Thursday, April 24, 2014

Pray for Persecution?

In the United States, a great deal of what is considered the church is actually not made up of born again believers who have faith in Jesus.  It is a cultural Christianity, very weak, with similarities to the Europe that Kierkegaard faced in his time.

Much of Christian faith is more of a prosperity gospel or political liberalism, loosely tied if at all to the gospel of Christ dying for our sins, so we could turn from them in faith to Jesus, and be saved.  The prosperity gospel is popular in people who still struggle with or who are sold out to an idol of the heart, greed.  Despite Jesus and Paul both having times of provision and lack, such persons are told that if you have faith God will give you much all the time.  This same prosperity gospel is a problem in Africa today, as in the US.

The political liberalism that changes a church's doctrine away from the gospel is most common in numbers of adherents within United Methodist churches and liberal Baptists (Baptist General Convention of Texas, Virginia's General Baptist Convention, Cooperative Baptist Fellowship, etc), many American (though not all) Episcopals, Evangelical Lutherans, United Church of Christ, etc.  It killed the European churches, by replacing what following Christ means, with a useless set of philosophies which can be summarized in Freud, Nietzsche, and others (later resulting in secular forms of existentialism, etc).  Political liberalism finds its source of knowledge in human reason or ideas as ultimate.  It does not submit to God.  It is therefore subject to fluctuations in human culture (good, bad and ugly), of whatever is celebrated, its churches end up celebrating.  It also dethrones God and raises the words of men and women to the same level or above God.  However this liberalism does not have substantial roots in Asia or Africa or Latin America (at least outside it's Catholic churches which might have some liberation theology peeps).

The well respected Barna Group has found that about 40% of Protestant church attenders are not giving an answer associated with saving faith.  The number is higher in some denominational tribes broadly speaking.

Given such a large group of confused, misled, or outright false professions of faith, many feel it is a good thing if persecution comes to the United States and Canada.

The argument in Christian circles, friend to friend, acquaintance to acquaintance, is that if we just had more persecution then the true and false believers would truly stand out.  Maybe you have heard this too.  An early church leader in explaining to a governor why persecution does not work said something to this effect too.  He said:  "The more often we are mown down by you, the more in number we grow, the blood of Christians is seed."

But is it true always?  No.  An excellent article here shows some examples within it where that does not hold.  To Russia and Albania where that was not true, we can add Japan where Christians were persecuted and which to this day remains apathetic or outright against Christian faith in any substantive form.

1st Thessalonians 4:11 instructs us rather to live quietly and mind our own business as believers.  We are not to get excited about attracting attention that leads to persecution.  Nor are we to give up our business, which is to serve, and to share verbally often, the way to be saved in Jesus.

1st Timothy 2:1-3 gives us insight that we pray for our governing officials so that we may lead quiet and peaceable lives.  Paul does not have in mind saying nothing, but rather being about the gospel rather than about things of the world.  This fits with his admonition elsewhere to be a good solider of Jesus Christ, not distracted by civilian affairs of the world.

In the background of 1st Timothy 2:2 may also be a request from the Roman government to pray for Caesar, but we do not know that for sure.  It was something requested of our Jewish forefathers in the Old Testament however, so it would not be surprising that a Messianic Jew Paul would encourage the same looking back on Israel's exile for the church in his time.

Indeed, while Paul the Apostle was both stoned and beaten with rods for the name of Jesus Christ in his day, he did NOT seek out persecution.  Consider that while seeking to speak boldly (which also we cannot give up) Paul in Acts 9:25 and also 2nd Corinthians 11:33 is said to have been let down in a large basket out of a cities' walls so that he would not be persecuted or killed.  So it is hard to imagine Paul (though it is an argument from silence, but not entirely since we can do a trajectory of his example) praying for persecution.  Likewise Jesus acknowledges persecution will come but does not pray that it will happen.

Paul does rejoice in sufferings, which is a part of his call from the Lord Jesus, but he does not view it as something to pray for in itself.

I agree instead with the statement that faithful living for Jesus probably will draw persecution wherever you are.  You and I are not to seek it out, but it will rise up.  It will vary in how strong by the lost nature of the culture.

Monday, April 7, 2014

A Great Children's Resource for Your Family or Future Kiddos

Sometimes as a parent, when you get fed up with pop books being too bland, and God convicts you to lead well, you seek out those books that are a great fit to tell kids about Jesus.  Once your kids get to a certain age they love hearing stories and you can bring in God's wisdom from the Bible with this resource below.

There are shortened stories that summarize chapters of the Bible for young children in this.  It makes a good bed time read.

Available at Barnes and Noble by clicking here.

Here is the cover of this item:

Also, you might be looking for something useful for really young kids who are just starting to outgrow Duplo blocks, but also wish they could have Legos in advance.  There is a Lego Bible book we have that our four year old loves.  It is called The Brick Bible.  It is pictured below, and you can click here to get it at Barnes and Noble as well:

On the Brick Bible one, you will have to choose which stories you want to share, and there are detailed descriptions of what is going on.