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Archive for May, 2010

 

Part one-   https://blesseddad.wordpress.com/2010/04/11/maryam-and-marzieh/

You have now departed Iranian airspace, the pilot announced over the onboard PA system, I look over at Marzieh and tears cloud her eyes. She is crying bittersweet tears, tears mixed with joy and sadness all at the same time. Happiness that we no longer have to worry about being hung in a public execution in Tehran, of not having to fear carrying a Bible in her pocket, of being able to profess our faith. The sadness comes from leaving our families behind in the home we grew up in. No matter how jaded and hateful our country is, it is and always will be home.

As the jet powers on into the night, we realize that just one year ago today, we were imprisoned in Evin prison, charged with being Apostates, a crime punishable by death. Many times over the past fourteen months, we were certain that death by execution lurked around the corner. During the beatings we endured regularly at the hands of our captors, we never knew when our time would be up. When we faced the judge in court and were ordered to recant our belief and call out to Allah for forgiveness, we refused and instead professed our love for Jesus. We were even told that unless we recanted, the death penalty would be ours. Our country, which strictly enforces Islamic law is not tolerant in the least towards Christians. The guards at Evin prison would profess Allah out of one side of their mouth and curse and rape Christians out of the other, as Christians are considered less than dogs.

We had prepared ourselves for death at the hands of our government, as there was no way we would recant our faith. But then people began to pray for us, people all over the world heard our story. Miracles began to happen back in prison, we both became deathly ill in prison, yet God saw us through. We were threatened by judges, but they never came through, we were beaten but never killed. Our guard was a follower of Christ and smuggled a Bible in to us. One day, we were walked out and thought we were being led to our execution, but instead were led out of the front gate, then the gate was closed behind us. We were released without notice or explanation, but the charges of apostasy remained. Then in May we went back into court to face the standing charges, and were acquitted, now explain that logically. There is no logical explanation, many refusals to recant Christianity, paying homage to Jesus Christ in their court, and just being a very intolerant people anyway, we should have been hung according to logic.

God does not work logically though, at least he didn’t when David was in the lion’s den, He didn’t work logically when Samson tore the lion in half with his bare hands, when David faced Goliath, and He didn’t work logically when dealing with us either. Marzieh and I have put a lot of thought into it, and have concluded that God must really have a big task in store for us, so we are committed to spreading his work wherever we go.

As our plane flies us off into a safer yet uncertain future we have a renewed hope for what lies ahead in this world. Wherever we wind up, we will spread the Word of God boldly without fear of persecution, we have already stared death in the face many times and been delivered. Our time will not come until the task God has in store for us is completed. Please pray for us to be effective tools in spreading Gods kingdom here on earth and continue to pray for the persecuted church worldwide.

God Bless and Keep You All-Always

JFT

This story was written based on factual information on the incarceration and release of Maryam and Marzieh in Iran

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The gladiator enters the arena with his armor on, sword and shield in hand as the crowd cheers him on to meet his opponent. As he walks into battle, in the places where his flesh is exposed he shows the scars of many battles from the past, times when he faced near death attacks, times when the physicians didn’t think he was going to pull through, but he did, because he is a survivor. He wears the scars he has like a highly decorated soldier wears the medals he has been awarded. His scars also show something else, they show that this guy is tough, you are going to have to really give it your all if you are in battle against this guy. His opponent enters the ring on the other side, he is well built and has the finely sculpted muscle of a man who works hard to be strong, yet he has not one scar, he has a tan, but he has no scars. He is young, and as he walks into the arena, he has a cockiness in his step, he feels superior to this older fighter with all the scars, who is clearly beyond his prime and has no doubt the old man will be begging for mercy at the tip of his sword soon. Little does he know, he has just made the biggest mistake of his young and soon to be ending life.

My friend Mike who is a few years younger than me (just six) was an Iraq war vet, he made captain in the army. When we are talking about the times he was serving, he will be happy to show you the scar in his right shoulder where an Iraqi ran him through with a bayonet mounted on the end of an AK-47. Mike doesn’t like to finish the story because it didn’t end well for the Iraqi, but he is proud of the scar, as it represents that he survived a potentially fatal encounter, he made it through the storm.

Scars are something we all have, I have scars from falls I took hiking, motorcycle wrecks, and mishaps with carpet knives, and the older I get, the more pile up. But there are also other types of scars, there are psychological, emotional, and Spiritual scars as well. We don’t like to call them scars though, scars sound too raw for us, so we think of something else that is less severe, baggage.

I was abused as a child, I have been divorced, twice, three times, I can’t seem to find the career that suits me, I can’t hold a job, My parents didn’t love me, My husband beat me, all of these are scars. I was divorced fourteen years ago, and as a single father of three girls, I was trying to survive the heartbreak of the divorce, and made all of the classic mistakes people make when this happens. I dated too early for my own good, which compounded problems, I searched in all the wrong places to try to find peace and stop the hurt which only left more scars. Once when I was talking to a co-worker about a gal I had just started dating and how I really liked her, he turned to me and said in a sympathetic voice, “don’t get too attached, you do have a lot of baggage”, Wow.

I began to feel self conscious about my scars, probably because they were still healing, and I was not yet done bleeding.

Things are different these days, that gal became my wife and we are about to hit ten years, and guess what, she has scars too. She has scars from battle that actually rival mine, but we don’t mask them as baggage anymore, they are battle wounds after all and they were earned in the arena of hard knocks. When the young gladiator wants to know the best way to handle a sword or shield, who is he going to go to, the young tanned scar less manicured guy with the shiny armor sitting in the corner, or the scarred up old guy with the dented up armor who couldn’t give a rip about his tan?

Scars enable us to teach, and by teaching help others to know the way to avoid making fatal mistakes that many have made and not survived. Scars are your resume’ , your validation, so let’s stop being self conscious about them and wear them openly, we earned them fair and square. The God who has seen us through every battle we have survived, has guided us through our darkest nights, and given us peace in the storm expects you to wear those scars as a testament to His guidance in our lives.

God Bless and Keep You-Always

JFT

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“Drawing Heaven”

I saw this a couple of months ago, and the story stuck with me. It is amazing how God works in our world!

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I am walking along the ocean in northern California, it is very beautiful. There is a nice path along the top of the ocean cliffs that you can walk along and look down at the waves crashing onto the rocks below. There are sea lions sprawling on the sandy beach, what a view.  I am with my best friend, my wife as we stroll along and watch the waves roll in. When the waves crash against the rocks it sounds like thunder it is so loud, but the sound also is pleasing in its awesome power. The ocean is probably three hundred feet below us, so while we walk, we also stay far enough from the edge to make sure there is no chance of an accident, because a slip from this cliff would be certain death.

There are many others on the path with us, a young woman jogs by in a running suit focused on her workout. An older couple perhaps in their seventies pass by us with a little tiny dog on a leash. An Asian family speaking a language I do not understand point out at sea, excited about something I can’t identify. As I watch the young Asian man get too close for comfort to the edge, I feel chills going up my spine. He goes right to the edge, turns around facing the rest in his party and poses for a picture. Just then, the ground on the edge begins to give way beneath his feet. I lunge in his direction and reach out and grab his hand, and then the strangest thing happens. Time stops, everything freezes, everything that is but me.

My wife is frozen in place, the young Asian man with the look of horror on his face as he is sliding backwards off of the cliff, also frozen and no longer sliding although I continue to hold onto him anyway. I look around and everyone within sight is frozen also, except a nicely dressed man with kind eyes who is walking toward me smiling. I have never seen him before, but he looks vaguely familiar for some reason. He calls my name, and smiles warmly at me as he says it is my “lucky day”. I stand there holding the young mans hand with a puzzled look on my face for sure. He extends his hand to shake my right hand and I tell him I am a bit busy with that hand at the time, and I awkwardly shake instead with my left. He smiles again and says “that’s what I want to talk to you about”.

He introduces himself as Damien and reaches inside his jacket to produce a nine by twelve manila envelope. Damien tells me there is fifty thousand dollars cash in this envelope that is mine for the taking, no strings attached. Just take the money and walk away, and I don’t have to sell my soul to the devil or anything, I can still go to Heaven. The only catch, I must accept it with my right hand. It will not be offered to my left hand, only to the right hand, and I must let go of the young Asian mans hand to receive it. “Are you insane” I say, this boy will die if I do that. Damien just smiles warmly again and says, “Well, if you want to make an omelet, you have to break a few eggs”. I know there is a look of disgust on my face as I say no way, then Damien says, “What about half a million?” I look in his hand now and the envelope is gone and he now holds a bulging gym bag. I still shake my head and tell this creep to beat it, then he says “what about that then” and points off to his right to a wheel barrow overflowing with cash. Fifteen million, and you can keep the wheel barrow too! I have to say, it did enter my mind for the briefest moment, “what if”. But I still shook my head and said no. Before I knew what had happened, Damien is gone and I feel the weight of the young man on my arm again as everyone comes back to life. I reeled him in, and he hugged me for being there and pulling him in, rattling off in his tongue as I just smiled and nodded (no clue what he was saying).

Right now, you are probably saying “Jim, where are you going with this, that could NEVER happen like that. But is does, all the time. As the owner of a business if you hold back on sharing your faith with a customer for fear of losing their business, you have met Damien. If you hold back on sharing your faith at work because your employee handbook states that you are not allowed to talk about your religious beliefs to co-workers, and if you do it is punishable by termination, you have met Damien. If a Supervisor, Owner, Forman, Manager or someone else tells you that you will be fired for talking about God, and it causes you to stop, you have met Damien. He is a destroyer and he is alive and well today, enticing us with salaries, commissions, and worldly job security if we will only shut up. If we do, then he has won.

Matthew 10:32-33

“Whoever acknowledges me before men, I will also acknowledge him before my Father in heaven. But whoever disowns me before men, I will disown him before my Father in heaven.

God Bless and Keep You-Always

JFT

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It is funny how when you ask God to allow the Holy Spirit to guide you in ALL you do, to be given over to His will in everything, how He actually responds by doing so, and changing little things, like your thought processes. He will place certain things on your heart that if you didn’t know their origin, you would be confused. This website is the product of the Spirit leading, as are the words in it. A word that has been on my heart for months now is this, Sanctification, or sanctify. I felt the Holy Spirit whispering that word onto my heart several months ago, and at first I did not know why, so I trusted that He would reveal the rest later and He has. First off, let’s just get the definition so we’re all on the same page.

Sanctification is an ancient concept widespread among religions that refers to anything blessed or set apart for special purposes, to the change brought about in a human believer. The word sanctification refers to the act or process of making sacred or setting apart as special. To sanctify is literally “to set apart for special use or purpose,” figuratively “to make holy or sacred,”

I feel that we as Christians have gone so far to the other end of the spectrum in knowing we are not saved by our works that we have forsaken even trying to be sanctified in Spirit to be holy and pleasing to God, claiming that an attempt to live right is a deed and not worthy of our time, as we are saved by Grace, right? Sanctification is a Spirit thing, not an outward thing, although if we are truly sanctified, it will be visible outwardly. Consider these scriptures,

1 Corinthians 1:1-3  1Paul, called to be an apostle of Christ Jesus by the will of God, and our brother Sosthenes,  2To the church of God in Corinth, to those sanctified in Christ Jesus and called to be holy, together with all those everywhere who call on the name of our Lord Jesus Christ—their Lord and ours:  3Grace and peace to you from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.

In the Muslim religion, they take time out of their schedule no matter where they are to pray to their false god five times a day, most of them even carry a prayer mat, and go a step beyond kneeling, and will kneel prostrate while praying. They go so far to the other end of the pendulum that they dress their women in tents that they will not show their beauty to anyone else, and even in my country, the muslim women are evident by their dress. And these people are the enemy of Christ, they wake daily with the goal of extinguishing our Lord and Savior from this earth, yet they are devout.

In being sanctified, we need to challenge long held beliefs, especially in America and the western world. Is what we put into our body causing us to sin, or others to stumble? Is what comes out of our mouth causing us to sin or others to stumble? Do the clothes we wear, the music we listen to, the places we go, our spending habits, our anger or lack of forgiveness, our worldly ambition, or sexual lusts cause us to sin, or others to stumble? If the answer is yes to any of the above, then the kind and loving Holy Spirit that lives within you can help. Call on Him to take over your life and put you where He wants you, to guide you in all you do. There are only two possible rudders that will steer your life, You or the Spirit (God) and if You are in charge, then God is not in charge, and if God is not in charge, then satan is in charge.

If you feel that you have one leg over each side of the fence, that you are halfway there, then you have bought into the lie that satan uses, the truth is, there is no fence. You are either with God or you are with satan, no middle ground. We are at war brothers and sisters, the time of mediocrity has come and gone, and if you do not know for whom you stand, you will be cast into the fire with the chaff. So gird yourselves with the Holy Spirit, set aside time daily to commune with the Lord privately. Put some thought into how you dress, are you causing others to sin? Put some thought into everything and whether something is accepted by society or not, question it anyway. If it doesn’t feel right, it isn’t. Sanctify yourselves, the battle is coming, are you ready?

God Bless and Keep You-Always

JFT

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As a man who was newly married, and trying to become established in a career of some sort at age twenty one, when the opportunity to move on to something better came along, I was on it. The year was 1985, I was working in a heavy shipping environment back then, and used my back for a living. I worked nights, and was paid pretty well, so when an opportunity to have a day job came along, with just a slight pay cut, I was on it.

My brother in law was working in the trucking industry, and there was a shortage of drivers, and he was willing to help me out and grease the wheels for me to get in on the fast track, if I was interested, of course. A young man, good money, day job, big company, show me where to sign. My in-law took me to meet a man, not at his office, but at his home, where we sat casually in his living room and discussed what would be expected of me. It felt odd, but this was all new to me, so I just went with it, after all, it worked for my in-law right. Since it was a union job, there were procedures that needed to be followed, so it was very important we followed them to a tee. I was told to go to the union hall, give my name at a front counter, and go have a seat in the waiting area. My name would be called, at which time I would be given a union referral and be sent back to my mew place of employment.

I followed the instructions, went to the union hall, and was surprised to walk in and find a room full of older men, you could tell they were seasoned and salty drivers, not wet behind the ears pups like me. I followed the protocol and put my name in, then went and sat down apart from the rest. They all looked at me with the same look as a dog who has been kicked one too many times, and you could read their thoughts. Here comes another product of the good old boy network, leap frogging over us again. I would later find out that it was not uncommon for them to sit in that same room for months at a time, waiting for a referral, their families suffering from their lack of work. All I knew is that I was NOT one of them, I was getting the special treatment, and it felt wrong.

The Job started out good enough, It was fun and enjoyable for a few months, but then one failure after another began to mount up, and within nine months, I was unemployed and looking for a job again. I was layed off the weekend my wife and I moved into our first purchased home. We would later learn she was pregnant with our first little girl, now thats stress.

God led me to a job that I had to work very hard to win, and as they say, the rest is history. I have been led where I needed to be since that time, and he has been good to me. The reason I bring all of this up, is because I was reading recently in the book of James 2: 1-5

 1My brothers, as believers in our glorious Lord Jesus Christ, don’t show favoritism. 2Suppose a man comes into your meeting wearing a gold ring and fine clothes, and a poor man in shabby clothes also comes in. 3If you show special attention to the man wearing fine clothes and say, “Here’s a good seat for you,” but say to the poor man, “You stand there” or “Sit on the floor by my feet,” 4have you not discriminated among yourselves and become judges with evil thoughts?

Do not be eager to take the shortcut to easy street, but go where God leads you, He has the benefit of knowing all, seeing all, and if something doesn’t feel right, it isn’t. That feeling is the Holy Spirit which lives within our soul ringing warning bells.

God Bless and Keep You-Always

JFT

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I pray every day for God to guide me where he wants me, and make straight paths for my feet, and for Him to put me somewhere that I may share the Gospel with at least one person, daily. I also pray daily that he will give me the words, these words, the words from the Spirit. When I began writing this blog daily I thought I probably would have the words for a couple of weeks, tops, at least that was Jim’s logic on the subject. But I felt compelled to write what the Spirit sent me anyway, so I thought well, I will write until the words are gone, and I have run dry. That has not happened, and I doubt it will. But I still get perturbed if the words do not come on my time schedule, after all, I have placed myself on a publishing deadline.

I always try to write a few of my posts on the weekend for the coming week. On some occasions, I will have them all written by midnight on Saturday, so all I have to do all week is publish them daily and focus on refilling my Spiritual cup daily by prayer, study, and reading “Your” blogs and answering your wonderful, challenging and encouraging comments. But then my old adversary “doubt” will begin to creep in, and my compass needle begins to swing. I will not have the words sometimes, and I will begin to think the Spirit has left me. This weekend at church I learned a very valuable lesson that pertains to this quandary. A lesson about faith.

One of our Pastors had his small nine year old daughter come up on stage and he began to ask her about faith, then he asked her to turn around, face the other way, and fall back. He asked her if she would do that, and with indecision in her voice, she said yes. As she waited, she nervously looked over her shoulder to make sure he was there. When he said to go ahead, she let herself fall backward into the safety of her daddy’s arms. It was touching to watch. He then asked her if she doubted he would catch her, she answered no.  He then asked her why, and she said because her daddy was always there for her, was always trustworthy and dependable, and has never let her down.

Our young Pastor then asked her to walk to the edge of the stage, which is at least five feet high or so, and do the same thing, fall backwards off of the stage into the void below. He told her there would be people there to catch her again, if she would again trust him. She was even more nervous this time, but she obeyed and trusted him, even though the thought was scary. Her father got a group of six from the congregation who stood ready to catch her when she fell from the stage. Once again, he asked her to just trust that he would make sure she was caught when she fell back into the void, and she allowed herself to fall off of the stage into the arms of her brothers and sisters in Christ.

Time and time again, God guides us and leads us to safety, or out of the storm, yet we always question His faithfulness. This lesson in faith at church this weekend hit me where it counts, and convicted me to the core. When we submit to the guiding of the Spirit, we don’t then place requirements on the Spirit for when we must go, where we must go, and deadlines for action. We must trust the Spirit to move when He feels it is time, and trust that He will lead us where we are meant to go.

God is faithful, God is true, He will use us as His vessel and He will be there in the void if we only have faith in Him. When He chooses to send the words, I will write them. When they are not here by the time I think they should be, then God is calling me to refine my patience. After all, He has never allowed me to fall off into the void, but has always caught me gently before the crash.

God Bless and Keep You-Always

JFT

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