If I Really Believed…

The question I asked myself today is if I really believe the Scriptures below concerning what Jesus and the New Testament say about the “second death”, what would I do differently today?

My answer was to seize the opportunities that present themselves to share the gospel with a fellow human being. And that is what I was able to do.

What would you do differently?

  1. Revelation 20:14- “And death and Hades were thrown into the lake of fire. This is the second death, the lake of fire.”
  2. Revelation 21:8 – “But for the cowardly and unbelieving and abominable and murders and immoral persons and sorcerers and idolaters and all liars, their part will be in the lake that burns with fire and brimstone, which is the second death.
  3. Revelation 2:11 – “He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches, He who overcomes will not be hurt by the second death.
  4. Revelation 20:6 -“Blessed and holy is the one who has a part in the first resurrection; over these the second death has no power, but they will be priests of God and of Christ and will reign with Him for a thousand years.”
  5. Matthew 10:28 – Jesus says: “Do not fear those who kill the body but are unable to kill the soul; but rather fear Him who is able to destroy both soul and body in hell.”
  6. John 3:16 – Jesus says: “For God so loved the world, that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish, but have eternal life. “
  7. (“Perish” means to experience the second death.)
  8. Romans 5: 8-10 – “But God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us. Much more then, having now been justified by His blood, we shall be saved from the wrath of God through Him. For if while we were enemies, we were reconciled to God through the death of His Son, much more, having been reconciled, we shall be saved by His life.
  9. (“the wrath of God” – the second death is the ultimate expression of His just wrath.)
  10. Ephesians 2:7-9 – “…in order that in the ages to come He might show the surpassing riches of His grace in kindness toward us in Christ Jesus. For by grace you have been saved through faith; and that not of yourselves, it is the gift of God…”

If you possess this “gift” of salvation, please find a way to share it with the hopeless and dying souls all around us that are unknowingly headed to a second death.

Be faithful to God the Father and our Lord Jesus Christ,

Carl

Grave Knowledge

If everyone knew what the dead know, the whole world would be worshipping Jesus. Author Unknown

Preparing The Church For Persecution- From Believers Who Have and Are Being Persecuted

(The following is written by four Chinese pastors from the underground church in Communist China. They have or are experiencing persecution from the Communist China government simply because they are born again Christians. They have spent a combined total of 47 years in prison for their faith in Jesus Christ. The source of the article is omitted due to security issues. Carl)

“In recent years—especially since the start of the Covid pandemic—many believers around the world have contacted us to ask if we can share insights or do interviews into how Christians can survive persecution, as they see the storm clouds of persecution gathering on the horizon in their countries.

First, we point out that we have written more than a dozen books on the Church in China, each containing principles and testimonies of how God has not only helped His children survive six decades of persecution, but has caused them to thrive, so that China is still experiencing the greatest revival in Christian history.

When we try to help church leaders and believers in the West prepare for persecution, after more dialogue it usually emerges that they are not really looking for straight answers. Often, what people mean when they ask these questions is: “How can we survive persecution in our current church structures, so we don’t have to suffer or change?”

The answer to this is… you cannot!

True, physical persecution (e.g. when Christians are being arrested, beaten, imprisoned, or even killed) will not leave most current church structures intact. It will completely dismantle them!

Gone will be the denominations, emphasis on church buildings, Reverends, division between “clergy” and other believers, and all kinds of church traditions and outward imagery that are not found in Scripture. They will be swept away.

This pattern is what happened when persecution was ramped up against believers in China, North Korea, Vietnam, Laos, and other countries we work in.

We don’t know if severe persecution is coming to your part of the world soon, but we must be prepared. The Lord Jesus said, “Then they will deliver you up to tribulation and kill you, and you will be hated by all nations for My name’s sake” (Matthew 24:9), while the Apostle Paul told Timothy that “everyone who wants to live a godly life in Christ Jesus will be persecuted” (2 Timothy 3:12).

We would like to conclude by sharing five important truths about persecution, which we hope will bring encouragement and focus to our fellow believers:

  1. God is always in control! If He allows persecution to come, it’s for the good of His kingdom. In China, believers only experienced the full joy of intimacy with Jesus when they were in the furnace of affliction and after they came out the other side.
  2. Persecution is the last thing our flesh desires, but our faith must rest on the fact that the Lord Jesus will not let us down, and He will never leave nor forsake us. Persecution cannot destroy our relationship with Him: “Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall trouble or hardship or persecution or famine or nakedness or danger or sword?” (Romans 8:35).
  3. Importantly, when intense hardship comes, we shouldn’t see only the hand of Satan in persecution. In China, God’s people looked back later and realized that it was actually the Lord Jesus overseeing the entire process out of love for His children. He is zealous to remove the dead religious structures that trap people in bondage and keep millions of unbelievers from being able to see the true Gospel.
  4. Persecution is a pruning process, when the Holy Spirit removes half-hearted believers from among the flock. In China, when fierce persecution first broke out in the 1950s, around two-thirds of churchgoers fell away from the faith. The Lord Jesus told us this would occur: “When trouble or persecution comes because of the Word, they quickly fall away” (Mark 4:17). Friends, if two-thirds of Chinese Christians fell away at the onset of persecution, how might things be in your part of the world?
  5. For those who do not give up, persecution often brings great revival. In China, the number of Christians has grown from less than one million to over 100 million after 60 years of brutal Communist persecution! All glory to God. When that realization dawned on believers, many learned not only to grimly endure persecution, but to embrace it as a special blessing from God.

May God Almighty continue to bless and multiply His church in Communist China. May the church in the West return to its New Testament roots before the fires of persecution makes it return to that unchanging guidance He has given us! Carl

Seeing Lord Jesus

Knowing More To See Him More

“Do not get knowledge for knowledge sake but so you can see and love to a greater degree the Lord Jesus Christ.”  Kenneth Wuest

The Bible has a lot to say about gaining knowledge and about wisdom, how to use the knowledge you obtain.  It also warns that knowledge can make you prideful.

“Knowledge makes arrogant, but love edifies. If anyone supposes that he knows anything, he has not yet known as he ought to know; but if anyone loves God, he is known by Him.”

Therefore, our desire in gaining biblical knowledge should be to gain a clearer picture of the Lord Jesus Christ so we can love Him more. Since He said, “He who has my commandments and keeps them, he it is who loves Me;…” (John 14: 21a), loving Him more means we will be more diligent in our obedience.   That is how the “love of God” is manifested in our life.  Words play a part but actions speak a lot louder.

We need to realize there are millions of people, right here in the U.S., that have never mentally “seen” Jesus.  They have no Bible knowledge and have no concept of what Jesus looks like.

Lets  put our Bible knowledge to use today and let someone “see” Jesus in us through our obedience to Him.  It may be their first time to “see” the Lord Jesus.

Pay Close Attention to Yourself….   (Paul to Timothy)

Carl

When The Grace of God Appeared

For the grace of God that brings salvation has appeared to all men, teaching us that, denying ungodliness and worldly lusts, we should live soberly, righteously, and godly in the present age, looking for the blessed hope and glorious appearing of our great God and Savior Jesus Christ, who gave Himself for us, that He might redeem us from every lawless deed and purify for Himself His own special people, zealous for good works.

For we ourselves were also once foolish, disobedient, deceived, serving various lusts and pleasures, living in malice and envy, hateful and hating one another.

But when the kindness and the love of God our Savior toward man appeared, not by works of righteousness which we have done, but according to His mercy He saved us, through the washing of regeneration and renewing of the Holy Spirit, whom He poured out on us abundantly through Jesus Christ our Savior, that having been justified by His grace, we should become heirs according to the hope of eternal life. (Titus 2:11-14; 3:3-7)

Praise Almighty God for His grace that has appeared to us! Bless His Holy and Righteous Name. May we all respond fully to the teaching of His Spirit contained in that ancient book, the Bible.

Carl

How God Reached the Wa Headhunters in Myanmar

“He has made everything beautiful in its time. He has also set eternity in their hearts” (Ecclesiastes 3:9).

“From one man he made all the nations, that they should inhabit the whole earth; and he marked out their appointed times in history and the boundaries of their lands. God did this so that they would seek him and perhaps reach out for him and find him, though he is not far from any one of us. ‘For in him we live and move and have our being” (Acts 17:26-28).

“The Wa were headhunters. Just once a year, in the planting season, Wa tribesmen felt compelled by bloodthirsty spirits to plant human heads in their fields along with their seeds—just to ensure a good crop. Neighboring tribes always wanted to leave for vacation when the Wa were planting their crops, but unfortunately that was when they had to plant their crops too.

A benign influence, however, was at work within the folk religion of the Wa people. From time-to-time prophets of the true God, whom the Wa called Siyeh, arose to condemn headhunting and spirit-appeasement! One such prophet, Pu Chan, appeared during the 1880s. He persuaded several thousand Wa tribesmen to abandon headhunting and spirit worship on the grounds that the true God was about to send a long-awaited white brother with a copy of the lost book. If he came to the Wa territory and heard that the Wa were practicing evil things, he might think them unworthy of the true God’s book and turn away again! If that happened, Pu Chan warned, surely the Wa would never get another chance to have the lost book restored to them.

One morning Pu Chan saddled a pony. ‘Follow this pony,’ he said to some of his disciples. ‘Siyeh told me last night that the white brother has finally come near! Siyeh will cause this pony to lead you to him. While Pu Chan’s disciples gaped in astonishment, the pony started walking. Expecting the pony to stop at the nearest stream, they followed it.”

Two hundred miles away, an American missionary from Nebraska, William Young, had recently set up base in the town of Kengtung. One day Young went to the marketplace to preach among the people, and he noticed strangely garbed men gravitating toward him out of the throng in the market.

They were not Wa, but were men from the neighboring Lahu tribe, who God chose to receive the Gospel first. The Lahu had also been waiting for a white man to come with a lost book that would reconnect them to the true God, whom they called Gwi’sha in their language. Richardson continues the story:

“They stared incredulously at the missionary’s white face, the interior of the book in his hand, and listened to his description of the laws of God contained in that book. Then, in an outburst of powerful emotion, the Lahu pleaded with Young to follow them up into the mountains. ‘We as a people have been waiting for you for centuries,’ they explained. ‘We even have meeting houses built in some of our villages in readiness for your coming.’

[Pu Chan above and William Young below. Our thanks to Marcus Young, the grandson of William, for providing these two precious photos.]

Some of the men showed him bracelets of coarse rope hanging like manacles from their wrists. ‘We have worn ropes like these since time immemorial. They symbolize our bondage to evil spirits. You alone, as the messenger of Gwi’sha, may cut these manacles from our wrists—but only after you have brought the lost book of Gwi’sha to our very hearths!’

Nearly speechless with awe, Young went with them. Tens of thousands of Lahu became Christians, and it was at that stage that Pu Chan saddled his pony (200 miles away in Wa territory) and told his Wa disciples to follow it to the missing book and the messenger of the True God. When the pony finally arrived at the home of William Young, the Wa asked him: ‘Have you brought the book of God?’ Young nodded. The men, overcome with emotion, fell at his feet and blurted out, ‘This pony is saddled especially for you. Our people are all waiting. Fetch the book! We must be on our way!”

Thousands of Wa heard the Gospel from both the Young family and the new Lahu Christians. They repented of their sins and gave their lives to Jesus Christ. Young’s son, Vincent, later translated the New Testament into Wa.

During much of the 20th century, many Wa people continued to outwardly follow Christ, but their faith generally slipped into dead formalism. A vibrant, life-giving revival was greatly needed among the Wa, lest the amazing breakthroughs of the past would go to waste.

One reason for the spiritual decline among the Wa was the problem with their Bible. Because of their widespread locations and multiple dialects, only a fraction of Wa were able to understand the dialect the Bible was available in.

Some years ago, a Wa Bible committee was set up to address this problem, and a new translation was launched in a common vernacular that many more Wa people could understand.

Asia Harvest has been greatly blessed to provide more than 80,000 new Wa Bibles, free of charge, through our Asian Bible Fund. There are many requests for more, and we invite you to prayerfully consider supporting this strategic endeavor.

If you would like to read the complete Asia Harvest article on the Wa, please click here.

Please pray for the Wa and the other tribes in Myanmar and give if you can to this worthwhile project. Carl

The Very Same Power

The very same power which raised Christ is waiting to raise the drunkard from his drunkenness, to raise the thief from his dishonesty, to raise the Pharisee from his self-righteousness, to raise the Sadducee from his unbelief.

– C.H. Spurgeon

From the Berean Call

Pliny the Younger

Pliny the Younger (61-113 AD) was a Roman Magistrate appointed by the emperor Trajan over Bithynia, now in modern Turkey. In 112 AD he wrote the emperor requesting direction on how to handle the many Christians that were brought before him. The English translation of Pliny’s letter and Trajan’s response was published by William Harris, Prof. Em. Middlebury College.

Harris said the Christians were brought daily before Pliny for refusing military service, refusing to worship the Roman emperors and for being members of a strange new and secret religion which although harmless, seemed dangerous to the established Roman way of life. I would add “revenge” to this list because of the change in temple economics due to Christians forsaking the idols.

This is the first documented evidence of the “Christian Problem” in the Roman world.

Oh, in case you’re wondering, Pliny the Elder was his uncle who died trying to rescue people from the Pompeii disaster. Here is the translation from Latin:

Gaius Plinius to the Emperor Trajan

It is for me an important point of responsibility to refer to you as Head of State, things about which I have questions, since you are the person best able to set straight my hesitations and correct my lack of information.

Actually I have never been present at a Examination (cognitio) of Christians, so I do not know what punishment is required or how far it is to be carried out. Nor do I understand the legal grounds for a prosecution, or how stringently it is to be prosecuted. I am not clear about prosecutions in respect to the age of the persons, whether no distinction should be made between the young and the old, and furthermore whether a pardon should be granted in cases of recanting, or if there is no advantage for a person completely ceasing to be a Christian. Or is it the name “Christian” which is prosecutable, even if not involved in criminal actions, or is that “criminality” is automatically attached to the name?

In the meantime, I now handle it this way with those who are turned over to me as Christians. I ask them directly, in person, if they are Christian, I ask a second and third time to be sure, and indicate to them the danger of their situation. If they persist, I order them led dispatched (= executed). I have had no trouble with this, since whatever it was they admitted or professed, I decided that their obstinacy and unyielding inflexibility should be sufficient reason for punishment. Some others who were virtually insane with this cult, but Roman citizens, I sent back to Rome for trial.

As I continue with this handling of the situation, as often happens, the numbers and kinds of incriminations are becoming more widespread. An anonymous List has been brought out which contains the names of a great many persons. I decided to dismiss charges again any on this list who stated that they were now not, nor had ever been Christians, if they repeated after me a prayer of invocation to the Gods, and made an offering of wine and incense to your statue, which I had brought in to the court along with the statues of the Gods, for this purpose. And in addition they were to formally curse Christ, which I understand true Christians will never do.

Other named by the anonymous List said they were Christians, and later changed their statement. Some said that they had been and then stopped, some three years before, some longer, some even twenty years before. All these reverenced your statue and those of the Gods, and cursed Christ. They stated that the sum total of their error or misjudgment, had been coming to a meeting on a given day before dawn, and singing responsively a hymn to Christ as to God, swearing with a holy oath not to commit any crime, never to steal or commit robbery, commit adultery, fail a sworn agreement or refuse to return a sum left in trust. When all this was finished, it was their custom to go their separate ways, and later re-assemble to take food of an ordinary and simple kind. But after my edict which forbids all political Societies, they did in fact give this up.I thought at this point that it was necessary to get information from two slave women, whom they call Deaconesses (ministrae) about the actual truth, by means of torture. I found nothing worthy of blame other than the blind and over-wrought nature of their cult-superstition.

I have therefore postponed further Examinations (cognitiones) and made haste to come to you immediately for consultation. This situation seem to demand serious consultation, especially in view of the large number of people falling into this danger. A great many persons of every age, of every social class, men and women alike, are being brought in to trial, and this seems likely to continue. It is not only the cities, but also the towns and even the country villages which are being infected with this cult-contagion.

It seems possible to check and reverse this direction at this point, for it is quite clear that the Temples of the Gods which have been empty for so long, now begin to be filled again, the sacred rites which had lapsed are now being performed and flesh for sacrificial rites is now sold again at the shops, although for a while nobody would buy it. So it seems reasonable to think that a great many people could be persuaded to reform, IF there were a legal procedure for Repentance.

Emperor Trajan to Pliny:

You have done the right thing, my dear Pliny, in handling the cases of those who were brought to you under the charge of being Christians. But it is not possible to make hard and fast rule with one specific formula. These people must not be searched out, if they are brought before your court and the case against them is proved, they must be punished, but in the case of anyone who states that he is not a Christian and makes it perfectly clear that he is not, by offering prayers to out Gods, such a one is to be pardoned on the grounds of his present repentance, however suspect he may have been in the past. But anonymous lists must not have any place in the court proceedings. They are a terrible example and not at all in keeping with our times.


William Harris
Prof. Em. Middlebury College


Go to the Chronological List of all Early Christian Writings

The Christian Church

“The Christian church with all its faults is the greatest serving institution on earth. It has many critics, but no rivals in the work of human redemption… No other institution has done anything like it—none whatever. The fact that the church has been able to survive the dead weight of a large proportion of its membership unconverted is a proof of its essential soundness and vitality. A minority of converted people keep its soul alive.”

E. Stanley Jones, Conversion: From Lane Corley blog – Church Planting, Mission Strategy and Life in SE Louisiana

Beneath the Surface: Going to Church vs. Getting Involved in the Life of a Church

“every individual Christian will find in the communion of a local church the most perfect atmosphere for the fullest development of his spiritual life.” ~ A.W. Tozer

My observation is that most people never experience “the fullest development of his spiritual life” through the church or see the great value, because they may GO TO CHURCH, but they don’t get involved in the LIFE OF A CHURCH. There’s a big difference. Going to church makes you a CONSUMER of its services. Getting involved in the life of a church puts you in “COMMUNION” with a life source fed by God himself. The Apostle Paul said it like this

“From Him the whole body, joined and held together by every supporting ligament, grows and builds itself up in love, as each part does its work.” ~ Ephesians 4:16

It’s consuming vs. serving, sharing life, supporting, being supported, building up, being built up, etc.

Forest

The enduring image of church for me is that of a forest. A forest stays strong, even in dry seasons, because BENEATH THE SURFACE, the roots of the trees are feeding off of one another for growth & strength. Roots can’t share their life with a tree that just lays itself upon the surface. It has to take root & do life with the others.

“I tried church, but it didn’t help.” Probably not, if you just showed up every now & then with little commitment, little humbling of yourself, little sharing of your life, little getting involved in relationships, little investment in ministries, little digging deep to support & be supported.

I love the Tozer quote, because I’ve experience it. Now, don’t read it wrong. The church is NOT a “perfect atmosphere.” Far from it. It is the perfect atmosphere for spiritual development BECAUSE of its imperfections. Relationships with people that are struggling through life together, growing as individuals, utilizing unique gifts no matter how imperfectly. And seeing God in Christ feed & nourish & heal & empower each other. It’s a beautiful thing! But you won’t see it on the surface by just GOING TO CHURCH.

Source: Pastor Lane Corley @ lanecorley.com (his blog)

View From India Church Leader

You feel sorry for us in India because of our great poverty in material things. We who know the Lord in India feel sorry for you in America because of your spiritual poverty. We are praying that you also might come to church with a hunger for God and not merely a hunger to see some form of amusement.

Bakht Singh, Indian Church Leader Quoted in An Asian Harvest – Paul Hattaway – Asia Harvest – Monarch Books, Oxford, England

The Blessing of the Bible in Your Mother Tongue

“The Bible in another language is like a leaf floating on a river; it takes a very long time before it absorbs enough water to sink to the bottom. …The Bible in my own language is like a stone that is thrown into the river; it plunges in and sinks straight to the bottom — it falls right into my heart!    Bible Translator in Asia

“To have the Word of God in our language is the greatest richness we could have.”  Rafael Ahuanari, director of the Federation of Evangelical Churches of the Peruvian Amazon

“Reading the Scripture in another language is like eating a banana with the skin on. Now the Scripture in my language is satisfying —like a sweet banana. I can’t get enough of it!”  woman from Asia

“I never understood the Word to this level, nor been as moved by it. It penetrated me right to my bones and touched my inner being.”    Pastor in Benin

“Many families have been waiting for the Quechua Bible as if it was very delicious bread.”          A Quechua pastor

“The greatest missionary is the Bible in the mother tongue. It never needs a furlough and is never considered a foreigner.”  William Cameron Townsend, Wycliffe Bible Translators

“It is impossible to enslave, mentally or socially, a Bible-reading people. The principles of the Bible are the groundwork of human freedom. “     Horace Greeley –

Source: wycliffe.org

Going The Extra Mile

“Throughout the years of brutal suppression, the Christians in Henan often asked the Lord to give them an attitude that would enable them to embrace suffering as a gift from God. With that outlook, they were willing to go the extra mile, and there was little that evil human beings or the world could do to destroy them.”

Henan – Inside the Greatest Christian Revival in History – Paul Hattaway – describing the Chinese Church during the 1960s and 70s

There is much the Christian Church can learn from the suffering Chinese Church. They have endured much and not only survived but multiplied. So much so, that the Communist Chinese consider them a great threat to their goals and aspirations. But the truth is that righteous people are a blessing to any nation and the truths of Christianity should be encouraged, not hindered.

We need to be listening and learning and praying for our Chinese brothers and sisters.

Why don’t you say a prayer for them right now. Thanks and God bless you.

Carl

Wise Advice

“Stick close to the exercise of Repentance, till the end of thy life, and never think of obtaining pardon “ab humano die”(from the human), because he who has made thee make this Promise, has deceived thee.  As thou hast properly sinned against the Lord, so seek thy Remedy only at his hand.”

Ambrose, Bishop of Milan 374 AD – quoted in Bishop Nicea of Aquileia (420-485 AD) Book “ab Virginem lap-sam” – quoted in Some Remarks Upon Ecclesiastical History of the Ancient Churches of Piedmont by P. Allix D.D. – London, 1690

A Historical Perspective On Church Growth

The rise of monasticism did much to pull the Western Roman church back to spiritual purity, personal holiness, and devotion to Christ. On the other hand, monasticism had many questionable practices and perspectives that border on the extreme of fanatical asceticism for asceticism’s sake. The drive for things like isolation, silence, and mystical experiences are a curious contrasts to Jesus’ call to go and make disciples and engage with sinners in a fallen world.

The laity’s esteem and veneration of a monk’s lifestyle only cemented the perception that true spirituality is reserved for a special class of believers. One has to wonder: If the church had maintained its early and fierce devotion to Christ’s commands to love God and neighbor and to make disciples of all nations -instead of becoming secularized – would monasticism ever had come about as it did? In The Way – Church As We Know It – Damian Gerke

Dear Saint: Cooperate with the Spirit of Almighty God that indwells you. Be all you can be in Christ for your sake and the sake of the lost. Bring your salvation to its ultimate conclusion, Christ-likeness, so you can be light in the midst of this crooked and perverse generation which desperately needs the Savior’s message of redemption. (Phil. 2:12-16)

We should not lock our light away. He intends for it to be on a stand for all to see.

May grace and peace from God the Father and Christ Jesus be upon each one.

Carl

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