isolated, lonely, and without community, I challenge you, just as Myers has, to go sit with them, to talk to them, hear their story, and most importantly, make sure they know they are loved by the creator of the universe.

Affiliate Marketing Green Blue SquaresChristian/family affiliate programs can provide some nice extra income—and promote worthwhile products and services at the same time. Many businesses are using affiliates to help promote their services or products. It is usually free to become an affiliate and you earn a percentage of any business you refer. If you have a website and would like some extra income, affiliate programs might be an answer. Some points to consider when selecting Christian affiliate programs to join:

  • Percentage of commission
  • Price of product or service
  • Is there residual income? (Some services such as long distance providers or Website hosts charge monthly. Will you receive an on-going percentage of their monthly fees?)
  • Is there a bonus for recruiting other affiliates?
  • Do you get a percentage of your sub-affiliates sales? For how many levels?
  • For you to get credit, does the customer have make a purchase on their initial visit or does the company save the record from the first time the customer enters from your site so that if they go directly into the company site at a later time you still earn a commission?
  • Is the product or service something you feel good about representing? Will it sell?
  • How long has the company been in business?
  • Does the company provide marketing aids such as banners, sample text ads, etc?

One last thought—if you decide to build an affiliate business, develop a good plan for keeping records. It’s easy to sign up and sign up until you don’t even know who you represent! Slow down and get organized! Prayerfully select the ones you will represent and then go for it!

You can find a list of affiliate opportunities on Find Christian Links. Please send me feedback on how they work for you. If you are familiar with a Christian affiliate program you’d like to see on the list, please let me know!

Kids“Direct your children onto the right path, and when they are older, they will not leave it.” (Proverbs 22:6)

How do we do that? In our world today right has become wrong and wrong has become right. People are encouraged to do their own thing. To set their own standards. How can we direct our children onto the right path with the turmoil they are exposed to each day?

First, of course, we must set an example. They need to see us putting Jesus above all else. Pouring out unconditional love on them and others. Using the Bible as our standard. And admitting when we go wrong.

Pray for them and with them. And teach them God’s Word. One way to do that is to lead them in a daily devotional. There are many available. On Find Christian Links you can find two online devotions for kids. I hope you will consider visiting them daily.

One is Keys for Kids from Keys for Kids Ministries. The other is Down Gilead Lane from the same ministry. They are available in audio, as well.

And while you are visiting Find Christian Links, please check out my list of websites for children. Email me at karenburkett@fastmail.com if your favorites are not listed there so I can add them. Also learn about “What’s in the Bible” for kids.

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