Category Archives: Christian persecution

So long as you do what you’re told there will be peace

I really appreciate this comment from Judy Wu Dominick writing in Christianity Today November 2018: “(Matt 10: 34-36) Initally it seems ironic that Jesus, whom we hail as the Prince of Peace, announces that he will disturb the peace. But I’ve learned that what he disturbs is an artificial peace, one achieved through conformity  and uniformity – foundational characteristics of the Tower of Babel (Gen 11: 1-4). Since it depends on establishing and maintaining sameness, this peace can’t offer a violent  and divided world healing or reconciliation, not even when it’s embraced by people who happen to identify as Christ followers.” ( p 55)

Even more to the point, the idea that Jesus was all about “peace” is fallacious. Sure He brings peace, but in  Matthew 10: 34-36 (ESV) Not Peace, but a Sword

34 “Do not think that I have come to bring peace to the earth. I have not come to bring peace, but a sword. 35 For I have come to set a man against his father, and a daughter against her mother, and a daughter-in-law against her mother-in-law. 36 And a person’s enemies will be those of his own household. 

It’s certainly not that Jesus brings trouble, but because He is so counter the world, the world is going to fight back against Him. The world is certainly not going to submit to Jesus, Satan has nothing to gain by submitting to Jesus, the alternative is violent response.

However if we just submit as other beliefs require non-believers to do, you won’t be killed, there won’t be anymore violence. Sort of how the politically correct movement of today functions. Do what we want, accept what we proclaim and we won’t riot in the streets, such as has been happening in Portland, Or, for months now. We aren’t interested in discussion, we expect complete submission and there will be peace.

Satan has imposed an environment in the world, where everyone is mollified in their sin of choice, but hey at least there’s peace. The Neville Chamberlain, peace in our time, peace at any price mindsets. This is also the same idea as the opium dens of China. Just use whatever will sedate you, and let us self-appointed ones decide what needs to be done.

We are described as God’s treasured possession five times in the Old Testament: Exodus 19:5, Deuteronomy 7:6, 14:2, 26:18, Malachi 3:17. God does not concede us to the evil of the world, the evil of Satan. He describes Himself as a “jealous God”, we are His and He is not going to relinquish us, especially to violence or the other tactics of evil. Jesus is only described as “Prince of Peace” in Isaiah 9:6. He certainly is “Prince of Peace”, but that is not defined as resignation, passivity, peace at any price. It means He is jealous for His own, and He will fight for us. That we who are His will also have to stand up to the hate, duplicity, evil and violence of the world. Often that means aggressively pushing back.

Christians don’t want “war”, but as we’ve seen repeatedly in world history, the world is replete with evil. The evil of the world has no compunction about violence. The secular humanism of Stalin, Hitler, Mao, Pol Pot Che Guevara, Castro, Islamo-Fascism has murdered millions and won’t stop until the world is subdued. We were never called to be passive, or allow ourselves to be lulled into a false peace that only surrenders to evil. That’s not peace, that’s disavowing Christ.

The Harassed and helpless of the world Matthew 9 First Saint Johns June 18, 2017

We make our beginning in the Name of God the Father and in the Name of God the Son and in the Name of God the Holy Spirit and all those who want to reach out to the suffering of the evil of the world said … AMEN!

Last week the Gospel lesson was the Great Commission … Matthew 28: … “ESV Matthew 28:19 Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit,…” It was Trinity Sunday, Jesus is making us aware that what we do, and certainly baptizing and making disciples are two of the most important things we do, that it and all the other things that are done best when we keep in mind that we are doing it in the Name of God, Father, Son and Holy Spirit.

Jesus’ command in the Great Commission can certainly be understood in an additional way. What we see in today’s Gospel reading follows what Jesus is telling His disciples, including us, what He told them in Matthew 28. Our Gospel reading is Matthew 9, this is much earlier in Jesus’ ministry and before all of the momentous, triumphant events that have preceded the Great Commission and then His immediate ascension into heaven. Things are still pretty much the regular routine when Jesus sent His disciples out for their first tour as Jesus’ disciples, and certainly evangelists. He sees the people that have been following Him and these are people who really are without a shepherd. You may not feel an immediate need for a shepherd, someone to guide you, to give you protection and certainly when we talk about Jesus in this sense we are talking about someone, like a father, who is there to protect. Sure dads today protect. I think every father feels a duty to stand up for his family when his wife, children are being attacked, taken advantage of, suffering, floundering in the world. Paul writes: “And you were dead in the trespasses and sins in which you once walked, following the course of this world, following the prince of the power of the air, the spirit that is now at work in the sons of disobedience– among whom we all once lived in the passions of our flesh, carrying out the desires of the body and the mind, and were by nature children of wrath, like the rest of mankind.”(Eph 2: 1-3) Jesus, the Son of God, certainly He sees this, He knows what these people are going through, He is that Shepherd. Yet He knows His sheep are living such aimless lives and are under constant attack from the evil all around us. Certainly Jesus feels a need to protect these people, and us, from the “attacks” Satan launches against us on a regular basis. Often those “attacks” don’t feel violent or hostile. Often those attacks consist of luring us away to the things of the world that we think give us pleasure, but always result in taking our focus off of Jesus, and making an idol out of the things we think are pleasing. Certainly fathers feel the need to do what they can to try and keep a straying child from falling into bad habits, destructive lifestyles. It’s not easy being a father in today’s world. The evil of today tells us that we’re entitled to these destructive lives. Sure the world doesn’t say it that way, yet we know how it ends up. So many people today, yes someone’s son or daughter, but not always young and immature, feel perfectly entitled to indulge in what they think they should have. The world doesn’t care about what your child does or messes their life up with. The world’s idol is almost always and ultimately, how can I make money off of this person. They won’t let their own children go down their evil path, but they’re perfectly happy to take the money from someone else’s child. The tragedy is ultimately there is a crash and burn and although the father tried to keep the child from crashing, now the child or other people expect the parents, often even the church to be there and help them pick up the pieces and rebuild their lives after their collapse. It’s often the father that has to step up, making life so much more difficult for fathers.

Can’t you imagine Jesus seeing this right before His eyes? All of these people followed Him around, day to day. His heart is breaking, like any father’s would, to see His children being harassed by the evil all around them. Unable to rebuild shattered lives, needing someone else to pick up what they caused in their rush to destruction, believing all the nonsense around them. Jesus is God the Son, but all creation came into existence through Him. No doubt He had a hand in the creation of all us, He is God. It bugs me when someone makes a reference to “Jesus our brother”. Since we’re God’s children and Jesus is God’s Son, well He must be our brother. Yeah, kinda, but really no. He is still all powerful God. He is man, but He is entirely God as we saw in the Athanasian Creed from last week. And no not even really our big brother, but certainly our God.

He knows every one of those people who are hungry, are oppressed, suffering, often as the result of their sins, their envy, greed, their search for pleasure instead of trying to grow in the relationship that Jesus offers them every moment of every day. Dr Jeff Gibbs writes: “the passive forms of sku,llw [harassed] “to flay,, skin and r`i,ptw “to throw” emphasize that the people are victims of evil spiritual forces around them that are beyond their control.” Dr Gibbs goes on to stipulate that the failure is not limited to those people who, because they are without a shepherd, or the shepherd is not faithful to them: “…their deplorable spiritual condition is caused in part by the failure of their spiritual leaders.”[1] That is also a two-way street in Christianity. In a world, today, where we see pastors who are trying to be faithful, pretty much ignored because they are seen as narrow-minded or naïve, and that the world is oh so much more accepting and “tolerant”. Sure, the world can afford to be tolerant, it doesn’t care how someone ends up and even has the chutzpah to criticize the church and the parents because they don’t do enough to help the people the world destroyed to function as adults again. It’s a bizarre world being a pastor in this day and age, and certainly the church has to bear responsibility in a lot of ways that it has not been faithful to the parishioner and the church has done itself harm by its passivity and failure to truly represent Christ and what He truly stands for and how He defends us against the evil of the world, the spiritual, demonic attacks that go on around us every day. But those in the church expect the church to fix those problems by providing material comfort, which in this day and age, serious churches no longer have the resources. But much more important than the material comfort, is the spiritual strength that the church should provide every Sunday morning, as a father provides strength and encouragement to his children. Not to be a faint echo of the world. What’s the point of having a church if it only weakly prattles about the world around us?

I would seriously hope people take Jesus’ words very much to heart in this passage. He knows full well the world that He is sending His men into, like a military commander, He knows He can’t protect His people from all the harm they could incur. But, He can and must prepare them in a way that they at least have every chance, not just to survive, but in order to achieve the objective. Jesus’ objective is clear, He wants His men to grow and have on the job training, bringing His hope and promise into the world. He wants the world to know that there is strength and protection and love and caring from Him in His church. No one is going to find it in a greedy, grasping, lying world that is only about telling anyone what they want to hear. That is not living, that only results in harassment, often physical sickness, disability, which we see all around us, all of the time. It’s time that we went out into the world to serve the Lord of the Harvest, in His harvest of the world. To see all of the harassed, helpless, sick, twisted, results of the world, to get serious about the church that Jesus has given us in order to stand strong against the lying, death dealing ways of the world. We see this smarmy, snarky, weasely attitude towards the church, inside and outside of the church. Our only hope is in Christ, He died in order to fully pay for our sins, He rose again to give us the promise of eternal life, fulfilling and life the way God had always wanted for us, not life the way the world uses to tear us down and destroy us. The church of Jesus Christ is important because it is what we have, as the Body of Christ, to stand up to all the evil around us. The church will always be, but if it continues to limp along, more and more of our families and those around us will be lost to eternal damnation because while we are the church, we chose not to act like the church.

Dads, you are expected to be those laborers, those who go out and protect and build and strengthen. It might even be casting out demons, we see the demonic all around us and quite often, only in the strength of the Holy Spirit, you need to stand up to those demonic forces, those snarky, smarmy forces that threaten our families. We should expect to suffer the slings and arrows of a nasty, evil, threatening world and do what you can to stand up for Christ and true life and ignore the taunts and nonsense of the world in doing it. No matter what our children say and do, they are looking for us to protect them. It’s often messy and unpleasant, but you, me, all men in Christ have to emulate the things that God the Father, Son and Holy Spirit have shown us to do to be true men of God and to reject the evil of the world.

The peace of God that surpasses all understanding keep your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus. Amin and Shalom

He has risen! He has risen indeed! Hallelujah!

 

[1] Rev Dr Jeffrey Gibbs  “Concordia Commentary  Matthew” p 495

Let’s have some mutual respect instead of playing your agenda

I seem to have had a lot of “wow, it’s good to hear someone else had to deal with this and it’s just not me!” OK, this may not be particularly Christian of me, but there is nothing in the Bible that says “hey be stupid.” I could even refer to the pericope about the unjust steward (Luke 16: 1-13). I’m not sure I’d camp there and I’m not going to take the time to make the case. The point is the world seems to think that Christians, and especially Christian pastors, are there to just hand over things and not give it a second thought. Show me in the Bible where that is and we will talk. I can’t find it and so I know of no reason to be the naive and gullible victim that the world thinks I should be.

I did find this from one of our Founding Fathers, he’s even a distant relative, John Adams. “Be not intimidated … nor suffer yourselves to be wheedled out of your liberties by any pretense of politeness, delicacy or decency.” In some ways, ya I do tend to be a little naive. I’m not looking for duplicity and disingenuousness in people, I’m really not. Ya, sometimes it’s pretty obvious. As an inner city  pastor I get a lot of people just looking for money and because I’m a clueless, naive pastor in a big church, I just have gobs of money to hand over to people, no questions asked. Well it also seems to apply to most other people. In this day and age, most people seem to have a political, professional, social, or some other agenda going on that they’re sure they’re supposed to impose on the church. Reminds me of more modern iteration of President Adams quote by the O’Jays, “…they smile in your face, all the time they want to take your place, the backstabbers.”

Ya, sure, sometimes it’s innocent passivity or callousness, but way too much it seems to be an issue of well I’m smarter than everyone and I’m going to show you how it should be. How to answer this, either this apathy or even disingenuousness,  that is the question? Should you light people up and let them know exactly where it’s at. Despite popular perception, Jesus had no compunction letting people know where they were wrong. Certainly Old Testament prophets were also as assertive. Nathan had no problem lighting David up after his affair with Bathsheba. Seems like there are too many people in the world today who think that they can skate through with no accountability to anyone or anything, and not be held to account. Then “oh, what a mean person you are for getting upset with me.”

Just another example of the duplicity you have to deal with as a Christian minister. Seems like people feel they’re almost entitled to play a minister. Should I always react loudly, ya maybe not, tell you what, you quit thinking you can take advantage, for your little political agenda, and I won’t get upset. At what point do you demand respect not only for you, but for the office?

True disciples in Jesus, not phoney expectations

This is from Henry and Richard Blackaby’s Experiencing God Day by Day p 142: “James and John sought to outmaneuver their fellow disciples in order to gain the places of greater honor next to Jesus (Mark 10:37). Over and over the disciples’ actions showed that they did not truly understand who Jesus was (John 6:7-9; Mark 6:49). Even after three years with Jesus, Peter was afraid to confess Christ before a young servant girl (Matt 26:69-75).

Yea these guy’s definitely failed, but I respectfully disagree being in Jesus does not mean that we all of a sudden become lions for Jesus. As a Lutheran we certainly know that we become a new creation in Jesus. Baptism makes us a new man or woman, we have been born again in the Spirit a new creature. We absolutely do. But Martin Luther always cautioned that the old/worldly person would always be lurking waiting for the chance to jump in and assert itself.

When it’s not about Jesus it’s about me. I have no doubt that the ratio is well over fifty percent weighted to me. Sure they became new men on the day of Pentecost and we praise God for that. We do become spiritual beings in Jesus and the Holy Spirit does keep working on us.  I pray that we do respond to Him when we are called on, that we are raised up far more than we fail.  But the beef I have with Reformed theology falls in to works righteousness theology, that we have to become virtually perfect. This side of heaven we aren’t going to be perfect or even too close. I’ve talked to too many people who have given up, have despaired because some uneducated, self-proclaimed “evangelist”, who doesn’t know what he/she is talking about and makes it up. Who genuinely thinks he/she has reached some state of perfection and thinks everyone else should be. They just don’t know what they’re talking about. The Blackabys certainly are much better educated than me, but all Reformed theology still breaks down in this works righteousness and creates an environment where too many give up because they can’t reach an impossible goal of perfection.

I’m not saying give up and don’t strive. Christians should always be striving for Jesus. But don’t get sucked into this idea that you’re going to be perfect and have it all together. Too many have been spit out the “big box” church because of faulty teaching and faulty people. These are the kinds of Jim Jones/cult kind of thinking that causes serious spiritual dysfunction. The fastest way to truly die is to let your spiritual life be undermined.

Look at ISIS, all the places where Christians are truly persecuted and truly living for Christ. They don’t have the time and resources for big box Christianity, the Joel Osteen, Mark Driscoll, nonsense. We have brothers and sisters in Africa, Asia who have and continue to suffer persecution. While people sit in their non-denominational big boxes being amused and convinced they’re perfect just by virtue of being them, the denominational churches, the ones who live the life and put it on the line are out there truly serving. I wonder when non-denominational churches are going to be sending military chaplains who are right on the front line. Who are going to do the work of Lutheran World Missions, for those who sit in pretty sanctuaries, world pleasing sanctuaries.

The big box phoney churches can try to sell that you need to be perfect, but for those who are living the life by actually serving, who are suffering, who know the real world of Christianity, we aren’t perfect. Dr Luther knew the old man, and I certainly have never known a Christian more real than Martin Luther. We need to quit creating phoney expectations that are not Biblical and are only in the head of some self-important big box player to the crowd. Let’s stand up as true brothers and sisters in Jesus accept that we and those around us are fallible and go out and really live the life in Jesus. Let’s not set people up for failure which the big box churches are doing.

NFL’s Benjamin Watson Urges ISIS Victims, Christians to ‘Stand Firm’ With Jesus in the Face of Death; Says Rise of Persecution Indicates Christ’s ‘Imminent Return’

The following is from christianpost.com dated March 4, 2015

NFL’s Benjamin Watson Urges ISIS Victims, Christians to ‘Stand Firm’ With Jesus in the Face of Death; Says Rise of Persecution Indicates Christ’s ‘Imminent Return’

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BY SAMUEL SMITH , CP REPORTER
March 4, 2015|4:49 pm
Benjamin Watson is a tight end for the New Orleans Saints.(PHOTO: EAG SPORTS MANAGEMENT)

Benjamin Watson is a tight end for the New Orleans Saints.

Outspoken Christian NFL player Benjamin Watson recently issued a powerful Facebook post writing about the Islamic State and the rise of Christian persecution throughout the world, asserting that all Christians should be ready to die for upholding their faith in Jesus Christ.

“The images keep flooding our timelines and news feeds. Men being burned alive or beheaded by masked assassins. Stories of families on the run, fleeing their homes while they are pillaged and burned,” Watson’s Saturday Facebook post explained. “Their testimonies hold a familiar chord: ‘Convert, Pay or Die!'”

Watson, an 11-year NFL veteran who’s a tight end for the New Orleans Saints, wrote that although extremist groups like ISIS and Boko Haram in Nigeria have risen to prominence and are out to destroy Christianity, believers should never deny Christ in order to save their lives.

Watson cited Luke 12:8 and further explained that Jesus specifically told his followers that those who deny Him in in the face of death will be punished.

“‘And I say to you, everyone who confesses Me before men, the Son of Man will confess him also before the angels of God; but he who denies Me before men will be denied before the angels of God’ Luke 12:8,” Watson wrote.

Although Watson admits that the idea of being killed over his faith in Jesus is a frightening thought, he wrote that it’s important to remember that some of the bravest followers of Christ were killed for refusing to denounce Jesus.

“The persecution of Christians is not a new concept. As early as the first century we read about the Spirit-filled boldness of Christians, like Stephen and Paul, who proclaimed the Gospel through beatings and imprisonment, torture and death,” Watson wrote. “We remember Christ’s disciples, most of whom were killed just like their master. Roman emperors like Nero executed Christians in the most ghastly ways, using them as torches to light the evening sky.”

Although Christians have been beaten, killed and tortured for thousands of years over their faith, Watson further emphasized that the light of Christ continued to spread because of the brave followers who stood firm in their faith.

“In spite of all this adversity, Christianity continued to spread because men and woman, empowered by the Holy Spirit, stood strong in the face of certain death; some being delivered and others falling,” Watson wrote. “As I sit here in a 21st century United States, I can’t help but wonder when we, too, will face martyrdom for our faith. On this very day nearly 50 countries have laws that restrict or outlaw Christianity, leading to the harassment, imprisonment and death of those who follow Christ.”

The post continued by listing the number of countries today that prevent Christians from practicing their faith, such as North Korea and China.

“On this day, in countries like North Korea and China, Christians gather for church underground to avoid being arrested by police. On this day, in Nigeria thousands mourn the deaths of their loved ones killed by Boko Haram in their quest to overthrow the government and create an Islamic state. On this day, in Cuba, Christian ministries continue to risk their freedom as the country continues to feel the effects of Communist rule,” Watson continued. “BUT, on this day, Jesus’ words in Luke still ring true.”

Although many Christians live safe, well-protected lives in America and other countries that protect religious freedoms, Watson contends that persecution of Christians in America will come sooner or later.

“Rest assured, fellow Americans, if it hasn’t already, our day WILL COME,” Watson asserted. “My only hope in such trying times is the power of the Holy Spirit. He is the X factor. He will give us the strength, words, and vision when our backs are against the wall. Jesus promised the believer many things. Eternal life, abundant life, peace, purpose and forgiveness to name a few. He also promises that they, like him, WILL be betrayed, hated and persecuted, even to death. (Luke 21:12-19).”

When that day arrives, Watson encourages Christians not to tremble in fear when in the face of persecution because it’s a sign of the nearing return of the Messiah.

“[W]e must WAKE UP from our slumber, be on guard and stand firm. A house divided against itself cannot stand,” Watson added. “Spiritual unity in the body will help us weather the coming storms. We must REMEMBER that as terrible as things are and will become, they are simply signs pointing to one thing; His imminent return.”