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“You do not realize now what I am doing,
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but later you will understand.”
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~ Jesus
 
John 13:7
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As Jesus’ disciples did not understand what Jesus was doing, we also often do not understand what God is doing in our lives.  The following devotional thought, from Streams in the Desert, encourages me as I think about John 13:7. 
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In this life, we have an incomplete view of God’s dealings, seeing His plan only half finished and underdeveloped.  Yet once we stand in the magnificent temple of eternity, we will have the proper perspective and will see everything fitting gracefully together!    
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Imagine going to the mountains of Lebanon during the reign of Israel’s great king Solomon.  Can you see the majestic cedar?  It is the pride of all the other trees and has wrestled many years with the cold north winds!  The summer sun has loved to smile upon it, while the night has caused its soft leaves to glisten with drops of dew.  Birds have built their nests in its branches, and weary travelers and wandering shepherds have rested in its shade from the midday heat or taken shelter from the raging storms.  And suddenly we realize that this old inhabitant of the forest has been doomed to fall victim to the woodsman’s ax!  
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We watch as the ax makes its first gash on the cedar’s gnarled trunk.  Then we see its noble limbs stripped of their branches as the tree comes crashing to the ground.  We cry out against the wanton destruction of this “Tree of God,” as it is distinctively known, and express our anger over the demolition of this proud pillar in the forest temple of nature.  We are tempted to exclaim with the prophet Zechariah, “Wail, O pine tree, for the cedar has fallen …!” (Zech. 11:2), as if inviting the sympathy of every less-majestic plant and invoking inanimate things to also resent the offense.       
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We should not be so quick to complain but should follow the gigantic tree as the workmen of “Hiram king of Tyre” (2 Chron. 2:3) take it down the mountainside.  From there we should watch it being sailed on rafts along the blue water of the Mediterranean.  And finally, we should behold it being placed as a glorious and polished beam in the temple of God.  As you contemplate its final destination, seeing it in the Holy of Holies as a jewel in the diadem of the almighty King, can you honestly complain that this “crown jewel of Lebanon” was cut down, removed from the forest, and placed in such a noble setting?  The cedar had once stood majestically in nature’s sanctuary, but the “glory of this present house will be greater than the glory of the former house” (Haggai 2:9).
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So many people are like these cedars of old!  God’s axes of trials have stripped them bare and yet we can see no reason for such harsh and difficult circumstances.  But God has a noble goal and purpose in mind: to place them as everlasting pillars in His heavenly Zion.  And he says to them, “You will be a crown of splendor in the Lord’s hand, a royal diadem in the hand of your God” (Isaiah 62:3).  J.R. Macduff
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Pastor Saeed has been moved from a prison cell to a hospital room.
Please continue to pray that he will be released,
and free to return home to his family.
 

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“I was in prison

and

you came to visit me.”

— Jesus

Matthew 25:36

 

I am dedicating this Lenten season to three Americans who are wrongly imprisoned in Iran: Pastor Saeed Abedini, Amir Hekmati (former marine), and Bob Levinson (former FBI agent).  I wrote about them in February, so please see that blog post for more details about this crisis. 

Unfortunately, we can’t go to visit them, but we can make “virtual visits.”  Let me explain: I can picture thousands of us praying for these men during Lent and asking angels to attend and minister to their needs.  As angels took care of Jesus in the wilderness and in the Garden of Gethsemane, we can ask for angels to care for all three men.  Angels delivered Peter from prison!  Along with praying, each time we do something for them — write a letter on their behalf, post information about them on social media, or make a donation, that too is a “virtual visit”.  

Prayer requests for Pastor Saeed Abedini, Amir Hekmati, Bob Levinson:

    – Quick release

    – Angels will be present and comfort them

    – Good health

    – Favor with the guards and other prisoners

    – Comfort for their families

    – Great sleep and peaceful dreams

    – Enough food and water

    – Provision for all needs and their families needs

 

Let’s commit to praying for Pastor Saeed,

Amir Hekmati, and Bob Levinson,

 every day during Lent.

 

An angel from heaven appeared to him

and strengthened him. Luke 22:43

 

If you have already made a commitment for Lent, please consider including this Lent request. 

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I will not forget you!
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See I have engraved you
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On the palms of my hands …
 
Isaiah 49:15-16
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“You are precious and honored in my sight.
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I love you. For I am the Lord, your God, who
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takes hold of your right hand and says to
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you, Do not fear, I will help you.  I will
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strengthen you.  I have called you by name
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and you are mine.  I will not forget you!  See
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I have engraved you on the palms of my
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hands.  Never will I leave you.  Never will I
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forsake you.”  — God
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Dedicated to Pastor Saeed and his wife Naghmeh

“Because he love me,” says the Lord,

“I will rescue him.” Psalm 91:14

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Help me, for I am being
persecuted without cause.
Psalm 119:86
 
A plea to help the church in Egypt
 
If one hundred American churches were burned to the ground, those of us who live in the U.S.A. would want Christians in other parts of the world to notice and care. There was little public outrage for 101 churches and many homes that were burned and attacked in Egypt in August of 2013.  Most of the people I have asked about these events had minimal knowledge of this tragedy.  I only knew about it because I heard a man from The Bible Society of Egypt speak at church last Sunday.  Here is a news story with more details about what occurred:  
 

Massive riots in Egypt in mid-August left behind more than 800 dead, and at least 4,000 were injured, as Egyptian police and soldiers clashed with demonstrators. Unfortunately, supporters of jailed Egyptian President Mohammad Morsi also vented their wrath at the country’s Christian minority, in what activists described as “the worst coordinated attacks on Egypt’s Coptic community in modern history.”

Even Associated Press, which isn’t considered a pro-Christian news outlet, reported on the extent of the assaults.

“In the four days since security forces cleared two sit-in camps by supporters of Egypt’s ousted president, Islamists have attacked dozens of Coptic churches along with homes and businesses owned by the Christian minority,” reported AP. “Nearly 40 churches have been looted and torched, while 23 others have been attacked and heavily damaged since Wednesday [August 14].”

A more detailed report lists 56 churches attacked in a 24-hour span that started on August 14. Fifteen more were hit over the next two days. Dozens of Coptic institutions like schools, monasteries, bookstores, and even an orphanage were also attacked.

The Bible Society of Egypt has been operating for 129 years, and this is the first time it’s been the victim of assaults like those carried out on two of its bookstores. Both were burned to the ground.

On August 18, AFP talked with Dr. Halim Meawad, a deacon for 26 years with St. Mark Coptic Orthodox Church, the largest Coptic church in the Washington, D.C. area.

“St. Mark was the founder of the Coptic Church in 45 A.D.,” Meawad explained. “All of Egypt was Coptic for almost a thousand years until the Muslims invaded and started imposing heavy taxes on the Christians. Those who couldn’t pay were forced to convert to Islam under pain of death. Today’s Muslims in Egypt are descendants of Copts who couldn’t pay their taxes hundreds of years ago.”

“The Copts today are only 10% of Egypt’s population of 90 million,” said Dr. Meawad, “but they have much economic and social influence in Egypt. They are the largest Christian community in Egypt and also the largest in all the Middle East.”

Asked what brought about the recent riots and the attacks on Copts, he explained:

“Since its founding in 1929, the Muslim Brotherhood has been involved in assassinations, arson, and terrorism, with the single goal of making Egypt an Islamist republic. They co-opted the Egyptian revolution of 2011, which was a genuine grassroots movement against [former Egyptian President Hosni] Mubarak’s tyranny. Shortly after Morsi came to power last year, he started changing the constitution to give himself and the Muslim Brotherhood unlimited power. Millions of Egyptians, including moderate Muslims, secularists, liberals, and Christians, protested against his government last November, but he continued with his goal of turning Egypt into an Islamic republic. On June 30, 33 million Egyptians demonstrated against him in what was probably the biggest demonstration in history, causing his ousting on July 3.”

“The Copts were attacked because as Christians, they were a convenient scapegoat for the Brotherhood,” explained Dr. Meawad.

“Since Morsi’s ousting, his supporters set up camps on town squares and refused to leave,” said Meawad. “They were blaming the Copts for Morsi’s downfall and had already started threatening and attacking us. The sheer scale of the recent attacks against us proves that they were orchestrated rather than a byproduct of chaotic unrest.”

“Neither the Copts nor the military are responsible for Morsi’s ouster,” Dr. Meawad explained. “The Egyptian people simply did not want him. Morsi was elected with only 14 million votes last year, but 33 million Egyptians in the streets on June 30 told him they didn’t want him.”

Thank you, Pete, very much for getting our voice heard out there.  We definitely need as much spreading the word about the atrocities our fellow Copts are enduring as possible.  Sadly, from the day you have reached out to us [August 18, 2013] till today [September 1, 2013], a total of 101 churches have been burned down/attacked. 

  –St. Mark Coptic Orthodox Church  

For the full news story, click here. 

According to the man I heard speak from The Bible Society of Egypt, those who started the fire did so with the intent that the Christians would retaliate and cause the country to be thrown into a civil war.  He reported that there was no retaliation!  They considered their churches being burned as a burnt offering to God, and they choose the path of peace. 

So what can we do in response to the persecution the church in Egypt has faced?  November 10, 2013 is the International Day of Prayer for the persecuted church.  Joining together with Christians around the world to pray for those being persecuted is a great place to start.  We can also contribute to The Bible Society of Egypt.
 
The Bible Society of Egypt exists to make the Scriptures available to all at an affordable price.  They are the largest publisher of Arabic Bibles in the world.
 
Please share this information with your family and friends.  For more information about the International Day of Prayer for the persecuted church, click here. 
 

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