The Persecution Line

“All that will live godly in Christ Jesus shall suffer persecution.”

2 Tim 3:12-13

This is a discussion prompt, not a declarative blog per se. I want to know what you think. The heat is being turned up as people debate Afghanistan, COVID, and the best way to manage threats to public health and civil liberties. Lots of people, Christians especially are viewing it through the lens of persecution for which there are varying definitions. We know that the church is being persecuted in places like Afghanistan, China, Iran, Ethiopia, Mozambique Nigeria, etc. And while it would seem that the seeds of similar future persecution have been sown in the 1st World West, the fact remains that people are not being incarcerated, blown up, and beheaded for preaching the gospel. Given that we still have the freedom to debate whether or not we are being persecuted, I figured now might be a good time to ask, what qualifies as persecution and

what is the correct biblical response to it?

You may have heard about James Coates and Aurter Pawarreski, two Canadian pastors who were arrested for continuing to hold regular church services.

It’s almost old news now but it sparked a fiery and ongoing public debate. 

James Coats remained respectful while claiming the government has no authority over worship before turning himself into police. Artur Pawlowski is a Polish immigrant who repeatedly kicked health inspectors and police out of his church calling them “Nazis”.  He was still screaming ” Nazi!” and “Gestapo!” when they arrested him in the street. His supporters did the same from the sidelines. Artur Pawlowski is from Poland and his family suffered under the Nazi occupation and then Russian communists. 

He may understand more about what is coming than those of us raised in the entitled west.

Then there is the 71-year-old Pastor Sherwood arrested in London while  delivering a message on the sanctity of marriage.  His message was viewed as  homophobic.

There is no Biblical basis for homosexual marriage. Still, Sherwood wasn’t attacking homosexuals. He was defending the sanctity of biblical marriage on the basis that is a representation of Christ’s relationship to His Church.  He wrestled with the police a bit before they got him in handcuffs. Sherwood was preaching the word of God in a public square as it has been preached for the last two thousand years. It always has and always will anger certain people. Apparently the police were trying to defuse a volatile situation and he was later released. The Canadian pastors were incarcerated. In this case they claimed their authority superseded that of government officials based the constitution and Heb 10:25

“not neglecting to meet together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another, and all the more as you see the Day drawing near.”

They view this passage as an absolute command rather than an exhortation to endure persecution. Hence they adopted Peter’s defense in Acts 5

“We must obey God rather than men.”

I could be wrong but the historic context of Hebrews 10 where believers risked imprisonment and death to gather, seems more akin to what is happening to believers in places like Afghanistan than those protesting COVID measures in the west. That’s not to say that I like or in anyway agree with what it happening in the west.

Only that the scriptural argument seems rather weak.

Meanwhile, the Canadian government and the pastor’s detractors insisted that it was a public safety issue and that no one told them they could not meet. They just had to comply with COVID health standards. That meant no more than 15% of capacity at a time. After all, there are fire safety regulations related to the size of public gatherings in buildings. The Pastors replied that this would require them to do an impossible eight or more back-to-back sermons per day. They asserted that censorship of their preaching was the real agenda. I understand and empathize with their passion as well as skepticism regarding COVID data on both sides. Still, what is the biblically correct response to authority when I do not agree with it? Where exactly is the boundary, the proverbial line in the sand that I must not cross?  

What is the deal-breaker, the proverbial hill upon which I must be willing die?

There have always been evil people who abuse scripture for the sake of an agenda. Jesus versus Satan in Mat 4 is a good example. Another would be how Adolf Hitler duped the Catholics and most of the German protestant church with  Rom 13,

“Let every person be subject to the governing authorities. For there is no authority except from God, and those that exist have been instituted by God…”

The standard argument against blind obedience to this passage today is rooted in verse 3

“For rulers are not a terror to good conduct, but to bad. Would you have no fear of the one who is in authority? Then do what is good, and you will receive his approval, 

Our obedience is contingent upon the Government doing good. Otherwise, Peter’s declaration in Acts 5 applies. Yet context matters. Peter and the other disciples were specifically ordered to stop preaching the Gospel in Acts 5.

While the proverbial jury may still be in session regarding vaccines, there is a difference between bad, albeit well-intentioned public policies and carefully planned genocide.

Today we have places like China, Afghanistan, and Iran imprisoning, torturing, and killing Christians. China was officially exposed for harvesting the organs of  Falun Gong and Uyghur Muslims in 2019 when even the UN had to acknowledge it. I don’t see anyone protesting it apart from Uyghurs and Falun Gong themselves. The western Church acknowledges persecution but hardly anyone is on the streets engaging in civil disobedience. We also have the abortion genocide taking place. There have been a minority of fools using physical force to oppose it, the strongest opposition has been in the form of legislative battles and churches preaching the gospel while providing an alternative path to adoption.

I can not help but wonder if those supporting and or protesting COVID measures are genuinely concerned for the well-being of others, the violation of God’s law, and the persecution of His image-bearers.

Or does persecution only matter when it is happening to them?

In any case Mat 16:25 Mat 10, Mark 13:9–13, Luke 21:12–17 are worth considering.

Today more and more people in the west seem willing to go to jail or worse over masks, social distancing, and vaccine passports. Again, I’m not saying that I agree with government policy and MSM narratives. As I have said in the past, I DO NOT! I could be wrong but as time goes on I am increasingly convinced that whatever the actual agenda may be, our health and well-being are NOT it. I am also convinced that at least fifty percent of the global population, and I’m being generous, has ZERO ability to discern and filter fallacious arguments. Most simply choose a political tribe, open their mouths, and swallow the corresponding narrative like baby birds in a nest. I guess this affords them the illusion of safety and inclusion.

If I were the devil I’d be giddy as hell.

Hence, we must contend with the fact that Jesus beat the devil through submission as exemplified by the cross. As for us we have hard truths like that proclaimed by Peter in 1 Pet 2

“Beloved, I beseech you as aliens and exiles to abstain from the passions of the flesh that wage war against your soul. Maintain good conduct among the Gentiles, (unbelievers) so that in case they speak against you as wrongdoers, they may see your good deeds and glorify God on the day of visitation. Be subject for the Lord’s sake to every human institution, whether it be to the emperor as supreme, or to governors as sent by him to punish those who do wrong and to praise those who do right.  For it is God’s will that by doing right you should put to silence the ignorance of foolish men.  Live as free men, yet without using your freedom as a pretext for evil; but live as servants of God. Honor all men. Love the brotherhood. Fear God. Honor the emperor.” 1 Pet 2:11-17

Candlesticks of Christianity

I say “hard truth” because Nero was the emperor to whom Peter would have been referring at the time. Among other abominations, Nero is known for burning Christians as human candles to light the streets of Rome. It was under Nero that Peter was ultimately crucified.

He was killed for preaching the gospel not demanding his rights.

Whether or not the current global trajectory will be interrupted by opposing social and political forces is anyone’s guess. If I were a betting man I’d be all in on NO. Meanwhile, MSM narratives are becoming increasingly absurd. I’m not sure if this is indicative of their desperation or their arrogance.  Still, the fact remains that left unchecked, our current trajectory can only lead to Mat 24:1-13. I know people are cheering the new abortion legislation in Texas and rightly so as it is a dent in the ongoing genocide.

Still…

I suspect that any small victories on our part now will mainly serve as fuel for what is coming in verse 9.

“Then they will deliver you up to tribulation and put you to death, and you will be hated by all nations for my name’s sake.”

People hate us now for our biblical stand on abortion when we have little to no power over it. Imagine if Roe V Wade were overturned. Hence, our first, but certainly not our only concern within the body of Christ today should be verse 10.

“And then many will fall away (be offended) and betray one another and hate one another.”

The temptation for believers to be offended at one another on political grounds and deceptive MSM narratives will only get stronger. Offense is “Skandalon” in the Greek.

Skandalon means “trap”.

Perhaps you think this is hyperbole. Maybe you are still holding onto hope of the imminent return of the comfortable norm. If that is the case then old existential reality has yet to I for one believe we need to prepare the body of Christ to endure the coming persecution in a way that most glorifies God. Our sermons and conversations with one another should reflect that.  According to Voice of the Martyrs when a Muslim in the persecuted middle east surrenders to Jesus it is with the understanding and condition that they are willing to be persecuted and martyred for the sake of the gospel.

They are given zero hope of experiencing their best life now.

Perhaps you have already embraced this reality. If so, great. Now help to prepare others.  Still, I invite everyone to take an inventory of their lives and ask, “what evidence is there in my life that would suggest that I am prepared?” “What if anything needs to change?” “What is stopping me?” It’s no coincidence that Richard Wurmbrand the founder of Voice of the Martyrs saw persecution coming long before the Russians invaded Romania, long before he was thrown in prison and tortured for 14 years. He memorized 365 scriptures, one for each day of the year countering fear.  He went into persecution prepared to glorify God. That is exactly what he did.

His preparation continues to bear fruit today.

It also occurs to me as I write, that I have several competing points of view within my own mind. Maybe you can relate. There is the old man, the satanic fleshly former US Marine ready to throw down for “My rights damn it!”.  Then there is the logical, argumentative, apologist that abhors skewed data, logical fallacies, and especially the cult of scientism.  This part wants to believe that given enough evidence and a clear enough argument, most people will make the smart decision. Then there is the new man, the born again, spirit-filled, Acts 17:11 Berean style believer who stands on the 2 Tim 3:16-17 God-breathed truth that the word of God is the objective standard of all truth and conduct.

I discipline myself to choose the latter. 1 Cor 9:27

I am convinced that the body of Christ is at a crossroads today. It is increasingly marked by 1 Cor 11:17-19 division in the spirit of “choose this day whom you will serve”. Joshua 24:15 We need to clarify and commit to what glorifies God amongst ourselves rather than argue and divide over politics. There are a lot of heresies between WOKE and the Qanon cult. The most heretical typically sound the most loving in worldly terms. Every great-sounding heretical position and false gospel narrative is easily identified by the near or total absence of sound scriptural arguments. It seems to me that the only way for Christians to obey Jesus’s command in Mat 24:4 and choose wisely now is to make certain that our worldview and subsequent choices conform to the word of God.

Psalm 138:2

So what do you think?

Where is your persecution line?

Maranatha

Choose Your Hill

The likely duration of the devastation in Honduras is just starting to sink in following our outreach last week. The sense of powerlessness we felt as we passed miles and miles of tarp cities along the way is hard to describe.

1 min video no script just footage.

Meanwhile, Josh fell hard off a ladder and injured his shoulder. His arm is in a sling.  If that weren’t enough our ministry vehicle has big issues and 

We are grounded for a few weeks.

What to do, what to do?…

I know. How about we catch up on the news.

Errant Epistemology

As usual, our world is in turmoil over worldviews and politics.  As always there are many on both sides of the political sewer stream who believe they know the truth. Yet apart from hands on daily experience the only thing any of us really know for sure is the content of what we have been told or shown via some form of media. Like it or not most of what we consume only skews reality.  As a media creator myself I know that some of that skewing is inevitable. Some is by design.

Inevitable causes result from the emphasis being determined by the creator. If you watch one of my videos you inevitably see what impacts me. I want you to see and feel what I see and feel. That’s why I’m creating it. The greater my passion the more my own biases pass through the lens of your perception, world view, and life experience. You then draw your own conclusions and pass them onto others. The process goes on ad Infinitum.

On some level, every media consumer becomes a co-errant creator.

Skewing by design is intentional and may be used to honor or dishonor the subject.

Anyone who has been interviewed by me knows that I cut errors. Any hesitation, confusion, cussing, stuttering, or farting is removed such that even the most awkward and nervous subject looks like a seamless orator. I do this both for the sake of time and honor. The dark side of this is that people can be made to say things they never said.  All it takes is a simple switching of camera angles and adding b-roll to cover spliced clips.  For example, I could ask you what you thought about cockroaches in one question and what you think about puppies in the next then splice the answer to the first question onto the second and walla!  You have been transformed from a clean person into a genocidal puppy killer. 

Yes, it’s really that easy.

Viewing is skewing

The diminishing attention span and patience of viewers as well as the accelerated speed at which people scroll through SM messages requires videos to be shorter and shorter.  Advertisers know they have no more than 5-15 seconds to hook you or you will scroll through their message on your device.  That’s why they allow you the “Skip Ad” option. As a result, billions of people make instant and completely subjective decisions regarding truth and the nature of reality everyday based on media titles and headlines like “Trump Invokes Insurection Act” alone.

You don’t have the wisest serpent in the den to discern where this might lead.

What is True?

Four years ago on New Year’s Eve, we were en-route back to Kauai from Africa where we had attended the Iris Global Harvest School of Missions.

Africa was paradigm-shifting, to say the least.  We saw what it means to really lay it all down for the sake of the gospel.  We learned that while miracles and projects happen and doctrinal differences always arise, mission work a.k.a. Christianity begins and ends with intimacy with God and stopping for the one in front of you

Thankfully it wasn’t until we returned that we heard the myriad controversies regarding Heidi Baker. Like any famous person she is enshrined by some and bedeviled by others. Suffice it to say that anyone who has not personally encountered her on the mission field should stop talking.

The same applies to Christians talking about anyone’s character whom we only know via the media. As it turns out I have been duped too. Allow me to be the first to repent of this.

The entire body of Christ is comprised of fallen, cracked pots.

How easy it is to forget the brokenness that drew us to Christ in the first place.  Still, the body of Christ has had challenges with discerning and holding onto truth from the start. One minute the Corinthians are on fire for the gospel. Then getting rebuked for sexual immorality in next. 1 Cor 5 On a good day we prophecy in part, know in part, and see in a glass darkly. Therefore everything we do must be grounded in a love for one another that we model before others. John 13:35  Otherwise we become loud dystopic clangs in an already dying world. 1 Cor 13:1

There’s a lot of clanging today

I don’t know about you but I can be pretty fiery. It doesn’t take a whole lot of media viewing to stoke my stupidity and expose my deficits in this area.

Part of the problem is that our society has become an ocean of normalized narcissism where personal opinions and significance have become idols and are monetized by Social Media. Yup being angry at someone because they disagree with the ALMIGHTY ME is narcissistic. Calling for revolution or civil war is psychotic. It may be coming soon thanks to the new religion of

Self-aggrandizement and maligning others in the temple of the smartphone.

“The Social Dilemma” is an absolute must for anyone who has ever asked questions like “How could anyone believe the Marxist driven Portland riots were a peaceful protest” or “How could any Christian support a Nazi white supremacist homophobic rapist like Donald Trump?”

The answer is scarier than you might imagine.

About two years ago I wrote Truth or Trump where I discussed what I learned during my old Forex trading days regarding how media manipulates markets and political narratives for profit. I concluded that political rage is destroying the witness of Christians. In the Anatomy of Deception, I covered the economic theory of Reflexivity and what George Soros termed the Fertile Fallacy and the Manipulative Function by which he determines reality. These also drive markets, public opinion, and behavior. That all of the aforementioned entities are working together to reform humanity in the forge of social media is- well… terrifying.

“The Social Dilemma” was a proverbial capstone.

God and Government – Fear Not

While there are all sorts of typological analogies that can be drawn from the Old Testament regarding kings and kingdoms, it is God who establishes both in accordance with His disposition toward nations. Our God-given rights can only be revoked by Him.

His disposition toward Israel in Habakkuk 1 and Jerimiah 19 looks very different from Isaiah 45.

Hence He established both Nebuchadnezzar and Cyrus.

Those who assume God didn’t establish Joe Biden and stand ready to redo 1776 should consider the almost prophetic words of John Adams in a letter to the Massachusetts Militia on October 11, 1798.

“We shall have the Strongest Reason to rejoice in the local destination assigned us by Providence. But should the People of America, once become capable of that deep simulation towards one another and towards foreign nations, which assumes the language of justice and moderation while it is practicing iniquity and extravagance; and displays in the most captivating manner the charming pictures of candor frankness & sincerity while it is rioting in rapine and insolence: this Country will be the most miserable habitation in the World. Because we have no government armed with power capable of contending with human passions unbridled by morality and religion. Avarice, ambition revenge or gallantry, would break the strongest cords of our constitution as a whale goes through a net. Our constitution was made only for a moral and religious people. It is wholly inadequate to the government of any other.”

The operative question here is; do the words, “moral and religious people” describe our nation today?

If that gets you thinking then you might be ready to read The Killing of Uncle Sam.  Whatever you might think of Dr. Rodney Howard Brown’s controversial theology, he is writing as a historian. It definitely lends perspective to the words “turn from their wicked ways” in 2 Chron 7:14

“if My people who are called by My name will humble themselves, and pray and seek My face, and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven, and will forgive their sin and heal their land.”

The bibliography alone is worth twice the price of his book. 

Many of problems we face today are largely a result of our nation’s collective obsession with Netflix and sports instead of history, civics, and sound Bible exegesis.  That two generations increasingly view what amounts to neo-Marxism as compassionate Biblically sound doctrine is a reaping of what we have sown.

Today we are in a very precarious position.

Everyone is being gaslit.

Everyone needs to question their epistemology.

“It ain’t what you don’t know that gets you into trouble. It’s … thick with evidence that a truth is not hard to kill and that a lie told well is immortal.” – Mark Twain –

Our desire for and self-proclaimed God-ordained entitlement to justice comfort and prosperity is the source of our undoing.  That’s the round about way of saying, “mammon kills!” Those are hard words but Jesus had hard words for those who should have known better. They are preserved for our edification.  He and the apostles preached and modeled a message of total surrender of everything but the gospel.  In the end, none but Judas backed down.  All were beaten and killed for preaching it.

They did so amidst the following political climate and under rulers whom they never once opposed on political grounds.

  • Herod Antipas imprisoned and beheaded John the Baptist in 28AD for criticizing his marriage.
  • In 37AD well known Caligula embarked on a reign of terror which included the execution of James and the imprisonment of Peter from which he miraculously escaped.
  • He was succeeded in 41AD by Claudius, who expelled all the Jews from Rome.
  • 62 AD saw Nero who blamed/set up Christians for the Great Fire of Rome in 64AD.  He is best known for burning Christians as human candles and sending them to their deaths in the amphitheater. Both Paul and Peter were executed by Nero in 66AD.  Nero committed suicide in 68AD and was succeeded by Vespasian, 69AD.
  • Titus destroyed the Temple in Jerusalem in 70AD. He died in 81AD and was succeeded by his younger brother Domitian.
  • Domitian continued to persecute Christians because they wouldn’t worship the Roman gods or sacrifice to the Emperor.  He exiled the apostle John to the  island of Patmos in 89AD

The Beatitudes and the Sermon on the Mount define our rights.

Here are some more hard words.

The gospel is not a call to political change, comfort, prosperity or even justice in this life. The Gospel is a call to die.

There is a poignant scene in the passion of the Christ where Mary is seen clutching fists full of the earth as her son is being nailed to the cross.  She rises from her knees in conjunction with the soldiers pulling the cross into its vertical position then opens her fists to release the earth as the cross drops into the supporting hole. No one including the disciples understood what was happening until after the resurrection.  The very act that brought eternal hope to the world emptied all of them of any hope they had in it.

All of us must get to this point.

Cathy and I often wonder how we and others would react to the crucifixion of our King if it happened today.

I suspect many would be calling for revolution and civil war.

Rev 13:10 is clear.

There is a lesson for America there.

As for us our heart and our hill are best described in the words Cathy recently wrote to a friend.

Bringing Hope in a dying world is our heart cry. That Hope on a starving person’s death bed is longer lasting than any hot meal. Of course, a hot meal is good and important too. But knowing that when they leave this world, even if they are all alone, that Jesus’ arms are open and, ready to receive them into eternity with Him is all that will matter then. That said, our prayer request is that this message of Hope will cross the language barriers, that Holy Spirit is active and Jesus is glorified.  That we will continue to hear and be obedient to God’s leading and that

His will be done!”  

Now might be a good time to pause from climbing the summit of success and define the hill upon which you are willing to die.

Maranatha!