Keep Seeking and Keep Listening

I still have many things to say to you, but you cannot bear them now. – John 16:12

A finite mind cannot fully comprehend the infinite. The more I study the Bible, the more I realize what I do not know. The Bible is the Word of God and as such reveals God’s Will, it reveals His plans and purposes to us. At least it reveals those plans and purposes He would have us know. I don’t think anywhere in the Bible God states that He has told us everything He knows. I am convinced we cannot possibly know all He does, nor necessarily fully grasp or comprehend everything He has told us. As the above verse notes, there were things that Jesus did not reveal to the apostles in The Upper Room Discourse because they were not ready to hear them. We can only know God’s mind and will when He chooses it to be the time that we can bear to hear. I am convinced there are things we are not able to bear while upon this earth.

Look at what the Apostle Paul experienced:

And I know such a man—whether in the body or out of the body I do not know, God knows— how he was caught up into Paradise and heard inexpressible words, which it is not lawful for a man to utter. – 2 Corinthians 12:3-4

Look at what the Apostle John experienced:

Now when the seven thunders uttered their voices, I was about to write; but I heard a voice from heaven saying to me, “Seal up the things which the seven thunders uttered, and do not write them.” – Revelation 10:4

It is clear to see that both men heard things that the Lord determined were not to be revealed to anyone else, they were the only ones to hear these divinely inspired utterances. There are thoughts within the mind of God that are not for all of us to know as these two previous verses show, is it hard to believe that there may be thoughts in the mind of God that are not for any of us to know?

For My thoughts are not your thoughts, Nor are your ways My ways,” says the Lord. – Isaiah 55:8

We are not God, or even god-like in most of what we do. We cannot by our nature compared to His, understand all of God. We have never lived in an existence that is outside of time, so can we really comprehend timelessness? Yet God is timeless; He is outside of time, He created time. If we cannot fully comprehend one of His characteristics, can we really grasp all the meaning of His thought?

God is not a man, that He should lie, Nor a son of man, that He should repent. Has He said, and will He not do? Or has He spoken, and will He not make it good? – Numbers 23:19

Lying, not doing it is one of the Ten Commandments (Exodus 20:16, Deuteronomy 5:20). But we all do it at some point, saying something we do not mean, or something that just is not true. God never does. He is Truth, He keeps His promises, and He does not make excuses. God’s attributes are never resident in us as fully as He possesses them, we cannot therefore grasp the nature and fullness of His attributes as He exhibits them.

No one can argue that we are like God, certainly no one can argue that God is like us. So as we read the Bible and study it, as we meditate upon the Word, as we seek the Lord we need to keep that in mind. As a result, we also need remember that if we cannot fully comprehend God, we may not fully comprehend the meaning of His Word. Theology is man’s attempt to understand the infinitely divine. It is possible that we get parts of it wrong some of the time and some of it wrong all the time. It is incumbent upon us to constantly test our knowledge of the Word and listen and learn with open ears, minds and hearts. We cannot afford to get dogmatic on an issue and get it wrong. Yet many will fall into the trap of thinking they have God’s Word locked and loaded, that they understand it better than anyone else. The danger lies within thinking you know all the Word has to teach. Maybe you do, but maybe you can spend a lifetime studying His Word, finding nuggets of truth in the ground you may have raked over for decades. I would be wary of anyone who thinks it is not possible for them to learn anything fresh from the study of the Bible.

As we learn, as we teach others and share Christ, let us be diligent in reading other teachers and absorbing the truth about the Truth. But let us be aware that we are all fallible beings that need the guidance and direction of the Lord to ensure we get it right. Let us seek Him humbly and in obedience, so that we get it right most of the time.

And let’s just hope we do not get all of it wrong all the time.

The Suffering of a People

Excerpted from “Israel in Prophecy” by John F. Walvoord (1962):

The trials of Israel stem from the basic conflict between divine purpose and satanic opposition. The very fact that God selected Israel as a special means of divine revelation makes the nation the object of special satanic attack. Satanic hatred of the seed of Abraham is manifested from the beginning of God’s dealings with Abraham and continues through the entire course of human history culminating in the rebellion at the end of the millennium.

Spiritual warfare in relation to Israel is in evidence from the beginning. The fulfillment of God’s purpose of bringing Abraham from Ur of Chaldees to the Promised Land was delayed and thwarted by Abraham’s incomplete obedience in bringing his father and nephew Lot with him. Entrance to the land was delayed until his father died, and Lot continued to be a hindrance to him until he and Abraham separated. Satanic opposition to fulfillment of God’s purpose in Abraham is also revealed in the delayed birth of Isaac, and only the miraculous intervention of God made it possible for Him to fulfill His prophecy of a seed to Abraham through whom He would bless the nations. In the case of Isaac, a similar situation is evident in the fact that only after years of supplication was a seed granted to Isaac and Rebekah. When Jacob and Esau were born, it was expressly an answer to prayer. The corrupting influence of Satan is manifest in both the lives of Esau and Jacob, and only by the grace of God was Jacob rescued from his compromising position. Jacob’s life ended in Egypt, to which he had fled to avoid the famine, with none of his family remaining in the Promised Land. The subsequent experience of Israel in Egypt, where for a time they enjoyed prosperity but eventually were threatened with extermination, is well known to every student of the Bible. Only by divine intervention was Israel brought from Egypt to the Promised Land, and then only after years of failure and wandering in the wilderness.

The incomplete possession of the land, the spiritual degeneracy which characterized the time of the judges, and the apostasy that followed the days of Solomon are given large place in the Old Testament. In every particular Satan sought to spoil, to hinder, and to mar the purpose of God in the elect nation. The scattering of Israel in the captivities, the attempt recorded in the book of Esther to exterminate the Jew, and the ultimate capstone of satanic opposition to Israel’s place of spiritual leadership was recorded in the gospels. In the New Testament, Israel’s rejection of her Messiah is related, with Israel’s resulting dispersion following the Roman persecution A.D. 70 – 135. Undoubtedly one of the principal causes for Israel’s suffering has been the unending opposition of Satan to the fulfillment of God’s purpose in the nation.

Coupled with Israel’s failures as recorded in the Scriptures is the fact of divine discipline exercised on the nation. Israel was not only to be the channel of divine revelation of God, but also the example of God’s faithfulness to a sinning people who are the objects of His love and grace. Accordingly, many pages of the Old Testament are dedicated to giving the sacred records of God’s dealings with His wandering people. The studies of Israel’s sufferings will illustrate this basic reason for the sufferings inflicted on the nation.

The sufferings of Israel, while revealing God’s discipline and righteousness, are also demonstrations of His love. Joined to every righteous judgment upon Israel are many manifestations of divine grace in preserving a godly remnant, in giving them that which is far greater than they deserved and fulfilling His divine purpose in and through them in spite of their own failure and Satan’s efforts to hinder the purpose of God. There is a majestic drama in the whole sequence of events that relate to Israel’s history, and they epitomize to some extent the conflict between good and evil which is basic Christian philosophy of history. The sufferings of Israel, therefore, should be seen in the context of satanic persecution, of divine discipline for sin, and of divine faithfulness to His chosen people.

Words of Grace for Strength

That God chose Israel for His special purposes cannot be doubted if one reads the Bible. That Satan has attempted to thwart God’s purposes can equally be seen in the Bible and to a student of history, can be seen played out on the stage of world events over century upon century. As Dr. Walvoord notes, Israel has suffered satanic persecution and divine discipline. It is most likely Israel in the moment of suffering did not find one type of suffering more enjoyable than the other. But overarching that suffering is divine faithfulness which has seen and will continue to see Israel through any amount of suffering, at least it will see a faithful remnant though.

Israel is not the Church, nor is the Church Israel. Separate and distinct, each has a different relationship with the Lord, and the Lord will fulfill His purposes for each independently. Yet both have faced and will continue to face suffering, either as a result of satanic persecution trying to thwart the purposes of God or as a result of divine discipline due to disobedience. We the Church can take comfort that the faithfulness of God is an immutable attribute of the Lord, we can take the same assurances from the promises He made to the Church as Israel can from the promises made to them.

And there lies our strength, reliance on the faithfulness of God. Although the times are hard and growing harder, we must know the Church has endured persecution more than it has enjoyed peace. The Church today should expect no different from the Church has always faced, a lesson often lost in today’s world, to the American church in particular. We are no better than any other sinner who has come to a saving faith in Christ, we should expect no better from a world driven by satanic persecution, we should expect no less from a loving God who will discipline us to obedience and to build character.

Yet through it all we have the divine faithfulness of God, which will prevail in our lives if we let it, and will enable us to prevail over the most troubled of times we may yet face.

 

God Is Looking for Men

Few verses of Scripture have more powerfully influenced my personal life than Ezekiel 22:30. After having given my life to Christ in an act of repentance, and receiving His free gift of salvation, a few short years later I accepted the call to preach the word.

However as a young adult I let selfish personal desires and worldly decisions turn me away from the promise I had made to God. Though God kept that promise which I had made to Him ever before me, in rebellion I lived only for myself and like a tornado left a path of destruction which affected the lives of everyone with whom I came in contact. But, even in my immorality and wickedness God still loved me, and desired to draw me back to Himself, and to obedience to His Will.

After many years in disobedience, I had reached a point at which God in His mercy had allowed me to be completely broken. I was broken materially, emotionally, and most of all spiritually. I was jobless, homeless, and had lost all respectability and integrity. Like the prodigal son I had wasted everything God had ever given me and destroyed every relationship with those who mattered to me. However, even at the depths of my depravity, and despite my unrepentant attitude, there were those who never ceased to pray for me. In doing so, they kept the illuminating and purifying light of Christ shining into my life and exposing my sin.

At that low point in my life, as a result of those prayers and through the efforts of my mother and oldest daughter, I began to be exposed to Godly men who, in the love of Christ, began to council and then disciple me. After a few months I cried out to God for forgiveness and gave Him complete control of my life. Believing completely in His power and ability to change my life, I again turned to His Word to show me His Will. I began that process of sanctification, daily endeavoring to be more like Christ, which yet continues even to this day. Late one night while reading, I came to this passage in Ezekiel and God began to show me, to teach me, just what He would require of me.

Ezekiel was a prophet of God to the nation of Israel during the Babylonian captivity. Because of Israel’s wickedness and disobedience God had allowed Nebuchadnezzar to conquer the nation. In the process of the conquest, the destruction of Israel took place over a period of years and included three separate periods of destruction during which the people of Israel were either scattered into other nations or were carried into captivity to Babylon. Ezekiel had been a part of the second captivity and his prophecies were both for those in captivity, and those who yet remained in Jerusalem, to turn from their wickedness and ask for restoration before God. Ezekiel chapter 22 details the depths of wickedness to which the nation of Israel had fallen, and what His judgment on them would involve. Having reached this point, God told Ezekiel;

“And I sought for a man among them, that should make up the hedge, and stand in the gap before me for the land, that I should not destroy it: but I found none. Therefore have I poured out mine indignation upon them; I have consumed them with the fire of my wrath: their own way have I recompensed upon their heads, saith the Lord GOD.” (Ezekiel 22:30-31 KJV)

God had looked for one man, just one. It would have only taken one man to step into the breach in obedience, one man completely committed to God to make a stand for God before the nation of Israel. One man who was steadfast and loyal to God, to stay God’s judgment on the nation. But, the Scripture says, He found none.

As I read and studied that passage I was struck by two thoughts; first, how tragic it was that God could not find even one man willing to stand for Him in all the nation of Israel; and second, I was overwhelmed and captivated with the realization that God is still looking for a man. That, in fact, throughout history, in every generation, God has looked for a man, Today, God is still looking for men willing to be His steadfast and loyal watchmen, warrior servants, and leader servants, willing to stand for God, for Christ, before this wicked world, calling for repentance and declaring His righteousness.

As the meaning of this passage and its significance became clear to me, especially as it pertained to my own life and to my walk with Christ, I realized that incredibly, God still wanted to use me. I realized that He wanted to use me not because of who I was becoming in Christ, but because of who I was before I turned to Him.

This realization compelled me to begin a study of the men God chose to use, both in the Old Testament and New, to accomplish His goals. And while this study revealed the character and characteristics of the type of man God is looking for, most importantly I began to understand not only why He still wanted to use me, but also what He was going to require of me.

Many years have passed since Christ in His mercy restored me to Himself and allowed His Holy Spirit to indwell me, protect me, teach me, and empower me to be His obedient servant. The process of sanctification continues in my life, and each morning as I rise I hear the call of the Holy Spirit in my heart saying “I sought for a man among them” and I pray to my heavenly Father; “cause me, make me, enable me to be that man.”

God is still looking for men! But God is not looking for perfect men, He is not looking for the wealthiest, or the best looking, or even the most intelligent men.

What kind of man is God looking for?

  • God is looking for men who will stand in the gap and love Him more than they love the things of the world.
  • God is looking for men who will stand in the gap because their hearts desire is to serve Him in obedience.
  • God is looking for men who will stand in the gap because as men they are dependent on Him, humble men who trust him completely to lead them.
  • God is looking for men who will stand in the gap and not compromise the Word of God to the popular culture or the ideas of man, who will not tolerate unrepentant sin, yet who will love sinners just as Jesus did.
  • God is looking for men who will stand in the gap and love, lead, comfort, and protect their wives just as Christ does the church.
  • God is looking for men who will stand in the gap because they are more concerned about their children’s souls than their athletic abilities or popularity.
  • God is looking for men who will stand in the gap and lead by the way they live rather than by what they say.
  • God is looking for men who will stand in the gap and pray, who current in their prayer life, are intercessors praying for the lives of others.
  • God is looking for men who will stand in the gap as watchmen, warning His church of apostasy and infidelity, who will be defenders of the faith.
  • God is looking for men who will stand in the gap having put on the whole armor of God, and having done all to stand, will stand therefore!

The most important thing that we must understand is that God is looking for men not only willing to die for the cause of Christ, but more importantly, He is looking for men whose lives are yielded to the power of the Holy Spirit and who are willing to live for Jesus Christ!

Is He looking for You?

 

A Warning for the American Church

In 1967, Dr. John Walvoord authored a book entitled “The Nations in Prophecy.” It was the last in a three book series. The preceding two books were; “Israel in Prophecy” and “The Church in Prophecy.”  The last chapter of “The Nations in Prophecy” is entitled; America in Prophecy and it is interesting to see Dr. Walvoord’s thoughts on the topic from nearly 50 years ago, and how relevant they are to today’s world. In a nutshell Dr. Walvoord believed the United States will not be a significant player in end time prophetic events, and he lays out a number of reasons. His observations are interesting and show a deep and thoughtful search of Scripture. But, as much as it talks about America as a nation, I find the last chapter of the book contains warnings which the American church should take to heart today, a half century after the observations were first penned.

Dr. Walvoord notes that history records many great nations, of unusual power and influence, which rose and declined because of internal corruption or international complications. Walvoord puts the US into that class. Looking over the past 50 years, an argument can be made that the US is no longer at the zenith of international power, influence, and status as the nation once was. Although still a military superpower, our economic prowess is being challenged by others and we no longer hold the sway of international influence which we once did. One can and should argue that we are a nation in decline. The question Walvoord raises, and answers as he sees it, is not whether the US deserves judgment, but why divine judgment has been held back for so long. One can wonder why we haven’t felt God’s wrath yet as we look at how this nation openly defies God more and more each day. For most of our past as a nation, the American church held a privileged and protected place within it.  The current state of the American church is one of less than obedient belief in the God of the Bible. A significant portion of the church now holds to and promotes outwardly, positions that are not sound from a biblical perspective. For the past year, our blog articles have chronicled the growing apostasy within the church, and the implications of that growing disobedience and defiance. Due to that, we can also ask why, like the American nation, the American church hasn’t yet felt the wrath of God. One can see the possibility of God’s wrath beginning to manifest itself as we witness an ever increasing severity of persecution of Christians within our country. Many have talked about this, many believe it is beginning to occur, but the plain fact is that compared to the church in many other parts of the world, the American church still holds a relatively privileged position still today. But it may be that this will quickly change, and it may not be long before it does.

Look at the reasons Walvoord gives for the delay in divine judgment for America as a nation and see if the reasons still fit the American church today:

“…a source of major Christian testimony in the world and has done more to promote the missionary cause in terms of money and men than any other nation.”

Yes these activities are still going on, but increasingly Christians in other countries view the US as a mission field. If the American church isn’t viewed as the dominant leader in these areas anymore, not only will the impact and influence of the American church wane internationally, but the divine blessing that comes with obedience to God will not fall on us as abundantly, if at all. We may not earn a failing grade in this area today, but I am not sure we are any longer on the honor roll.

“…the Abrahamic promise concerning his seed, ‘I will bless them that bless thee, and curse him that curseth thee’ (Genesis 12:3). The United States for the most has been kind to the Jew.”  

A look at this country’s positions and policies in the Middle East shows a stance that is growing less kind to the Jew daily. Within the American church, those who are embracing concepts like Christian Palestinianism and/or denouncing the actions of Israel, are growing daily. The American church is not praying for the nation of Israel and for the Jewish people to turn to Christ as their Messiah as it once did. Again, possibly not a failing grade, but no high honors evident here.

The future of the American nation and the American church are intertwined. Christian beliefs were a source of strength both in the founding of the nation, and in its growth in the past.  The faith and obedient belief of the American church brought forth the blessings God bestowed upon the United States. Sad that both the nation and the church are so visibly showing signs of internal corruption, and falling away from godly values at the same time. The nation without a godly church underpinning it, will certainly fall even further. As American society grows more hostile to Christianity, the American church finds itself in a grievous situation because it does not seem to have the backbone to stand up to society, and be the shining light which brings the nation back closer to God. It is sad that when things are less than good, and a bold and faithful church is most needed, it is sliding away from the role it should play, and is following the foul tide of the world itself.

The Bible calls for obedience which brings blessing while disobedience brings the curse and wrath of God. Both the American nation and the American church need to understand one simple fact: God needs neither of them to fulfill His plans and purposes. Quite to the contrary, both need Jesus Christ to enjoy the richness and blessings the Lord wishes to give His children.

If divine judgment could be seen as ripe 50 years ago, how much the more today? If the reasons for delay were thought valid 50 years ago, can the same be said with equal assurance now? Is the place America holds in end time prophecy indicative of the lack of strength the American church is exhibiting currently? Such failure may be a most self-fulfilling prophecy.

 

America’s Spiritual Decline

The spirit of Antichrist has been in the world at least since God said the seed of woman would bruise Satan’s head (Gen. 3:15). God’s curse was the beginning of a great earthly struggle between good and evil. In the beginning, it focused on preventing the first coming of Jesus. It is now focused on preventing the Second Coming of Jesus. It will continue until this world is destroyed by fire (Matt. 24:35; II Pet. 3:10).

The Antichrist won’t be revealed until the church is Raptured, but the spirit of Antichrist is already here (II Thess. 2:6, 7; I Jn. 4:3). It is anti-God, anti-Jesus, anti-Truth, anti-Christian, the Apostasy, the falling away, the departure from the faith, the emerging church, liberalism, humanism, globalism, inclusiveness, replacement theology, non-Christian religions and the like.

Among other things, this wicked spirit will lead to perilous times, blasphemy, fierceness and despising those that are good in the last days (II Tim. 3:1-4). It will make the world more dangerous (wars, nuclear weapons, more deadly pestilences etc.). Humanity will become more despicable (ungodly or contemptuous of God). People will become more brutal (behead people, burn people alive, cut babies in two); and society will become more intolerant of those who serve God at the end of the Church Age (persecution).

Instead of a worldwide revival with the church converting the world, the people on planet Earth will move farther away from Jesus until all that will live godly in Christ will suffer persecution (II Thess. 2:3; Rev. 3:16; II Tim. 3:12). Christians all over the Middle East are being persecuted right now and it is a growing problem in the U.S.

Jesus, the Disciples, Paul and many of the early Christians were persecuted. A pastor that I know recently preached on “Preparing for the Coming Persecution.” Rev. Franklin Graham recently said that he is concerned about “persecution in this country” [the U.S.]. He added that, “We’ve already seen many laws that have been passed that restrict our freedom as Christians. I believe it’s going to get worse.”

About two weeks ago there was testimony before a U.S. Senate subcommittee that the U.S. received about seven million immigrants in fiscal 2014. They came from many places, but most were Hispanics and some were Muslims.

God loves all of them. He wants all of them to know that Jesus died for everyone’s sins. He wants all of them to accept Jesus as their Savior and to go to heaven.

But it should be understood that seven million immigrants, plus the multiplied millions more that are expected to arrive in the next 3 to 4 years, are going to impact the already failing spirituality of the U.S.

No one can deny that there are places in the world where the church is growing, but the U.S. is not one of them. Many pastors say that they think the Apostasy has already started in the U.S. They see very little difference between most of their church members and the lost. Apathy and moral failure are already widespread in U.S. churches.

This is the point: The growing persecution and spiritual decline of America is bad enough already, but it is going to get much worse in the future. It is difficult to say how many Muslims are coming into the U.S. when people are saying the number is much higher than our government is letting on. And Pres. Obama has already said he will increase it even more. It is sad to know that Syrian Muslims are being brought in, but Syrian Christians are being refused entry. Bringing non-Christians in and keeping Christians out changes things.

Increasing the population of Muslims is going to mean more mosques; more demands to stop monitoring mosques, more demands to stop profiling Muslims; more demands to bring in extended families of Muslims; more demands for Muslim prayers before Congress, at city council meetings and the like.

It will mean more demands for Sharia Law: more attempts to get rid of the Bible, portray Christians as hate-mongers and extremists, send Christians to sensitivity training, get rid of chaplains in the military and the like; more demands to change school textbooks, lunch menus, etc. and perhaps more terrorist attacks, especially on churches.

Muslims are coming (and being brought) to the U.S. for many reasons, but the primary reason they are coming is to fundamentally transform the U.S. into a Muslim nation.

I have been to Mexico and seen many faithful Hispanic Christians. The vast majority is nominal at best. About 75-80%, say they are Catholic. They say they are Catholic because their parents were Catholic or they believe they were born Catholic. But their Catholic beliefs are far from traditional mainline Christianity. In many cases, their beliefs have been blended with ritualism, magic, voodoo, varied Indian cultural practices and the like.

Several years ago, a missionary took my wife and me to a Roman Catholic Church in Mexico and a voodoo ceremony was being performed in the church. I am not against legalized immigration (and I don’t blame anyone for seeking a better life), but I am saying that letting 25-30 million people with many kinds of strange beliefs come into the U.S. in the next 4 to 5 years (and not letting Christians in) will decrease the percentage of true Christians in the U.S.

Understand that the Bible is not wrong. Every jot and tittle will be fulfilled including what it says about persecution. Understand too, that what Islamic terrorists do in other countries (behead Christians, burn churches, burn people alive, cut babies in two, sell people into slavery) they will also do in the U.S. Their threats to raise the Islamic State flag over the White House and to blow up the White House should be taken seriously.

The spirit of Antichrist is already here and a flood of epic proportions is on the way. It will further weaken the U.S. spiritually and we should be concerned for our Lord, our children, our grandchildren, others and ourselves.

Prophecy Plus Ministries
Daymond & Rachel Duck
daymond.duck@yahoo.com

What About Persecution?

Usually, for our Sunday article, it is my practice to quote a passage from a message or book written within the past 100 years or so, and then to make commentary as to its relevance for today. Today however, it is the constant reminder, by way of the media, of stories dealing with Christian persecution which has caused me to write. Because of much unbiblical teaching, emanating from many pulpits, in “churches” which have compromised on the Word of God and are now preaching “another gospel” I felt it necessary to put forward this brief excursus on persecution.

Words of Grace for Strength

From the very beginning, the true Church of Jesus Christ has faced persecution. Acts chapters 4 and 5 speak of the very beginning of that persecution in the ministry of the apostles Peter and John, and we find at the end of chapter 5 these words:

Acts 5:34-35
Then one in the council stood up, a Pharisee named Gamaliel, a teacher of the law held in respect by all the people, and commanded them to put the apostles outside for a little while. And he said to them: “Men of Israel, take heed to yourselves what you intend to do regarding these men.

Act 5:38-42
And now I say to you, keep away from these men and let them alone; for if this plan or this work is of men, it will come to nothing; but if it is of God, you cannot overthrow it—lest you even be found to fight against God.” And they agreed with him, and when they had called for the apostles and beaten them, they commanded that they should not speak in the name of Jesus, and let them go.

So they departed from the presence of the council, rejoicing that they were counted worthy to suffer shame for His name. And daily in the temple, and in every house, they did not cease teaching and preaching Jesus as the Christ.

It is estimated that between 100 million and 150 million Christians worldwide face some type of persecution on a yearly basis, and depending upon whose report you believe to be most accurate there are between 55,000 and 100,000 Christians martyred each year. Some have even estimated that more Christians have been martyred in the first 15 years of this century than all of the previous 20 combined.

Christian persecution is found on every continent, and in every country, and is perpetrated by many religions as well as atheistic and intolerant totalitarian governments. In some places the persecution is subtle while in others it is horrifically overt. Christian persecution is found in many forms; such as slander and libel, confiscation of property, false accusations, imprisonment, kidnapping, slavery, beatings, dismemberment, torture, rape, and in varying degrees of severity up to and including murder by means of shooting, stoning, and beheading, burning, and even crucifixion.

Beginning with John and Peter’s first persecution, and with Steven’s death as the church’s first martyr, the church age has been marked by suffering, persecution, and martyrdom of the followers of Jesus Christ. All of the apostles, with the exception of John, were martyred as were most of the New Testament disciples named in the books written by Luke, Peter, John, and Paul.

Throughout the successive centuries the persecution has only grown, and as we live in these last days, awaiting the return of Jesus Christ to Rapture His Church, we can expect its intensity and frequency to grow exponentially. Jesus Christ was Himself our suffering Savior, and He was persecuted even unto death. We who are His followers, should at no time be surprised when we too are persecuted. Jesus promised us; “Remember the word that I said to you, ‘A servant is not greater than his master.’ If they persecuted Me, they will also persecute you.” John 15:20a

Looking back to our text in Acts 5, we find that those who are persecuting the apostles are the Sanhedrin. Later in the book of Acts we find the followers of Christ being persecuted by differing groups of Gentiles and most especially the Romans. Throughout the succeeding centuries Christians have faced persecution from many different religions, ideologies, and governments.

Today Christian persecution comes at the hands of Islamists and various other religions; from communists, socialists, progressives, and other political ideologies; from atheists and agnostics; and from the radical LGBT community as well as other social activists such as the Southern Poverty Law Center and the ACLU. In fact, I’m certain many of you would agree with me when I say, active Christian persecution emanates from our own White House and the administration which now occupies it.

But, I believe we who are followers of Christ, His True Church, have actually forgotten who our enemy really is. In John 14:30 he is called “the ruler of this world,” in Ephesians 2:2 he is called “the prince of the power the air,” and Paul names him as the devil in Ephesians 6:11. In fact, in Ephesians 6:11-12 Paul warns us to; “Put on the whole armor of God, that you may be able to stand against the wiles of the devil. For we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this age, against spiritual hosts of wickedness in the heavenly places.” Whether it be religions, governments, or ideologies, these and the mere mortals who lead them, are no more than pawns in this great spiritual war.

Today the True Church of Jesus Christ, the Bride of Christ, is involved in this spiritual war for the universe. Satan’s goal is to corrupt, marginalize, render ineffective, and destroy the Church of Jesus Christ. It is also his goal to destroy God’s chosen people, the Jews and their nation of Israel. Ultimately, Christ Himself will win the war. But, until we are relieved of our duty by either death (which the apostle Paul calls “gain.” Philippians1:21) or Rapture (1 Thessalonians 4:16-17), we are to equip ourselves with the whole armor of God (Ephesians 6:10-18) and make a stand for the cause of Christ.

Once again as we look back to Acts 5:41, we note that John and Peter rejoiced that they were found worthy to suffer for Christ. Peter tells us in 1 Peter 3:14 that if we suffer for righteousness sake we are blessed. And James writes in James 1:2 that we should count it all joy when we face trials. Contrary to what is taught in many “churches” today, this is the normal Christian life, to be continually facing persecution for our obedience and fidelity to the cause of Christ. Like so many saints before us, who had also counted the cost, we must be willing not only to suffer, but to lay down our life in the service of the cross.

There is an old gospel song titled “I came here to stay.” I don’t know who the author is, but I believe this song should be on the lips of every Christian as we are involved in this spiritual battle. The chorus of the song says;

Run if you want to, run if you will,
But I came here to stay.
If I fall down I’m gonna get right up.
Because I didn’t start out to play.
It’s a battlefield, brother,
not a recreation room.
It’s a fight, and not a game.
Run if you want to, run if you will,
but I came here to stay.

Know your enemy, know the battlefield, face persecution without fear, rejoice, and having done all to stand, stand therefore!

Oh That They

I often think some of the saddest words in the Bible are from Romans 1:24-25:

Therefore God also gave them up to uncleanness, in the lusts of their hearts, to dishonor their bodies among themselves, who exchanged the truth of God for the lie, and worshiped and served the creature rather than the Creator, who is blessed forever. Amen.

Therefore God also gave them up…

I can think of nothing sadder than God giving up on someone. Nothing sadder than a heart so hardened in sin that the Lord gives that heart over to the sin it craves, hardening it permanently. That is a loss that cannot be recouped. Lost blessings, lost joy, lost souls, lost forever. Beyond such a permanent condition there is also the situation of the loss of blessings and joy that occurs in the lives of so many because we may choose not to follow hard after the Lord in obedience. This type of loss is temporary, but time lost outside the blessing and joy of obedience to God cannot be recovered, even after a restoral of the relationship to God, a repentance of the erring ways of the past. Yes, the blessings are there going forward but the past is gone forever. One thinks of another sad phrase, “What might have been”, in thinking about that type of past. We are fortunate to have a patient God who will wait for us to come back from the occasional straying, a God who will in love discipline us to bring about that repentance and restoral. But while He waits, there is a sadness that occurs:

The Lord heard the voice of your words when you spoke to me, and the Lord said to me, I have heard the voice of the words of this people which they have spoken to you. They have done well in all that they have spoken.  Oh that they had such a heart in them, that they would fear Me and keep all My commandments always, that it may be well with them and with their sons forever! – Deuteronomy 5:28-29

Oh that they…

In the passage of Scripture these verses are pulled from, Moses is relaying to the nation of Israel the Lord’s response to the nation telling Moses that he should mediate with the Lord for them; that he should get His Word and pass it on to them and they would obey. This is happening when Moses is teaching the Law to the new generation that would step into the Promised Land, the generation to be led in by Joshua as Moses was soon to die in sight of the land the Lord had promised to Israel. I want to be clear that I see this as a statement made by the Lord to Israel, but I think it has bearing and significance for the True Church of Christ today because it speaks to the character of God and the assured bounty of His promises.

I think of all the teaching that Jesus did that is recorded in the Gospel accounts, especially the Upper Room Discourse of John 13-17. I think of all the teaching in the Epistles of Paul, John, Peter, Jude and James; all the instructions, guidance and clarifications to Christ’s teaching that these letters contain. We have the wisdom and guidance passed down to the Church by the apostles who knew the risen Christ and chose to follow Him no matter the cost. If only we would follow what we were taught through Scriptures, it would be well with us forever.

Oh, that the world would turn to Christ and know the riches that are available only through a relationship with Him and in Him. Oh, that each of us would follow more obediently, draw closer to the Lord to experience a deeper relationship in His love. The inexhaustible grace, mercy and love of the Lord is there for all of us, all the time. We can never reach its’ limits, not ever, not if all of us were to try. The Lord is there for any who would come to Him. Oh, that all would reach for the deepest and closest relationship with Christ possible. Oh that they had such a heart in them.