Guest blog by B.G. O’Neal: God Will Turn It Around!

As we wrap out another year, let me encourage you with BG O’Neal’s blog of encouragement.  I also hope with Jews around the world who proclaim each Passover: “Next Year in Jerusalem.”  Perhaps we will attend next year in the New Jerusalem (Revelation 21).  So as we end this year and move into 2023, consider where you are on your faith journey.  “When we all come to die, does it make the slightest difference which political party we belong to?  Does it matter whether we are rich or poor, learned or otherwise?  There is only one fundamental distinction, and that is whether we belong to the world or to Christ.“  (D. Martyn Lloyd-Jones)
Even so, come, Lord Jesus, come.
I’ve added some graphics and an additional YouTube link.

by Flip Side – Word Up, BG O’Neal 

We live in a most precarious time when trust seems to be pendulous. It feels like so much is just hanging in the air. There are so many variables to consider. Oh, the look on sad ashen faces! It is like a generation lost. And we thought we had it so bad growing up in the 50s to 70s.

How does a person, young or old contend with the affairs of this day? Political unrest! Church attendance! Divorce rates! And sadly a society that loves to escape to fantasy! Be whatever you feel like! Be a furry, be a dog! That may provide a temporary mirage of an escape. Wait until you get treated like a dog!!!

A dog’s life is not always about being loved and cared for. Sometimes they get abused, starved, killed. What about just being what your loving Creator, “Yahweh,” made you to be? Man up! Woman up! No wonder the world is so forlorn, so torn, so sad! But are we praying for our world, or do we seek only our own good?

Please realize that we are not alone in facing the issues in our world. The same rain falls on us all! The same sun shines on us all! We all have to deal with life! We all face the same perplexities. They have not changed much but rather intensified: suicide rates; political unrest; a broken economy with unfathomable debt!

So many broken marriages. Unemployment on the rise! We live in a lazy co-dependent society. Lack of customer service and disrespect is one of the results of a godless society. Anger and hatred against God and Christ is rampant! Have you ever seen such rudeness and ignorance? It’s sad to say that these same attributes exude from our pulpits at times! No wonder there is so much anxiety in the world!!!

I know it seems that I have painted a very bleak picture. However, there is hope! God was in Christ reconciling the world back unto himself. This same Jesus is still the way, the truth, and the life! He is the Savior for all who accept him. As the song says, “The only real peace I have dear Lord is in you!” You also can have that peace of knowing Jesus as Lord and Savior!

Accept him today and be filled with the Holy Spirit who gives true peace. Life will still be tough! Things will at times be difficult to understand! You will make it through your trials! And oh, the joy that God gives!!! The ‘pseudo’ happiness the world offers is just that! Fake! Would you now consider praying and seeking the Lord for salvation?

Let God turn some things around for you. Experience His grace and mercy! Rest in his ever abiding peace and love! Listen to the heart cry of the Psalmist in this passage below:

“I’m worn out with my weeping and groaning. Night after night I soak my pillow with tears, and flood my bed with weeping. My eyes of faith won’t focus anymore, for sorrow fills my heart. There are so many enemies who come against me! Turn from me, all you troublemakers! For Yahweh has turned to hear the sound of my weeping. Yes! Yahweh my healer has heard all my pleading and has taken hold of my prayers and answered them all.” Psalms 6:6-9 (TPT).

 

 

Christianizing Christmas – Guest Blog by Dr. Eli Lizorkin-Eyzenberg

Dr. Eli (as his hyphenated last name is even harder to spell than to pronounce! 😁) is a Research Professor of Jewish and Christian Studies at The Israel Institute of Biblical Studies in the Netherlands, and a scholar in Early and Modern Church History.  He is a Russian-American-Israeli Christian author, experienced educator, and scholar in Jewish context and culture of the New Testament.  Outside his expertise in the ancient languages – Biblical Hebrew, Koine Greek, Syriac and Old Church Slavonic, he has a command of three other modern languages – English, Russian and Hebrew.

One of his greatest passions is building bridges of trust, respect and understanding between Christians and Jews, overcoming centuries of difficult, but almost always joined history.  He has taught Biblical, Jewish and Christian studies at the Israel Theological Seminary, at the Haifa Theological Institute, at the Nazareth Evangelical Theological Seminary and at Spurgeon’s College, University of Wales.  He has some outstanding books relating Jewish history and philosophy to following Jesus.
What follows is his guest blog:
___________________________

Is Christmas a Pagan Holiday?
Dr. Eli Lizorkin-Eyzenberg

Let us begin with a bit of a dark picture. Nowhere in the Holy Scriptures are we told about a celebration commemorating the birth of Christ Jesus. Nothing in the Scriptures gives us any sure evidence about the date of this magnificent event.

The lack of Scriptural specificity about the facts surrounding the birth of the Judean King stands in sharp contrast to the details available about his death. (Each of the four Gospels provides the exact timing of Jesus’ death).
[Actually, it takes a bit of sleuthing to analyze the exact timing of the days between the entry into Jerusalem, the Crucifixion and Resurrection.  This is why the Roman Catholic Church in The Council of Nicaea mistook Friday for the day of the Crucifixion.  This blogger believes He was crucified on Wednesday, the day before the High Sabbath of the Passover, not the weekly one.  See Matthew 12:40 and Mark 9:31.  Passover and began on Thursday the week of the Crucifixion.  However, the FACT of His crucifixion is more important than on which weekday it occurred.]

In the late second century, the Greek Church Father Origen mocked yearly celebrations of Roman birth anniversaries, discounting them as deeply pagan practices. This suggests that Christian communities did not yet celebrate Christmas during Origen’s lifetime (c.165-264). The first church figure to discuss the date of Jesus’ birth was Clement (c. 200), an Egyptian preacher from Alexandria.  However, December 25 was not even mentioned. By the middle of the fourth century [~350 c.e.], however, we find that Western churches were already celebrating the Birth of Christ on December 25, while the Eastern Churches did so on January 7th.

How did the early Christians arrive at this dating?
Surprisingly, the early church followed a very Jewish idea – that the beginning and the end of important redemptive events often happen on the same date (Babylonian Talmud, Rosh Hashana 10b-11a). In the beginning of the third century, Tertullian [155-220 c.e.] reported that since he knew precisely when Jesus died (14th of Nissan or March 25), he also knew exactly when he was conceived! He was most-likely wrong in his conclusions, but at least we can now see how they arrived to date of Christmas.

The logic went as follows: If Jesus was conceived on March 25, then counting forward to the nine months of Mary’s pregnancy would place His birth on December 25. This is especially intriguing because January 1st used to be celebrated as the Day of Christ’s circumcision (8 days from the evening of December 24).

It is very important to note that it was not until the fourth to sixth centuries [~300-500 c.e.] of the Common Era that Christians began to “Christianize” the local pagan celebrations of the peoples they sought to evangelize. There is no doubt that it was at this time, but not before, that Christmas began to acquire some of its pagan traditions. Why? Because until c.300-320 CE, Christians were fighting a counter-cultural war with the pagans of the Roman and Persian world. Consequently, they were not in the mood for cultural adaptations just yet. 
[Note, Constantine converted to Christianity in 312 c.e., making counter-culturalism less significant and initiating a period of “Christianizing” pagan temples and customs.]

Since December 25 as the supposed date of Christ’s birth was circulated 100-150 years before the practice of “Christianizing” pagan celebrations commenced, it is unreasonable to conclude that this date was adopted to please the Roman pagans as popular conspiracy theory suggests.

It is true that in 274 CE the Roman Emperor [Aurelian] declared December 25 to be, “The Day of the Unconquered Sun,” (Sol Invictus). However, that was some 70 years after Christians had settled on December 25 as their Christmas date. Moreover, the decree itself may have been issued to help stamp out the newly established Christian celebration. Before answering our main question, I think we should answer few related ones:

Is Christmas a Biblical holiday?
No. It was not commanded by God in the Bible.
Does the celebration of Christmas contain elements that are pagan in origin?
Absolutely. There is no doubt about that whatsoever.
Is December 25 the correct date for celebration of the birth of Jesus?
Possible, but highly unlikely.

And finally, is Christmas a pagan holiday?
There is nothing pagan about speculating that December 25 is the birthday of Jesus.
Inaccurate? Probably.
Pagan? No.

Order the Jewish Insights into Scripture or see all books by Dr. Eli here:
https://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B078GXC7C8/

Thank you for your attention and blessing!  Dr.Eli
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For some of my earlier thoughts on this theme, see my Christmas Eve blog of 2017.

This Day in History – The Death of C.S. Lewis

This Day in History: The Death of C. S. Lewis
November 22, 2022 by: Harry Lee Poe in Crossway.org
His Heart Attack
On Sunday, July 14, 1963, Lewis was not well enough to go to church when Walter Hooper arrived at the Kilns. Without his brother Warnie anymore as a reliable helper with his correspondence, and feeling his own steady decline, Lewis asked Hooper if he would consider serving as his private secretary. After discussing it, Hooper agreed to resign his post at the University of Kentucky at the end of the fall semester and return to help Lewis. In the meantime, he would help Lewis through the summer.1 The next day, on Monday, July 15, at five in the afternoon, Lewis arrived at the Acland Nursing Home, where he promptly had a heart attack and went into a coma.2

With Warnie away, Lewis must have given Kay and Austin Farrer as his emergency contacts, for the Acland notified them of Lewis’s condition. They contacted Douglas Gresham and Walter Hooper. On Tuesday afternoon, July 16, Lewis received extreme unction from Rev. Michael Watts of the Church of St Mary Magdalen. Then he woke up and asked for a cup of tea.3

For two days, Lewis appeared to be doing better, but then he slipped into what he called his “black period.” For a week he suffered from nightmares, hallucinations, and a general disorientation interspersed with lucid moments.4 Several of his oldest and dearest friends visited him in the Acland, including Tolkien, Alastair Fowler, Douglas and David Gresham, James Dundas-Grant, John Walsh, Maureen Moore Blake, and George Sayer. When Dundas-Grant visited Lewis, he suggested that Lewis write a book on prayer, to which Lewis replied with a twinkle in his eye, “I might.”5 Dundas-Grant did not know that Lewis had just finished writing Letters to Malcolm, which suggests how far the remaining Inklings had departed from being a writing club aware of what each other was writing.

Beginning on July 17, Hooper undertook the handling of Lewis’s correspondence. He picked up the mail every day at the Kilns and took it to the Acland, where Lewis, when his mind was clear, dictated his letters to Hooper. At Lewis’s behest, Hooper wrote letters to Lewis’s friends who had not yet learned of his hospitalization, including Roger Lancelyn Green. Lewis asked Hooper to write Green a letter and explain that Hooper was a collector of “Lewisiana” like Green and to work out with Green if they were “competitors or collaborators.”6 Time would prove that they were the best of collaborators as coauthors of the first true biography of Lewis, C. S. Lewis: A Biography (1974).

Lewis probably recognized his condition better than most. He knew he would die sooner or later. Not wishing to create a burden for Cambridge University and Magdalene College, his academic home for nine years, he sent a letter resigning his chair, probably as soon as he returned home.7 On August 12 and 13, Lewis wrote to Jock Burnet, the bursar of Magdalene College, to make arrangements for Hooper to pack his things and remove them from the college. He apologized for the trouble he was causing, but he explained that his “situation [was] rather desperate.”8 The college needed to reclaim its furniture and sell Lewis’s. He also asked that the painting of his grandfather Hamilton be sent to St Mark’s Church, Dundela, Belfast, where he had served as rector. It still hangs in the Parish Hall today.

Toward the end of August, Tolkien wanted to see Lewis again. Tolkien’s eldest son, Father John Tolkien, took Tolkien to see Lewis at the Kilns. Father John recalled: “We drove over to the Kilns for what turned out to be a very excellent time together for about an hour. I remember the conversation was very much about the Morte d’Arthur and whether trees died.”9

Ready for Death
Walter Hooper was back in the United States when Lewis wrote to him on September 3 to let him know that all was well at the Kilns. Though Warnie was still in Ireland behaving badly, the gardener and handyman, Fred Paxford, slept in the house in case Lewis had trouble during the night.10 After much wringing of hands and worry about his looming poverty, Lewis offered Hooper five pounds a week when he would return the first week of January 1964 to resume his work as Lewis’s secretary, now that Warnie had proved such an unreliable disappointment.11 To others, Jack regularly referred to himself as an “extinct volcano.”12 When asked how he managed his retirement, he came up with another line he rather liked. He said he would never have to read A. L. Rowse on Shakespeare’s sonnets, but he could reread the Iliad instead.13 On a deeper level, he had something to say to many about how close he came to death. The nurses all thought he had come to the Acland one last time to die. He said to many of his correspondents that it was a pity he had come to the very gates of Heaven so easily not to be allowed to enter. Now he would have to go through it all over again.14 Warnie finally returned home in early October.15 His return meant some relief from what Lewis regarded as the worst part of his invalid existence. The newspapers had reported Lewis’s illness and retirement, so he was flooded with letters of condolence, to which he felt obligated to reply.16 In spite of everything, he remained cheerful and grateful. He especially valued his friends who came to see him.17

Just as Jack had gone through anticipatory grief over Joy’s coming death, Warnie had gone through the same thing in his own way over Jack’s inevitable death. Yet he had pulled himself together and returned to the Kilns. His company would have meant so much to Jack. Of those last days together, Warnie wrote:

Joy had left us, and once again—as in the earliest days—we could turn for comfort only to each other. The wheel had come full circle: once again we were together in the little end room at home, shutting out from our talk the ever-present knowledge that the holidays were ending, that a new term fraught with unknown possibilities awaited us both. Jack faced the prospect bravely and calmly. “I have done all I wanted to do, and I’m ready to go,” he said to me one evening.18

The End
Warnie was always famous for preparing the tea on Thursday nights when the Inklings had gathered so long ago. He also brought the late-night tea to Jack and any guest he might have as they talked away. Even with Mrs. Miller in the house, Warnie brought Jack his tea in the afternoons that last autumn. He described the last time in the memoir he wrote that became a foundational piece of biography Roger Lancelyn Green and Walter Hooper would build upon, along with Surprised by Joy, when they wrote their biography of Lewis. Warnie said:

Friday, the 22nd of November 1963, began much as other days: there was breakfast, then letters and the crossword puzzle. After lunch he fell asleep in his chair: I suggested that he would be more comfortable in bed, and he went there. At four I took in his tea and found him drowsy but comfortable. Our few words then were the last: at five-thirty I heard a crash and ran in, to find him lying unconscious at the foot of his bed. He ceased to breathe some three or four minutes later.19

He was a week shy of his sixty-fifth birthday.

The death of C. S. Lewis came on the same day John F. Kennedy was shot in Dallas, and all the news media were focused on that event, which gripped not only the United States but people around the world. Word of Lewis’s death had not gotten out. Douglas called Walter Hooper in the United States, and Hooper notified those he knew of who should be told.20 David Gresham had gone to New York to study at Mesivta Rabbi Chaim Berlin Talmudical college when he finished his studies in London, so he could not attend the funeral.21 Warnie was too intoxicated and overwhelmed by grief to attend. The funeral took place on November 26 at Holy Trinity Church, the parish church where Jack and Warnie had attended since moving to the Kilns. Only a small group attended. Ronald Head, the vicar of Holy Trinity, led the service, and Austin Farrer read the lesson, so we may assume that Kay was with him.22 The small party of mourners included Owen Barfield, Cecil Harwood, Ronald Tolkien, Colin Hardie, Robert “Humphrey” Havard, James Dundas-Grant, John Lawlor, Peter Bayley, Peter Bide, Molly and Len Miller, Fred Paxford, Maureen (Lady Dunbar) and Leonard Blake, and Douglas Gresham.23

A large gravestone covers the length and breadth of the grave of C. S. Lewis. When Flora Hamilton Lewis died in 1908, the quotation for the day on her Shakespearean calendar came from King Lear:
Men must endure
Their going hence, even as their coming hither;
Ripeness is all.24

A large gravestone covers the length and breadth of the grave of C. S. Lewis.

On Lewis’s gravestone, Warnie had the epitaph engraved:

Harry Lee Poe (PhD, The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary) serves as the Charles Colson Professor of Faith and Culture at Union University, where he has taught a course on C. S. Lewis for over twenty years. He is the author of twenty books, including The Inklings of Oxford and C. S. Lewis Remembered, as well as numerous articles on Lewis and the Inklings. Poe hosts the annual Inklings Weekend in Montreat, North Carolina, and is a regular speaker on Lewis at universities and other venues worldwide.

Pray for Persecuted Christ-followers Around the World – A Guest Blog from Morgan Lee, Christianity Today

When persecuted Christ-followers ask for prayer, I find it intriguing how very few ask for financial aid or release!  Most ask for holy boldness to continue to fulfill the Great Commission.  How will you pray when persecution comes to your neighborhood?  These prayers should NOT be just one or two Sundays per year.

If we cannot go, we should give; if we cannot give, we should write letters of encouragement or support through legal action.  But in ALL cases, if you love Christ’s Church, we should pray DAILY and CONTINUALLYThese are your brothers and sisters who are being imprisoned, tortured and killed because they name the Name of Jesus as their savior.

They are not anarchists nor government agitators nor agents for foreign powers.  They only want their families, friends, neighbors and persecutors to go to Heaven when they die and the freedom to tell them how to do this.

How the Persecuted Church Wants You to Pray

Leaders in six countries explain how Christians can best support and rejoice with fellow believers suffering for their faith.  Compiled by Morgan Lee for Christianity TodayNovember 10, 2022

The first two Sundays of November, as part of the International Day of Prayer for the Persecuted Church, Christians around the world intentionally intercede for their brothers and sisters in Christ who face violence, prison, arson, kidnapping, bureaucratic restrictions, and shunning because of their faith.

Around 309 million Christians live in places with very high or extreme levels of persecution, according to Open Doors’ 2022 World Watch List. Shortly after the release of last year’s list, Christians from around the world shared their joys and concerns. We encourage you to use the praises and requests of Christians from the six countries included here as a tool to guide your prayers today.

China:  We praise God:

  • for God keeping his church faithful in meeting for worship in spite of the pandemic and persecution.
  • that, using new technologies such as Zoom, many churches have been able to develop creative evangelistic opportunities that were not previously available.
  • During strict government pandemic control, many urban churches have been closed. But some of these believers have been able to transfer to house churches and continued to grow spiritually there.

We pray:

  • Some house churches are still under severe persecution. Preachers are being arrested on trumped-up charges. Pray for the preachers’ perseverance and for their families.
  • Internet meetings in some churches are often interfered with and disrupted by the government, and many elderly believers need training for using new technologies.
  • In Xi Jinping’s third term, the church is facing even greater challenges and more serious persecution. Many Chinese people who feel threatened, including believers, will choose to leave China if they are capable of immigrating elsewhere. Pray that God will keep and guide those who choose to leave as well as those who choose to stay.

A* C* (name changed for security reasons), a house church pastor in Hubei

Egypt:  We praise God:

  • for protecting our ministry to women in rural Upper Egyptian villages. He has provided for all the needs of this team and its beneficiaries. God is faithful and good all time with us.
  • for the start of construction of our community center at El Minya in Upper Egypt.
  • Our first community center, known Oasis Center, was badly affected by COVID-19. Now all activities at the Oasis have returned, including conferences, the vocational training courses, and the retreats.

We pray:

  • for ending trafficking of girls in El Hawamdeya, where parents often sold their daughters to rich old men. We continue to pray for the protection for women and for more awareness for parents.
  • for inflation in Egypt and how the poor people are affected by this. Every time we distribute sacks of food, we find that the poor people are increasing. We pray that God will provide.
  • for planned demonstrations on November 11 by opposition groups linked to the Muslim Brotherhood. We pray for security for the whole country and for stability and protection for churches.
    Submitted by Bassem Fekry, president of the Evangelical Fellowship of Egypt

India:  We praise God:

  • that in spite of anti-conversion laws in certain states, hundreds of new believers have come to know the saving grace of our Lord.
  • Due to the pandemic we didn’t have VBS for several years, but this summer we were finally able to conduct it! Due to an unexpected rainy season, we had to postpone it several times but thank God we could finally accomplish the task.
  • that he enabled us to reach out to the interior tribal villages in the eastern part of India. More than 700 school teachers received training about how to teach students to adopt Christlike character. We also trained 350 gospel workers in church planting.

We pray:

  • for our Christmas outreach ministries to people with leprosy, blind people, commercial sex workers, and tribal and slum street children
  • Due to anti-conversion laws we were unable to baptize 350 new believers in various communities as we needed to obtain official approval from the government authorities through the court of law. We need to wait 40 to 60 days in order to get approval from the court and the local police. Pray that everything goes well with the legal process.
  • We have 2,500 church planting and Christlike character training books. We need funds towards imparting training gospel workers throughout India. Please uphold us in your prayer for the needed funds and other training logistics.
    David K. Dass, national director, India Gospel League

Iraq:  We praise God:

  • for his work through the church because he blessed us during this year by being able to visit one of the displaced people’s camps in Ramadi. We provided families with food baskets and presented a message of love to the children at the camp.

We pray:

  • for the stability of the political and security situation in Iraq and that this stability will bring comfort and peace to the country and citizens of various secondary affiliations, such as race, religion, sect, clan, and tribe. (Many challenges in Iraq are related to the dominance of sub-identities over national identity.)
    Ara Badalian, senior pastor of the National Evangelical Baptist Church in Baghdad

Laos: We pray:

  • that the church will grow and be strengthened so that it can be administratively, evangelistically, and financially self-reliant and be a blessing to the development of the nation.
  • for unity among believers, church leaders and between every church.
    The Protestant church community in Laos

Mali:  We praise God:

  • Mali has been going through a multidimensional crisis for a decade. This has greatly affected the church, especially in the north and center of the country. Despite this growing insecurity, God continues to watch over the local churches.
  • for the commitment of the churches in the witness of Jesus Christ despite their difficult context. Evangelism initiatives like the distribution of Christian tracts, evangelism messages on radio stations, and evangelism through personal relationships continue to move forward.
  • because the church is making its voice heard by the authorities of the country through the Association of Groups of Evangelical Protestant Churches and Missions in Mali (AGEMPEM) and the Episcopal Conference.

We pray:

  • for churches to grow and engage in holistic acts of witness. Pray for the unity of the body of Christ in the current context of Mali, which is marked by an increasingly visible Islamic extremism.
  • for Christian families displaced because of the conflict. May God grant peace and courage necessary for spiritual, psychological, and economic resilience.
  • Kidnappings continue in northern and central Mali. Pray that God will preserve the lives of the church members and that the churches will be protected from terrorist threats and attacks. Pray that the church will continue to be a powerful instrument in God’s hands to bring peace, restore wounded hearts, and ease downcast spirits.
  • that the church in Mali will emerge victorious from this situation and continue to proclaim and manifest God’s unconditional love.
    Josue Djire, faith, development, and peacebuilding advisor at World Vision Mali

Pakistan:  We praise God:

  • for the churches and seminaries who are faithfully serving the Lord and expanding the kingdom of God.
  • for blessed spiritual senior leadership and the development of young pastors and evangelists.
  • for the Pakistani church and Christian NGOs being salt and light during the current flood disaster.

We pray:

  • for the underage forced marriage and forced conversion of Christian teenage girls.
  • for illiterate Christians to obtain education as they are below the poverty line and are mostly persecuted.
  • for the victims of false blasphemy cases.
  • for the unity and purity of the Pakistani church, so they become bold witnesses of Christ through their words and actions.
  • for the great movement of the Holy Spirit to revive the church through the Word of God, miracles, and conversions.
    Ujala Hans, lead pastor at CPM (Christ for Pakistan Ministries) Church Pakistan, Lahore

With additional reporting by Jayson Casper, Angela Lu Fulton, and Sean Cheng.

American pastor delivers message of coming ‘dark wave’ of persecution.

At ICEJ Feast, Andrew Brunson delivers challenging but vital message gleaned from his own experiences during two years in a Turkish prison.  This is a guest blog about Andrew Brunson by Nicole Jansezian – October 18, 2022.

[Andrew Brunson speaking at the Garden Tomb during the International Christian Embassy Jerusalem’s Feast of Tabernacles celebration, Oct. 15, 2022. (Photo courtesy ICEJ)]

Andrew Brunson’s message is straightforward, but it is far from simple: The Western Church needs to brace for a dark wave of persecution that is coming.

Imprisoned for two years on false charges of terrorism in Turkey, the seasoned missionary says he quickly “broke,” lost any sense of God’s presence and became suicidal during his incarceration.  “I began even questioning God’s existence,” Brunson said.  Hardly inspiring.  But sobering for those who have ears to hear.

Brunson and his wife Norine – who had been missionaries in Turkey for 23 years prior to the arrest – were in Israel this month for the International Christian Embassy Jerusalem’s Feast of Tabernacles celebration where Brunson taught what he believes Christians must know in order to face trials and tests that are sure to come.

In an interview with ALL ISRAEL NEWS, Brunson said this is not the message he prefers to carry but it is the one God gave him.  He foresees a cultural and social persecution coming to the United States in which the exclusivity of Jesus as the only way to salvation will become a controversial stance.

“Most of the institutions of society are supporting things that a faithful follower of Jesus cannot embrace… and that’s how they will justify persecuting us,” Brunson said.  Believers who stand for this truth will be marginalized in schools, jobs, banks and more, he added.  Testing believers’ resolve, the pressure to conform will manifest socially and eventually financially.

“What has emerged as the main flashpoint is gender identity and LGBT.  And wherever that is intersecting with religious freedom, LGBT is winning,” he said.  “Now there is a requirement that people not only tolerate, but that we embrace and celebrate this ideology.  And if you don’t, you are seen as someone who is hateful.”

The younger generation of believers and even many churches are shying away from these issues, Brunson said, “not (only) because it will bring pressure from outside but because it will divide the church.  There is already a measure of deception in the Church.  The church is pulling back on teaching truth, the next generation is going to be confused,” Brunson warned.

“In the States, we have an issue where it is a majority-Christian culture with Judeo-Christian values.  But our culture is post- and anti-Christian,” he said.  “Do we fight this and try to continue to have influence?  This is where the real tension is right now.”

One of the difficulties will be persecution couched in accusations of hatred and bigotry rather than directly connected to one’s faith.  In Brunson’s case, he was slapped with false political charges.  “When I was in Turkey, if they had said, ‘Andrew Brunson is a church planter,’ I would have worn it with pride.  Instead, they said, ‘He’s evil and he’s a terrorist,’ so I was made into a hate figure,” he said.  “People who are going to remain faithful are going to be seen as a people of hate.  The same thing happened to Jesus.  They said He was demonic, and eventually they killed Him.”

What Happened In Turkey?
Brunson was swept up in a crackdown on activists and military leaders who were accused of attempting to overthrow Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan in 2016.  Norine was also arrested and released after two weeks.  Their children – all in America at the time – had no news from their parents at the beginning.  In the subsequent two years, Norine remained in Turkey since she was the only person allowed to visit Andrew in prison.

Initially facing not one or two, but three life sentences, and despite experiencing prior persecution in other forms as a missionary, Brunson said he was unprepared for the spiritual desert he faced in prison.  He was at times placed in solitary confinement and at other times endured isolation as the only Christian among 22 Muslims in a cell made for eight people.

Brunson’s arrest captured the attention of the White House as well as the church.  Former U.S. President Donald Trump took personal interest in the case and repeatedly mentioned Brunson’s name in a meeting with Erdoğan.  After this initial contact, Brunson said a flood of propaganda was published in the Turkish media accusing him of being an American spy or even the head of the Central Intelligence Agency.

[Then-U.S. President Donald Trump poses with Pastor Andrew Brunson and his wife, Norine, outside of the Oval Office of the White House on October 13, 2018 in Washington, DC. (Photo: Reuters)]

Former Vice President Mike Pence, an evangelical Christian, also kept up the pressure on the Turkish government at the time.  “If Turkey does not take immediate action to free this innocent man of faith and send him home to America, the United States will impose significant sanctions on Turkey until Pastor Andrew Brunson is free,” Pence tweeted in July 2018.

Indeed, the U.S. did impose sanctions.  When the Turkish stock market lost $40 million and the nation’s currency, the lira, collapsed, more propaganda sought to blame that on the imprisoned Brunson.

In late July 2018, Brunson was remanded to his home in Izmir, Turkey – where he had led an Evangelical church – to await trial.  Then, on Oct. 12, 2018, Brunson was convicted – partially based on the false testimony of long-time acquaintances from his ministry.  But in a dramatic finale, Brunson was sentenced to time served.  That same day, he and Norine left Turkey.

The last thing we said was, ‘We love Turkey.’  It was not a naive love, but more it was us saying that God put His love in us.  It is not a love expressed emotionally, but in commitment and wanting to see good come to that nation.  We want to see God’s blessing on Turkey, to see people become aware of Jesus.  We left Turkey blessing it.”

A Sobering Message
Brunson believes that God orchestrated his time in jail so that he could bring this message of preparedness to the Church.  “God gave me the assignment to prepare people for hardship,” Brunson told AIN.  “It’s not what I prefer to carry, but it’s what He’s given me.”

Recently, Brunson filmed a teaching series called “Prepare to Stand” in which he shares lessons that he hopes will help believers survive a coming wave of persecution.   Brunson said Daniel 11:32 is a critical passage of scripture, but it must be taken in the correct order: “…but the people who know their God shall be strong, and carry out great exploits.”

“It is not the time to think about the exploits,” Brunson said.  “Focus on that first part – otherwise you’re not going to be standing to do the exploits and the assignments that God has for you in a much darker environment.”

In his teachings, both in his videos and during the Feast of Tabernacles here in Jerusalem, Brunson emphasized he was surprised he broke so quickly, to the point he even questioned God’s existence.  “I made it a discipline to declare, ‘God, You exist,’” he recalled.

[Andrew Brunson speaking at International Christian Embassy Jerusalem’s Feast of Tabernacles celebration, October 2022. (Photo courtesy ICEJ)]

Brunson also made it a discipline to pray, worship and declare God’s faithfulness each day.  And he had to come to terms that God’s will may not have included his release from prison.  While in prison, Brunson grappled with an ever-present fear and feeling offended by God.  “The reaction is to become distant from God, to have the heart grow so cold you lose the relationship,” Brunson said.

But focusing now on preparation of the heart can hopefully help us stand during persecution, Brunson said.  That includes aligning our hearts and determining to stand for God’s moral standards which Brunson said are “now are seen as harmful to society.”

God required Brunson to prove his love by staying faithful even when he felt abandoned by Him, he said during a service at the Garden Tomb on Saturday.  “There is a difference between real love and an unproven love,” Brunson said.  Brunson taught that there is an aspect of Jesus we cannot know without partaking in the fellowship of His suffering.  “But,” he said, “even if we don’t feel His presence, God will not abandon us.”

“As we head into a time of great turbulence and face difficulties and tests, He will shepherd your heart.  Lean into Him because He is committed to taking you through,” Brunson said.

Nicole Jansezian is the news editor for both ALL ISRAEL NEWS and ALL ARAB NEWS and senior correspondent for ALL ISRAEL NEWS

This is a follow-up to last week’s blog about a likely route of persecution via CBDC.

Rated PG-13: Christianity and Sex

Why Do Christians Make Such a Big Deal about Sex?
September 26, 2022 by: Rebecca McLaughlin (in Crossway.org, an excellent free resource for book reviews.)

Beliefs about Sex
One day, to try and catch him in his words, the Pharisees asked Jesus, “Is it lawful to divorce one’s wife for any cause?” (Matt. 19:3).  Some Jewish rabbis allowed divorce for any reason.  Others only allowed it in cases of adultery.  The casualties of the more permissive view were women, who could be abandoned freely.  Jesus replied, “Have you not read that he who created them from the beginning made them male and female, and said, ‘Therefore a man shall leave his father and his mother and hold fast to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh’? So they are no longer two but one flesh. What therefore God has joined together, let not man separate.” (Matt. 19:4–6)

Jesus goes right back to the beginning of the Bible, when God creates us — “male and female” — in his image. (Gen. 1:28)  These are the first words the Bible says about humanity.  They are also the first planks in the raft of human equality.  We tend to see equality for men and women as a self-evident truth.  But it is not.  It started as a Judeo-Christian belief.1

Beliefs about Equality
Jesus connects God’s creation of male and female in Genesis 1 to a pivotal verse in Genesis 2.  God makes man first, but then says, “It is not good that the man should be alone; I will make him a helper fit for him.” (Gen. 2:18)  This role is not inferior.  In the rest of the Old Testament, God himself is most often described as a helper.  What is more, the creation of the woman is not an afterthought.  In Genesis 1, humanity is told to “be fruitful and multiply and fill the earth and subdue it” (Gen. 1:28).  It is literally impossible for man to accomplish this mission without woman!

In Confronting Jesus, this follow-up to Confronting Christianity, Rebecca McLaughlin shares important biblical context to help all readers explore who Jesus really is and understand why the Gospels should be taken seriously as historical documents.

Right after God says he’s going to make a helper, he brings the animals to the man and gives him the chance to name them.  But no animal is a fit helper for the man (Gen. 2:20).  God does not discover this by trial and error.  (Maybe an orangutan? Nope. How about a chimpanzee? Nope.)  God already made the animals before he said he would make a helper for the man.  Parading the animals before the man emphasizes that the woman is different from them.  Instead of being like an animal, she is like the man.  To underscore this point, Genesis describes God putting the man to sleep, taking a part of his side — almost like taking a cutting from a plant — and making the woman.  On seeing her, the man exclaims, “This is at last bone of my bones and flesh of my flesh; she shall be called ‘woman,’ because she was taken out of man.” (Gen. 2:23)

Just like in English, the Hebrew word for woman (ishshah) includes the word for man (ish).  The first words God speaks about humans in the Bible were that he would make them — male and female — in his image.  The first words a human speaks in the Bible celebrate the relationship between male and female.  They are followed by the verse that Jesus quotes in his response to the Pharisees: “Therefore a man shall leave his father and his mother and hold fast to his wife, and they shall become one flesh.” (Gen. 2:24)

Man and woman are cut from the same cloth.  Marriage is in one sense a reunion, as man and woman become “one flesh.”  In case we missed the role of sex, the narrative concludes, “The man and his wife were both naked and were not ashamed.” (Gen. 2:25)  This is the picture to which Jesus points when he’s asked about divorce.  If a husband and a wife are “no longer two but one flesh,” if God himself has joined them together, then who are we to tear them apart?  But we do.

The Spiritual Significance of Sex
Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie’s powerful short story, Zikora, begins with a woman in labor.  As the story and the labor progress, we see Zikora texting the father of her baby.  He was her long-term boyfriend who abandoned her when she declined his proposal — not of marriage, but of abortion. 

“’I’ll take care of everything,’ he said.”2  She had told him she was stopping birth control and thought he was on board.  But he had said they had miscommunicated.  “‘Kwame,’ I said finally, in a plea and a prayer, looking at him, loving him. Our conversation felt juvenile; an unreal air hung over us. I wanted to say, ‘I’m thirty-nine and you’re thirty-seven, employed and stable, I have a key to your apartment, your clothes are in my closet, and I’m not sure what conversation we should be having, but it shouldn’t be this one.’”3

We find out later that Zikora had an abortion at age nineteen.  She was pregnant by a guy she had met in college.  “’I don’t do commitment,’ he had said, ‘but I didn’t hear what he said, Zikora recalls; ‘I heard what I wanted to hear: he hadn’t done commitment yet.’”4 

In the first century, poverty and fatherlessness often led to infants being left outside to die.  Today, they are the biggest drivers of abortion — which is often less the flower of a woman’s so-called right to choose and more a bitter fruit served up to women who feel like they don’t have a choice.5

Jesus locates sex in the one-flesh union of marriage between a man and a woman and gives it spiritual significance.

In some ways, the divorce of sex from marriage that we’ve witnessed in the twenty-first-century West is not unprecedented.  Some form of commitment-free sex for men has been a feature of most societies throughout history, and women have borne the consequences: social, emotional, and physical.  But Jesus locates sex in the one-flesh union of marriage between a man and a woman and gives it spiritual significance.  This makes sense of his hard words about adultery and other forms of sexual immorality.  Sex is not just a pleasurable act.  It is not even just a means for having kids.  It is an expression of a one-flesh unity, made by God to picture Jesus’ love for us.

The Pharisees ask Jesus, “Why then did Moses command one to give a certificate of divorce and to send her away?” (Matt. 19:7).  Jesus replies, “Because of your hardness of heart Moses allowed you to divorce your wives, but from the beginning it was not so. And I say to you: whoever divorces his wife, except for sexual immorality, and marries another, commits adultery.” (Matt. 19:8–9)  This teaching protected women and children from being abandoned.  It presents marriage as a permanent commitment that can only be undone by adultery.  As usual, Jesus takes what the Old Testament law said about sexual ethics and tightens it up.  Even his own disciples are shocked (Matt. 19:10).  So why does Jesus — who never married — see marriage in these uncompromising terms?  Because it is a picture of his own love for his church.

Whenever people ask me why Christians are so weird about sex, I first point out that we are weirder than they think.  The fundamental reason why Christians believe that sex belongs only in the permanent bond of male-female marriage is because of the metaphor of Jesus’ love for his church.  It is a love in which two become one flesh.  It is a love that connects across sameness and radical differences: the sameness of our shared humanity and the radical difference of Jesus from us.  It is a love in which husbands are called not to exploit, abuse, or abandon their wives, but to love and sacrifice for them, as Jesus did for us.  In Adichie’s story, Zikora’s college boyfriend often said, “‘I don’t do commitment’ with a rhythm in his voice, as if miming a rap song.”6  With the same consistent rhythm in his teaching, life, and death, Jesus says to us, “I do.”

Notes:

  1. Suetonius, The Lives of the Caesars, vol. 2, trans. J. C. Rolfe, Loeb Classical Library (Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 1914), 65.
  2. Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie, Zikora: A Short Story (Seattle, WA: Amazon, 2020), Kindle.
  3. Adichie, Zikora.
  4. Adichie, Zikora.
  5. For more on this, see Rebecca McLaughlin, The Secular Creed: Engaging 5 Contemporary Claims (Austin, TX: The Gospel Coalition, 2021), 75–80.
  6. Adichie, Zikora.

This article is adapted from Confronting Jesus: 9 Encounters with the Hero of the Gospels by Rebecca McLaughlin for Crossway.
Dr. Rebecca McLaughlin (PhD, Cambridge University) is the author of Confronting Christianity, named Christianity Today’s 2020 Beautiful Orthodoxy Book of the Year. Her subsequent works include 10 Questions Every Teen Should Ask (and Answer) about ChristianityThe Secular Creed; and Jesus through the Eyes of Women.

 

Guest Vlog: Joni Eareckson Tada Sings Songs of Suffering

Joni Eareckson Tada was paralyzed from her neck down when she dove into Chesapeake Bat on July 30, 1967 at 17 years old.  While she regained some small usage of her arms, her hand and legs are limp; her pain is constant.  And the accident happened 55 YEARS ago!

This is a recent video of her story as she looks forward to the end of her life on earth, now 72 years old.  She is one of the people with whom I will want to shake hands when I arrive in Heaven (after Noah, Moses, David and John the Baptist 😉).

A friend who will probably watch this vlog is Caz of Invisibly Me.  She, too, is a jewel that deals with chronic pain.  I do not understand why Father has not healed either of these women (among many other nonhealings I don’t understand; and among many, many things I do not understand).

But I trust His heart that He loves these as much as He loves Jesus, His Only Born Son.  And someday, maybe on the other side of the veil that hides the unseen world from our mortal eyes, He will make it all clear.  For now we see in a mirror dimly (a blurred reflection), but then we will see face to face. Now I know in part, but then I will know fully, just as I have been fully known.” 1 Corinthians 13:12 (Amp)

The 13 minute, 15 second video is well worth a quarter hour of your time today.  At about 7:15 she discusses her pain.  “It makes my quadriplegia seem like a walk in the park; I can do quadriplegia, but, whooo, it’s hard to do pain.”

Songs of Suffering by Joni Eareckson Tada:
“Suffering will teach you who you are. It’s a textbook that will show you the stuff of which you are made. And sometimes it’s not very pretty. Suffering will squeeze that out of you. We say we know Christ. The next time you suffer hard, find out what comes out of your mouth. That will show you how much you know Jesus. And in that sense, it’s good, in a strange way.”  Joni

For more on Joni Eareckson Tada see: https://www.amazon.com/Joni-Unforgettable-Story-Eareckson-Tada/dp/0310364191/

Guest Blog: Dr. David Gibbs: Listen to the Voice. A Modern Parable.

Told as a real story, this is a modern parable:

I was in Alaska doing a lawsuit.  We were way out in the Aleutian Islands, getting ready to leave and go back to Anchorage and then home.  And I had a ticket in my pocket to get on an airplane.
A pastor came up and he said, “Listen, I can save you money.”
I said, “How’s that?”
He said, “I flew a small airplane up here and I fly a small airplane, and I can take you in my little airplane, and you can save your ticket.”
And this did not sound – I said, “Gee, thank you so very, very much, but I’ve got this ticket.  We’ll just make our way on home, me and this other lawyer with me.”
He said, “No, no, no.  You gotta do it, you gotta do it.”
And against every better judgement I had, I said, “Okay.”
Well, we went out to the airport.  He took us by this little plane and I looked at it, and I thought, “Well, one good thing, it’s shiny.”

Then he walked around it.  We got in.  He’s on the left front; I’m on the right front; the other lawyer is sitting right behind me, and he started it up.  And it started up just fine.  Well, we taxied out and I said, “Should we pray?”
He said, “Yeah, that’s a good idea.  We normally don’t ”
I said, “Well, this time we’re gonna.”  And I’m telling you I prayed five, eight minutes.  I prayed a long time.  We went and got on the runway.  He starts down the runway.  The plane lifted off ever so gently, and we started climbing, and it’s wonderful; not a problem in the world.  We started climbing and we flew probably three, four minutes, and something happened that will never leave my mind!

The pilot turned to me and he said, “We’re going in the clouds, and I can’t fly in clouds!  They make me pass out.”  I said, “Clouds make you do WHAT!?”  Now, it’s been cloudy all day!  And we go right up into the clouds and you can’t see anything.  And he looks at me, and his eyes roll back in his head, and he starts mumbling and he passes out!  Passed out cold!! 
Now I grabbed him and shook him and I said, “Come on, you got to wake up!… so I can kill you!”
Now we’re in the clouds flying along with no pilot, and my friend in the back seat said, “We’re dead, aren’t we?”
I said, “There’s a very good chance of that, yes.”
He said, “What are we gonna do?”
I said, “I don’t know.”  But there was a radio right there, and I handed him the microphone and I said, “Start asking for help!”

2022-07-09 Into the Clouds

So he’s in the back seat reaching up and he said, “Hello, hello?”  We didn’t know any proper radio etiquette.  All we were saying was, “Hello?”
And somebody answered back, “ ‘Hello, hello?’  Don’t you guys know proper radio etiquette?”
I said, “Give it to me!”  I said, “Tell — We don’t know nothin’!  Tell them, we’re in an airplane with a passed out pilot, and we don’t know how to fly this plane!”
The guy said, “I’m a freighter flying out of Anchorage on the way to Tokyo.”  And he said, “You’re telling me you have nobody who can fly that plane with you!?”
I said, “Tell him, that’s correct.”
Now you gotta understand I was sweating bullets!  He said, “First thing I’m gonna do is start circling so I don’t lose you, because I’ll fly out of range of your radio, and you won’t have me anymore.”  And he said, “I’m gonna get Anchorage Emergency for you, and Anchorage Emergency will be the people that can maybe help you; try to save your lives.”

After about five minutes Anchorage came on and said, “We understand you have a passed out pilot and those of you do not know how to fly that plane.”
And we said, “That’s right.”
They said, “Well, the first thing we gotta do is find you.”
I’ll never forget what this man at Anchorage said.  He said, “My job is to get you home safe.”  He said, “That’s my job.  But,“ he said, “here’s the deal.  If you want me to get you home safe, you gotta promise me you’ll obey my voice.”  He said, “You can’t see me, but I can see you.”  And he said, “If you’re not going to obey my voice, you’re gonna die.”
When you can’t see anything, you have no idea how disoriented you become.
Finally, he said, “Okay, I found you.  Now hear me clear.”  He said, “You’re four minutes from a mountain.”  He said, “You’re gonna crash in that mountain and die.  Follow my voice.”
I never said, “I have to follow your voice?  Is that reasonable?”  You see, I understood without his voice, I had nothing!  And do you understand without God’s voice, you have nothingNOTHING!? 

Finally, he got us turned and he said, “I’m freezing all the traffic in the area.”  He said, “It’s going to take me an hour and a half to get you to Anchorage, and there’s a lot of weather between you and Anchorage.  You’re in for a rough ride.”  And he said, “I want you to hear me.  I don’t want you to look at what’s going on outside.  I don’t want you to pay attention to the storm.  Just MY Voice!”  He said, “If you start watching the storm, you will die!  But I’ll take you through it.”
Now, because they cleared all the traffic, several pilots, those nighttime freighters, those 747s, started talking to us.  They said, “We’re praying or you men.  You’re gonna make it!  But listen to the Voice!  That’s the key.”  They said, “Trust the VOICE.”
Do you realize your head is full of voices?  And everybody in this world wants to talk to you.  And everybody wants to be the controlling voice.  And God says, ”I want you to be a living sacrifice.  I want you to put yourself on the altar and let My VOICE be [the voice you listen to].
Finally we went through the worst of the weather, but there was still more.  And then the Voice came back, and he said, “Now, I’m gonna line you up.”  He said, “I’m gonna bring you in right down the runway, and at the foot of the runway are some lights, and they’re in the form of a cross.”  He said, “Don’t you forget this, The Cross Is The Way Home!”
Finally, he’s bringing us down.  We still can’t see anything, and all he kept saying is, “Stay with me.”

“My sheep,” the Bible says, “hear My VOICE and they follow Me.”

2022-07-09 The Cross Is The Way Home
Finally, just a couple hundred feet off the ground, we saw the cross.  I landed the plane.  In fact, I landed it seven times!  Finally, it all came to a stop, and the minute we stopped the pilot woke up.
The voice said, “Thanx for listening.  I watch them crash and burn all the time because they won’t follow my Voice.  They don’t understand I’m the one who can see them even though they can’t see me.  But they get the voices in their head and they kill themselves.  They self-destruct.  Thanx for listening to the Voice.”

Then they put us in a motel room, and about four in the morning, Knock, knock, knock, knock.  A knock at my door, and I opened the door and a man was standing there.  He said, ”Hello, David.”
I said, You’re the Voice!  You’re the one who got me home!”
He said, “I am.”
Do you understand one day you’re going to stand before Him and say, “YOU were the VOICE!  You’re the VOICE that brought…me…Home!”
If you’re not on that altar as a living sacrifice, your head’s full of voices.  And then we wonder why kids crash and burn?  We wonder why marriages are shattered?
And the Lord is saying, “ I AM the One who [is] the VOICE.”

All I can remember is that Voice saying, “Stay with me… Stay with me… Don’t listen to what’s going on in your head and don’t watch the storm.  Stay…with…Me, and I’ll take you through.”
Tonight you have a God who has promised to take you through.  A living sacrifice.  Holy.

My closing thought: Consider what you are listening for; what noises crowd out the Voice that you need to hear?  https://capost2k.wordpress.com/2016/10/02/what-are-you-listening-for/

Who Will Take My Place? – The John Chau Story

June 29 is the Day of the Christian Martyr.  More than 4000 Christ-followers are killed every year (11 every day), not because they cause trouble, but simply because they claim Jesus as their Lord.  We who live in luxury and comfort need to be aware that the freedom we now have to share the gospel could disappear overnight.  Are we ready? … But that is a question for another blog.
John Chau was part of my blog on December 03, 2018.  Here is the “the rest of the story” as told by the editors of The Voice of the Martyrs.  For the sake of my shorter blogs, this is an abbreviated account.  The full original article is available HERE.  And well worth reading!

Who Will Take My Place? – The John Chau Story

2022-06-18 John Chau Title Pic

A LIFE OF PREPARATION
John spent almost a decade preparing to take the gospel to the Sentinelese, one of the last uncontacted people groups. His journey began in 2008, the year he turned 17, when he became what he described as “an apprentice to Jesus.”

2022-06-18 North Sentinel MapAfter taking his first missions trip the following year, he began to pray about spending his life serving as a missionary. “I know that God used that time to mark my life,” he later said. In his prayers, John asked God where He wanted him to go, echoing Isaiah’s affirmation – “Here am I! Send me.” (Isaiah 6:8)

Soon after making that prayerful commitment, John found information online about the Sentinelese people, who live on an isolated island and have never heard the gospel. He sensed that God was calling him to go to North Sentinel Island to share God’s love with them.

“Once I said yes to Jesus,” he said in a video for a church that sponsored his work, “I was committed. I was all in.”

Every decision John made for the next nine years was in preparation for going to North Sentinel Island, living among the Sentinelese and sharing the gospel with them. “He had conditioned his body, his mind, his spirit,” said a former representative from the student missions office at Oral Roberts University (ORU), the school John attended in Tulsa, Oklahoma. “He was one of the most prepared men I’ve ever met.”

Since little is known about the Sentinelese language, he took a linguistics course through a branch of Wycliffe Bible Translators hoping it would help him communicate with the islanders. In addition, he undertook medical training and became certified as a wilderness EMT (emergency medical technician) so he could provide the Sentinelese with basic health care, knowing their immune systems would be vulnerable to imported Western viruses, and he underwent laser eye surgery so he wouldn’t have to worry about keeping his contacts clean.

2022-06-18 North Sentinel PictureJohn was so focused on preparing to serve on the island – an arial view of North Sentinel hung on his dorm-room wall – that he needed a reminder to keep serving in the here and now. An outreach leader at ORU challenged John not to wait, but to start immediately serving and reaching out in the name of Jesus. And John took the challenge to heart.

Because of his love for soccer, John became involved with a ministry that ran a soccer program for immigrants from Myanmar. He was not the most high-profile leader, standing in the spotlight or preaching a sermon, but his love for people and his bedrock faith began to shine through.  “Coach Chau” became a friend, mentor and coach, taking every opportunity to point young men to Christ.

When John reached out to the ministry, All Nations, which had overseen one of his college mission trips, a member of the executive leadership, Pam Arland, took notice that John’s email was the second mention of the Sentinelese people she had seen in a week. And prior to that, she had never even heard of them. Was God at work to reach this unreached island, she wondered.

Pam invited a coworker to sit in on a call with John and help determine whether he was the right person for such a dangerous mission trip.  “John is actually one of the most well prepared and intentional missionaries I have ever met,” said Mary Ho, executive leader of All Nations in a VOM radio interview (VOMRadio.net/JohnChau). “He would call us and say, ‘How do I prepare myself to know more about cultural anthropology?’ We would say, ‘OK, here are 10 [or] 20 books on the subject.’ He would say, ‘Oh, I have read half of them.’ Literally two weeks later he would be like, ‘I have finished reading them. What’s next?’”

A SOLO MISSION
In 2015, John took the first of four scouting trips to the Andaman Islands, a union territory of India located so far east in the Bay of Bengal that it’s much closer to Bangkok than Bangalore.  As he flew out of Port Blair, capital of the Andaman and the Nicobar Islands, John gazed out at the blue ocean below and saw an island come into view that he recognized immediately: It was the same island he had stared at on his dorm-room wall all through college.

“A sense of clarity and peace came upon me,” John said later, “A sense of knowing that I’m going to be going there one day. I took that as confirmation. I’ve only had that sense of clarity and deep sense of knowing a few other times in my life, and each time I can say it was definitely God that was speaking to me.”

John had a natural inclination toward planning, and it was now in full flower. He planned what to take with him, sorting and re-sorting his gear, then deciding how much would fit in the cases he planned to cache on the island before he met the islanders. He wrote plans for the first day, for his early goals and even a contingency plan in case things didn’t go well.

Plan A was to make contact with the islanders and live among them for as long as it took to learn the language and culture. Then he would tell them about the love and sacrifice of Jesus Christ. John knew it would take years and maybe decades. His meticulous planning also included a Plan B, the possibility that tribes would not welcome him and might even kill him, just as they had two fishermen who drifted ashore on North Sentinel in 2006.

John was at peace either way. He had committed his life to seeing the Sentinelese people worship Jesus Christ as their Savior. Either he would live on the island as a guest and a light for Christ, or he would give his life on the island and enter eternity. Like Paul, he knew that “to live is Christ and to die is gain.” (Philippians 1:21)

“ADVENTURE BRO”
In case the world did hear John’s name, he had done his best to protect Christian friends in the islands and make sure any publicity would not hinder further efforts to reach the Sentinelese with the gospel. His Instagram feed is filled with adventure images from far off places. He blogged about traveling the world, climbing, kayaking and diving with great white sharks. If John’s name became known, anyone searching the images and blogspots would simply think he was an “adventure bro” who stepped too far off the beaten path and paid with his life.

After John’s death, a friend posted some thoughts that John had shared before the trip. “Death is inevitable,” John had said. “I can die in a car crash, [from] snakebite, [from] cancers. There are many ways we can die. I’m going to the islands this November and I don’t know what is going to happen, but I’m ready. I’m ready to lay my down life down for the gospel.”

In August 2018, the Indian government removed the requirement – in place since 1963 – that foreigners visiting 29 of the Andaman and Nicobar islands first apply for and receive a Restricted Area Permit. Media reports listed islands that no longer required a permit to visit – including North Sentinel Island. The change was designed to promote tourism, but also eliminated one obstacle to John’s mission.

FINAL PREP AND FIRST CONTACT
As the time approached for John’s trip to the island, Mary Ho received a four word e-mail from another member of the All Nations executive team: “Mary, are you sure?” Her response was equally to the point, from Romans 10:14: “How are they to hear without someone preaching?”

On the afternoon of November 14, before boarding a fishing boat and heading toward the island, John wrote this prayer in his journal: “Thank you, Father, for using me, for shaping me and molding me to be your ambassador. … Holy Spirit, please open the hearts of the tribe to receive me and by receiving me, to receive You. May Your kingdom, Your rule and reign come now to North Sentinel Island. My life is in Your hands, O father, so into Your hands I commit my spirit.”

The next morning he kayaked along the shore, hoping to show his good intentions by delivering fish and other gifts to the Islanders. “My name is John,” he called out. “I love you and Jesus loves you.”

2022-06-18 John at the Island

The first islanders to appear carried their bows with unstrung arrows. Later, when they strung arrows in their bows, John paddled out of range and back to the boat. He approached again that afternoon, delivering more gifts and getting close to an islander before a young Sentinelese launched an arrow that lodged firmly in the waterproof Bible he was carrying.

The tip of the arrow stopped on a page that ended with the first two verses of Isaiah 65: “I was ready to be sought by those who did not ask for me; I was ready to be found by those who did not seek me. I said, ‘Here I am, here I am’ to a nation that was not called by My name. I spread out My hands all the day to a rebellious people, who walk in a way that is not good, following their own devices.”

On that second contact attempt, John got out of the kayak, hoping to appear less threatening. But when the islanders, one with a bamboo knife, got between him and the kayak, he had to leave it behind – with his US passport inside – and swam back to the boat. After that eventful day, he poured out his heart in the pages of his journal, which the fishermen later delivered to Christian friends.

2022-06-18 Journal Entry 1

Later that evening, John added another entry.

2022-06-18 Journal Entry 2

According to his notes, John planned for the fishermen to drop him ashore the next morning. John hoped he would seem less threatening without the boat waiting offshore. And he also hoped to protect the fisherman: “If it goes badly on foot, the fisherman won’t have to bear witness to my death,” he wrote. John closed most of his journal entries as well as letters to friends and family with the Latin phrase Solo Deo Gloria (Glory to God alone).

ON THE BEACH
On November 16, 2018, John went ashore on North Sentinel Island for the last time. When the fisherman returned the next day, according to the police report, they saw “a dead person being buried at the shore which from the silhouette of the body, clothing and circumstances appear to be the body of John Allen Chau.”

Following his death, a storm of vitriol was unleashed on John, his family, All Nations and, at times, anyone who would dare to think of sharing the gospel with another human being. The fisherman who took John to the island were arrested, as were other Christians who had spoken with John in the Andaman islands. Their trial began in November 2021.

The story of John the adventure bro quickly turned to John the misguided missionary, the colonizer, the thoughtless disease spreader. The mocking memes on social media and criticism in a variety of media came in waves. Some comedians even used the story of John’s murder in their acts.

More concerning was the criticism from Christians who attacked John’s [mis]perceived lack of preparation and insensitivity to the culture. Some even questioned whether the Great Commission might be outdated in 2018; perhaps they posed, it does not apply to tribes that have no contact with the outside world.

NOT THE END OF THE STORY
“I believe the measure of success in the Kingdom of God is obedience,” John said a few months before his death. “I want my life to reflect obedience to Christ and to live in obedience to him. I think that Jesus is worth it. He’s worth everything.”

John followed in the footsteps of faithful Christians throughout history, beginning with the martyrdom of all but one of the original 12 apostles. In the 1800s, only one in four missionaries survived his first term in the Congo (see From Jerusalem to Irian Jaya by Ruth Tucker). In 1866, Robert Thomas died on a riverbank outside Pyongyang while trying to take the gospel to Korea. Five men were speared to death in 1956 while trying to share the love of Christ with the “Auca” (now called the Huaorani) tribesmen. A willingness to “die trying” has always been a requirement for taking the gospel to places it’s never been heard.

The end of John’s life on earth should not be viewed as the end of the whole story; we know how that story ends. In one of John’s last journal entries, he wrote “The eternal lives of this tribe are at hand. And I can’t wait to see them around the throne of God worshiping in their own language as Revelation 7:9–10 states. Every tribe, every people, every language, worshiping King Jesus together.” John longed for the day when he would introduce his Sentinelese brothers and sisters to other members of the body of Christ.

Perhaps in eternity, we will see John standing among the Sentinelese gathered around the throne, crying out in a loud voice with them, “Salvation belongs to our God!” Those who knew John well on earth will expect a toothy grin on his face, a twinkle in his eye and a thumb raised in his trademark “It’s all good” gesture.

2022-06-18 John Chau Thumbs Up

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hNksqCzMKkk&t=206s

https://www.persecution.com/martyr/?_source_code=WEBI19E2

https://www.persecution.com/free-magazine/

Guest Blog by PK Adams: The Digital Revolution IS Coming! What Will You Do?

Paula Adams covers this territory very well with excellent research and a conservative Christ-honoring perspective.  I will have more to say on this theme soon, but this is enough to get you started thinking about what YOU will do when the government can track EVERY transaction by way of digital money.  China is already rolling out a digital yuan in select cities.  This was Paula’s March 17 blog:

When I wrote this post about biometrics and the mark of the beast, I was still a little unsure what the dangers were with this idea of ‘digital identity’. I knew that it seemed dangerous for some reason, but I couldn’t put it into words yet.

Now that governments and banks are putting out more propaganda of how having an ‘identity’ is a human right and will be so wonderful and convenient, I think I can see the plan more clearly. This has been in the works for long time and is part of the digital transformation.

If you don’t know anything about this topic, I suggest listening to this podcast or watching the video.  Or you can watch this video from ID2020. Actually, I urge you to watch both videos. They are very informative.

The main selling point for these biometric identity systems are that they will help the poor participate in the economy. A secondary selling point is that digital identity is necessary to prevent fraud in the increasing digitally connected world. And also important they say is that we need identity so we can have easy access to government services. On the surface the arguments for these IDs sound reasonable.

But let us ask ourselves, how have humans managed to function all these 5,000 years or so without them? James Corbett says that people used their reputations to do business before the invention of birth certificates and social security cards. Many people were born at home and had no legal birth certificate before industrial times.

According to the American Bar Association, birth certificates arrived around the end of the 19th century. “The idea that a government should also record this vital information is a relatively modern development. The United Kingdom was the first country to mandate collection of birth data at the national level in 1853. The United States began collecting birth data at the national level in 1902, via the U.S. Census.”

But even now, though many people do have drivers licenses and social security cards or other type of identity cards, many people do NOT, and they still EXIST and live their lives. Proof of identity is provided by the fact that you are alive and interacting with someone else, not a card or digital record.

And really, why does anyone need to know who you are if you buying and selling? The relevant information is your payment which could be cash, credit, digital currency, or even bartering. When I go to Walmart and pay cash, no one cares who I am. When I sell something on Marketplace or eBay, I do not ask for ID!

In my mind, the only reason to provide ID when transacting business is to keep a record of it for tax purposes or to provide proof of ownership. But in the past this has been accomplished fairly easily with a signed receipt or bill of sale or other contract. To make the claim that people cannot do business without a digital ID is nonsense. I’m sure the people in developing countries would agree.

My point is that a digital identity RECORD does not create your IDENTITY. Humans have life, dignity and worth apart from any assigned number from the state.

Second question, why does everyone need easy access to government services? Obviously they intend for government to play an even bigger roll in our lives in the future. Cradle to grave control.

I think many of my friends and followers will easily see the dangers of digital identity system. You are the same people who instantly saw the dangers of the Covid passport, mandatory vaccines, and forced lockdowns. It started with a ‘state of emergency’ and continues under the guise of ‘public health’, which will continue to be an excuse for increasing control. Governments should not have this much power over our lives.

The idea of a digital identity system that we are told is absolutely an essential human right because people can’t buy or sell in the marketplace should set off some warning bells if you know your Bible.

In the prophecies about the time period before Jesus returns to judge the world, which is called the End Times, the Last Times, the Tribulation or ‘that day’, and is interpreted differently by different people, there is a verse that says that when the Anti-Christ comes into power, people who do not worship him will not be able to buy or sell unless they have the ‘mark of the beast‘ and they will be killed. These same prophecies also discuss the immensity of the global market during this time and the fact that people are still being sold as slaves.

In my opinion, it’s not biometrics per se that are the mark of the beast, it is the digital identity system itself. And I believe that fingerprints, selfies, and retinal scans are only the beginning. In fact, I am starting to wonder if the ‘beast’ will actually be a computer or Artificial Intelligence that is used to control over the whole economy. Have you heard of algorithmic trading?

My guess is that eventually everyone’s genetic information will be part of their digital record and your data will be somehow attached or implanted or tattooed to your skin. This will be needed to buy, sell, go to school, conduct any kind of government business, travel, communicate, you name it. There is already a problem with people using masks to thwart facial recognition and crooks can cut off your finger to use it for fingerprint ID systems. So, oh well, I guess we will have to have a sample of your DNA!

What is the problem with giving them this information? Why should I care if the government can not only track my every move, but also send me helpful reminders to get my vaccines, and make sure that I have everything I need? Isn’t the government just trying to help me have a better life? If you have to ask that question, I will assume that you have never had to deal with bureaucrats or pay taxes or noticed the immense corruption in every level of government. Lucky you!

What could happen if you do not agree with something the government says to do? I think having a digital ID will seem very convenient and safe and logical to most of the public, until one day, the trap is sprung. By then it will be too late to take back the DNA that you freely handed over or have the chip implant removed or find alternative ways of doing business. And what is the ultimate goal? To make you worship the beast. No mark? You will be beheaded.

If this all sounds too sci-fi for you, I hope you’ll do your own research, and do some thinking about what could happen when you give up your right to privacy. One of the claims these digital ID people love to make is that your ‘privacy’ will be protected. Hahaha! From who? Not from them. Privacy means something very different to them.

You have nothing to hide, you say? Neither do I, yet. But if these eager economic/tech/medical/NGO/UN-funded/one world government types get their way, the world is going to be very different in the future. Your personal goals, moral values and religious beliefs will have to be realigned with what’s ‘best for the world’.

I think someone in power has noticed that not everyone is excited about this idea because the IRS website has at least temporarily changed it’s plans to require ID.me to use their website. But they are not going to stop with this. Billions are being invested in digital identity in all kinds of industries. But this is a sign that protesting can make a difference.

Educate your friends and family if you agree with me that digital identity is a bad idea. Send them to the www.corbettreport.com. Let’s all open our eyes so we can see the world of illusion being built before it’s too late.

And while you’re busy fact-checking, have a look at this video https://rumble.com/vwxxi8-ukraine-on-fire.html and this one. Remember that the beast hates God’s people, especially Jews.

For Paula’s blog and other great reading, you can go here: https://blueskiesandgreenpastures.com/2022/03/17/digital-identity-dangers/

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=01UjW_ogmLw