Category Archives: Christian Persecution

Can a Christian Learn Something From a Survivalist?

Be a survivalist.

If you are a survivalist, some people will think you are amusing, and some will think you are a threat. There are enough people in our world who believe the world might end tomorrow that most people have spoken with at least one of them. Survivalists hoard certain things, and the motivation for their hoarding is the desire to be prepared to live and thrive when there is a disaster of such proportions that even the federal government is powerless to help. Survivalists don’t stop at collecting piles of food and bottled water. They also learn skills such as fire without matches and the proper way to make pemmican. They prepare this way, because they intend to survive whatever disasters befall them.

Christians can take a lesson from the survivalists. As long ago as the days of Jesus’s life in the flesh, he warned his followers to be prepared for the day that the followers of Christ would suffer. He foretold that the world would always hate people who followed him, and he foretold that there would be times of great danger. History is filled with evidence of the truth of his warnings. In fact, the daily news is filled with evidence that such times are already upon Christians in many places, and the evidence is clear that Christians in the USA need to prepare for real danger.

Christians who see threats to faith increasing in frequency and intensity need to learn from the survivalists. Christians need to prepare to live through some experiences unprecedented in the USA. The language of law which protected people of all faiths for more than 200 years is being re-interpreted and redefined to mean that all religious speech and actions must be confined to religious spaces, and the principle behind “conscientious objection” is being dissolved in acerbic legal conflicts. If Christians are serious about being Christians, they will need to prepare for the coming disaster.

In what ways can Christians learn from survivalists?

First, Stash the one resource without which no Christian can survive for long.

When a young pastor went to China to learn how to help Christians there, he was surprised. They did not ask to be rescued from persecution; they asked for Bibles. They considered that rather than be rescued, they wanted to live powerful testimonies to people who desperately needed to know Jesus. Who needs Jesus more than someone who is trying to arrest, imprison, torture, and kill Christians? What prepares a Christian to tell about Jesus better than a Bible?”

Every Christian needs a Bible, and that Bible should be worn and tattered. Christians need to read their Bibles. They need to ask questions about what they read and seek the answers. They need to memorize texts from the Bible and be able to share specific information from the Bible with anyone who needs it. The Bible is, according to Jesus, as important to us as daily bread. Jesus said, “Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that comes from the mouth of God.” Jesus, God himself, quoted God’s words (His words) and indicated that Scripture is the food we need most. We need it every day, just like meat and milk.

Christians also need to study commentaries and devotionals and other Bible helps if they have access to them; most people should have such access online if not in their own hands. Maps, dictionaries, and many other books can help Christians see the biblical texts more clearly, or may help them unravel complex ideas, rather like carving a turkey and eating it a slice at a time rather than trying to gobble down the whole thing at once. But Christians who do not have helps, have the best helper of all given to them freely as Christ promised – the Holy Spirit. Jesus said that the Holy Spirit “will guide you into all the truth(John 16:13).

The earliest Christians did not have the New Testament. They only had the Scriptures we now call the Old Testament. That is fine. When Jesus met the disciples walking to Emmaus after his resurrection, he talked with them and “beginning with Moses and all the Prophets, he interpreted to them in all the Scriptures the things concerning himself” (Luke 24:27). The Holy Spirit taught the earliest Christians about Jesus as he is revealed in the Old Testament. After the New Testament became available, it provided much more material, but the Holy Spirit is able to use the Scriptures, all the Scriptures to nourish, sustain and inspire a believer.

Second, Pile up the promises of God.

Look at them often. Separate them and pick through them to remind yourself what God says. Make lists of them. Memorize them. Sort through them and count the repetitions. Know your inventory of the promises of God like the back of your hand. Write them down and look at them frequently. Say them to yourself when you go to bed at night and when you get up in the morning.

Third, Put all your hope in God.

It just makes sense, if you believe God’s promises. If God had promised nothing and delivered nothing over the thousands of years recorded in the Bible, then why would anybody hope in him? The Bible shares God’s promises, and the Bible demonstrates how he keeps them. You may come to understand that when God keeps his promises, the fulfillment may not look the way you imagined. God is not in the business of fulfilling your orders; he is in the business of fulfilling his plans. Therefore, you may need to exercise hope in the face of what looks like a failure. Abraham was told that all nations would be blessed through his descendants (Genesis 12:3), but at the time of God’s promise, Abraham had no children. Abraham tried to force God to fulfill his order, and Ishmael was born to Hagar, but that was not the promise God had made, and that was not the fulfillment of the promise. Abraham was 100 years old when God finally fulfilled the promise and Isaac was born. Abraham learned that if you hope in God, even the worst looking outcome can be the best possible outcome.

When Jesus died on the cross, all the disciples went home and locked the doors. It looked as if the worst possible outcome had befallen them. Jesus was dead. Gone. The great adventure was over. Kaput. Then on Sunday morning, they found the empty tomb. The worst possible outcome wasn’t the outcome at all. The real outcome was better than anything they had imagined.

Fourth, Start looking at things God’s way.

When you look at things with eyes full of hope in God, then you can see things God’s way. After Jesus had fed a lot of people with a little bit of food, he and the disciples left that place and kept traveling. One day Jesus asked the disciples what people were saying about him. Jesus might have been a circus sideshow. “Some say John the Baptist; others say Elijah; and still others, one of the prophets” (Mark 8:28) The people were confused about Jesus, because they did not see things God’s way. They looked for a sideshow, and that is what they saw.

Then Jesus asked the disciples, “Who do you say I am?” (Mark 8:29a) The disciples had a chance to look at Jesus up close. They saw things the other people did not see. Peter answered, “You are the Christ” (Mark 8:29b). Peter was able to see things God’s way, and he saw the Messiah God had promised over and over in the Old Testament Scriptures. Of course, Peter would simply have said that the Messiah fulfilled “the Scriptures,” because those were the Scriptures he had. Everybody else had those Scriptures, too, but they did not recognize Jesus in those Scriptures.

Fifth, Build relationships.

Jesus knew how crucial it is for humans to have strong relationships. Human beings who are isolated from other humans too long become mentally ill. They are not strong in the face of pressure or pain. They are weak and needy. They want to be with people and be liked by people so much that they will do some terrible things in order to try to earn the fulfilling experience of human caring. People don’t even need to be truly separated to feel deeply needy. They simply need to be convinced that nobody likes them. That experience cuts off the fulfillment of friendship and sharing, and a needy person cannot face persecution and pain with strength.

The most important relationship is the relationship between a human being and God, and many people have survived horrific separation and agonizing torture nourished by the presence and power of God.  Still, people who have the option to live around family and/or friends are wise to build relationships with the people in their lives, even if those people are very different or even indifferent. Joseph, for example, was thrown into a prison where the only way out was at Pharaoh’s order, and Pharaoh did not know that Joseph existed. In that depressing state of affairs, the Bible says, “the Lord was with him; he showed him kindness and granted him favor in the eyes of the prison warden” (39:21). Joseph’s relationship with God bore fruit when God made Joseph look good in the eyes of the prison warden. Joseph was able to build and nurture a relationship with the man who could make his life in prison miserable. That relationship sustained him for many dark years before Pharaoh found out about Joseph.

Sixth, Refuse to be a victim.

Bad things happen.  Joseph had been a victim several times over by the time his brothers showed up in Egypt looking for food. By that time, several good things had also happened to Joseph, and he was the second most powerful person in Egypt. If Joseph had wallowed in victimhood after his brothers beat him up and sold him to slave merchants, he would likely have died in the slave market before ever getting to Potiphar’s house or to jail or anywhere. He could have whined and cried so much along the road to Egypt that he might have been beaten to death before they got there. Joseph, however, did no such thing. He trusted God. He looked for the opportunities God put in his path. He built relationships with enemies. He had a real life. In fact, he had several great life stories to tell by the time ten shepherds arrived at the grain warehouse where Egypt was able to sell food when all other nations were starving.

Nevertheless, there are many, many people who would have told Joseph that those ten men owed him big time. They would have said that the passage of time had healed nothing, and that there was nothing short of extremely painful restitution and reparations that could possibly heal the breach. We see exactly such attitudes in real life every day. The Balkan Peninsula and the Arabian Nights are full of stories where the key element is skillfully crafted revenge. A recent popular novel, The Girl Who Kicked the Hornet’s Nest, centered on one man’s sick, gruesome notion of revenge. The culture of the USA is currently in full-blown warfare over the righteousness of a hashtag, #blacklivesmatter, because some people who prefer victimhood to blessed relationships say that the words “all lives matter” are not fair to people who feel the need for revenge.

Joseph, however, had a different outlook. He had had twenty years to decide what he would do if he ever saw his brothers, those rats, again, and his decision was — forgiveness. Joseph chose not to be a victim. He chose not to be tied in knots over the past. He chose to look at the good God had done with the bad that his brothers had done. He might even have humbly recalled that he was no prize at the time, either. Joseph abandoned a cry for sympathy and safe space and comforting words and apologies and revenge and reparations. Joseph simply said, “do not be distressed and do not be angry with yourselves for selling me here, because it was to save lives that God sent me ahead of you” (Genesis 45:5). Because Joseph trusted God when things looked hopeless, willingly viewed the world God’s way, and cared about his relationship with his brothers, Joseph was able to forgive. He pulled the poison injected into the family by his brothers’ dastardly deed. He made it possible for the family to heal.

When Christians today encounter hardships, feel danger, or endure persecution, they are experiencing exactly what Christ promised would come their way. If they gather up the things they will need ahead of time, and if they practice the skills they need ahead of time, then, like survivalists, they will be prepared when hard times come. How do you prepare for persecution? You might learn something from a survivalist.

 

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What Will It Cost Me to be a Christian?

“I have good news for you, but it might cost you your life. Would you like me to continue?”

Imagine that you answered a knock at your front door, and these were the first words out of the mouth of the man standing on your front porch. What would you do?

A pastor in Vietnam, who must remain nameless because of danger to his life, starts telling people about Jesus with these words. He might be eating dinner with someone, or walking down a street, or sitting in a grassy park. He strikes up a conversation, and when he feels led by the Holy Spirit to share Jesus with a person, he says, “I have good news for you, but it might cost you your life. Would you like me to continue?” He says that most people ask him to continue, because they want to hear the good news. Many go ahead later to receive Christ into their hearts. The good news of Christ brings them forgiveness, salvation, and eternal life, but the threat of losing their earthly life is not an idle one. When persecution comes, as it does for many Vietnamese Christians, it is not a surprise. This pastor warned them.

Vietnam is one of only five countries in the world today with a communist government, and communist governments as a matter of fundamental conviction consider religion to be an annoying problem, if not, indeed, a threat to the state. In Vietnam, the major source of religious persecution derives from the government’s determination to keep religion under control with the undisguised objective of eradicating it. The religions that do persist in the country, dominated by the Buddhist demographic, often view Christianity with no less contempt than the government does, leading to threats and violence against Christians, which the government is loath to prosecute.

For generations, Christians in the USA have believed that they were safe from persecution by the culture and safe from prosecution by the government for their religious words and deeds. No evangelist in the USA has ever started his sermon by saying, “I have good news for you, but it might cost you your life. Would you like me to continue?” It has not happened yet, but it could happen. Already, a preacher who said, “If you listen to me, the IRS may initiate an audit of your taxes,” would not be off base. There is considerable evidence that the federal administration at the highest levels wants to suppress and repress the expression of political and social views based on Christian teaching and wants to restrain and impede the exercise of the civil rights of citizens who choose to advocate for moral and legislative action in keeping with Christian principles.

It has been common in US history for people with Christian values to attempt to enact legislation and to influence policy decisions that embody the values by which Christians shape their lives. There has always been controversy about that, because there are always people who have differing, even completely opposite, views. The discussion has been brisk at times, but only the advent of social media has allowed the mass attacks such as those mounted against the owner of Chick Fil-A or Hobby Lobby. Only in the past five years has it been even thinkable that someone could lose a job for taping a Bible verse to her own computer screen at work. Only in the past five years has a professor been threatened with loss of tenure for declaring that evolution is not proved to explain biological species. Only in recent months has it been conceivable that a county clerk could be jailed for acting on her Christian principle that marriage is the union of a man and a woman. It has always been true in the USA and everywhere around the world that some people think Christian ideas are weird or old-fashioned or out of touch with reality. However, only recently has there been a growing pressure at all levels of government to shut up Christians and shut down Christian activism. Advocate for laws against eating meat if you are a vegetarian. Advocate for the end of oil exploration if you believe that solar is the only just energy source. Advocate for men to be permitted to urinate in women’s restrooms if they feel feminine at the time. But do not advocate that bakers be permitted to decline orders for wedding cakes celebrating same-sex marriage.

Such developments change the way Christians rear their children. My parents read Bible stories to me. They taught me to pray before eating. They took me to Sunday School and church faithfully. They talked with me about moral questions. But never did either of them say, “I have something to tell you, but it might cost you your life.” I am not sure what I would have done if they had talked to me that way. I do know that such a statement would absolutely have captured my full attention.

What do you say to your children? Do you dare continue teaching them to believe God and act on his teachings without warning them that they could suffer for doing so? Jesus said that the gate is narrow, and the path even moreso, that leads to eternal life. There are a lot of people on an interstate to somewhere, all singing “A Mighty Fortress,” but one wonders what the traffic on that interstate would be if the government or the culture or both decide to put a stop to the influence of Christians in the USA.

What you need to say to your children might even cost you your life, and it might cost them their lives if they heed what you say. Do you plan to continue?

By Katherine Harms, author of Oceans of Love available for Kindle at Amazon.com. Watch for the release of Thrive! Live Christian in a Hostile World, planned for release in the summer of 2016

Free Exercise of Religion–What is it?

Despite immense cultural pressure on Christians to keep their faith hidden from sight, many Christians continue to obey Christ’s command to “make disciples of all nations,” and to “hold fast” to their testimony. Recently, a young marine was court-martialed, because she refused to remove from her work area a piece of paper on which was written a Bible verse. The court-martial apparently based its decision on the findings of hearing that determined that a command to remove the verse from her workspace was a lawful command that she refused to obey.

The details can be found here and here. The story is simple. Marine Lance Cpl. Monifa Sterling copied a verse from the Bible onto a strip of paper that she taped to her computer monitor. The verse said, “”No weapon formed against me shall prosper,” and was copied from Isaiah 54:17. The strip of paper contained only the words, however, not the reference. Most Christians would understand completely the reason a Marine might choose those words for both comfort and inspiration. Probably anyone would understand why this Marine chose those words, regardless of the source. In fact, people who saw the verse when they came to Lance Corporal Sterling’s desk might not even recognize the statement as a biblical quotation. They might very well think that these words are no more divine than “If you can dream it, you can do it,” a very common secular inspirational quotation. That fact makes it clear that the accusation that this verse constitutes a “divisive impact to good order and discipline” is a deliberate misrepresentation of the impact of the lance corporal’s little note on her computer monitor. Furthermore, it is hard to understand how the presence of this small strip of paper on a computer monitor constitutes being “festooned” as alleged by the court’s ruling.

Thoughtful readers may well wonder why the court chose to focus on the Religious Freedom Restoration Act (or RFRA) as the basis for deciding the future of the young Marine who stood firm on her right to display this verse as the exercise of her faith, a right protected by the US Constitution. The RFRA was never intended to be the basic guide for determining when someone’s exercise of faith is in conflict with the compelling interests of government. RFRA establishes the principle that such conflicts must be resolved in the manner least onerous to the free exercise of faith guaranteed by the Constitution.

By stating that RFRA did not permit the display of this verse in the workplace, the court-martial completely missed the point of RFRA. It was probably not in the lance corporal’s best interests that she represented herself in that trial. Currently, she has engaged a lawyer, Liberty Institute volunteer attorney Paul Clement, who successfully defended Hobby Lobby when the might of the federal government infringed on the free exercise of faith by Hobby Lobby’s owners. Liberty Institute’s Director of Military Affairs, Mike Berry, points out that “If a service member has a right to display a secular poster, put an atheist bumper sticker on their car, or get a Star of David tattoo, then Lance Cpl. Sterling has the right to display a small Bible verse on her computer monitor.”

Did Lance Corporal Sterling refuse to obey a lawful order? The answer is a resounding, “No.” She received an unlawful order, because the order required her to give up her right to exercise her religion without hindrance. Her refusal to obey was justified, because the order was unlawful.

There is a concerted effort in the US today to eradicate all evidence that the people who founded this country served God and trusted him for guidance in their daily lives. Secular thinkers pretend that commitment to secular ideas is a different thing from religion, and they even allege that the original colonists believed in a wall of separation between sacred and secular ideas and behaviors. This misconception about the way of life of the original colonists and the teaching they embodied in the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution must be resisted and defeated.

The truth is that the colonists who came to the shores of North America would find it appalling that a Marine Lance Corporal could be denied the right to express her faith. They believed in the Bible as a guide for faith and life, and they would naturally expect that every military person serving this country would find comfort and inspiration in the Bible.

The Bible is where Lance Corporal Sterling found her guidance for a way of life that is fulfilling and satisfying. In the Bible, she found comfort in words that reminded her of God’s love for her and his power to protect her. Her response to that blessing is a life that is a constant expression of her faith in God. When she posted the words of  a Bible verse on her computer monitor, she exercised her faith and showed that she lived according to the teaching in the Bible that “whether you eat or drink, or whatever you do, do all to the glory of God” (1 Corinthians 10:31 ESV). The First Amendment to the Constitution protects her right to do exactly that.

Every Christian must pray that God go with her lawyer, Paul Clement, and with Lance Corporal Sterling through all the coming court proceedings. They stand on the front lines for all people of faith who want to live their faith under the protection of the US Constitution.

 

 

 

Nigeria #10 World Watch List

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Since about 2009, the nation of Nigeria has suffered steadily increasing violence and barbarism from attacks by Boko Haram, an Islamic terror group whose name means “Western education is sinful.” The group has bombed churches and kidnapped both children and adults. They frequently kidnap women and girls who are raped and sold into sexual slavery.

They have always been clear about their objective of creating an Islamic state within the boundaries of Nigeria, but fears of their plans are much increased after a statement by their leader Abubakar Shekau who said, “We announce our allegiance to the Caliph of the Muslims.” Shekau was referring to the caliphate, or Islamic State, that ISIS has been seeking to set up in parts of Iraq and Sryria.

Many analysts over the past few years have insisted that Boko Haram, while violent and supportive of Islam, was not powerful enough to be a threat the world at large should fear. An alliance between Boko Haram and ISIS changes the character of Boko Haram’s activities.

The Nigerian government postponed elections scheduled for February, and they are now rescheduled for this weekend, March 28. If anything interferes with the elections this time, Africa’s most populous nation will be adrift in a political storm that will risk the safety and security of all citizens. Most disturbing is the prospect that Boko Haram will optimize on the unrest surrounding the election to take control of additional territory in the embattled northern regions of Nigeria.

 AN AVERAGE OF 10 PEOPLE ARE KILLED DAILY BY THE ISLAMIC EXTREMIST GROUP BOKO HARAM IN NIGERIA.

 

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PRAY:

  • That the 200 girls of Chibok and the many others kidnapped by Boko Haram will be returned to their homes
  • That the thousands of Christians who have been displaced in northeastern Nigeria will be reunited with their families and receive relief help and trauma counseling from Open Doors workers
  • For the presidential election on March 28 to be conducted without violence

By Katherine Harms, author of Oceans of Love available for Kindle at Amazon.com.

Flag of NigeriaSource:http://www.all-flags-world.com/country-flag/Nigeria/national-nigerian-flag.php
Courtesy:All-Flags-World

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