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    Rescuing Villains

    The comic book hero is as popular as ever. In 2017 alone, six superhero movies accounted for more than $4 billion (US) in box office sales. But why are people so drawn to big action flicks?

    Maybe it’s because, in part, such stories resemble God’s Big Story. There’s a hero, a villain, a people in need of rescue, and plenty of riveting action.

    In this story, the biggest villain is Satan, the enemy of our souls. But there are lots of “little” villains as well. In the book of Daniel, for example, one is Nebuchadnezzar, the tyrannical king of much of the…

    Shackled but Not Silent

    In the summer of 1963, after an all-night bus ride, civil rights activist Fannie Lou Hamer and six other black passengers stopped to eat at a diner in Winona, Mississippi. After law enforcement officers forced them to leave, they were arrested and jailed. But humiliation wouldn’t end with unlawful arrest. All received severe beatings, but Fannie’s was the worst. After a brutal attack that left her near death she burst out in song: “Paul and Silas was bound in jail, let my people go.” And she didn’t sing alone. Other prisoners, restrained in body but not in soul, soon joined…

    Small but Significant

    The day started out like any other, but it ended as a nightmare. Esther (not her real name) and several hundred women were kidnapped from their boarding school by a religious militant group. A month later all were released—except for Esther who refused to deny Christ. As my friend and I read about her and others who are being persecuted for their faith, our hearts were moved. We wanted to do something. But what?

    When writing to the Corinthian church, the apostle Paul shared about the trouble he experienced in the province of Asia. The persecution was so severe that he…

    Through the Valley

    Hae Woo (not her real name) was imprisoned in a North Korean labor camp for crossing the border into China. The days and nights were torture, she said, with brutal guards, backbreaking work, and little sleep on an ice-cold floor with rats and lice. But God helped her daily, including showing her which prisoners to befriend and share her faith with.

    After she was released from the camp and living in South Korea, Woo reflected on her time of imprisonment, saying that Psalm 23 summed up her experience. Although she had been trapped in a dark valley, Jesus was her shepherd…

    Singing to the Firing Squad

    Two men convicted of drug trafficking had been on death row for a decade. While in prison, they learned of God’s love for them in Jesus, and their lives were transformed. When it came time for them to face the firing squad, they faced their executioners reciting the Lord’s Prayer and singing “Amazing Grace.” Because of their faith in God, through the power of the Spirit they were able to face death with incredible courage.

    They followed the example of faith set by their Savior, Jesus. When Jesus knew that His death was imminent, He spent part of the evening singing…

    The Overshadowing of God’s Personal Deliverance

    . . . I am with you to deliver you,’ says the Lord —Jeremiah 1:8

    God promised Jeremiah that He would deliver him personally— “. . . your life shall be as a prize to you . . .” (Jeremiah …

    Even If

    Sometimes life deals us a tremendous blow. Other times the miraculous happens.

    Three young men, captives in Babylon, stood in front of the fearsome king of that land and boldly proclaimed that under no circumstances would they worship the giant image of gold towering above them. Together they declared: “If we are thrown into the blazing furnace, the God we serve is able to deliver us from it, and he will deliver us from Your Majesty’s hand. But even if he does not, we want you to know . . . we will not . . . worship the image” (Daniel 3:16–18).

    These three…

    Even If

    Sometimes life deals us a tremendous blow. Other times the miraculous happens.

    Three young men, captives in Babylon, stood in front of the fearsome king of that land and boldly proclaimed that under no circumstances would they worship the giant image of gold towering above them. Together they declared: “If we are thrown into the blazing furnace, the God we serve is able to deliver us from it, and he will deliver us from Your Majesty’s hand. But even if he does not, we want you to know . . . we will not . . . worship the image” (Daniel 3:16–18).

    These three…

    Strength in Suffering

    When eighteen-year-old Musah received Jesus as Savior, his family rejected him because their tradition was of a different faith. But the Christian community welcomed him, offering encouragement and financial resources for his education. Later, whebn his testimony was published in a magazine, his persecution intensified.

    But Musah did not stop visiting his family. He visited whenever he could and talked with his father, even though His siblings cruelly prevented him from participating in family affairs. When his father fell ill, Musah overlooked his family’s slighting and attended to him, praying his father would get well. When God healed him, the family…

    Courage to Be Faithful

    Fear is Hadassah’s constant companion. Hadassah, a young Jewish girl living in the first-century, is a fictional character in Francine Rivers’ book A Voice in the Wind. After Hadassah becomes a slave in a Roman household, she fears persecution for her faith in Christ. She knows that Christians are despised, and many are sent to their execution or thrown to the lions in the arena. Will she have the courage to stand for the truth when she is tested?

    When her worst fear becomes reality, her mistress and other Roman officials who hate Christianity confront her. She has two choices: recant her…

    The Day I Believed in Jesus and Broke My Dad’s Heart

    “Look at what you’ve done by becoming a Christian! You’ve deserted the family tradition. Your father feels like a failure. He couldn’t keep the family together.” My mother was upset.

    Sacrificial Faith

    It’s Sunday afternoon, and I’m sitting in the garden of our home, which is near the church where my husband is the minister. I hear wafts of praise and worship music floating through the air in the Farsi language. Our church in London hosts a vibrant Iranian congregation, and we feel humbled by their passion for Christ as they share some of their stories of persecution and tell of those, such as the senior pastor’s brother, who have been martyred for their faith. These faithful believers are following in the footsteps of the first Christian martyr, Stephen.

    Stephen, one of the…

    Dance of the Saints

    “Eyes fixed where the Son reigns. Color them great cloud of witnesses now crowned, now reigning, dancing where the Son stay. They stayed, they stood, they praised and prayed, endured for the sake of the gospel. . . . Be not afraid to light up the dance floor, and dance more.” —Ciara Jones

    Never Give Up

    We will always be battered in this life. Physical limitations. Cruel people. Spiritual battles. But God is with us. He promises never to abandon us. And He renews our spirits even during the struggles. We can keep going in this life and look with anticipation to the next.

    Lessons in Suffering

    The close-up image on the giant screen was big and sharp, so we could see the deep cuts on the man’s body. A soldier beat him while an angry crowd laughed at the man whose face was now covered with blood. The scenes appeared so real that, in the silence of the open-air theater, I cringed and grimaced as if I could feel the pain myself. But this was only a film reenactment of Jesus’ suffering for us.

    Reminding us of Jesus’ suffering, Peter wrote, “To this you were called, because Christ suffered for you, leaving you an example, that you…

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