Friday, November 16, 2007

Who is the Beast of Revelation 13 & 17? (Part 3)

A fourth parallel, looking to the Revelation account, is that the harlot is "drunk" with two forms of intoxicants. First, "the wine of her fornication" (17:2), and second, "the blood of the saints" (17:6). There is no need to document that throughout the history of Europe, every uniting power that has established hegemony since Rome has been drunk with the wine of fornication, and has usually been looked on by the world as the “mother of prostitutes and of earth's abominations” (17:6).

When the Roman Empire was strong, the first 14 Roman emperors were known homosexuals, and had an entire harem of slaves designated to satisfy their every whim. Nero even had a youth named Sporus, castrated, and reserved for the purpose of satisfying his own abominable lusts.

Then, during the age when Catholicism was strong, one of the catalysts behind Martin Luther's drive for reform was the debauchery and decadence practiced by the clergy. Julius II, and Pope Leo X were known to have numerous mistresses, the knowledge of which turned Luther's stomach. Today's Europe speaks for itself.

Europe is also "drunk with the blood of the saints." This cannot refer exclusively to the Roman Catholic massacre of Christians, as many interpreters of Revelation believe. Certainly, Catholocism has played a large role in the history of Europe. An estimated 68 million were killed during the 1,200 years of Inquisition and most of them were dissenting Christians. However, the Catholic church's power and influence today is barely a blip on the radar screen for most Europeans. Yet, the drunken stupor that is left has by no means diminished. Just look at the current policy of government sanctioned infanticide seen in the cruel aborting of countless unwanted lives, and now, in many cases, euthenasia. Also, consider the rabid-rhetoric against Christianity that has characterized the curriculum in most university campuses since post-Enlightenment Europe. Even in seminaries, charged with the responsibility of educating clergy, the Bible has been completely disparaged as nothing more than a book written by men. It is clear that the universities which have shaped the current face of Europe have made it their raison d’ etre to stamp out any influence Christianity may have.

Indubitably, Europe has a well documented history of being drunk with the blood of the saints. Furthermore, this addiction to the blood of the saints is particularly intoxicating because it frees them from all restraints to be drunk with the wine of their fornications. The thought of being able to endulge your every whim with no Bible-thumping preachers left to tell you you’re going to Hell is hugely intoxicating.

Richard Dawkins, who teaches at Oxford, even admits this in his recent, New York Times bestseller, The God Delusion. In this emotional attack on Christianity, he not only calls anyone who believes in God, "deluded," but wishes to write a set of moral laws for binding for all Atheists; the first one is basically, "let everyone endulge their own sexual preference in their own privacy, regardless of how outlandish these preferences may be. It is nobody else's business."

Dawkin's idea that religion is nothing more than the supression of man's fulfillment is a growing sentiment among readers. In the past three months, there have been three books topping the New York Times bestseller list, heralding Atheism: Dawkin's, The God Delusion; Christopher Hitchens, God is Not Great; and Sam Harris', Breaking the Spell.

The odd thing about Dawkin's emotionally charged satire against Christianity is that Christianity has declined so rapidly that it is a byword in England. How cowardly is it to beat up on an elderly, almost extinct opponant? The influence of the church is only a tiny wimper when you consider that Atheists are now filling its pulpits. That's right! Men like Don Cupitt are Atheists, and ordained ministers in the Church of England, if you can swallow that!

But compare this to the fiery picketing of Muslims on the streets of London, who, in a recent episode, chanted, "bomb, bomb, UK", while burning effigies of the Queen in public. Compare it to the recent survey that showed all thirty mosques in London now filled beyond capacity every Friday during prayer. To make London more representative of the new Muslim populous, blueprints have already been drawn up to build the Markaz, a mosque that would accommodate 70,000 Muslims; a project being spearheaded by a group known as Tablighi Jamaat, which has had known ties to terrorists. When one tunes in to the 2012 Olympics in London, they will find that Islam will have become more distinctively "English" than the Queen herself being driven up to the front steps in her motorcade. Conveniently enough, the Markaz is being built right next door to the stadium.

It is ironic that all three of these books on Atheism made numerous references to the God of Christianity, even citing the term Yahweh as the butt of their sarcastic tone. Yet, in at least one of these books I have looked at, no references can be found in these books which single out the word, Allah. Maybe they are too drunk on their fantastic voyage away from reason to realize the true identity of the beast.

To give them some credit, they are right in conspicuously leaving out Allah from their rants. After all, the beast (Islam), to whom Europe will one day give their total allegience once Muslims have amassed a population formidible enough to have their way, will be anything but the enemy. To the contrary, Islam will be their banner in war against their true enemy. That's right! According to the prophecy in Revelation 17:14, the beast makes war with the Lamb of God, Jesus Christ. The very same enemy that Richard Dawkins and many other emboldened Atheists have already declared war upon in their writings.

Look at Revelation 17 carefully and notice that the refined harlot & mother of fornications (Europe in my hypothesis), is said to unite with the savage, scarlet beast (Islam in my hypothesis) when she mounts him to ride, and then the seven mountains upon which she sits combine their power with his (17:11). Then, as one united front, they make war with the Lamb (17:14). Is it not interesting that today, Atheism and Islam, while appearing wildly different, share the same enemy, Jesus Christ, and are both fighting the same enemy in 2007; one with the pen, and the other with the sword.

Yes, Islam may be conspicuously absent from the rants against religion because Islam is nothing more than a pawn in the hand of their true enemy which is Yahweh; the God of the Bible. Hence, the time is coming when Europe will be united in empowering the beast, but the beast cannot overpower the lamb, "For He is Lord of lords, and King of kings" (17:14). Just read the end of Revelation 17. Christ wins!

Don't misunderstand me. Islam is Europe's enemy if they care anything about preserving their civilization, but it is certainly not their most formidable enemy. Their most formidable enemy is God. In fact, all of us, before coming to Christ in the spirit of brokenness and repentance are at war with God. Therefore, making peace with God is why I am in ministry. I must plead with all men to "kiss the son, lest he be angry; when his wrath is kindled but a little, blessed are all they that put their trust in him" (Psalm 2:12).

Some of you reading this are no doubt repulsed by what I have just said, having the audacity to place “God” and “enemy” in the same sentence. But this is the message of Romans 5:10-11, which says that “while we were enemies we were reconciled to God by the death of his Son, much more, now that we are reconciled, shall we be saved by his life.” What bold language. This language reminds us of how serious sin is to God. We cannot continue to embrace our sin and be so presumptuous as to call ourselves the friend of God. This text says that we all start out on the same front of resistance against God whether Muslim, Pagan, Vegan, Baptist, European, or American. We are the “enemy” of God until reconciled with God.

How liberating is it to know that although we are enemies of God because of our sin, we can be reconciled and made at peace with God by receiving Christ. When the cup of God’s wrath should have been poured out on each one of us because of our sin, it was instead poured out on Christ when he died on the Cross. (Psalm 2, 5:4-5, 7:9-13, 11:5-6, Acts 4:26-27, Romans 3:18-27, 5:9-11, II Corinthians 5:20, Colossians 1:21-22, I Peter 2:24).

We can either accept that Christ already paid the penalty for our sins and be saved, or we can pay that penalty ourselves through an eternity in Hell (Romans 6:23, Revelation 20:10-15). This is the gospel and it needs to be preached with the greatest urgency ever. This is the gospel Paul preached when he pleaded, “We pray you in Christ’s stead, be ye reconciled to God” (II Corinthians 5:20).

How can you be reconciled to someone you have no beef with? The word itself denotes two variant parties making peace, and ending strife. If you have never acknowledged that your sin is a big deal and are willing to turn away from your sin, pray right now and ask God to forgive you. He is merciful and promises that ““everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved” (Romans 10:13).

Some may be thinking, “I’ve never even heard this idea. I've never heard that I'm an enemy of God.” It is a message that has certainly been neglected by most preachers more interested in their own praises than the praise of God, and for fear that they might offend. But as you have already found if you have done your homework, and looked at all the texts mentioned above, it is impossible to avoid. This idea is at the core of the gospel. Therefore, if it is not preached with heart-felt tears, there is no hope that healing will ever come to our world.

It is not certain whether we are already seeing the tipsy harlot described in Revelation 17:3 mounting the scarlet beast. But if it is, I can promis you this: she will be requited with far more than a DUI.

Nor is it certain that the harlot represents Europe/Western Civilization. It isn’t even certain that the beast must point to the inevitable rise of Islam we are seeing in Europe. As I have shown, these ideas seem to have good support, but need to be held with some skepticism in light of the symbolic language it rests upon.

Remember that the genre of Revelation is apocalyptic, which uses symbolic language, but points to a literal truth. Hence, because it is easy to read one’s own ideas into symbols, it can be easily misinterpreted, as it often has.

Nevertheless, what is especially certain is that the glorious gospel that proclaims we can be reconciled with God is the only hope for our age, and if you are not yet reconciled to Him, don’t wait another minute.

Thursday, November 15, 2007

Who is the Beast of Revelation 13 & 17? (Part 2)

We are continuing to draw parallels between the current relationship of Europe with its rising Islamic influence, Europa & Zeus, and the harlot and beast of Relelation 17.

The second parallel is that according to mythology, Zeus was incognito. He had to disguise himself as something he was not in order to seduce Europa out of the garden and ride her away to the Island of Crete where he morphed back into Zeus, and raped her; forcing her into submission and making her yet another of his lovers.

Similarly, for decades now, Muslims have openly proclaimed a message of peace and tolerance within Europe, while privately, in their Mosques, proclaiming the superiority of jihad. Already, as they are becoming more and more populous, some are proclaiming more openly what the Qur'an clearly sets forth as a one-world, unified Callifate, where Western Civilization has no place, and Islam rules in every place. One can remember that immediately after 911, in the old mill town of Bradley, England, hundreds of Muslim youths, which already outnumber English youth of that town, took to the streets en mass, beating on the bonnets (what the English like to refer to as the hood of their cars). They beat on the bonnets, demanding that their shocked victims chant with them, "bin Laden is a great man." Say it, "bin Laden is a great man." Those Bradley burghers walked back to their homes demoralized; their tails between their legs. And those Muslim youths were emblazoned with pride, knowing their wills had won the day. Of course, this scenario may not have played out so well in the Southern U.S., where Britain's stringent gun control laws have no sway.

Islam historically, and more and more, presently, believes that all humanity fits into one of two categories: Dar al Islam (the house of submission), or Dar al Harb (the house of war). If you are not under submission to the law of Allah, you are at war with Allah and the people of Allah. Many leftists in Europe are more and more shocked when a tatooed & pierced pot-head cries out, "Let's make love, not war . . . I love everybody," and the increasing Muslim population is not satisfied. No, they will only be satisfied when you are either part of the house of submission, or . . . I'll try not to sound too messy . . . posthumous!

This is what they are already practicing, and have always practiced within every nation in the world where there is not a sufficiently strong government to keep them in check. According to Voice of the Martyrs, more than 900 churches have been burned to the ground in Indonesia within the past fifty years by mainstream Muslims. On September 28, more than 500 Christians were displaced, and 10 killed in the city of Tudun Wada, Northern Nigeria, by none other than the neighborhood Muslims living next door.

Indonesia is a country, where until recent decades, had no Muslim majority. Indonesia and Sri Lanka are both examples of how the practice of population replacement has been successful, but has taken them centuries to achieve. However, in Europe it isn't taking them nearly as long thanks to abortion on demand (1/3 of all pregnecies in Ireland are now terminated), and low birth-rates on the part of the ones they want to displace. Europe is truly drunk when imams can openly proclaim population replacement in Europe as their agenda, and Europeans continue a policy of appeasement.

Just listen to what Muslim leaders are saying: "We're the ones who will change you." That is what the Norwegian imam Mullah Krekar told the Oslo newspaper Dagbladet in 2006. "Just look at the development within Europe, where the number of Muslims is expanding like mosquitoes. Every Western woman in the EU is producing an average of 1.4 children. Every Muslim woman In the same countries is producing 3.5 children." As he summed it up: “Our way of thinking will prove more powerful than yours."

What Europe doesn't know, or is too inebriated with the "now" to care anything about right now is that while the average Italian family is now reproducing at less than 1.0 children per couple, the average Muslim household in that country is reproducing at 5.0; this is the case in the city of Turin, Italy, according to a recent article in Der Spiegel Magazine. Within a little more than a generation, simply by birthrate alone, Islam will go from being a small minority to being a sizable force to be reckoned with. More than 1/3 of the Italian population is over the age of retirement, and less than 15% are under the age of 18. This 15% represents the overall population, not just indigenous Italians.

What makes the situation especially hopeless is the politically correct language that ties everyone’s hands, preventing them from recognizing this threat. If someone even raises these statistics as a concern, they’re immediately branded “racist.” But is it racism? The truth is that it doesn’t matter what the color of your skin is. Nor does it matter if more than 50% of the population is of any particular color or ethnicity. What matters is ideology! ideas have consequences. When a majority of the population no longer believes in freedom, you have a problem, and more and more of those who will be growing into adulthood subscribe to an ideology which is hostile towards the idea of freedom.

Yes, Europe is drunk when mullahs like the one above can be openly honest about their agenda of population replacement, and yet the EU demands that every family have no more than one child for fear of using up the earth’s resources. Mark Steyn is right when he says that long before any of the earth’s precious resources are used up, our most valuable resource of all will likely be gone . . . us.

A third parallel is that the beast of Revelation 17 is described as being “full of names of blasphemy” (17:3b). The greatest form of blasphemy according to the New Testament is to demean the glory of Christ by denying that He is the Son of God: “Who is the liar but he who denies that Jesus is the Christ? This is the antichrist, he who denies the Father and the Son. No one who denies the Son has the Father. Whoever confesses the Son has the Father also” (I John 2:22-23).

Islam clearly denies that Jesus is the Son of God, and has decried His divine status boldly. Everyone has seen pictures of the luminous, Dome of the Rock Mosque in Jerusalem, which is where the Jewish Temple once stood. The wall of that mosque which happens to face the Church of the Holy Sepulchre has the following words inscribed, “Allah had no son.” The Islamic doctrine of shirk is the heresy of putting anything on the same par with Allah, and this doctrine is cited most often to rebuke anyone who claims that Jesus Christ is the Son of God, or Divine. Further, while many Muslims play the "we believe in Jesus" card, it is important to remember that while the Qur'an is ambiguous on the death of Christ, the orthodox position among Muslim scholars is to deny that Jesus ever died on the Cross.

(Read Sura 4:157-158; surprisingly, the Quran teaches in other places that Christ did in fact die: Sura 3:33,55; 5:117, 19:33. But while it is curious that this blatant contradiction doesn't seem to pose a problem for most Muslims who do not want to lose their life, the teaching that Christ never died is, nevertheless, the orthodox position). To any Christian who understands that the death and resurrection of Christ are two pillars upon which our faith stands or falls, this is a blasphemous ideology.

Okay, so you may be saying to yourself, I see the correlation between the story of Zeus & Europa and Islam & Europe. But what is the link to the prophecy of Revelation 17? First, what we see in this prophecy is that the seven mountains on which the whore sits, becomes one force with the beast (17:9-11). She has clearly given her power over to the beast by riding him in the first place, and according to these verses, her power is merged with that of the beast's. Second, once she has given her allegience to the beast, the ten horns upon the beast turn against the harlot in hatred, making her desolate (17:16). The imagery of nakedness indicates rape as in the case of Zeus and Europa. But the passage goes on to say that they shall "eat her flesh, and burn her with fire" (17:16b) indicating destruction and conquest. It should also be noted that the whore, which represents in this hypothesis, Europe, and Western Civilization, is ultimately being judged by God because we are told it was God who "put it in their hearts to fulfill his will" (17:17). The beast and ten horns, in destroying the whore, although they are obviously unaware of it, are in fact fulfilling God's design.

We are reminded that ultimately, whatever "nation that forgets God shall be turned into hell" (Proverbs 14:34). Therefore, regardless of what kingdom God uses to judge "every nation that forgets God," that kingdom or people is still only a scourge in the hand a sovereign God. They are ultimately fulfilling His purpose and will according to Revelation 17:17.

Tomorrow I will disclose the last, and most recognizable parallel I have made.

Wednesday, November 14, 2007

Who is the Beast of Revelation 13 & 17? (Part 1)

Does the Harlot seen riding the beast in Revelation 17 signify the silent battle currently taking place between Europe and Islam?
The image you see imprinted on the Euro is meant to evoke memories of an ancient Greek myth: the story of Zeus and Europa. Here is my short version: Europa was a beautiful Phoenician princess. Zeus was the chief of the gods. One day Zeus disguised himself as a beautiful, chest-nut colored bull, and caught Europa’s eye as she gathered flowers by the seashore. He seduced her with his meekness until eventually, she mounted him to ride. Zeus then whisked her to the Island of Crete where he raped her, and subjugated her to the status of being just another of his wives.
You’ve probably heard this story before. But now, some Christian thinkers who understand the current situation in Europe are linking it to a similar account described in Revelation 17. Below are some of my thoughts on why I think there is validity to this apparent link. The imagery of Rev. 17, where John sees a harlot is riding upon a scarlet beast is strikingly similar to the mythological account of the goddess Europa riding Zeus, disguised as a beast in order to seduce her.
Who is the Harlot? There is much biblical corroboration for the notion that this harlot of Rev. 17 points to continental Europe and to Western Civilization. The harlot is seated upon “seven mountains” (17:9), which anyone would have recognized as the topography of Rome, and would point to the Roman Empire. Rome historically stretched throughout continental Europe, and today, many European leaders see the European Union as the revived Roman Empire (read,, In fact, it was the Treaty of Rome in 1957 that launched the European Union as we know it today.
Also, the language of Revelation 17 suggests that the harlot symbolizes the largest progenitor of the world’s economy and wealth (18:11-15). It is also designated as the largest exporter of immorality (17:1-6, 18:9). The 18th. Century Enlightenment, as well the Scientific and Industrial revolutions which followed, made it possible to achieve all the advances we have seen in technology, comfort and wealth. These movements originated in Europe, and while they saw their greatest zenith in the United States, they have certainly been exported for the benefit of entire world.
If the harlot is understood as Europe and Western Civilization, there are four intriguing parallels that are seen in relationship between Europe, with its rising Islamic population, Europa & Zeus, and the biblical account of the harlot riding upon the beast.
The first is the seduction. Some accounts show Zeus unsuccessfully attempting to seduce Europa the first time around. Ironically, Islam attempted to conquer Western Europe the first time and was unsuccessful as well. The most definitive battle between Europe and the Islamic imperialists was fought in 732 A.D. at Tours, when Charles Martel (Martel meaning, hammer) successfully drove the Islamic forces out of France, and thereby the rest of the continent. If it wasn't for the Battle of Tours, most historians are confident we would all have been submissive Muslims today. Islam found Europe to be a force to be reckoned with because they had the Christian underpinnings necessary to acknowledge absolute truth, and with it, the ability to define right and wrong. This fueled them with the adrenaline and willpower necessary to fight because they not only believed they could know the difference between right and wrong, but could recognize an enemy when they saw one.

Unfortunately, with any Christian understanding of truth marginalized, and the politically correct idea that says all ideas are really the same, this consensus on the absolute is absolutely gone. A good example of this disorienting loss was seen during the London Tube bombings (7/7/05), where, in a shocking BBC poll, most believed it was not the Muslims fault that they blew themselves up, killing many innocent lives. For many, Blair was responsible because of his involvement in the Iraq war. Everyone interviewed believed them to have acted out in such a desperate way because they were driven to it, and it became apparent that most British citizens could not muster the will to so much as acknowledge that what these terrorists did was wrong. You can rest assure that if Europe continues to suffer from this myopic inability to distinguish between good and evil, and continues to laugh at the very notion of the terms “good” and “evil”, it will not be long before this beast called Islam will have his way with her.
One can see the same gelding of Europe take place when recounting the Madrid train bombings in Spain (3/11/04). Before the bombings, their bold president, Jose Maria Aznar was a strong ally against terror, and commanded the highest poll numbers in the face of upcoming elections. One would think that after the Islamic terrorists who executed the bombings went public as they are usually proud of doing, a hawk such as Aznar would have the strongest support ever. Not so! As you'll remember, the bombings curiously took place days before the elections, and gave the media plenty of fodder for its propoganda campaign. The terrorists, who didn't exactly view Aznar as their choice pick, voted with the bomb instead of the ballot, and won.
There are three more parallels I've drawn. But this blog is getting a little out of control. I'll post the rest tomorrow.

Thursday, October 25, 2007

Persecution with no glory!

Peter the Apostle wrote one of the most beautiful letters ever written to comfort Christians who were being persecuted during the Roman Empire. But in this letter, he introduces another form of persecution that few of us like to talk about. He writes, "But let none of you suffer as a murderer or a thief or an evildoer or as a meddler. Yet if anyone suffers as a Christian, let him not be ashamed, but let him glorify God in that name" (I Peter 4:15). He clearly demarcates two forms of suffering saints: those who suffer for the glory of God, and those who suffer in a way that demeans the glory of God. Those who are obedient to Christ will always bring glory to God through their suffering, whereas those who are disobedient to Christ always bring shame to the name of God through suffering.

Many of us marvel that the horrific treatment of Christians around the world draws little attention from the media. By way of comparison, the detainees at Guantanamo Bay receive a complimentary copy of the Quran at taxpayers expense. And because no non-Muslim infidel is worthy of touching the Holy Quran, it is handed to detainees in gloves as delicately as her Majesty receiving a copy of the London Times. Yet, we have already seen that if it is charged that the Quran is defiled by one of our unclean, Infidel soldiers, our military is villainized as the purveyers of cruel and unusual punishment. And when these accusations cannot be confirmed, the media has put more stock in the word of those who want to kill us than they do the ones who protect us.

Yet, as Christians are currently being mown down by Islamo-fascists in myriad of coutnries around the world, it doesn't seem to be news-worthy to most journalists. Universities in the U.S. are now installing foot-washing booths for Muslim students to be able to pray the daily salat in public, while surgically removing any trace of the Ten Commandments from public space. So there can be no doubt that a lost world is insulating itself as much as it can from any exposure to the Christian gospel. It is no wonder that news of Christian persecution doesn't register as such bad news.

However, let a Christian suffer as an evild-doer, and you will get more media coverage than Britney Spears and Anna Nicole Smith combined. Of course, I'm afraid that to imagine such a thing would be a stretch beyond hyperbole. We should pray for the church every day in preventing this kind of reproach to the name of our Lord.

What I want to call attention to is the verbal persectution taking place right here in the United States, resulting from the abundance of Christian programming that perverts the gospel. When preachers are mocked and derided by the world for preaching a false gospel, you can be certain, this is persecution with no glory.

Just turn on the Trinity Broadcasting Network, and you will usually hear a message that even the world recognizes as a perversion of the historic Christian faith. I call it the Anti-gospel. It turns the gospel on its head by saying that man is not inherently sinful; that man doesn't exist for God, God exists for the benefit of man; and that it is always God's will for you to be rich, healthy, and prosperous . . . if, of course, you will first buy their book, or send in a check much larger than you can afford to pay.

In an interview with Larry King, Joel O'steen displayed for us what the Anti-gospel is. When asked by King if he's "always believed", Osteen responded, "I have always believed. I grew up, you know, my parents were a good Christian people. They showed us love in the home. My parents were the same in the pulpit as they were at home. I think that's where a lot of preachers' kids get off base sometimes. Because they don't see the same things at both places. But I've always believed. I saw it through my parents. And I just grew up believing."

Wildly, this is a so-called Christian preacher who, in his own self-admission, does not have a conversion experience, and makes no mention of ever coming to a knowledge of sin, or his need for a Savior. How do you convert people when you haven't been converted yourself?

But let's give Joel the benefit of the doubt. Maybe he does have a conversion experience and simply chose not to mention it. It would seem odd after being pitched the perfect question. After all, the Apostle Paul told his testimony every chance he got ( Read Acts 22:3-21, 26:4-21, I Timothy 1:12-16, Galatians 1:11-21).

Osteen reinforced the removal of sin, and the need for a Savior from his message when King went on to ask, "But don't you think if people don't believe as you believe, they're somehow condemned?" Osteen: "You know, I think that happens in our society. But I try not to do that. I tell people all the time, preached a couple Sundays about it. I'm for everybody. You may not agree with me, but to me it's not my job to try to straighten everybody out. The Gospel is called the good news. My message is a message of hope, that's God's for you. You can live a good life no matter what's happened to you."

One thing is for sure, If I believe that people are sinners in the hands of an angry God, I would have to say with the apostle Paul, "Knowing therefore the terror of the Lord, we persuade men" (II Corinthians 5:11). But Osteen's message isn't exactly geared to making people aware of the terror of the Lord and persuading them to be reconciled to God. Osteen's message says just the opposite; it says people are already at peace with God. For instance, when he says, " . . . It's not my job to try to straighten everybody out . . . God's for you. You can live a good life no matter what's happened to you", he is preaching the opposite of what Jesus Christ preached when he said, "Except ye repent, ye shall all likewise perish" (Luke 13:3). The word "repent" in the original language speaks of a change of mind that leads to a radical change in lifestyle. Jesus' message was one that said, "I am here to straighten you out." It demanded a 180 degree turn in lifestyle that only Christ himself could enable one to do (John 6:44).

Search the transcripts with a fine-tooth comb, and still, no mention of sin, repentance, the Cross, or conversion can be mined from Joel Osteen's preaching. It is not surprising that many, self-professed, agnostic reporters question the authenticity of a ministry that preaches the gospel in reverse; the Anti-gospel.

Let's look at the gospel in reverse for a moment: Osteen preaches that the summum bonum (ultimate good) in the eyes of God is "material success" (Businessweek, May 23, 2005). But, Jesus says that trust in material success will be our ruin (Luke 12:13-21). Osteen says that you can have "Your Best Life Now." But, Jesus says you will perish if your life remains the way it is now (Luke 13:1-5). Osteen says "you can be good" with no mention of repentance. But, Jesus says, "there is none good" and "commands all men everywhere to repent" (Matthew 19:19, Acts 17:29-31).

We should pray for Christians who are being persecuted for being bold examples of Christ, and who are bringing glory to God. But we should also pray specifically for the church right here in the United States where many are demeaning the glory of God by finding salvation in the very things Christ came to save us from.

God promises that he will purify his church in time for His Second coming, and it ought to be our fervent prayer that God will ignite a flame in the hearts of every Christian in America to have such a love for God's glory that we will be bold imitators of Him (Epheisians 5:1), and that with tears, we will plead with men to be reconciled to Him (II Corinthians 5:19-21).

Yes, we will be persecuted for accurately representing Christ and His radical message of repentance. Praise be to God that many in the U.S. already are. But this is a persecution with glory, a persecution that we must stop running from: "Beloved, do not be surprised at the fiery trial when it comes upon you to test you, as though something strange were happening to you. But rejoice insofar as you share Christ's sufferings, that you may also rejoice and be glad when his glory is revealed. If you are insulted for the name of Christ, you are blessed, because the Spirit of glory and of God rests upon you" (I Peter 4:12-14).

Monday, October 15, 2007

Vista from the Voice:

One of the most addicting things for me has been reading the monthly issues of The Voice of the Martyrs, mainly because after bemoaning something as little as a new zit popping up on my face, I am humbled to silence after learning the persecution that many of our brothers and sisters are enduring for the name of Christ all over the world.

November 11, 2007 will be the "International Day of Prayer for the Persecuted Church." So each week leading up to that time, I would like to use this blog to call attention to something we can learn from the moving stories of these suffering saints.

God will use your tribulations to awaken the hearts of the lost:
Tom White tells us that 80% of India’s population is Hindu. The remaining 20% is largely Muslim. But squeezed into this polyglot population we find many of our brothers and sisters in Christ still breathing; making up 2.3% of the Indian pie. Most of this 2.3% block consists of Dalits. These are the “untouchables;” the lowest in the Hindu caste system. Converting to Christ exacts a high cost to anyone living in India because seven states now have anti-conversion laws. These laws are not binding on anyone who converts to Hinduism; only to those who convert to Christianity. Of course, according to the Indian government this is no double standard!

One man recently counted the cost and has an amazing story to tell. His name is Narayan Gowda. Gowda’s conversion to Christ is a great witness to how God uses tribulations and suffering, not only to purify His people, but to save his people. You might ask, what do you mean? Well, Gowda is not only suffering for Christ now as a new believer, but it was through his persecution of believers that he himself became a believer.

As a young man, Gowda was taken to what is known as “Hindutva training camps,” where he was taught to use violence against anyone who did not subscribe to the Hindu religion. He says, “Every time we did some ‘brave’ exploits like intimidating or beating up some unarmed Christian preacher . . . we were treated like heroes, garlanded, given respect and provided with plenty of liquor . . .”

One day, Gowda was sent to tear down a Christian church in the city of Yeshwantpur, near Bangalore. This was a small brick building roofed with asbestos sheets, and paid for by many year’s worth of faithful contributions by church members, most of whom were poor, migrant farmers. Gowda and his gang used hammers, pickaxes, and any other tools they could find to tear this church building down. Then they went to lynch and kill the pastor and his family, but to his surprise, the pastor had providentially sent his family away, and was himself in a prayer meeting away from his home. When the police arrived with the pastor to the pile of rubble that was once a church only a day prior, the police were shocked when the pastor refused to name Gowda and his gang as suspects, knowing that they had done it. You can still go to the police station and find in their files the police report naming the pastor, and the fact that he prayed on site for the forgiveness of his would-be assassins.

If this wasn’t over the top, what shocks me even more is that instead of crusading for the conviction of these would-be assassins, the entire church came together and began fasting and praying for the salvation of each gang member by name. Gowda continued to persecute Christians, but knowing the inexplicable love of these Christians began to impale him in his spirit.

It was not long before Gowda found a Bible in his mother's home, and although he was enraged at her outwardly, he began reading it privately. He was so moved by reading this book that he gave his heart to the Lord. Today, Gowda serves the Lord alongside the same pastor who’s life he once threatened.

But turning to the Lord has exacted a high cost, because he who was once the persecutor has now become the persecuted. Since his conversion, Gowda has been kicked out of his family’s house, surrounded by a mob of 150 Hindu radicals and beaten, doused with gasoline in an attempt to set him aflame. His house, furniture, and Bible have all been burned; yet miraculously, he himself was not burned. Yet, all of these flames were not effective enough to ignite as a single candle in destroying Gowda's faith, especially when compared to the flame for Christ that now burns in his heart.

How do we respond to such unbelievable news? What we can learn from this news is that our sovereign God has ordained, not only the suffering of His Son on the Cross; But He has ordained our sufferings as well to awaken the hearts of the lost. I Peter 3:12 commands us, "Having your conversation (way of life) honest among the Gentiles: that, whereas they speak against you as evildoers, they may by your good works, which they shall behold, glorify God in the day of visitation." This verse is telling us that just as Gowda can now glorify God on the day of judgment because of the love of suffering saints, God will bring lost people into your path who may also be saved as a result of your faithfulness in the midst of tribulation.

Now you might be saying to yourself, "After hearing this heartwrenching story, we in America don't even know what suffering is." There is some truth to that statement. But know that whatever arises in your life that tempts you to question the goodness and mercy of God is tribulation, and God will use your rejoicing in spite of these tribulations (Matthew 5:11-12, Romans 5:3) to pierce the hearts of the lost. Rejoicing in spite of tribulations is humanly impossible, and can only be possessed by possessing the mind of Christ. Trust me; the lost will be shocked by your revolutionary way of thinking and will privately investigate the truth, with the end result very likely being their salvation (II Timothy 3:15).

Medicated: The New American Dream:

Are prescription antidepressants helpful in the longrun, or are they only masking the true condition of our hearts? In my preaching, I often quote from a book I read in college entitled, Whatever Became of Sin; written by Psychologist, Carl Menninger. He writes, "Is no one any longer guilty of anything? Guilty, perhaps, of a sin that could be repented and repaired and atoned for? Is it only that someone may be stupid or sick or criminal or recovering or asleep? Wrong things are being done . . . Tares are being sewn in the wheat field at night. But is no one responsible? Is no one answerable for these acts? Anxiety and depression we all acknowledge, and even vague guilt feelings. But has no one committed any sins? Where, indeed, did sin go? What became of it?" It seemed odd to me that these words so loaded with Theological import would come from a psychologist. But what was quickly aparrent is that Menninger's main contention is that if he could only convince his patients that they were not guilty of some sin, he could cure them all. This is an amazing claim! In our comfort driven society, nobody wants to be confronted with the reality of guilt, much less the underlying cause guilt. That ugly, three letter word isn't so agreeable in a land of obese egos. After all, it's is much more agreeable to pass the buck. People even express a sigh of relief when they are told, "You have ADHD . . . bipolar, manic depressive, obsessive compulsive, etc. Why talk of sin when there is always a talk show host or psychologist only a click away, eager to tell you how morally right you are. Yet, there is always that feeling that things are not quite right. Hence, 1 out of 20 American adults are currently on prescription antidepressants. According to Fortune Magazine, 150,000,000 perscriptions for antidepressants were filled in 2004 alone. In our bland new world where a quick fix is found in a pill, we might feel sorry for a depressed, King David, who lived during a time when he had no access to our medical innovations. He writes, "my bones waxed old through my roaring all the day long. For day and night thy hand was heavy upon me: my moisture is turned into the drought of summer . . . I am troubled, I am bowed down greatly, I go mourning all the day long" (Psalm 32:3-4, 38:6). These words sound almost masochistic. What is certain is that King David found himself in a sleepless depression after his little rendezvous with Bathsheba. If only he had had Prozac, Zoloft, or Luvox . . . something to ease these horrible feelings he endured day and night. If only David were alive today he might have laughed at the prophet's incriminating words, "David, you are the man." If only David were alive today he'd have plenty of neo-prophets telling him all he needed was to feel good about himself. If only David were alive today, he could avoid this unhealthy talk of sin. To that I respond, "Thank heavens David didn't make it to the Twenty-first century; he'd probably go straight to Hell."

When we are physically sick, it does not suffice us merely to mask over the disease. In no less serious terms, what we desparately need for our spiritual sickness is the truth. In the July 2007 issue of Whistleblower Magazine, a shocking testimony was given by a Christian lady dealing with her own experience with prescription antidepressants. After dealing with a crippling bout of depression she innocently approached her pastor, hoping that he could offer sound, biblical advice. Instead, her pastor said, "Go to the doctor and ask for antidepressants." She says, "Not a word was said about my sinful attitudes regarding my responsibilities, and there were no offers of practical help. Just 'go to the doctor." Within weeks of taking her prescribed medication, she was feeling good, and "smalltalking with the rest of them." In her bland new world she says she felt like one of the "Stepford Wives." "Noone seemed to struggle with any serious life issues. Only smiling and happy greetings." What became apparent after her father's death a year later is that not only did she not feel those unhealthy feelings of sorrow; she couldn't even feel what she would consider, healthy feelings of sorrow. It was disturbing to her that she could not feel even the slightest sense of loss over the death over her very own father. It was not long before she was asking herself, "Why am I not grieved over my sin?" As a Christian, the Holy Spirit brought her to the place where she realized that the deadening of consience created by these mind altering drugs brought with it a deadening of the soul and its ability to hear the voice of God.Long after experiencing victory over antidepressant drugs, and now experiencing victory over the sin that provoked the felt need for drugs, she has an amazing story to tell. She writes, "When a believer is plagued by what the world calls depression, she must take a hard look at what is underneath it. Feelings are notoriously unreliable in most areas, but they are vital in recognizing sin. I believe that God gave us our emotions primarily for His use in convicting us of sin. Of course, they have many other uses, but I believe His primary purpose is for His glory."

Certainly depression can be a crippling thing, and this article is in no way intended to add more weight to the crippling effects of your condition. But there is something beautiful that happens when you quit running from the reality of sin, stop in your tracks and admit that you are a sinner (Romans 3:23). You can do what King David did after his own bout with depression and turn to God for forgiveness. David was healed of his condition, not through any mind altering substance he may have had access to. He faced reality and could say before God, "I acknowledged my sin unto thee, and mine iniquity have I not hid" (Psalm 32:4a). Yes, facing your sin will bring with it a season discomfort and sorrow. But it is what the New Testament calls a "godly sorrow unto repentance" (II Corinthians 7:9). If you will not only face your sin, but turn to Christ for forgiveness, you will be able to say with David, "His anger endureth but for a moment, in His favour is life: weeping may endure for a night, but joy cometh in the morning" (Psalm 30:5).

Bridge Collapses in Minneapolis:

Thursday, August 2: Bridge Collapses in Minneapolis:
The families and loved ones of those who were killed or who are still missing in the collapsed bridge in Minneapolis yesterday are certainly in our hearts and prayers. It is said that there are at least four people dead, and twenty still unaccounted for. The bridge, giving access to I-35W is one of the most highly trafficked bridges in Minneapolis and was in its fortieth year of existence. Some are pointing to the fact that forty years ago, the same codes for building bridge support did not exist, which may account for the bridge’s buckling under all of the work vehicles, jackhammers and other equipment.

John Piper, who’s church is ironically less than a mile from where the bridge was, wrote an insightful blog explaining that his daily family devotions happened to be found in Luke 13:1-5:
“There were some present at that very time who told him about the Galileans whose blood Pilate had mingled with their sacrifices. And he answered them, "Do you think that these Galileans were worse sinners than all the other Galileans, because they suffered in this way? No, I tell you; but unless you repent, you will all likewise perish. Or those eighteen on whom the tower in Siloam fell and killed them: do you think that they were worse offenders than all the others who lived in Jerusalem? No, I tell you; but unless you repent, you will all likewise perish."

One thing we can learn from this passage is that during a tragedy such as this, we should all be reminded of God’s mercy. Those who unfortunately lost their lives in this catastrophic event were no more sinful than any one of us, just as those Galileans who were killed by Pilate were no more sinful than anyone standing around Jesus 2,000 years ago. Instead of interrogating the memory of those who died, we should instead interrogate ourselves, and be reminded that unless we repent, we are all deserving of death, or, as Jesus warned those who pointed fingers at the ones crushed under the falling tower of Siloam, “No, I tell you; but unless you repent, you will all likewise perish.”

Notice how the Lord takes focus off those who were killed, unfortunate as it was, His attention was focused on how fortunate anyone else is to be spared. Yet, if we do not repent over our godlessness and sin, our Lord assures us that our own fate will be no less unfortunate. All tragedy is a result of sin and should point us to the greater tragedy of Hell.

The Bible instructs us to be amazed every time we wake up to find that God has given us breathe for another day, “It is of the Lord’s mercies that we are not consumed, because his compassions fail not. They are new every morning: great is thy faithfulness” (Lamentations 3:22). Be amazed at the mercy of God who bestowed upon us what seemed to be perennial breathe while we were still under His wrath. Marvel at the mercy of Him who “maketh his sun to rise on the evil and on the good, and sendeth rain on the just and on the unjust” (Matthew 5:45).

I will never forget reading the words of Jonathan Edwards, who, in his immortal sermon: Sinners in the Hands of an AngryGod paints for us a vivid picture of the mercy of God who alone can keep us from plummeting headlong into eternal death:

“Your wickedness makes you as it were heavy as lead, and to tend downwards with great weight and pressure towards hell and if God should let you go, you would immediately sink and swiftly descend and plunge into the bottomless gulf; and your healthy constitution, and your own care and prudence, and best contrivance, and all your righteousness, would have no more influence to uphold you and keep you out of hell than a spider’s web would have to stop a falling rock.”

But we must do more than stand amazed at God’s mercy after a tragedy like this one. Jesus is commanding all men everywhere to “repent” (Acts 17:30). So while we weep for the many unfortunate souls have not escaped tragedy, we are called upon in Luke 13:1-5 to weep for our own unfortunate souls if we have not cried out to God and been changed. Hell is the greatest tragedy of all. That is why in light of the bad news that millions will read in the headlines this morning, the gospel of Jesus Christ is the best news you could tell anyone. Thank God we have been warned. And thank God we have a way of escape.

Christians in Bangladesh:

It is not popular or even human it seems to follow the Matthew 5:39 principle? You would have to be super-human. Okay, before you go searching for your Bibles to find what Matthew 5:39 says, I’ll save you much time along with the arteriosclerosis and frustration that will inevitably ensue if you have not seen it since the Bicentennial. It is the passage in the Sermon on the Mount where Jesus commands us to “resist not evil: but whosoever shall smite thee on thy right cheek, turn to him the other also.” In response to this verse I am tempted to shoot back, “This is a hard saying; who can hear it” (John 6:60)? Would the 5:39 principle, after all, be one that you would encourage your son to follow walking home from school? Is this principle nothing more than cowardice, or is it actually the highest form of bravery when properly understood?

In the August 2007 issue of Voice of the Martyrs, the lives of several persecuted Christians in Bangladesh were showcased which may answer this question for us.

For years, Bangladesh, which is historically non-Muslim, has morphed into a radicalized Muslim nation due largely to oil money from Saudi Arabia. Thousands of new madrassas have been erected (A “madrassa” is a school which educates students on the Qur’an, and are usually preoccupied with its mandate to wage jihad). According to BBC News, we are told that in 1970, there were 1,500 registered madrassas in Bangladesh. Today, there are more than 8,000.
Yet, steeped in this caldron of radical Islam is a radically saved group of Christians who are sharing the love of Jesus Christ, not just with their lips, but with their lives, and in many cases, their deaths. I am convinced that when you see hundreds of Muslims come to know Christ in an environment where naming Christ is itself a sentence of death, you are seeing something supernatural; super-human. These conversions can only be attributed to the power of God (John 1:12-13).

Momina was a faithful Muslim woman living in Bangladesh. Yet, she sensed the emptiness of this bankrupt religion and felt trapped. One day, after Momina’s husband walked out on her and her father lay sick, she broke down and cried under the weight. At that very moment, in God’s providence, a former Muslim, named Aban, who had recently converted to Christ handed her a Bible that would change her life forever. Receiving Christ would cost her dearly.
In accordance with Sharia holy law, Momina’s family had to view her now as a black sheep, and began to curse her for leaving Islam. One day, with her eight-month old daughter sitting on the porch, her own brother fell upon her in rage, beating her multiple times with a bamboo cane, cracking her ribs and leaving her unconscious. Not to allow her any relief, Momina’s brother jerked her awake with a splash of cold water and beat her some more. At this point, her cousin was also beating her while crying, “We educated you . . . you have knowledge and sense. So why do you go and become a Christian?”

After this horrific incident, Momina’s parents kicked her out of the village with her two young daughters, given the promise that if she ever came back, she would be poisoned and killed.
But remember the Muslim-turned-Christian, named Aban, who gave her a copy of the Bible to begin with? This man was so moved by her circumstances that he took her in and married her. After all, he had been dealt much the same blows; his own wife and family forsook him after hearing that he received Christ.

Today, this couple, Aban and Momina, both travel from village to village, preaching the gospel of Christ, and have been run out of twenty-two villages thus far. This couple knows the Matthew 5:39 principle in ways that we as Americans could only dream of. Are they cowards for following this principle? Certainly anyone who knows their testimony would cry “No way!”
When asked about her sufferings, Momina says that she loves those who hurt her and has a burning desire to share the good news with them. When asked how she could have the boldness to continue going into the caldron, she is quoted as saying, “God makes us brave. Our Father [God] suffered many things, so I also need to suffer many things in this life.”

Turning the other cheek out of selfish fear for your own life is cowardice. But turning the other cheek out of fear for your attacker’s life, yea also eternal death in Hell without life, is the highest form of bravery. It is the bravery that Christ himself exhibited when he himself walked the earth, and this is the principle He sought to teach us in Matthew 5:39.

We can learn much from the example of this couple in their ability to turn the other cheek because it was anything but cowardice; it proves that in the face of death, God makes them bold. Aban alone has led at least 72 Muslims to Christ because of his persistent boldness and zeal to share the love of Christ. By turning the other cheek, he has turned every head to see a love which is super-human; a love which is not of this world (John 15:19-20). Chrysostom, who was one of our early church fathers reminded us to follow Christ’s example of sacrifice when he said, “the blood of the martyrs is the seed of the church.” It is no wonder then why the church is rapidly growing in places like Bangladesh where it is most rapidly being mown down. God’s principles never fail.

Pray that God will give us the same zeal to live out the Matthew 5:39 principle, not as cowards, but with the boldness of lions (Proverbs 28:1), who will gladly welcome persecution, imprisonment, peril and even the sword because we have a hope that cannot die (I Peter 1:3-4), because we fear not man who kills the body. Rather, we fear God who alone kills both the body and soul in hell (Matthew 10:28).

Christian Martyred in Afghanistan:

Just a few hours before I sat down to update True North's website, the bullet-riddled body of a male, South Korean Christian was found in central Afghanistan. Ten bullet-holes were discovered in his head, chest and stomach according to MSNBC. Who was this Christian anyway, and what was he doing in Afghanistan? He was one out of a group of twenty-three, short-term missionaries, mostly women, who were recently abducted by Muslim terrorists and are still being held hostage after a trip to the city of Kandahar.

The team of Christians were there to provide medical releif, a great service to an area that has a shortage of medically trained personnel. I have already read comments from many bloggers on mainstream media websites, questioning why these so-called "proselytizers" were there imposing their ideas in the first place. It is ironic, however, that more people are questioning the victims than are questioning the suspects.

Could it be that radical Islam has succeeded in raping the Western mind to the point where we expect their assaults on humanity, and are more shocked and appaled at Christian love than we are at Islamic terror? The West continues to fabricate politically correct causes as to why there seems to be this constant outbreak of what some are now calling, "sudden jihad syndrome" among Muslims in Western countries, and jihad as a way of life in Islamic countries. Some of the politically acceptable causes often cited are: "poverty", "Israeli occupation of Palestine", "US occupation of Iraq", and in the case of these Christian missionaries being taken hostage, "intollerant Christianity." Yet, the same jihad has been going on since the Seventh Century, long before many of these causes were even thought of, and that jihad will continue long after they are gone if the true cause is not addressed.

Okay, so now you're asking, "what cause can you point me to?" Sorry to disappoint you, but I do not intend to address that issue here. If you're anxious to answer that question now, go to your local book store and pick up a copy of the Qur'an (Particularly note Sura 9 aya 5).

I want to draw attention instead to the Christian faith of this young, South Korean that was willing to lay down his life today because of his faith in Christ. As our culture continues to ignore the Islamic incursion we will inevitably face over the next several decades, it will become increasingly more apparent that the only hope for our age is found in the message of Jesus Christ and the example of sacrafice he showed. Instead of ending his life in order to end the lives of others, he laid down his life to give life to millions. The following is a quote from the World War II era that may surprise you. At that time the threat was not Islam, it was Hitler. Yet, while we faced a different enemy, the only hope for salvation was the same:

“Having always been an ardent partisan of freedom, I turned to the Universities, as soon as the revolution broke out in Germany, to find the Universities took refuge in silence. I then turned to the editors of powerful newspapers, who but lately in flowing articles, had claimed to be the faithful champions of liberty. These men, as well as the Universities, were reduced to silence in a few weeks. I then addressed myself to the authors individually, to those who passed themselves off as the intellectual guides of Germany, and among whom many had frequently discussed the question of freedom and its place in modern life. They are in their way turn very dumb. Only the Church opposed the fight which Hitler was waging against liberty. Till then I had no interest in the Church, but now I feel great admiration and am truly attracted to the Church which had the persistent courage to fight for spiritual truth and moral freedom. I feel obliged to confess that I now admire what I used to consider of little value” – (Albert Einstein).

Now a word of caution! Never fall victim to the media's propoganda in denigrating the Church that Jesus purchased with His own spilled blood. And never forget that the Church is Christ's own body. If the world is going to see the example of Christ, it will only be seen in the sacraficial example of His beloved disciples; who make up the greatest institution in the world today; the Church (Ephesians 1:22). May God bless the witness of this young Christian man who gave his life while only seeking to preserve life. And may many people find life as his story is told.