Free Stuff Fridays (Help The Persecuted)

This weeks giveaway is sponsored by Help The Persecuted.
Help The Persecuted rescues, restores, and rebuilds the lives of persecuted believers in the Islamic World through spiritual support and tangible help. Every week, they send out an email with specific, real-time prayer requests of persecuted believers to their global Prayer Network.
You can join the Prayer Network using the form below! As a thank you, you will be entered to win a giveaway consisting of several books loved by the Help The Persecuted team, items made my persecuted believers in Lebanon and Iran, and a Help The Persecuted hat!
Included in the giveaway are:
Everything Sad is Untrue (a true story) by Daniel Nayeri
A winner of multiple awards, Everything Sad is Untrue (a true story), recounts the early years of the author’s life in Iran, the saga of religious persecution his family faced when his mother converted to Christianity, and his time as a refugee in Italy and then asylum in the United States. The book, written for young adults but compelling to all ages, is both heartbreaking and funny, and it highlights the worthiness of Christ even when one loses everything to follow Him.
Seeking Allah, Finding Jesus by Nabeel Qureshi
Nabeel Qureshi grew up in a devout Muslim family. Well-versed in Islam apologetics, he frequently challenged his Christian friends. When one of them casually suggested they read the Bible together, Nabeel was happy to do so to prove the superiority of Islam. However, he ended up falling in love with Jesus Christ! His story highlights the intense inner struggle of a committed Muslim to seek the truth at all costs and the immense emotional weight of converting to Christianity.
A cross and tote bag made by persecuted believers
One of the cornerstones of Help The Persecuted is helping persecuted believers achieve sustainable economic independence after losing everything for the sake of Jesus. One of the ways we do this is by working with believers to create their own business plans and providing seed funding. In the giveaway, we will include a small cross carved from olive wood in Lebanon and a tote bag sewn together by persecuted women in Iran—each representing a business that is helping persecuted believers lead lives of dignity!
A Help The Persecuted hat
To round out the giveaway, we will include a Help The Persecuted ballcap!

Thank you for joining the Help The Persecuted Prayer Network!

Was Anyone More Alone? How Jesus Comforts the Lonely

I had read the account of the woman at the well countless times before, but never had it spoken so powerfully to a quiet pain I have often felt: loneliness.

I had always focused on the needs of the woman while reading John 4, but this time the needs of her Savior arrested my attention. In the familiar account, a weary and thirsty Jesus sits down beside the well of Sychar while his disciples, hungry after an exhausting journey, venture into the Samaritan town to buy food (John 4:6–8). In the next scene, a woman arrives to draw water from the well. Jesus asks her for a drink, and then he offers her a drink of another kind — a soul-satisfying draft of living water (John 4:13–14).

Presumably, Jesus drinks the water the Samaritan woman draws from the well, but after his disciples return with food, hungry as he almost certainly is, he does not eat. Instead, in another play on words, he tells his disciples, “I have food to eat that you do not know about” (John 4:32). The bewildered disciples conclude that someone else had given him food. Knowing their confusion, Jesus explains, “My food is to do the will of him who sent me” (John 4:34). Jesus had feasted on a spiritual harvest that day; so spiritually full was he that his physical hunger diminished.

Food for Lonely Hearts

Rereading this account was a hunger-diminishing experience for me. I was weary and thirsty from a journey of my own — another out-of-state move. If T.S. Eliot’s Prufrock “measured out [his] life with coffee spoons,” I could measure mine out with these moves, each one bringing fresh feelings of loneliness as I once again took on the identity of an outsider. I was hungry for friendship and belonging.

Jesus’s example at the well of Sychar gave me a plan for dealing with my loneliness-hunger. Jesus modeled the joyful obedience that suppresses lesser appetites. I learned that busying myself with the good works God had given me could fill me spiritually such that my hunger for belonging would recede into its proper place.

Just as Jesus experienced fullness through faithful obedience to God, I have learned to find joy and satisfaction in faithfully completing the work God gives me each day, whether preparing another meal, writing sample sentences for grammar class, responding to emails, arbitrating my children’s disputes, greeting a neighbor, sending up prayers of confession and pleas for help, or even cleaning a spill in the refrigerator. Each small act of faithfulness begins to fill my soul, much like the first bite each morning begins to fill my stomach.

Best and Dearest Friend

I am hardly alone in my loneliness. About one in four adults across the world suffers from a similar hunger. Bankrupt of any long-term solutions, the world suggests increased human interactions to alleviate the suffering. But for all our digital connectedness, the loneliness epidemic persists and grows.

Only in Jesus do we find a solution to the growing problem. He offers the hunger-suppressing plan of faithful obedience. But he also offers so much more. Jesus offers the presence of a sympathetic friend. If, as C.S. Lewis observes, friendship begins when one person says to another, “What! You too? I thought I was the only one” (The Four Loves, 78), then in Jesus we find the best and dearest friend. He fully “sympathize[s] with our weaknesses” and has experienced the pain of their accompanying temptations, “yet without sin” (Hebrews 4:14–16).

Acquainted with Loneliness

Jesus is a friend who, just like us, is intimately acquainted with hunger, thirst, exhaustion, and, yes, even loneliness.

Has anyone been more misunderstood than Jesus, whose divine proclamations of truth were met with ignorance and doubt? “We brought no bread” (Matthew 16:7). “He is out of his mind” (Mark 3:21). Who can forget the derision of his fellow Galileans after he authoritatively taught and powerfully performed miracles among them? “Is not this the carpenter’s son?” (Matthew 13:55). How about Peter’s brazen rebuke when Jesus revealed the wisdom of God’s salvation plan? “This shall never happen!” (Matthew 16:22).

Has anyone been more alone than Jesus, who “set his face to go to Jerusalem” (Luke 9:51)? While his friends and brothers carried on with their lives, he single-mindedly pursued the task his Father had given him. He wasn’t granted the gift of human marriage or children or property, as so many others had been. Instead, his was the lonely path to Golgotha. Who has been more alone than the one who, in his greatest hour of need, fell on his face, prayed, wept, and bled, only to find those dearest to him sleeping, unable to help shoulder his burden? “Could you not watch with me [for] one hour”?! (Matthew 26:40).

Has anyone endured more hatred than Jesus, whose bloodied body and anguished cries from the cross provoked the jeering of the violent mob who had gathered to satisfy their bloodlust? There, Jesus endured the lonely lash of public mockery: “He saved others; he cannot save himself. . . . Let God deliver him now, if he desires him. For he said, ‘I am the Son of God’” (Matthew 27:41–43).

Nor was Jesus a stranger to the loneliness of bereavement, likely having mourned his (adopted) father Joseph’s death. Matthew 14:13 also records his withdrawal “to a desolate place” after hearing the news of his cousin John’s beheading in prison. See his lament over the coming judgment on Jerusalem or his tears at the tomb of Lazarus (Matthew 23:37–24:2; John 11:33–36). Jesus knew and grieved the separation of death.

Misunderstood by family and friends, rejected by his countrymen, despised by the religious leaders, forsaken and betrayed by his disciples, Jesus understood loneliness. No one was more of an outsider, and no one could be more of a friend. To our own lonely hearts, the ever-present Jesus whispers the comforting words, “Me too. You are not alone.”

Glorious Through Loneliness

But more than offering the presence of a friend in loneliness, and more than offering a plan for alleviating the loneliness, Jesus offers purpose to the suffering of loneliness. If Jesus was perfected through suffering (Hebrews 2:10), will we not also be perfected through our own suffering? Loneliness is another of those “various trials” that may grieve us throughout our lives (1 Peter 1:6). But as we embrace the affliction, as we resist the temptations it brings, and as we pursue joy by faithfully doing the work God has given us, our faith is refined like gold, becoming more and more precious as the impurities melt away (1 Peter 1:7).

One of the purposes of loneliness — and indeed, one of the main purposes for every kind of suffering — is for God to make us glorious through it. And as we all in varying degrees share the sufferings of Jesus, so shall we also share in his glory.

Not Alone

Maybe yours is the loneliness of bereavement, or of being the outsider, or of being misunderstood or cynically judged. Maybe your life circumstances distinguish you, though not in the way you would prefer. Maybe you endure chronic snubbing in your neighborhood or chronic ridicule at school for being a Christian. Whatever the nature of your suffering, take heart, lonely soul! You are not alone. Jesus is with you.

Feast, as he did, on the “food” God has given you to eat. Be filled with “the peaceful fruit of righteousness” that enduring loneliness produces in this life (Hebrews 12:11). And wait in the company of your dearest friend for the coming glory, where his faithfulness has earned for you a share of his inheritance (Romans 8:17).

O Sacred Head, Now Wounded

If you arrive at Holy Week wishing you had spent more time preparing for and meditating on the saving work of Christ, you’ll benefit significantly from the devotional book O Sacred Head, Now Wounded: A Liturgy for Daily Worship from Pascha to Pentecost. This rich collection of daily readings will greatly enhance your quiet time in prayer and help you fully experience the most significant event in human history.

Alistair Begg on the Providence of God

Dear Friend,
A few days ago, I awoke with the lyrics of a seldom-sung hymn, “Though Troubles Assail,” at the forefront of my mind. Hymns are a frequent companion, and relevant lyrics often rise to the surface without much conscious thought.

Order, Preparation, and the Spirit’s Leading

Believing that God moves in spontaneous ways is not unbiblical or sinful, but I think it has been overemphasized. The Spirit cannot be manipulated or placed under constraints (John 3:8), but a mark of the Spirit is that He works in an orderly fashion through means. He is the third person of the Godhead, meaning that whatever we see of God, we see of His Spirit. And if God is not a God of confusion, then we should expect for Him to most normally work through the orderly means of planning and preparation.

“Could you see how well that guy followed his outline? That dude was clearly in the Spirit!”
No one ever

Have you ever heard someone say that? I haven’t. Or what about this one? “That dude was really in the Spirit. Did you see how well-practiced the worship team was?” Normally, when you hear of someone being “led by the Spirit,” it is because that person was being spontaneous or bold or animated or loud. And where there is biblical precedence for the Spirit producing spontaneity (Luke 12:11-12) and boldness (Acts 4:31), I want to try to help balance the scales a bit on what “Spirit-led” preaching and worship can look like.
Spirit-Led Preaching
I often hear of preparation and planning for sermons in this way: “You want to prepare and plan your sermon out, but you need to leave room for the Spirit.” As I’ve already said, there is a place for willingness to be acted upon in the moment, but this type of language produces a false dichotomy between prayerful preparation and the Spirit’s leading. I want to push back here. Why is planning seen as non “Spirit-led”? This seems to be precisely the problem in the church at Corinth. They were really “spiritual” and had all kinds of things to prophesy about, but Paul tells them to stop the spontaneity and wait their turn (1 Cor 14:28). In other words, he wanted them to stop and think about it and carefully prophesy in order to help the church.
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The Order of Salvation: Faith

How is this faith, which has been gifted to me, strengthened? According to the Divines, I engage the means that God has appointed for its growth, the preaching of the word (the ordinary means by which faith is wrought), the administration of the sacraments, and prayer.  These are the means through which God is pleased to increase and strengthen faith that we might have an ever increasing sense of His abiding love and care for us.

Once the Spirit of the Lord has resurrected a dead sinner by the divine breath, life begins. This is the monergism that theologians reference in the work of regeneration. The dead sinner lives through God’s singular work. He initiated the life.  The spiritual cadaver is no longer cold and icy but is now oriented and animated toward God by grace alone. And as life comes so too does the fruit of life or conversion. Conversion is shorthand for faith and repentance. This article will deal with the former and it will do so by following the three sections of chapter fourteen of the Westminster Confession of Faith.
The Origin of Faith
Here the Divines want us to make no mistake. Faith does not originate with us. Faith is a “grace” whereby the person is “enabled to believe” and that “to the saving of their souls” because it is the “work of the Spirit” in the heart of the believer. The thread that is sown through this first paragraph leaves us with no doubt as to the origin of belief. Believing begins with God. However, we should not make the opposite mistake and so believe that faith is God’s activity.  In other words, though God enables faith, He does not do the believing for us.
The Nature of Faith
This brings us to the nature of faith. The second section of the Confession tells us that a believer believes whatsoever is in the Word.
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Letters to Stagnant Christians #12: The Paralysis of Analysis

Plenty of Christians have found deeply satisfying and intellectually sophisticated answers to questions that troubled them. But they always found them because they were walking with God at the time, moving in His direction, obeying what they already knew, while waiting on Him to teach them further. The man refusing to budge until he gets answers is really the child with a folded-arms sulky posture: demanding God give an account to him of the secrets of the universe or he’ll refuse to come along. The book of Job answers the man demanding explanations by saying that the answers are a lot more than you could comprehend. Trust and submit to what you do understand, and do not presume that you could squeeze the ocean of God’s ways into the the 2 litre bottle of your own intellect.

Dear Jeremy,
It’s always enjoyable to spend time discussing theology with someone like you. You have a very fertile imagination and a robust logic, which combine for stimulating conversation.
Your strength is also your Achilles heel. It is your intellectual aptitude that is your enemy when it comes to the things of faith. You are one of those Christians who gets “stuck in his head”, and hopes to think his way out of the problem. When he can’t, he assumes the only explanation must be that Christianity is faulty (for if it were not, his brilliance would have solved the mental conundrum, right?).
We call this the paralysis of analysis: the Christian who becomes immobile in his devotion, commitment, or even Christian relationships, because he has to “solve” the problem in his mind first. The problem can be of many kinds: how does Christian growth happen, how does prayer really work, how does God’s sovereignty correspond with human choice, how does God’s foreknowledge work with human sinfulness, why does evil exist in a world made by God, why are there so many religions, what happens to those who have not heard the Gospel, could there really be an eternal hell, or many other questions.
Now most thinking Christians face and tackle these questions in some form and at some point in their lives. The difference between them and you is that other Christians integrate these questions into the broader experience of being a Christian. The Christian experience is more than a mental, cerebral experience of problem-solving: it is a life of loving, obeying, serving, and worshipping. In your case, however, these questions become like errors in an equation that must be solved before proceeding one step further. You become fixated on them, chase them around and around, and become quite despondent if you are unable to resolve them in your head.
What you cannot see is that it is quite arrogant to reduce the Christian life, and indeed all of life, into mental events taking place inside your head. While you chase these questions as if all of life depended on it, there are all kinds needs around you: people needing to be loved, served, and helped. And you cannot see that while you magnify these questions into all-consuming dilemmas, you are being quite lazy, neglectful, and irresponsible in other areas.
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4 Biblical Reasons I Rejected Evolution

When God looked upon the plant and animal life that He created, He saw that they were good. Good creatures do not need drastic evolutionary improvement. Furthermore, creatures that God made and called “good” do not mutate because of broken genetics, and they certainly do not die. Therefore, the Bible rejects the possibility, the assumed necessity, and the proposed means of Evolution. And so must we.

As a freshman biology major, I needed no convincing of the Theory of Evolution. Raised on the Discovery Channel and Bill Nye the Science Guy, I’d been an Evolution evangelist for years. But by the end of my first year in college, I rejected the Theory I once loved. My grounds were scientific in nature.
I had realized that the untestable Theory runs afoul of the scientific method, is built upon the inexplicable singularity of the spontaneous generation of matter, energy, life, and all natural laws, it violates Newton’s second law of thermodynamics concerning total entropy of a system (i.e., chaos does not tend toward complexity), and the vaunted fossil record for human Evolution is as much plaster as it is fossil and could fit into the trunk of a Honda Civic. But years later, I was confronted by even better, biblical reasons to eject evolution.
1. The Span of Creation
Evolutionists claim that life on Earth descended from a single-celled, self-replicating organism via naturally selected, random mutations which were passed down from generation to generation leading to ever-increasingly complex organisms. How long does something like that take? In his Origin of Species, Charles Darwin, the father of Evolution, suggested that this process has been running strong for “an almost infinite number of generations.” His initial suggestion, hundreds of millions of years, has since ballooned to the current scientific consensus of about four-to-five billion years.
But the Bible presents a very different timeline: “in six days the LORD made heaven and earth, the sea, and all that is in them, and rested on the seventh day” (Ex. 20:11). There are compelling reasons to understand the six days of creation as literal, 24-hour days.
First, the record of God’s work of creation in Genesis 1 and 2 bears the linguistic, Hebrew hallmarks of historical narrative.[1]
Second, the plain reading of the text begs for a literal interpretation. Consider Genesis 1:5, “God called the light Day, and the darkness he called Night. And there was evening and there was morning, the first day.” We find that same formulation five more times in Genesis 1. What could Moses have said to more clearly describe a literal day?
Third, while the Hebrew word yom or “day” sometimes refers to an unspecified period of time, whenever it is qualified by an ordinal number (i.e., “first,” “second,” etc.) its meaning is always literal.[2]
Fourth, and most significantly, every other mention of the creation account in the Bible refers to a literal event as recorded by Moses. So, even if evolution could occur within five billion years (which it could not), the Bible does not allow for that span of time.
2. The Kinds of Creation
In 1831, Charles Darwin began his five-year expedition aboard the British Royal Navy survey ship HMS Beagle. In the Galapagos Islands, he noticed slight variations between species of finches on different islands. He concluded that these various specimens must have descended from a common ancestor and changed over time to survive in their varied environments. Darwin applied his theory of change, or Evolution, to all life on Earth which, he speculated, must have descended from a common ancestor.
This hypothesis is incompatible with the biblical account of creation. Every living thing God made was created, “according to its kind.” This phrase is repeated ten times in Genesis 1. As God separated light and darkness, the waters above and below, and the sea and earth, he also built biological barriers of “kind” that govern all life on earth. Though He kindly endowed His creatures with the ability to adapt to suit their environments, no creature can transcend the Creator’s wall of kind. Cotton seeds bring forth cotton. Chickens emerge from chicken eggs. And people make people. Darwin’s Evolution is a lie designed to rob God of His glory by seeking to explain the brilliance, beauty, and biodiversity of His world without Him.
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How to Teach God’s Commands to Children Living in a Hostile Culture

Written by Amy K. Hall |
Friday, March 1, 2024
As with the exodus, the cross is proof that God is real and powerful. He moved history in exactly the way he promised (see Isaiah 53). He raised Jesus from the dead! More than that, if he was willing to give his own Son for our good, we can trust that he is for us. He loves us. The objective evidence of his love is right there on the cross, and we can argue for the cross with objective evidence.

In a society that’s hostile towards Christian morality, how should we go about teaching our children God’s commands so that they’ll desire to follow him rather than the culture surrounding and pressuring them?
Not a God of Blind Faith
The first thing to remember is this: Our God is not a God of blind faith. As our Creator, he knows we are beings who need reasons for what we do, beings who are rational and who love, beings who are motivated by a desire to seek our good and the good of our loved ones. Of course, our sin distorts these qualities, even at the best of times, and we can be deceived about what actually is good for us (see Eve). But at root, our rationality and our desire to pursue what’s good for us are both good aspects of our humanity that God repeatedly appealed to when revealing his commands to his people.
We see a clear example of this approach in Deuteronomy 6:20–25, where God instructs the Israelites as to what they should emphasize when teaching their children his commands:
When your son asks you in time to come, saying, “What do the testimonies and the statutes and the judgments mean which the Lord our God commanded you?” then you shall say to your son, “We were slaves to Pharaoh in Egypt, and the Lord brought us from Egypt with a mighty hand. Moreover, the Lord showed great and distressing signs and wonders before our eyes against Egypt, Pharaoh and all his household; He brought us out from there in order to bring us in, to give us the land which He had sworn to our fathers. So the Lord commanded us to observe all these statutes, to fear the Lord our God for our good always and for our survival, as it is today. It will be righteousness for us if we are careful to observe all this commandment before the Lord our God, just as He commanded us.”
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How to Get a Good Conscience

What Kind of Conscience Should We Desire?
Two kinds of conscience are desirable, and cannot be commended too highly.
A good honest conscience. Conscience is good in respect of its integrity when it gives a right judgement of everything according to the Word of God. I grant that the law of nature binds, ecclesiastical laws bind, and political laws bind, but the Word of God is the principal rule, which precisely binds the conscience, because of its author. “There is one law-giver, who is able to save and to destroy …” (James 4:12).
A good peaceable conscience. Conscience is good in respect of its peace when it excuses, absolves, and comforts as it should — that is, when it is pacified by the blood of Christ. There was once a dying man, and it is said that the devil appeared to him, and showed him a very long parchment, where his sins were written on both sides, and they were many. Three quarters of the words he had spoken in his life were idle words, and all his actions were classified according to the ten commandments. Satan said to the poor sick man, “Do you see this? Behold your virtues! See how you will be judged!” But the poor sinner answered, “It is true, Satan, but you have not included everything, for you should have added here below, The blood of Jesus Christ cleanseth us from all our sins, and you have also forgotten, Whosoever believeth in him shall not perish, but have everlasting life.”
Why do We Need a Good Conscience?
1. You cannot possibly get rid of your conscience, therefore be persuaded to get a good one. The unconverted do what they can to extinguish conscience. They flatter it with worldly reasoning, they bribe it with mock devotions, they wound it with heinous provocations, they scar it with habitual wickedness, they trample it underfoot by sinning in spite of it; they run away from it by diversions, and will not endure to hear it. Yet they can sooner turn their souls out of their bodies, than conscience out of their souls. Indeed, even amongst all these indignities, their conscience is as fresh and active as if it was not being abused in these ways. It is only waiting its opportunity to be heard, and then it will make what was done perhaps 40 years ago as if it had been but yesterday. A conscience you must have, and sooner or later it will do its job.
2. Your own conscience will be either your best friend or your greatest enemy (of all created things), to eternity. There’s no greater riches, no greater pleasure, no greater safety than a good conscience. However great may be the pressures of the body, the hurry of the world, or the intimidations of Satan, they can’t reach the conscience. A good conscience uniquely cheers the dying body, joyfully accompanies the departed soul to God, and triumphantly brings both soul and body to the tribunal to come. There’s no more profitable means, nor surer testimony, nor more eminent conveyer of eternal happiness than a good conscience. On the other hand, there is no greater torment than an evil conscience. Though its gentler checks may be disregarded, its louder clamours will make you tremble. What will you do, when conscience shall reproach you with your abuse of mercies, incorrigibleness under judgements, contempt of Christ, and hatred of holiness? If you can’t endure to hear what conscience has to say now, how will you endure it to eternity?
How Can We get a Good Conscience?
But how shall we get such good consciences? Here are some suggestions.
Count No Sin Small
Screw up your obedience to every command to the highest. Ferret out every sin to the most secret corruption. When you have set your watch against the first risings of sin, beware of the borders of sin.
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