We Are Free To Share!

2022-07-02 The Insanity of ObedienceThe Insanity of Obedience by Nik Ripken is one of the most vital texts for the American (and the entire Western) Church in this age.  Note, Christ-followers do not seek persecution; it is inappropriate, not to mention mentally and emotionally unhealthy, to try to be persecuted.  But we must recognize Paul’s inspired teaching to Timothy in the first century was clear: Indeed, all who desire to live a godly life in Christ Jesus will be persecuted.” (2 Timothy 3:12)

Mr. Ripken notes the common reaction to persecution, especially in the West, falls into five categories:

  1. We want the persecution to stop. (Well, obviously, right?)
  2. We want to rescue the persecuted. (Of course!)
  3. We want the persecutor to be punished. (Isn’t that justice?)
  4. We want democracy and civil rights to usher in the Kingdom of God. (Isn’t that why He established the USA?)
  5. We want to give money to help and rescue the persecuted. (That’s missions, isn’t it?)

“Significantly, however, all five of these responses FAIL on biblical grounds!” (emphasis mine)  He goes on to say, “Jesus told us that persecution is normal and to be expected. The only way to stop persecution is to be disobedient to His call.” (See John 15:18-27.)

Mr. Ripken interviewed hundreds of Christ-followers in various levels of persecution, from simply trying to meet secretly to avoid it, to meetings with prisoners who have been (and some who were currently being) beaten to discourage them from their faith.  His findings, reported in the book, are challenging, if not life-altering!

2022-07-02 Chinese PrisonerFor example, Christians in China consistently reported that being sent to prison opened doors for evangelism that would not otherwise have opened.  As opposed to praying for rescue from their persecutors, they requested that we pray FOR the persecutors, many of whom come to Jesus because of their witness.  They determined that the best way to stop persecution was to help the persecutor to become a brother or sister in Christ.  And they plant churches among the other inmates in the prisons!  From their perspective, giving money to secure their release was counterproductive.  Besides, they reported, “It is impossible to replace witness with money.”

A man whose door we knocked on back in the 70s when I was involved in a door-to-door evangelism effort, looked at us two young men incredulously as we told him our purpose was to talk to him about Jesus.  “What for!?” he angrily answered. “I’m a Christian. I was born here in the US!”

Of the estimated two billion (2,000,000,000) “Christians” reported in surveys, one has to wonder how many are “census Christians,” believing they are Heaven-bound because of where they live or who their parents were.  The lack of persecution in America today probably has less to do with our “Christian” heritage than with the fact that an accurate message of the Gospel is not being shared, much less received.

2022-07-02 MBBThis confusion extends to other nations where, to Muslims, it is typically believed that to be American is to be “Christian.”  With American culture reaching the world through television and movies, is it any wonder that Christianity is viewed so disgustingly as it is?  These people think THAT is how Christianity causes people to live, like Friends or Bel-Air!  Overcoming this stereotype is usually a long process with lots of face-to-face Bible reading and explanations.

The most poignant note I wish to make in this blog is the freedom we have to share Jesus with people we meet.  While we claim, here in America, that we are free, one must wonder if that is true . . . based on how many people I have shared Jesus with in the last year.  With how many have you shared?  And not just in blogs, but face-to-face, with personal “skin in the game.”  Am I free to share?  Are we free to share?

A Chinese house church leader shared this distinction of “church members” and “true followers of Jesus.”  “Of that large number of believers you described, two thirds are what we would call ‘members.’  Only one-third . . . are ‘true followers of Jesus.’  Probably two-thirds of the people you mentioned regularly attend church; most have been baptized . . .  contribute financially . . . But we do not consider church members to be ‘true followers of Jesus’ until they have led other people to Christ.”

Mr. Ripken makes the point that EVERY believer IS FREE to share.  The only difference is in the possible consequences of that sharing.  We assume in the West that God only wants what “feels” best for me, my family and my country.  But what if this assumption is wrong?  “It might be that Western Christianity has diminished the heart of biblical faith by removing the suffering and persecution that the New Testament promises are intrinsic to following Jesus . . . Sadly, it may be time for believers in the West to admit we are afraid.”

We must choose to obey Jesus’ call to disciple the nations, beginning at our Jerusalem and Judea (our neighborhood, our home town, our “village”), reaching out to our Samaria (those who are racially or socio-economically different from us) and to the uttermost parts of the earth.  “We can either choose not to be afraid or we can choose to obey in spite of our fears.”  There is no place or situation on earth over which the devil has so much control that we cannot share what we know to be true.  “Believers cannot always choose safety, but they can always choose obedience.”

2022-07-02 Joseph Sold to MidianitesConsider lastly an illustration from Joseph (Genesis 3745).  If we were a “missions-minded church” in his day, what would our response to Joseph’s troubles have been?  Upon hearing his brothers had thrown him in a pit, we would have sent an ‘extraction team’ to rescue him.  When he was sold to the Midianite traders, we would have taken up a collection to purchase his freedom.  If we found out about this when he was in Potiphar’s house, we would have sent a diplomatic delegation to press for his release from service.  When we discovered he was in prison, we would have sent legal teams to argue against his unjust imprisonment.

And all our efforts of “rescue” at any stage would have left Pharaoh without a “witness” to provide for all of Egypt and Jacob’s family’s provisions that they needed to survive a famine; not to mention the blessings Egypt received as long as they did not oppress the Hebrews; not to mention the tremendous deliverance The God Who Is worked through Moses and Aaron to establish His covenant with the fledgling nation of Israel.

This is not to say we should ignore brothers and sisters who are persecuted for their faith.  One of their greatest blessings is to know that they are NOT forgotten by the more fortunate branches in the Church; that we share in their suffering; that we give to promote the Gospel witness they provide at risk of their lives.  But we must be careful to obey the Holy Ghost and not prematurely “rescue” those Father has ordained to either suffer or die for His glory.  And we MUST share in their suffering, being willing to expend our lives, not just our money, for the sake of this Good News, just as they are.

So as you celebrate Independence Day here in the USA, or if you are just observing our native celebration from other countries, consider our real independence!  Freedom from sin, release from its consequences, deliverance from bondage, a guaranteed resurrection from the dead . . . and freedom to share all this with anyone: from our neighbor across the street to the jailer in a Chinese prison, to the imam in a mosque to the Hindu who is burning Christian churches, to the pro-abortionist who wants to prolong abortion up to 28 days after birth, to the artificial “Christian” who warms a church chair every Sunday.

We are FREE TO SHARE OUR FAITH IN JESUS, the Savior of the world!

2022-07-02 Pray for the Persecuted

https://www.persecution.com/globalprayerguide/?_source_code=WHPB20C

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/

Are You Ready for What Is About to Happen?

2022-04-09 If the world hated me it will hate you“If the world hates you, know that it has hated Me before it hated you. If you were of the world, the world would love you as its own; but because you are not of the world, but I chose you out of the world, therefore the world hates you. Remember the word that I said to you: ‘A servant is not greater than his master.’ If they persecuted Me, they will also persecute you. If they kept My word, they will also keep yours.” John 15:18-20

In the western world, dominated for over a century by the USA, religious liberty has been one of our rock-solid principles, delineated in the Constitution of the United States, in the First Amendment.  It was not, as many have portrayed it, a “separation of Church and State,” but rather a constraint on government to not regulate religion.  However secularists and those with aberrant religious views (e.g. Church of Satan, etc.) have modified the principle of the first amendment to mean that no religious views… except that of the secularists… are to be tolerated.

Aberrant religious views from Jim Jones style cults to some mainline churches have contributed to this confusion by making absurd claims and trying to defend themselves with the First Amendment.  Claims by religious “organizations” that investigations by government agencies constituted intrusion into “Ecclesiastical Abstention” muddied the waters so that sexual abuse or drug use that was condoned or tolerated within an organization could be hidden from public scrutiny and legal consequences.  Now, the “public good” is at stake when someone claims “religious exemption” from vaccination, and those who truly believe they should not be vaccinated are left struggling for an argument that will hold up in court.

All of this is to say that views that were once mainstream in America are soon to be considered deviant and dangerous.  Marriage, universally and trans-culturally, has always been between a man and a woman, as is Biblically mandated.  A child was a human from conception historically in almost every part of the world.  Gender followed the science: if you have a penis, you are male; if you have a vagina, you are female.  Espousing these views now is labeled as homophobic, patriarchal, anachronistic and damaging to others who disagree.

2022-04-09 Päivi RäsänenThe recent court case in Finland where Päivi Räsänen was charged with “hate speech” for sharing her faith-based views on marriage and sexual ethics, in a 2019 tweet, a 2019 radio debate, and a 2004 pamphlet ended well… so far.  The prosecutors may appeal.  But the fact that she and a bishop of her church were faced with having to defend what they believed to be Biblical teaching under threat of fines and imprisonment is telling; this in a country known best for its limited government and respect for basic human freedoms.

Here in the USA, we still have a large voting block that is “Christian” in name, but lacking in the zeal of previous generations of believers.  And the tide continues to turn, especially as globalism goes “global.”

The privilege and freedoms associated to being a Christian in a “Christian nation” are going to evaporate faster than snow in the Arizona desert.  In their place will be lawsuits (think Jack Phillips), job losses (the Navy finally had to allow religious exemptions over the government’s protests), and ostracization by those who claim moral superiority based on cooperation with a secular view of history, biology, and culture.  And this is the world that either hated or did not care about Jesus.

When Pilate asked Jesus, “What is truth?” he was admitting to his lack of perception that there was a right and wrong.  To him, there was only political expedience and this life, one of getting whatever one can and enjoying the ease that comes with advancement in the world’s systems.

If you are a Christ-follower, you need to be thinking about what it may cost you in the near future to identify as a disciple of Jesus.  When laws are passed allowing “abortion” to be committed up to 28 days AFTER birth, when a man can go into a public restroom that your wife wants to use because today he claims he is a woman, when you are challenged to state what you believe in the middle of a PTA meeting about evolution, what will you do?

Make no mistake.  We are not called to take up weapons of the world, but we must be prepared to identify ourselves as followers of Christ.  Many pastors and churches are still teaching so much about the love of God that they are about to miss the opportunity to call their congregations to follow Jesus in His suffering.

Paul invited the Philippians to this fellowship that most Americans would find strange: “Whatever gain I had, I counted as loss for the sake of Christ. Indeed, I count everything as loss because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord. For his sake I have suffered the loss of all things and count them as rubbish, in order that I may gain Christ and be found in him, not having a righteousness of my own that comes from the law, but that which comes through faith in Christ, the righteousness from God that depends on faith — that I may know him and the power of his resurrection, and may share his sufferings, becoming like him in his death, that by any means possible I may attain the resurrection from the dead.
(Philippians 3:7-11)

We want the love and protection of God; we want to be able to walk through fiery furnaces unharmed; we want the prosperity and blessings, but we hate the idea of suffering for the sake of Christ.  But that is what some of us will be appointed to; to bear the Name before a hostile world that will persecute us.

This is already true in most of the world.  More people have been murdered because of their stated belief in Jesus in the last 100 years than in all the 1,900 before combined!  Prepare your children, your grandchildren, your nephews and nieces and any that are coming behind you!!  We must be ready for what is certain to come.

Be warned, as the apostle Peter said, Beloved, do not be surprised at the fiery trial when it comes upon you to test you, as though something strange were happening to you. But rejoice insofar as you share Christ’s sufferings, that you may also rejoice and be glad when his glory is revealed. If you are insulted for the name of Christ, you are blessed, because the Spirit of glory and of God rests upon you. But let none of you suffer as a murderer or a thief or an evildoer or as a meddler. Yet if anyone suffers as a Christian, let him not be ashamed, but let him glorify God in that name.For it is time for judgment to begin at the household of God; and if it begins with us, what will be the outcome for those who do not obey the gospel of God?”
(1 Peter 4:12-17)