To venable (verb): To randomly muse upon this and that.

Archive for the ‘Persecution’ Category

The North Korea Test

I have been musing on our response to the present restrictions imposed upon us by our government in England. In particular I am pondering upon how I would interact with a North Korean believer in respect of my response to our present situation.

So we have a North Korean believer who is seeking to live for the Lord and thereby enjoy fellowship with other believers. This article here gives some details about the lengths they would go to. Imagine meeting such a believer and explaining to them about the opportunities w have to fellowship at the present time in this country.

Now I do not want to minimize the intricacies of working through our situation so as not be responsible for unnecessarily facilitating the spread of the coronavirus. However, within the legitimate use of the opportunities that we have, how zealous am I to seize every opportunity for fellowship.

If I scorn or despise the using of Zoom, or other technological means, which can link me to fellow believers in the church, would I be ashamed before a North Korean believer who would be just so thrilled to have anything of that ilk so as to link with other believers.

And when I am indifferent about seizing the opportunity to physically fellowship together with others in the services at my church, is that not shocking in the light of what our North Korean fellow believers put themselves through to enjoy such fellowship.

Now in mentioning about the matters above I do not want to speak too hastily. There are many reasons why believers, particularly in the vulnerable category should not be physically attending church at the present time. But I do want to probe at my attitude. How important is it for me to work out the mandate to: And let us consider how to stir up one another to love and good works, not neglecting to meet together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another, and all the more as you see the Day drawing near (Heb. 10:24-25)?

Whether it is with regard to online meetings or “in person” meetings could I look a North Korean believer in the eye and say “I am making best use of what is available to me to engage in church fellowship”. Or in the presence of such a fellow saint would I be ashamed?

This China Caused Crisis?!

So I muse and I speculate and even perhaps flirt with conspiracy theory thinking. But here goes.

So the virus originates in a laboratory. I don’t believe there has ever been definitive confirmation that it is derived from bats and first afflicted humanity through that unspecified wet market in Wuhan.

Allow it to start in winter so that by summer the country could be operational again. Also make it coincidental with Chinese New Year because the country closes down for two weeks then anyway.

The death of a number of their own people was seen as collateral damage. This was deemed acceptable given the potential benefits that could be achieved.

The policy of “lockdown” was adopted because of the damage it could have through being adopted around the world as the way to respond to the pandemic. “After all that is how the Chinese controlled it” the adopters around the world would say as they floundered in their own responses.

So the virus spreads and deaths occurred and the countries around the world panicked. And of course they adopted “lockdown” to control their outbreaks.

As a result so many economies around the world have been wrecked whilst the Chinese got through and got back to normal. So the Chinese economy stabilizes and is re-established whilst in the West, and elsewhere, the governments flail around looking for answers. Lockdown is persisted with as the main policy, economies are paralysed and the governments’ furlough type schemes mean that the rest of the twenty first century will see them seeking to pay off the debt.

And of course this all provides a big distraction for the Western governments. This allows the Chinese government to march full steam ahead with its repressive polices against Hong Kong, The Uighurs and the Mongolians and Christians. Sinification has marched ahead whereby populations have their historic cultures obliterated to be replaced by the imprint of the Communist Party which operates to bring total compliance. President Xi being the god to be worshipped in place of all other gods.

A distracted West is just what you need to move such a process forward. This is because no-one is there to protest. The United Nations won’t hold debates to hold China to account. And if they do no-one will hear of them because New York is paralysed through the virus.

So out of a laboratory originated virus (?) comes a prosperous China ruling the waves, Africa and much everywhere else perhaps.

Oh forgive me for my musings. But I feel although I may be guilty of over-highlighting there is some plausibility in all this.

The nefarious work of the Chinese government goes forward. But, and praise God there is a but, there is a God in heaven who is immortal and who is in control and working out all for His glory. And by faith we can know that the nations are just a drop in the bucket to Him. The schemes of the Communist party in China will come to nought. But Jesus shall reign where’re the sun does its successive journies run.

President Xi, like Chairman Mao and all other tyrants, will come and go. but spare a thought for the people of China and all the pain so many of them are enduring.

But our God really does reign forever and ever. And remember concerning the believers and the church of God in China that “the blood of the martyrs is the seed of the church. Chairman Mao and his acolytes sought to exterminate Christianity in the 1960’s, but the church prospered. May the Lord yet do the same again as His people now suffer. Let us pray for the church in China.

Church Newsletter

Here is our church newsletter for August 2019. It contains an article on persecution.

Effective Ministry

This for Mez McConnell is worth 5/10 minutes of your time to think through the issues of serving the Lord. He addresses serving the Lord in the realm where Mez has been called, but it has much that generally applies to the Lord’s work.

Here are two quotes:

  •  If you’re serious about ministry then you’re serious about prayer.
  • Nobody of note that ever accomplished anything for the kingdom did it without facing a cauldron of opposition and misunderstanding.

Others are Suffering also.

(This post is a spiritual application of point 1 from last Friday’s post which can be seen here)

When feeling the pressures of life through circumstances conspiring against us, we can very easily become introspective. We start to think that we are the only ones who are passing through difficulties. We think that no-one else is going through what I am am going through. How am I expected to keep living for God with all these things not going my way.

When this kind of thinking takes hold we are falling into the trap of the devil who would have us despairing and disconsolate. The readers who Peter was writing to were suffering and it seems that they were in this very same danger of descending into despair . So Peter says to them in concluding his letter: Be alert and of sober mind. Your enemy the devil prowls around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour. Resist him, standing firm in the faith, because you know that the family of believers throughout the world is undergoing the same kind of sufferings ( 1 Pet. 5:8-9). 

Rather than being introverted and thinking about ourselves and our circumstances, Peter says to his readers get looking outside.

  • First of all be aware that the devil is roaming around and is desiring to consume those who are self-absorbed. Those who have lost their heads in looking inwardly are vulnerable to attack. Therefore, the believers are to regain their composure. If thy don’t do this they will be taken away by the devil. All their more inward looking would have disastrous consequences.
  • Secondly, what they need to do is that all those in the family of faith are suffering in a similar way. It is common for the believer to experience hard situations and circumstances in this world. So be strong, get wise and resist the evil who otherwise will render you useless.

So don’t just bemoan your situation, like Halep and Radwanska did ( see post from last friday). Get on and fight the cause of God like all other true believers are doing in their difficulties.

The Lord’s Prayer Banned

Here are some probing thoughts about the banning of the Church of England “Lord’s Prayer” Advert. Most helpfully Andrew Wilson probes into the implications of praying the statements in the Lord’s Prayer.

Persecution

According to the testimony of scripture and historical records the normal experience of the church is to experience persecution from the world. The experience of the people of God in the UK over the past two centuries has, therefore, been somewhat abnormal. However, the atmosphere is changing and Christians are increasingly being marginalised and ridiculed. The anti-God, anti Christ, anti-Christian teachings that are becoming more embedded in people’s thinking are bringing this about. So how are we to respond? The church at Smyrna was a church undergoing vicious persecution and so their experience is helpful for preparing us to undergo persecution. Their story is told in Revelation 2:8-11.

  • We need to focus on our Saviour (v8). In the journey of faith we should always be looking at our Saviour. In Hebrews 12:2-3 we are exhorted to fix our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy set before him endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God. Consider him who endured such opposition from sinful men, so that you will not grow weary and lose heart. Similarly the persecuted Christians in Smyrna, who faced death for their faith, needed to know that there is a Saviour who has conquered death. He is the living one who was once dead. Moreover they needed to know that their LORD is outside of time. They were about to pass away. But they knew a Saviour who would never pass away; He is eternal. He is the First and the Last. So let us focus on an eternal Saviour who is always there for us.

  • He knows our circumstances (v9a). He knows all about our situations, Sometimes we think nobody knows what I am going through. But let us remind ourselves that He always knows. The sufferings were known to Him. Their lack of money was known to Him. But the LORD gives them a beautiful reminder that they, although poor financially, actually had a vast spiritual wealth in Christ.

    This reminds us that in this age the blessings of God are primarily known spiritually. So Paul tells the Ephesians of the God who has blessed us in the heavenly realms with every spiritual blessing in Christ (Eph 1:3b). In the Old Testament for the people of God of that day, Israel, the blessings were primarily earthly and physical. But for us today the blessings are in heaven and are spiritual. Therefore we know that God is with someone not through the prospering of their bank accounts, but through the prospering of their souls.

  • He knows the opposition (v9b). It must have been a shock to the Smyrnans to find that the professing people of God, the Jews, were the ones slandering them with vicious words. The Lord says He knows all about this and that these Jews are not really the people of God. In fact the place where they meet is not in any sense God’s place, but is the place of the enemy of God, Satan. This is a sobering reminder that it is often the religious who lead the way in opposing God’s people. Religious people hate those who have a living faith in the living God.

  • We should not be afraid (v10a). The Lord encourages us to not have fear about what is ahead. This is not some vain platitude. Rather it has meaning because of what the Lord has already said to these Christians in Smyrna. Our Saviour is the eternal death conqueror who knows all about us and our circumstances. Therefore we should not be afraid of whatever sufferings come our way.

  • The devil hates us (v10b). He wants to bring us down. He wants us to deny our faith. So he throws us into prison and takes us through severe persecution. However, let us be encouraged that Satan’s open-season has a fixed time. Ten days is the limit. This may or may not be literal. But whichever we are encouraged to know that it is of limited duration. It has an end.

  • We must keep trusting (v10c). Whilst the devil is seeking to destroy our faith God is using such trials to strengthen our faith. Accordingly, the urgings from heaven are that we must continue to be faithful. To keep trusting even if it means giving up our lives because of our testimony for God. Death may come to our bodies, but there is the promise of the reward of a crown; a victory garland which is full of life and that forever.

  • The true Christian has eternal life (v11b). Of course many in such situations will become apostate; they will turn away from God. However, for those who remain faithful there is the reminder that although the first death, physical, may take them; the second death eternal hell can never take them. We must say here, though, that none of us knows how we will respond under such intense pressure. We remember Archbishop Cranmer in the sixteenth century, who signed a statement denying his faith. But God enabled Him to repent so that he boldly went to endure the burning flames of fire from the pyre provided by his persecutors. And as he went to his death in Oxford, he put his right hand which had signed the denial into the flames first of all.

In the light of what may be potentially ahead for ourselves let us strengthen ourselves in the LORD. Let us now become so overwhelmed with passion for our Saviour so that we are prepared to stand fast in that day. Remember each one of us individually must take heed this is what the LORD says. We must each be ready to be faithful unto death.

(Taken from Feltham Evangelical Church Newsletter of October 2008)

Alexander the Coppersmith

Are you an Alexander the Coppersmith? If so you are a person who is much to be pitied. But why is this? It is because this Alexander in some way or other caused much hardship to Paul, the Apostle. 2 Timothy 4:14-15 records Paul’s words to Timothy as follows: Alexander the coppersmith did me much harm. The Lord will repay him according to his works. You also must beware of him, for he has greatly resisted our words.

There is much for us to learn here as we consider the way Alexander treated Paul. Let us first consider Alexander as the one who caused harm to Paul.

Harming God’s Servant

We do not know who this Alexander was; he is simply identified as being a man who laboured with his hands; a coppersmith. He was not a religious leader like the Scribes and Pharisees who opposed our Lord and yet he caused much damage to God’s apostle. This warns us that even the most lowly can cause harm amongst the people of God.

Whether Alexander was in the church or not we do not know; but we do know that he personally caused much difficulty to Paul. Paul was an Apostle of Jesus Christ who was sent forth to testify to the mighty workings of the mighty God. He was no mean individual. Yet, Alexander,in his wisdom (or lack thereof), took it upon himself to oppose Paul.

Resisting God’s Word

But what form did this opposition take? He opposed by standing against the message that Paul declared. He did not just calmly dismiss the words of Paul as irrelevant but he went further and vigorously resisted the message of Paul (and his associates). Remember Paul was specially chosen to bring the Word of God and this man specifically stood against the words,that he brought. What a terrible thing this was to do! Let us not be surprised though, if our words whether preached or spoken privately, are resisted by those who hate our Father who is the God of the truth.

And we need to be warned so that we never follow in the way of Alexander. He caused much heartache to God’s apostle. If someone is bringing the word of truth to us then we should be careful to never stand against that word. If you do withstand it, whether by your speaking acting or refusing to listen, then you cause harm to the declarer of the message; you cause that person to be pained.

Moreover, most seriously, you place yourself in a situation whereby you store up the judgment of God for yourself. Paul says that Alexander will be repaid according to his works. How sobering how terrible! How many people who regularly attend churches are storing up judgment for themselves by resisting God’s Words.

This raises the question about whether or not we should ever resist someone who professes to bring God’s Word. In this case we should be following the injunction of the Lord to Isaiah in Isaiah 8:20: To the law and to the testimony ! If they do not speak according to this word, it is because there is no light in them. False teaching needs to be rejected or else it will spread like cancer with all the harm associated therewith. Hymenaus and Philetus are condemned along these lines (see 2 Tim. 2:17-18). False teaching must be resisted and rejected or else it will inevitably cause harm among God’s people.

Paul’s reaction

But what of Paul? What can we learn from the way he responded to Alexander? The first thing we can observe is that he felt the hostility of Alexander. He was no hard-hearted stoic. And this is encouraging for us to know because even a great man like Paul felt the pain of hostility. So when we experience opposition and are pained by it, let us be encouraged that great men of God have been that way as well.

However, there is no sense of bitterness with Paul. He has learned that there is one who judges all. He is not being personally nasty towards Alexander. Rather he gives Alexander over to the God who always judges rightly. For we know Him who said, “Vengeance is Mine, I will repay,” says the Lord (Heb. 10:30). We are not in the business of carrying out personal vendettas; we rather remember that judgment is His awesome work (see Isaiah 28:21).

Paul, though, ever has a pastoral caring heart and he does not want others to be harmed by Alexanders’ works. Accordingly he warns Timothy about Alexander. We do well to warn others of potential areas of harm in their Christian walk. This is part of caring for one another. When we have passed through a hard experience ourselves are we moved to want to warn others not to go in the same way?

Alexander briefly appears on the canvas of scripture and is then gone. Eternally he is remembered as a man who caused harm to the cause of Christ. How will we be remembered? We may not have our name personally in scripture, but we must all appear before the Eternal Lord God one day. And that day will declare all.

(Taken from Feltham Evangelical Church Newsletter of January 2006)

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