Greetings in the Lord:
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Faithfully in Christ,
(Are we surprised?)
When times are hard, it pays to count our blessings. And to take note of blessings to count. Here are a few bits from a recent Campus Crusade music ministry newsletter:
"In the Philippines, enterprising villagers began charging admission to showings of the Jesus video. Since it was the first movie produced in their native tongue, it was extremely popular. The remarkable thing is that all the villagers were Muslims - they evangelized themselves without the aid of a single Christian worker!"
"In Brooklyn, NY, Campus Crusade staff have been so successful mentoring high school students that the schools have given them their entire student roster to contact. As the staff share the gospel with the students, 75-80% indicate decisions to receive Christ; at the same time crime has decreased by almost 40%"
"In China, nearly 7,000 Christians had a unique witness for Christ - after they died! They had each prepared tapes of their personal testimonies to be played at their funerals. Since officials don't censor this type of personal funeral message, about 500,000 people heard the Gospel through these tapes!"
"In the Middle East, a Muslim told a pastor, 'I dreamed I was at a crossroads of a broad and a narrow path. A man urged me to take the narrow path. What does it mean?' The pastor explained the Gospel and the Muslim accepted Christ. Later, they passed a grave with a picture of a recent Christian martyr. The new Christian said, 'That is the man in my dream who told me of the narrow path!'"
And from another newsletter:
"Since 1900, the number of evangelicals worldwide increased more than 13 times, while the world population increased less then fourfold. Experts expect the acceleration to continue. The total number of Christians is presently increasing at more than three times the rate of increase in world population. Each year the number of evangelicals grows by almost 6%, and the world population grows at just less than 2%."
The truth is that we are winning. God is winning. God is raising up an army which one day, however long it takes, will inherit the earth. The army of the meek, not the army of the weak. The meek, who rely on the Lord, are the strongest of all. Who can stand against the Lord? Jesus was meek, but He was the aggressor against the world, the flesh, and the devil, and we need to pick aggressively up our crosses and the sword of the Spirit. The gates of hell will not withstand the Church of God.
We should be deeply concerned about the many brothers and sisters in Christ who are being persecuted in Communist and Islamic nations. But at the same time all through history, the blood of the martyrs has been the seed of the Church. God is looking for people who will be today's seed for tomorrow's Church. Being today's seed may mean expending ourselves for those who are being sacrificed.
Being a martyr does not mean looking for places to be killed. It means looking for places to witness. The word 'martyr' in Greek means 'witness', not 'one who is killed'. It is God's business whether we are killed or not. It is our business to witness.
In the Kingdom, we will all be witnessing, praising, and singing with no fear at all. But it must begin here and now where the circumstances are not so friendly.
The way of the cross does not rely on circumstances, but on the substance of the hand of God and word of God. Since the worldly do not see the hand of God and do not hear or understand His word, it is all quite a "mystery", and often an insult, to them how Christians can go on loving their enemies and singing on the way to the lions.
Or just doing their daily tasks with joy and peace. That is as much
witnessing as going to the lions. Our job is to witness to those whom the
Lord sends. If they turn into converts, that is fine. If they turn out
to be lions, that is fine too. Either way we win. And either way God wins.
I recently ran across the following three vignettes which create a collision of the images of womanhood, stronger, even, than our recent contrasts between Princess Diana and Mother Theresa.
The first comes from the November 1997 Family News from Dr. James Dobson. Many years ago, Dobson had recommended a small ceremony for one's children emerging into adulthood. The parent of the opposite sex was to take the child out on his or her first date, at which time the parent would give to the child a cross or other Christian emblem on a ring or necklace signifying the child's vow to remain pure for the sake of his or her potential life-mate. A young lady whom he refers to as "Karen" wrote him a letter relating how she had received such a gift from her parents:
Dear Dr. Dobson,
I am writing to you to share a most blessed experience. On my fifteenth birthday, my parents gave me a surprise birthday party in which my ring would be presented. When my father put the ring on my finger, I stood there looking at unsaved relatives and my peers. Suddenly I realized this was the opportunity I had been waiting for. Saying a quick prayer, I said the following:
"It is a great honor for me to wear this ring, because it symbolizes the commitment I am making to God, myself, my family, my friends, my future husband, and my future children to remain physically and sexually abstinent from this day until the day I enter a biblical marriage relationship. I know it won't be easy, but as long as I keep my eyes on Jesus, things will be easier. Temptations may and will come, but my heart's prayer is that God will give me the courage and strength to stand my ground. And finally, may I always have the desire to serve, honor and please the Lord today and forevermore."
... The people's response was positively incredible. God had used my sincere statement to move even the most hardened of hearts.
The following came in the Showcase insert of a recent Beaver County Times newspaper:
Elle MacPherson makes the jump from modeling to acting.
Toronto -- Elle MacPherson calls it her "baggage." It's not just her blond tresses, her glamorous yet girl-next-door grin. It's her reputation, her image, and all the stories that accumulated about her during her decade as one of that elite group of the super-skinny, super-beautiful known as supermodels. It's what the world knows about her.
Like the fact that she was nicknamed early on, "The Body".
Like the way she jump-started her modeling career, winning the coveted starring role in Sports Illustrated's annual swimsuit issue by stripping in an editor's office.
Like the way she has announced from time to time, that she sleeps in the nude.
But MacPherson would like to lose a bit of that baggage.
If Miss MacPherson wants to get rid of her baggage merely to make a hit and lots of money in another field, she is wasting her time. If she really wants to get rid of her baggage, as she calls it, she might try repenting of the misuse of her body, but she will not likely get that advice from her editor friends.
One hopes that Miss MacPherson lives above the image generated by the media, because what the public picture of her proves is that some kinds of beauty are only skin deep -- tinsel and titillation -- and that when we want to get serious with life (or when life starts getting serious with us), skin-deep beauty is not much count.
Richard Wurmbrand tells of another beautiful woman with whom life suddenly got very serious:
Sabina [his wife] was in a prison cell with some twenty or thirty ladies. Among them was a young girl of perhaps twenty who had been sentenced to death for her faith.
Her day had come to be executed. The executions always took place at midnight. It was her last evening, and the guards had brought in some food. All of the women in the cell were hungry but no one cared to eat, as they all pitied this beautiful, young girl.
Then her face began to shine.
She lifted the dishes of food and said, "I have a fiancé. I love him wholeheartedly and he loves me. He hoped that one day I would be in his embraces. But tonight I will be shot and after a few hours, my body will become clay just like the clay out of which this dish has been made.
"After a few more years my body will have decomposed, but my spirit will not die. I have had many physical bodies, such as that of an embryo, and infant, a young girl, and now a woman. But I am an eternal spirit, and that cannot be killed. Jesus said, 'Whoever lives and believes in Me shall never die' and I believe these words of Jesus. I believe them more than the rifles, which will be stretched out. I believe these words of Jesus more than the bullets, which will enter my heart. I believe these words of Jesus more than the open grave, which awaits me.
"For me this grave is the doorway to a heavenly city. Who can tell the beauty of that city? There, sadness is not known. No one ever weeps or sighs. There is only joy and song. Everyone is dressed in the white of purity. We can see God face to face. There are such joys that human language cannot express."
A few minutes before midnight, the prison guards came to take her. As she walked toward her "death", she began reciting the Christian creed. We have seen Christians walking to their execution with songs on their lips. They were going to their Beloved One. "Why should I weep? Why should I be sad?"
The ladies who had remained behind in the prison were in tears. They heard a few shots. The poor Communists believed that they had killed her. They did not know that they sent her into the embraces of her Heavenly Bridegroom.
[The Voice of the Martyrs newsletter, 11/97]
What is womanly beauty? Tinsel and titillation in one woman transforms into extraordinary power and beauty in another. C. S. Lewis in The Great Divorce gives us one of the most powerful images in all literature, I think, of feminine beauty. He describes a heavenly parade:
...and after these a lady in whose Honour all this was being done.
I cannot now remember whether she was naked or clothed. If she were naked, then it must have been the almost visible penumbra of her courtesy and joy which produces in my memory the illusion of a great and shining train that followed her across the happy grass. If she were clothed, then the illusion of nakedness is doubtless due to the clarity with which her inmost spirit shone through the clothes. For clothes in that country are not a disguise: the spiritual body lives along each thread and turns them into living organs. A robe or a crown is there as much one of the wearer's features as a lip or an eye.
The same kind of passage, of course, could be written
about a male figure. Perhaps Karen, or someone, will tell Elle MacPherson
that nudity in seductive poses won't cut it, that it is impossible to attain
to that kind of transparent personal beauty apart from the way of the cross.
The phrase seems an oxymoron. Godly foreign policy? God at the very center of intrigue and power struggle? We have drifted so far from any Godly vision for a democratic republic that only with difficulty do we see what our founding fathers insisted on as a standard part of being either a Christian or an American, namely that all government comes from God, and that all governors are required to be Godly men.
We have drifted so far that we are headed for a major and very painful confrontation between the forces of light and the forces of darkness. Our local newspaper has almost every week front page headlines of some violent crime. We have a president who, the evidence keeps telling us, is corrupt morally and politically, who may have committed high treason by selling out American interests to a self-declared enemy nation, communist China.
The Chinese (and other) communists (not the Chinese people) are enemies of everything the American dream holds dear. Their word is no more to be trusted than Hitler's with Neville Chamberlain. We have multinational corporations, such as IBM, selling their souls to do business with such a criminal state. And worst of all, we have the majority of Americans who are incapable of raising their voices in protest to abuses now so common place that they hardly make a ripple in the public waters.
I talked with a fellow this morning who spent 3 years teaching in Communist Chinese university. Westerners, he warned, must be aware that Chinese, communist or not, think very differently from us, that they easily recall the abuses of western colonialism, and that legal, coercive measures can accomplish only so much. Ought we deny them "most favored nation" status? How much can economic sanctions change the thinking of a people. Some argue that we ought to encourage trade, because that is what will democratize them.
I would agree that we ought to encourage trade, but it makes a difference whether we are Christians thanking God for our riches, sharing our faith and explaining the freedom wherewith Christ has set us free, or whether we are secular capitalists merely wanting to cash in on an enormous and growing Asian market. Talk of "free market" economics seldom shows any sense of responsibility before God. Free market capitalism without God is no solution to anything. But a free market capitalism which holds itself accountable before God is, I believe, a major part of the plan of God.
Communism did not capture so much of the world because it made more economic sense. It has never had any serious intellectual framework which it successfully tested. Every attempt to form a communist society has ended in failure, and often in disaster. Communism won because it was able to create the illusion that it held the moral high ground by making free-market capitalists appear (often enough accurately) money-grubbing and selfish.
Most of our current political and spiritual leadership is either incompetent to make any very important difference in our culture war, or is sold out to the other side, to state control of our lives, i.e. to socialism/communism. Many leaders have not even read the constitution, let along studied it. Lawyers go through law school without ever being required to read or study the basic political documents of our people.
There appears to be deliberate, conscious desire on the part of some in high places to subvert our constitutional order. One wonders why that should not be called treason also. If open and honest discussion were being conducted, that would be one thing. But we are for the most part dealing with people who do not have an interest in truth other than as levers to obtain preconceived ends, namely power and control.
In the midst of the growing din of evil, God is building His people. God is raising up an army around the world which is getting increasingly toughened by persecution. The wimpy western Church, largely caved in to sexual promiscuity and perversion, incapable of an honest quest for truth, and therefore in rebellion against the God they claim to worship, may be of little assistance in the coming confrontation.
There will be small cadres of the faithful, but as things stand, we need not expect much help from the mainline denominations. Serious discussion of the American Constitution is growing, and people are beginning to research what the founding fathers themselves said, as opposed to what the secular and socialist-minded pseudo-experts for over a century have been either ignorantly or deceitfully telling us they said.
America was founded as a Christian, not a secular, nation. There were several flaws in the foundations, to be sure, but God had put into our hands the tools to build a powerful Christian witness, with the Gospel of freedom flowing out from our ports to every nation in the world. Including political and economic freedom. A Godly, free-market, democratic republic is the Lord's choice of government for His people. That may seem arrogant and presumptuous, but I believe that is provable from Biblical principles.
Today, we had another meeting of the Ambridge Forum, a monthly gathering including the major, police chief, school superintendent, high school principle, rotary, chamber of commerce, clergy, and other interested citizens. Our aim is to provide a forum in which we can get politics, religion, business, and education all talking together again. And it is happening.
I showed an 18 minute video, The Foundations of American Government, by David Barton, documenting the Biblical foundations of our Constitution. The group was stunned. It was a new thought to many of them that America could have been founded on Biblical principles. We may be headed for a confrontation with secular forces, who hold the reins of coercive force in America. But God has given us the equipment to win -- if we will follow His strategy.
Quote of the Month
"I believe that
the next half century will determine if we will advance the cause
of Christian civilization or revert to the horrors of brutal paganism."
Theodore Roosevelt -
Sadly, we did the terrible thing...
The 20th century was the most brutal century in all history. By the 1950's (that very next half century) we had already
slaughtered a greater percentage of the human population than any other century. America may be leading
the slaughter with 40,000,000+ and climbing babies killed in -- or even on their way out of - the womb.
Will our generation turn this terrible history around? Only under the law and grace of God.
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