Guest Blog about the Ukraine Crisis

This is a guest blog from Christianity Today; always good reading and accurate information.
As Russia Invades Ukraine, Pastors Stay to Serve, Pray … and Resist

(UPDATED February 24, 2022 01:55 PM) Prayer requests from Donetsk: “First, to stop the aggressor. But then for peace of mind, to respond with Christian character and not from human hate.”
by Jayson Casper

2022-02-26 Death in Ukraine

As Russia invaded Ukraine today, pressing near even to the capital of Kyiv, a Baptist home was destroyed and a seminary shaken by nearby blasts. Local sources told CT, however, that no churches or Christian buildings had been attacked so far. Top of Form

President Vladimir Putin announced his forces were targeting only military installations. He also asserted that Ukraine does not truly exist as a nation.

Igor Bandura, vice president of the Baptist Union, the largest Protestant body in Ukraine, heard about collateral damage to the home of a Baptist in Donetsk during a Zoom call with his 25 regional superintendents. Minus one. On the front lines of the eastern Donbas region, the Baptist leader from the occupied territory of Luhansk was unable to join.

But from the town of Chasov Yor on the front lines in neighboring Donetsk — in an area then still under Ukrainian government control — Bandura learned the local assessment.

He was told, “People don’t want to be under Russian control. But they feel helpless. What can ordinary people do? Pray and remain calm.”

This was the message put out by the Ukrainian Council of Churches and Religious Organizations (UCCRO), a day after its appeal to Putin went unanswered. Ukraine’s chief rabbi invited Christian leaders to recite Psalm 31 together.

The UCCRO stated, “We urge you to remain calm, not to give in to panic, and to comply with the orders of the Ukrainian state and military authorities. The truth and the international community are on the Ukrainian side. We believe that good will prevail, with God’s help.”

Thousands of Ukrainians fled west as Russian missiles hit targets throughout the nation. Ukraine’s Ministry of Internal Affairs reported hundreds of instances of shelling.

President Volodymyr Zelensky announced by video shortly after midnight that 137 Ukrainians died during the invasion’s first day. “They are killing people and transforming peaceful cities into military targets. That’s villainous and will never be forgiven,”  he said, according to The New York Times.

Valentin Siniy, president of Traviski Christian Institute (TCI) in Kherson, about 50 miles from Crimea, had to evacuate his seminary along with a team of Bible translators as Russian helicopters attacked local targets.

He told CT, “The majority of old pastors of the churches stayed in the cities. Youth leaders started evacuating young people. We managed to purchase a van with 20 seats in order to evacuate people. About 30 people are in a safe place now, in western Ukraine. There are about 40 more people driving west [in] vehicles that are in bad condition.” Meanwhile his church has opened its basement to shelter neighbors living in multi-story buildings from bombings.

Yuriy Kulakevych, foreign affairs director of the Ukrainian Pentecostal Church said, “I and all ministers stay in Kyiv. We continue our intercessory prayers, talk to people to reduce panic, and help those in need.”

In Kamyanka, 145 miles south, Vadym Kulynchenko of Our Legacy Ukraine reported that his church had already started to receive refugees from the east. Temporary shelter will be provided, and the main needs are food, medicine, fuel, hygiene products, and air mattresses. Bombs hit three infrastructure centers in his city.

Kulynchenko asked, “Please pray for disciple-making in the country, safety for our people, and generosity in the midst of war, and also for discernment, as there is a lot of fake news.”

Kyiv Theological Seminary (KTS) had earlier issued a general warning. A communications professor wrote on Tuesday, “Generating panic through the spread of manipulative false information is exactly what the enemy seeks. This war is not as much for our territories, as it is for our soul and our mind.” On Thurs, KTS cited Isaiah 41:10 as it urged its Facebook audience “not to panic, but to remember how many times God in His Word says ‘don’t be afraid.’” The seminary noted that fear equals paralysis, while prayer, trust in God, and love of neighbor all give strength.

With a “leaden heart,” Taras Dyatlik. the Overseas Council regional director for Eastern Europe and Central Asia, wrote to supporters of theological education of the many prayer needs currently facing his fellow church and seminary leaders in Ukraine — including receiving refugees into their dorms. “Many of them are thinking about evacuation of their workers and faculty and students within Ukraine, and some do not have any possibility to evacuate.” He asked for prayer for families, including his own, as Ukraine’s announcement of total mobilization “means many students, graduates, faculty will be called for military duty to serve in the army and participate in the combats.” And he requested prayer for the spouses of male leaders. Since all men ages 18 to 60 are no longer allowed to leave the country, he said many wives are staying as well. “Today I talked to [my wife] about evacuation out of Ukraine. She immediately refused and said: ‘I will be with you to the very end.’”

Students at Ukraine Evangelical Theological Seminary (UETS) outside Kyiv were instructed to shelter in place as military battled at a nearby airport, according to the school’s director of English language services, Josh Tokar. Those on campus are scared but not panicked, he said. The seminary president sent out a message from Psalm 27: “The Lord is my light and my salvation— whom shall I fear?”

Bandura did not resonate with the call for calm. He said of Putin’s rhetoric, “Who are you to say our nation doesn’t exist? The truth is with us, and God is with us. We want to live in peace, but if Russia wants to take this from us, let us fight.”

While some Ukrainians favor Russia, he said, half the population is ready to personally defend their nation. Pictures have circulated of grandmothers with guns. A recent CNN poll, meanwhile, found 13 percent of Ukrainians in favor of Russia’s use of force to reunite the two nations. Only 36 percent of Russians were in favor. (73 percent and 43 percent disagreed, respectively.)

The Russian Evangelical Alliance (REA) conveyed its support for the UCCRO appeal for peacemaking initiatives. Vladimir Vlasenko, REA general secretary stated, “All evangelical Christians pray every day and ask the Almighty to give wisdom to all, to preserve the fragile peace and not to plunge our countries into fratricidal conflict.”

“We see no justification for these actions and are deeply distressed by the death, destruction, chaos, and misery that will result,” stated Thomas Bucher, secretary general of the European Evangelical Alliance, according to Evangelical Focus. He stated, “The invasion of Ukraine is both unjustified and unprovoked. It has been claimed that the attack is necessary to protect ethnic Russians within Ukraine and to stop Ukraine from threatening Russia. These claims are untrue. This disaster has been provoked into being by President Putin for wider geopolitical purposes.”

In Rivne in western Ukraine, local officials directed all churches to remain open, with church leaders staying in touch with residents to help coordinate aid as well as military equipment as needed. Many in Ukraine are showing resilience.

Siniy said, “Our prayer today is that God’s will spreads on Earth as it is in Heaven. I encourage my staff and other Christian leaders that the mission stays the same even if we have to change geography.”

Staff at New Life Radio in Odessa, on the Black Sea coast, watched missiles fly past their homes. They told Evangelical Focus they are taking actions to hide equipment and preserve broadcasting, in case the station is raided in the near future.

Vasyl Ostryi, a pastor at Irpin Bible Church 18 miles northwest of Kyiv and a KTS professor of youth ministry, has also decided to stay. He wrote for The Gospel Coalition, “When this is over, the citizens of Kyiv will remember how Christians have responded in their time of need. We will shelter the weak, serve the suffering, and mend the broken. And as we do, we offer the unshakable hope of Christ and his gospel.”

YouVersion noted a spike among Ukrainian and Russian users of its popular Bible App over the past three weeks: searches for “fear” increased 11 percent; searches for “peace” increased 44 percent. People are praying in city streets.

2022-02-26 Ukrainians Praying in the Street

“We printed Bibles for 2022 and we are now in second month of the year and the stock in our warehouse is almost gone,” Anatoliy Raychynets, deputy general secretary of the Ukrainian Bible Society, told Eternity News shortly before the invasion. “In our churches — whether it is Orthodox, Catholic, Protestant, or Evangelical churches — there are more new people. Not only on Sundays or Saturdays, but also during the week,” he told the Australian Bible Society news service. “On evenings when we have a Bible study, new people are coming. They want to pray, to hear something that brings hope or comfort.”

Rick Perhai, director of advanced degrees at KTS, said the international church he pastors in Kyiv has several leaders recommending the congregation continue its worship this coming Sunday. Some of their expat members have fled; others want to stay and join the fight. He laments that the enemy is seeking to destroy Ukraine as its Christians grow more and more poised to carry the gospel to surrounding nations. Nonetheless, he is praying for the Russians, asking for God to grant them repentance.

But his petition is also imprecatory. He said, “Pray that the nation of Russia would tire of their tyrant’s rantings at home and abroad and that they would remove him.”

Dyatlik also requested prayer for “the truth,” citing all the “perspectives” in the media. “We did not invite the war. The Kremlin and Vladimir Putin brought it to Ukraine. … There is moral evaluation of the acts of aggression like this,” wrote the theological educator. “These acts have biblical definition and biblical evaluation. Please pray for the spiritual discernment about these things.” Dyatlik closed his prayer letter with requests for believers on both sides of the conflict:

“Please pray about Russian Christians that they would raise their prayers and voice toward Russian government to stop the aggression; [that they] would not keep silent; please pray for the Western governments, of the US and European Union.

“Finally, please pray about Ukrainian Christians, that we will serve and live as the community of hope in a full sense of this term; that during these terrible times we would invite more and more people to the relationships with God and His children, to the relationships of love, hope, encouragement, support; that our minds and characters would continue to transform into the character of Jesus Christ.”

Western nations have roundly condemned Putin, and readied sanctions. Reports circulated of Russians lining up at ATMs to withdraw their cash, fearful the nation would be cut off from the international banking system.

Meanwhile in Donetsk, where 25 missionary teams have been working to establish churches, gas lines require a wait of hours for a rationed supply of five gallons. Grocery stories suffer empty shelves, as Ukrainians stock up on emergency food and water.

Bandura conveys his supervisor’s two main prayer requests: “First, to stop the aggressor. But then for peace of mind, to respond with Christian character and not from human hate.”

Guest Blog: My Six-Month Experiment with Christianity Turned into 12 Months, Then 24 …

How the son of a Hindu priest gradually made his peace with the “unfairness” of the Cross.
by Dr. Chris Goswami

2022-01-08 Chris Goswami

Even at the distance of over 40 years, I still remember having my fingerprints documented for my criminal record. It was the first time in my life I had felt ashamed about anything.

The young police constable was pleasant enough as he gently guided me through the process of fingers, thumbs, and ink pads. He was sensitive to the sense of grief originating from a single sound in the room: the uncontrollable weeping of my distraught mother sitting a few feet away, as my father tried quietly calming her.

As recent immigrants to the UK from India, they were confused and shocked. They had wrenched themselves from established lives as schoolteachers. They had traveled to England by sea, working in a shoe factory and selling bus tickets so that my brother and I could go to school. For families immigrating from the Indian subcontinent, providing an education for their children was (and still is) the driving priority. So when my parents discovered that their teenage son had spent years secretly engaging in arson and shoplifting just “for fun,” they could barely comprehend it.

Sometimes it takes the tears of a loved one to stop us in our tracks and focus our minds on where we’ve gone wrong. But what exactly was I ashamed of? My mother’s grief had brought sudden clarity about the damage I had caused to my family — shameful, lasting damage. It dawned on me that there really is a moral law in the universe, and I had overstepped it. Actions had consequences, just as my family had taught me. The Hindu idea of karma, I had learned, is that you get what you deserve. Here was karma, spectacularly demonstrated.

Debating Christianity
I am the son of a Hindu priest who was himself the son of a Hindu priest. In the working-class English town where I grew up, life revolved around our close-knit Indian community. We regularly met in temples or public halls to celebrate religious festivals and holidays. I never once heard the gospel in my first 18 years. My understanding had always been that “Christian” meant you were white and British, and no one ever suggested otherwise.

But then I left home for university and — by some divinely orchestrated coincidence — got to know a bunch of Christians. To me, they were do-gooders: nice enough people who just did not have their heads screwed on straight when it came to being rational. They would take me along to meetings where someone would present a Christian message or testimony. Afterwards, we would debate what seemed (to me) like the many holes in their arguments. Despite my skepticism, these good Christian students adopted me as some kind of “project.” I did not share their faith, but their friendship and concern moved me.

You see, there was always one roadblock on my journey to understanding Christianity, one concept that, in my view, was immoral and unacceptable: the idea of grace. The notion of someone else suffering shame and pain for the wrongs I had chalked up was absurd and repugnant. To me, grace and karma were complete opposites. Karma is logical; it feels right. It is fair. Karma is what happened in the police station that day.

This attitude persisted for some time, until one of my friends, Alex, commented thoughtfully, “Chris, you can argue forever about the unfairness of the Cross. In many ways you’re absolutely right. Or, you can accept that this man Jesus died because he loves you. It’s up to you.”

Still carrying my doubts, I worked out a way to give this Christian thing a try: Make the commitment, say the prayer, and see what happens over the next six months. I reckoned I would know in that time if it was true or not. What was there to lose?

The six months became 12, and then 24 (mainly because I continued to enjoy the social life of church). I graduated in engineering and began studying toward a PhD. But I was a lazy Christian. I barely picked up a Bible, prayer was an annoying afterthought, and I only went to church if I felt like it, which was not often.

One day, my Anglican minister, David, made a suggestion. He said I should get baptized. I was appalled at the thought. Genuinely horrified. The exact words in my head were: “Baptism is something you Brits do to your babies — why are you talking to me about this?” I had seen infant baptisms on TV — was this fellow seriously suggesting wrapping me up in a white gown and dunking my head in a bowl?

Despite my recoiling, David persisted, and he showed me in Scripture where the baptism of adults took place. I was still unnerved by the whole thing. It sounded crazy. But David gently advised that I should make a decision: Accept the faith, all of it, or reject it. Eventually, I consented. And so, one quiet evening in March 1984, I found myself at the first baptism service I ever attended — my own. I still recall my bewilderment as I noticed the sprinkling of water falling from my head onto the pages of the service book in my hands and wondered, for a second, if I might get into trouble. I did not! And God honored that small act of obedience.

The Wilderness Year
Within days, even hours, of my baptism, I felt a restless urge to quit studying and “do something different.” (Only much later would I come to understand what it means to experience a baptism of the Holy Spirit.) After a few unsuccessful applications for jobs in Zambia and Kenya, I got a position lecturing at an engineering college in India.

I had grand ideas — mainly based on English college life — of what my sojourn in India would look like. However, it was nothing like that. The school, only partially built, was located in a remote part of the country. I was told to teach computing with no computers, and for several months I had a “laboratory” with nothing in it — just a bare room. Meanwhile, I lived in a small village outside the college town, in a humble dwelling with intermittent power, no running water, and scary wildlife — including “snakes and scorpions” (Luke 10:19) — wandering around outside.

Worst of all, I felt suddenly and terribly alone. Though eventually I made some truly great friends, those first few weeks were unbearably lonely. There was no church, and there were no other Christians. In short, I hated it. In the evenings, I could just see airplanes flying into the horizon toward distant lands. I dearly wished I was on board. There were frequent tears — I couldn’t understand what I was doing.

Later in my faith journey, I could see that this was a “wilderness” experience of the sort many other Christians have shared. It’s a model we receive from Jesus himself. Sometimes it is exactly what God needs to break through a hard heart.

After some weeks, I discovered a small fellowship that met in another town. Every Sunday morning, I would ride a jam-packed bus to get there, which involved struggling mightily just to climb aboard. This was hard but encouraging all at once. I remember distinctly hearing God say, “Chris, when your fellowship was a short walk down the road in England, you could not be bothered to go. Now you will fight to go.” I was broken, but I was also being remade.

Those surprised and wonderful Indian Christians welcomed me from the day they set eyes on me. Every Sunday became an entire day at their house, complete with meals, conversations, love, and support. During those months, with their help, I grew enormously in faith. I began devouring Scripture — sometimes for hours in a day — and I discovered a God who wanted me to depend on him, a God who knew me and spoke to me. A God who was not a six-month experiment.

That year included another unexpected blessing: a chance to travel north overnight and meet my previously unknown set of cousins, aunts, and uncles. They are Christian. (My mother had actually given up her nominal Christian faith when she married my Hindu father.) And they were able to introduce me to a much wider range of Indian church experiences.

At the end of that year, on my return to the UK, folks in that small Anglican church (who had also supported me through the year with letters and recordings) barely recognized me. “You’ve completely changed!” they would invariably say.

Incomprehensible Grace
Since then, I have married my lovely Christian wife, Alison (I think she also adopted me as a project!). We now have three wonderful daughters in their 20s. Around 10 years ago, while working in the telecommunications industry, I began training as a Baptist minister. Today, I help lead a small English church while keeping a part-time role in the tech world.

God has answered many prayers over the years, while leaving many others unanswered. We have endured our share of family crises, but in Christ I have an anchor in those storms. If you’re looking for an easy ticket through life, the Christian faith is not it. But if you want purpose, meaning, and direction, here is a narrative, a grand story, in which you have your own essential part to play. And most importantly, you get the incomparable privilege of intimately knowing the Author.

I should say that my mother’s driving ambition was also fulfilled. I ended up with a bunch of university degrees — I really hope it makes up for that day in the police station! But she got more than she bargained for, becoming a Christian during her own life crisis, after my father left us in my teens amid considerable family sadness. She passed away a few years ago as part of a loving, faithful congregation in that same small town where we grew up.

I don’t understand grace, even now. The Cross is appallingly unfair. I suspect I’ll never have it entirely figured out, at least in this lifetime. But I’m thankful that because of God’s grace, I can love Him and commit my life to Him even as He and his grace lie outside my capacity to fully understand.
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Chris Goswami, PhD, is Associate Pastor at Lymm Baptist Church, Vice President of Communications at Enea Openwave. His writing appears on his website, 7minutes.net.

Guest Blog – Jennifer Bagnaschi; DeepBeliever.com; Prep for the Great Tribulation

Some folks bought property in the Rockies to “survive” the “Y2K problem” that never occurred.  Would have been nice if they had invited anyone else, but they went alone to the mountains, as would have been the case if they had invited me, anyway.
My life is in Christ Jesus, and if I live, it is for Him; if I die, that is also for Him.  Jennifer explains this phenomenon of prepping for the Great Tribulation better than I could (with some minor edits).  A couple more blogs in the works on prophecy, and one on The Final Mercy of God coming soon.  But if Jesus returns before I post them, we may have to talk them over in Heaven. 😁  Hope to see you there.
c.a.
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Can you really prep for the Great Tribulation? What are the chances if you could?

This world has gone stark crazy! My husband and I like to joke and say that we are living in the Matrix, but I wonder if there is some truth to that. Since world powers and entities have designed such a state of panic and chaos over the very soil God gave us dominion over, it has birthed widespread pandemonium! In response, thousands have begun to prep for The Great Tribulation mentioned in the Book of Revelation.

What does it mean to “prep”? It simply means to prepare. But some important questions must be asked, “Can you really prepare for the Great Tribulation considering its severity?
And more importantly, “Did Jesus tell us to prep for it?” Let’s dive into it.

If You Plan to Prep for the Great Tribulation, Consider the Following:
The Military Can See Through Walls
It is true! Within the past 10 years, MIT and a Czech radar manufacturer have developed high-end technology that can detect walking, limb movement, and even breathing behind walls. You may be thinking, “Well, not behind concrete!” But oh, touché, they can! As of 2011, it has gone public and is now in the hands of the military.

So if you are hoping to hide out off-grid for seven years during the Great Tribulation, and build yourself a nice sturdy compound in the middle of the Amazon Rain Forest, you may be out of luck.

Living Off-Grid Has Become Illegal
2021-09-25 Just be ReadySince we are on the topic of off-grid living, did you know that living off-grid is now illegal? Well, in the Divided United States it is.

There are some people who just want to live a life away from all of the hustle and bustle; therefore, they choose to live with nature. Building their own homes, growing their own food, chopping their own wood while enjoying the ease of having solar panels for energy — this has become good enough for them. But since these are the End Times — based on the Word of God and the fulfillment of prophecy, these God-given human rights have come under attack.

An 81-year-old man named David Lidstone from New Hampshire was recently arrested and placed in jail for living in the woods, off-grid for 27 years. The cabin that had been his home for almost three decades is in grave jeopardy of being demolished. But this is only one of many stories!

Therefore, if you are planning on living off-grid during the Great Tribulation, more than likely you will be sought out, as it is now (pre-Tribulation) criminal to keep your private residence . . . private! An existence without government knowledge will be far more illegal than it is now.

Body Scanners
I am not certain on this one as of yet, therefore, it is hearsay. But there has been chatter about body scanners that will detect if a person has been injected with the Covid-19 “jab.” Whether it is true or not, it is an idea that is out there. If it is already out there, that means it is likely a consideration.

I personally believe that the “jab” is a precursor to the Mark of the Beast. (No, I do not believe the current vax is the “mark”.) Remember, the devil is the great imitator. Just like God does dress rehearsals, the enemy copies.

What am I saying here? If there is talk of body scanners for the “jab,” then there will more than likely be body scanners for the Mark of the Beast. Therefore, it would be extremely difficult to fake the “mark” if that would be a part of your prepping plan.

Underground Bunkers
Comparable to WWII, the Nazis had dogs trained to smell out those hiding in complex places and spaces, and this included underground shelters and bunkers. Some dog breeds can pick up scents and odors 40 feet deep. So if you were thinking about hiding underground for seven years, you are going to need more than your standardized shovel.

Firearms
Sure, you have your firearms ready; you may even know a little martial arts; but ask yourself, “Would bullets and Kung Fu be able to stop robotic policemen and dogs with unbelievable strength?” That has already been established.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=uhND7Mvp3f4&t=1s
2021-09-25 Robots to the Rescue

Door-To-Door Confiscation
One of the most popular End Time words floating around nowadays is “prep.” There’s absolutely nothing wrong with prepping, especially for known upcoming shortages or possible emergencies. I have friends who are prepped with enough water, food, and firewood for a year, and I am impressed! Our family stocks up as well, it does not hurt — but would it hold during the Great Tribulation?

2021-09-25 I Saw God Last NightLet’s weigh it based on the Holocaust of the 1930s thru the 1940s. During the reign of Adolf Hitler, Nazi soldiers were ordered to go door-to-door looking for Jews. If they were found, they were taken from their homes unwillingly (most times). Not only were they ripped from their houses, but their belongings were confiscated, as well.

People can prep for the Great Tribulation until the cows come home, but if that time period will be the worst the world will ever experience, then the Holocaust would be minuscule compared to what is to come. Therefore, everything you have prepped for will eventually be in the possession of the anti-Christ. Whatever was done during WWII will be repeated, enhanced, and polished for the devil’s inevitable “field day” on earth.

With all that being said, you cannot prep for the Great Tribulation, unless you:

  1. Take the Mark of the Beast with zero chance of making it to Heaven.
  2. Plan on getting decapitated.
  3. Somehow, skillfully figure out how to make it through seven years of the most dangerous times in history.
  4. Be ready for Jesus Christ to rescue you instead of having to go through the Great Tribulation.

All hands on deck, I choose #4!

When I read through the Old Testament of when the Lord rescued Noah and his family from the Great Flood after warning them to be ready, and how God sent his angel to snatch Lot and his family from Sodom and Gomorrah after warning them of its destruction, I fell in love with Jesus all over again!

He never goes outside of His character and neither does He change. The fact that He rescued the righteous while giving them a “heads up” coincides with what He also instructs us to do in Matthew 24:42-44: “Watch therefore, for you do not know what hour your Lord will come. But know this, that if the owner of the house had known what hour the thief would come, he would have watched and not have let his house be broken into. Therefore you also must be ready, for in an hour when you least expect, the Son of Man is coming.”

We are instructed to watch and be ready for Jesus to take us to be with Him. If you are prepping for the Great Tribulation, you are looking for the anti-Christ instead of the Christ.

The Bible says the children of God are not subject to God’s wrath (1 Thessalonians 5:9), which is why we are not the ones crying out, “Hide us from the wrath of the Lamb,” in the Book of Revelation (Revelation 6:12-17). Jesus urged us to pray that we are found worthy to escape the horrors to come (Luke 21:36).

Do not forget that Jesus also assured us that, “If I go and prepare a place for you, I will come back and take you to be with Me that you also may be where I am” (John 14:3). That is His promise to us that He is going to take us to be with Him to a place He has prepared for us.

All throughout scripture, the Lord has a great track record of protecting and withdrawing His children from great catastrophes. I was amazed when I read the surety of Isaiah 26:19-21 when the Lord tells us to come into His chambers for a little while until the indignation passes. And who can forget the famous scripture: “Then we which are alive and remain shall be caught up together with them in the clouds, to meet the Lord in the air: and so shall we ever be with the Lord.” 1 Thessalonians 4:17

And it concludes with, “Comfort one another with these words” (1 Thessalonians 4:18). There is no comfort at all in going through a real-life horror show for seven whole years! But Jesus Christ promised us an escape, a way out, and that is only through Him. We do not want to be like the five foolish virgins who did not make it into the chambers of the Bridegroom (Matthew 25:1-13). We want to be the ones always watching, waiting, ready, and prepping for His promise to gather us up in the sky with Him. (It does not sound crazy when you remember that Enoch, Elijah, and Jesus were raptured up, too.)

https://deepbeliever.com/you-cannot-prep-for-the-great-tribulation-unless/
2021-09-25 DeepBeliever

Boring Christianity? – Wordless Wednesday

2021-09-15 WW - Is It Boring Being a Christian

For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms. (Ephesians 6:12)

“For though we walk in the flesh, we are not waging war according to the flesh. For the weapons of our warfare are not of the flesh but have divine power to destroy strongholds. We destroy arguments and every lofty opinion raised against the knowledge of God, and take every thought captive to obey Christ.” (2 Corinthians 10:3-5)

Intermezzo Guest Blog: Update on Afghanistan

As Biden’s humanitarian and military crisis in Afghanistan proceeds, friends in Afghanistan are trying desperately to find a way out of the country, mostly over land into neighboring countries.  Imagine thinking “escaping to Iran” would be an attractive option!

In spite of the small number of Afghani Christians, missions agencies report that for several years Afghanistan has had the fastest growing population of Christ-followers, second only to Iran.  This story is from the son of an imam who hated Christians when he was 17, but found out that Christians were offering peace and life while the Muslims of whom he was part were threatening him with death for simply reading the Bible.  The following is a transcript from a Christianity Today podcast called Quick To Listen.  Good reading and information in Christianity Today.
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‘My Heart Is Broken’: An Afghan Pastor Grapples with the US Withdrawal
America’s departure and the Taliban’s ascent is forcing Christians out of the country.
Morgan Lee, August 20, 2021

2021-08-23 Taliban in KabulTaliban patrolling Kabul, Afghanistan, Monday, Aug. 16, 2021.

Earlier this year, President Joe Biden announced that after close to 20 years, the United States would be withdrawing its troops from Afghanistan. Last week, as the military began its exit, the Taliban was ready and within days had seized control of the country. The ascent sparked widespread fear and led to thousands arriving at the airport only to find their flights out of the country had been canceled. Some even grabbed hold of an aircraft in desperation.

Biden defended the decision, arguing that Afghanistan’s leaders “gave up and fled the country.” He also said: “The Afghan military collapsed, sometimes without trying to fight. If anything, the developments in the past week reinforced ending that US military involvement Afghanistan now was the right decision.”

He did concede: “The truth is, this did unfold more quickly than we had anticipated.” As the government fell, it was not clear if the US had done anything to protect those who had worked with the military as translators. Plans to resettle Afghans as refugees seemed to be formulated in real time. The rights of women and girls, which were suppressed under the Taliban’s previous time in power, also appeared in jeopardy. And the lives of Christians, who according to official numbers only make up a minuscule number of the country’s nearly 40 million people, seem in peril as well.

David Paiman is an Afghan pastor and evangelist. You can follow his ministry herePaiman joined global media manager Morgan Lee and news editor Daniel Silliman to discuss how he converted from Islam to Christianity, the withdrawal’s consequences for the church in Afghanistan, and how we can best support the country and people during this time.

The transcript is edited by Faith Ndlovu

Highlights from Quick to Listen: Episode #277

David Paiman: Thank you for your concern about Afghanistan. We are grieving and our hearts are heavy. We see the news that Afghanistan is blaring and everywhere in the street, we can see hopeless people are left behind. But we see the reality more when we talk to people inside Afghanistan.

I’ve been talking to many believers inside Afghanistan. They are crying out for help, and they are crying out for the American army, and some of them sent me a video of many women and girls.

They have been to the airport and they’re crying out to American soldiers to help them. They have been there to serve them and help them but that is over. What we are seeing is too much and my heart is broken.

We are here in America, we see what we see on Twitter or television, but generally speaking, what do you find that Americans don’t know about Afghanistan that you really want them to know? What do they maybe misunderstand about what they do know?

David Paiman: Americans should know about Afghan believers, those who have converted to Christianity. Their lives are in danger, especially for people who are registered as Christians in Afghanistan. There are about many families there and they already got their identity. Many other Afghan believers only registered but they don’t have their identity cards yet; it’s still being processed. Suddenly everything has turned in a different way and they are in desperate need of help. Many people just heard the Taliban say very good news using soft words to say, “we forgive everyone, and we will do our best to build the country.” That’s not the truth. The truth we heard from inside is that they are going from house to house to search for people. They have been to many Afghan believers’ houses, and they took their Bibles. Praise God that the Afghan believers were not at their home. But they’re still searching for them.

Did President Ghani’s government require Christians to register?

David Paiman: They were not required to register, but they registered for the next generation. They don’t want their children to be called Muslims, they want their identity to be Christian.

Is your religion something that is printed on your ID cards?

David Paiman: Yes. But what the system did, because they don’t like Christians, when they printed out the cards for Christians they print out “other.” If they print out “Christian,” they face trouble with their own family, they cannot go to the bank, they cannot get a license, they cannot get anything. In reality they are Christian but they print out “other,” not Christian.

So, this was a big step historically for people to start declaring themselves in this official way, that they’re Christian and making public their faith, sometimes at great risk.

Afghanistan is a big country. Was this happening in Kabul? Was this happening in the villages? Where were these Christians deciding to take the stand?

David Paiman: All the Christians that registered are in Kabul. Today I heard the news, which I hope is false news. But I heard that three Christian families were taken by the Taliban and their houses were burned. We don’t know where they are, but I’m not sure yet that that is exactly what’s going on there.

There are very few Christians that live in this country. How did people end up hearing the gospel?

David Paiman: There are a lot of Christians during these two, three years. I am in media and get many calls every day, at least 10 calls from Afghanistan.

They want to receive Christ. Many house churches inside Afghanistan have started sharing the gospel with each other. Some families have been openly sharing the gospel with people and others heard from media, from Facebook, YouTube, and TV. But whenever they receive Christ, we try to connect them with them to get discipled and to grow in Christ, inside Afghanistan.

Take us back to 2001 when America invaded, what was that like for you? What was that like for Christians in the country?

David Paiman: Yeah, that’s what I call false hope. I will never forget in 2001 when the American army came and took over, everyone was celebrating, everyone got freedom and people were praising and thankful to America. Exactly 20 years later we see what’s happening now.

Where were you living at that time?

David Paiman: I was in Saudi Arabia.

With the hope that you experienced, what did you think might happen?

David Paiman: The real hope is Jesus Christ. Afghanistan has been trying many ways to get hope, to get peace inside Afghanistan, but they did not try Jesus Christ. They did not try God. They did not try His love and His mercy. My prayer and zeal are to share Christ with them. They can receive Christ and they can get the real hope, the living hope that never ends.

How old were you back in 2001?

David Paiman: I was about 17 years old.

What did you hear about the American military during that time?

David Paiman: I was very excited because I was a Muslim from Hazara tribes. My tribe experienced the pressure of the Taliban, because mostly Hazara from Shiá Muslim and all Taliban from Sunni Muslim. I saw many Hazara killed by the Taliban in those times and when America came in 2001, I was so excited that we got freedom of speech, freedom of religion, freedom of everything that we could practice in Afghanistan.

Did that happen when the US first showed up in the first year or two?

David Paiman: From 2001 to 2006 it was good. From 2006 to 2010 it changed a little. From 2010 to 2021 it was not a good situation in Afghanistan as well because the government was corrupt. However, America helped the Afghanistan government, the Afghanistan government did not do what they were supposed to do. I don’t want to go into politics. I’m angry with Joe Biden because he said Afghanistan was not willing to take care of their country, yet billions of dollars have been used to help them.

It’s painful that many Afghanistans leave it behind and now we see that Afghanistan is bleeding and people are crying out for help, but it’s because they don’t take care of their own country.

Talking about the issue of women and girls, how did you notice how they were treated before the Americans arrived?

David Paiman: The girls could not go to school and the women could not go out without any man and there was trouble. Now Taliban is a little bit different, but this morning I heard the news that the girls and the women cannot go out without any men. I don’t know what to say about the Taliban 20 years ago and now, I don’t think they have changed. It’s still the same, the Sharia never changes.

But under the past 20 years though, you saw girls going to school, which was not happening under the Taliban. And you saw way more women working?

David Paiman: Yeah exactly.

Did you have any women who were leading churches or doing evangelism, or did they show up in church leadership too?

David Paiman: Yes, my sister-in-law, who is leading a house church there under the men’s leadership. She tries to help other women, does Bible study with them, and leads them woman to woman and men to men; under the men’s leadership which is what the Bible says.

Now the fear is that the schools that were open to girls are going to be closed and as you said, women may not be able to leave the house without men?

David Paiman: Yes. They cannot leave the house without the men. A few schools are open, but only girls under 14 years can go to school. We don’t know yet about college. In Herat city last week, the girls were supposed to go to college, but the Taliban stopped them.

You mentioned that in 2001 you were a Muslim. How did Jesus find you?

David Paiman: I didn’t want to come to the faith. I hated Christians and didn’t want to be one because I’m from a very religious Muslim background.

My father was an imam. They taught me how to be a good Muslim. I have been to Mecca six times, and I practiced my religion very well because I thought the Muslim religion is the only religion, the only way to God. But after my sixth pilgrimage to Mecca, a stranger came to me from Syria and he shared his testimony, how he received Christ inside the Mecca, how he saw the vision of Christ during his pilgrimage in Mecca. That made me get angry with him. I tried to fight with him. I wanted to kill him. But after 45 minutes of our conversation, he asked me, “Would you please let me pray for you?”

I was very proud. I said, “Okay, you pray for me. I will pray for you.” When he started to pray, I closed my eyes to listen to him and it seemed that he knew my problem. He knew my heart. He knew that I’m searching for real peace and that prayer led me to Christ. After he finished his prayer, the big questions came to my mind.

I said, “If he is an infidel, how could he know my heart?” He then gave me a New Testament Bible. I read but I didn’t accept it because my father taught me that the Bible is corrupt.

Six months later I went to Afghanistan, and I shared this experience with my best friend. He then gave me a Bible in my language. He said not to worry about the New Testament I should just start from Genesis. When I started reading from Genesis, I knew inside my heart that something is true here because God Himself is reaching humans, to bring them back to Him. It was so clear to me that this is God Himself wanting human beings to come to Him. I then took the Bible from him.

I started to read the Bible in my city Ghazni, which is about 250 kilometers from Kabul, and I started comparing the Bible and Quran. With two of my friends, every day we started comparing the Bible and the Koran to try to find which part of the Bible is corrupt.

While I was still reading the Bible, I was still a Muslim practicing Muslim, and I got caught by the police because somebody reported that I was reading the Bible. They took the Bible from me. I found myself in the mosque and there were about 60 or 70 people there and they started asking me why I was reading the Bible. I argued with the imam and started asking him a question from the Quran himself, he could not answer me. He started a claim that he proved that I was a Christian. I was not a Christian. I was Muslim. I did not want to become a Christian.

They started beating me until I became unconscious. I then found myself in a police station. I gave them a lot of money and then I ran away from the police station. I went to Kabul. I was hiding in a safety house, which had a lot of Americans.

A lady from Canada who was a missionary helped me to escape from my country to India. I didn’t know she was a missionary at that time. In India, I met Afghan Christians and I was very angry with them. I started to fight with them. One of the guys I fought with is now inside Afghanistan and is sharing the gospel there.

Three months later, one of my friends had epilepsy. I called the pastor and his friend, and they came and prayed for my friend who had epilepsy. At that moment he got healed and I saw the power, actually, I felt the power. I knew then there was power in the name of Jesus. I went to the bathroom, and I received Christ and asked Him to come into my life and I received Him. I gave my life to Christ in 2008.

Why did you go to the bathroom?

David Paiman: Because I didn’t want to receive Christ in front of them because I didn’t want to become a Christian.

I didn’t want them to know that I am receiving Christ. I wanted to receive Christ very secretly.

How did that practically change your life in 2008?

David Paiman: On that night after I came out from the bathroom and had washed my face as I had been crying, I proceeded to make tea for my guests and the pastor knew something had happened to me. After the tea service, the pastor came to me and asked if he could pray for me.

I said, “of course.” He put his hand on my shoulder and started to pray. I started to cry and confess my sin. The next day everything changed. I felt different. I talked differently and everything changed in my life. I saw things differently. I could see people differently and I started sharing the gospel the next day, right away.

I started sharing the gospel with people. I told them only Jesus could save their lives. Only Jesus can give you peace only Jesus can give you hope.

When you started telling people did anyone believe you? Did anyone decide to learn more about Christianity?

David Paiman: At first believers didn’t believe me because I had been persecuting them.

They thought maybe I had come from the Afghan government because I had a very close friendship with the embassy. They thought maybe I was a spy from them. But later on, they believed me.

But yeah. I saw many people come to Christ in India. I received Christ in India in 2008.

And then you started telling people in India for many years?

David Paiman: Yes. I was in India for five and a half years, and then I moved to Indonesia. I was in Indonesia for three years.

We started house churches there and then we baptized about 72 Iranian people. During those three years, 17 Afghan Muslims converted to Christ, and we baptized them. In 2015, I moved to Australia. I started an Afghan church in Sydney, Australia till 2019.

In 2019, I moved here and now we have a ministry. We are helping refugees and we started our house church here in Memphis, Tennessee.

What do you find about God or Jesus resonates with Afghans? What do they love about Christianity?

David Paiman: I heard many people like my friends, especially here saying they see the reality of love in Christian life.

They love you unconditionally. They don’t expect you to do something. They love you just as you are. In Afghan culture when you love some people you expect them to love you back but many of them say they see true love here in American people and Christian people.

That love has now opened the door for us. We can share the gospel with our Afghan friends here.

What’s your sense of what American Christians should be doing out of love right now?

David Paiman: For me, all Christians should practice at least two things, go, and give. If you cannot go, you should give. If you’re a believer, you have to share the gospel, go, or give, giving and supporting it’s all the one part. Christians in America can also pray and help financially. Send them food to eat. This morning I talked to one leader and he’s ready to go to Christ and what he asked me was, “after I go will you please take care of my family.”

He shared Philippians 1:20 (Phil 2:20) which says, “For to me to live is Christ and to die is gain.” He said, “to die, I get my life. I start my life with Christ” and that encouraged me. The only thing for me is the burden of his family. He has given his life to Christ.

I have a burden in my heart to take care of his family and it’s the burden for all Christians in America and to cry out to God and pray for them. If you know people in Afghanistan help them out of Afghanistan. That’s the greatest help.

So, you would say American Christians should also support welcoming thousands of refugees here.

David Paiman: Exactly.

What type of long-term impact do you think that the withdrawal will have on the mission field in Afghanistan?

David Paiman: To help Afghan believers inside of Afghanistan. The missionary can easily come out of Afghanistan, but Afghanistans are left behind.

If they are discipled well, they can share the gospel inside Afghanistan. That for me is long-term, helping Afghan Christians inside Afghanistan. It should start from inside of Afghanistan not from outside Afghanistan, that’s my opinion.

Because now Afghans will be leading these churches, not foreigners?

David Paiman: No, Afghans should start leading the church. They should start discipling people and that’s all Afghans are doing now.

How do the Christians that you meet find Christianity? Who tells them about it?

David Paiman: It’s mostly from media, from Facebook, YouTube, radio, TV, those are the four sources that we have inside Afghanistan. Now it’s not too difficult we can give them the bible. When they’re sleeping in the bed, they can hear the gospel, and no one can stop that.

This past week has been demoralizing. How has it affected your faith in God?

David Paiman: Whenever I talk to believers inside Afghanistan, I find that their faith is very big and mine is very low, and they give their life to Christ. Jesus said, “if you don’t take your cross, you are not worthy to follow Me, if you don’t confess Me in front of people, I will not confess you in front of My Father. That’s exactly what they are doing now. They took their cross willingly and they tried to come under the grace of God, joyfully give their life to Jesus.

Daniel Silliman: Yeah. That’s compelling, that’s what we all believe as Christians and that’s our call daily to take up our cross and the challenges that they’re facing are serious. Thanks for sharing that with us.

David Paiman: The other thing that American believers and Americans should know is this word about the church. In Afghanistan, people know they are the church, and they understand that. But here, mostly most of America, they say the building is a church. There is a building with a cross on it that’s what they call church but, in Afghanistan, the real church is going on.

I’m so encouraged by their ministry.

What are you praying for as you speak to people back in Afghanistan and Afghans here?

David Paiman: To be honest in the first two, three days, I didn’t know how to pray, and I could not pray because my heart was so heavy and when I saw the news, I was so upset with Americans, I was so upset with the missionaries. I was so angry and that’s my human nature. I could not pray but praise God when I talked to them, they encouraged me. They said, “Jesus is with us now.” Now my prayer for Afghanistans, especially for believers is for the grace of God to be always over them because they cannot do anything out of the grace of God. With the grace of God, they can do all things. That’s my prayer.

As we close our conversation, is there anything else that you would like our listeners to know, any information you’ve heard from your friends and family back in Afghanistan that you want to share, or anything we didn’t ask you about?

David Paiman: Yeah, please pray for believers. They are leaving the country, especially pray for two families who just arrived in Pakistan, three families that are in Iran now, and four families that are in Tajikistan. Please pray for them and specifically pray for four families inside Afghanistan. I think I already mentioned their life is seriously in danger.

In their new countries, what should we pray for them, that they get connected to a church community and build their lives someplace new?

David Paiman: Yes, we are praying for them to make contact with other believers at churches and their second countries. Pray for us here that we can make decisions wisely and that we don’t give them false hope or false promises.

Would you be willing to end our show in a word of prayer?

David Paiman: Sure.
Dear Father. You are a good father. I know you know everything about my country. You love my people. You love the Taliban. You love even the people persecuting us. Lord. You command us to love them back. Please help Afghan Christians, especially those inside the country to love them and share your words with them. Lord, I pray for your protection over believers inside Afghanistan I pray for my people, they’re hopeless. They just see the darkness. Lord, I pray that your light will shine on them. Open their minds and their hearts to see you and to see that you love them to see that You died for them. Lord, open their eyes so that they can taste and see that you are a good God.

You are a merciful, God. Lord, I pray for the American army in Afghanistan. I pray that you protect them from evil. Help them, give them the wisdom to choose the right people, and bring them out. Lord, I also pray for my brothers and sisters outside Afghanistan. I pray for the churches. Thank you for my spiritual family here, Lord, they encourage us. Lord. I pray that you give them wisdom and knowledge to help us in Your way, not in their way. Thank you, Lord, in Jesus’ name, Amen.

“Tell us, when will these things be, and what will be the sign of your coming and of the end of the age?” Matthew 24:3

2021-08-14 When Will These Things Be

Jesus was intentionally vague about when He would appear for the purpose of taking His bride, the Church, away from the world, and when He would return to establish His kingdom on earth.  What He was very clear about was that we should not set dates or think He was appearing in some secret place or time.  Both His appearing and return will be global phenomena that no one will be able to avoid.

Some definitions are in order:

  1. The Church is not an organization. It is composed of everyone who has put their faith in the finished work of Jesus on the cross, repented of their sins, and participate in His rulership in their lives (Colossians 1:18).
  2. The “last days” or “end times” are synonyms and refer to the Church age following the first coming of Jesus, His crucifixion, resurrection and ascension into Heaven. In our day, we use these terms to refer to the end of the Church age.
  3. The Church age began on the Day of Pentecost (Acts 2), after Jesus ascension and 50 days after the Passover which coincided with His resurrection.
  4. The “rapture” is when Jesus will take the Church out of he world, described in Matthew 24:32-50, 1 Corinthians 15:35-58 and 1 Thessalonians 4:13-18. He will appear in the sky in the same way as the disciples saw Him leave in Mark 18:19, Luke 24:51 and Acts 1:6-11. The term “rapture” comes from from rapio (“Latin: “to snatch away”), which is found in the Latin Vulgate Bible in 1 Thessalonian 4:17 (translated “caught up” in English translations).
  5. The Second Coming is when Jesus will return to set up an earthly kingdom described in Matthew 24:15-31, 1 Thessalonians 5:1-5, 2 Thessalonians 1:5-10 and Revelation 20:1-6. Sometimes this term is used to refer to all the events from the rapture to the end of the Tribulation.
  6. The Great Tribulation is the last half of seven years of tribulation while the Anti-Christ is ruling the earth. It will be a time of judgments poured out that will be worse than anything mankind has ever experienced (Matthew 24:21-22; Revelation 15-16)

In Acts 2:17, Peter told the assembled crowd,And in the last days it shall be, God declares, that I will pour out my Spirit on all flesh,” quoting Joel 2:28.  And Peter said, “This is it!”  I.e., these are the last days, beginning in Acts 2, about 2000 years ago!  This is what Joel prophesied 800 years earlier, and NOW, Peter said we were entering the last days of which Joel spoke.  But some of what Joel prophesied did not begin to happen that day.

Peter continued quoting Joel:
And I will show wonders in the heavens above and signs on the earth below,
    blood, and fire, and vapor of smoke; the sun shall be turned to darkness
    and the moon to blood, before the day of the Lord comes, the great and magnificent day.
And it shall come to pass that everyone who calls upon the name of the Lord shall be saved.” (2:19-20; see Joel 2:28-32)

These are things that have not yet happened but are waiting for “the Day of the Lord.”  That specific day, referred to also in 2 Thessalonians 2:3 will be when Jesus returns to set up His kingdom on earth, seven years after He has taken the Church out of the world.  This is not the same as His “appearing” referenced in 1 Timothy 6:14, 2 Timothy 4:1 and Titus 2:13. 

In these references, Jesus appears in the sky to catch away His Church, those who have put their faith in Him, repented of their sins and are living for Him.  The rapture (or “being caught up”) is described in 1 Thessalonians 4:13-18 and will occur “in the twinkling of an eye” (1 Corinthians 15:52). Note also, the “last trumpet” mentioned in Corinthians is not one of the trumpets of judgment listed in Revelation 8, but a reference to the last trumpet the Church will hear on earth.

We should not confuse The Day of the Lord in 1 Thessalonians 5:1-11 and 2 Thessalonians 2:3 with the rapture.  The rapture is described by Jesus in Matthew 24:32-50, after He had answered the disciples’ questions about  “the coming of the Son of Man,” the time at which Jesus will come to earth to set up His rulership.

“Now concerning the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ and our being gathered together to him, we ask you, brothers not to be quickly shaken in mind or alarmed, either by a spirit or a spoken word, or a letter seeming to be from us, to the effect that the day of the Lord has come. Let no one deceive you in any way. For that day will not come, unless the rebellion comes first, and the man of lawlessnes is revealed, the son of destruction, who opposes and exalts himself against every so-called god or object of worship, so that he takes his seat in the temple of God, proclaiming himself to be God.” (2 Thessalonians 2:1-5)  

This “coming” is distinguished from “our being gathered,” but is referenced here together because of false teaching that claimed Jesus had already come to establish His kingdom “in men’s hearts.  (On a side note, this heresy was also promulgated in the 20th century and continues in some fringe religions.)  As I have described, the “gathering” is a reference to the rapture.

A final note: Whatever we believe about the timing of the rapture, there are two realities all Christ-followers must keep in mind.

  1. First, no difference of opinion among Christians justifies unkindness toward those who hold different views.  Jesus commands us to love one another, just as He loved us.  He also said that our love for one another would be the evidence to all people that we are His disciples (John 13:34-35).  Wrangling over issues such as the timing of the rapture does not exhibit Christ’s love (Titus 3:10).
  2. Second, the most important aspect of the end times is not the timing of the rapture but the absolute certainty of the return of Jesus Christ to the world in these last days (Acts 1:11; Revelation 19:11-16).  The timing does not alter the fact that those who belong to Him will enjoy eternal life and those who do not will be separated from Him for eternity (John 3:18).  Only faith in Jesus as the our savior will distinguish the saved from the unsaved, regardless of our views on the rapture.  So pray earnestly for those who do not know Him yet!  They need Jesus.

We shall behold HIM!!  Maranatha, even so, Lord Jesus, come.

The Beauty of Spiritual Language

I was planning to write about prophecy of end times again, but in prayer felt a ‘nudging’ of the Holy Spirit to address a subject that in times past has been a source of division and conflict within the Body of Christ – speaking in tongues under the influence of the Holy Spirit.  I was covering some prophecy ideas on the weekend of Pentecost, , so here is the trade-off.

2021-08-07 - The Holy Spirit

From the early 1900s (I read about this; I am not THAT old! 😅), when the Holy Ghost (as He was called back then) began moving in lives to experience what the apostles and disciples of the book of Acts experienced.  A common feature of these more modern day disciples was to first experience “speaking in tongues” similar to what occurred in Acts 2, 10 and 19.  The experience was called “being baptized into the Holy Spirit” as John the Baptist had prophesied Jesus would do to His followers.  “After me comes He who is mightier than I, the strap of whose sandals I am not worthy to stoop down and untie. I have baptized you with water, but He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit.”  (Mark 1:7-8)  This theme was reiterated by Luke in his introduction to the Acts of the Apostles.  And it is clearly this “baptism” that began the Church Age in which we now live.

However, many mainline churches at the turn of the last century were upset by the emotionalism and lack of coherent theology of many of these “tongues-speakers” and repudiated these phenomena as being emotional excitement and works of the flesh; some even declared them demonic.  But the clear dedication to Jesus on the part of many of them, and the missionary zeal exceeding that of the mainlines resulted in the formation of new denominations that welcomed and encouraged people to seek God for “the baptism of the Holy Spirit” with an initial evidence of speaking in tongues.

In the 1960s a “neo-charismatic movement” began to take hold with people within more traditional mainline churches and almost every denomination world-wide found itself addressing “praying with the Spirit.”  (See also Romans 8:26 and Ephesians 6:18.)  Episcopalians led this transformation but Roman Catholics, Presbyterians, Methodists and most other denominations adjusted from their “‘Tongues’ is of the devil” stance to honor Paul’s explicit instructions in 1 Corinthians 14:39, Do not forbid speaking in tongues.”  Baptists were a little late to get on board, but leaders like Bill Gothard honored this scripture in his presentations and made headway among his almost entirely Baptist audiences of thousands.

The excesses of some in groups like the Assemblies of God, The Foursquare Church and others who insisted that speaking in tongues will accompany the baptism into the Holy Spirit as an initial evidence of such infilling led to almost a two-tier system of spirituality.  But the sincerity of most in these denominations, and their patient defense of speaking in tongues and development of Biblical theology of the experience, combined with their missionary zeal, resulted in phenomenal growth and world-wide acceptance among Christian denominations.

Although most current arguments against speaking in a “spiritual language” refer to Paul’s instructions in 1 Corinthians 14, an honest appraisal of these instructions to a church that was getting too enthusiastic will reveal he was NOT discouraging speaking in tongues, but rather trying to preserve the practice through correction, balance and guidance, not prohibition.   He even begins the subject with an affirmation, Now I want you all to speak in tongues…” (1 Corinthians 14:5).  The point is to make a distinction between tongues as a gift for ministry in the meetings of the Church and tongues as a grace by which any believer can draw closer to The God Who Is, such that Paul could assert, I thank God that I speak in tongues more than all of you” (1 Corinthians 14:18).  Obviously he was not doing that in meetings of the Church but in his personal prayer times. 

2021-08-07 The Beauty of Spiritual LanguageTo summarize some points from Jack Hayford’s superb text (The Beauty of Spiritual Language) on this subject, speaking in tongues is not unbiblical nor outdated.  It is not a “transcendental experience” as with cult meditations or surrender of the will in a mystical stupor.  It is not a “status symbol” as though one who speaks in tongues is better than one who does not.  It is not a ‘cure-all’ for difficulties in living for God nor a badge of holiness.  It is not a substitute for spiritual growth or Bible study.  As one Christ-follower told me, there is one and only ONE evidence of the infilling of the Holy Ghost given in the Bible: You will be witnesses!” (Acts 1:8).  So “if I speak in the tongues of men and of angels, but have not love, I am a noisy gong or a clanging cymbal” (1 Corinthians 13:1).

The baptism of the Holy Spirit is essentially coming to a place of wanting such intimacy with The God Who Is that one becomes open to anything He wants to do in and through you.  It is wanting “to know that you know that you know” who He is and that your testimony of Him will not be based in dry lifeless theology of book knowledge but in experiential knowledge so intimate that the only human comparison is that of a marriage where two become one flesh (Ephesians 5:32).  When you know Him the way Adam knew his wife and she conceived (Genesis 4:1), you cannot help but talk about it.  Who ever heard of a married man who loves his wife that did not want to tell you about her!?  The nature of a good marriage is such that a man can not speak very long with anyone before his wife comes into the conversation. 

Jesus is the baptizer into the Holy Spirit, an action that all four of His biographies assert (Matthew 3:11, Mark 1:8, Luke 3:16, John 1:33).  If you come to Him with this request, He assures us He will not turn us away nor let us be deceived, but meet our heart’s desire to know Him better. (Luke 11:13)  So just come to Him and ask, because the promise is for YOU and for your children and for all who are far off, everyone whom the Lord our God calls to himself” (Acts 2:39). 
Worship Jesus as you listen to the Maranatha Singers sing the Spirit Song and invite Him to baptize you with the Holy Spirit.

 

Guest Blog by Tony Evans – “Can’t Buy Me Love”

Dr. Tony Evans is the pastor of Oak Cliff Bible Fellowship in Dallas, Texas.  He also is the founder of The Urban Alternative.  Dr. Evans holds the honor of writing and publishing the first full-Bible commentary and study Bible by an African American.  His radio broadcast, The Alternative, can be heard on over 1,400 radio outlets daily and in more than 130 countries.  His sermons are Biblically sound and he “walks the walk,” not just talks the talk.  Here is a man of God worth noting for how Father has used him to teach thousands of believers how to grow in the grace and knowledge of Jesus Christ.  This is a sharing of a recent email he sent to his contacts, which is adapted from one of his more than 100 books.

2021-06-19 Dr. Tony Evans

Dear Friends,

Most people think money is the secret to satisfaction.  They think that happiness equates to how much money you’ve got at your disposal.  But happiness has nothing to do with money.  Money isn’t about to solve your problems.  In fact, sometimes our problems escalate as our money increases — not the other way around.

That’s why Paul wrote, “For the love of money is a root of all sorts of evil, and some by longing for it have wandered away from the faith and pierced themselves with many griefs” (1 Timothy 6:10).

There are so many things money can’t buy.  Money can’t buy health.  It can’t buy relational harmony.  It can’t buy respect, honor, character or esteem.  When things go south in any of those areas, if money is all you’ve got working for you, you’ll discover the actual value of money.  You’ll learn that money isn’t all it’s cracked up to be.  There’s so much that matters more than how much money you have in your wallet or your bank account.  But it’s very easy to forget that.

As a result, people frequently spend their energy praying for stuff when God wants to give them more than stuff.  He wants to give significance, strength, stability and identity.  All the stuff in the world doesn’t amount to much if you are so broken, empty or alone that you cannot enjoy it, and you don’t have anyone with whom to share it.  Stuff never made anyone smile the way that satisfaction, purpose and even service can.  Our world focuses on stuff, while Jesus reminds us what matters most.

For His kingdom,
2021-06-19 Tony Evans Signature
This content has been adapted from Tony Evans, Kingdom Men Rising, Bethany House Publishers, 2021.
See also the DVD, Kingdom Men Rising.  Good stuff!
If you are visiting here before June 19 is over, check out the free No More Excuses teleconference at https://www.ocbfchurch.org/ministries/mens-fellowship/mens-conference/.

Guest Blog by Päivi Räsänen, Member of Finland’s Parliament

2021-05-01 Finland Parliament Building

The following is a news release by a Finnish Member of Parliament.  Whether you follow the Ramayana, the Bhagavad Gita, the Koran, the Book of Mormon, the Tipitaka, the Gathas, the Jain Agamas, the Dharma Wheel, the Bible or any other religious literature, this case before Finland’s Court can affect any religious practice by which people try to guide their lives.
Finland is a democratic republic along the lines of the US, but closer to Israel in number of parties and coalition type management of the government.  And since becoming part of the EU, it is anyone’s guess as to how EU diktats will affect their historically egalitarian governance.
Since Finland is part of the EU, the following bears watching as it may impact laws and policies continent-wide, and could spill over the Pond to challenge the US and Canada to follow suit.  “No man is an island.”
I encourage you to pray for Ms. Räsänen and the nation of Finland as they waddle into dangerous waters which may well be a watershed moment for religious freedom around the globe.  Ms. Räsänen has kindly put me on her email list and I am confident she would welcome any message of support from any place in the world (email below), and most of all, that we who follow Jesus are praying for Finland. 
Jesus is coming soon.  “Even so, Lord Jesus, come!”

Press Release April 30, 2021

Three charges filed against a Member of Parliament, Dr. Päivi Räsänen.
“I am ready to defend freedom of speech and religion as far as it needs.”

Yesterday morning, I received by phone the information that the Prosecutor General has decided to prosecute me in three cases. The application for summons has been delivered to the District Court of Helsinki. I am accused of criminal agitation against a minority group, which carries the sentence of a fine or imprisonment for a maximum of two years. The three charges filed against me are about the following cases. Firstly, a pamphlet I wrote in 2004 “Male and female He created them – Homosexual relationships challenge the Christian concept of humanity.” A charge has also been filed against Rev. Dr. Juhana Pohjola, the Dean of Evangelical Lutheran Mission Diocese of Finland. The Evangelical Lutheran Mission Diocese of Finland published the pamphlet.

The second charge is about a tweet I published 17 June 2019 in my social media accounts. In addition to Twitter, I published my tweet in Facebook and Instagram. In the tweet, I questioned the Evangelical Lutheran Church’s official affiliation with Helsinki LGBT Pride 2019 and accompanied my publication with a photo of Bible verses from Romans 1:24-27.

The third charge is about my views presented in one program of the Finnish Broadcasting Corporation, when I visited a talk show series hosted by Ruben Stiller and discussed the topic “What would Jesus think about homosexuals?”.

The decision of the Prosecutor General is surprising, even shocking. I do not think I have committed threatening, defaming or insulting actions against a minority group. In all these three cases, the question is about the Bible’s teaching about marriage and sexuality. Ultimately, the three charges brought against me have to do with whether it is allowed in Finland to express your conviction that is based on the traditional teaching of the Bible and Christian churches. I would not have in any way defamed homosexuals whose human dignity and human rights I have constantly said to respect and defend. The Bible’s teaching is, however, very clear in the teaching that marriage is a union between man and wife and that practicing homosexuality is against God’s will.

The Apostle Paul’s teaching is not only about defending marriage between man and woman, but about how a human being is saved into eternal life. If the teachings of God’s word about sin are rejected, the whole core of Christian faith is made empty: the precious sacrifice of Jesus on the cross for the sake of everyone’s sins and the way He opened into eternity.

There is a difficulty here far greater than a sentence of a fine or an imprisonment: a demand for censorship; an order to remove my social media postings or a ban on the publication of the pamphlet. If one defies the court’s verdict, it leads to demands of penalty payments. This sort of judgement would open up an avenue leading to further publication bans for similar texts and modern book burnings.

It is noteworthy that with regard to the pamphlet case and the tv episode with Stiller, the police stated that there was no reason to suspect a crime. The pre-trial investigation should not have even commenced according to their decision. The police stated in their decision: “if some of the views in the Bible were to be regarded as per se fulfilling the criteria of an agitation offense, the dissemination of or making the Bible available would in principle be punishable as an offense of agitation.” This has deeply to do with free speech and freedom of religion.

I will go to the court with a peaceful and brave mind, trusting that Finland is a constitutional state where the freedoms of speech and religion, which both are guaranteed in international agreements and in our constitution, are respected. A conviction based on the Christian faith would be more than a superficial opinion. The early Christians did not renounce their faith in lions’ caves, why should I then renounce my faith in a court room. I will not step back from my conviction nor from my writings. I do not apologize for the writings of the Apostle Paul either. I am ready to defend freedom speech and religion as far as is necessary.

The offense of agitation requires intentionality. In our Criminal Code the concept of intentionality is placed as criteria regarding the purpose of the author and the fact that the author perceives the nature of the act as a culpable legal infringement. In evaluating guilt, one must strive to genuinely understand the background and purpose of the author. As a Member of Parliament, I have been involved in the enactment of this precise amendment to our legislation.  It did not even come to mind that my tweet or my opinions based on Christianity could be defamatory or insulting in any aspect.

I want to encourage others to use their freedom of speech and religion. This indictment shows that right now is the time to defend these foundational freedoms and rights.

The Prosecutor General has previously publicly said that she has, because of my cases, received inappropriate messages. I hope that no insulting messages would be targeted against her.

Contact:
Ms. Päivi Räsänen
Member of Parliament, Finland
paivi.rasanen@eduskunta.fi

Evamaria Kyllästinen
evamaria.kyllastinen@eduskunta.fi
Assistant to MP

Finland Persecutes Christian Lawmaker

As recommended in The American Conservative blog, consider writing a polite but firm email to Ms. Raija Toiviainen, the Prosecutor General: valtakunnansyyttaja.syyttaja@oikeus.fi and to the Finnish Ambassador to the US, His Excellency Mikko Hautala, at sanomat.was@formin.fi.

Intermezzo Guest Blog: Will Vaccine Passports Control Your Daily Life?

Former Clinton Adviser: Mandatory Vaccine Passport Could Lead to ‘End of Human Liberty in the West’ – by Jack Phillips  March 29, 2021

Former Clinton adviser Naomi Wolf said that mandatory COVID-19 vaccine passports that have been proposed in recent days would be the “end of human liberty in the West if this plan unfolds as planned.”

“‘Vaccine passport’ sounds like a fine thing if you don’t understand what those platforms can do. I’m [the] CEO of a tech company, I understand what this platform does,” Wolf, who’s also an author, told Fox News on March 28. “It is not about the vaccine, it’s not about the virus, it’s about your data. Once this rolls out, you don’t have a choice about being part of the system. What people have to understand is that any other functionality can be loaded onto that platform with no problem at all.”

Wolf said such data can be “merged with your Paypal account, with your digital currency,” adding that “Microsoft is already talking about merging it with payment plans.”

Wolf noted that it happened in Israel, “and six months later, we’re hearing from activists that it’s a two-tiered society and that basically, activists are ostracized and surveilled continually. It is the end of civil society, and they are trying to roll it out around the world.”

“It is absolutely so much more than a vaccine pass, it is — I can not stress enough that it has the power to turn off your life, or to turn on your life, to let you engage in society or be marginalized.”

Going a step further, Wolf likened such plans to the Chinese Communist Party’s (CCP) surveillance of its population and promotion of a “social credit score.”

2021-04-02 Vaccine PassportsA handout image shows the Excelsior Pass, a platform that lets New Yorkers present proof of COVID-19 vaccination at events. (Office of Gov. Andrew Cuomo)

“How does [the CCP] keep a billion people under the thumb of a totalitarian regime?” she asked. “The CCP can find any dissident within five minutes, and that can happen here literally within months.”

Wolf referred to reports about Biden administration officials proposing the idea. The Washington Post and CNN — citing anonymous, unconfirmed sources — have suggested that the administration is working toward developing a national vaccine passport standard. New York state has proposed its own “Excelsior Pass” that would be used in large-scale venues such as Madison Square Garden. The plan has been lambasted by civil liberties groups and proponents.

On March 29, White House press secretary Jen Psaki addressed the claims, saying the administration doesn’t see a federal mandate for vaccine passports. “We believe it will be driven by the private sector,” she told reporters.

In other countries, such passports have already been created. Israel set one up in February to grant people access to gyms and hotels, Iceland now uses a passport to allow foreign travel, and Saudi Arabia has an app-based passport for people who are inoculated.

“The thing underpinning all of this is, what are you going to use it for?” said Melinda Mills, director of the Leverhulme Centre for Demographic Science at the University of Oxford, according to the Wall Street Journal. “Is it for international travel? Is it for getting a job? Is it for buying milk?”