Can Persecution be a Good Thing?

We are so  honored to be with you each day sharing hope. Our outreach has grown at a tremendous pace. We are averaging over 100 new subscribers a day. We just past 99,650 in followers. That’s because people are searching for hope and we provide it.

In our current promotion the winner will be the person who is the 100,000th subscriber will win some nice prizes. We are down to the last 350. It will go very fast. This is a huge milestone for us. 

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Doug Bolton, the founder of Signs of Hope, is writing  a new book, “Signs of Hope for the Military: In and Out of the Trenches of Life.” It reaches out the military and veterans who may be battling anxiety, fear, depression, addictions, rejections, PTSD, and many other usual suspects. There are 22 military connected suicides every day. That is almost one every hour. We need to help stop those statistics. Be looking for more details about the new book. Look for updates here.

UPDATE!!  In the final stages of having the book finished. Much of it is already sent off to my editor. The countdown begins!!

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We have a special guest blogger today. Taylor Wilkins ison staff for the Fellowship of Christian Athletes. FCA is reaching out to the local high schools in my area, and Taylor (with God) is the reason for all of its success. This post will show you why.

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Signs of Hope- The Honor of Persecution

“they have conquered him by the blood of the Lamb and by the word of their testimony, for they loved not their lives even unto death.” -Revelation 12:10-11

Have you ever been put down, persecuted, or physically abused for your belief?

I’m sure to some extent all of us have experienced this; but for most of us, we don’t consider persecution a blessing—At least not yet!

Throughout this past week God has been highlighting to me Persecution. In John 15:20 Jesus tells his followers; “no servant is greater than his master, if they persecuted me, they will persecute you also.” and again in John 16:33 Jesus says; “In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.” As I asked God to search me and show me the places in my life that need to grow, the fear of persecution has been revealed to me as a weakness. This is not good because this causes a compromise in my obedience to the Holy Spirit’s voice and leading in my walk with him.

The reason to fear persecution usually comes from a lack of understanding about the treasure behind it. Jesus says that blessed are you when you are persecuted for my names sake. Even when the world comes against us for our faith we are blessed by our father in heaven. The weight of being persecuted by man compared to being blessed by God is of no comparison, yet we often fear the latter!

It could be that what I’ve been describing above is resonating with you—or maybe you have been abused for things completely unrelated to faith. We live in a world that often tears people down better then it builds them up. Your story could be of broken trust, abuse, bullying, an affair, sexual abuse, or abusive parents. My heart breaks thinking of the terrible things that are happening to wonderful innocent people—and often the ones who can’t defend themselves. If your story of persecution is along these lines, I want you to know it is the glory of God to redeem that which was lost. God has been through everything with you and he will not let your tears fall to the ground unnoticed. He loves you, and He will redeem your life.

Today this is a Sign of Hope, that no matter the circumstance you are in, or the breakthrough you need, God is near to you and He has “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.”

Taylor Wilkins

Fellowship of Christian Athletes

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Remember:

You are never alone.

You are never forsaken.

You are never unloved.

And above all….never, ever, give up!

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A miracle in the Making

My fascination started at a historic old life-saving station on the Outer Banks of North Carolina. It was there I learned about the heroism of the crews who once manned those life-saving stations all along the maritime Atlantic coast. Their heroism actually gave birth to what we know today as the United States Coast Guard. Their motto says it all: “So others may live.”

Some of that modern-day heroism was portrayed in a recent movie called “The Guardian.” It’s a story about that elite group of 280 men and women known as rescue swimmers – the first responders who jump from choppers into violent seas to rescue people who would otherwise die there. Now in the movie, a veteran rescuer shows a film of a burning ship from which he helped to rescue some desperate crewmen. He frames the essence of their mission in these sobering words: “They’re looking for a miracle to save them. You have to find a way to be that miracle.”

Now, I can just imagine Jesus saying those words to me and to you about the people who are part of our lives day after day. “They’re looking for a miracle to save them, and you have to find a way to be that miracle.” Because they are, in God’s words from the Bible, “lost” (Luke 19:10), “condemned” (John 3:18), “those who are being led away to death” (Proverbs 24:16), and “without hope and without God in the world” (Ephesians 2:12).

The folks around you may not realize they’re dying spiritually. But they do know that something’s missing, that life isn’t working, that they don’t have personal peace, or that they are living as one writer said, “lives of quiet desperation.” They need a miracle to save them – they need a miracle with skin on. Someone close enough to rescue them from a life and an eternity without Christ. A spiritual rescuer who will take whatever risks necessary to bring them to the real Rescuer, Jesus Christ. They need you.

Just as another man in need of a miracle needed the people who could get him to Jesus. Their story is in Mark 2, beginning with verse 3, And in many ways, it’s your story and the story of someone you know who has never met Jesus. “Some men came, bringing to Him a paralytic, carried by four of them. Since they could not get him to Jesus, because of the crowd, they made an opening in the roof above Jesus and, after digging through it, lowered the mat the paralyzed man was on. When Jesus saw their faith, He said to the paralytic, ‘Son, your sins are forgiven.'” Later He told the paralyzed man to take up his mat and walk, and the miracle man “walked out in full view of them all.” But no life-changing miracle can happen unless someone cares enough about him to get him to Jesus. You know people like that, and you’ve been placed in their life to be God’s designated bringer. It starts when you ask God for the passion of those four, through-the-roof friends, “I’ve got to get him to Jesus whatever it takes.”

What does it mean to be their miracle? You pray daily for God to open up natural opportunities for you to talk about Jesus. Then you look for those opportunities as you go through your day. Don’t count on getting them to a meeting; you need to reach them where they are.

Use the power of your personal hope story to open their heart…your story of the difference that Jesus is making in your life. Most of all, pray every day by name for the lost people that God has planted around you. Yes, you’ll be afraid. Yes, there will be obstacles. Yes, it may take a lot of patience and perseverance. But lives are at stake – every bit as much as they are for those people going down in those stormy seas. They need a miracle to save them. Find a way to be that miracle!

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A Beautiful Life

Romans 12:17b

BE CAREFUL TO DO WHAT IS RIGHT IN THE EYES OF EVERYBODY

(Consider in advance what is right- – beautiful).

This is a command to live a “beautiful” life. We are called upon to be faithful in the sight of all men by living the kind of life that brings glory to the Lord. The life we live should be a thing of beauty to those who observe it and to the Lord, Who also sees every move we make. Nothing is more God honoring and beautiful than a faithful life!

One of the greatest compliments we could ever receive is being a man/woman of integrity. It’s a powerful testimony.

God calls us to be living sacrifices, if you are anything like me, you might be saying about now, “Okay, Lord, I am with you so far, but what does it look like to be a Living Sacrifice? What will it look like on Monday morning and what will it look like when I get home today?”

 The Apostle Paul knew what we were thinking when he wrote to this church in Rome! This is where the rubber meets the road. This is where the “LIVING” part of the sacrifice is revealed. We are not to be a dead sacrifice, which we would prefer, but a living, acting, being sacrifice!

Our testimony is to be a living sacrifice, one that points men to God, and for that to happen, we must always strive to do what is right by God and in so we will be seen as doing what is right in the eyes of men. Men may not listen to our words, but they do watch our actions, and how they see us may be how they interpret what we truly believe rather than our words do. You may be the only translation of a Bible they will read. We need to preplan our responses to situations and to life, we need to  show that which is visibly, outwardly, and tangibly good so that others may see God through us.

“Do right it in the eyes of everybody” that would include yourself, Not only should your testimony and actions be a light beacon, seen right in the eyes of others, but your testimony and actions should be such that you can live with yourself, as well.

A literal rendering of this verse could be, “stand for what is right in the sight of all.”  A true Christian should be known for their stand for godly choices.  There is an implication of spiritual integrity in this verse.  “In the sight of all” implies that this integrity is a visible characterization of your personality.  The maintenance of integrity is somewhat of a go no-go endeavor.  We consider a bridge to have integrity if it can hold the load for which it is designed.  It only takes a small flaw for the bridge to buckle and fall under its rated load. 

Likewise, there is no room for the acceptance of a small flaw in personal integrity, since when it becomes known before men, integrity no longer exists.  A love that is without hypocrisy is characterized by flawless personal integrity.  Such an individual is not going to be seen doing ungodly things in private, simply because those ungodly things are not done.  The implication here is not to hide our ungodliness.  The implication is to live a life that does not need to be hidden, but is rather visible to all people as one of honesty and integrity.

It is my conviction that we Christian must work harder and be more deliberate in cultivating an image of integrity and respect. Proverbs 22:1 says, “A good name is more desirable than great riches; to be esteemed is better than silver or gold.”

 Immediately after Pentecost, Luke tells us that the Christian believers enjoyed “the favor of all the people” (Acts 2:47). It should be our goal to be like Titus who was “praised by all the churches for his service to the gospel” (2 Corinthians 8:18) and Demetrius who was “well spoken of by everyone” (3 John 12).

A positive image in the community or within your circle of influence enhances your ability to accomplish your goals. It also provides a positive example to those who are learning to do what you are doing. We are urged to live good lives so others can see our good deeds and glorify God.

Whereas our good deeds do not determine our salvation, they may influence the salvation of others because whether or not a person comes to Christ is going to be determined by how attractive Christianity is to him. And the attractiveness of Christianity is directly Proportionate to the way the Christian faith is viewed by outsiders.

Maybe we haven’t been expressing true Biblical love in our lives, but we can start today!

One of Coach John Wooden’s favorite sayings is, “If you fail to prepare, you are preparing to fail.”  He had the most prepared team in the country.  His players would say that compared to his practices, the games were a breeze.  In what ways can you prepare yourself, so that when the time comes for you to respond to evil or insult, you will have the best chance to respond in a God-honoring manner?

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Must we Suffer to be Serving God?

It seems like it takes much pain before we realize that we need to turn to God for help. We try to handle life on our own, and we go 0-4 in the last game of the World Series, striking out all four times.

We never seemed to get the idea straight. Pain leads to joy. Suffering leads to peace.

Doesn’t make sense?

John Ortberg helped conduct a survey that asked thousands of people what had most contributed to their spiritual growth. The number one answer….. PAIN!

I am a living example of that. I have had six major surgeries. The most critical one was quadruple by-pass surgery. I have so many incisions in my body, I have to be careful when I drink water. It may run all over the floor.

However, each time I went in for yet another surgery, the doctors in every case said I was one of the most upbeat patients they had ever had. One doctor said I was even telling jokes while they implanted a pace maker in my chest.

How could I be so upbeat when I was getting ready to go under the blade?

The Apostle Paul said ti very nicely when he said, “You are going through these things so that you may sympathize with others who are afflicted.” (My paraphrase)

I have been able to do so much witnessing just because of my own afflictions. I am serving God more each time I have to be treated again.

I went to a birthday party last week, and one of the friends that showed up to the party was a guy I met at another function several months earlier. At that function he told me that he had just had by-pass surgery a week before. I told him how great he looked, and that I was going to be praying for him.

Later at the birthday party he couldn’t say enough good things to me because of that one little gesture. It had given him hope, and peace.

It was a simple thing. I didn’t try to come across overbearing. Just a supportive word or two to let him know I was thinking of him. The timing was perfect and it was what God had me say to help this man.

I have had many similar situations where I have been able to use my own afflictions to console someone who has gone through the same thing.

How about you? When you have had hard times through some kind of physical ailment how did you react? Did you have weekly pity parties and invite the whole neighborhood?

I hope you took each stumble in stride, and kept walking on the path God has put in for you. You can’t do much more than that. Besides your positive approach to each trial is a testimony in itself. Don’t let the pity bug bit you. Matthew 16: 21-23 says, “…self pity is of the devil…”

Stay strong and be a pillar for all of those people who need your support. By showing them your strength, they gain strength as well.

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