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How God Protects His People

An Encounter with ISIS: How God Protected Us

The warning came exactly one week before we were scheduled to leave. It was a text message from Pastor Ronald, our representative in the Philippines. Puzzled by why he would text me since our correspondence was always via email, I opened my message box on my cell phone. What I read shocked me.

Rick,
ISIS has kidnapped Pastor Danial of the church in the tribal area of Maasim, the church your team is scheduled to visit next week. We are trying to find him but until we do, we have to assume ISIS now knows about your team and your plans. You may want to postpone your trip.

Ronald

For almost six months my team of five had been planning to fly to the Philippines to minister in the poor areas of Davao and the jungles of Mindanao. It was a trip I had taken every summer for seven straight years without a single problem although the State Department routinely warns American citizens not to go to this area. But now the danger was real and directed at my team.

I texted Ronald telling him to keep me posted then contacted my team. I knew Bonnie and I would go anyway, not because we were foolhardy, but because we knew God wanted us there. But I had to give each member of my team the opportunity to make a choice.

By that evening, the other three members let me know they were going too. I was proud of my team and the willingness of all of us to put our faith on the line. We were not going to let ISIS stop us from serving the Lord. The rest of the week I followed Ronald’s texts as if they were reports from a war zone which–in many ways–they were.  The reports confirmed our decision and demonstrated the power of God. It was a tense week as we counted down the time to departure and monitored Ronald’s bulletins.

Six days before we were to leave, Ronald reported that Pastor Danial had been released but was still somewhere in the jungle. We were to learn later the miraculous means of his deliverance but for the moment we were concerned about his whereabouts.

Five days: Ronald reported that Pastor Danial was still missing but he and several pastors were planning to drive to the area at midnight to evacuate his family and look for him. My team prayed for the mission.

Four days: Ronald reported the mission was a success. They found Pastor Danial and drove him and his family back to his church to hide them.

Three days: Ronald reported that ISIS had Pastor Danial’s cell phone containing contact information for all of us and notes about our visit. He warned us that ISIS Commander Tokboy had called him several times demanding Pastor Danial be returned or he would hunt us down and in typical ISIS fashion, behead us all. My team talked it over and prayed. We decided to stick by our initial decision. We were going.

Over the next two days we packed, prayed and prepared ourselves. Ronald continued to report daily threats. Knowing that the family had left everything behind we raised funds to help them when we arrived.

After 22 hours in the air and sitting in airports, we arrived in Davao at 6:30 am. Ronald was at the airport to pick us up. It was hot and humid. We were tired. The jeep was small and cramped, but instead of going to our hotel we had Ronald take us to the church so we could meet Pastor Danial and his family.

When we arrived, Pastor Danial, his wife and eight children were sitting in a line on a bench under a canopy.  Pastor Danial stood and smiled. He was short and had a weathered look about him. I was surprised at how thin he was. He didn’t look like someone who had just bested ISIS alone. Of course, I knew he hadn’t been alone.

I walked up and hugged him. “I’m so glad you and your family are safe.”

He smiled. After introductions, my team sat down to hear Pastor Danial’s story.

+ + +

He was alone in his church when two men with rifles walked in.  They told him if he came with them they wouldn’t hurt him but Pastor Danial had heard enough stories to know that wasn’t true. Yet, he had no choice but to obey.

They drove him on a rut-filled dirt road deep into the jungle. He didn’t ask questions and neither of the men volunteered anything. He didn’t know if these were the New People’s Army or Islamic terrorists.

They stopped at a small clearing and then walked further into the jungle to a small camp. As soon as they arrived he saw the black ISIS flag on a pole. Islamic terrorist. They escorted him over to a hole about nine feet deep and a dozen feet across. Once on the edge they took his phone and pushed him in. He landed on his feet in the soft mud at the bottom. He knew his fate. He’d heard about these holes. No one came out of one alive.

He prayed and waited. He spent several days in the hole. Cold and coated with mud he got very little sleep. Occasionally, someone would drop down a little food and some water. Late on what seemed to be day three, four men, three with rifles and one with a handgun, circled the hole. The one with the pistol identified himself as ISIS Commander Tokboy. From Pastor Danial’s vantage point in the hole it was hard to make out his features but his voice was deep and laced with contempt.

“Are you the one that has been passing out bibles in this area?” Commander Tokboy asked.

Pastor Danial nodded.

“Then you are guilty of counter-Islamic activity. You must die.”

The Commander raised his pistol.

Pastor Danial closed his eyes and prayed for God to save him. At that moment a phone rang. He opened his eyes in time to see the Commander back away holding a cell phone. He couldn’t make out what was being said but it was clearly an argument and the Commander seemed upset.

After a short time, the argument stopped and Commander Tokboy appeared. He glared down at Pastor Danial. “You must have important friends. I’ve been told not to execute you. I’ll let you go but you will stop handing out Bibles. If you report this to the police or military I will kill you and your entire family.”

Pastor Danial only nodded as he looked down at the ground. He didn’t dare smile for fear the commander would change his mind and shoot. But he knew who the important friend was and he silently praised God.

+ + +

When he finished we all were quiet for a moment. It was so surreal, like something out of a movie. Eventually, Bonnie stood up and walked over to hug his wife. It seemed like the best time to give him the money we raised at the last minute to help his family. Both he and his wife began to cry.

Later that day, Ronald pulled me aside and said that Commander Tokboy continues to text him multiple times during the day demanding the return of Pastor Danial and threatening to find all of us and chop our heads off.  I told him that though I was concerned I felt safe as long as we stay in or near Davao.

That’s far from the end of this story. It turns out we had nothing to fear but Commander Tokboy did.

Our original plan had been to spend a couple of days with Pastor Danial at his church and host a pastor’s conference. That, of course, had to be scrapped. In it’s place, Ronald found a small hotel on the Philippine Sea with a meeting room not far from our base in Davao. We decided to bring the pastors up from Maasim and have the conference at the hotel.

The pastors agreed. In fact, they were excited to leave the area. Even though they hadn’t been passing out Bibles and had not been harassed by ISIS they were understandably nervous.

The conference ran smoothly and the way it ended was nothing short of a miracle. It was clear to me that the pastors were unsure about returning home. So, I asked them to gather in the middle of the room. My team surrounded them and started at just a few minutes after 5 pm to pray that God would keep them safe.

At the end of the prayer they went to their rooms to pack so they could return first thing in the morning. Ronald took my team back to the hotel.  We had settled in our rooms when the phone rang at a little past 9 pm. It was Ronald.

“Rick, I have great news. The pastors are in their rooms singing praises to God. They just got word that at 5 pm today the Philippine army raided Commander Tokboy’s camp. The commander was wounded in a shoot out and captured.”

And that is how God protects His people.


Richard Spillman is a retired Computer Scientist who typically writes Christian non-fiction (The Passion of Job and Do What Jesus Did, both available on Amazon) as well as a Christian blog (https://spillmanrichard.com). His latest passion, however, is Christian fiction. His first novel, The Awakened, is waiting for a publisher to pick it up. He is represented by Jim Hart of Hartline Literary Agency. The story asks the question: “What if Lazarus didn’t die a second time?” He was led to write it after avoiding being kidnapped by ISIS in the Philippines and then receiving death threats (to behead him in standard ISIS fashion) during the rest of his missionary service there. Besides the blog he is active on Twitter (https://twitter.com/awakenedtrilogy) and Instagram (http://ink361.com/app/users/ig-3176880720/spillmanrichard/photos) where you can see pictures from his missionary travels around the world.

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the annunciation by tanner

8 Fulfilled Prophesies Foretelling the Birth of Jesus Christ

PROPHESY: Descendant of Abraham

“And through your offspring all nations on earth will be blessed.” (Genesis 22:18)

Prophesied: Around 1500-1300 BC
Fulfilled: Matthew 1:1-17, Luke 3:23-38

The genealogy of Jesus laid out in the book of Matthew and Luke details Jesus lineage through Abraham, Isaac and Jacob.

PROPHESY: Descendant of Jacob

“A star will come out of Jacob; a scepter will rise out of Israel.” (Numbers: 24:17)

Prophesied: Between 1446-1260 BC
Fulfilled: Matthew 1:1-17, Luke 3:23-38

The genealogy of Jesus laid out in the book of Matthew and Luke details Jesus lineage through Abraham, Isaac and Jacob.

PROPHESY: Virgin Birth, Immanuel

“Therefore the Lord Himself will give you a sign: Behold, the virgin shall conceive and bear a Son, and shall call His name Immanuel.” (Isaiah 7:14)

Prophesied: 740 BC
Fulfilled: Matthew 1:20-25, Luke 1:26-35

“But while he thought on these things, behold, the angel of the Lord appeared unto him in a dream, saying, Joseph, thou son of David, fear not to take unto thee Mary thy wife: for that which is conceived in her is of the Holy Ghost. And she shall bring forth a son, and thou shalt call his name JESUS: for he shall save his people from their sins. Now all this was done, that it might be fulfilled which was spoken of the Lord by the prophet, saying, Behold, a virgin shall be with child, and shall bring forth a son, and they shall call his name Emmanuel, which being interpreted is, God with us. Then Joseph being raised from sleep did as the angel of the Lord had bidden him, and took unto him his wife: And knew her not till she had brought forth her firstborn son: and he called his name JESUS.”

PROPHESY: A Child Will Be Born

“For a child will be born to us, a son will be given to us; And the government will rest on His shoulders; And His name will be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Eternal Father, Prince of Peace. There will be no end to the increase of His government or of peace, On the throne of David and over his kingdom, to establish it and to uphold it with justice and righteousness from then on and forevermore. The zeal of the LORD of hosts will accomplish this.” (Isaiah 9:6-7)

Prophesied: 740 BC
Fulfilled: Luke 1:32-33; 3:23-38, Matthew 1:1, 6-7

“He shall be great, and shall be called the Son of the Highest: and the Lord God shall give unto him the throne of his father David: And he shall reign over the house of Jacob forever; and of his kingdom there shall be no end.”

PROPHESY: The Time of Messiah’s Arrival

“Know therefore and understand, that from the going forth of the commandment to restore and to build Jerusalem unto the Messiah the Prince shall be seven weeks, and threescore and two weeks: the street shall be built again, and the wall, even in troublous times.”

“And after threescore and two weeks shall Messiah be cut off, but not for himself: and the people of the prince that shall come shall destroy the city and the sanctuary; and the end thereof shall be with a flood, and unto the end of the war desolations are determined.” (Daniel 9:25-26)

Prophesied: 605 BC
Fulfilled: Matthew, Mark, Luke, John

“(1) This passage tells us when Messiah will appear on the scene. (2) It tells us that after His appearance, Messiah will be rejected by His people, and (3) that Messiah will be cut off temporarily, an obvious reference to the cross.”

“The seven weeks with the sixty-two weeks combine to make 69 weeks of years (483 years) until the coming of Messiah. The starting point for the 483 years was the decree to restore and rebuild Jerusalem. This is a reference to the decree given in the time of Nehemiah in the twentieth year of King Artaxerxes in 445 B.C. (Neh. 2:1-8). After this, Messiah would appear on the scene.”

“The words ‘until Messiah the Prince’ refer to a time when Messiah would be manifested as the prince of Israel. This would be around A.D. 30-33, so the time of His birth as the Immanuel of God would have to be around A.D. 0-4.” (Keathley.)

PROPHESY: Born in Bethlehem

“But thou, Bethlehem Ephratah, though thou be little among the thousands of Judah, yet out of thee shall he come forth unto me that is to be ruler in Israel; whose goings forth have been from of old, from everlasting.” (Micah 5:2)

Prophesied: 742 BC
Fulfilled: Luke 2:1-7; Matthew 2:1-6, John 7:42

“And Joseph also went up from Galilee, out of the city of Nazareth, into Judaea, unto the city of David, which is called Bethlehem; (because he was of the house and lineage of David:) […] And so it was, that, while they were there, the days were accomplished that she should be delivered. And she brought forth her firstborn son, and wrapped him in swaddling clothes, and laid him in a manger; because there was no room for them in the inn.”

PROPHESY: Destruction of the Children

“A voice was heard in Ramah, lamentation, weeping, and great mourning, Rachel weeping for her children, refusing to be comforted, because they are no more.” (Jeremiah 31:15)

Prophesied: 597 BC
Fulfilled: Mathew 2:16-18

“Then Herod, when he saw that he was mocked of the wise men, was exceeding wroth, and sent forth, and slew all the children that were in Bethlehem, and in all the coasts thereof, from two years old and under, according to the time which he had diligently inquired of the wise men. Then was fulfilled that which was spoken by Jeremiah the prophet, saying, In Rama was there a voice heard, lamentation, and weeping, and great mourning, Rachel weeping for her children, and would not be comforted, because they are not.”

PROPHESY: Return from Egypt

“Out of Egypt I called My Son.” (Hosea 11:1)

Prophesied: 755 BC
Fulfilled: Matthew 2:13-15

“And when they were departed, behold, the angel of the Lord appeared to Joseph in a dream, saying, Arise, and take the young child and his mother, and flee into Egypt, and be thou there until I bring thee word: for Herod will seek the young child to destroy him. When he arose, he took the young child and his mother by night, and departed into Egypt: And was there until the death of Herod: that it might be fulfilled which was spoken of the Lord by the prophet, saying, Out of Egypt have I called my son.”

Download the two-page handout for your next discussion »

 


References

Lorenz, J. November 2, 2014. Prophecies About Jesus: 6 Birth Prophecies Fulfilled by Christ. Newsmax. Retrieved from https://www.newsmax.com/FastFeatures/prophecies-about-jesus-birth/2014/11/02/id/604203/

Keathley, III, J. Prophecies of the Birth of Christ. Bible.org. Retrieved from https://bible.org/article/prophecies-birth-christ

Chaffey, T. December 24, 2012. Fulfilled Prophecies at the Birth of Christ. Answers in Genesis. Retrieved from https://answersingenesis.org/jesus-christ/birth/fulfilled-prophecies-at-the-birth-of-christ/

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how to pray ACTS prayer method

How to Pray ACTS

When praying, remember ACTS! Here is how to pray the ACTS prayer method:

ADORATION

Regardless of what we’re going through, we can always remember our God is a BIG GOD. He is outside time, space and matter and yet He is also by our side at all times. He created all things great, including a very organized universe full of planets and stars hung in beautiful alignment. He created all things small, like every living plant, animal and human and the earth’s wondrous ecosystem to sustain them. All this and He has set his sight upon you. He loves you and wants to have a personal relationship with you!

CONFESSION

We’ve all made mistakes. We might lose our temper or say words out of contempt. We might struggle with pride and think about ourselves too much. We might be spiritually passive, never caring to grow in our relationship toward God, preferring instead to chase the temporary thrills of this world. Anger, unforgiveness, rejection, shame, fear, pride, and a rebellious, unteachable heart can all lead to a broken life. If we don’t see it in Jesus, we’re not to see it in us. Turning away from these missteps and confessing them to God is the first step toward freedom from them.

THANKSGIVING

What are you thankful for? How has God blessed you? Sometimes we fall into the trap of focusing on what we don’t have or how we’ve failed. We might even focus on past or present hurts so much we give our power over to them. That’s when we allow those wrongs to become a part of us; part of our identity. The Enemy would love for you to be weighed down by those injustices your entire life. Life in relationship with Jesus shatters these chains, leading to freedom and peace that surpasses all understanding (Philippians 4). What has God given you that you can be thankful for? Let Him know.

SUPPLICATION

Supplication is a fancy word that means the act of asking for something with a humble heart. You’ll notice it comes last in this list. After adoration, confession and thanksgiving, your heart will be better positioned for supplication. Too often, people turn to God only when they want something, reducing Him to a cosmic Santa Claus. Yet Jesus clearly taught us to pray “thy will be done,” not “my will be done.” Psalm 37:4 says “Delight yourself in the LORD; And He will give you the desires of your heart.” Though many use this passage to pray that God gives them what they want, it truly means you will come to desire what God desires.

Download this article as a one-page handout for your church, family or small group »

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local listings

5 Tips to Boost Your Church’s Local SEO

Are you a church looking for good local SEO tips?

There are currently 27.9 million small businesses in the U.S., and yes, if you’re a church, you’re counted in that mix. 70% of local spiritual seekers use the Internet to find information about local churches–and they all use search engines.  That means, local SEO one of the bigger factors in your church’s exposure to the local community.

So here are five things you can do to optimize your website and attract local seekers.

1. Claim your listing profile

It’s as simple as logging into Yelp, YellowPages, Google Places, Bing Local and Yahoo Local and claiming (or creating from scratch) your business listing. Yes, you’re a church. You’re also in the business of connecting the lost with the Gospel of Jesus Christ. Do it today. Follow instructions through the verification steps, which might include phone calls or some sort of address verification.

2. Ask for reviews

Most listings sites encourage listing owners to tell their communities to review your organization. So practice it constantly. Do it on an everyday basis. The more reviews you have (whether good or bad, but hopefully more good than bad) will make your organization more visible to future seekers.

Tip: On your business cards, exit door posters, receipts, thank you pages, invoices, or email newsletters, make a note and say “Hey we’d appreciate it so much if you gave us a review on YellowPages / Google / Bing / Yahoo [whatever].”

3. Upload pictures

All local listings have picture featured for your organization’s profile. Take advantage of this. To ensure they see great pictures, upload your own. You don’t have to hire a professional to take photos, but make sure the photos you upload are solid and represent your church properly.

4. Have a full mailing address in text

Your email address is important and it should be in plain text. Some organizations seen on listing sites have placed their email address in an image–which doesn’t work so well with church-seekers wanting to easily reach out. It’s a small barrier, sure.

Tip: If you have the option, just leave your email address off your listing but make sure your website’s address is offered. If a shy seeker needs to email you, they can at least email you through the contact form on your website.

5. Concentrate on local location keywords

Say you operate a local Baptist church. Instead of just promoting your organization as a “Baptist church”–try local keywords instead, e.g.:

  • Baptist church Denver
  • Baptist Denver
  • Denver Baptist church services
  • church Denver

As you’ve already noticed, these keywords won’t serve your purposes if you’re wanting to connect with someone looking for a church in New York. But Denver citizens are looking for good, Bible-believing Baptist church? So try inserting your geographical location along with your keywords.

Go forth and conquer

So there you have it: five local SEO tips to further you along on your journey to cast a wider net. Follow these tips and you will grow in community visibility and reach more people.

Don’t forget: if you ever have any questions, don’t hesitate to contact us.

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nonprofit seo case study

Joshua Memorial Foundation: SEO Case Study

Client: Joshua Memorial Foundation
Product: Nonprofit that teaches water safety awareness and supports other nonprofits in the same.
Campaign: Web development, web design, search engine optimization (SEO), social media marketing

Background

The Center for Disease Control and Prevention states the number one cause of accidental death for children 1 to 4 years of age is drowning. The Joshua Memorial site provides information about water safety and drowning prevention. The foundation’s main objective is to prevent drowning accidents through early childhood education and the promotion of infant and toddler water safety training courses.

Challenge

What do you do when you’re a nonprofit just starting out and have a great new website but not enough online traffic? We can tell you what the Joshua Memorial Foundation, a Nebraska-based nonprofit specializing in water safety courses, water safety literature and drowning prevention awareness did. They asked for help with their search engine optimization.

Their site was fairly optimized when their SEO campaign began. Since we had designed and developed their Joomla-based web site, we knew it had been built to be “search engine friendly” and wouldn’t run into the roadblocks of a poorly developed web site. Still, their web site had the following issues:

  • Low link popularity and search engine saturation (pages indexed in the search engines)
  • Not enough conversion points
  • Low or no rankings for keywords that searchers might use to find their site

SEO Strategy

Over several months of optimizing their web site, we now see dramatic results. We targeted their web pages to go after local search terms like “water safety courses nebraska” and “water safety nebraska”. We also completed a link building campaign, which improved the site’s link popularity (or “votes”) for the site which results in more traffic and higher rankings. Use of social media, blog posts and article marketing has also been part of our strategy.

Results

The search engines are now referring half of the overall traffic to the site. Take a look at the numbers:

  • Unique Visitors +33%
  • Number of Visits +182%
  • Repeat Visitors +56%
  • Total Page Views +100%

Keyword: water safety courses nebraska
Google Ranking (before SEO): Not in Top 50
Page in Google (after SEO): 1
Google Ranking (after SEO): position 5 & 6 (out of 289,000 results)

Keyword: water safety nebraska
Google Ranking (before SEO): Not in Top 50
Page in Google (after SEO): 1
Google Ranking (after SEO): position 3 & 4 (out of 281,000 results)

Keyword:  water safety book
Google Ranking (before SEO): Not in Top 50
Page in Google (after SEO): 1
Google Ranking (after SEO): position 6 (out of 9,880,000 million broad results!)

Keyword: child water safety nebraska
Google Ranking (before SEO): Not in Top 50
Page in Google (after SEO): 1
Google Ranking (after SEO): position 4 (out of 137,000 results)

Interested in seeing how we can help drive more qualified traffic to your website?

More SEO case studies here! »

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christian web hosting

Christian Web Hosting

It is a fact that technology has become an integral part of our lives. Spreading the gospel in the modern world cannot be effectively done without taking advantage of the many tools that technology has given to us.

Perhaps the most powerful of these tools is the Internet.

When the Internet was first invented, it was meant to be nothing more than a convenient way for researchers to share documents over long distances.

Today, the Internet is the platform on which the citizens of the world share ideas, engage in business, and find entertainment.

Due its widespread availability and the rise of social media applications, the Internet is a powerful medium for the spread of different ideas. The Church should not be left behind in this world.

Never before has there been a greater opportunity to spread the Gospel than now. Through setting up a simple website and engaging the masses on social media, you can raise awareness for the great gift our Lord Jesus Christ has bestowed upon us: salvation.

However, despite all its power, the Internet still hasn’t become entirely accommodating.

As Christians, there are moral and ethical standards we strive to uphold. As such, it becomes favorable to have services available that are tailor-made for the Christian standard.

Enter Christian web hosting.

There are moral and ethical needs a Christian website might have which are not typically catered to by your average web hosting service.

Levaire’s web hosting service was started with exactly this in mind. We made a dream service for every church and Christian group out there so they could get the service they  don’t get out there at a fraction of the prices they are charged out there.

Our Web Hosting Plans

Our Christian web hosting service hosts websites for various churches and faith-based organizations around the country. We are very flexible with the services we offer and try to customize hosting plans according to the client’s needs. Our hosting service comes in three tiers, catering to different subsections of our customers. Our standard tier, for example, fulfills the needs of most of our clients. The three tiers are, respectively:

Exodus

Our associated quote for this service is “the meek shall inherit…” This service is for those of our clients who do not have very demanding web hosting requirements or are looking to try our services but don’t want to dip both feet in just yet. Oh, or they probably don’t have much of a budget.

Some of the features we offer for the Exodus are:

  • A monthly cost of $14.95 (or a yearly cost of $170)
  • 1GB disk space
  • 40GB data transfer limit
  • A free setup of your website
  • 100% uptime
  • 30-day unconditional money back guarantee

Church

Evangelization starts here. This is both our most popular and our most balanced service option.  At $24.95 a month (or $295 a year,) it has everything the Exodus tier has plus a few more extras. Some of these include:

  • 5GB extra disk space at 2.5GB
  • Twice the data transfer limit of the Exodus tier at 80GB
  • A dedicated IP address
  • A free domain name

Revelation

This is our “Mature Kingdom ministry” package and is designed to cater to the clients who run large and/or multiple websites that can’t easily be handled by our other two packages. It costs $44.95 a month ($525 a year) and offers huge benefits. Some of them are:

  • Twice the disk space of the Exodus tier at 5GB
  • Twice the data transfer of the Exodus tier at 160GB
  • Unlimited subdomains

All our service tiers feature online giving capability using Qgiv. Email marketing can also be integrated at the client’s request using Aweber enewsletter templates.

We hope you will be able to find what you’re looking for in our services. For any additional information, please do not hesitate to contact us.

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