Current Events

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“Lift up your eyes from where you are and look north and south, east and west. All the land that you see I will give to you and your descendants forever. I will make your descendants like the dust of the earth, so that if anyone could count the dust, then your offspring could be counted. Go walk through the length and breadth of the land, for I am giving it to you.” (Genesis 13:14-17 NIV)

Why all the hostility directed at a nation with an area about the size of the fifth smallest U.S. state, New Jersey? Why the threats of annihilation from their Middle East neighbors? Why are military leaders with weapons of mass destruction and their surrogates targeting a people? Of course I am referring to the six million plus Jews within the country of Israel and members of the their family scattered abroad.

Bible students eventually learn that the answers to most big questions are in Genesis. Enmity or a state of war would be a promised constant between the serpent’s and woman’s offspring (cf. Genesis 3:15). The devil hates God’s people. He always seeks their destruction. It was true in the beginning and is today. Want to know who belongs to God? Pay attention to who suffers the attacks and persecutions of the wicked.

It’s about the people! The people who trace their ancestry back to Abraham. In Genesis 12 the Lord promised “a great nation” would come from his servant. In order to be “great” there must be a great ruler over an innumerable multitude of happy, prosperous people who have lots of children. Also needed was spacious, beautiful and fertile land for all the people to enjoy.

Abram was to take his household and possessions and go, to sojourn among the Canaanite tribes. A solemn vow came later, in Genesis 13. (See top.) God would supply the descendants. As to the land, as far as Abraham could walk in any direction it would be his possession and that of his descendants, forever. From the great river Euphrates to the Wadi in Egypt, the land belongs to the sons of Abraham and their King (Gen. 15:18-21). This prophecy has yet to be fulfilled, but it will soon (cf. Acts 1:6, Rev. 11:15, 22:20)

Blessed are those who bless Abram. Cursed are those who curse him. We do not have to be a genius to know what all the conflict and global violence is about. It’s about the saints who will soon inherit the land. Those who believe God’s Word understand the track of doom America and Europe are following. Support Israel’s enemies and feel God’s wrath.

Wake up! Stand firmly on the side Abram’s offspring. By doing so we demonstrate we belong among the despised of this world, God’s chosen people.

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When I came to you, brothers, I did not come with eloquence or superior wisdom as I proclaimed to you the testimony about God. For I resolved to know nothing while I was with you except Jesus Christ and him crucified. I came to you in weakness and fear and much trembling. My message and my preaching were not with wise and persuasive words, but with a demonstration of the Spirit’s power, so that your faith might not rest on man’s wisdom, but on God’s power. (1 Corinthians 2:1-5 NIV),

America is on life support for a boatload of reasons, in my view, the most threatening to its continued existence is its idolatry. According to the prophet Ezekiel, this seductive form of evil is what did the city of Sodom in (Ezek.16:49). In one way it is manifest as good, old materialism. In another way it appears as the modern-day “cult of celebrity”. Yes, idolatry has even spread its fancy facade over many a Christian Church.

Large sanctuary, theater seating for thousands, a house packed with enthusiastic people, a jumbo tron screen, contemporary music pulsating from the speakers plus a rock star pastor with a dynamite message; it all equals Mega-Church. It doesn’t get any better than that–not as far as the American dream church is concerned. Ever wonder how the Apostle Paul would have fared as a preacher with a TV ministry? How would he have reacted after sitting in on a star-studded service? Or what if Jesus took in a Sunday Spectacular, would he be impressed by the size of the offering?

I ask these questions because someone must. Idolatry that the typical American Christian practices in their worship is rooted in a purposeful ignorance of the prophetic. Maintaining the fancy facade is more important than accurately interpreting Scripture’s future events. The false views of Amillennialism and Pre-tribulation Rapturism (PTR) dominate the contemporary church landscape, simply because both positions cater to the idolator, rather than condemning the practice. Do we need tio be reminded that idolatry is an abomination to God?

False prophets seldom stray from their standard message: “Peace and Safety” (1 Thessalonians 5:3). Their “Don’t rock the boat” attitude encourages the faithful to invest in the new Porsche or fine-tune the golf game as long as the tithes and offerings keep coming. The not-so-subtle message is that God wants his people to be rich so the new multi-million dollar “Welcome Center” can be paid off ahead of schedule.

What about completing the Great Commission instead? The absence of sound Bible-teaching on prophecy eliminates a sense of urgency to get off our padded pew and take the Gospel to the world.

If we flew into Houston, Atlanta or Dallas for a visit at an internationally-recognized church, what Scripture would be heard over the state-of-the-art sound system? Would the prophet’s warning below from the Book of James light up the giant screen?

“Now listen, you rich people, weep and wail because of the misery that is coming upon you. Your wealth has rotted, and moths have eaten your clothes. Your gold and silver are corroded. Their corrosion will testify against you and eat your flesh with fire. You have hoarded wealth for the last days… You have lived on earth in luxury and self-indulgence. You have fattened yourselves in the day of slaughter. (James 5:1-3, 5 NIV)

Look for God’s prophetic word to soon expose the false prophet and fracture the fancy facade of a fake church.

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“The king will do as he pleases. He will exalt and magnify himself above every god and will say unheard of things against the God of gods. He will be successful until the time of wrath is completed, for what has been determined must take place.” (Daniel 11:36 NIV)

In each major undertaking, it is necessary to distinguish our friends from our enemies. These days friends and allies of the recent past are on the outs with the U.S. administration while negotiations go on with a regime that openly promises to annihilate us–and our friends! So we must ask, “If our leaders seem friendly with our enemies, yet act like enemies to our friends, are our leaders friends?”

The disciple John saw a man driving out demons in Jesus’ name and told him to stop. The problem in John’s mind was the man was not one of the twelve. “Do not stop him,” Jesus said. “No one who does a miracle in my name can in the next moment say anything bad about me, for whoever is not against us is for us.” (Mark 9:39-40 NIV)

Whoever is not against the Lord is for him. In other words, people are his friend by virtue of their Christ-honoring speech and actions. If we side with God’s enemies, that makes us His enemy. If we use the force of government as a weapon against those taking a moral stand, while, at the same time, endorsing abhorrent practices, then who are we alienating? If we call evil what the Lord calls good, and vice versa, then aren’t we standing with Satan?

When the Captain and chiefs of our Ship-of-State are in open rebellion against the God of heaven, then what happens to those on-board? Barring a mutiny–which I do not see happening–the U.S.S. America is going down. Do not think for a moment that this boat is unsinkable. This day it sails under the flag of the devil while pointing its guns defiantly at the Word of God. Prepare to man the lifeboats.

In warfare, everyone has a responsibility to declare whom they will serve. Whether we live or die, our loyalty must be unquestioned. We must show our God that we are his friend.

Nevertheless, God’s solid foundation stands firm, sealed with this inscription: “The Lord knows those who are his,” and, “Everyone who confesses the name of the Lord must turn away from wickedness.”
(2 Timothy 2:19
NIV)

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Let us not give up meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing, but let us encourage one another–and all the more as you see the Day approaching. (Hebrews 10:25 NIV)

Christians, who take their faith seriously, tend to love the fellowship of believers. In nations like China, where following Christ is not without risk, meeting together has for decades been an art-form. In the early days of the Communist Peoples Republic of China, a great purge was launched to eradicate religion in general, but “The White Devil’s Religion” Christianity, in particular. Churches were boarded up, leveled or converted for the use of the local Communist party. Bibles were confiscated. Executions of Chinese Christian leaders was common. Imprisonments were ordered. Persecutions were an everyday occurrence. By the late 50’s, it was estimated that the Christian population had decreased eighty percent. The church had declined from 25 million in Pre-Mao 1949 to around one-half million ten years after the Revolution.

Shut off by their atheistic leaders from the outside world, there was little to encourage the suffering, scattered and solitary Christian in China. Their sanctuaries were, for all practical purposes, non-existent. Then a radical change began to take place. Christians who were hungry for fellowship began meeting in secret, out-of-the-way places. The underground church was born in China out of necessity. Government raids and jailed leaders could not stop what the Lord had begun.

In an effort to stop the growth of the underground church movement, the government of China offered a carrot to its leaders. The Three-Self Patriotic Movement (TSPM), which had been banned, was re-opened and sanctioned for public worship services–with certain restrictions, of course. Having services in a Protestant worship setting was an attractive alternative to the rigors of operating underground. But the “certain restrictions” proved a stumbling block to most underground pastors.

Who can argue with the methods used by the Underground Church? The unsanctioned Chinese Church has all the characteristics of the Church of the first century. Again, accurate figures are difficult to come by, but some mission experts estimate the present Christian population in China to be 100 million plus. It is believed the underground church is exploding throughout China at the rate of 20-30,000 converts a day!

China, the world’s most populous country, is on track to soon dominate the globe economically, militarily, industrially, and politically. Western believers would do well to imitate their underground church’s Book of Acts methodology as well, instead of the TSPM. We would be well-served to develop a lean, mobile and fervent fellowship; a Church that operates under the radar with an undying hope and willingness to suffer, such as we see among millions of Chinese Christians.

Much more could be written. I encourage blog readers to purchase The Heavenly Man: The Remarkable True Story of Chinese Christian Brother Yun (Kregel Publications). As far as understanding where God is going, reading about Brother Yun might be the wisest thing we could do.

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sign of the fish

“Some faced jeers and flogging, while still others were chained and put in prison. They were stoned; they were sawed in two; they were put to death by the sword. They went about in sheepskins and goatskins, destitute, persecuted and mistreated–the world was not worthy of them. They wandered in deserts and mountains, and in caves and holes in the ground.” (Hebrews 11:36-38 NIV)

Our brother Judah recently asked the question that makes up our title. It occurred to me that others–especially in the West–want to know “What is the underground church?” It’s the right question at the right time.

As the passage in Hebrews 11 (above) describes, saints have endured periods of great distress. The people of God have often known times of siege. Second Timothy 3:1 warns, “There will be terrible times in the last days…” With the brutal first-century executions of innocent Christians in Rome during Nero’s reign, we can imagine why Peter wrote “The end of all things is near.” (1 Peter 4:7 NIV) There was no warning before terror struck.

Desperate times call for desperate measures. Huddling together in a cave is a sign of desperation. Foraging in the desert is evidence of tough times. Living in catacombs under the city they once called home, was for Romans identified by the sign of the fish. They could exist underground or be entertainment for the Coliseum crowd that rooted for the lions.

My definition of an underground church is “a fellowship of believers who continue to serve Christ while under siege.” War has been declared for reasons beyond their control. They are hated without reason. They must endure great hardship and suffering, but they don’t have to die. If they do not move to God’s place of safety, they will not survive.

My previous post was a response to the beheading of 21 Coptic Christians by radical Muslims. They were Egyptian men whose sole crime was their faith in Christ. If any Coptic pastors are reading this, I strongly encourage you to take your flocks underground, at least until the danger is past. If you think it is cowardly to leave the four-walled building you’ve called home to where the Lord can hide you, then count on more widows, orphans and more funerals, including your own. The underground church is an alternative to being the entertainment for gruesome videos loved by the terrorists.

The bottom line is this: We have made the Church bricks and mortar when the Lord meant it as people. We foolishly invest our resources and energies into a building and its upkeep. But this is war. We are under siege from now until the end of the age. One bomb and that cement, wood and glass is blown to bits. One fire and our lovely church is a heap of ashes.

The Church has always been people, but idolatrous worshipers fixate on the material. When war breaks out and its time for saints to move, we wait too long. Hearts won’t let go of the past. Lot’s wife turned into a pillar of salt for a similar reason. Tarry, while the enemy plots his massacre, and we are playing into his hands.

I know of churches who have armed security protecting the Sunday a.m. crowd. Security killed a man in the foyer of a large Colorado Springs, Colorado, church before the lone gunman could open fire on the worshipers. What’s this? It is one response, but how many guns is enough? What kind of weapons are needed to meet force with force? What happens when the bad guys’ plan of attack takes into account “church security”?

if the shepherd’s job is to protect the flock, wouldn’t the church be better served to head underground rather than the more guns and ammo approach? What do we have to lose beside a costly structure that devours our resources and offers a false sense of security? Imagine what great good we’d accomplish if our budget went to providing for the saints.

The biggest obstacle to Western leaders preparing their congregations for the siege is the Pre-Tribulation Rapture (PTR) doctrine. I have the 70’s “Wish We’d All Been Ready” movie scene etched in my mind: The angel’s trumpet sounded on Sunday a.m. and the members disappeared. The sign outside read “The Rapture: First Thessalonians 4:13-18“.

How many pictures of little girls in bloody dresses and bullet-riddled bodies of boys will it take before we ditch this one fictional image and act? I’m concerned about the answer because I have children and grandchildren in churches that teach PTR fiction as if it were true.

In Part Two, we will look at the amazing growth when leaders adopt the Underground Church model. (It will make us wonder what they were thinking when they ceased underground operations in the 4th century.)

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“Just as it was in the days of Noah, so also will it be in the days of the Son of Man.” (Luke 17:26 NIV)

Video of the beheading of twenty-one Coptic Christian men was released last weekend. The Jihadist assassins vowed not to rest until they spilled Christian blood in Rome. This was happening while two were dying from gunshot wounds in Copenhagen, one, a Jew attending synagogue.

Rising antisemitism and the murder of four other Jews in Paris last month convinced Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to take action. Yahoo News reported Monday in the post “Netanyahu urges Jews to move to Israel” the Israeli leader has called for an absorption of mass immigration from Europe.

Would the migration of Jews to the their homeland be a sign? Are these latest atrocities against Christians and Jews also a sign of the last days? Most assuredly they are!

The promise to the souls under the altar needs to be heeded. In Revelation 6 God comforted the martyrs with an assurance of his vengeance: “Then each of them was given a white robe, and they were told to wait a little longer until the number of their fellow servants who were to be killed as they had been was completed.” (6:11 NIV)

If we are to know what day it is on the prophetic calendar, we must apply one of Biblical interpretation’s five major rules: “Look for the near/far in prophecy.”

An example of “near/far prophecy”, and the deeper understanding it offers, is in Genesis 6. There the Lord tells Noah what he is about to do and why. “So God said to Noah, ‘I am going to put an end to all people, for the earth is filled with violence because of them. I am surely going to destroy both them and the earth.’ ” (Genesis 6:13 NIV) Were these prophetic words just for Noah or were they also for us who live at the end of this present age?

God sent a great flood in order to put an end to all godlessness and violence. Jesus informed his disciples (top) that when the Son of Man comes (future) the world will be in the same godless and violent condition as before the flood. The principle of “near/far prophecy” tells us what to look for in Genesis 6 that will be repeated before Our Lord returns. The word “violence” shouts at us.

When the blood of innocent Jews and Christians covers the ground–which is what we are witnessing–our Deliverer will arise. He will come forth in righteousness to save his people. “For out of Jerusalem will come a remnant, and out of Mount Zion a band of survivors. The zeal of the LORD will accomplish this.” (Isaiah 37:32, 2 Kings 19:31 NIV) All violence will end. The Lord God Almighty will see to it.

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building Noah's ark

Evil will slay the wicked; the foes of the righteous will be condemned. The LORD redeems his servants; no one will be condemned who takes refuge in him. (Psalm 34:21-22 NIV)

The reality TV show Live Free or Die is a recent addition to America’s burgeoning interest in survivalism. It features families who left comfortable lifestyles to live in the wild. They set their clocks back about 200 years to experience life on the frontier. In popular terms, they’ve chosen to live “off the grid” (i.e. disconnected from all but nature). We would be wise to pay attention. If God is directing this media genre to save his people, at least, we ought to be taking notes.

The ark in Noah’s day sent a message that God desires to save. It stood as a testimony to those who knew a day of judgment was at hand. Those with the faith to build were delivered from the same flood that killed everyone else.

As signs reveal our present age is about to end, the Lord is calling people to action. Ark construction needs to be underway. Sadly, most Christians are less prepared for a coming apocalypse then are unbelievers. Disregarding Jesus’ warnings of a day when all will look for a way out but won’t find one (Luke 21:34-36), much of Christianity has swallowed the lie that they will escape. Did Noah and his family escape, or were they saved by their faith in God’s Word to build the ark?

My purpose is to prod believers to think, not just react. In our day, what does it mean  to build an ark? The answer may not be what you think. Much of today’s Christianity is about personal salvation. (“All that counts is that I’m saved and I am going to heaven.”) For this reason, Pre-tribulation rapture teaching is attractive. The ark was large for a reason. It wasn’t a dinghy or raft just for Noah.

Noah was a righteous man. In regards to the ark, he obeyed the Lord’s instructions to save his family (Hebrews 11:7). Building our ark means preparing a place of refuge, a sanctuary and place of safety, for others–that includes our family!

The ark was tangible. It was seen by others. It wasn’t spiritual, mystical or philosophical. Materials went into the ark’s construction. Each with a purpose. The ark was a shelter, a place of provision and fellowship for those who trusted in God.

Who are the Noahs? They are the saints who heed Jesus’ words, “As it was in the days of Noah, so it will be at the coming of the Son of Man…” You will find them building their refuge for the people of God. They are preparing now for clocks to be set back about 4000 years.

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  See that no one is sexually immoral, or is godless like Esau, who for a single meal sold his inheritance rights as his oldest son. Afterward, as you know, when he wanted to inherit this blessing he was rejected. He could bring about no change of mind, though he sought the blessing with tears. (Hebrews 12:16-17 NIV)

The term “buyer’s remorse” is not unknown to those who deal in expensive items such as homes or cars. It is not uncommon for a customer to be overcome with regret after a purchase. In these cases, the new owner will hear an inner voice: “What have you done? You’ve made a horrible mistake!”

I believe buyer’s remorse played a significant part in this week’s 2014 American mid-term election. An overwhelming number showed they wanted leaders who will reverse their nation’s downhill direction. Independent voters who helped elect the present U.S. administration expressed with their votes they had regrets. As one party celebrates their victory, a warning from Hebrews 12 (above) must be heard.

The Bible presents the example of Esau (Genesis 25-28), but it applies to nations as well. Esau was “sexually immoral” or “godless”. That is a chilling combination if we fear the King who rules the universe. Also, the privileged firstborn son of Isaac, grandson of Abraham, sold his inheritance rights for a single meal. Scripture notes Esau’s choice was final. Regret came later, but the tears brought no change of mind on God’s part.

While election results were coming in, an article from The Hollywood Reporter was previewed in The Drudge Report (TDR). Slated for a November 14th release, the post showed how far America has sunk into the depths of sexual immorality. (Out of embarrassment, I won’t offer the link here. If you insist, go to TDR’s archives and use key words “Broadcast TV’s Ratings Grab Gets Raunchy”). I ask, “Can the godless regain prosperity?” “Will those who abandon righteousness ever get the blessing back?” “As an Esau nation, should America expect anything other than God’s rejection?”

Saints should see the handwriting on the wall. Unless there is repentance on a national scale, no party or politician can cure what ails us. The people of God will turn from their wickedness, grieve over what they see and cry to the Lord for mercy. Maybe America and countries like her won’t be spared, but Jesus said that those who stand firm to the end will be saved (Matthew 24:15).

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Surely he will save you from the fowler’s snare and from the deadly pestilence. (Psalm 91:3 NIV)

One of the opening scenes of the epic World War II Stephen Spielberg film, Saving Private Ryan, was a re-creation of the D-Day Invasion of Normandy, June 6, 1944. As the actors, portraying American troops, battled German guns for a foothold on Omaha Beach, the cameras went to a close-up. An infantryman, obviously relieved by a near miss, spoke the lines with a sigh: “Phew, that was close!” No sooner than the words were out of his mouth then a bullet appeared to pierce the actor’s helmet at the forehead. His eyes rolled back, then he disappeared from view.

There are real sighs of relief coming from Dallas, Akron, New York City and other places men and women have been quarantined because of their possible exposure. The nurses who contracted Ebola from the Liberian Thomas Duncan have been pronounced disease-free. No new cases have been reported in connection with Mr. Duncan. Phew! That was a close one! (Sigh!)

How foolish it would be to assume the danger is behind us. Ebola could resurface in the U.S. as an act of terrorism or because not enough was done to prevent it from entering our borders. The unrepentant and ungodly should not celebrate just yet.

Prayers were answered to be sure, but the divine gift of more time should not be misconstrued as an exoneration of our national guilt. The fact that the rate of new cases in Liberia is slowing and the American death toll is not spiraling out of control is no more than a testimony to God’s grace and mercy.

The Lord is not slow in keeping his promise, as some understand slowness. He is patient with you, not wanting anyone to perish, but everyone to come to repentance. (2 Peter 3:9 NIV)

So go ahead a breathe that sigh. Then, before its too late, fall on your knees. Repent and ask Jesus for forgiveness before the big one hits us between the eyes.

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“When I shut up the heavens so that there is no rain, or command locusts to devour the land or send a plague among my people, 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 will I hear from heaven and will forgive their sin and will heal their land.” (2 Chronicles 7:13-14 NIV)

The question raised in my post a couple days ago is worthy of revisiting. With the many recent revelations of the possible spread of Ebola in the U.S., a prominent American-based political e-zine, The American Standard, has published the thought-provoking “Six Reasons to Panic”. Their writers advise a controlled-panic as opposed to all-out “run off the cliff panic”, but panic nevertheless. It is obvious they subscribe to the notion–at least to the real possibility–that this could be the big one.

Far from going into a panic, my Bible tells me not even to be anxious–not about anything, including a wide-scale Ebola outbreak (Philippians 4:6). If worry or fear creeps into my mind, as a Christ-follower, I must cast all my anxiety on Him (1 Peter 5:7). That does not mean that we pretend that the disease does not exist or that we will not be affected or infected by it; it does imply God’s people will not be shaken by their circumstances.

It helps if we know what’s going on, even if our leaders from the top down don’t have a clue. This is God. In the passage cited above, the Lord said, “When I send a plague.” God announced in Deuteronomy 28:15 and following what he will do when the people he’s blessed no longer follow his laws: He will bring a curse on them, which includes wasting diseases. Do we think God makes idle threats? History proves otherwise.

Why is it so hard to add two and two? It is a cause and effect relationship: First, we take the side of Israel’s enemies, then the U.S. Supreme Court effectively strikes down Defense of Marriage Legislation across the country legalizing homosexual unions. (Pass the Pot in celebration.) As that announcement out of Washington D.C. was made, the late-Thomas Duncan arrived in Dallas from Liberia. What a coincidence? Can anyone say “blood moon”?

The Lord is merciful. We do have an option: We could try and fight the God-sent contagion on our own or humble ourselves (get down on our face and knees) and pray. We must seek His face and turn from our wicked ways–in other words repent of our sin. If we meet these conditions, the Heavenly Father promised, then will I hear from heaven, I will forgive their sin and I will heal their land. The whole idea is to be reconciled to God.

So where is the call for national repentance? Where is the condemnation from pulpits of policies that promote wickedness. Are we that far gone?  I don’t know that it is the big one, but from God’s perspective, why shouldn’t it be?

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