3 survival techniques when someone hurts you

Richard Wurmbrand, leader of the “Underground Church” in 20th Century Communist Europe, is well known, and not just to his own Romanian people. His life of Christian faith is an encouragement to all who are persecuted, to all who go through trials and tribulations of every kind. We can learn from his book, Tortured For Christ, 1967, Hayfield Publishing company.

Part #4 Three survival techniques when someone really hurts you.

Rev. D. Johns           Jan. 30//12

Thankfully I have not had to face persecution or physical pain like so many less fortunate than me. Current struggles around the world, and similar stories from history, reveal so much brutality – some of it beyond comprehension. Inhumanity numbs me, scares me. I am afraid of pain. Sure I have had people betray me, undercut my leadership, spread lies about me (yes, this is a reality even in churches) – but I have not faced war or torture.  Richard Wurmbrand spent 14 years in a communist prison. During that time he says the guards often wondered how the Christians could be happy in such terrible circumstances. Hunger and torture were daily realities. And the prisoners, likely emulating the Philippian prison posture of Paul and Silas (Acts 16), would often sing – only to be beaten even more fiercely. Here are three of Wurmbrand’s personal survival solutions.

  1. He meditated on Job. He says “I knew the end of the story!” God would restore, replenish, rebuild and reward. More than what was lost would eventually be replaced. In the middle of the trial I know it is difficult to believe this, but that is where faith comes into play. We will be stronger when it is all over.
  2. He envisioned the final destination of a Christian believer. A picture of a splendidly crowned saint in the holy and glorious presence of a raised and glorified Jesus was his motivation to never lose hope.
  3.  In the jailers who whipped us we saw the possibilities of the jailer of Philippi, who though first whipping Paul, eventually became a Christian convert. We dreamed that our brutal guards would ask the same question posed to Paul and Silas: what shall I do to be saved? It was in being tortured by them that we learned to love them”

launching into a new year

I slept for less than two hours and then I couldn’t get back to sleep. I can usually sleep anywhere anytime! I have always wondered about those people who, within three seconds of waking up in the night, piously report that they pray, or read their Bible. That is not usually me. My habit, on those rare occasions, is to get going on some unfinished work or writing. Today I promised I would start first with a brief daily devotional from C. H. Spurgeon’s Evening by Evening. It led me to a phrase in Isaiah 58. In minutes I was consumed with the entire chapter. Here are a few of the lessons learned. by the way, is there such a thing as “God inspired insomnia”? Good chapter for a new year don’t you think?

Isaiah 58:11 = The Lord will guide you always. Not sometimes, not now and then, but continually. Moses said that without the Lord’s presence we might as well stay where we are! Exodus 33:14,15 = The Lord replied: My Presence will go with you and I will give you rest … Then Moses said, “If your Presence does not go with us, do not send us up from here.”  The Lord’s presence in the future implies that we have experienced it now. The next adventure launches out of today’s experience with God. Hebrews 13:5 = I will never leave you nor forsake you. C. H. Spurgeon = If you have to change your position in life; if you have to emigrate to distant shores; if you are cast into poverty or suddenly promoted to a more responsible position; if you are thrown among strangers or cast among foes, do not fear for the Lord shall guide you continually, a perpetual leader.”  Strength and satisfaction and success come with God’s presence (Isaiah 58:11, 12). Your stability tomorrow begins with your spirituality today. (all of Isaiah 58)

to be like an olive tree

My dear wife Yvonne is doing a guest post for me. She is a great speaker and deeply spiritual. On October 16, 2011 Yvonne met in Bacau, Romania, with women from various churches in the region. It was such an inspiring time of fellowship! Her notes are printed below.

Why I Want to be Like an Olive Tree

Yvonne Johns  Oct 2011

I was reading Psalm 52 when something jumped out at me.  The first 4 verses describe the wicked who ‘love evil more than good, and lying more than speaking truth.’  Verses 5-7 tell what happens to the wicked ones and then verses 8 & 9 talk about the Godly person.  It was verse 8 that caught my attention.  ‘I am like a green olive tree in the house of God.’  What is so good about an olive tree that the psalmist compared himself to one?  I needed to do a little research and here is what I came up with.

Olive trees were grown in Biblical times and the olives used as food.  They are very nutritious and good for you.  The oil was used in their lamps to give light, not only in their homes but in the temple as well and to anoint their kings and priests.  The leaves of the olive tree were a symbol of abundance, wisdom, purity and peace.  When Noah sent the dove out from the ark, she brought back an olive leaf and Noah knew there was enough dry land for them to leave the ark.

The tree itself is still considered sacred in Greece.  Each one is owned by someone and rarely are they cut down.  An olive tree provides income to the owner and, as they are precious they are well taken care of to ensure that they keep producing well.   Each tree can live to be 1000 years old, (they get gnarled and bent as they get older) up to 6 m around but not usually very tall.  (Those are some ways I really don’t want to be like an olive tree!)  The leaves stay green all year so give welcome shade and the tree continues to be productive and useful all its life if it is properly pruned and cared for.  They like hot weather, like to live near the water, are hardy and drought and fire resistant because of their very hard wood.

Doug and I were in Greece recently and were fortunate enough to visit Olympia where the Olympic games originated.  There were olive groves all around with their beautiful, silvery green leaves.  Each tree grows differently and has its own unique character.  They still use olive oil to light the original Olympic flame which is then taken to Athens to start the modern games.  The Olympic flame is the symbol of the nations coming together peacefully to enjoy healthy competition.  (Well, that is the intent.)  We saw the stadium where 40,000 people would gather to watch the games, where the olive oil was used to anoint the athletes and the leaves from nearby trees made the victory crowns.  It was such a thrill to be right there where it all started.   It has been tradition in our family since our children were little that we would watch the games together.  They are still carrying on that tradition with their own children.

Back in Katakolon, I found a little shop that held everything you could possibly think of made of olive wood.  There were beautiful plates, salad bowls, candle holders, picture frames, decorative boxes and jewellery and so much more.  I learned that the darker the grain is, the older the tree is, that the pattern of the grain tells where on the tree the wood was found, that they only use pruned branches to make these items and since the wood is so hard it is perfect for kitchen items such as cutting boards.  To keep the wooden items looking new, just wipe it with olive oil.  That got me thinking and I did some more research.

Here are 10 Things to Do With Olive Oil
1.     Wash your face
2.    Revitalize wood furniture with 2 parts olive oil to 1 lemon juice on a soft cloth.  Keeps wood from  drying out and hides nicks and scratches
3.    Massage a small amount into scalp to fight flakes and dry skin
4.    Soothe sunburn after the first couple of days to prevent peeling
5.    Remove makeup
6.    Unstick a zipper – only 1 drop needed
7.    Prevent hairballs by giving your cat ¼ – ½ teaspoon  Keeps coat shiny too
8.    Shine your hair by massaging in a few drops.  Leave for 1 hour, then shampoo
9.    Moisturize dry feet after bath or shower and put on socks to help absorb
10.  Moisturize and exfoliate skin with a scrub made up of sugar, enough oil to make a paste and 1 drop of essential oil for soothing scent.  Massage into dry skin in shower or bath.

Who knew you benefit so much from the little olive tree?  I can see how the psalmist  thought it was good to be an olive tree in God’s house.  We belong to Him and He takes care of us to make sure we are being productive.  Each of us has a unique purpose.  Sometimes He prunes us but it is for our good and His.  He watches over us because we are precious to Him and He loves us so much.  I want to serve Him all my life and I want my life to be a brightly shining lamp showing the way to His kingdom.  The last part of verse 8 says, ‘I will trust in God’s unfailing love forever and ever.  I will praise you forever, O God, for what you have done.  I will wait for your mercies in the presence of your people.’

Doug bought me an olive wood bracelet to remind me of all that I’ve learned about the olive tree.  Each piece is different from the others just as we are but the bracelet is a circle and each piece is joined to the others.  One piece or even two by themselves would be pretty but would not be a bracelet.  When we are working together with other believers, then He can make us into something beautiful and useful for Him.  We are all part of one body, His world-wide family of Christians through the ages.  I’m so glad to be part of this family with you! 

 Yvonne Johns  Oct 2011

three 10 second sermons

find a church tomorrow where you can bless God, be a blessing to others, and be blessed by God’s Spirit!

Be inspired!

Where are you going today? “Lead me God, in the way everlastingPsalm 139:24

Ecclesiastes 10:9 = Whoever quarries stones may be injured by them; whoever splits logs may be endangered by them. No matter what your occupation, trouble, testing & trial can bring you down. Be careful today!

Matthew 6:33 = Seek first the Kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be given unto you. C.H. Spurgeon = Just as a traveler turns from his empty canteen and runs to the well, turning away from the hives of earth, where we find no honey but many sharp stings, we rejoice in Him whose faithful word is sweeter than honey.

taking the sting out of suffering – at least a little; walking with Wurmbrand part #2

Richard Wurmbrand, leader of the “Underground Church” in 20th Century Communist Europe, is well known, and not just to his own Romanian people. His life of Christian faith is an encouragement to all who are persecuted, to all who go through trials and tribulations of every kind. We can learn from his book, Tortured For Christ, 1967, Hayfield Publishing company.

In Romania, Nazism persecuted Protestants as well as Jews. His son Mihai had to be given a non-Jewish name to prevent his death. As great as the Nazi terror was, it was only a taste of what was to come under the communists later. Wurmbrand says that there was value in the Nazi oppression though – “they taught us that physical beatings could be endured, that the human spirit with God’s help can survive horrible tortures. They taught us the technique of secret Christian work …”

I longed from the day of my conversion to be able to witness to the Russians. In Nazi times we had in Romania many thousands of Russian war prisoners …and then, beginning on August 23 1944, one million Russian troops entered Romania … beginning a nightmare which made suffering under Nazi times seem easy.”

  1. Life experience now is preparation for what will come next, so learn the lessons well!  “Remember that you were slaves in Egypt and that the Lord your God brought you out of there with a mighty hand.”  (Deuteronomy 5:15)  “You yourselves have seen what I did to Egypt and how I carried you on eagles’ wings and brought you to myself”. (Exodus 19:4) The struggles of yesterday make me stronger today because I hear those shouts of victory from behind. And the enemy ahead of me  will not be able to stand up to the voice of today, when tomorrow I hear it shout  its victory as yesterday.
  2. Look for the good that can come, even in times of suffering. Opportunity waits around each corner.  “I want you to know that what has happened to me has really served to advance the gospel. It has become clear throughout the whole palace guard and to everyone else that I am in chains for Christ. Because of my chains most of the brothers in the Lord have been encouraged to speak the word of God more courageously and fearlessly.” (Philippians 1:12-14)

7 Days til Victory!

We cry out “God – why haven’t you dealt with this yet!? ” Everyone wants stuff to happen quickly. Everyone is going so fast. How many people can you name who really have that spiritual fruit called patience, talked about in Galatians 5?

We cry out “God, don’t you have a better plan? – one more likely to succeed?” It is our nature to ‘second guess’ the Lord.

The best plans are developed on holy ground where we can hear God speak. You would think that a divine encounter should be all that we would need: divine messages are pretty impressive after all, compelling and energizing. Yet, when we come up against a brick wall, when we can’t make any progress, when we need a breakthrough, sometimes we can get tired of waiting, tired of trying, even tired of trusting. We’ve heard that God’s ways are not our ways. We know that God often surprises, that God often shows up just in time, and still we are tempted towards disobedience. God’s ways are not our ways.

The lesson from Joshua and the walls of Jericho penetrate the barriers of culture and time and shake common sense: stick to the plan God gave you. Hold to the promise, play the music, shout the victory praise.

Know some walls that need knocking down? – in relationships?, in our community? Will you partner with God and his people to win the battle – His way?

You can read the account in Joshua chapters 5 & 6. Five principles jump out of this famous story. You can see these in the outline of the teaching “7 Days til Victory” by clicking here.

people were crying at the bank today

People were crying in the bank today: no, not because of the world economic chaos; no, not because of offensively high service charges; no, not because there was a robbery in progress – but because the bank staff excelled in customer service. And I thought of Jesus, and the angels in heaven. Yes, let me explain.

I was standing in line, waiting patiently (those of you who know me will find that statement a little hard to believe, true) – when the lady behind me could wait no longer. She rushed in front of me and urgently asked a question of the customer service rep. This lady appeared somewhat frantic. It seems she had been to the bank earlier. Sometime during the day she had lost a ring. She was now retracing her steps, hopeful to find that someone somewhere had picked it up and kept it safe.

The customer service rep went to one of the tellers, who said “yes, I found it and locked it in the drawer”. What followed the joyful tearful reunion of this woman and her ring was stirring. It was an engagement ring. I don’t know how fancy or expensive it was. I do know that it was of utmost value. The owner started to sob, so appreciative of the bank staff. Somehow her dark and broken world would be restored. Bank staff had tears in their eyes. Even customers stopped and gulped. A public display of emotion on all our parts. Something of great value – lost – searched for – found – relief –rejoicing. We had witnessed something very intimate, very profound, very moving.

Jesus talks of a lost sheep, a lost coin, and a lost son. A careful and costly search follows. The lost item is of such incredible value. And when located, the whole world is to know – and all heaven rejoices. Tears of joy. Just like I saw in the bank today. The Bank of Montreal in Brockville was the location of today’s spiritual lesson. Luke 15 is the location of the parables of Jesus. This is why we engage in mission. This is why we partner with God. This is God’s heart revealed. This is at the heart of our church right? Not competition, not politics, not agendas, not empty ritual – finding that which is lost, returning it to its rightful owner, and crying with joy when the lost is found!

When was the last time you saw God’s truth played out at your bank?