Hope In Dark Times – Guest Intermezzo Blog by PK Adams

Hope in Dark Times – by Blue Skies and Green Pastures

It’s feels much easier to be cynical these days than to share the ‘good news’ of Jesus. But isn’t that why the good news is so good? As evil grows more powerful, and the narrative of death and fear is used constantly to push people towards the state to ‘save them’ with technology, the unsaved world becomes less willing to hear about an unseen savior that tells them that suffering is inevitable and that they should be looking forward to a ‘kingdom’ that seems too far away. But this is the truth and the truth is better than false hope.


Our lives on this planet are very short compared to the eternity we will experience after death. The suffering we may be experiencing now on earth, while it can be terrible and seem like it will last forever, is mercifully limited. And if we know Jesus, we can have supernatural peace even in the midst of suffering. Not ‘happy feelings’, but the assurance that God will work all things together for good for those who are called according to his purpose. Romans 8:28. Our ultimate hope is not in the state or technology, but in the knowledge that God through his holiness and justice will make things right for his children.

Some of us are actually suffering in our own lives due to pain, illness, loneliness, death of loved ones, lost jobs, precarious living arrangements, or the loss of hope that things will get better. It is the last one that we must try to change. We must remember the promises of God, continue to trust Him, keep looking for ways to serve him and others. Others of us are struggling because of the growing evil in the world and the fear that has taken over our hearts and minds. We fear for our children and grandchildren and our own lives. We are called to continue doing good, loving others, sharing Jesus, giving to the church, studying the Word, and not let the world steal our hope and joy.

Many generations of believers have gone before us. Compared to them, most of us (at least in the West) are living in a rich, free, and comfortable world. We can be thankful for the inventions that God allowed men and women to make that have made life so much easier. I am glad we no longer have to hunt and gather food daily to survive or fight off invaders in our village or die from childbirth or a simple illness or accident. Yet, greed, idolatry, rebellion, and pride are still a constant threat that manifests as statism, wars, violence, crime, immorality, and ideological narratives that attempt to control the public. There is nothing new under the sun, as it says in the Ecclesiastes. Until we live in the kingdom, we will deal with the fallout of sin.

While we wait for Jesus to return, let us not grow weary, lose hope, or let our hearts grow cold. This is the true test of faith, can you keep hope alive? Paul tells us in Philippians 4: Let the peace that passes understanding rule in your hearts and keep you focused on Jesus who is near to you and even inside you. We can do all things, even suffer, when we abide in Him. Our job as believers is to show this hope and faith to the world and each other.

Advent: What Will Happen Soon

Advent, a Latin-borrowed term for something that is coming into view, is mostly used to refer to Jesus’ first arrival on earth the first Christmas day.  However, in church history the birth of Jesus did not get a lot of press or attention.  Some Christ-followers even disdained its celebration as too aligned to pagan Saturnalia practices of ancient Roman days; a festival of debauchery associated to the winter solstice, when the days begin to get longer after the autumn’s longer shadows have stretched the night to its maximum.  The Pilgrims of Plymouth Rock fame actually made Christmas celebration illegal for their colony.

“Advent” in its current incarnation, refers to the four weeks prior to Christmas, celebrated by most Christians as December 25, though the actual date of Jesus’ birth is unknown.  Each week is commemorated with a special focus of a blessing that will come into the world with the “coming of Jesus.”  Hope, Peace, Joy and Love are the four themes, usually marked by the lighting of candles and recitation of Scripture on these ideas.  These practices of Advent probably began sometime before 400 C.E. and were established as a church practice by the second Council of Tours in 567 with monks being required to begin a regular fasting schedule from December 1 to the 25th.

Some churches will rearrange the order of the themes; some substitute Faith for one of them, and some add a fifth candle, The Christ Candle, for lighting on Christmas Day.  In any case, this is not a Scriptural design, but serves as a reminder to Christians of various themes of Jesus first time on earth.

However, when the Church began celebrating the Advent season of Christ’s birth, the focus was not so much on fuzzy good feelings of the commercial season we now see.  Rather they were laser focused on how He came to begin the process by which He wouldjudge the living and the dead,

Evangelism was not shrouded in anger and antagonism at sin and heretics, but joyful communication of the recognition that God would set all injustices right; He would heal all diseases; He would establish His throne on earth to rule in love and holiness.  What He began with His first Advent would end with His glorious return; thus, the judgement of Jesus was part of the Good News!  The judgement day was not about gleefully consigning neighbors and the mass of non-Christians to eternal hell, but about helping anyone with a heart for good to participate in Jesus’ final victory over Martin Luther’s “three cosmic enemies of Christ,” sin, death and the devil.

In antiquity Christ-followers cared little about Jesus’ birthday but focused on two other major events in space-time history: the Resurrection and Jesus’ Second Coming, i.e., His Advent back into the world for the second time.  He specifically warned His followers to beware of false “christs” (anointed ones) and to avoid setting a date for His return.  (See Matthew 24.)

When Jesus left the earth, angels reaffirmed that He was not gone permanently, but would come back in the same way you have seen him go into heaven.”  The disciples, some 500+ of them, waited in Jerusalem for His promise to send the Holy Ghost.  This occurred 50 days after His resurrection on the Day of Pentecost, and the New Covenant He had instituted with His apostles at the last supper was initiated.  Under His direction they were to tell everyone that Jesus is the Son of God and will forgive the sins of anyone who repents and follows Jesus.  They proceeded to fill Jerusalem with this message, spread it to all Judea, reach out to Samaria and eventually to the “ends of the earth.”

We are there – the ends of the earth, about as far removed geographically as one can get from Jerusalem, the exact antipode being somewhere in the Pacific Ocean.  And this message is being translated into almost every known language on earth, so that this Gospel (good news) has reached nearly the whole world, precipitating Jesus’ second coming.  Keep in mind that of the languages in which Bible translation has not begun, many have access to Bibles in similar languages to their “heart language” and many are very small ethnic groups.   Wycliffe Global Alliance estimates 6,000,000,000 people have a full Bible available with another 22% having partial translations, meaning 97% of the world’s 8,000,000,000 have access to the truth of the Good News!

Now regarding this “Second Coming” there is a lot of confusion.  Jesus was intentionally vague about “the day and the hour” because He did not want someone to think, “My master is delayed,” (Matthew 24:45-51) and slip into selfish behaviors, ignoring that our Everlasting Father (Isaiah 9:6) knows our hearts at all times (Psalm 139:1-16).  There were even those in the first century C.E. that believed Jesus had already returned (2 Thessalonians 2:1-4).  And so confusion continues today, whether Jesus will return at the beginning of a seven-year period called The Tribulation, in the middle of it or at its end.  But of this we can be certain: “the day of the Lord WILL come.”

Do you believe Jesus was who He claimed He was?  There is no getting around the idea that He claimed to be THE Son of God.  He was not just some nice philosopher with some gentle teaching.  If you read the Gospels, the first four books of the New Testament, you will be struck not only by how egalitarian He was among the Jews and Samaritans (leftovers from the Babylonian captivity), but by His egomaniacal claim to be One with God.  Even His enemies recognized this claim and in fact, was the basis for their intention to crucify Him.

So this year, as you sign Christmas cards or fill out ecards online, as you put up your tree or outside lights, recognize that Jesus’ first Advent was just a precursor to another Advent that will joyously tear the fabric of space and time and usher in an age of the earth such as we have never seen since the Garden of Eden.

Marantha, even so, come again, Lord Jesus.

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/

Today is The Day of the Christian Martyrs

The links on this paint file will not work, but you can get to the site if you go here: https://www.persecution.com/.

2022-06-29 Wordless Wednesday - VOM

For more on John Chau, see https://capost2k.wordpress.com/2022/06/18/who-will-take-my-place-the-john-chau-story/ or for the full story see https://capost2k.wordpress.com/who-will-take-my-place-the-john-chau-story/.

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/

Swimmers in the Sky

IMG_5720

Angels from the Throne in Glory
Come to earth to tell a story
Of One who came to testify
We can live even when we die.

The realms of Heaven and earth collide
Leaving us with no place to hide.
All is clear to Him on the Throne,
He sees both worlds; they are both His own.

But with love He looks on what He has formed
And bids us each to be reborn;
To accept His life coming from On High
And join the swimmers in the sky.

(Thanx to Ariela for challenging me to write a poem on the Swimmers in the Sky.)

Law vs. Grace – An Artificial Dichotomy? A Guest Blog by John Leonard

With minor edits this is an excellent balancing article about accurately assessing law versus grace.
by humble Theology | January 5, 2022

2022-02-05 Law vs GraceWhen reading the Bible most Christ-followers hear the word “law” and immediately have a negative connotation form in their mind as being conditioned on the premise that we are not under law but under grace (Romans 6:14). The argument goes something like this: Christians, being under grace, no longer need to obey God’s law. This is a false conclusion for a few reasons, but to get started, we need a bit deeper understanding of what the law even is, and how many ways it can be taken to mean.

First is the law as the moral character of God. When we talk about God being a God of love, we are also saying that He is therefore necessarily a God of law (Matthew 5:48). Love and law are predicated upon one another in any covenant relationship (John 14:15). We see this as the summary of the law is to love God and neighbor, and in the marriage/bride illustrations within Scripture. A bride both loves the groom, and as such willingly submits to laws that typify the exclusivities of marriage. For example, a bride does not seek other lovers any more than someone who loves God goes after idols. This perfection of character is both of the nature of God, and perfectly displayed in the person and life of Christ.

As we are to be a reflection of God’s glory to the world, and take Christ as our example, we are no less expected to love than to follow the laws that God expresses (John 6:38). Some may say that the Christian law is to love, and yet we see what that law looks and acts like in the Ten Commandments (as well as some of other laws of Exodus and Leviticus) (1 John 2:3, 1 John 5:2). There are three uses of this moral law. Within many Presbyterian, Calvinist, and/or Reformed circles the moral law is found to have three main uses.

  1. The first is that the law shows us our sin, and thus the need for grace. Because the law is the perfect reflection of God’s righteousness, we see (as in a mirror) that we do not meet that standard.
  2. The second use is that of a civic standard for law and order. The law cannot change the heart, but its threats can have a restraining effect upon all who are subject to it.
  3. Third, the law is a guide for the Christian (as already mentioned) that shows us the perfect will of our Father. These laws, commands and such direct us as His kids, as to what pleases Him, and what we can do to glorify Him. We do not and cannot do so for any merit, but we submit to them in gratitude.

Second, the law is also seen as civil code. Throughout scripture there are laws by which civic order is established and wrongs can be righted. These are not salvific in nature, that is they do not earn salvation, but are meant to preserve the common peace of the community so far as sinners can submit to them. These are the rules of the land and can be as simple as the “golden rule” (Matthew 7:12). Christians, so far as they are a dual citizen of Heaven and their land, are to observe the national rules/laws, so far as they do not conflict with God’s laws (Acts 5:29).

Third, law in Scripture is understood as ceremonial practice. There were many ceremonial laws prescribed to Israel as a theocracy and under the rule of kings. These have passed with time, and yet the things they foreshadowed in practice are still shown with greater clarity in the New Testament practices (like Communion and Baptism). Although fewer in number, and salvation is by grace through faith, these practices extend and show salvation visually, as expressly confirmed by the Word. Ceremonies do not save, but they are the sign and seal of God upon His people to show that they have been called according to His Word and such ceremonies are the outward exhibits of faith (Colossians 2:11-12).

Law is not salvific, that is, effective for our salvation. The law does not and cannot save. Even under the covenant of works, the main premise was not law keeping, but for Adam to love God to such a degree that to obey would be a daily joyful act of gratitude, not a chore. Think of a marriage where the two do not reflect on their legal obligations to each other nor the prohibitions against seeking love in another. They simply love one another and seek each other’s happiness and welfare.

Scripture proposes that the law is opposed to grace when it is incorrectly taken from its moral sense and used or interpreted to suggest that following the law is effective for man’s salvation before a Holy God. In these instances, as in Romans 6:14, Paul can say, as should we, that we are not under the law as a system of salvation, but under the covenant of grace, as our rest for salvation. This does not free us to be disobedient children, as we still have our Father’s rules to follow, but we are not following them, as if some sense of merit accompanied them.

The law is always a good thing, when used lawfully (Romans 7:7-12). Paul, as well as Jesus, criticized many of the religious leaders of their time because they missed grace and had made the law into something it is not. So, we have to understand that condemnation of the wrongful use of the law, is not the same as condemning the Law as given by God. When Jesus says that He has come to fulfill the law (Matthew 5:17), then it can hardly be said that there is anything wrong with it (as Jesus becomes its fulfillment). Yet if taken from that context and used as any type of merit system, even if combined with grace (penance), it is to be condemned as not a true and accurate use of the law.

Law was part of the Covenant of Works. Certainly, there are commands within the Covenant of Works, under which Adam was directly told to be fruitful and multiply, and was commanded not to eat of the tree in the center of the garden. The law was to be followed, not for the sake of earning something, but out of love, reverence, and awe of God, he was to keep the relationship going. Adam was already created good, and so enjoyed a harmonious relationship with God. Yet with the option to sin, Adam fell from this original estate by not only breaking the law, but also refuting his love for God. Those not “in Christ” by His grace, die and go to an eternal hell based upon the results of this covenant breach of Adam, imputed to all. It is this breach and all other actual sins of believers only, that are atoned for on the cross. Jesus took the penalty they must exact upon Himself.

2022-02-05 Law And GraceLaw remains in the Covenant of Grace (New Covenant). Since the fall, and now, man is only ever saved by grace, whereas our performance to keep the law is not a factor. But law keeping is a factor of our salvation (James 1:22). Jesus kept the law on our behalf in two senses. First in a passive sense, Jesus kept the law to prove He was the spotless lamb of God, able to bear the sins of sinners on the cross. Actively Jesus kept the law throughout His life so to have accomplished what Adam did not do, thus earning the righteousness which He gives freely to us. If Jesus just forgave sins, we would be back at square one like Adam, and we would have to maintain our relationship with God, by our love and works. But because Jesus imputes to us His righteousness, there are no other works that can be added to His own to earn any other higher standard of relationship with the Father.

So, the Law is not a merit system for getting into heaven; it cannot and does not function that way. Those that try to make it salvific (effective for salvation) are condemned in the Bible for their abuses of the law, and forsaking grace. Yet, the Christian (in grace) should always strive to keep the commands of God, in gratitude, as those actions we know please our Father and bring Him glory.