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Posts Tagged ‘persecution’

First an apology to my email subscribers.  Trying out a new WordPress format and wouldn’t you know, when it says “Post a Photo” it means exactly that. But photos seem easier to upload, so here we go.  Pictures are what I want to share.  I received two things in the mail that really drew a contrast for me today.

Any former SDA who gets these knows exactly what they are and who they are from.  But no one else does.  As usual the church name, website, phone number, and pastor’s name can’t be found.  Inside it says, “Meet Our Speaker”.  There we find a picture of a girl who might be all of 16, who it claims became inspired for evangelism at an intensive Youth evangelistic program.  Internet searches showed her to turn up on a 3ABN show, and a couple of Youtube videos where it seems the child is extremely gifted for music.  Preaching a three week doctrinal series?  I suspect not.  The copy under the headliner refers to her as “a speaker”.. not “THE speaker”.

But even if they practiced total disclosure and honesty – the pictures, as usual, speak volumes more.  This exercise isn’t about picking on a group of people.  It’s about discernment and learning to spot the frauds and cons in life.  They are everywhere.  Ask yourself here what first impressions do these images give and what do you expect to hear?  What motivator are they playing on?  What’s the agenda?

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ImageThis one lists all the major distinctive doctrines necessary to convert people to “the church”, which would include their beliefs on the Sabbath day, hell, what happens when you die (nothing), and the second coming, which is closely tied to the Sabbath and the Mark of the Beast (er.. keeping Sunday as the Sabbath).

Sorry next one is fuzzy.  Too late to re-take the photo.

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Still I have to ask, what IS Life’s Greatest Battle?  This entire brochure implies extreme danger and fear.  You have to know about this battle and how to fight it or all might be lost.  This impression does accurately portray the belief system as a whole, in its historical form.

Then I opened my other mail, one of my favorites for years – a magazine dedicated to raising awareness for the persecuted Church, worldwide.  Do they have an agenda?  Most certainly. Matthew 25, Hebrews 13.  The cult flyer cloaked their identity and Jesus both.  He was a footnote.  When I look at these pictures, all I see is Jesus.

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I think these believers must know, that “Life’s Greatest Battle” is already won.  Yet they are caught in the cross fire over and over in a world that hates the Victor.  Their testimony and witness continues to focus me and my priorities on a regular basis.  They tear away the facade and let the reality of who we are, and who Jesus is, shine out.  What a beautiful picture.

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Read a great post this morning by David Wilkerson.  He was quoting a Puritan preacher from the 1600s warning London of perilous times ahead.  He called for repentance, for people to lead their families to a place of safety –  not a compound, a bunker, or a cave in the wilderness, but eternal shelter in Jesus.  No matter what befalls us here in this world, He has promised in Him we are more than overcomers.   At times He is the protector in the fire, and in other times He gives us visions of heaven as the rocks fly and our spirits return to Him.  In both cases, we have Him and He is glorified.

Our greatest tragedy should be the prospect that we could deny Him, not to suffer at the hands of men or from circumstances.  I do not fear that He would not forgive this failure, but the terrible grief of having done so.  I can’t imagine the broken heart of Peter with one look from Jesus after he had cursed and denied he knew Him – to keep his own skin safe.  But he had to be broken from trusting his own strength, his own promise of “I will never fall away.”  We cannot promise things to God.  We can only trust His.

Yet Peter’s position in the Ark was not affected by this failure.  When the door of the ark is sealed.. you are in or out.  Your safety depends on the strength of the ark, not your ability to keep it afloat.  Theoretically, Noah could have exerted a great effort to somehow climb out and jump, but is this a discussion we need to have?  People seem to spend more time arguing about how to stay in the Ark than calling drowning people into it, but that’s because we’ve invited so many in with one foot only and told them it was fine.

Growing up as an Adventist, our lives were overshadowed constantly with the belief of the coming “Time of Trouble”, as we called it, when God would test the whole world and divide those who served Him from those who served the enemy.   The dividing line would be the Seventh-day Sabbath – and all who did not remain loyal to this holy day would receive the Mark of the Beast – causing all to worship on the false Sabbath – on Sunday.  We were taught that we would be hunted and many killed for not complying with “Sunday Laws”.  Every disaster or political crisis created a buzz of conversation about how soon the Sunday Laws were coming.  My ark of safety in God was a day, and I wasn’t sure I would be strong enough to make it through.  The right Jesus was the Sabbath Jesus.  The only way to know if we had Him or not, was the day.  To abandon the day was to reject Him.  And to fail was to be lost forever.

For much of the world, this tribulation is already here, and growing drastically each day.  The line in the sand is already drawn and many are being hunted and killed for being on the side of Christ.  He is the Sabbath test Himself.  Will we trust His love and finished work or not?  Will we trust someone or something else?  Will we trust ourselves?  I’m sure the temptation is large for those already suffering in the cauldron of man’s hatred.

My expectation of persecution coming to America someday (maybe soon) has not changed all that much – only that now I have total assurance in Jesus alone and not in my allegiance to a shadow observance, or my own ability to be strong.  The world system does want your adoration and trust.  It’s screaming for it, sometimes forcefully, sometimes seductively.  But if your ark is a day or a law, or anything other than Christ, you may have already been taken in while looking to a false sign of reassurance.   We have to go much deeper than external appearances – past the shadows – to the heart of who we love and trust the most.

Wilkerson’s article can be read HERE

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I recently sat in a living room with several other Christian women who meet once a month to learn more about healthy living.  As an icebreaker for this meeting, the hostess asked us to share how we keep things in perspective during the busy holiday season, as well as special traditions our families had.  I realized how this question would have stressed me terribly a few years ago.  When my turn came, I related that I did not have a great deal of experience yet, (long story) but we make an effort to give Jesus the gifts, to the “least of these”,  rather than go crazy on junk no one needs, wants, or remembers this time next year.   As the sharing moved around the room, one woman began to explain why they were not going to celebrate Christmas this year.  Her explanation wavered between sheepish embarrassment to dogmatic conviction about “what the Bible says.”  I know that conviction well.  No one knew what to say.  I knew what I wanted to tell her, but I also knew she would have to walk down that road to see what I see now.

You cannot ignore Christmas, no matter how hard you might try.  And oh did we try, for nearly ten years.  We came under conviction early on in our Christian lives that we were wrong to mix the worship of the one true God with traditions inherited from Paganism.  The desire for our worship to be pure before God sparked our search for the purest form of our faith, seeking to go back all the way to what we believed were our authentic roots.

I don’t blame anyone for coming to this conclusion about Christmas, especially if you do as I did and study out the history of the Church and various holy days.  During the Middle Ages, every month had some type of celebration adopted from various pagan cultures, renaming the days for saints, yet retaining the rituals of superstition and divination.  I did not view this as an honorable history, but rather a church compromising in order to gain allegiance and control of the masses.  In many countries around the world today you see a strange mix of traditional cultures with Catholic mass and rituals, mixing Jesus and Mary with whatever custom they can impress them upon.  Watching documentaries of other cultures, I personally saw no difference in what they were doing and our culture’s worship of Christmas.  (I felt the day was worshiped, not God, and still see this is the largest pitfall of our materialistic culture.)

I became a Christian after spending time in the New Age, so I was especially sensitive to avoid all references or participation in paganism, which at this time in my life, was perfectly right.  All I could see in Christmas at that time was compromise, which is why I don’t judge anyone for choosing to not celebrate this day.  However for me, my pure devotion quickly transformed into a source of superiority and pride.

Each year as the day rolled around we sometimes had a dinner with friends who shared the same conviction.  There was literally nothing else to do.  We would eat, play games, and lament how our families just did not  understand.  We personally didn’t mind being with our own families, but some did not respect our unwillingness to exchange gifts, which created awkward situations, so we tended to avoid them.  The irony of our non-Christmas dinner fellowships wasn’t lost on me.  I realized, we were still acknowledging the day, just in a different way.

When confronted with Christmas invitations and questions, I soon tried to not reveal that we didn’t celebrate it because the questions were uncomfortable.  Do you believe in Jesus?  Are you a Jehovah’s Witness?  It took too long to explain.  Even with the challenge it posed, this became an important feature of our unique spiritual identity.  To ignore Christmas is like standing against a tidal wave.

When our eyes opened to the reality of what we have in Christ, and we began to rebuild our spiritual worldview, we had to face once again the question; What do we do with  Christmas?

We did not have a new set of facts.  History cannot be changed.  And this was in fact our conclusion.  Try as we might to pretend it didn’t happen, Christmas has become the shining star of the entire year of holidays for the whole western world, and even in many countries which do not generally embrace Christianity.  As we looked at the issue again, we had to go back to the testing method which originally prompted our discontent with the Hebrew Roots Movement.  Fruit.  The unintended result of rejecting Christmas had only caused people to shy away and assume we did not even believe in Jesus at all.  Only atheists and cults deny Christmas.  (Here’s your sign…once again.)  If you are in fact wanting people to know about Him, this is counterproductive to say the least.  This only added to the ways in which we gave the wrong impression about Jesus, which were many.  The only things we had to show for our pious obedience were sheer boredom, miffed family members, and a distraction away from Jesus, not toward Him.

When we looked at  Christmas again, instead of seeing only paganism repackaged, we saw paganism redeemed, for the spread of the gospel.  Just as Jesus took us who were broken, sinful, idolatrous, rebellious, and prideful – and redeemed us for His glory – we realized He can also do this with a day if it pleases Him to do so.  The evergreen, the pagan symbol for eternal life, we see now as a symbol of their desire to overcome the problem of death, the problem only Jesus has the answer for.  The lights symbolize the true Light of the World, that comes in our darkest, coldest nights.  The day they dedicated to call back the Sun is now celebrated to the Eternal Son.  It seems maybe God intended for things to transpire the way they have.  Another miracle of Christmas is the success of its worldwide popularity, being presented as the day of Jesus Christ’s birth!  If I were a pagan, I would not see this as a victory for my perspective, especially since most people don’t give a second thought to where the traditions came from in the first place.

As I sat in church during what was arguably my first real Christmas, fully embracing Christ, I was so moved by the focus on the amazing miracle and sacrifice of a God who was willing to come and give everything of Himself to His Creation.  How could the Creator submit to a human birth,  just as we are born?  I related to Him in the birth of my own children and wondered what Mary must have thought as she held God in her arms.  Thankfully she could not fully see the days ahead.

Did He command me to remember His birth?  No.  But part of the beauty of the New Covenant is found in the love offering our life becomes.  In the Old Covenant people brought freewill and thank offerings when they desired to.  I believe Christmas, for a genuine believer, becomes a time to present a thank offering to Jesus for the amazing gift He gave, which only started with His birth.  We cannot stop at the manger.  Our minds are drawn to the cross, and finally a risen Lord, and His ever-present Spirit, the true Spirit of Christmas.

I found it was not possible to ever completely separate myself from this holiday, but I am thankful that I am now in a new relationship with it that blesses me and gives me a chance to bless others in many ways.  I don’t believe there is any other day of the year that provides a better stage to share the truth about Jesus, to find people with their ears and hearts a little more open.  I am sorry for the years I missed that, and for all the frustration we put our families through.  I have also seen how special this day is to those who don’t have the freedom to worship Him openly, and how they have risked their lives to honor their Savior on the day dedicated to His birth.  I would much rather stand with them in their sacrificial love of Christ, than were I stood before, in pride against those who have given all for Him.  What will you do with the day of the Son this year?

Thank you Jesus for being willing to come to our dark world and share in our human suffering and carry our humiliation.  Your love is beyond understanding, beyond anything mortal man in all his vain wisdom ever dared to hope for – a God that would come down and unite Himself with us, in order to save us.  Thank you that You are in us, and we are in You, forever! Maranatha!

Simeon’s Moment by Ron DiCianni
© 2010.  Image used by Permission
www.TapestryProductions.com


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To be close to You – the source and giver of all things…

do I seek you for comfort and peace or a just to be near

the object of my desire?

Is there love without the corruption of self seeking?

Is all my running after You only truly seeking myself?

I get closer, but see the fire and step back – fearing

to walk through it

to get to You.

What did I really want?

Who did I think You were?

You have given more than I could ever understand, that I might stand here

in this dilemma, asking this shameful question, ‘is it worth it?’ which I realize actually means

Are You worth it?

I am a comfortable 72 degrees.  What overcomes the inertia of static stagnancy?  What is it I really want?  In the end, this will always be the pivot of all my actions.  Do I want You more than I want me?

All my high ambition, lofty words..  so vain and fleeting.

Many have come close and suffered.  In the conflict of flesh dying and Spirit living, they suffer.  They suffer in your mercy, to defend against the enemy of pride.  They suffer in loneliness where they cannot express and no one else has seen – a private place between man and You alone.  They suffer at the hands of those who fear their revelation.  Some have suffered, not realizing You were drawing them through, to bring them a degree closer to Yourself.  But always, there is the suffering. 

Yet, even You have walked through this, and hold out Your hand for us to follow.   How is it that You who are perfect and beyond the reach of anything that is not light – share in this suffering? 

In this You are not an ogre, asking me to come forward, untouched by my condition, but a brother in my humanity, a mentor, and yet an all consuming fire.

I cannot reconcile this paradox in my mind, yet if I forget either the fire or Your empathetic bond through common experience, I will fall back into myself.    

 

 

Luk 14:26-33  “If anyone comes to me and does not hate his own father and mother and wife and children and brothers and sisters, yes, and even his own life, he cannot be my disciple.  Whoever does not bear his own cross and come after me cannot be my disciple.  For which of you, desiring to build a tower, does not first sit down and count the cost, whether he has enough to complete it?  Otherwise, when he has laid a foundation and is not able to finish, all who see it begin to mock him, saying, ‘This man began to build and was not able to finish.’  Or what king, going out to encounter another king in war, will not sit down first and deliberate whether he is able with ten thousand to meet him who comes against him with twenty thousand?  And if not, while the other is yet a great way off, he sends a delegation and asks for terms of peace.  So therefore, any one of you who does not renounce all that he has cannot be my disciple.

Rom 12:1  I appeal to you therefore, brothers, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, which is your spiritual worship.

Heb 2:10  For it was fitting that he, for whom and by whom all things exist, in bringing many sons to glory, should make the founder of their salvation perfect through suffering.

Heb 4:15  For we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but one who in every respect has been tempted as we are, yet without sin.

1Pe 5:6 -11 Humble yourselves, therefore, under the mighty hand of God so that at the proper time he may exalt you, casting all your anxieties on him, because he cares for you.  Be sober-minded; be watchful. Your adversary the devil prowls around like a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour. Resist him, firm in your faith, knowing that the same kinds of suffering are being experienced by your brotherhood throughout the world. And after you have suffered a little while, the God of all grace, who has called you to his eternal glory in Christ, will himself restore, confirm, strengthen, and establish you. To him be the dominion forever and ever. Amen.

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