Never see home again. Never see home again.

 

“Truly I say to you, there is no one who has left house or brothers or sisters or mother or father or children or farms, for My sake and for the gospel’s sake, but that he will receive a hundred times as much now in the present age, houses and bothers and sisters and mothers and children and farms, along with persecutions; and in the age to come, eternal life.” Mark 10:38
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The persecution began and no one paid any attention to it. Certainly, there were the self-righteous complaints about fairness and rights and “how-dare-you’s” in the letters to the newspaper editors, but the truth is that it was so petty that the few who did take it seriously overplayed their hand.

It first was noticed during the Christmas season. A public school would no longer call it “Christmas holiday” and instead change the name to “holiday break” or “winter break.” An individual would complain about a manger scene in the city park, claiming separation of church and state. No one paid much attention.

Then the doctrine of “fairness” came into play. Everything had to be “fair” so if a manger is put up then witchcraft deserved a spot as well. If witchcraft, then gay marriage. If gay marriage, then Islam and so on and so forth. It was all about “fairness” and, after all, who could argue about being fair?

But it was all a ruse. Two decades ago, it was only long discussions about Christmas but today it is lawsuits and labels of racism levied against people of faith, all happening in the bastion of Christianity, the United States of America. Persecution has now eclipsed rational thought and the moral majority has become the whipping post in the last watershed of Christianity.

No one has been told to deny their faith or die yet, but make no mistake about it, the times and seasons have changed in the land of the free and the home of the brave. Monsignor Charles Pope has written candidly and sharply about persecution for several years now. His five stages of persecution are noteworthy. Originating with Johnette Benkovic of Women of Grace, the five stages are prophetic and clear.

  • Stage One… Stereotyping the targeted group
    To stereotype means to oversimplify a group of people. The Pentecostals were stereotyped as being “Bible thumpers,” fanatics, and uneducated simpletons in the early part of the 20th century. This judgement was made with few facts and limited contact but has lasted through the decades. This stereotypical label has now become wide and broad and includes all Christian denominations including Catholics, Protestants and Pentecostals. Doctrinal issues might separate Christians but we are now aligned in the ridicule, deriding language and hatred from the societies where we live and serve.      
  •  Stage Two…Accusations of crimes and misconduct
    Stereotyping leads to accusation and verbal distain turns to organized plans to curtail. Words become action. Ridicule becomes lawsuits. Distain becomes demands to change. No matter how ridiculous and farfetched, the accusations proceed to legal action. Instead of being known for the tremendous light and salt to the world, Christians are described as homophobic, bigoted, racist, hateful, hypocritical and evil. Instead of being known for the serving, giving and sacrificial work throughout the ages, all is stripped away except the excesses and wrongs, mostly from a myopic view of history.  Look no further than Barack Obama as he compared the medieval crusaders to modern day ISIS at the 2015 National Prayer Breakfast in Washington, D.C. Linking events in the second century to the church today is to link the crimes of yesterday to the church today. Though the accusations were quickly dismissed as “misunderstood” there is no misunderstanding the intent to vilify and accuse people of faith as being not fit for modern society.
  • Stage Three… Minimize the role and effect of the group in society     Hitler began his campaign to eliminate the Jewish race in 1919. For over ten years, the strategy was to minimize the important place in German society held by the Jewish population. Fifteen years later, the first official boycott of all Jewish shops and offices took place. From April 1, 1933 until May 8,1945 the German policy was to exclude Jews from German society and make life so intolerable that they would leave Germany. In other words, exterminate.Gradually, the attacks became more organized and led to the establishment of a network of over 20,000 concentration and extermination camps that brutalized and murdered over 11 million people… six million Jews, two-thirds of all Jews living in Europe, 1.1 million children.
  • Now it is happening in the 21st century. Because of the successful stereotyping, false accusations and minimizing of Christianity it is now common and accepted that biblically established lifestyles and family values must not continue in the world. In April of this year, Hillary Clinton said concerning abortion rights, “Deep-seated cultural codes, religious beliefs and structural biases have to be changed… and not just in far away countries but right here in the United States.”In other words, the religious beliefs that life begins at conception, that every unborn child is a fully formed soul, that it takes a mother and a father to raise a child, that marriage is sacred and is the foundation of culture and society since time began “has to be changed.”That means that the 12 million baby girls aborted in India in the past 30 years and the 54 million children aborted in the United States is only a beginning because the “cultural codes, religious beliefs and structural biases” must change. And all it will take is getting Christianity out of the way.It is too familiar with the two decades Hitler took to minimize the church in Germany before the Holocaust. Johnette Benkovic concludes, “Do not even think of mentioning Jesus or of publicly thanking him in your valedictory address; you could very well have a judge forbid you to do so under penalty of law. You may thank Madonna the singer, but not the Madonna. The LGBT club is welcome to set up shop and pass out rainbow-colored condoms at the local high school, but Christians had better hit the road; no Bibles or pamphlets had better see the light of day anywhere in the school building … separation of Church and State, you know…”The enemy of the church is a common enemy who attacks on multiple fronts and designs his assault to inflict the most damage against the church of Jesus Christ. The localities are different as well as the culture but the result is the same. He intends to strip the church of her power, anointing and unity in order to inflict the greatest deception, disunity and destruction possible, no matter which side of the world we live on.
  • Stage Four… Criminalizing Christianity
  • Yes, even in the land of the free and the home of the brave. What has taken place in India, China and in Europe is now being staged in the U.S. Recently, the religious rights of Americans has been attacked by the government through the legal system that demands the church change biblical values and submit to godless mandates concerning same sex marriage and abortion. The values of Muslims, atheist, Buddhist or Hindus are not being challenged mind you, only biblical values of Christians.

A small business owner in Oregon was found to have “discriminated” against a lesbian couple because they refused to make a cake for their wedding ceremony. Citing their Christian belief, the owners declined to participate in the ceremony and were picketed, sued and had death threats made against their children. As a result, they have been threatened with over $100,000 in fines leveled against them and lost their business. According to the Oregon Bureau of Labor, they found “substantial evidence” that the bakery had discriminated against the lesbians.

“Everybody is entitled to their own beliefs, but that doesn’t mean that folks have the right to discriminate,” Brad Avakian, the Bureau representative said. “The goal is never to shut down a business. The goal is to rehabilitate.”

Really? Rehabilitate? That means changing our biblical point of view. Changing our faith, religion, lifestyle, churches and eternal destiny. Any takers?

Stage Five… The active persecution of the targeted group
There are two topics being discussed among many Christian ministers in the U.S. One is preparation of our churches when we refuse to be “rehabilitated.” The second is preparation for civil disobedience when we are sued, fined or arrested for not submitting to godless laws and mandates. Already, we are accused of “hate crimes” when we preach biblical doctrine against homosexual behavior. In India, China, Canada and parts of Europe, clergy has been arrested and charged for preaching against the same and more.

Even though the U.S. has long provided for free speech, the erosion of ethics has begun a landslide of cultural animosity towards the church. That is called persecution and when the last stronghold wall of biblical values has been scaled the end cannot be far away. “Do you not know how to discern the signs of the times?” Jesus said. We better know by now.

The signs of the times says that persecution is now upon us throughout the Christian world and that can only mean one thing. The time is short. The labors are few and the fields, white with harvest, are awaiting a church ready for the task. Stage one through four are in place in the west, stage five is rampant throughout India, Africa, China and Europe. Now is the time to join our hands and hearts together for the greatest ingathering in history, promised by our Lord Jesus Christ.

Five Biblical Responses to the Signs of the Times
These are unprecedented times that we are living in. Every generation since Jesus rose from the dead expected, anticipated and planned for the soon return of the Lord. So what makes these times different?

Never before in history has the whole world been linked in communication. The preaching of the gospel is literally taking place 24 hours, seven days a week through the internet and social media. Because of the breakthroughs in communication in the past two decades, the availability of biblical truth has never been more available. Never. Not in the entire history of the world.

Since the great attack in the Garden of Gethsemane, the church has not experienced an assault so extensive against the cause of Christ. With the turning of the tide in the United States, the world wide assault is now in play laying the groundwork for the prophesied last days to escalate.

The great deception against the saints has begun as churches, denominations and all generations now living are acquiescing to godless doctrines concerning sexuality and identity which are the foundational building stones of society. The identity of mankind hearkens back to the Garden of Eden when man was created in the image of God. To suggest that man can somehow change God’s created order is to assume that we are now gods unto ourselves and nothing less. Can a man hold fire to his breast and not be burned? The answer is always the same.

What Should Our Response Be?

  1. 1 Timothy 4:16… “Pay close attention to yourself and to your teaching; persevere in these things, for as you do this you will ensure salvation both for yourself and for those who hear you.” In other words, spend less time casting stones at the lost and the church and more time growing in the love and compassion of Jesus. Make sure your “doctrine” is correct by using it as a tool to seek and save the lost and love the brethren.
  2. Matthew 24:12…Because lawlessness is increased, most people’s love will grow cold. The love of God is both practical and observable. Real evangelism takes place when the church is in unity.
  3. Titus 2:11-12… For the grace of God that brings salvation has appeared to all men, teaching us that, denying ungodliness and worldly lusts, we should live soberly, righteously and godly in this present age. Preach a message of grace and not legalism. When people respond to the grace of God, they want to change their behavior. When people are told to change because of rules, regulations and laws the response is condemnation and legalistic works oriented religion. Grace is still the only message of the cross. It is the only pure and undefiled religion.
  4. John 17:20-22… I do not pray for these alone, but also for those who will believe in Me through their word; that they all may be one, as You, Father, are in Me, and I in You; that they also may be one in Us, that the world may believe that You sent Me. Our unity matters! True evangelism takes place when the church becomes one. Period. It is what Jesus prayed and what Jesus still intends. Stop fighting and get along because Jesus said so.
  5. Matthew 5:11-12… “Blessed are you when people insult you and persecute you, and falsely say all kinds of evil against you because of Me. Rejoice and be glad, for your reward in heaven is great; for in the same way they persecuted the prophets who were before you.” The single most important difference between the believer and the world is that our hope does not reside in this world but in the eternity to come. Our hope brings joy in all circumstances. Remember Paul and Silas… bloody, chained, broken and condemned yet singing praises in the dark of the night. Why? Because their hope was not rooted to this world but to the hope that lies ahead. As persecution increases, rejoice! Our Redeemer draws nigh.

When Will the End Come?
Every generation has asked that question and the answer is simple… we do not know. Like a volcano preparing to erupt, the world looks as if the top is about to blow in a prophetic explosion of judgement and end time events, but no one knows the hour or day except the Father. But there is no argument as what our biblical response is to be. We are to live our lives as if today is the final day of our journey. And that means to be about the work of the Father. Persecution is the most encouraging sign of the eminent return of Jesus that the bible presents. Our call is to live holy lives, preach the word, seek and save the lost and love Jesus’ church as He loves us.

And when we see Him face to face, all tears will be wiped away, all sorrows will be a distant memory, and eternity will stretch out forever. For those who persevere to the end, He waits with the crown of righteousness and the words we long to hear, “Well done, good and faithful servant. Now enter into the joy of the Lord!”

Blessed are those who persevere under trial, because when they have stood the test, they will receive the crown of life that God has promised to those who love him. James 1:12

Maranatha, come quickly, Lord Jesus!



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Waiting for Messiah

December 24, 2011

“The fullness of time” is never a mystery to the God who loves and cares for my soul.

 

The days were completed… She gave birth to her firstborn son.  Luke 2

It has always been a mystery why Joseph took off on a donkey only days before she was due. To be honest, no one knows how long Mary was pregnant.  Is it possible that she was only 7 or 8 months pregnant and the baby came early and unannounced?  That would mean that Jesus would have been premature in the calendar of man.

What we have based the completion of a full pregnancy on is the previous statement, “when the days were completed.”  Our limited view of time dictates the meaning to be our days, our schedules, our timelines, yet that is not the same as God’s.  He had planned the coming of Messiah from the day of the Fall.  He had marked off on His eternal calendar the millenniums, centuries, years and hours until the final click of the second hand struck and a new dawn chimed.  The lonely night of mankind’s soul was broken by the dawn of redemption and nothing could have prepared the weary and terrified couple for what their simple obedience would bring. God came, a tiny Innocent in the hands of fumbling humanity laid in the midst of the squaller of sin.

There are three common circumstances that surround lives at Christmas.

  • There are those who will be encompassed with all the gladness and joy for which the season is intended.  Families will meet under beautiful trees stuffed with presents under their boughs.  They will eat and laugh, watch kids reacquaint with cousins and grandparents, laugh at old movies and timeless music and get “just what I wanted” over and over again.  This is what we all hope for and what I wish for everyone I know.
  • There are those who will wish for more.  More people, or just one special someone, to celebrate the season with.  More of the tidings of joy or the realization of peace on earth and especially in the home.  There are those who will yearn for the past years and look forward to the next year when Christmas cheer will be more than a phone call or a Skype’d “I miss you” from far away.
  • There are those who are truly alone.  Though family might be in the same room, there is little joy and the kind of tension that can only be created when the brokenness of life invades like a marauding hoard.  Or those who suffer the consequences of choices that were made and cannot be changed.  Or those who the good life seems to have passed by, the gripping loneliness never as acute as at Christmas when people are supposed to be with people.

I write this within our own peculiar circumstances.  We are, once again, in a hospital room unplanned and unwanted but none the less necessary.  Setbacks and sickness have combined to interrupt plans and schedules.  And I find myself with the same choice as many who read these few words I write.

And there is a choice.  Do I pine away with regrets for what could have been or rejoice that this Season is to celebrate the Savior who came to be with us and never leave us?  “Diverse temptations,” Paul said, “trials of many kinds,”  all of which are intended to supplant our self-sufficiency with the sufficiency of the Christ Child, the Hope of Glory.

Old Zechariah said it best when his tongue was finally released at the birth of his son, John the Baptist.  He said that the Messiah was coming, “To grant that we might serve Him without fear in holiness and righteousness before Him all of our days.”  It was the original Christmas present from Heaven to you and me… serving Him without fear.  Knowing holiness and righteousness all of our days no matter what strange difficulties or crushing loneliness we might walk in.  Knowing that no matter what the circumstances, “the fullness of time” is never a mystery to the God who loves and cares for my soul.  Though my calendar dictates that it is time for different circumstances Jesus enters my world and declares the message of hope and the promise of the New Covenant in the diverseness of this life.

So I say to you, Merry Christmas, friend.  The Savior was born so that these days of trial as well as these days of joy might be spent with Him and without fear.  May you experience His favor and mercy throughout this season and new year.

“Behold, I bring you good tidings of great joy
for there is born to you this day a Savior, who is Christ the Lord!”
Luke 2:10-11



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Nakasu No More

October 29, 2011

  “See, I have inscribed you on the palms of My hands.”  Isaiah 49:16 ______________________________________ The name has a lovely tone to it.  Nakusa is the name given to thousands of little baby girls every year in north India.  Beneath the rhythm of the six letters though is a meaning that poisons the life path […]

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What Legacy Will You Leave?

October 21, 2011

But Manasseh did not take possession….  Israel did not drive them out completely… Zebulun, Asher and Naphtali did not drive out the inhabitants… “Therefore, I will not drive them out before you; but they will become as thorns in your sides and their gods will be a snare to you.”  Judges 1:27-2:3 ______________________________________ They had […]

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The Bigger Life

September 10, 2011

The angel of the Lord appeared to him and said, “Mighty hero, the Lord is with you… Go and rescue Israel!”  Gideon replied, “How can I?  I am the least in my entire family!”  Judges 6:14-15 “Our story is usually always about us in the beginning – our desires, our needs, our crisis.  This often […]

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Suffering, Jan and My Friend Don

July 25, 2011

The newbies fill the waiting room today.  They are talking across the room to one another not realizing that their energized voices do little to mask the fear they now are living in.  The stories they tell are new to them but sound so very old to me.  Each story plays the same basic cords, […]

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Hot Summer Days

July 14, 2011

It came to pass after a while, that the brook dried up, because there had been no rain in the land.  1 Kings 17:7 ________________________ It is hot and dry in Texas. The reports are that this is the hottest it has ever been and still the heat keeps coming.  The talk is all about […]

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Happy Birthday, America!

July 3, 2011

The writers of the Constitution were very aware that God had ordained and ordered the amazing document that had been written.  Here are some of their thoughts concerning the founding of our nation and the God who ordered their steps. James Madison “The great objects which presented themselves [to the Constitutional Convention] . . . […]

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The Kingdom Love that Covers

June 29, 2011

“Love covers…”  1Peter 4:8 The bottom of the pan comes alive when the chopped onions and spices meet the hot oil but quickly settles into the perfect temperature that is the beginning of great food.  After a few minutes the bottle of wine and raspberry chipotle jelly is added halting all forward processes. Now you […]

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The Goat Patch

June 16, 2011

Wisdom comes in many packages.  At times, the wisdom and understanding that we need arrives in well defined and attractive packages. When I think of “Jesus the Good Shepherd” for example, I can easily reflect on the wonderful imagery of our Savior as He carries the lamb safely in His arms. Wisdom can come from […]

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