Pray for the Persecuted Church

Yesterday, was a time to pray for the persecuted church, as it was the International Day of Prayer for the Persecuted Church. I sincerely hope that you frequently pray for those who are undergoing persecution. We have it easy here in America. Across the world, there are many brothers and sisters undergoing severe persecution, even to the point of martyrdom. Remember them. Pray for them. Ask God to give them strength.

But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me. 10 That is why, for Christ’s sake, I delight in weaknesses, in insults, in hardships, in persecutions, in difficulties. For when I am weak, then I am strong.

2 Corinthians 12:9-10

We know that persecution is growing and we should be aware that one day, we also may face trials here in this country that we do not expect. Jesus stated that we would be persecuted because of how the world hates Him. From Matthew 10:22:

22 You will be hated by everyone because of me, but the one who stands firm to the end will be saved.

One of the many faces of the persecuted church, Pastor Saeed Abedini, is suffering in an Iranian prison. But the grace of God is pouring into him as he continues to be a strong witness for Christ, leading many in the prison to convert to Christianity. See more in this interview Joel Rosenberg had with Saeed’s wife, Naghmeh. We should be praying for Pastor Saeed. It does not feel that the US government is working hard enough to bring him home. My prayer is that God continues to pour into him so that he can shine the light of Jesus in a very dark place over there, until the day he is released.

Persecution is growing around us in many forms. Please pray for the persecuted church. One day, we may be on the other end of it and hoping that someone out there is praying for us.

May God keep you and bless you and turn His face towards you always.

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What Is Wrong With The World?

You do not have to look far to realize something is very wrong with the world. Humanity is broken. What is going on? What is causing so many issues in the world? Is there one issue at work here?

It is not government regulation. It is not climate change. It is not war and conflict. It is not poverty. It is not terrible disease. It is not tax rates on the rich or poor. It is not the Democrats. It is not the Republicans. It is not any affiliation, orientation, theory or philosophy. It is not wealthy people. It is not homelessness.

We are the problem, you and I. It is in each of us. It is our sin and our deceitful hearts. This is the core of the issue and the only resolution to it is Jesus Christ.

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Oil in the Golan Heights

If the oil reserves found in the Golan Heights, a disputed territory occupied by Israel and recognized as Syrian land, proves to be as massive as reported, then the strategic objectives of Russia in Syria could shift. I saw news on this report and it has been published in multiple publications.

The major problem is that the Golan Heights is still recognized as Syrian land, though the UN and other countries have done little to enforce this since Israel secured it during the ’67 war. But now that there could be enormous wealth sitting beneath the area, the incentive to take that land will grow.

We have seen from actions in Crimea and elsewhere, that Putin is nothing if not opportunistic. Securing Syria from the rebels and propping up the regime could quickly turn into securing all the land, including the Golan Heights, for purposes of controlling access to that oil supply and the corresponding wealth that it brings. Though called a “game changing” development for Israel, this has implications for the entire world.

On some pro-Russian media outlets, I have already seen focus on this being Syrian territory. Though the media did not suggest Russian action to reestablish the Golan Heights under Syrian control, many of the commenters on the page have made just that assertion.

We should remember that God is paying attention to His land, Israel. He has promised to secure it for His people. I am no prophet. I just read my Bible and pay attention to what God is saying throughout.

I would never claim to know what will happen over in the Middle East. That would be well outside my capabilities. But I’m watching and comparing the pieces foretold in the Bible versus what I’m seeing over there.

As Christians, we should pay attention to developments in this story…

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What is the Meaning of Life?

“Ignorantia Juris Neminem Excusat” is a legal principle stating, in essence, that ignorance of the law is no excuse. In short, a lack of awareness of the law does not eliminate your obligation to comply. Recently, I saw a post on Facebook where a Christian was posing questions to a friend of theirs who is an agnostic. In it, the Christian asked, “What is the meaning of life? Life’s purpose?”

The answer was honest, direct, but extremely frightening: “Those are questions I allow myself to not think about with this mindset.”

Think about that for a minute. The person responding clearly understands that critical thinking about life’s existential questions is in direct conflict with their current mindset, as if somehow hiding from the exploration of these answers creates protection. The reality is that, according to Christian belief, we are all born into sin and destined for destruction, but for the saving belief and faith in our graceful Lord, Jesus Christ. Closing your eyes does not change the eternal outcome.

My biggest prayer for this person, and others like them, is that they at the very least, open their minds to those big questions and do not ignore them. I believe in time, they will understand why I and others consider Christianity to be a faith founded in reason and logic, not to mention the experiential aspects of the faith.

Satan, and yes I will call the deceiver by his name, does not want the person I mention above to ask those questions because the outcome endangers his hold over their life. If you share that mindset, break free of it and ask questions. Ask me. I would be happy to answer your questions; just use the comment form below or send me an email. Seek answers for the hard questions. As I stated in a previous post, all world views must be willing to hold answers to all the difficult questions in a logically consistent way.

So go deep and remember, ignorantia juris neminem excusat.

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Changes Are In The Air

Events are moving rapidly with respect to the Middle East. The UN’s 70th General Assembly begins, even as I write this, with major speeches from the leaders of Iran, Russia, China and others where ISIS and Syria are anticipated to be focal points. The Palestinian flag is being raised at the UN. Israel is being boxed in slowly with respect to how much freedom they have to stop Iranian arms from flowing to Hezbollah, who also just received 75 tanks.

Pray for peace in Jerusalem. Pray that our national leaders seek heavenly wisdom in their decision making. Pray for the opportunities to reach others with the good news of Jesus Christ.

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Pray For The Hajj Victims’ Families

There is awful news coming out of Saudi Arabia this morning where a stampede at the annual Islamic Hajj pilgrimage has apparently killed upwards of 700 people. This is terrible and a real tragedy. From what I read, this occurred during the ‘Stoning of the Devil‘ ritual. As a Christian my heart breaks for the loss of life among those who were killed there and my prayers are with their families.

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Yom Kippur and the Jewish Messiah

At sundown this evening begins the highest holy day of the year on the Jewish calendar. Joel Rosenberg had a thoughtful post this morning about this day and its significance. In it he pointed out how a new series of videos are spreading rapidly among the Jewish people about the search for Messiah.

As Christians, we believe the Messiah came 2000 years ago as Jesus Christ, who died for our sins, providing atonement for eternity for those who place their trust and faith in Him. Take a look at the website, http://imetmessiah.com and see some of the videos, like the one below.

 

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What Does Putin Really Want In Syria?

There have been some very interesting, disturbing and troubling developments in the last couple of weeks as Russia has made some very pronounced moves towards the Middle East by deploying troops in Syria. They are currently building up a forward air base near their naval installation in Latakia and evidence indicates they are preparing for a large contingent of troops to be stationed there.

Apparently, Putin is also having Russia’s most advanced anti-aircraft defense systems shipped to Syria. This is not the first time they’ve sent these systems, but this raises a number of questions about their use. After all, if the reported aim of Putin is to help combat terrorism and fight ISIS, why on earth do they need sophisticated air defense? ISIS does not have an operational fleet of aircraft.

To add to the mix, the Russians have been coordinating and backing the Iranian leadership in their nuclear ambitions for quite some time and the depth of their alliance is continuing to grow. There is a vacuum in the Middle East as American influence has waned and we’ve pulled back due to the conflicts over the last decade. Perhaps Putin views this as an opportunity to establish inroads there now that the Iran nuclear deal seems a sure thing.

Where does all this leave Israel? In a real pickle, if you ask me. They are vehemently opposed to the Iranian deal. Netanyahu is about to travel to Moscow to meet with Putin about the presence of Russian troops in Syria. Israel is nervous that advanced weapon systems could fall into the hands of Hezbollah and the potential for unintended interactions between the Israeli Defense Forces and Russian troops as Israel works to combat terrorist threats.

Ultimately, Israel has to decide what to do with Iran. If they feel this deal creates too much of a threat to their nation, it is possible they’ll strike those facilities to try and remove the threat. But, with the growing Russian-Iranian alliance, that could create cause for Israel to face sanctions or worse from Russia. And now that the Russian troops are filling into Syria, that could kick off a whole mess of a conflict in the area as Putin takes the opportunity to act against Israel under the pretense of supporting their Iranian allies. Let’s just say the Russian economy’s dependence on the price of oil and natural gas could come into play given the large reserves of natural gas that Israel is starting to exploit in their economic waters off their coast.

As a Christian, we are given prophetic signs in the Bible about the last days. I should issue a warning here about falling into the trap of obsessing about the tribulation and other end times events; it can be disruptive and is unhealthy to focus all of one’s energy in those areas rather than following God’s will for your life and seeking to reach others. That said, prophetic scripture exists to edify us, bring us hope and help us to see that God has a plan and is working to fulfill that plan. Ezekiel 38 and 39 speak of a future war that many interpreters believe points to Russia and Iran (among other nations) attacking Israel. It does not take a genius to see that the current actions in the Middle East could be setting the stage for such a conflict.

Time will tell. For now, we serve the Lord with all our hearts. And we watch.

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“Follow Your Heart” Is Bad Advice

It isn’t hard to find the noble expressions of advice to “Follow Your Heart” in social media and online. The sentiment is captured in beautiful fonts scrawled across images of scenic byways and more. Motivational speeches cry out to the inner desires that live within each of us to do exactly that: follow our heart or go with our gut.

But is it bad advice?

I would argue that indeed it is, bad advice. Purely from a Biblical perspective, there are strong admonitions that tell us our basic instincts and motivations are inherently wicked and inclined towards serving the self rather than God. Our hearts tell us what we want is right, that we are being true to ourselves. But this is a deception that comes from the sin nature with which we are born. In fact, the Bible makes it clear that it is difficult for us to understand the nature of our own hearts. See Jeremiah 17:9:

“The heart is more deceitful than all else and is desperately sick; Who can understand it?

We are also told that trusting in our heart is the way of fools, though it may seem right to us, and leads to death and destruction. Proverbs 14:12:

12 There is a way which seems right to a man, but its end is the way of death.

And from Proverbs 28:26:

26 He who trusts in his own heart is a fool, but he who walks wisely will be delivered.

Jesus spoke about the heart of mankind as recorded in Mark chapter 7. In this section, He was teaching about the evil nature of the heart and how what is inside proceeds to defile us as people:

20 And He was saying, “That which proceeds out of the man, that is what defiles the man. 21 For from within, out of the heart of men, proceed the evil thoughts, fornications, thefts, murders, adulteries, 22 deeds of coveting and wickedness,as well as deceit, sensuality, envy, slander, pride and foolishness. 23 All these evil things proceed from within and defile the man.”

So what is good advice then when it comes to searching for leadership in your life? I believe Proverbs 3:5 summarizes it nicely:

Trust in the Lord with all your heart and do not lean on your own understanding.

So next time you see the admonition to “Follow Your Heart”, instead consider following the Lord and His leadership through the Holy Spirit.

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