A Disservice to the Persecuted Church

My dear wife, Violet, has long been a person who spends far more time in prayer than I do. One of the areas that she ALWAYS remembers in prayer is the persecuted church.

In fact, it is through her devotion to the Lord and the concern that she has for brothers and sisters overseas that has helped me to be more consistently aware of those who are beaten, raped, and murdered simply because their faith is found in Jesus Christ alone.

A friend and past contributor, Sony Elise, writes encouraging posts, and in those encouragements often includes admonitions to pray for others. I am thankful for those who would be considered prayer warriors. These are people who give of their time and energy to remember the plight of others.

However, one of the areas in which I am often discouraged is the seeming lack of care, concern, and even love within the western church for these brothers and sisters. Too often, I have grown disheartened when I seek to remember those in places like China, Vietnam, Mongolia, and even in the heart of Muslim countries, yet most in the West live like these people do not exist.

The apostle Paul wrote in 2 Timothy 3:12, “Indeed, all who desire to live a godly life in Christ Jesus will be persecuted.”

I have many times brought the matter up for prayer in church meetings only to be ignored even by church leadership. I can only conclude a couple of main reasons for why our churches do not remember the persecuted church, or if they do, it is on the rarest of occasions.

First, remembering those who are persecuted would mean a vivid reminder that we are one family in Christ Jesus. This means that we must strive to follow the command that Paul wrote in Galatians 6:2, “Bear one another’s burdens, and so fulfill the law of Christ.”

Second, remembering those who are persecuted would cause us to have to examine our hearts and lives. I am afraid that in the western world, we are NOT ready for persecution. Our lives are filled with plenty and many of our churches resemble the church in Revelation that was found in the city of Laodicea.

Revelation 3:17 says that the church in Laodicea said, “I am rich, I have prospered, and I need nothing.”

Yet, Jesus Christ said that the Laodicean church was actually wretched, pitiable, poor, blind, and naked.

How sad that we live and prosper, yet compared to our brothers and sisters who languish in prison, we are poor and to be pitied. Our barns and presses burst full of wine, yet the wine is but the fruit of sour grapes.

A pastor in a persecuted country was asked about the things for which he and his people prayed. The western individual expected that to hear that they prayed for freedom of religion, freedom from persecution, and for better lives.

The westerner was visibly shocked when the old but wise pastor, who had spent many years in prison for his faith, responded with gentleness.

“Our church prays for grace and strength for our people to endure whatever will make us more like Jesus Christ. He suffered and died for us, so is it too much if He asks us to do the same for Him?”

“We also pray for the church in the West that God will bring our brothers and sisters times of persecution so that the true church will grow in its faith. When that persecution comes, we also pray that God will show His love and mercy by providing the same grace and strength to our Christian family in the west.”

Dear readers, our brothers and sisters do not want our freedoms. When the Iron Curtain crashed down, it is said that the struggling and persecuted underground churches dreaded what would come to their doors. Pastors would send word that they only wanted missionaries who would preach and teach them the truth of God’s Word.

I personally spoke with one pastor, who had been imprisoned in Romania for many years. He spoke words that have stayed with me for almost 30 years.

“When the freedom came, all the things found in western churches came to Romania. These were things we did not want. We did not want the entertainment, the worldly music, or the sermons with no real meat. But that is what many missionaries brought to us.”

“The underground church that grew under persecution has become cold. The focus is no longer on Jesus Christ, but on what we can do to draw crowds of unbelievers. Our young people sing all the popular songs from the West, but their lives have not changed. We are no longer ready for persecution and we are the poorer for it.”

Call to Action

What can we do? For too long, the church in the west has done a great disservice to the persecuted church. The call to action comes ringing across the waves from the great cloud of witnesses that cry loudly for the Lord’s return to bring justice.

Here are four areas that will help you and I – starting today!

1. CONFESS! If you do not regularly pray for or remember the persecuted church, seek forgiveness from the Lord. Ask God to help you overcome callousness of the heart and pray to become sensitive to the needs of our far-off family.

2. PRAY! Ask the Lord that our brothers and sisters will stand strong. Pray for their captors and those who persecute them that our God will be gracious and bring even some of “Caesar’s household” to Himself.

3. STAND! Stand with our brothers and sisters. Do not ignore their plight. Find ways to encourage others, especially those who put themselves in harm’s way to go to the persecuted church and try to be a blessing. Find others to meet with who have a similar passion and share times of worship and prayer together.

4. PREPARE! Persecution is promised to those who would live godly in Christ Jesus. Pray that God would help you and I to take our eyes off of the rust, moth-corrupted treasures of this world. Pray that we would heed the words of Paul in Colossians 3:2, “Set your minds (affections) on things that are above, not on things that are on earth.”

What if Today Happened to You?

Today was a special service at our little mission. There was rejoicing, a time of prayer, and worship of the Most High. While we spent time in prayer specifically for the persecuted church, every part of our service, including the time of fellowship afterwards, was intended to bring honor and glory to the Lord Jesus Christ.

Each person that came today woke up to a dreary, grey, overcast sky and drove in a vehicle in a country that freely allows us to travel. But still we came.

Each person that came today had the privilege of coming to a building where we have freedom to worship as we see fit and not having to hide in a cave, or in the forest, or out on a dreary plain just to worship without fear of being reported to the authorities. But still we entered.

Each person that came today had no thoughts of any news that might or might not be taking place around the world. But still we worshipped.

Each person that came today had the opportunity to have a better understanding of what the persecuted church experiences every day. But still we prayed.

Each person that came today was reminded that there is an eternity to look forward where there will be no sin, no tears, no dying, no fears, and only joy in the presence of the Savior. But still we sang.

Each person that came today heard the truth of Scripture being boldly proclaimed that Jesus Christ alone saves sinners. But still we listened.

Each person that came today left after service to gusts of wind blowing across the parking lot, and a sky that was clearing with beautiful sunshine. But still we left.

Each person that came today read the news this afternoon that while we were worshipping, there were others who were doing the same but who did not go home for the wickedness of the heart of man was made evident as several in a Baptist church in south Texas went out into eternity. But still we grieve.

Tonight and in the coming weeks, there will be much soul-searching by many who go to services. Many parents will have concern for their safety and that of their children. Many will wonder if it is safe to go and worship with other believers, or will more lives come to an end. Many church leaders will face the daunting task of determining what kind of security they believe is necessary to help provide protection for those who come.

Yet, through the difficulty of following the news, these things remain true. The dangers are real. The reasons why this young man chose to kill will remain unanswered because he went out to eternity where he faced God as Judge.

Every day across this world, there are millions of Christ followers who live in danger of being harmed or being killed. Millions understand the risks of coming together knowing that it could be their last week. From places like North Korea, Somalia, Sudan, Eritrea, Saudi Arabia, Iraq, Iran, and many other countries, especially in the 10/40 window, there is the cry of the persecuted church. They are being harmed or killed simply because they have called on the name of the Lord Jesus Christ.

BUT still they went, still they entered, still they worshipped, still they prayed, still they sang, still they listened, still they left, and still they grieved.

The world is going to get worse. The Bible promises that this will be the case. Others will die for their faith. Others will have to determine whether dying for Christ is better than living for self. Others will have to decide if they will be bold for Christ and accept the martyr’s crown, or if they will deny the Christ who died for them and so forget that the servant is not above the Master.

What if tomorrow doesn’t take place like you think it will? What if tomorrow you are called to stand before God?

What if today happened to you?

The Church of the Future

2 Thessalonians 2:3, Let no one deceive you in any way. For that day will not come, unless the rebellion (apostasy) comes first, and the man of lawlessness is revealed, the son of destruction (ESV).

1 Timothy 4:1-2, “Now the Spirit expressly says that in later times some will depart from the faith by devoting themselves to deceitful spirits and teachings of demons, through the insincerity of liars whose consciences are seared (ESV).”

The apostle Paul provided us an insight into what the future would hold for the church. His warnings were not written because he had nothing better to do than to try and scare the believers of the 1st century. The church was in its infancy, yet the problems were already present. Just about every book revealed another aspect of what they faced, and the issues were real.

For example, in Romans, he reveals a great deal of doctrine, but he also pointed out the reality that sin in the life of the believer was real. It would not be eradicated in this life but we could be thankful that we, as believers, would not be found to be under any condemnation. Nothing would separate us from the love of God, who had adopted us into His everlasting family.

Could anything have prepared the early church for the events that transpired in Corinth? Despite the debauchery that was a part of the Roman Empire being found in the presence of brothers and sisters in Christ, Paul had to remind these precious believers that although many had participated in various sins, they were now clean. They had been washed in the blood of the Lamb and justified. Their accounts had been settled and they were no longer enslaved to the slimepits of the world in which they once loved to wallow.

The problems that were addressed were game-changers. As each scroll must have been unrolled, read, and shared, each local body of believers had to have rejoiced that their names were truly written in the Lamb’s Book of Life. Paul picked up his quill though and continued to warn each group.

persecution-1stcentury

To the believers in Thessalonica, he lovingly encourages them by pointing out that the Lord had not yet returned. In fact, one of his greatest joys was the testimony that this local assembly had before the inhabitants of the city, and yes, even beyond the region in which they lived. This was a group that did not allow their testimony to wane. Were they perfect? Were they super pious? Did they live on some spiritual plateau where they had become free from the ensnarements of sin? No, no, and no! The Thessalonians were real people facing real threats from an empire that hated the God of the Bible first.

However, Paul then gets another parchment and writes to a young pastor named Timothy. This letter is different. He gives pastoral counsel and godly wisdom for how this young man can shepherd the flock of God carefully, biblically, prayerfully, and lovingly.

In the middle of this epistle though, Paul uses a phrase to show the importance of what he is about to share. “The Spirit expressly says…” We understand the inspiration of the entire Word of God, yet, under that inspiration, his words point out a solemn truth that was meant to be a word of warning to Timothy.

When I began teaching in a ministry capacity over 25 years ago, you would not have been able to convince me that the blood-bought church would be where it is at today. Were there cults to deal with? Yes, of course. Were books being written based on, at best, shady theology? Again, we affirm that there were such books.

However, had you told me that so many churches and even entire denominations would depart from the faith in such record numbers, I would have struggled to believe such a thing to be possible.

To have been told that the proliferation of local assemblies would involve being willing for many ministers to become a Judas and sell-out their testimony and the Word of God for the purposes of entertainment or for profit, I would have told you that you were crazy.

Believers have gone from a hunger for the Word of God to having itching ears. They want to hear nice platitudes that make them feel good about themselves. Churches no longer want to hear about sin, righteousness, and the coming judgment. Padded pews keep people comfortable while they learn how to have a higher level of self-esteem. We are now so full of ourselves in many churches today that there seems to be a self-imposed moratorium on the Holy Spirit’s working in our midst.

Today, an overwhelming number of pastors and churches are more interested in hearing “Judge not!” from each other than they are interested in hearing God say, “You have been weighed in the balances and found wanting. Judgment is coming!”

Above all else, we have smoothed sin over to the point where churches are looking for ways to embrace it, instead of calling sinners to repentance. Step on board a blogsite, Facebook post, Twitter feed, or whatever medium you choose and dare to speak out and proclaim the truth of God’s Word. It won’t take more than 4 or 5 minutes before people who have never spoken to you before arise from the dark mists of the internet to shout you down. “How dare you judge?” “Who do you think you are? God?” “We are called to just LURVE everybody without question!” Et cetera, et cetera, ad infinitum, ad nauseum.

And the words of the Spirit to the church at Ephesus rings out saying, “You have left your first love. You no longer hold Christ preeminent over all others and to the exclusion of all others.”

Sadly, the clarion call to repentance has mostly fallen on deaf ears and now we have truly become closer to the model of the Laodicean church, “You are neither cold, nor hot, but you are lukewarm. I will vomit you out of my mouth.” There is not one good word that is ever said about the church at Laodicea. They had passed the point where there was no turning back. The writing was on the wall.

21stcentury

Today, I look at the 21st century church and realize that the 1st century church would not recognize us today. They would probably wail with despair realizing that we are not prepared for persecution. From the pulpit to the pew has capitulated to the world so much that some may well be willing to sit in the arena looking down on those being sacrificed to the lions.

It is heart-breaking to realize that if and when persecution comes the words of warning will fall on mostly deaf ears. Brother will turn against brother, children against parents, parents against children, and so-called believers against true believers as they ignore the reality of the dangers that were there all along.

Dear believers, if you are not willing to stand for something, then you will fall for anything. We must seek forgiveness from our Lord and with humility dust off our armor. We need to prepare for the fight of our lives and become like Christian in Pilgrim’s Progress when he was willing to face the dangers of Vanity Fair.

The world mocks our “standards” when they look just like the standards to which the world adheres. Why should they want what we claim to have that makes us special if we look the same on Sunday as we did while partying with the world on the Saturday before? If our music, words, actions, and attitudes look no different week after week, month after month, and year after years, then we cannot claim to worship and adore the only One Who has the power to make us a NEW creation in Christ.

God does not save us to leave us wallowing in our sins. That simply means that the world can change to accept all the wickedness it wants. Even, the so-called church can accept all the evils of the world and call evil to be good or good to be evil. However, the day will never come when it is acceptable to God.

To conclude, the 21st century church of the future is failing as the church for the present, and they are a far cry from the church of the past. Are there any who will mourn when our children reject biblical Christianity because of the hypocrisy they see from parents? Will any be willing to weep as did Nehemiah over the sin that surrounded him? Will those who are true believers recognize that while Paul recognized the sin within his own life that grace abounds so that we no longer have to live as slaves to sin anymore than he did?

My prayer remains that God will begin a work of revival within my own life and heart so that I will be conformed to the image of His Son Jesus Christ. Then, I want to see the Holy Spirit move in a way that helps other true believers realize that there are still 7,000 who have not bowed the knee to Baal. The end result is that when those who come after us look back, I want them to say with full confidence that the church of the past left a testimony for the true Church of the Future!

Two Kingdoms

It saddens me to see so many Christians get wrapped up in politics. We have virtually no sense of history (the early days of what used to 26822be a representative republic were far wilder than the current election cycle) and seem to have lost sight of the two kingdoms in play. Augustine likened them to Two Cities.

The Bible is clear – God created three units of government for this age: the family, the state, and the church. We do not read of any of the apostles nor the Lord trying to overthrow the Roman government, although that is the charge brought against Jesus by the Jewish leaders.

We are not selecting a theologian-in-chief this year. We have not had a solid Christian man in the White House in the past 100 years; all of them have put politics above Truth for the most part. We play into the hands of the world when we try make this country into the mold we imagine for it. But no matter how much we desire a secure temporal future under a God-fearing government, that is not where our security lies.

The best thing for this country would be political leaders who cling to the Constitution, just as the best thing for our local churches are men who cling to the Scripture.

The political machinery in D.C. all works together to consolidate power at the national level (the Whig Party lives in the policies of both current parties). No matter if your favorite President was Woodrow Wilson, Ronald Reagan, GW Bush, or Bill Clinton (all professing Christians) – none of those men were able to put this country on the foundation of Scripture. That is not the job of the President.

If your view is that you must vote for a truly godly person as President, how is your position different from the Jews who clamored for a king like the pagan nations had, discontent with having YHWH as their King?

A President who will work against the status-quo and try to push the national government back to it charter document will do this country good, no matter what you or I think of his theology.

A Testimony of Faith

A poem written during the nascent days of The Reformation.

By Margaret of Valois, duchess of Alencon, France,th

sister of King Francis I, a persecutor of The Reformers.

Is there a gulf of ill, so deep and wide

That can suffice but e’en a tenth to hide

Of my vile sins?

Well do I fell within me is the root,

Without are branch and foliage, flower and fruit.

My God, thou hast come down on earth to me, –

To me, although a naked worm I be.

Word Divine, Jesus the Salvator,

Only Son of the eternal Paer,

The first, the last; of all things renovator,

Bishop and king, and mighty triumphator,

From death by death our liberator.

By faith we’re made the sons of the Creator.

Though poor, and weak, and ignorant I be,

How rich, how strong, how wise I am in Thee!

In spirit noble, – but in nature slave;

Immortal I am, -tending to the grave;

Essence of heaven, – and yet of earthly birth;

God’s dwelling place, – and yet how little worth.

What does Pastor Saeed believe?

It is very comforting to know that Pastor Saeed is no longer in harms way of the Iranian government. Many have already spread the good news via social media and other outlets. But while we stand by and praise God for this man’s safety, do we know what he believes? Have Christians not made the same mistake before in standing by certain preachers, politicians, celebrities, or movement leaders only to have a black eye later on because we did not endeavor to know their doctrinal stance?

This article is not assuming to know what Pastor Saeed believes. As far as I know, there are no public statements that have been posted concerning this topic. However,  there is background information that may give some indication to the kind leanings that Saeed may have. DISCLAIMER: This is not a condemning post! I repeat. This is NOT a condemning post. This is purely informational, although I have my personal concerns. I do not believe that Saeed is not Christian. I do not have any evidence to make such a conclusion at this time. I am merely challenging us to always consider who we are supporting and ask ourselves if our own convictions will allow us to do so. The following is just a series of links I discovered when trying to figure out what Pastor Saeed believes. Although I found nothing on Saeed, did find other somewhat relevant information.

Pastor Saeed is an ordained minister from the American Evangelistic Association (AEA)
http://www.cbn.com/cbnnews/world/2012/december/aclj-calls-on-iran-to-free-american-pastor/?mobile=false

AEA was started by John E. Douglas Jr in 1954 and several other pastors who became independent in order to form this organization. http://wordpress.aeaministries.org/history/

What AEA believes can be found here: http://wordpress.aeaministries.org/this-we-believe/

It is possible that many of the pastors could have been affected by the “Latter Rain Movement” in the 1940’s as well as preacher A.A. Allen.

  1. http://www.encyclopedia.com/article-1G2-3274100062/other-pentecostals.html (Scroll down, find “American Evangelistic Association,” and click link)
  2. https://books.google.com/books?id=_Qtv7gJMIFUC&q=American+Evangelistic+Association#v=snippet&q=American%20Evangelistic%20Association&f=false (if link does not work when you click on it, copy and paste to the URL box)

Source 2 above reveals that Douglas Jr. was a convert of A.A. Allen who was one of the more popular “faith healers” of his day and a very controversial figure.

The “Latter Rain Movement” was one of the many baseline movements for the modern charismatic chaos witnessed today.

Douglas Jr. hired John Douglas Sr. to be radio spokesperson for AEA and started the international ministry World Missionary Evangelism (WME). http://wordpress.aeaministries.org/history/

WME is now overseen by John G. Cathcart in Dallas. Some of his writings can be read here: https://wmedallas.wordpress.com/

The Statement of Faith for WME can be found here: http://www.wme.org/statementoffaith.html

Before Douglas Jr. died, John Rienhold was made CEO and President of AEA ministries. http://wordpress.aeaministries.org/history/

Rienhold has been working with Iranian evangelistic ministry “ELAM” and believes that God is not just working through their evangelistic efforts, but is also taking “shortcuts” because of Iranians seeing “visions” of Christ. http://www.charismamag.com/site-archives/218-peopleevents/news/2373-iranian-church-growth-mind-boggling

What ELAM believes as a ministry can be seen here: http://www.elam.com/page/statement-faith And their endorsers are here: http://www.elam.com/page/endorsements

Once again, all these links are not to insinuate that Pastor Saeed is not a Christian. It is good to know those that labor among us, especially if we plan to support them. This is purely informational and is meant to bring awareness to the kinds of beliefs Pastor Saeed may hold. While I am happy Saeed is freed, I am tired of professing Christians making the same mistake over and over again and not doing their homework.

Until we go home.

Choose This Day Whom You Will Serve

Our worship leader prayed for the persecuted Church this morning and, as he did so, I couldn’t help but think of what I have heard about the persecuted Church praying for us, that we will experience persecution so that the Church here can grow. That may sound funny since it seems like there is a church building on almost every corner, but there is more to being a part of the Church than just walking through the door of a building once or twice a week.

The fact is, it is too easy to say you’re a Christian in this country. Although we are becoming a minority, many people still respect “religious” people so we’re okay. If Christianity were to suddenly be illegal, I wonder how many of us would boldly say, “Yes, I’m a Christian.”

Before you raise your hand and say, “I would,” evaluate the way you live your life. Have you truly surrendered every area to Him, making sure everything you do, say, and watch pleases Him? Sometimes I think it is easier to die for Him than it is to live for Him and, yet, if you don’t live for Him now, how do you expect to stand in the midst of persecution?

Like most Americans, I have a pretty comfortable life. My needs are provided, I have a family who loves me and, therefore, much to be thankful for. I am very grateful that I don’t have to fear for my life, or the lives of my family members. At the same time, there should be nothing that I am unwilling to give up if God asks me to. Trust in God means knowing that He knows what’s best for me, and He has a plan whether I understand it or like it … or not.

persecuted

So today, I too am praying for the persecuted Church. May God continue to encourage them and give them grace to stay strong in the midst of the persecution. May He use them to draw others to Him, and may He have mercy on America. May we use our freedom, not for our own pleasure, but for His honor and glory. If we don’t, we very well may experience the horrible things our Brothers and Sisters in other countries are going through. Then we won’t be able to live lukewarm lives. We will either be on fire for God, or we will do what we need to in order to keep our comfortable lives and, in doing that, we will lose them.

Please don’t wait until you are forced to make a decision. Decide today that nothing is more important than pleasing the Father who gave His only Son so that you could spend eternity with Him. He has given so much for you. Today, He asks you to give your life and everything you own back to Him. I pray you will say Yes.