Tuesday, June 25, 2013

Preparing For The Storm

       As an American follower of Jesus, it can be quite easy to become comfortable (even apathetic) in the safety zone that the United States is, and lose regard for the sustaining and protecting power of The Lord and Savior, Jesus. Ever since 9/11, Katrina, The Great Recession, Newtown, Aurora, and most recently the ginormous tornados of Oklahoma, there is a sense that the utopian veil that shielded America has been torn in two. These storms serve as great reminders that we are not home, yet. This fading earth is not our home. Our fading bodies are not our home. It is all just temporary lodging.

       Ted Whitney of Liberty University put out a simple, yet stunningly encouraging reminder to fellow believers about the powerful attributes of God. I can only dare forget the character of God, especially since I have tasted and I have seen that He is good.

Whitney, writing about the storms of life that hit so close to home offers the following:

       "In light of the recent tornados, I've been compelled to write about storm preparations.  I'm writing about those other storms that come our way that take us by surprise and cause havoc in our lives.

These can be related to:

  • Financial troubles
  • Relationships
  • Unemployment
  • Loss of a loved one

  • So, how do we prepare for the storms of life?  I am suggesting we think less of our circumstances and more of God.  Let's review His character.
    • He’s always good and loving.  Psalm 136:1-3 says, "Give thanks to the Lord, for He is good.  His love endures forever.  Give thanks to the God of gods.  His love endures forever.  Give thanks to the Lord of lords.  His love endures forever."
    • He alone is wise.  Romans 16:27 says, "To the only wise God be glory forever through Jesus Christ.  Amen."
    • He cares for us.  Matthew 6:26 says, "Look at the birds of the air; they do not sow or reap or store away in barns, and yet your Heavenly Father feeds them.  Are you not much more valuable than they?"
    • He’s always working things out for our good.  Romans 8:28 says, "And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love Him, who have been called according to His purpose."
    • He demonstrates grace and compassion.  Psalm 145:8 says, "The Lord is gracious and compassionate, slow to anger and rich in love."
    Next time you are tempted to be discouraged or afraid, submit your trust to God.  He adores you.


    Source: Liberty Online Community Blog. Preparing For The Storms of Life. 28May13. http://www.liberty.edu/index.cfm?PID=26347

    Tuesday, June 18, 2013

    Prayer Priority (Part 4)

    “Not to us, O LORD, not to us, but to Your name give glory…” – Psalm 115:1

                This post is the second to final devotional installment on prayer. I can never get deep enough into prayer, especially as I get older and more tired. And the more I ponder and commune with the Lord, prayer becomes joyfully serious fellowship, worship, and relationship. I cannot separate prayer with God from fellowship with God. Pondering afresh on the prayer Jesus taught as Luke records it, Jesus entire opening sentences of the prayer is a straight-forward exclamation of worship: “Father, hallowed be Your name” (Luke 11:2). That is, it is an expression of praise, and it reflects God’s own priority: “I am the LORD, that is My name, I will not give My glory to another” Isaiah 42:8. Jesus established the truth that prayer is worship by beginning His model prayer that way.

                To worship God is to “Sing the glory of His name” (Psalm 66:2). “Ascribe to the LORD the glory due His name” (1Chronicles 16:29; Psalms 29:2; 96:8). “Not to us, O LORD, not to us, but to Your name give glory” (Psalm 115:1). Such expressions capture the true spirit of a worshiping heart.

                What this first sentence does to any petition, as we have discussed in Part 2 and 3, is it qualifies every other petition in the prayer. It rules out asking for things “with wrong motives, so that you may spend it on your pleasures” (James 4:3). It eliminates every petition that is not in accord with the perfect will of God. In the words of Arthur Pink:

    “How clearly, then is the fundamental duty in prayer here set forth: self and all its needs must be given a secondary place and the Lord freely accorded the preeminence in our thoughts, desires and supplications. This petition must take the precedence, for the glory of God’s great name is the ultimate end of all things; every other request must not only be subordinated to this one, but be in harmony with and in pursuance of it. We cannot pray aright unless the honor of God be dominant in our hearts. If we cherish a desire for the honoring of God’s name we must not ask for anything which it would be against the Divine holiness to bestow.”

                As we dig deeper into the expression, “Hallowed be Your name,” let us consider for a devotional moment, “What does that expression mean?” We still use the expression “my name” in that sense at times. If we say someone has ruined their good name, we mean that person has disgraced himself or herself, and thus spoiled their reputation. They have diminished others’ perception of who they are. And if I give you power of attorney, I have authorized you to act “in my name.” You thereby become my legal proxy, and any legal covenants you enter into are as binding on me as if I signed them myself.
                That is precisely what Jesus meant when He taught us to pray in His name: “Whatever you ask in My name, that will I do, so that the Father may be glorified in the Son. If you ask anything in My name, I will do it” (John 14:13-14). He was delegating His authority to us to act as if we were His emissaries when we let our requests be made to known to God.

                This is a built-in safeguard against the misuse of His name for our own self-aggrandizing purposes. Note in John 14:15, that immediately after Jesus delegated His authority of His name to His disciples, He said, “If you love Me, you will keep My commandments” (v. 15). He then restates the principle with all the necessary qualifications just one chapter later in John 16:7: “If you abide in Me, and My words abide in you, ask whatever you wish, and it will be done for you” (emphasis added). Therefore I must be careful to not be so flippant with God’s name, throwing it around wistfully, cheaply and an over-familiarity. He is our loving Father, yes, but I also remember that His name is holy. The fatherhood of God in no way diminishes His glory, and I believe that when we find ourselves thinking that way, we think and believe correctly: “Father, hallowed be Your name.”

                By teaching us to begin all our prayers with a concern for the name of God to be hallowed, He was teaching us to pray for God’s will over and above our own. Antagonistic to the prosperity gospel, were not created to enjoy prosperity in a fallen world. We were created to glorify God and enjoy Him forever. We ought to be more concerned for the glory of god than we are for our own prosperity, our own comfort, our own agenda, or any other self-centered desire. I believe, based on this examination, that’s why Jesus taught us to think of prayer as an act of worship rather than merely a way to ask God for things we want.

    Source: Pulpit Magazine, Premier Issue. Oct 2012. Vol. 1 No. 1. Ipad version.

    Saturday, June 15, 2013

    When We Consecrate Ourselves to God...

    "When we consecrate ourselves to God, we think we 
    are making a great sacrifice, and doing lots for Him,
    when we really we are only letting go some little,
    bitsie trinkets we have been grabbing, and when our
    hands are empty, He fills them full of His treasures."
    - Betty Stam
    Dangerous things can happen. And danger certainly met missionaries to Communist China, John and Betty Stam in December, 1934, two months after their daughter, Helen, was born.  Here is their inspiring story. The end on earth, is certainly not the end in eternity.

    The year 1934. Americans John and Betty Stam were serving as missionaries in China. One morning Betty was bathing her three-month-old daughter Helen Priscilla Stam when Tsingteh's city magistrate appeared. Communist forces were near, he warned, and urged the Stams to flee.

    So John Stam went out to investigate the situation for himself. He received conflicting reports. Taking no chances, he arranged for Betty and the baby to be escorted away to safety if need be. But before the Stams could make their break, the Communists were inside the city. By little-known paths, they had streamed over the mountains behind government troops. Now gun shots sounded in the streets as looting began. The enemy beat on the Stams' own gate.

    A faithful cook and maid at the mission station had stayed behind. The Stams knelt with them in prayer. But the invaders were pounding at the door. John opened it and spoke courteously to the four leaders who entered, asking them if they were hungry. Betty brought them tea and cakes. The courtesy meant nothing. They demanded all the money the Stams had, and John handed it over. As the men bound him, he pleaded for the safety of his wife and child. The Communists left Betty and Helen behind as they led John off to their headquarters.

    Before long, they reappeared, demanding mother and child. The maid and cook pleaded to be allowed to accompany Betty.

    "No," barked the captors, and threatened to shoot.
    "It is better for you to stay here," Betty whispered. "If anything happens to us, look after the baby."

    Betty was led to her husband's side. Little Helen needed some things and John was allowed to return home under guard to fetch them. But everything had been stolen. That night John was allowed to write a letter to mission authorities. "My wife, baby and myself are today in the hands of the Communists in the city of Tsingteh. Their demand is twenty thousand dollars for our release. . . . We were too late. The Lord bless and guide you. As for us, may God be glorified, whether by life or by death."

    Prisoners in the local jail were released to make room for the Stams. Frightened by rifle fire, the baby cried out. One of the Reds said, "Let's kill the baby. It is in our way." A bystander asked, "Why kill her? What harm has she done?"

    "Are you a Christian?" shouted one of the guards.
    The man said he was not; he was one of the prisoners just released.
    "Will you die for this foreign baby?" they asked. As Betty hugged Helen to her chest, the man was hacked to pieces before her eyes.

    Terror in the Streets
    The next morning their captors led the Stams toward Miaosheo, twelve miles distant. John carried little Helen, but Betty, who was not physically strong, owing to a youthful bout with inflammatory rheumatitis was allowed to ride a horse part of the way. Terror reigned in the streets of Miaosheo.

    Under guard, the foreign family was hustled into the postmaster's shop.

    "Where are you going?" asked the postmaster, who recognized them from their previous visits to his town. "We do not know where they are going, but we are going to heaven," answered John. He left a letter with the postmaster. "I tried to persuade them to let my wife and baby go back from Tsingteh with a letter to you, but they would not let her. . . ."

    That night the three were held in the house of a wealthy man who had fled. They were guarded by soldiers. John was tied to a post all that cold night, but Betty was allowed enough freedom to tend the baby. As it turned out, she did more than that. In fact, Betty instead hid her daughter in the room inside a sleeping bag.

    The next morning the young couple were led through town without the baby. Their hands were tightly bound, and they were stripped of their outer garments as if they were common criminals. John walked barefoot. He had given his socks to Betty. The soldiers jeered and called the town’s folk to come see the execution. The terrified people obeyed.

    On the way to the execution, a medicine-seller, considered a lukewarm Christian at best, stepped from the crowd and pleaded for the lives of the two foreigners. The Reds angrily ordered him back. The man would not be stilled. His house was searched, a Bible and hymnbook found, and he, too was dragged away to die as a hated Christian.

    John pleaded for the man’s life. The Red leader sharply ordered him to kneel. As John was speaking softly, the Red leader swung his sword through the missionary’s throat so that his head was severed from his body. Betty did not scream. She quivered and fell bound beside her husband’s body. As she knelt there, the same sword ended her life with a single blow.

    Betty Scott was born in the United States but reared in China as the daughter of missionaries. She came to the United States and attended Wilson College in Pennsylvania. Betty prepared to follow in her parents’ footsteps and work in China or wherever else the Lord directed her.

    But China it proved to be. At a prayer meeting for China, she met John Stam and a friendship developed that ripened into love. Painfully they recognized that marriage was not yet possible. “The China Inland Mission has appealed for men, single men, to work in sections where it would be impossible to take a woman until more settled work has commenced,” wrote John. He committed the matter to the Lord, whose work, he felt, must come before any human affection. At any rate, Betty would be leaving for China before him, to work in an entirely different region, and so they must be separated anyhow. As a matter of fact, John had not yet even been accepted by the China Inland Mission whereas Betty had. They parted after a long tender day, sharing their faith, picnicking, talking, and praying.

    Betty sailed while John continued his studies. On July 1, 1932, John, too, was accepted for service in China. Now at least he could head toward the same continent as Betty. He sailed for Shanghai.
    Meanwhile, Betty found her plans thwarted. A senior missionary had been captured by the Communists in the region where she was to have worked. The mission directors decided to keep her in a temporary station, and later ill-health brought her to Shanghai. Thus without any choice on her part, she was in Shanghai when John landed in China. Immediately they became engaged and a year later were married, long before they expected it. In October, 1934 Helen Priscilla was born to them. What would become of her now that her parents John and Betty were dead?

    In the Hills
    For two days, local Christians huddled in hiding in the hills around Miaosheo. Among them was a Chinese evangelist named Mr. Lo. Through informants, he learned that the Communists had captured two foreigners. At first he did not realize that these were John and Betty Stam, with whom he had worked, but as he received more details, he put two and two together. As soon as government troops entered the valley and it was safe to venture forth, Mr. Lo hurried to town. His questions met with silence. Everyone was fearful that spies might report anyone who said too much.

    An old woman whispered to Pastor Lo that there was a baby left behind. She nodded in the direction of the house where John and Betty had been chained their last night on earth. Pastor Lo hurried to the site and found room after room trashed by the bandits. Then he heard a muffled cry. Tucked by her mother in a little sleeping bag, Helen was warm and alive, although hungry after her two day fast.

    The kindly pastor took the child in his arms and carried her to his wife. With the help of a local Christian family, he wrapped the bodies that still lay upon the hillside and placed them into coffins. To the crowd that gathered he explained that the missionaries had only come to tell them how they might find forgiveness of sin in Christ. Leaving others to bury the dead, he hurried home. Somehow Helen had to be gotten to safety.

    Pastor Lo's own son, a boy of four, was desperately ill -- semi-conscious after days of exposure. Pastor Lo had to find a way to carry the children a hundred miles through mountains infested by bandits and Communists. Brave men were found willing to help bear the children to safety, but there was no money to pay them for their efforts. Lo had been robbed of everything he had.

    From Beyond the Grave
    But from beyond the grave, Betty provided. Tucked in Helen's sleeping bag were a change of clothes and some diapers. Pinned between these articles of clothing were two five dollar bills. It made the difference.

    Placing the children in rice baskets slung from the two ends of a bamboo pole, the group departed quietly, taking turns carrying the precious cargo over their shoulders. Mrs. Lo was able to find Chinese mothers along the way to nurse Helen. On foot, they came safely through their perils. Lo's own boy recovered consciousness suddenly and sat up, singing a hymn.

    Eight days after the Stams fell into Communist hands, another missionary in a nearby city heard a rap at his door. He opened it and a Chinese woman, stained with travel, entered the house, bearing a bundle in her arms. "This is all we have left," she said brokenly.

    The missionary took the bundle and turned back the blanket to uncover the sleeping face of Helen Priscilla Stam. Many kind hands had labored to preserve the infant girl, but none kinder than Betty who had spared no effort for her baby even as she herself faced degradation and death.

    Kathleen White has written an excellent and very readable biography John and Betty Stam, available from Bethany House Publishers (1988). She reports that Betty's alma mater, Wilson College in Pennsylvania, took over baby Helen's support and covered the costs of her college education. She added: "Helen is living in this country (USA) with her husband and family but does not wish her identity and whereabouts to be made known."


    1. Huizenga, Lee S. John and Betty Stam; Martyrs. Zondervan, 1935.
    2. Pollock, John. Victims of the Long March and Other Stories. Waco, Texas.: Word Publishing, 1970.
    3. Taylor, Mrs. Howard. The Triumph of John and Betty Stam. China Inland Mission, 1935.
    Original Story: http://www.christianity.com/church/church-history/timeline/1901-2000/betty-and-john-stam-martyred-11630759.html