Guest Blog: A Biblical Guide to a Better Sex Life by pkadams, Blue Skies and Greener Pastures

With so many foci on homosexuality, gender dysphoria and transgenderism (as if someone could “feel” their way to being other than the way they were born 🙄) an important issue for Christ-followers to focus on is what the Bible teaches about sexuality.   Remember, sex was God’s idea BEFORE the fall and with His guidance, is not sinful. 

 It has been quite a while since I addressed this subject (see for “Rated R, The Mystery of Marriage,” and before that for four weeks of “Three Weeks of Sex.”)  This week pkadams provided a very excellent Scriptural perspective on sex.  I cover her 10th point about good books in the April 17, 2021 blog.   I suspect an ad slipped into pkadams’ blog and reordered her bullet points, so I renumbered them.

From pkadams, Blue Skies and Green Pastures:

2021-10-23 A Biblical Guide to a Better Sex Life

Lately it seems like there are sex experts on every social media outlet and in bookstores and on cable TV.  So since it’s so popular, I thought I would add a less common perspective, one that is backed up by the Bible and God himself.  Wait!  Don’t click away!  I’m seriously going to give you some good advice on how to make your sex life better.

Podcast link https://anchor.fm/blueskiesandgreenpastures/episodes/You-can-have-a-better-sex-life–Ep-54-e190ing or https://open.spotify.com/episode/3W5FH1YUQPXEI56G3wfVVX?si=Ag75oxxtTSCRF2ix3aSt_g

  1. Become a Christian. Yes, studies show that Christians have better sex lives than non-Christians! It’s a myth that Christians have boring sex lives. Sex is a gift from God and people who see it that way are more likely to enjoy it.
  2. Love your wife or husband according to God’s instructions. Ephesians 5:22-33 teaches us that wives should submit to their husbands, which means she should respect him and his God-given authority in the marriage. It also teaches that men should love their wives as Christ loves the church, meaning as much as they love their own bodies. He meant that in a marriage each partner should love and respect each other, but there is a proper role for each. And the man is to submit to God. In a marriage with this type of healthy respect for God and each other, you are going to have a better sex life because you have peace in the home.
  3. Take care of your health, including your body, your mind and your spirit. Sex involves all of these. Older married people, and some young ones, sometimes ‘let themselves go’ by not getting exercise, eating right, drinking too much, not getting enough sleep, being a workaholic, smoking, and worrying. And too much time sitting and scrolling the internet is not good for you. Your body is the temple of the Holy Spirit, so take care of it. God made you in His image. Feeling good about the way your body looks also helps you feel better about sex! Also, take care of your appearance and hygiene; don’t expect your partner to be okay with a stinky, slob. Keep a good attitude and be thankful for your life and marriage. Ask God to transform your mind.
  4. Stay faithful in every aspect of the word. Do not cheat on your wife through any of the many ways that are available nowadays, including text relationships, internet chat rooms, or actual adultery. Beware of emotional attachments to co-workers and friends of the opposite sex. Don’t talk bad about your spouse behind their back. There is a reason that God mentions adultery in the Ten Commandments. It will destroy your marriage.
  5. Remember why you married your spouse and take time for romance and dating even after the honeymoon period is long past. Schedule time to have fun with your spouse, not just have sex. Build the relationship and you will improve the sex. Buy her flowers. Bake him a cake. The volume of scriptures that mention enjoying your wife are a good indicator that God values a happy marriage. A happy marriage also means happy children!
  6. Beware the temptations and traps of the devil that come in the form of seductive women or men. From the beginning, sexual sin has been one of the most destructive sins. The devil knows that the sexual urge is strong, and even though it is created by God for good, it can be used against us. Keep your eyes and mind free from thoughts about other women or men and you will protect your marriage. A pure marriage is a place were both partners can trust each other and feel free to be intimate. Stay far away from pornography. If needed, install porn-blocking software to prevent temptation. And warn your kids!
  7. Be a good person. Yes, be honest, trustworthy, kind, considerate, thoughtful, generous, patient, loving and sensitive! If you do all this, you will be much more likely to find ways to please your spouse in the bedroom. Most of us do not want to have sex when we are angry or resentful for being ignored, mistreated, lied to, or taken for granted, so make sure to show love to your spouse before you have sex, not just after.
  8. Make sex a priority in your marriage. This may not be a problem for everyone, but I keep hearing stories of sexless marriages, or of one person being interested, but the other is not. If you have health or emotional problems that are blocking you from enjoying sex, please seek help. As I mentioned above, poor health such as high blood pressure, being overweight, diabetes, hormone imbalance and depression can affect your sex life, mostly because of the side effects from medications. Don’t give up. Ask your doctor for help. It is not a sin to use Viagra or whatever you need, within a marriage relationship. The Bible says that couples should not deprive each other lest they fall into temptation. If your marriage is unhappy, work on it. If you’re busy, schedule it!
  9. Don’t be afraid to have fun! Get creative and try new things. Sex is not bad, or nasty, or sinful, or dirty. Unfortunately some people are taught the wrong things when they are children or in some religions. God never intended us to feel guilty about our bodies or sex. He just said that we should ONLY have sex within marriage. It’s okay to wear sexy clothes or have sex in the hot tub. Let down your guard with each other. Being honest about what you like increases love and intimacy and trust! If you are the one who is struggling with being able to relax and enjoy sex, I encourage you to pray about it, and know that God really is okay with your enjoying yourself.
  10. If you need more specific help, buy a book about Christian marriage that includes the topic of good sex. Having a spouse and a good sexual relationship is a blessing! Enjoy it to the fullest and be sure to thank God for the joy. Beware of secular sex advice, or at least choose carefully. Lots of ungodly advice out there! As with all pleasurable things, use wisdom if you are not sure about something. God put limits on sexual behavior for our own good. Do not listen to anyone who tells you that having multiple sex partners is okay, whether they claim to be Christian or not.
  11. BONUS TIP! Make your bedroom a special place. Don’t watch TV, use your computer, scroll your phone in bed. You can do that in the living room. Have nice sheets and pillows! Make it smell good with a candle or essential oils. Keep it clean and tidy. Have nice lighting. Have music available. You know, like a hotel room, LOL!

[Editor’s note: I don’t know whether pkadams thinks LOL means “Lots Of Love” or “Laugh Out Loud!” 😊  You can ask her on her blog site in the comments.]

Intermezzo Guest Blog by Alabastersky – Deceived

This guest blog has been edited somewhat with a paragraph deletion, links added and minor changes; if you wish to read Lisa’s original, you can find Alabastersky’s “Deceived: The New Religion” here.  People, we must learn to love Truth more than anything.  Our Father guarantees that if you love the truth you will not be deceived.  Galatians 6:7 commands, “Do not be deceived: God is not mocked, for whatever one sows, that will he also reap.”  The Bible would not give us a command without the ability to fulfill it!  As for those who are deceived, this is because they did NOT love the truth: “The coming of the lawless one is by the activity of Satan with all power and false signs and wonders, and with all wicked deception for those who are perishing, because they refused to love the truth and so be saved.” (2 Thessalonians 2:9-10)

From Alabastersky:
It occurs to me that as we plummet headfirst more into darkness each day, that we compromise and allow deception to reign. There are those who become so far removed from truth along the way that they will begin to not only believe but to embrace the lie so much that they themselves are convinced by it. The deceivers actually begin deceiving themselves!

I’ll give you some examples. The New Testament of the Bible tells us much about the Pharisees. We always see them waiting to trip Jesus up, or catch Him in some blasphemy, or in an act violating their traditions. They truly seem to be a demonized and hateful bunch, and Jesus often appears saddened and annoyed by them. But I believe their zeal was not only born out of a perceived threat of loss of control over the people, but also out of an actual belief that Jesus was a crack-pot blasphemer who was leading God’s chosen people astray. It was a combination of these two (and probably other motivations not mentioned). But as we can clearly see now, and for anyone who wishes to study it, Jesus fulfills every Old Testament prophecy about the Messiah’s [first coming]* – every single one.
[*Editor’s Note, the only ones remaining are about End Times events.]

Jumping forward to today, I’ve often wondered how multitudes could be allured into buying wholeheartedly into the one world religion of the antichrist that the Bible describes in Revelation 13, but believe the sincere zeal of the Pharisees gives us a clue. From this chapter in Revelation, we learn that the antichrist (or beast* as he is called), together with the false prophet* (or second beast) perform miracles that are so great that they deceive even possibly the very elect (see Matthew 24:24 and 2 Thessalonians 2:9-12). So we know from this that there is great allure and attraction for people to become followers of the beast who sets himself up not only as the Messiah but also as the fulfillment of all other religions, but is in fact the very antithesis of truth.
[*Editor’s Note: these leaders will NOT be called “antichrist,” “the beast” nor “the false prophet” in the media.]

This allure of deception was confirmed when I saw New York’s Governor on a news broadcast recently stating that she needed “apostles” to evangelize people to get the vaccine because “Jesus taught us to love one another,” and that people who’ve gotten the shots are “the smart ones” while those who refuse to get it “aren’t listening to God and what God wants,” Whose god, I wondered, and why isn’t she taking individual circumstance into consideration? I also have to ask if she herself hears “God” when it comes to the murder of innocent unborn (and even just born) babies?

Now if you honestly believe that the vaccine is the best thing for you, then by all means, go for it. That is your choice, and I’m not here to stop you. But if for various reasons there are those of us who do not believe it is the best thing, why is the government working so forcibly to mandate that it is not our choice? One has to consider that if a government (any government) can force you to take the jab, then they can also force you to take the mark of the beast. Compromise is made in small steps, and the lines we cross in the midst of compromise can be dangerously deceitful.

I’m still trying to figure out why those who have been vaccinated need to be protected from those who have not been vaccinated. If the vaccine is as good as they claim, why would that be necessary? If the vaccine is as good as they claim, why, according to CDC data, did the virus almost flat line as far as new cases in the US prior to the vaccine, and then suddenly and aggressively spike after people began being vaccinated? I’m curious to know why there is a higher risk of catching covid after vaccination than there is before, by the very people who have been vaccinated? I’m curious to know why countries like Australia never took the extreme measures they are taking now for covid against such things as the flu, since the flu has higher death rates than covid?  I’m curious about a lot of things, and I know I don’t stand alone in my curiosity.

But I digress… The point I am hoping to make about the governor of New York’s appeal is that she, much like the Pharisees, has bought into this secular empire religion, and as a result not only perceives a threat of loss of control over the people, but also truly believes that those who act in an individual manner against the government-dictated social norms are crack-pots who are leading people astray.

Take that with another news article regarding a letter from a [national] teachers organization, that requested for parents who engaged in protests to be designated as domestic terrorists and treated as such, as if the government has final authority over our children. For anyone who is a Christ-follower, all of this appears to be the height of hypocrisy and lunacy, but to those who swallow the lies “hook, line, and sinker,” they are just as sincere in their belief in the deception as we are in the grounded and absolute truth of the Bible.

This goes along with a book my husband was reading recently, Hitler’s Cross by Erwin Lutzer, which analyzes what happens when a country forgets God, and declares the state in place of God in regards to what you are allowed to believe, and what happened to the church and Germany as a result. In the book he describes one of Hitler’s top enforcers, Heinrich Himmler, who believed in reincarnation. In his warped idea of spirituality based on a mix of Norse mythology, Hinduism, racism, and the occult, he believed that the Jewish people were “lower than the animals.” As a result he also sincerely believed he was actually doing the Jewish people a favor by annihilating them, so they could return on a higher rung of life than before. How absurd! Sin, hatred and the evil in which it is rooted has no bounds. Those who combine an almighty state with total control and a warped spirituality, and racism in whatever form, who deny Judeo-Christian values, advocate for loss of freedom, and the right to one’s life, and deny the right to decide what entails one’s own physical health, are crossing the line from welfare to tyranny.

THIS is why it is so important to know and understand our enemy is not flesh and blood but are the rulers and powers, principalities and forces of this present darkness (see Ephesians 6:12). This is also why it is important to stand and not compromise.

Letting go of our will in order to seek and fulfill His will instead has nothing to do with conformity. We need to understand that unity and conformity are not one and the same. We can all unite as one nation without conformity, keeping our individuality and God given rights. There is nothing more powerful [against tyranny] than being who God created us to be! That is why our founding fathers emphasized being created equal, with equal opportunity. Equal opportunity does not guarantee equal outcome, and the sooner we return to that understanding, the faster all this racist nonsense being propagated by those wishing to divide and conquer through fear will come to an end.

Know this, the truth and understanding of which I speak is only imparted through the Holy Spirit. Scripture tells us that when we hold to His teachings, then we will know the truth, the truth will set us free (see John 8:31-32). Jesus said He IS the truth (John 14:6). You can know Him too. He is found by everyone who sincerely seeks Him, and He will set you free!

 

Guest Blog – Jennifer Bagnaschi; DeepBeliever.com; Prep for the Great Tribulation

Some folks bought property in the Rockies to “survive” the “Y2K problem” that never occurred.  Would have been nice if they had invited anyone else, but they went alone to the mountains, as would have been the case if they had invited me, anyway.
My life is in Christ Jesus, and if I live, it is for Him; if I die, that is also for Him.  Jennifer explains this phenomenon of prepping for the Great Tribulation better than I could (with some minor edits).  A couple more blogs in the works on prophecy, and one on The Final Mercy of God coming soon.  But if Jesus returns before I post them, we may have to talk them over in Heaven. 😁  Hope to see you there.
c.a.
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Can you really prep for the Great Tribulation? What are the chances if you could?

This world has gone stark crazy! My husband and I like to joke and say that we are living in the Matrix, but I wonder if there is some truth to that. Since world powers and entities have designed such a state of panic and chaos over the very soil God gave us dominion over, it has birthed widespread pandemonium! In response, thousands have begun to prep for The Great Tribulation mentioned in the Book of Revelation.

What does it mean to “prep”? It simply means to prepare. But some important questions must be asked, “Can you really prepare for the Great Tribulation considering its severity?
And more importantly, “Did Jesus tell us to prep for it?” Let’s dive into it.

If You Plan to Prep for the Great Tribulation, Consider the Following:
The Military Can See Through Walls
It is true! Within the past 10 years, MIT and a Czech radar manufacturer have developed high-end technology that can detect walking, limb movement, and even breathing behind walls. You may be thinking, “Well, not behind concrete!” But oh, touché, they can! As of 2011, it has gone public and is now in the hands of the military.

So if you are hoping to hide out off-grid for seven years during the Great Tribulation, and build yourself a nice sturdy compound in the middle of the Amazon Rain Forest, you may be out of luck.

Living Off-Grid Has Become Illegal
2021-09-25 Just be ReadySince we are on the topic of off-grid living, did you know that living off-grid is now illegal? Well, in the Divided United States it is.

There are some people who just want to live a life away from all of the hustle and bustle; therefore, they choose to live with nature. Building their own homes, growing their own food, chopping their own wood while enjoying the ease of having solar panels for energy — this has become good enough for them. But since these are the End Times — based on the Word of God and the fulfillment of prophecy, these God-given human rights have come under attack.

An 81-year-old man named David Lidstone from New Hampshire was recently arrested and placed in jail for living in the woods, off-grid for 27 years. The cabin that had been his home for almost three decades is in grave jeopardy of being demolished. But this is only one of many stories!

Therefore, if you are planning on living off-grid during the Great Tribulation, more than likely you will be sought out, as it is now (pre-Tribulation) criminal to keep your private residence . . . private! An existence without government knowledge will be far more illegal than it is now.

Body Scanners
I am not certain on this one as of yet, therefore, it is hearsay. But there has been chatter about body scanners that will detect if a person has been injected with the Covid-19 “jab.” Whether it is true or not, it is an idea that is out there. If it is already out there, that means it is likely a consideration.

I personally believe that the “jab” is a precursor to the Mark of the Beast. (No, I do not believe the current vax is the “mark”.) Remember, the devil is the great imitator. Just like God does dress rehearsals, the enemy copies.

What am I saying here? If there is talk of body scanners for the “jab,” then there will more than likely be body scanners for the Mark of the Beast. Therefore, it would be extremely difficult to fake the “mark” if that would be a part of your prepping plan.

Underground Bunkers
Comparable to WWII, the Nazis had dogs trained to smell out those hiding in complex places and spaces, and this included underground shelters and bunkers. Some dog breeds can pick up scents and odors 40 feet deep. So if you were thinking about hiding underground for seven years, you are going to need more than your standardized shovel.

Firearms
Sure, you have your firearms ready; you may even know a little martial arts; but ask yourself, “Would bullets and Kung Fu be able to stop robotic policemen and dogs with unbelievable strength?” That has already been established.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=uhND7Mvp3f4&t=1s
2021-09-25 Robots to the Rescue

Door-To-Door Confiscation
One of the most popular End Time words floating around nowadays is “prep.” There’s absolutely nothing wrong with prepping, especially for known upcoming shortages or possible emergencies. I have friends who are prepped with enough water, food, and firewood for a year, and I am impressed! Our family stocks up as well, it does not hurt — but would it hold during the Great Tribulation?

2021-09-25 I Saw God Last NightLet’s weigh it based on the Holocaust of the 1930s thru the 1940s. During the reign of Adolf Hitler, Nazi soldiers were ordered to go door-to-door looking for Jews. If they were found, they were taken from their homes unwillingly (most times). Not only were they ripped from their houses, but their belongings were confiscated, as well.

People can prep for the Great Tribulation until the cows come home, but if that time period will be the worst the world will ever experience, then the Holocaust would be minuscule compared to what is to come. Therefore, everything you have prepped for will eventually be in the possession of the anti-Christ. Whatever was done during WWII will be repeated, enhanced, and polished for the devil’s inevitable “field day” on earth.

With all that being said, you cannot prep for the Great Tribulation, unless you:

  1. Take the Mark of the Beast with zero chance of making it to Heaven.
  2. Plan on getting decapitated.
  3. Somehow, skillfully figure out how to make it through seven years of the most dangerous times in history.
  4. Be ready for Jesus Christ to rescue you instead of having to go through the Great Tribulation.

All hands on deck, I choose #4!

When I read through the Old Testament of when the Lord rescued Noah and his family from the Great Flood after warning them to be ready, and how God sent his angel to snatch Lot and his family from Sodom and Gomorrah after warning them of its destruction, I fell in love with Jesus all over again!

He never goes outside of His character and neither does He change. The fact that He rescued the righteous while giving them a “heads up” coincides with what He also instructs us to do in Matthew 24:42-44: “Watch therefore, for you do not know what hour your Lord will come. But know this, that if the owner of the house had known what hour the thief would come, he would have watched and not have let his house be broken into. Therefore you also must be ready, for in an hour when you least expect, the Son of Man is coming.”

We are instructed to watch and be ready for Jesus to take us to be with Him. If you are prepping for the Great Tribulation, you are looking for the anti-Christ instead of the Christ.

The Bible says the children of God are not subject to God’s wrath (1 Thessalonians 5:9), which is why we are not the ones crying out, “Hide us from the wrath of the Lamb,” in the Book of Revelation (Revelation 6:12-17). Jesus urged us to pray that we are found worthy to escape the horrors to come (Luke 21:36).

Do not forget that Jesus also assured us that, “If I go and prepare a place for you, I will come back and take you to be with Me that you also may be where I am” (John 14:3). That is His promise to us that He is going to take us to be with Him to a place He has prepared for us.

All throughout scripture, the Lord has a great track record of protecting and withdrawing His children from great catastrophes. I was amazed when I read the surety of Isaiah 26:19-21 when the Lord tells us to come into His chambers for a little while until the indignation passes. And who can forget the famous scripture: “Then we which are alive and remain shall be caught up together with them in the clouds, to meet the Lord in the air: and so shall we ever be with the Lord.” 1 Thessalonians 4:17

And it concludes with, “Comfort one another with these words” (1 Thessalonians 4:18). There is no comfort at all in going through a real-life horror show for seven whole years! But Jesus Christ promised us an escape, a way out, and that is only through Him. We do not want to be like the five foolish virgins who did not make it into the chambers of the Bridegroom (Matthew 25:1-13). We want to be the ones always watching, waiting, ready, and prepping for His promise to gather us up in the sky with Him. (It does not sound crazy when you remember that Enoch, Elijah, and Jesus were raptured up, too.)

https://deepbeliever.com/you-cannot-prep-for-the-great-tribulation-unless/
2021-09-25 DeepBeliever

Guest Blog from Thompson Engles

Thompson is a Christ-follower that impresses me like the sons of Issachar who understood the times and what Israel should do (1 Chronicles 12:32).  This does not mean I agree with everything he writes, but I trust him as a brother that cares for the Church of the living God, and for the lost who need Jesus.  The following is a repost of his most recent blog with some minor edits of British spelling and grammar (I am the Grammar Police and I have a badge to prove it. 😂)  But seriously, his not-so-random thoughts here are worth reading, if for no other line than this: “The protected need to be protected from the unprotected by forcing the unprotected to use the protection that didn’t protect the protected.
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Random Thoughts on Issues of the Day (Part 4)
by thompsonlengels5484

“The world is engaged in the largest clinical trial, the largest global vaccination trial ever, and we will have enormous amounts of data.”– Department of Health.

2021-09-14 Vaccination

The writer is not a stoic or in any way seeking to undermine the pain of those who have lost their loved ones through Covid. I’m truly saddened by all these. May the God of all comfort, comfort us who are under this crucible of suffering, I, among them.

Welcome to a time before a nightmare. A Gestapo regime is here — “Where are your papers?” Because many will think this is about vaccines, let me set the record straight. If you want to get the jab, by all means, take it! It’s your choice and I’m not going to view you different because you’ve taken the vaccine. No.

My chief contention is on compulsory government vaccine mandates – and the obvious hate passed to the unvaccinated. I’ve been called many awful names when I share my unpopular view(s) during these hard times. I’m not bitter and afraid of any man.

But I’ll not keep silent when something needs to be said. I’ll not, truthfully, follow something that does not make logical sense.

You know, ”fear is an extremely powerful psychological tool, that has been used by politicians always,” notes a holocaust survivor; “the Nazis were particularly adept at it.”

The times we are living in is in many ways carbon copy of what took place before the holocaust. The government, again, as I’ll keep on emphasizing, is not for the people but against its people.

The government is the real virus.

We now have a class of “subhuman” fellows, that is, the unvaccinated. The vaccinated are scared of the unvaccinated. It is the unvaccinated fella, who, they say, is the reason why Covid is still here. “It is not the responsibility of the unvaccinated to protect the vaccinated.” That’s the vaccines job!

Plainly put, The protected need to be protected from the unprotected by forcing the unprotected to use the protection that didn’t protect the protected.

2021-09-14 I Can See You

Again, the issue here is not about vaccines; it is about totalitarian regimes taking place right under our noses. And if we speak against such signs, we’re labelled immediately to be conspiracy theorists. Let me show you how a totalitarian regime will look like, or looks like:

You’ll need to produce papers 24/7. We’ll need papers to enter restaurants, bars, concerts, casinos, conventions and hotels and to board a train, plane or bus. We’ll need papers to enter a supermarket, or we’ll starve to death. We’ll need papers to visit our families. All for the crime of being unvaccinated!

And God forbid, you’ll need papers to go and worship God with other brethren in your local church.

The scary thing about all this is people are led by emotions rather than pausing to reflect on what’s really happening. Others, of course, know what is happening but are scared to speak up. Others fear losing people’s good opinion of them. They do not want to offend anyone, just impress.

Not that we offend because we desire to do so, but because for some things to be heard; we need to say what others aren’t saying. Call the elephant in the room.

I’d not want my children or anyone to grow under the Gestapo’s. Children are now being trained to be suspicious. “They might be infected, they might infect me.” Of course, that’s the Media’s job — to pass out fear! Why? Because fear sells!

2021-09-14 Vaccinaton Lines

On issue of vaccine passports. Again, an absolute desire for a totalitarian survelliance state. It’d be good if folks would care enough and study history. Also, I’d challenge men and women instead of being rushed to forcing men to follow everything the state says, to also take time and carefully be informed.

Do not let the state make you a villain to your own family. That’s what Satan wants — the destruction of families!

Some of you reading this may have a medical knowledge or perhaps, practicing medicine! I’d remind us of the oath you took — to protect lives. Not by use of propaganda and fear.

To the elders of a church and to the brothers of Christ. It is not Scriptural of you to refuse entry into your services a subgroup of society (unvaccinated) based on their medical choice. Only Jesus Christ has the authority to regulate the terms of corporate worship, not the government!

These, in a sense, tell you are to make no distinction between those who call out in faith, either on race or medical choice.

The gospel should be proclaimed to all men — vaccinated and the unvaccinated. Therefore, to refuse members access to corporate worship would be to betray our Savior and openly disobey His great commission.

To members (and also leaders) of a local congregation: Do not coerce the conscience of others. The conscience is one of the innermost expressions that animates an individual, and that allows them to worship God as well as obey a legitimate governing authority.

The conscience is the immediate contact of God’s presence in a person’s soul, and so an individual forced to act in a way that is objectionable to their conscience will never be at peace, either before God or before the state.

A government that endeavors to force or coerce an individual who is striving to honor God will find that they only encounter resistance.

A government should never coerce conscience, but rather respect the important function that it carries in aiding a person to worship God freely and live obediently before the state.

2021-09-14 Heres Looking At You

So then, on issues of vaccines, as stated above, if some  people have made the decision and have already taken the jab, that is their right, and it cannot be abrogated. But those who are not ready, or hesitant, also have their valid reasons why they are not in a rush.

Their conscience binds them to wait, and their Savior advised them not to make decisions before they have counted the cost.

This is a principle of wisdom, that everyone applies to many aspects of their lives.’ The government, or any other corporate body or individual, be it in public or private, should not coerce the conscience of its people.

Neither, I say, should the state or any other person, label those who question these things as unloving. To conclude that is a fallacy devoid of sound reasoning.

You’re wise and know how to apply.

Guest Blog: Dry Bones on Wordless Wednesday

2021-09-01 Wordless Wednesday

Just as in the story of Ezekiel 37 and the dry bones, you may sometimes feel disconnected, lifeless and despairing. But Jesus can bring your life back together. He can make even dry bones dance again.

So, don’t quit. Don’t give up. The One who reassembled the dry bones and got them moving again can do the same for you.

All of us need to be reminded, especially when life seems hopeless, of God’s plan to restore us and give us a second chance — a divine reset.2021-06-19 Tony Evans Signature

Guest Blog -Afghanistan Update, August 31, 2021

This guest blog comes after the last US plane left Kabul yesterday, 24 hours ahead of the self-imposed deadline Biden had announced.  Biden’s failed exit from Afghanistan leaves hundreds to thousands of Americans stranded there, along with up to 250,000 Afghans [according the the WSJ] who cooperated with western forces who were preventing the takeover by the Taliban.  This is only a small part of the 4,000,000 (four million) internally displaced Afghans who have tried to flee the country during the Taliban’s resurgence.

Biden’s lie that the Afghan army did not fight denies the reality that 70,000 Afghan army members died since 2015 with tens of thousands more wounded.  Further, 20 years of American, British and NATO forces unofficially “occupying” the country means an entire generation grew up from infancy to young adulthood with anticipation of participation in their own governance.  Now we have deserted them.  A much longer blog than my usual, but well worth reading.

Please continue to pray for my friends in Bamyan, Mazir-e-sharif and Kabul.  A few were able to leave on Sunday, several are still there.

2021-08-31 C17 Globemaster Leaving Kabul International Airport
A C-17 Globemaster takes off from Kabul International Airport

GUEST BLOG:
After the way the Biden administration handled the withdrawal from Afghanistan, the nation’s adversaries “will now be pushing the envelope a little bit more … to see just what they can get away with,” says Luke Coffey, director of The Heritage Foundation’s Center for Foreign Policy.

After 20 years in Afghanistan, the Pentagon said the U.S. military completed its evacuation from Kabul by midnight local time, leaving behind a country under Taliban control.  “It’s a sad geopolitical irony that the Taliban will control more of Afghanistan on Sept. 11, 2021, than it did on Sept. 11, 2001,” Luke Coffey, director of The Heritage Foundation’s Center for Foreign Policy, says. 

The Biden administration’s poor handling of the U.S. withdrawal from Afghanistan will cause adversaries to push “the envelope a little bit more,” Coffey says, adding that even “America’s friends are questioning U.S. resolve” on the international stage. 

Panjshir is the only one of Afghanistan’s 34 provinces under the control of a resistance movement led by Ahmad Shah Massoud Jr.. Coffey says Shah Massoud Jr. “is probably, right now, the best hope in terms of slowly turning the tide against the Taliban.”

Coffey joins “The Daily Signal Podcast” to address concerns over Americans who remain trapped in Afghanistan after the Aug. 31 deadline and to explain the potential ramifications of the withdrawal.  The following is a lightly edited transcript.

Virginia Allen: Today is the deadline for all American troops to be out of Afghanistan. And here with us to break down the latest news and what we know about the progress of the pullout is The Heritage Foundation’s director of the Center for Foreign Policy, Luke Coffey. Today is the pullout deadline. Are all Americans out of Afghanistan?

Luke Coffey: Well, they’re not out right now, but they will be. We probably won’t know when exactly they will be, because that will be kept a secret, of course, for operational security reasons, by the Pentagon. But it’s a very precarious time right now for, not only the U.S. presence in Afghanistan, as we wind up this mission there, but … also [for] our allies and also for the Afghans who have been essentially left behind.

We know that there are probably a couple of hundred U.S. citizens that are left in Kabul, perhaps there are more, and other places around the country. And who knows how many Afghan Special Immigrant Visa applicants there are, these are the Afghans who helped us over the past two decades during our time in Afghanistan. Who knows how many are still remaining in the country. And for those Afghans who are left inside the airport, after that last U.S. C-17 leaves, it will be a very frightful time for them, I suspect.

Allen: In relation to the American citizens that are on the ground there, that we’re still working to get out, after the deadline, will those be covert operations trying to get them out? Do you think we’ll have some freedom to still send some planes in and pull them out relatively, obviously, to others or will those operations take place in secret?

Coffey: That remains to be seen. And it’s a very good question. There are some private initiatives taking place—the so-called Pineapple Express, which has been doing, by all accounts, a good job at getting U.S. citizens and Afghan interpreters out of the country. But they’re also doing this with the U.S. military presence there in the background.

The Taliban have said that foreigners will be able to leave freely, but they don’t want Afghans to leave, but there’s nothing in the past two decades that has shown us that we can trust the Taliban at their word. In terms of any effort to get U.S. citizens out, it will be very difficult, if not impossible, at least in the short term.

Allen: And what about our Afghan partners? Are there still going to be operations to get some of them out after this deadline? Or are we just kind of saying, “Good luck”?

Coffey: The Biden administration hasn’t been very clear on how they’re going to deal with this. They keep telling the public that the Taliban have told them that none of this will be a problem, but clearly it is going to be a problem. The Taliban will say one thing one day and they’ll say a completely different thing another. So I suspect, however unbelievable it might sound to the listener, after the deadline for American withdrawal, there will be American citizens stranded in Afghanistan, and there will be Afghan [Special Immigrant Visa] applicants who are also stranded.

Allen: Do we know how many of those applicants we successfully got out and how many are still in the country, as far as our Afghan partners?

Coffey: Again, the numbers coming out from the Pentagon are sort of all over the place. In addition to Afghan [Special Immigrant Visas], other Afghans have been taken out of the country. They’ve been brought to a third country — for example, Qatar or the United Arab Emirates—for further security screening before they will eventually move on to the United States or to other places. The exact numbers are unknown publicly, at least right now.

Allen: How are the Afghan people viewing America’s pullout? Is there a sense among them of, you know, “Good riddance. America’s been here for 20 years, it’s time for them to leave”? Is it mixed? Do we know how they view this?

Coffey: I think it depends on where you go and who you speak to in Afghanistan. I think, generally speaking, many are probably disappointed or saddened or shocked or feel betrayed by the U.S. withdrawal, and the way it has taken place.

For example, if you’re an Afghan soldier, you must have been shocked to discover that your No. 1 partner for several years has just left, in some cases, in the middle of the night. President [Joe] Biden had been criticizing the Afghan military for not fighting, but this is false. Since the Afghans have taken over security and combat operations in 2015, they’ve suffered more than 70,000 killed, tens of thousands more, wounded.

We built this Afghan military around a system that relies on civilian contractors providing maintenance and support to helicopters and planes and logistics and our close air support that we would provide the Afghans.

This wasn’t 2009, 2010, 2011, where we had 100,000 U.S. troops in Afghanistan conducting combat operations every single day, taking casualties every day. When President Biden entered office, there were about 2,500 U.S. troops on the ground. And we were also providing our close air support. If the Afghans were getting in trouble, we would provide airstrikes or whatever to help them. And in some cases, all of this was withdrawn without the Afghans knowing and overnight.

It doesn’t surprise me that the Afghan soldier was demoralized by this. I think your average Afghan would not necessarily welcome the Taliban into their village, but what are their choices? The central government has all but dissolved, the U.S. is now gone, and you have an Afghan schoolteacher teaching children and all of a sudden, a couple of pickup trucks filled with fighters with machine gun shows up to your village. What are you supposed to do?

And when President Biden says, “Well, they didn’t fight,” well, how is this person supposed to fight back? I think in the end, this will be a terrible stain on U.S. prestige and honor in history. And it’s probably going to come back to bite us.

Allen: Thinking into the coming days, weeks, months, do you think that there’s hope that we’ll see any resistance from the Afghan people? That some of those soldiers that were trained by the American military will reform and decide to fight against the Taliban?

Coffey: Yes. Well, this is happening, actually, as we speak. There’s one province in Afghanistan called Panjshir that is under the control of the resistance. Panjshir is probably about 60 or 70 miles as the crow flies northeast of Kabul, the capital. This resistance movement is being led by a young man called Ahmad Shah Massoud Jr. Now, Ahmad Shah Massoud Sr., his father, led the resistance against the Soviets and also against the Taliban in the 1990s. He was assassinated on Sept. 9, 2001, two days before 9/11, by al-Qaeda.

His 32-year-old son fled Kabul in some helicopters, went to his homeland in Panjshir Valley, and has set up resistance. He claims that forces are pouring into this region every single day. I suspect they’re trying to hold out until winter. If they can hold out until winter, then we might see some movement on their behalf, taking back some of the provinces in the north of Afghanistan, where the Taliban are going to have a difficult time controlling and managing.

This is very early days, but there is a resistance. There are Afghan commando soldiers that are pouring into this region. … They’re called the National Resistance Front of Afghanistan, the NRF. I’m not sure if the NRF thinks, knows if they can trust the United States right now. Can they trust the Biden administration after what the Biden administration had done?

But this young man, Ahmad Shah Massoud Jr., he’s acutely aware of his father’s role and his father’s history. He will act accordingly because of this legacy. He is probably, right now, the best hope in terms of slowly turning the tide against the Taliban. But this takes us back full circle to where we were in the 1990s and regrettably, all of this could have been avoided had President Biden kept the 2,500 troops in the country and the close air support.

Allen: And that really brings us to ask the question of, how has President Biden’s actions affected America’s position on the world stage and other international leaders’ views of America? What are your thoughts on that?

Coffey: Yeah. Well, it’s been horrible, to be honest. America’s adversaries will now be pushing the envelope a little bit more, every single time, to see just what they can get away with with the Biden administration. America’s friends are questioning U.S. resolve and commitment. President Biden was all but censured in the House of Commons last week, this is from America’s No. 1 ally.

Many people are scratching their heads wondering, “Well, what does this mean for our relations with the U.S., for American commitment to security alliances and security agreements?” And our adversaries in Beijing and Moscow and Tehran, they’re all looking at this as an opportunity and they will take advantage of this. How they will take advantage of it remains to be seen, but they will. I can guarantee it.

Allen: Luke, let’s chat a little bit more about the day that’s ahead of us, this pullout deadline. We are having this conversation on Monday. It’s impossible to know what’s going to happen in the next 24 hours, but how likely do you think it is that we’re going to continue to see attack attempts like we saw over the weekend and on Monday on the airport as Americans complete this pullout on Tuesday?

Coffey: Well, we’ll for sure be under threat. The withdrawal of this nature creates a very vulnerable environment for the military. They have to gradually hand over chunks of the airport to Taliban control while they continue to secure a smaller and smaller bit until the last airplane takes off with the last soldiers and the last equipment.

What will they do with the remaining equipment? Will they destroy it? Will they just leave it behind? Or will they find a way to take it out? Who knows. Obviously, the priority will be taking out the soldiers, sailors, airmen, and Marines that are there. When that last C-17 takes off, will you have a situation where desperate Afghans flood the runway again, trying to stop it? How will the Taliban react?

And of course, you have the so-called Islamic State of Khorasan, or ISIS-K, as it’s known—the ISIS branch in Afghanistan, that’s probably the easiest way to describe them. They were responsible for the terrible bombing that killed 13 U.S. service personnel and more than 170 Afghans last week.

They will be trying to take advantage of the situation, … where the Biden administration is now reliant on the Taliban and specifically this terrorist organization called the Haqqani Network to provide security for Kabul and security for the U.S. forces that are leaving. The leader of the Haqqani Network has a $5 million bounty on his head from the FBI. And this is a guy whose terror group is now responsible for the security in Kabul.

You couldn’t make it up if you tried. The situation is so absurd. It is a very dangerous time. Right now we should be praying for our soldiers, sailors, airmen, and Marines that are trained to wrap up this very dangerous mission in Kabul. And we should also have in our minds those Americans who will be left behind, and also the Afghans who deserve to get out, but can’t.

Allen: What is the Taliban doing right now? Have they been cooperating with America? And do we know if they have any responsibility for the attacks that we have seen?

Coffey: Well, for the most part, the Taliban has allowed the bare minimum to occur. So, it looks like the U.S. is withdrawing people from Kabul international airport. But they’ve been doing so while not allowing full and free access for Afghans and American citizens to get to the airport.

Basically, they want the Americans out. They don’t want to do anything too provocative that would somehow change President Biden’s mind. At this point, I have no idea what that might be. But they still don’t want to tempt their fate in this.

And they want to let the world see how incompetent and weak America looks while it does the withdrawal process. That’s why they’re letting it happen. They’re just not letting it happen very smoothly. And so there is some cooperation and coordination between the U.S. military and the Taliban.

Now, ISIS-K and the Taliban are actually adversaries and enemies. Which just shows how complicated Afghanistan is. In the past, the Taliban have fought ISIS in Afghanistan. In fact, there have been reports of the U.S. providing airstrikes in support of Taliban offensives against ISIS-K in eastern Afghanistan.

This will likely become a major headache for the Taliban as ISIS in Afghanistan tries to exert more control and take advantage of what is a very chaotic security situation. It will probably mean that the Taliban will not be able to control and secure and govern much of the land that it currently has in Afghanistan. It took a lot of land and territory over the past two weeks, but can it govern and control? And that’s the big question for the Taliban now.

Allen: We’re really looking at a situation that’s obviously deteriorating quickly. What do you think as far as strength and numbers? Does ISIS-K pose an immediate threat to, let’s say, overtaking the Taliban in Afghanistan? And then what threat do they pose immediately to America?

Coffey: Well, one of good news stories about America’s presence in Afghanistan for two decades was that during the course of 20 years, there wasn’t once a terrorist attack that was planned, coordinated, and launched from Afghanistan that was successful against the United States.

Now, it’s likely that Afghanistan will revert to the chaos we saw in the 1990s, where you have four or five different warlords or power brokers that control certain parts of the country. In this chaos it’s likely that non-state actors and terrorist groups will be able to set up shop, if they wanted to. Already, we have signs of senior al-Qaeda members coming back from Pakistan into rural places of Afghanistan. This is documented on social media for anyone to see.

And ISIS will continue to pose a threat to the U.S., but they will pose a threat to the Taliban’s legitimacy and the Taliban’s ability to control and govern certain areas. They’re not a major power right now in Afghanistan. They were recruiting a lot from disenchanted Taliban fighters who felt like the movement wasn’t going in the direction it should be going.

ISIS-K is very extreme in its views and how it practices Islam, in a way that even the Taliban find abhorrent in many ways. I mean, the Taliban would release statements criticizing ISIS when they did things in Syria. So these two powers will be fighting against each other. This will make the Taliban focus a lot on trying to defeat and counter ISIS.

One thing the Taliban would have going for it is recruitment is improved when you’re successful, and the Taliban has been successful. So a lot of recruits that might’ve gone to ISIS are likely to go to the Taliban. But the Taliban is going to have a problem governing and controlling the whole country, because most of the country, most of the big cities and provinces switched sides to the Taliban without a shot being fired.

Incidentally, and coincidentally, I should say, this is how the Taliban gained most of its power in the 1990s, was through local deals, bribery, convincing people to switch sides. And this happened again. How the Taliban manages this new complex set of relations that it now has with different power brokers across the country will determine how securely and how well they’ll be able to govern and control the country. And this will not be easy for the Taliban.

Allen: Of course, we can’t change the past, we can’t change what’s already happened in Afghanistan, but how does America go about mitigating the damage and trying to prevent any further loss of life moving forward? What does our foreign policy toward Afghanistan need to look like right now in the immediate future?

Coffey: Well, the Biden administration hasn’t left much room for a maneuver here. I suspect this administration will try to pursue a pragmatic relationship with the Taliban, which, ultimately, will let America down.

In terms of America’s options, I think, in the short term, we need to find ways to get the remaining Afghan [Special Immigrant Visa] applicants and U.S. citizens out of that country. I’m not sure how that might take place, but that should be a top priority.

And then we need to double down on our relationship with key partners in the region, such as India, for example, or some of the Central Asian republics, the so-called Stans: Tajikistan, Uzbekistan, Kazakhstan. These are countries that are right on the front lines, not in a military sense, but in the literal sense. Tajikistan and Uzbekistan border Afghanistan, they have a lot at stake with how Afghanistan goes. There are huge ethnic minority groups in Afghanistan that [are] ethnic Uzbeks, ethnic Tajiks. So these countries will play a role in the future of Afghanistan one way or the other. So the U.S. needs good relations with these countries.

And then finally, I think, we need to have an honest discussion about how we engage with, or maybe even support, the NRF, the National Resistance Front of Afghanistan. Right now they need bandwidth and connectivity. The Taliban are trying to cut off their internet access. Right now, from my contacts that are involved with the NRF, they tell me that they can’t stream anything. They can barely use Twitter and barely send text messages.

And we need to provide them cold weather gear. The winter’s coming in Afghanistan. If they can survive the winter, it gives them more options in the spring time—they can consolidate more, get more supporters into the secure region. And also, you never know, … if they can expand this region, the National Resistance Front, then maybe that becomes a safe area where those who are stranded in Afghanistan can somehow make their way to.

We need to figure out how we support this new group. I’m not sure if they even need weapons right now—I mean, there’s so many weapons floating around Afghanistan—but they do need secure communications, they do need bandwidth, and they do need winter weather equipment for this coming winter.

Allen: That’s a practical need, certainly is.

Coffey: That’s very achievable.

Allen: Well, the anniversary of 9/11 is less than two weeks away. Do you think that America is at legitimate risk of facing another terrorist attack, whether it be from the Taliban, ISIS-K, al-Qaeda?

Coffey: Of course. I always start at the assumption that we are at risk and that we have to take steps to mitigate that risk. But certainly the way the Taliban has been able to sweep across Afghanistan, it will embolden Islamist fundamentalists around the world to be even more daring or to be more aggressive toward the United States.

It’s a sad geopolitical irony that the Taliban will control more of Afghanistan on Sept. 11, 2021, than it did on Sept. 11, 2001. And all of this was avoidable had the Biden administration pursued a different policy, but this is where we are.

Hopefully, the U.S., I’m sure the professionals in the Department of Homeland Security and our law enforcement professionals and our military professionals and those in the intelligence community are working tirelessly with our allies and partners to ensure that we remain safe here in the homeland.

Allen: Luke Coffey, Heritage Foundation’s director for the Center for Foreign Policy. Luke, thank you so much for your time today. We really appreciate you coming on.
Coffey:
My pleasure. Thank you.

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Intermezzo Guest Blog: Update on Afghanistan

As Biden’s humanitarian and military crisis in Afghanistan proceeds, friends in Afghanistan are trying desperately to find a way out of the country, mostly over land into neighboring countries.  Imagine thinking “escaping to Iran” would be an attractive option!

In spite of the small number of Afghani Christians, missions agencies report that for several years Afghanistan has had the fastest growing population of Christ-followers, second only to Iran.  This story is from the son of an imam who hated Christians when he was 17, but found out that Christians were offering peace and life while the Muslims of whom he was part were threatening him with death for simply reading the Bible.  The following is a transcript from a Christianity Today podcast called Quick To Listen.  Good reading and information in Christianity Today.
__________________________________________

‘My Heart Is Broken’: An Afghan Pastor Grapples with the US Withdrawal
America’s departure and the Taliban’s ascent is forcing Christians out of the country.
Morgan Lee, August 20, 2021

2021-08-23 Taliban in KabulTaliban patrolling Kabul, Afghanistan, Monday, Aug. 16, 2021.

Earlier this year, President Joe Biden announced that after close to 20 years, the United States would be withdrawing its troops from Afghanistan. Last week, as the military began its exit, the Taliban was ready and within days had seized control of the country. The ascent sparked widespread fear and led to thousands arriving at the airport only to find their flights out of the country had been canceled. Some even grabbed hold of an aircraft in desperation.

Biden defended the decision, arguing that Afghanistan’s leaders “gave up and fled the country.” He also said: “The Afghan military collapsed, sometimes without trying to fight. If anything, the developments in the past week reinforced ending that US military involvement Afghanistan now was the right decision.”

He did concede: “The truth is, this did unfold more quickly than we had anticipated.” As the government fell, it was not clear if the US had done anything to protect those who had worked with the military as translators. Plans to resettle Afghans as refugees seemed to be formulated in real time. The rights of women and girls, which were suppressed under the Taliban’s previous time in power, also appeared in jeopardy. And the lives of Christians, who according to official numbers only make up a minuscule number of the country’s nearly 40 million people, seem in peril as well.

David Paiman is an Afghan pastor and evangelist. You can follow his ministry herePaiman joined global media manager Morgan Lee and news editor Daniel Silliman to discuss how he converted from Islam to Christianity, the withdrawal’s consequences for the church in Afghanistan, and how we can best support the country and people during this time.

The transcript is edited by Faith Ndlovu

Highlights from Quick to Listen: Episode #277

David Paiman: Thank you for your concern about Afghanistan. We are grieving and our hearts are heavy. We see the news that Afghanistan is blaring and everywhere in the street, we can see hopeless people are left behind. But we see the reality more when we talk to people inside Afghanistan.

I’ve been talking to many believers inside Afghanistan. They are crying out for help, and they are crying out for the American army, and some of them sent me a video of many women and girls.

They have been to the airport and they’re crying out to American soldiers to help them. They have been there to serve them and help them but that is over. What we are seeing is too much and my heart is broken.

We are here in America, we see what we see on Twitter or television, but generally speaking, what do you find that Americans don’t know about Afghanistan that you really want them to know? What do they maybe misunderstand about what they do know?

David Paiman: Americans should know about Afghan believers, those who have converted to Christianity. Their lives are in danger, especially for people who are registered as Christians in Afghanistan. There are about many families there and they already got their identity. Many other Afghan believers only registered but they don’t have their identity cards yet; it’s still being processed. Suddenly everything has turned in a different way and they are in desperate need of help. Many people just heard the Taliban say very good news using soft words to say, “we forgive everyone, and we will do our best to build the country.” That’s not the truth. The truth we heard from inside is that they are going from house to house to search for people. They have been to many Afghan believers’ houses, and they took their Bibles. Praise God that the Afghan believers were not at their home. But they’re still searching for them.

Did President Ghani’s government require Christians to register?

David Paiman: They were not required to register, but they registered for the next generation. They don’t want their children to be called Muslims, they want their identity to be Christian.

Is your religion something that is printed on your ID cards?

David Paiman: Yes. But what the system did, because they don’t like Christians, when they printed out the cards for Christians they print out “other.” If they print out “Christian,” they face trouble with their own family, they cannot go to the bank, they cannot get a license, they cannot get anything. In reality they are Christian but they print out “other,” not Christian.

So, this was a big step historically for people to start declaring themselves in this official way, that they’re Christian and making public their faith, sometimes at great risk.

Afghanistan is a big country. Was this happening in Kabul? Was this happening in the villages? Where were these Christians deciding to take the stand?

David Paiman: All the Christians that registered are in Kabul. Today I heard the news, which I hope is false news. But I heard that three Christian families were taken by the Taliban and their houses were burned. We don’t know where they are, but I’m not sure yet that that is exactly what’s going on there.

There are very few Christians that live in this country. How did people end up hearing the gospel?

David Paiman: There are a lot of Christians during these two, three years. I am in media and get many calls every day, at least 10 calls from Afghanistan.

They want to receive Christ. Many house churches inside Afghanistan have started sharing the gospel with each other. Some families have been openly sharing the gospel with people and others heard from media, from Facebook, YouTube, and TV. But whenever they receive Christ, we try to connect them with them to get discipled and to grow in Christ, inside Afghanistan.

Take us back to 2001 when America invaded, what was that like for you? What was that like for Christians in the country?

David Paiman: Yeah, that’s what I call false hope. I will never forget in 2001 when the American army came and took over, everyone was celebrating, everyone got freedom and people were praising and thankful to America. Exactly 20 years later we see what’s happening now.

Where were you living at that time?

David Paiman: I was in Saudi Arabia.

With the hope that you experienced, what did you think might happen?

David Paiman: The real hope is Jesus Christ. Afghanistan has been trying many ways to get hope, to get peace inside Afghanistan, but they did not try Jesus Christ. They did not try God. They did not try His love and His mercy. My prayer and zeal are to share Christ with them. They can receive Christ and they can get the real hope, the living hope that never ends.

How old were you back in 2001?

David Paiman: I was about 17 years old.

What did you hear about the American military during that time?

David Paiman: I was very excited because I was a Muslim from Hazara tribes. My tribe experienced the pressure of the Taliban, because mostly Hazara from Shiá Muslim and all Taliban from Sunni Muslim. I saw many Hazara killed by the Taliban in those times and when America came in 2001, I was so excited that we got freedom of speech, freedom of religion, freedom of everything that we could practice in Afghanistan.

Did that happen when the US first showed up in the first year or two?

David Paiman: From 2001 to 2006 it was good. From 2006 to 2010 it changed a little. From 2010 to 2021 it was not a good situation in Afghanistan as well because the government was corrupt. However, America helped the Afghanistan government, the Afghanistan government did not do what they were supposed to do. I don’t want to go into politics. I’m angry with Joe Biden because he said Afghanistan was not willing to take care of their country, yet billions of dollars have been used to help them.

It’s painful that many Afghanistans leave it behind and now we see that Afghanistan is bleeding and people are crying out for help, but it’s because they don’t take care of their own country.

Talking about the issue of women and girls, how did you notice how they were treated before the Americans arrived?

David Paiman: The girls could not go to school and the women could not go out without any man and there was trouble. Now Taliban is a little bit different, but this morning I heard the news that the girls and the women cannot go out without any men. I don’t know what to say about the Taliban 20 years ago and now, I don’t think they have changed. It’s still the same, the Sharia never changes.

But under the past 20 years though, you saw girls going to school, which was not happening under the Taliban. And you saw way more women working?

David Paiman: Yeah exactly.

Did you have any women who were leading churches or doing evangelism, or did they show up in church leadership too?

David Paiman: Yes, my sister-in-law, who is leading a house church there under the men’s leadership. She tries to help other women, does Bible study with them, and leads them woman to woman and men to men; under the men’s leadership which is what the Bible says.

Now the fear is that the schools that were open to girls are going to be closed and as you said, women may not be able to leave the house without men?

David Paiman: Yes. They cannot leave the house without the men. A few schools are open, but only girls under 14 years can go to school. We don’t know yet about college. In Herat city last week, the girls were supposed to go to college, but the Taliban stopped them.

You mentioned that in 2001 you were a Muslim. How did Jesus find you?

David Paiman: I didn’t want to come to the faith. I hated Christians and didn’t want to be one because I’m from a very religious Muslim background.

My father was an imam. They taught me how to be a good Muslim. I have been to Mecca six times, and I practiced my religion very well because I thought the Muslim religion is the only religion, the only way to God. But after my sixth pilgrimage to Mecca, a stranger came to me from Syria and he shared his testimony, how he received Christ inside the Mecca, how he saw the vision of Christ during his pilgrimage in Mecca. That made me get angry with him. I tried to fight with him. I wanted to kill him. But after 45 minutes of our conversation, he asked me, “Would you please let me pray for you?”

I was very proud. I said, “Okay, you pray for me. I will pray for you.” When he started to pray, I closed my eyes to listen to him and it seemed that he knew my problem. He knew my heart. He knew that I’m searching for real peace and that prayer led me to Christ. After he finished his prayer, the big questions came to my mind.

I said, “If he is an infidel, how could he know my heart?” He then gave me a New Testament Bible. I read but I didn’t accept it because my father taught me that the Bible is corrupt.

Six months later I went to Afghanistan, and I shared this experience with my best friend. He then gave me a Bible in my language. He said not to worry about the New Testament I should just start from Genesis. When I started reading from Genesis, I knew inside my heart that something is true here because God Himself is reaching humans, to bring them back to Him. It was so clear to me that this is God Himself wanting human beings to come to Him. I then took the Bible from him.

I started to read the Bible in my city Ghazni, which is about 250 kilometers from Kabul, and I started comparing the Bible and Quran. With two of my friends, every day we started comparing the Bible and the Koran to try to find which part of the Bible is corrupt.

While I was still reading the Bible, I was still a Muslim practicing Muslim, and I got caught by the police because somebody reported that I was reading the Bible. They took the Bible from me. I found myself in the mosque and there were about 60 or 70 people there and they started asking me why I was reading the Bible. I argued with the imam and started asking him a question from the Quran himself, he could not answer me. He started a claim that he proved that I was a Christian. I was not a Christian. I was Muslim. I did not want to become a Christian.

They started beating me until I became unconscious. I then found myself in a police station. I gave them a lot of money and then I ran away from the police station. I went to Kabul. I was hiding in a safety house, which had a lot of Americans.

A lady from Canada who was a missionary helped me to escape from my country to India. I didn’t know she was a missionary at that time. In India, I met Afghan Christians and I was very angry with them. I started to fight with them. One of the guys I fought with is now inside Afghanistan and is sharing the gospel there.

Three months later, one of my friends had epilepsy. I called the pastor and his friend, and they came and prayed for my friend who had epilepsy. At that moment he got healed and I saw the power, actually, I felt the power. I knew then there was power in the name of Jesus. I went to the bathroom, and I received Christ and asked Him to come into my life and I received Him. I gave my life to Christ in 2008.

Why did you go to the bathroom?

David Paiman: Because I didn’t want to receive Christ in front of them because I didn’t want to become a Christian.

I didn’t want them to know that I am receiving Christ. I wanted to receive Christ very secretly.

How did that practically change your life in 2008?

David Paiman: On that night after I came out from the bathroom and had washed my face as I had been crying, I proceeded to make tea for my guests and the pastor knew something had happened to me. After the tea service, the pastor came to me and asked if he could pray for me.

I said, “of course.” He put his hand on my shoulder and started to pray. I started to cry and confess my sin. The next day everything changed. I felt different. I talked differently and everything changed in my life. I saw things differently. I could see people differently and I started sharing the gospel the next day, right away.

I started sharing the gospel with people. I told them only Jesus could save their lives. Only Jesus can give you peace only Jesus can give you hope.

When you started telling people did anyone believe you? Did anyone decide to learn more about Christianity?

David Paiman: At first believers didn’t believe me because I had been persecuting them.

They thought maybe I had come from the Afghan government because I had a very close friendship with the embassy. They thought maybe I was a spy from them. But later on, they believed me.

But yeah. I saw many people come to Christ in India. I received Christ in India in 2008.

And then you started telling people in India for many years?

David Paiman: Yes. I was in India for five and a half years, and then I moved to Indonesia. I was in Indonesia for three years.

We started house churches there and then we baptized about 72 Iranian people. During those three years, 17 Afghan Muslims converted to Christ, and we baptized them. In 2015, I moved to Australia. I started an Afghan church in Sydney, Australia till 2019.

In 2019, I moved here and now we have a ministry. We are helping refugees and we started our house church here in Memphis, Tennessee.

What do you find about God or Jesus resonates with Afghans? What do they love about Christianity?

David Paiman: I heard many people like my friends, especially here saying they see the reality of love in Christian life.

They love you unconditionally. They don’t expect you to do something. They love you just as you are. In Afghan culture when you love some people you expect them to love you back but many of them say they see true love here in American people and Christian people.

That love has now opened the door for us. We can share the gospel with our Afghan friends here.

What’s your sense of what American Christians should be doing out of love right now?

David Paiman: For me, all Christians should practice at least two things, go, and give. If you cannot go, you should give. If you’re a believer, you have to share the gospel, go, or give, giving and supporting it’s all the one part. Christians in America can also pray and help financially. Send them food to eat. This morning I talked to one leader and he’s ready to go to Christ and what he asked me was, “after I go will you please take care of my family.”

He shared Philippians 1:20 (Phil 2:20) which says, “For to me to live is Christ and to die is gain.” He said, “to die, I get my life. I start my life with Christ” and that encouraged me. The only thing for me is the burden of his family. He has given his life to Christ.

I have a burden in my heart to take care of his family and it’s the burden for all Christians in America and to cry out to God and pray for them. If you know people in Afghanistan help them out of Afghanistan. That’s the greatest help.

So, you would say American Christians should also support welcoming thousands of refugees here.

David Paiman: Exactly.

What type of long-term impact do you think that the withdrawal will have on the mission field in Afghanistan?

David Paiman: To help Afghan believers inside of Afghanistan. The missionary can easily come out of Afghanistan, but Afghanistans are left behind.

If they are discipled well, they can share the gospel inside Afghanistan. That for me is long-term, helping Afghan Christians inside Afghanistan. It should start from inside of Afghanistan not from outside Afghanistan, that’s my opinion.

Because now Afghans will be leading these churches, not foreigners?

David Paiman: No, Afghans should start leading the church. They should start discipling people and that’s all Afghans are doing now.

How do the Christians that you meet find Christianity? Who tells them about it?

David Paiman: It’s mostly from media, from Facebook, YouTube, radio, TV, those are the four sources that we have inside Afghanistan. Now it’s not too difficult we can give them the bible. When they’re sleeping in the bed, they can hear the gospel, and no one can stop that.

This past week has been demoralizing. How has it affected your faith in God?

David Paiman: Whenever I talk to believers inside Afghanistan, I find that their faith is very big and mine is very low, and they give their life to Christ. Jesus said, “if you don’t take your cross, you are not worthy to follow Me, if you don’t confess Me in front of people, I will not confess you in front of My Father. That’s exactly what they are doing now. They took their cross willingly and they tried to come under the grace of God, joyfully give their life to Jesus.

Daniel Silliman: Yeah. That’s compelling, that’s what we all believe as Christians and that’s our call daily to take up our cross and the challenges that they’re facing are serious. Thanks for sharing that with us.

David Paiman: The other thing that American believers and Americans should know is this word about the church. In Afghanistan, people know they are the church, and they understand that. But here, mostly most of America, they say the building is a church. There is a building with a cross on it that’s what they call church but, in Afghanistan, the real church is going on.

I’m so encouraged by their ministry.

What are you praying for as you speak to people back in Afghanistan and Afghans here?

David Paiman: To be honest in the first two, three days, I didn’t know how to pray, and I could not pray because my heart was so heavy and when I saw the news, I was so upset with Americans, I was so upset with the missionaries. I was so angry and that’s my human nature. I could not pray but praise God when I talked to them, they encouraged me. They said, “Jesus is with us now.” Now my prayer for Afghanistans, especially for believers is for the grace of God to be always over them because they cannot do anything out of the grace of God. With the grace of God, they can do all things. That’s my prayer.

As we close our conversation, is there anything else that you would like our listeners to know, any information you’ve heard from your friends and family back in Afghanistan that you want to share, or anything we didn’t ask you about?

David Paiman: Yeah, please pray for believers. They are leaving the country, especially pray for two families who just arrived in Pakistan, three families that are in Iran now, and four families that are in Tajikistan. Please pray for them and specifically pray for four families inside Afghanistan. I think I already mentioned their life is seriously in danger.

In their new countries, what should we pray for them, that they get connected to a church community and build their lives someplace new?

David Paiman: Yes, we are praying for them to make contact with other believers at churches and their second countries. Pray for us here that we can make decisions wisely and that we don’t give them false hope or false promises.

Would you be willing to end our show in a word of prayer?

David Paiman: Sure.
Dear Father. You are a good father. I know you know everything about my country. You love my people. You love the Taliban. You love even the people persecuting us. Lord. You command us to love them back. Please help Afghan Christians, especially those inside the country to love them and share your words with them. Lord, I pray for your protection over believers inside Afghanistan I pray for my people, they’re hopeless. They just see the darkness. Lord, I pray that your light will shine on them. Open their minds and their hearts to see you and to see that you love them to see that You died for them. Lord, open their eyes so that they can taste and see that you are a good God.

You are a merciful, God. Lord, I pray for the American army in Afghanistan. I pray that you protect them from evil. Help them, give them the wisdom to choose the right people, and bring them out. Lord, I also pray for my brothers and sisters outside Afghanistan. I pray for the churches. Thank you for my spiritual family here, Lord, they encourage us. Lord. I pray that you give them wisdom and knowledge to help us in Your way, not in their way. Thank you, Lord, in Jesus’ name, Amen.

Unmasking Masks – Intermezzo Guest Blog by Dr. Peter Weiss

“Don’t wear masks, now wear masks. Wear two masks, since two is better than one. Vaccines will set you free, until they don’t. Therapeutics that can treat COVID-19 are frowned upon, and you must be evil if you even suggest the possibility.”

2021-08-12 Unmasking Masks

Surgical masks mainly protect patients from droplets from the surgeon and the surgeon from blood splatter from the patient. They were not designed to protect against viruses. We upended our world with ineffective policies that have unintended consequences.
by Peter Weiss, August 11, 2021

I admit, I was nervous. I had about 30 minutes before I was needed in the operating room. My patient had active COVID-19, but needed emergency surgery. This was back in August 2020, pre-vaccine and mid-hysteria. I pushed the button for the basement. I hate basements.

As I walked in, the nurse was ready for me. I had to be form-fitted for my N95 mask. Form-fitting is critical for preventing any viral particles from sneaking in from the sides of the mask. I put the first one on. She then had me put a plastic hood over my head and upper body. She hooked up a tube and asked me to let her know if I sensed any bad smell or had any sour taste in my mouth [testing the mask]. Within five seconds, I was sick from the sour taste in the back of my throat. She quickly stopped and we repeated the same test with another N95. This time, it took 30 seconds. Luckily the third N95 fit, with no sour taste or smell even after three full minutes.

I was ready. I donned a form-fitted N95 mask, a bubble suit, double gloves, and goggles. It felt like I was in a bad movie, but this was really happening.

It’s now a year later and what have we learned about masks? Everything and yet nothing.

I was a co-author of a paper on N95 masks that was published in 2007 in the American Journal of Public Health. It was written by my brothers and niece, as well as myself. Yes, we’re all physicians. Dr. Martin Weiss was the lead author. It was titled “Disrupting the Transmission of Influenza A: Face Masks and Ultraviolet Light as Control Measures.”

One takeaway message from that article, which was written during the H1N1 scare, was that N95 masks can block 95 percent of particulate aerosols from penetrating into the mask, and we need to manufacture them now. They can block particles as small as 300 nanometers in size, which could block the COVID-19 virus.

Even though COVID is small enough to slide through the N95, the mask still has dense nanofibers that can catch droplets. In the operating room, it’s the best we have unless we have a full N100 respirator. Still, the N95 can capture the virus when expelled from an infected person, according to an article published in Nature Medicine in April, 2020.

The sad part is that our call for mass production of these masks back in 2007 went unheeded. We also stated that the goal is vaccines and therapeutics. While we have vaccines, therapeutics are lagging far behind. Even discussing therapeutics is frowned upon now.

Today, we’re constantly bombarded by recommendations and even orders to wear masks when outdoors. Los Angeles County, New York, and St. Louis all are implementing indoor mask mandates — again.

There was a time when we were told to wear them outside, even if alone. The problem with the best of intentions is that they can often lead to poor judgment. What constitutes a mask in the setting of COVID-19 restrictions? It’s worth unmasking masks.

Let’s start with N95, as I described above. To be effective, it has to be form-fitted. Not all N95’s fit properly, and they can leak viral particles. They’re actually called respirators, not masks. A mask mainly keeps the wearer from ejecting droplets or spray that affect others. A respirator provides two-way protection and can keep the wearer from catching aerosol particles from others.

There is even a N100, which does what it implies. N100 can block out the COVID, but good luck wearing it for any length of time. N95 respirators aren’t comfortable, and I have trouble wearing them for long periods of time. You really don’t want your surgeon uncomfortable. A number of colleagues and I have had to stop surgery to wipe our faces and readjust our masks.

Surgical masks are made of three plied layers of synthetic microfibers and extra-fine synthetic fibers, which block out much larger particles, but do a poor job of blocking the much smaller particles associated with COVID-19 viral transmission. The COVID-19 virus is extremely small, 60-140 nanometers, which is 1/1000th of a micron. A paper, “Filtration Performance of FDA-Cleared Surgical Masks,” stated that “The results suggest that not all FDA-cleared surgical masks will provide similar levels of protection to wearers against infectious aerosols in the size range of many viruses.” It was published in the Journal of International Society of Respiratory Protection in 2009.

Surgeons wear surgical masks for two reasons. First, we don’t want any blood or bodily fluid to hit us in the mouth, and second, we don’t want our saliva or drool to spill into the wound. We don’t wear them for viral protection. To be fair, there are a few articles that claim some surgical masks reduce viral transmission, from the person wearing the mask, but that’s assuming that droplets are the main cause of transmission when they may not be. Some believe aerosol spray is the major factor.

Those studies also assume that there’s no leakage from ill-fitting masks, since those were controlled environment studies. Aerosol spray is the extremely small viral particles that an infected person would give off when breathing. Droplets would be slightly larger, but still minuscule, and found in the kind of spray you see in a sneeze or when someone is speaking or coughing. (A side note: Masks with ties are more effective than masks with loops since they give a better seal.)

We hear a lot about “droplets.” Droplets aren’t some raindrop-size spit coming out of a person. Scientists usually mean something less than five microns (1/5,000 of an inch). The vast majority of COVID-19 is spread in much much smaller aerosol spray of 1/1,000 of a micron.

Dr. Kevin Fennely published a paper in The Lancet in 2020, stating that most viral pathogens are found in small particles. This conflicts with the view that larger droplets are responsible for most viral transmission. There have been other studies showing that very small particles (under 5 microns in size) may contain as much as nine times as much virus as larger particles (droplets). It’s also postulated that these smaller particles may be more dangerous, since they can penetrate deeper into the lungs. As a side note, when a droplet falls to the ground, it becomes aerosolized and is still a problem.

Those who believe that droplets are the main source for COVID-19 infections should also then support social distancing, but not the six feet we’re told. To be accurate, it should be anywhere from 18 to 27 feet. No one really knows where this six-foot social distancing “rule” came from. It most likely arose from the 1918 Spanish flu outbreak. The World Health Organization (WHO) recommends social distancing at one meter (39 inches). This was based on work by a researcher from 1930 who studied the spread of tuberculosis. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recently changed the social distance requirements in schools from 6 feet to 3 feet (slightly less than 1 meter).

So, in effect, we’ve upended our entire world to enact policies with limited impact, meaning that the cost associated with implementing them isn’t offset by the proposed gains.

COVID-19 is bad. It’s absolutely horrible, especially if you’re older and have underlying medical conditions that make you more vulnerable. The good news is that, for most of us, it will only be a mild infection, such as the flu. The chance for a young person under 40 to die from COVID-19 can be as low as 0.01 percent and even lower if vaccinated.

The unintended consequences of the draconian measures from this pandemic are tragic. A recent report by The Well Being Trust says there could be 75,000 more deaths by what is called “death by despair” (suicide, drugs) because of COVID-19. Those 75,000 will be young people, not the elderly. In other words, people who aren’t really at risk from COVID-19.

We’re beset by misinformation and confusing recommendations from our government. Vaccines are amazing, I’m a believer, yet some politicians, such as President Joe Biden and Vice President Kamala Harris, publicly stated that they wouldn’t trust any vaccine coming out under former President Donald Trump, until they were in charge. Don’t wear masks, now wear masks. Wear two masks, since two is better than one. Vaccines will set you free, until they don’t. Therapeutics that can treat COVID-19 are frowned upon, and you must be evil if you even suggest the possibility. This isn’t a reliable information environment.

How we tell a medical story is critical for success. It’s the way we tell a cancer patient or a surgical patient how we’ll treat them that sets up a plan for success.

And that plan should be based on a rational balance of cost, reward, and freedom. We don’t force a cancer patient to get a treatment that will make them suffer and a similar argument could be made for the vaccine.

Even though I’m a believer in the vaccine, I understand those who aren’t and respect the right of a healthy 18-year-old woman to decline receiving it. For the 36 million people who have had COVID, there’s no need for them to get the vaccine, since they have natural immunity. For how long, we don’t know, but research suggests durable immunity. It’s simple to test and find out if you still have antibodies against COVID-19.

Back in 2007, we suggested that the nation stockpile N95 masks. No one listened. We’re now incapable of manufacturing those masks. They’re all made in China. So now, we can wear a cheesecloth mask, and we’re told that we’re saving our nation.

I personally have no problem with wearing a mask if and when it’s truly needed. It just has to be the right mask, an N95 or greater. And yet, these masks are distinctly uncomfortable and add an additional strain on your system. They make it harder to breathe, or in research terms, impede gaseous exchange. I often have to stop surgery to adjust my mask and “catch my breath,” I’ve been wearing masks for all of my professional life, so it’s easier for me. I’m not everyone, though.

The issue we have is defining when is mask-wearing warranted? Forcing vaccinated people, or those who have recovered from COVID-19 to wear a mask, makes little sense, other than making some people feel more secure. Forcing a 2-year-old to wear a mask is asinine, to say the least.

On top of that, mandates don’t work. The implied new goal of reducing the COVID-19 death rate to zero is unrealistic and will never happen. This is now endemic. If we mandate mask-wearing to “save” lives, then we might as well mandate prohibition, since there are an estimated 95,000 deaths per year from alcohol-related incidents. Many of those are from drunk drivers killing innocent bystanders or passengers. The same argument can be made here. Solutions need to be realistic, not ridiculous.

Our nation should be able to mass-produce something as simple as N95 respirators and distribute them to the nation when and if needed for some future catastrophe. There will surely be more pandemics coming. My point is, if we need a mask, make it something that works.

Cloth masks, or even surgical masks, are like tying a rope around your waist while driving and claiming it’s a seat belt.

It also isn’t too much of an exaggeration to say wearing a Gucci style face-covering, such as Nancy Pelosi has, is like asking an X-ray technician to wear their grandmother’s kitchen apron when taking X-rays.

Dr. Peter Weiss has been a frequent guest on local and national TV, newspapers, and radio. He was an assistant clinical professor of OB/GYN at the David Geffen School of Medicine at UCLA for 30 years, stepping down so he could provide his clinical services to those in need when the COVID pandemic hit. He was also a national health care adviser for Sen. John McCain’s 2008 presidential campaign.

God Help Us All – Wordless Wednesday

Five Times August is the name of a solo music project by Dallas, Texas independent singer/songwriter/guitarist Brad Skistimas.  Another one on this same theme entitled Jesus, What Happened To US?: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=RPzc8ROZEjU.

Intermezzo Guest Blog – Pray for Lebanon

One year after the Beirut blast, a Lebanese Evangelical Christian reflects on the devastating explosion that left 300,000 homeless. by All Arab News Staff, August 4, 2021
How did Christian ministries respond to the crisis then? How should we be praying for the people of Lebanon today?  

2021-08-04 Beirut One Year LaterThe following article was written by a Lebanese Evangelical Christian who lives and works in Beirut but is currently studying in the U.S. Because of the sensitive nature of the political and religious situation in Lebanon, the author’s name and organization are redacted.

BEIRUT, LEBANON – For every resident in Lebanon, and every Lebanese around the world, 6:07 p.m. on Tuesday, August. 4, 2020 marked the darkest day they can recount. Every person on Lebanese soil collectively experienced the largest non-nuclear explosion in history.

The blast nearly destroyed their capital. It killed 218 innocent civilians. It drove more than 300,000 individuals into homelessness. And left an entire nation traumatized.

Whatever you read about this day after the passing of 365 days, and whatever we all try to communicate about the tragedies of what happened a year ago, it is so difficult to explain the heartache of our people. We will never be able to relay the permanency and gravity of the loss, hurt and grief that millions of Lebanese continue to live in while also still living under the same ruling class responsible for the tragedy.

Not much has been done to bring justice to a nation that has been left to bleed economically, humanitarianly, socially, emotionally and politically since then. Facts about the cause of the blast are scarce. The site of the explosion remains an abandoned crime scene that leaves many questions unanswered for the families of the victims and for the Lebanese people as a whole. Most Lebanese who work in Beirut have to drive by that crime scene on a daily basis, reminded that somehow their lives must continue despite the heartache.

Many surveys are circulating across social media platforms about the effects of PTSD on those who survived, about survivors’ guilt, about mental health awareness and psychological support. These questionnaires only try to quantify the grief and categorize it into digestible pieces. But the Lebanese people still wake up the next morning to an ever-deteriorating Lebanese lira, scarcity of fuel, power outages, medicine shortages, and the complete dismantling of their quality of life.

The organization I work with here in Lebanon had offices less than three miles away from the epicenter of the blast. Most of my colleagues live within that same radius of the blast and can share individual experiences of loss on that day.

One team member shares about the miraculous way she was spared by running late to a wedding that she was going to attend less than a mile from the explosion that evening. A number of team members suffered damages to their apartments, and many more lived through the horrifying experience of long hours of survival check-ins from friends and family hearing news after news of whether the people they knew were dead or alive. As one team member explained it so well: “The explosion did not happen at the Beirut port. It happened inside every single apartment in Beirut.” What happened on August 4, 2020 literally extended to each of our team’s homes.

For me personally, it had been exactly a week since I left Beirut to return to the U.S. to pursue further education. I had argued with my dad for days to move my travel date forward from August 4 to July 29. He finally agreed. But if I had not won that argument, I would have been driving along that same route on that same day headed towards the airport.

I still remember so vividly on August 5 that our managing director gave a tearful message while addressing the entire staff as Arab Christians from all over Lebanon came to support the response on the ground in Beirut. It was so encouraging to see this response – it was organic, it was raw and it was difficult because it was the first time that every person working was both a victim and a first responder.

Our organization’s teams spread out across the city to spend the first several days cleaning up debris wherever there was a need. It soon became more evident, however, that our ministry was best positioned to respond to churches that were damaged or destroyed, Christian schools that were affected and any Christian families that were connected to either one of those two categories.

A week after the blast, we organized a team to venture into a new project, assessing material damage that was caused to the apartments of families that were referred to us by church members or affiliated Christian schools. The team quickly noticed that the immediate need was to secure apartments and to try and restore a sense of safety for families to be able to retreat to their own home with a peace of mind that, at the very least, they had a secure front door and that their windows were sealed. Therefore, the first response was to hire contractors who would ensure that all doors and windows of damaged apartments be restored for safety and security reasons. The work had to be done fast as families were pressing through their trauma and leaning heavily on us for emotional and physical support.

One of my colleagues told me a story from those intense days: “During our visit, the wife was in her living room watching TV as she prepared a traditional Lebanese meal for her family. When her husband started telling us about what happened on the day of the explosion, the wife started to get emotional. She got so emotional and repeatedly kept saying how she still could not believe that her husband is alive. She said, ‘He was so close to the explosion, it all happened in a matter of seconds. I called him several times, but he didn’t answer, so I assumed the worst had happened. Two hours later, I was breaking down. Nothing was clear. The whole country was in shock, and watching the news wasn’t giving me any answers. Then my husband called suddenly. I thanked God a million times for protecting him. If you knew how close he was [to the blast] you’d definitely understand what I went through.”

We knew exactly how close her husband’s work was to the explosion since we knew her husband very well. He was only a few feet away from where nearly 2,700 tons of ammonium nitrate had exploded, and in the most crowded street that contains many restaurants, shops and old historic neighborhoods.

Every family that our team visited to pray with and encourage had a miraculous testimony of God protecting them. The losses “should have been far greater,” said one team member to me. “When you walk along every street, and you hear the clinking of glass, and see the mass destruction that ripped through an entire city, and that was heard across the country, and realize how the Lord protected so many, you cannot but declare it a miracle.”

A week after the blast – and after seven straight days of picking up glass and salvaging people’s belongings from whatever was left, for 10 hours every day – our team gathered and sang songs of praise in the damaged living room of one family. A team member shared with me that it was at that moment that the tears came rushing through. The shock had subsided, and the tears did not stop. Everyone, however, seemed to come out of the shock and began to grieve at different speeds.

At one point early during the crisis, the founder of our organization prayed with leaders from across the nation to seek God’s wisdom and guidance in how best to make a difference, saying, “We should all allow ourselves to cry, but the hardest thing for me has been my inability to do so. I have been asking God repeatedly, ‘When God? When will those tears come rushing down? When will I truly be able to feel again after this paralyzing shock?’”

Sometimes, not becoming too emotional too quickly was a good thing. After all, with every apartment that our team entered, the more tragic stories we saw and heard.

One team member shared with me his concerns before going in to meet the first devastated family. He said he did not feel prepared to handle what he knew would be the needs because this was a community that was deeply scarred by the Lebanese 1975 war and now has compounded trauma. He was expecting to see resistance, bitterness, rage and a rebellion against God. However, he said that in every encounter it was as if the Lord had gone before them and people’s hearts were somehow ready to give praise to the God of miracles for whatever they had left.

After doors and windows were sealed, Christians rallied to rebuild churches. Schools were repaired and began to function again. But our team of Lebanese Christians from all over the country knew that they were not ready to leave yet. The financial and economic situation in Beirut remains unbearable. Families have not been able to recover since the blast as the economy continues to get worse. We have provided food and hygiene supplies to many families, but there is still so much more to do.

Today, my Lebanese Christian colleagues and I do not celebrate the efforts or accomplishments or initiatives that God has allowed us to be a part of to help those in need after the Beirut port explosion. We cannot because we see so many man-made atrocities and negligence. We are glad to assist local churches, but so many challenges remain here in Beirut.

Still, we do praise God for every survivor, for every story that points to the faithfulness of God who is merciful and who heals. We praise God, not for restoration of windows and doors, but rather of people and souls. Yet, my colleagues and I are still grieving.

We know of three young children who lost their mother in front of their eyes. We know a young man whose only mistake was that he was lying in his bed and died due to the injuries he sustained. It is hard to find goodness in the midst of evil and to see hope in the midst of despair.

Yet, we are grateful that the Lord is working in small ways. We are grateful for the hundreds of families we were able to assist with more than 8,000 packages of food and other essential supplies. We are grateful for the hope that Christian and Muslim families found as we cared for them and showed the love of Jesus Christ in tangible and meaningful acts of service. We are grateful, too, for the residents of the 95 apartments, 19 churches and six schools that our organization was able to come alongside to love, encourage and assist.

Above all, we are grateful for the ways that many other Christians demonstrated Christ’s abundant love, mercy and grace to the people of Lebanon who live to tell the heart-wrenching stories of Aug. 4, 2020, and for the many miraculous stories of that fateful day.

Will you join us in continuing to pray faithfully for the people of Lebanon, a country we love so much?