Persecution of Christians

This coming Sunday is the International Day of Prayer for the Persecuted Church.

Persecution of Christians is on the rise – 250,000,000  (250 million) Christians experience some form of persecution. Did you know that in 2016, 90,000 people were killed because of their faith in Christ? That doesn’t include beatings, rapes, house burnings or intimidation.

Open Doors is an organization that has the World Watch List that ranks the top 50 countries where the most severe persecution takes place. It is not a surprise that North Korea is the #1 place that targets Christians – Somalia is #2.

This Sunday, please ask your pastor to emphasize the persecuted in his morning prayer. We cannot sit idly by as our brothers and sisters in Christ are suffering in unimaginable ways simply because they profess faith is Jesus. We are all of the same body of Christ. We have to do something!  We can all pray.

I pray for God’s mercy to reign and His grace to enable. And I pray for those who are doing the persecuting that through the witness of those they target, they will see Christ in a powerful way and come out of the darkness.

Join me on Sunday, November 5, 2017 in praying for our brothers and sisters.

 

Broken People

I just got back from a ministry trip to Ireland. My oldest grandson went with me and he thoroughly enjoyed his time there. He is into medieval history and the “Game of Thrones” and much, if not all, of that show is filmed there in Ireland. I’ve only seen one show and that was on the plane coming back!

It is a lovely country. The people are friendly and warm. I have friends from my last two visits to the island that are so dear. We had great fun driving around northern Ireland. They tend to talk over each other and it’s hard to choose which one to listen to! They are like chattering, happy birds.

I spoke 6 times in 6 days and had 4 hotels. Countless books to sign – on top of the jet lag. I’m afraid the last night I was so exhausted I wasn’t able to form my thoughts in an organized way. That’s when God takes over. And He did.

On that last night…the last person to come speak with me was a lovely lady with silver hair – gorgeous complexion. Her husband had been unfaithful for years, she felt marginalized by the Church and no longer attended church or fellowship events with her friends. She felt ashamed and terribly wounded. She felt shut out. My heart ached for her.

But boy! I could relate. I think the Irish church is where we were back in the 80s and 90s. They just don’t want to deal with the messy stuff. But it’s there whether they want to see it or not. In every Irish pew sits a broken heart. That’s true world-wide, no matter the country. People are hurting and unfortunately, the Church isn’t very helpful and, in many cases causes more damage. That was the case for this dear lady.

I encouraged her to find like-minded friends and, if need be, go to another church that would be more encouraging to her. But I know it is so hard to start again by yourself.

If you think of it, please pray for her. Her name is Elizabeth.

Good ministry took place. They were keen to hear about brokenness and how God uses it in our lives. So often we think broken or flawed, means useless, throw away. Not in God’s economy. Brokenness qualifies us. He doesn’t expect perfection and our goodness is not what He requires.

It is a privilege to touch people’s hearts and lives with the grace of God.

 

Violence

It is hard to imagine the sadness that has engulfed Las Vegas.  The recordings which have been played far too often, are horrifying. Why do broadcasters feel the need to play that stuff over and over?

And I know some are already calling for gun restrictions…I’m not convinced that’s the problem. I could agree with banning assault weapons…  My brothers may get mad at me…they like their weapons. I was never one to buy into that…But I appreciate that they do and act responsibly. Franklin is a big hunter and collector. So is my brother, Ned.

Rather than stricter gun laws, why don’t we tackle violent movies and video games? Have you seen them lately? Especially with Halloween coming up. They are obscene in their violence. Our children are feeding on this stuff. Eventually, it takes its toll on rational behavior and thinking.

I know, at one time, Tipper Gore was on a campaign about song lyrics. I agree with her. The song lyrics, video game and movies are, in large part, to blame for the violent mind-set of our nation. People who are off-balance are triggered to think violence will solve their problems.

Now Islamic terrorists are a different matter…I understand that. They just want to kill the infidels and sick, off-balance people have their own agenda.

I know there is freedom of speech…and as Americans we hate censorship. But something has got to be done.

It just takes common sense.

Of course, it really is a matter of the heart – it’s a spiritual problem. Only God can change the heart.

My heart aches for those who lost loved ones and I pray for their families. But also for the family of the shooter. Let’s remember them in our prayers. And pray for our President and his Cabinet – whether you voted for him or not – he needs God’s wisdom and strength.

 

Is this the end?

I have a news service on my computer  where I read the news. You may remember I turned my television off. Good decision. It just spewed negative information all the time. Now I can pick and choose what I want to see and view in a more deliberate way.

Anyway, this news service gives me a rundown of the day’s top stories. Today it is: Hurricane  Maria making a direct hit on the Island of Puerto Rico; the death toll estimated at 200 – so far – in Mexico City after the earthquake; in the UK you can now use your finger print to buy groceries; a former POTUS is making speeches to the tune of $400K; terrorists are using FaceBook to spew their extremism; anger fuels the political climate (apparently we are angry about everything); a witch is casting spells; a drug raid in NYC found enough to kill 32 million people; a suicide bridge was added to a NYC bridge; there are multiple investigations going on, and the world is running out of antibiotics.

Wow!

When you see all that together it makes you wonder how much longer we can go on. I  worry about the next generation and what they will face. I am sure Daniel’s mother worried as he was sent off to Babylon or Hannah as she left Samuel at the temple under the influence of Eli’s wicked sons. Or my mother worried about Franklin as he drove across Europe to deliver a Land Rover to a hospital in Jordan. All three women, and countless others, trusted God through the millennia, to protect and provide for His own.

But people ask me if all the things going on indicate Jesus’ return. He told us in Matthew chapter 24 to be aware of the signs of His coming. Things like wars and rumors of wars, false teachers, nations against nations, famines, earthquakes, persecution of Christians, betrayal of each other, lawlessness will increase, the powers of the heavens will be shaken… Things will get so bad that He will cut the days short for the sake of His own. And He warned us that people would make predictions but no one knows the time of day – only the Father knows. But there will be signs…

Be aware of the signs. Personally, I don’t think it will be much longer. But I know my grandparents felt that way, too. Each generation has thought, prayed and longed to be the ones to see Jesus come in the clouds. I remember overhearing such a conversation and thought, “Not until I get married.” The young desire to live a fulfilled life before Jesus comes and the older generation realizes Jesus is the fulfilled life!

Jesus tells us to be ready. Are you?

I like the title of my book: Fear Not Tomorrow, God is Already There!

How should we pray in the midst of devastation?

As a nation we have watched two major, devastating storms hit our land causing destruction, fear, anxiety, death and loss beyond comprehension. How are we to pray? I think Job gives us a clue when he said, “Though He slay me, yet will I trust Him.” Brennan Manning once wrote that God would rather hear us tell Him we trust him than we love Him. He wants us to trust in His love and care. Trust is evidence of our love for Him and an understanding of His character.

In the light of terrible destruction, Habakkuk wrote, “Though the fig tree should not blossom, and there be no fruit on the vines, though the yield of the olive should fail, and the fields produce no food, though the flock should be cut off from the fold, and there be no cattle in the stalls, (sounds like the aftermath of a huge storm) yet I will exult in the Lord, I will rejoice in the God of my salvation. The Lord God is my strength, and He has made my feet like hinds’ feet, and makes me walk on my high places.”

 

 

I believe those kinds of prayers in the midst of loss, pain and suffering bring joy to the heart of God. When we affirm our trust in Him and our dependence on Him, not our circumstances, we are drilling down to the bedrock of His almighty character.

I know the days, weeks, months, years of rebuilding will test every fiber of our society. For now adrenaline carries the day…but weariness will set in. A good look at the situation will overwhelm us. We have to keep our focus on God. He is still on His throne.

If He is in control why didn’t He stop it or lessen the storm? We live in a fallen world. Bad things happen. Horrible things happen. But none of these things can separate us from His love. “Shall tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or peril or sword…I am convinced that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor things present, nor things to come, nor powers, nor height, nor depth, nor any other created thing shall be able to separate us from the love of God, which is in Christ Jesus our Lord.” That is security, folks! True security.

 

 

Racism

This was written by a dear friend, Victor Morris, from a ministry I am involved in: Advancing Native Missions. It is worth sharing with a wider audience. Like Victor, I live close to Charlottesville. We have been deeply affected by the events in Charlottesville. One of the members of my church was on the mall during the “ugliness” doing work for one of our local TV channels. He told me the anger on both sides was palpable.

I must admit I am confused by all the anger. Can we not have decent, reasonable dialogue where we can hear each other? Perhaps that train has left the station. I  have a friend that is in a bi-racial marriage and she gives me clues about their reality. It makes me so sad.

From Victor: I live in small town only about 10 miles from Charlottesville, VA.  Like everyone else, I was horrified and angered by the events occurring in our community on August 12.  I also was left with a deep concern because there is a growing focus on racial division in this country.  Racism is a hot topic.  And one that needs to be addressed, especially by the Christian community.

According to the Scriptural account, there is actually only one human race.  Biblically all humans are part of one family.  We are all descended from Adam and Eve.  This is plainly taught in the Scriptures.  Indeed, Eve’s very name means “mother of all living” (Genesis 3:20), thus indicating her as the primal ancestor of all men.  We are also all descended from Noah.  During the Flood, all human beings were destroyed on the earth, leaving only Noah and his family (see Genesis 7:21-23 and 1 Peter 3:20).  This is why the New Testament says that God has made all the peoples of the earth from one blood, one human stock (see Acts 17:26).

But what about the concept of race?  Again, from a biblical perspective there are concerns with the very concept of there being different human “races.”  As a biological term, we must reject it.  It refers to a subspecies, and implies the possibility of a new, different race being formed.  This we categorically reject!  Skin color also is not a good definition.  For example, if we take the usual three “races”:  Mongoloid, Caucasoid, and Negroid; we have wide variation. There are light complexioned brown peoples in sections of Africa, there Caucasians in India with very dark skin, and both light and dark complexions among the Chinese and Japanese.  Besides…  What is skin color?  Nothing more than a little more, or a little less of skin pigment, which we all have.  Except for albinos, there are no truly “white” people.  All of us have some “darkness.”

To discuss the distinctions found among various groups of the human family a better word than race can be used.  The Bible speaks of the nations or peoples or ethnoi, that is ethnic groups.  Terms such a “people group” or “ethnic group” give a better picture of the biblical understanding of the distinctions within humanity.

Where then did the various people groups of the earth come from.  It is understood that everyone is descended from Adam through Noah.  The various ethnic divisions may be traced to the spread of Noah’s descendants just after the Flood.  This process is ethnic diversification is described in the Table of the Nations in Genesis 10.  This remarkable ancient document traces the broad, general distribution of the various nations, and traces their family origins.  Of course, through the millennia there has been much intermingling among the various peoples groups of the earth, so there are probably few (or possibly no) groups that are completely are of one ethnic origin.  Based on the Table of the Nations, the breakdown of the ethnic groups of the earth is as follows, in very broad terms.

First there are the descendants of Noah’s son Ham.  The ancient Hamitic peoples included the Canaanites, Philistines, Phoenicians, ancient Egyptians and Libyans, Hittites, Amorites, Sinites, Jebusites, Cushites and Sabaeans.  Modern ethnic groups that are Hamitic in origin include the various peoples of Africa, and possibly the Chinese and other Asiatic groups.

Secondly, there are descendants of Shem.  The ancient Semitic peoples included the Elamites, Assyrians, Hebrews, Lydians, Arameans, Yemenites, Ishmaelites.  Modern ethnic groups that are Semitic in origin include the Jews, Arabs, and possibly other Middle Eastern peoples.

Then there are the descendants of Noah’s son Japheth.  The ancient Japthetic peoples included the Celts, Greeks, Armenians, Medes, Romans, Germanic tribes, Aryans, Scythians, Etruscans, etc.  Modern Japthetic peoples are found mainly in the Indo-Europeans, including the various European peoples, Iranians and Indians.

Another question that arises from this topic is where did all the different languages come from? This is an important question in regard to the nations of the earth.  For the most important cultural distinctive between various peoples is their language.  More than anything else, language determines the culture of a people.

The Scriptures are plain that after the Flood mankind had only one language (Genesis 11:1).  This unity of language caused the people to have a unity of culture, society and government.  The people desired to remain unified (Genesis 11:4).  For this purpose, they decided to erect a tower for occult worship and to solidify their union.  However, God was not pleased with their arrogant, independent spirit (11:6).  So the Lord confused their speech, and caused them to speak a number of different languages (11:7-9).  As a result, the people were scattered and dispersed across the earth (Genesis 11:8).

This confusion of languages is the reason for there being a multitude of languages on the earth.  It does not mean that the people immediately spoke French, German, Swahili, Chinese, etc.  These are modern languages.  It does probably mean that God created the various primal language families that we now recognize as being the root languages of the earth.

One final thought must be emphasized.  The biblical portrayal of the origins of mankind teaches us that we are all one family, just one human race.  The differences between the various people groups of the earth are secondary to our unity as one human family.  There is no particular “race” or ethnic group that is superior to another.  We are all the creation of God, with one common blood and one common origin.  God loves all nations, ethnic groups, equally.  Christ died for all men, no matter the color of their skin or their national origin.  Any born-again believer in Jesus Christ is a member of the family of God.  We are one in His spirit, and one through His blood.

It is evident from the above that there is no place for racism or racial discrimination in the Christian faith.  Anyone who claims to be a Christian and has hatred for any person, much less any group of people, is by that very hatred denying the Christian faith he espouses (see 1 John 2:9-11 and 4:20).  To manifest racism and racial hatred is to deny Christ and the Gospel… plain and simple.

Read more at http://www.beliefnet.com/columnists/safeplacewithruthgraham/#cLFfR1mPEgif3KkY.99

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What can we know for sure?

The massive flooding in Houston is on everyone’s mind and heart. The threats of North Korea are concerning everyone. The unprecedented divisiveness in our country is affecting everyone. There was the total eclipse of the sun for the United States. Blood moons last year. Stars aligning in an unusual ways this week.

Nothing seems to be at rest – all is in turmoil. There is no peace anywhere.

What are we to make of it? I know there are those who seem to think they know exactly what is going on and make definite predictions. But not me.

The only thing I KNOW FOR SURE is that God is still on His throne! Last year I studied the book of Revelation. It is not an easy book to understand and yet, there are those who want us to think they know it all. The two things I came away with from my study was that God is in control of all things and, in the end, He wins!

I’ve been told that the very first book of the Bible is the book of Job. A book about terrible suffering and the question of “Why?”. Job had four friends who tried to tell him exactly why he was suffering – they were no help at all. The very first thing God wanted us to know about Himself is that He is in control, He is far more than we can truly understand and He is with us in the storms. He is present with us.

Does that all sound too simple? Maybe. There are great minds, great scholars, great theologians that deal with these things regularly. Someone once asked Carl Barth, the Swiss theologian, what was the greatest truth he knew. He replied, “Jesus loves me this I know for the Bible tells me so.”

Simple. So simple we can all understand it.

 

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Radical Islam

This is an excellent explanation of the Muslim terrorist situation I have ever read. His references to past history are accurate and clear. Not long, easy to understand, and well worth the read. It was sent to me…take the time to read it.

The author of this email is Dr Emanuel Tanya, a well-known and well-respected psychiatrist. A man, whose family was German aristocracy prior to World War II, owned a number of large industries and estates. When asked how many German people were true Nazis, the answer he gave can guide our attitude toward fanaticism.

‘Very few people were true Nazis,’ he said, ‘but many enjoyed the return of German pride, and many more were too busy to care. I was one of those who just thought the Nazis were a bunch of fools. So, the majority just sat back and let it all happen. Then, before we knew it, they owned us, and we had lost control, and the end of the world had come.’ My family lost everything. I ended up in a concentration camp and the Allies destroyed my factories.

‘We are told again and again by ‘experts’ and ‘talking heads’ that Islam is a religion of peace and that the vast majority of Muslims just want to live in peace.

‘Although this unqualified assertion may be true, it is entirely irrelevant. It is meaningless fluff meant to make us feel better, and meant to somehow diminish the spectre of fanatics rampaging across the globe in the name of Islam.

‘The fact is that the fanatics rule Islam at this moment in history. It is the fanatics who march. It is the fanatics who wage any one of 50 shooting wars worldwide.

‘It is the fanatics who systematically slaughter Christian or tribal groups throughout Africa and are gradually taking over the entire continent in an Islamic wave. It is the fanatics who bomb, behead, murder, or honour-kill. It is the fanatics who take over mosque after mosque. It is the fanatics who zealously spread the stoning and hanging of rape victims and homosexuals. It is the fanatics who teach their young to kill and to become suicide bombers.

‘The hard quantifiable fact is that the peaceful majority, the ‘silent majority,’ is cowed and extraneous.

‘Communist Russia was comprised of Russians who just wanted to live in peace, yet the Russian Communists were responsible for the murder of about 20 million people. The peaceful majority were irrelevant.

‘China ‘s huge population was peaceful as well, but Chinese Communists managed to kill a staggering 70 million people.

‘The average Japanese individual prior to World War II was not a warmongering sadist. Yet, Japan murdered and slaughtered its way across South East Asia in an orgy of killing that included the systematic murder of 12 million Chinese civilians; most killed by sword, shovel, and bayonet.

And who can forget Rwanda, which collapsed into butchery? Could it not be said that the majority of Rwandans were ‘peace loving?

‘History lessons are often incredibly simple and blunt. Yet for all our powers of reason, we often miss the most basic and uncomplicated of points: peace-loving Muslims have been made irrelevant by their silence. Peace-loving Muslims will become our Enemy if they don’t speak up. Like my friend from Germany, they will awaken one day and find that the fanatics own them and the end of their world will have begun.

‘Peace-loving Germans, Japanese, Chinese, Russians, Rwandans, Serbs, Afghans, Iraqis, Palestinians, Somalis, Nigerians, Algerians, and many others have died because the peaceful majority did not speak up until it was too late.

‘Now Islamic prayers have been introduced in Toronto and other public schools in Ontario, and, yes, in Ottawa, too, while the Lord’s Prayer was removed (due to being so offensive? The Islamic way may be peaceful for the time being in our country until the fanatics move in.

‘In Australia, and indeed in many countries around the world, many of the most commonly consumed food items have the halal emblem on them. Just look at the back of some of the most popular chocolate bars, and at other food items in your local supermarket. Food on aircraft have the halal emblem just to appease the privileged minority who are now rapidly expanding within the nation’s shores.

‘In the U.K, the Muslim communities refuse to integrate and there are now dozens of “no-go” zones within major cities across the country that the police force dare not intrude upon. Sharia law prevails there, because the Muslim community in those areas refuse to acknowledge British law.

‘As for us who watch it all unfold, we must pay attention to the only group that counts – the fanatics who threaten our way of life.’

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One Great Speech

My dear aunt from Dallas posted this on Facebook. I think it is excellent! And on the 4th of July may well get back to basic American principles.

This is a Speech Every American High School Principal Should Give
By Dennis Prager (Let’s remember his name – he’s got it right!)

To the students and faculty of our high school:

I am your new principal, and honored to be so. There is no greater calling than to teach young people.

I would like to apprise you of some important changes coming to our school. I am making these changes because I am convinced that most of the ideas that have dominated public education in America have worked against you, against your teachers and against our country.

First ,this school will no longer honor race or ethnicity. I could not care less if your racial makeup is black, brown, red, yellow or white. I could not care less if your origins are African, Latin American, Asian or European, or if your ancestors arrived here on the Mayflower or on slave ships. The only identity I care about, the only one this school will recognize, is your individual identity — your character, your scholarship, your humanity. And the only national identity this school will care about is American.

This is an American public school, and American public schools were created to make better Americans. If you wish to affirm an ethnic, racial or religious identity through school, you will have to go elsewhere. We will end all ethnicity, race and non-American nationality-based celebrations. They undermine the motto of America , one of its three central values — E pluribus Unum, “from many, one.” And this school will be guided by America ‘s values. This includes all after-school clubs. I will not authorize clubs that divide students based on any identities. This includes race, language, religion, sexual orientation or whatever else may become in vogue in a society divided by political correctness.

Your clubs will be based on interests and passions, not blood, ethnic, racial or other physically defined ties. Those clubs just cultivate narcissism — an unhealthy preoccupation with the self — while the purpose of education is to get you to think beyond yourself. So we will have clubs that transport you to the wonders and glories of art, music, astronomy, languages you do not already speak, carpentry and more. If the only extracurricular activities you can imagine being interested in are those based on ethnic, racial or sexual identity, that means that little outside of yourself really interests you.

Second , I am uninterested in whether English is your native language. My only interest in terms of language is that you leave this school speaking and writing English as fluently as possible. The English language has united America ‘s citizens for over 200 years, and it will unite us at this school. It is one of the indispensable reasons this country of immigrants has always come to be one country. And if you leave this school without excellent English language skills, I would be remiss in my duty to ensure that you will be prepared to successfully compete in the American job market. We will learn other languages here — it is deplorable that most Americans only speak English — but if you want classes taught in your native language rather than in English, this is not your school.

Third , because I regard learning as a sacred endeavor , everything in this school will reflect learning’s elevated status. This means, among other things, that you and your teachers will dress accordingly. Many people in our society dress more formally for Hollywood events than for church or school. These people have their priorities backward. Therefore, there will be a formal dress code at this school.

Fourth , no obscene language will be tolerated anywhere on this school’s property — whether in class, in the hallways or at athletic events. If you can’t speak without using the f -word, you can’t speak. By obscene language I mean the words banned by the Federal Communications Commission, plus epithets such as “Nigger,” even when used by one black student to address another black, or “bitch,” even when addressed by a girl to a girlfriend. It is my intent that by the time you leave this school, you will be among the few your age to instinctively distinguish between the elevated and the degraded, the holy and the obscene.

Fifth , we will end all self-esteem programs. In this school, self-esteem will be attained in only one way — the way people attained it until decided otherwise a generation ago — by earning it. One immediate consequence is that there will be one valedictorian, not eight.

Sixth , and last, I am reorienting the school toward academics and away from politics and propaganda. No more time will be devoted to scaring you about smoking and caffeine, or terrifying you about sexual harassment or global warming. No more semesters will be devoted to condom wearing and teaching you to regard sexual relations as only or primarily a health issue… There will be no more attempts to convince you that you are a victim because you are not white, or not male, or not heterosexual or not Christian. We will have failed if any one of you graduates this school and does not consider him or herself inordinately fortunate — to be alive and to be an American.

Now, please stand and join me in the Pledge of Allegiance to the flag of our country. As many of you do not know the words, your teachers will hand them out to you..

“Governments first duty is to protect the people, not run their lives.”

Ronald Reagan

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Chicken Little

Do you remember the story of Chicken Little? He was walking in the barnyard and an acorn hit him on his head. He thought the sky was falling and ran around telling everyone, “The sky is falling! The sky is falling!”  He got everyone into a panic.

It seems everyone from political candidates, to legislators, to preachers, to neighbors are saying the “Sky is falling!”. And I probably have echoed that thought myself. Things seem to be getting bleak. Right is wrong. Wrong is right. Everything is upside down.

But if something fell out of the sky and hit us on the head as it did Chicken Little would we not look up to see where it came from? We’d want to know more about the situation. If for no other reason but curiosity. And it might be good to look to see how I might protect myself and those I love.

While in a devastating (“the famine was server in all the earth”) famine, Jacob and his sons wondered what to do about it – trying to make a plan. Jacob said to his sons, “Why are you staring at one another?…I have heard there is grain in Egypt; go down there and buy some for us…so that we might live and not die.”

These days we seem to stare at one another (or the TV) – looking for a solution.

Well, it might be good to look up! Psalms 121 says, “I will lift up my eyes to the mountains; from whence shall my help come? My help comes from the Lord, who made heaven and earth.”  Isaiah 45:22 says, “Turn to Me, and be saved, all the ends of the earth; For I am God and there is no other.” The prophet Micah wrote, “But as for me, I will watch expectantly for the Lord; I will wait for the God of my salvation. My God will hear me. Do not rejoice over me, O my enemy (anxiety, fear). Though I fall I will rise; though I dwell in darkness, the Lord is a light for me.”
“God is our refuge and strength, A very present help in trouble.
Therefore will we not fear, though the earth should change, And though the mountains be shaken into the heart of the seas Though the waters thereof roar and be troubled, Though the mountains tremble with the swelling thereof.” (Psalms 46:1-22)

Yes, look up and see the mighty, sovereign, loving God sitting on His throne. He’s got it all under control.