When we look around the world in 2020 we are able to see some enemies or opponents of the Church and Christianity emerging. One of these places is the thinking or ideology that says the religion of Christianity is bigoted, prejudicial, and judgmental. That Christianity is not compatible with today’s meaning of what equity and justice is. Proponents of this ideology say that the Church needs to rewrite their book of religion and change their thinking to line up with modern ideas. The consequences of not doing this, they say, is that Christianity should be removed from society because it is a threat to world justice, peace, and governance. The Church is being portrayed in increasingly negative ways in the media because of this ideology.
Some in the church believe that if they bend and make some accommodations for this thinking they can avoid being targeted. That those who hate them will leave them alone. I think what we are seeing right now in our society is the buildup of open and overt hate toward the Church. The church will need to come to grips with this reality. Things will not be getting better in the long term and it need to decide where the red line is. At what point is the Church going to stand its’ ground and set the boundaries for what is acceptable and tolerable. This needs to be discussed and worked out soon.
One thing we know is that the Church will risk it all if it ignores what the Word of God says. The Bible scriptures cannot be compromised and rewritten to avoid present day persecution. The early Church in Acts suffered persecution because their writings and practices did not conform to Judaism or the gods of the nations around them. God judged those who compromised him as is recorded in the OT and the NT.
The Church may be facing persecution in the near future. It needs to be preparing its’ people for this occurrence and encouraging believers to trust God with their future no matter the outcome. This lifespan on earth is short and I think Churches need to emphasize the eternal glory that is ahead for those who will lean on God’s courage and stand with Him. We have a serious decision to make.
Joshua 24:15 “If it is disagreeable in your sight to serve the Lord, choose for yourselves today whom you will serve… as for me and my house, we will serve the Lord. “
“My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me. (2 Corinthians 12:9 )
I think we often forget that Christ can use our weaknesses to minister to others in the body of Christ and to others around us. We may think that our weaknesses disqualify us from ministry. I think of my own life and the place that I come from. Looking back over the past I see an abusive marriage of 30+ years, the loss of supportive and meaningful family relationships, depression and anxiety, loneliness and isolation. I see learned helplessness and a defeatist response to uncontrollable circumstances. Yet I find that I can still minister to others from these places of grayness and dinginess in my life. God still uses me.
Why is that? I think that 2 Corinthians 12:9 is a good answer. God doesn’t need us to be on top of the world to make a difference. We can look at some Biblical examples of Paul, Jeremiah, Elijah, and see that these men often ministered out of difficult situations and circumstances. Jeremiah lamented his whole existence before God. Elijah was triumphant one moment and then in abject depression the next. Paul declares in Second Corinthians that he is at his best when he is at his weakest because then it is God’s power at work.
God’s ways are not the ways of the world and we need to encourage ourselves in this fact and reality. God has not excluded us from ministry. In fact it is often our up and down experiences in life that birth places of ministry and encouragement to others inside and outside the body of Christ.
Psalm 101:7 ‘No one who practices deceit shall dwell in my house; no one who utters lies shall continue before my eyes.’
Colossians 3:9-10 ‘Do not lie to one another, seeing that you have put off the old self with its practices and have put on the new self, which is being renewed in knowledge after the image of its creator.’
Many elite and ordinary people believe that lying is OK. A testimony given recently by a young person about his own friends and acquaintances was, “everyone lies all the time, I don’t know why, they just do”
Jesus teaches in John 8:44 “You belong to your father, the devil, and you want to carry out your father’s desires. He was a murderer from the beginning, not holding to the truth, for there is no truth in him. When he lies, he speaks his native language, for he is a liar and the father of lies.” In this verse Jesus tells us where intentional lies are coming from. The devil.
Many people today are facing rapid moral decline. This is not where they intended to be in their life. However, they have made choices that have directed their steps, and one of these choices has been to ‘tell a lie’.
The Bible is clear that no liars will enter the kingdom of God. Revelation 21:8 says, “But as for the cowardly, the faithless, the detestable, as for murderers, the sexually immoral, sorcerers, idolaters, and all liars, their portion will be in the lake that burns with fire and sulfur, which is the second death.”
Lying is not OK according to God. This practice is not OK because it is a part of our culture or because ‘everyone is doing it’. I had an experience a few days ago where two automobile shop employees lied to me about my car’s need for a $240.00 anti-freeze flush. When I went for a second opinion I found out that my car’s antifreeze capacity was more than adequate.
These two automobile shop employees not only lied to me, but they also emphasized how dangerous it was to the operation of my car to not have this service done immediately. Their whole presentation was a lie and a scam.
I’ve been reading the accounts of biblical leadership in several New Testament books. What did this biblical leadership look like and what did they do as Christian leaders?
In the case of the Apostle Paul we see great hardship and sacrifice on behalf of Christ and believers. Being a strong leader to the Gentiles he often took the brunt of opposition. He was the one who faced jail and frequent beatings by officials and stoning by the mob. Paul says in I Cor 4:9, “For I think that God hath set forth us the apostles last, as it were appointed to death: for we are made a spectacle unto the world, and to angels, and to men.”
Sacrifice and service is a recurring theme within the books of the NT concerning the apostles. Paul encourages Timothy to endure hardship as a good soldier of Jesus Christ. Certain of the apostles became pillars in the House of God, teaching, establishing doctrine, and encouraging the faith of believers. They nurtured new believers holding these converts in special care and regard for Christ and for their future eternal hope as joint heirs with Christ. Paul stated, “Yea, and if I be offered upon the sacrifice and service of your faith, I joy, and rejoice with you all.” (Philippians 2:17)
II Corinthians 12:15 “I will very gladly spend and be spent for you; though the more abundantly I love you, the less I be loved.”
II Corinthians 12:19 “we do all thing, dearly beloved, for your edifying.”
There was great reliance on the Holy Spirit by these leaders. There is no doubt that the early church apostles and leaders could not have done what they did as testified to in the New Testament scriptures without God’s help and strength.
In Genesis 50:15-21 we see a good example of how to repent of our sins and actions toward man and/or toward God. Josephs brothers had been grieved by their actions done many years earlier of selling Joseph into slavery in order to get rid of him. They had been jealous and resentful of him because their father Jacob favored Joseph over them.
In Genesis 50:17 the brothers and Joseph are living in Egypt because of a severe famine in Canaan. Joseph had been promoted by Pharaoh to being second in command in Egypt. Jacob had died and the brothers were fearful that Joseph would now exact his revenge on them and perhaps their families because of what they had done to him.
In their repentance toward Joseph they acknowledged their sinful actions. They confessed that they had done evil. They asked for forgiveness. They reminded Joseph of their long born sorrow and grief. They went to Joseph and fell down and submitted themselves to him as his servants to try and make up for what they had done to him.
Joseph’s reaction is just and right. He weeps for the repentance that he sees in his brothers. He reassures his brothers that he has no ill intent toward them or their families. He comforts them, and assures them, and speaks kindly toward them the scripture says.
The Bible says that when we sin we also can repent and ask forgiveness of God. We are to acknowledge our sin before God and submit ourselves to him. The Bible says that God is just to forgive our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.
There is division in Christian thinking about whether it is ok to open up churches at this time or not.
One thought is that by opening up churches there is potential to increase the spread of the coronavirus to family members, friends, and neighbors. These believers say by risking this increased infection Christians are not being loving or kind to others. They feel an obligation to do everything possible to minimize the risk to themselves and others.
The other thought is that churches need to be open. These believers feel the need to gather together, encourage each other, and to maintain the essentialness of churches in our communities. There is a general feeling that churches are being hindered with restrictions by our government that are not being applied similarly to other venues and gatherings. These Christians feel that the church is under a threat.
Christians who are going to church at this time are being derided by Christians who feel strongly about staying away from larger gatherings for the foreseeable future. I’m not sure why this is occurring. If they would rather stay at home they have the freedom to do so. Somehow this situation has evolved into Christians saying to others who attend church, “you’re not a good Christian because you are being reckless with other people’s lives.” “The church has an obligation to shut down until the virus is no longer a threat, this is the loving thing to do.”
I am wondering if the motive for this is fear. A fearfulness of the virus spreading and becoming more readily contractible by themselves or members of their family. This does not justify their anger at others who either choose to, or perhaps need to, be more exposed. People have to go to work. Financial supports that enabled people to stay at home are coming to an end.
This also does not justify our governing authorities issuing directives for churches to close. Most people will not have a serious infection with the COVID-19 virus. This coronavirus is less deadly than originally predicted. The risk and death rate at this time is apparently similar to the annual flu.
Population lock-downs in the West are inevitably having other negative side effects around the world. A recent report from recognized world sources states the following concerning the coronavirus lock-downs: “It’s a timely reminder that the the main cost of the lock-downs favored by liberal policy-makers across the world will not be people in the West, but those hovering just above the poverty line in the developing world”
“Thanks to the misguided enthusiasm of Western governments for imprisoning entire populations in their homes, thereby triggering a global recession, tens of millions of people will die of starvation in low-income countries.”
I have been reading some challenging posts online by well known Christian ministry about ‘why didn’t the churches who operate in the prophetic gifting warn believers that the COVID-19 coronavirus was about to be unleashed on the world in 2020? The conclusion that some of these ministries have come to is that this is proof to the church world that prophecy is a hoax and that churches who operate in this gift are false prophets and charlatan liars. I don’t think that this is an exaggeration of what is being said by these ministries.
We read about prophecy given in the OT and the NT in the Bible. In the OT prophecy is usually proceeded by the prophet saying something like ‘hear the Word of the Lord’. Other times prophecy in the OT scriptures is embedded within a verse or chapter of a book. An example of this is Isaiah 53 which prophecies of the work of the coming Christ. In the NT an example we have is of a prophet declaring a coming famine throughout all the world in Acts 11:27-30. In this example several prophets had come from Jerusalem to Antioch.
The main reason given for this condemnation of prophecy by these ministries is the apparent lack of notice to the church of a coming world coronavirus pandemic. When we look at prophecy examples in scripture sometimes a time declaration is made about when a prophecy will come to pass and sometimes there is no set timeline given. In the case of the famine prophesied in the book of Acts it was likely several months or even years before it occurred. Some OT prophecies took place hundreds of years after being declared by the prophet. It is impossible for online prophecy critics today to go back into years of past prophecies to try and determine if a prophecy was given at some point that would have referenced a pandemic or a world wide crisis that was to come.
It is for this reason and others that I believe that these online critics are not standing on solid ground when they declare prophecy to be a hoax. It is not possible for them to provide Biblical proof of what they are stating so boldly. Prophecy is not a current events fore-teller. It can have this purpose, but I don’t believe based on scripture that this is the main purpose of prophecy. Scripture in the NT says that these gifts are given to the church to instruct and encourage. To build up the body into the image of the fullness of Christ.
I think that these online critics are playing an out of tune flute for believers and are mostly riding hobby horses that they have had embedded deeply into their hearts and minds over a period of years. Because of this they may have become unteachable by the Holy Spirit.
Reading the book of Jude with the question ‘is salvation from God once given never lost?’ what does this book say. Jude says that he is talking to the reader about the common salvation and the need to contend for the faith. He gives the example of how the children of Israel were saved by God and afterward were destroyed because they believed not. He gives the example of how angels who left their first place by their own volition are now reserved unto darkness and judgment. He talks about Sodom and Gomorrah who gave themselves over to fornication and the seeking of strange flesh who will suffer the vengeance of eternal fire.
If we look at these examples as instructive for us, they would seem to tell us that we need to keep ourselves from unbelief, self serving ambition, and sexual sins in order to avoid destruction and judgment. “Keep yourselves in the love of God, looking for the mercy of our Lord Jesus Christ unto eternal life” Jude says. This is an admonishment that we need to be diligent and not liaise-fair toward the faith of God delivered at one time to the saints. False teachers will come in walking after their own ungodly lusts and turn many to ungodly teaching and falsehoods.
Based on what Jude exhorts in this book I would say that once saved, always saved, is not an entirely correct teaching according to Bible scripture. We do need to walk with God and turn away from and deny our fleshly lusts in order to secure our salvation.
We read in the Bible the ‘Revelation of Jesus Christ’ and some of the accounts written there of events that will occur during the time of tribulation and of events that lead up to this time. These events are catastrophic in their nature and impact in the earth. We find it difficult to conceive or imagine such destruction. I was saved in 1982. During the early days of my Christian walk with Christ there was really no concept of how some of these scriptures in Revelation could be possible or come about. Computers were just coming onto the retail scene at that time and large businesses were just beginning to install computers to manage information. A lot has happened over the last thirty five years. We see more clearly today how the control over people talked about in Revelation is possible. Some of this control involves forcing people to receive a ‘mark of the beast’ and controlling the ability of someone to buy or sell. This indicates extreme control.
All of this is in the realm of possibility today and is currently being built as an information infrastructure called 5G throughout the whole world. All of this technology has taken place within a very short period of time. Change is happening so quickly that most people are being overtaken by it. This gives us a picture of what the shocking possibilities may be during the next thirty plus years going forward. Artificial intelligence has now come onto the world scene and is commonly being accepted. Concerts performed by deceased artists are now capable of being offered through hollogram technology. Environmental, social, and culture movements today are threatening to take people back to life as it was in the time of the post-industrial era. The Book of Revelation gives some indication of this happening as it talks of wooden chariots being piled up and burned at the very end.
The Bible book of Revelation talks about a Beast, the image of the Beast, and a False Prophet. This Beast is a tyrant and is ruthless. Without conscience, without mercy, without empathy. It is not hard to imagine an image of this Beast being possible through the world of technology that is being developed today. Some say today the False Prophet is the apostate church. A worldly representation of the church that finds itself so far away from Christ in the end that it is thrown into the Lake of Fire with the devil.
We are definitely living in the last of the last days.