Does One Replace The Other?

“Do not be bound together with unbelievers; for what partnership have righteousness and lawlessness, or what fellowship has light with darkness? Or what harmony has Christ with Belial, or what has a believer in common with an unbeliever? Or what agreement has the temple of God with idols? For we are the temple of the living God; just as God said,

“I WILL DWELL IN THEM AND WALK AMONG THEM; AND I WILL BE THEIR GOD, AND THEY SHALL BE MY PEOPLE, THEREFORE, COME OUT FROM THEIR MIDST AND BE SEPERATE,” says the Lord. ‘AND DO NOT TOUCH WHAT IS UNCLEAN; and I will welcome you. And I will be a father to you, and you shall be sons and daughters to Me,” says the Lord Almighty.

THEREFORE, having these promises, beloved, let us cleanse ourselves from all defilement of flesh and spirit, perfecting holiness in the fear of God.” (II Corinthians 6:14 thru 7:1 NASB -emphasis added)

Please note in the proceeding scriptures, that faith and hope in these magnificent promises of God does not replace or destroy our fear of God, who taketh pleasure in those that fear him and hope in his mercy.

The healthy, overwhelming, profound, adoring, awed respect (aka fear) of God prolongs life (Proverb 10:27), is a fountain of life that one may avoid the snares of death (Proverb 14:27), causes one to sleep satisfied untouched by evil (Proverb 19:23), is the beginning of wisdom (Proverb 9:10) and causes numerous other blessings to occur in a believer’s life.

So hold on to His wonderful and magnificent promises but also walk in that reverence toward Him that only He is deserving of.

Thank you for your time. May His blessing rest upon you.

Carl

“News” As Spiritual Deformation

Here’s a question to ask any pastor: “What’s the greatest challenge to discipleship in your church?” This is the likely answer: “The news.”

When I press for more details, I hear something like this:

People’s preferred news source seems to be the most powerful voice in their lives. It tells them what to believe about who they are, the problems of the world, who is at fault, and what to do about it. The news has become a lens through which the Bible, the Christian faith, and the local church is interpreted and evaluated.

Christians will often agree:

Yes, sensational, heavily political news is the problem. That’s why I only follow [my favorite outlet]. Other people are influenced by the news, but not me. I’m a free-thinker.

Gnosticism Revisited

Why is news so enthralling? It doesn’t seem rational. Most news content is depressing and terrible. Why do we keep coming back for more?

One theory is that most news sources pitch themselves as a sort of gnostic gospel. Gnosticism began as a second-century quasi-Christian spinoff religion. The church fathers soon identified Gnosticism as heresy because it invited people to trust not in repentance of sin and salvation in Christ but in special mystical knowledge or esoteric insight.

Such special insight is what news offers us. News media say, implicitly, “We’ll give you the inside scoop. Follow us and you’ll be one of the enlightened few and not in the mob of fools.” The news offers salvation through special knowledge.

Follow us and you’ll be one of the enlightened few and not in the mob of fools.

Let’s take things a bit deeper. The news offers a substrain of the temptation presented to the first humans in Eden: to be like God.

God, in his omnipresence and omniscience, knows and cares about all things happening in all places. We, in our finiteness, only have the capacity to know and care about a few things happening where we are.

Contemporary news sources present our finiteness as a problem to overcome. We must transcend our locale and become global. We must leave behind the darkness of not knowing and enter the light of “breaking news.” We must, in short, become like God: knowing and caring about everything.

It’s a heady tonic. This is why following the news makes us feel important. There is something godlike about the illusion of knowing and caring about everything.

Inactionable News

Most news is bad: an earthquake, a hurricane, a murder, a scandal. Most news is also inactionable: there is nothing you can do about it. What does knowing all this inactionable bad news create in you?

Most news is inactionable—there is nothing you can do about it.

  • Anxiety: The sheer quantity of evil reports being pumped at you 24/7, like a firehose to the face, will not leave you more peaceable, more content, or more joyful. It will leave you more anxious.
  • Loss of agency: Because you grow accustomed to hearing about problems you can’t fix and suffering people you can’t help, you develop a deep feeling of lost agency.
  • Anger: For anyone with a moral compass, this leads to anger. Because you are made in the image of God, a sense of justice rises against villains.
  • Hate: Anger is like the evaporated alcohol that rises from fermenting grain. It can be distilled and bottled into hate.

This is why Christians who watch or read a lot of news usually end up hating, not loving, their neighbor. They have been spiritually deformed by truckloads of voyeuristic, inactionable horror stories. They perceive themselves as part of a small, heroic, minority of good people at war against powerful multitudes of the ignorant (at best) or the wicked (at worst).

Most news is inactionable—there is nothing you can do about it.

I ask again: What’s the use of inactionable news?

It doesn’t typically help me love the Lord our God with all my heart, soul, mind, and strength.

It doesn’t typically help me love my neighbor as myself.

In short, it’s typically of no use.

Choose Local News

You may respond: “Are you suggesting we should withdraw from society? Retreat from the real world?”

Quite the opposite. News only gives the illusion of engagement and thus inoculates you against actual engagement with real people. I’ll take it a step further: you should not seek to know everything or care about everything, because you should not aspire to be like God.

Your opportunity for obedience to God is a local opportunity. Therefore, the primary news that should matter to a Christian is local news. By local news I don’t primarily mean news about city or state government. I mean something more intensely local, what some thinkers call “hyper-local”:

  • News about a neighbor with a cancer diagnosis
  • News about the young couple down the street having their first child
  • News about someone in the church who’s lost a job
  • News about someone’s coworker visiting church for the first time

The primary news that should matter to a Christian is local news.

This is news for the average human. This news presents you with an opportunity to love, to pray, to serve, or to celebrate at the human level.

As you respond to such local news, a different kind of formation will work within you. Anxiety will be replaced with confidence, helplessness with initiative, anger with delight, hate with love.

You will not find such hyper-local news in daily papers or TV reports. Rather, you will likely discover it the same way people have for generations: through ordinary conversation.

D. J. Marotta is a priest in the Anglican Church in North America and rector of Redeemer Anglican Church in Richmond, Virginia. His wife is gracious and his children are clever.

Source: The Gospel Coalition

Roman Emperor Constantine – The First Vicar of Christ

In Constantine’s day (306-337 CE), the emperor, as the head of the pagan priesthood in Rome known as the Pontifical College (now headed by the Pope), was called Pontifex Maximus. Constantine headed the church, as would the emperors after him for five centuries. He called himself Vicarius Christi (Vicar of Christ). Yet he continued to officiate at pagan celebrations and to endow pagan temples even as he built Christian churches! The popes eventually claimed the emperor’s titles, Pontifex Maximus and Vicar of Christ, as their own. True Christians separated themselves from an increasingly apostate church and began to call the popes Antichrist.

Constantine never renounced his loyalty to the pantheon of pagan gods. He abolished neither the pagan Altar of Victory in the senate nor the Vestal Virgins; and the sun-god rather than Christ continued to be honored on imperial coins. Throughout his “Christian” life Constantine mixed pagan and Christian rites and continued to rely upon “pagan magic formulas to protect crops and heal disease.” Historian Philip Hughes, a Catholic priest, writes:

“In his manners he [Constantine] remained, to the end … the Pagan of his early life. His furious tempers, the cruelty which … spared not the lives even of his wife and son, are … an unpleasing witness to the imperfection of his conversion.”

Dave Hunt – The Berean Call

I Will Seek….

I will seek the will of the Spirit of God through, or in connection with, the Word of God. The Spirit and the Word must be combined. If I look to the Spirit alone without the Word, I lay myself open to great delusions also. If the Holy Ghost guides us at all, He will do it according to the Scriptures and never contrary to them. —George Müller

The Fourth Revelation

GOD has been pleased to make three great revelations of Himself to man: his Works; his Word ; and his Son, and these revelations have been progressive in character. Nature, the Law, the Gospel; a silent material universe, an inspired Book, a living God-man; these are the three great steps that have led from the death and darkness of sin to that knowledge of the true God which is eternal life.   A fourth revelation of God, fuller and more perfect than any, is yet to come. The only begotten Son, who is in the bosom of the Father, who is the brightness of his glory and the express image of his person, who “declared Him” when He came the first time in grace and humiliation, will declare Him yet more fully when He comes a second time in righteousness and in glory. Then the earth will be filled with the knowledge of the Lord, as the waters cover the sea.

Henry Grattan Guinness (11 August 1835 – 21 June 1910, Irish Protestant Christian preacher, evangelist and author).
Source: Berean Call

My God Will Provide

For some believers in restricted nations and hostile areas, following Christ means beatings, torture and even death. For others, the decision to follow Christ means losing jobs, income, homes and relationships. That was the case for a Pakistani man after he placed his faith in Christ.

Asif was a well-liked supervisor at a garment factory in Pakistan. As a Christian, he led 10 coworkers in prayer before work every morning. But the factory owner, a Muslim man, wanted Asif to convert to Islam and told him to stop the prayers. Asif responded by giving the man a Bible so he could learn about the Christian faith.

The factory owner continued to harass Asif. He brought an Islamic cleric in to persuade Asif to accept Islam, and he tried to force Asif to join in Muslim prayers. But Asif refused each of the owner’s efforts to convert him. Finally, the owner gave him an ultimatum: Accept Islam or lose your job.

“My God will provide me with everything,” Asif replied.

Asif’s commitment to Christ cost him his job, and it may be difficult for him to find another source of income. Many Christians in Pakistan are trapped in poverty because they have few job opportunities. “Good jobs are hard to get for Christians in Pakistan,” VOM’s field leader for Pakistan said. “Asif knew exactly what the consequences could be for him, and he chose to remain faithful.”

VOM has been supporting Asif and his family, who are now in hiding after receiving death threats for refusing to convert to Islam.
Source: Voice of the Martyrs

India: Christian Suffering Is Not the Whole Story

As recently as 25 years ago, many parts of India were essentially unreached by the gospel. Since then, VOM has responded to thousands of anti-Christian persecution incidents, which have become more frequent, widespread and severe as the gospel has spread throughout the country.

But Christian suffering is not the whole story! The persecution that our Indian Christian brothers and sisters are facing is the enemy’s reaction to his great failure — a tremendous move of God in which hundreds of thousands of Hindus have come to Christ in India’s most hostile areas. One such region is northern India, which is home to the Ganges River. Millions of Hindus travel there each year in the belief that washing in the river will cleanse them from their sins. Yet independent studies show that more than 300,000 Hindus in northern India have turned to Christ in recent years.

This mighty work of God throughout India has caused a corresponding growth in opposition to Christian faith and witness. Under Prime Minister Narendra Modi, the Hindu nationalist organization Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS) has seen a 20 percent increase in membership. The political-religious ideology of Hindu nationalism is institutionalizing hostility toward Christians and considers them enemies of the state. Former RSS leader M. S. Golwakar explained it this way: “So long as the Christians here indulge in such activities and consider themselves as agents of the international movement for the spread of Christianity, and refuse to offer their first loyalty to the land of their birth and behave as true children of the heritage and culture of their ancestors, they will remain here as hostiles and will have to be treated as such.”

While Hindu nationalists seek to eradicate all Christian witness from India, the gospel cannot be silenced or stopped. Our Christian brothers and sisters in India continue to live boldly for Christ, joyfully paying any price for the sake of the gospel. Remember Them in Prayer
Source: Voice of the Martyrs

Roses Among 1000 Thorns

Crown of Thorns and red Rose. Shallow DOF

When a pastor shared the gospel with a Nepali family, they eagerly placed their faith in Christ and began attending church regularly, walking eight miles each way to attend. But when the owner of the land they leased learned of their newfound faith in Christ, he kicked them off the land. As an extremely poor family struggling to survive, they had leased the land both to live on and to farm, giving half their crops to their landlord in payment. In addition to being evicted from the land, they were denied access to the village water tap.

VOM helped the family with the construction of a water well, and, though isolated and rejected, their faith has blossomed and grown. “The Christian life is like a rose that blooms and spreads aroma in the midst of a thousand thorns,” the family told their pastor. Pray for this family.

Source: Voice of the Martyrs

Faith Is Indeed Intellectual

“Faith is indeed intellectual; it involves an apprehension of certain things as facts; and vain is the modern effort to divorce faith from knowledge. But although faith is intellectual, it is not only intellectual. You cannot have faith without having knowledge; but you will not have faith if you have only knowledge.”  

― J. Gresham Machen (Professor of New Testament at Princeton Seminary between 1915 and 1929, led a conservative revolt against modernist theology at Princeton).

Berean Call

Singular Fruit

“Someone has beautifully analyzed the fruit of the Spirit in Gal. 5: 22, and shown that all the graces there mentioned are but various forms of love itself. The apostle is not speaking of different fruits, but of one fruit, the fruit of the Spirit, and the various words that follow are but phrases and descriptions of the one fruit, which is love itself. Joy, which is first mentioned, is love on wings; peace, which follows, is love folding its wings, and nestling under the wings of God; longsuffering is love enduring; gentleness is love in society; goodness is love in activity, faith is love confiding; meekness is love stooping; temperance is true self-love, and the proper regard for our own real interests, which is as much the duty of love, as regard for the interests of others.”

― Albert Benjamin Simpson, (December 15, 1843– October 29, 1919, founder of The Christian Missionary Alliance, The A.B.Simpson Collection).

Berean Call

Mexican Census: Evangelicals at New High, Catholics at New Low

Thanks to migration, missions, and Pentecostal flair, Protestants now make up a 10th of the population.
GRIFFIN PAUL JACKSON|
Mexican Census: Evangelicals at New High, Catholics at New Low

Image: Manuel Velasquez / Getty Images

The Catholic majority in Mexico is slipping, as Protestants surpassed 10 percent of the population in the country for the first time ever.

According to recently released data from Mexico’s 2020 census, the Protestant/evangelical movement increased from 7.5 percent in 2010 to 11.2 percent last year.

The Catholic Church has historically dominated the religious landscape across Latin America, but especially in Mexico, which ranks among the most heavily Catholic countries in the region. Today, though an overwhelming majority of Mexicans still identify as Catholic, declines are accelerating.

It took 50 years—from 1950 to 2000—for the proportion of Catholics in Mexico to drop from 98 percent to 88 percent. Now, only two decades later, that percentage has slipped another 10 points to 77.7 percent.

National church leaders attribute the boom in Protestantism to a range of factors, from the influence of Americans and fellow Latin Americans in the country to effective evangelical outreach in indigenous areas.

Pentecostalism dominates the Protestant landscape, and even many of Mexico’s historical denominations—think Baptists, Presbyterians, and Methodists—have been “pentecostalized” in some beliefs and practices, embracing energetic worship, healing, and spiritual gifts.

Nearly a million American-born people live in Mexico, as well as tens of thousands of Guatemalans and Venezuelans, and others from Central American countries. Some of them have brought evangelicalism with them, while others encounter it when they arrive in Mexico, according to Rosa A. Duarte de Markham, coordinator of the department of biblical translation at the Missionary Cooperation of Mexico (Comimex).

Markham also believes that the recent Protestant growth reflects how Mexican society longs for the sense of morality and family values upheld in evangelical churches.

“Mexico has been in mourning for several years due to enforced disappearances. Surely this has led to the search for God as a comforter, to value peace and justice,” she said. “On the other hand, the need to rescue the family nucleus has led mothers and fathers to search in the Word of God for values such as fidelity in marriage, harmony, love of children, honesty, and a healthy lifestyle.”

The 77.7 percent Catholic figure from the recent Census resembles ongoing polling on religious affiliation by Latinobarómetro, which found that the Catholic population in Mexico has hovered around 80 percent for at least 25 years.

The most popular Protestant affiliation in Mexico, according to Latinobarómetro, is nondenominational, at 3 percent of the population in 2018. Overall, Protestants are more active in their faith, with 63 percent of nondenominational Mexicans considering themselves practicing, compared to 41 percent of Catholics.

Fifty years ago, there were very few Protestants in Mexico, but missionary efforts were underway. Over the years, the population grew more committed to evangelism—particularly in areas where the Catholic Church didn’t have as prominent a presence—and the expansion over the past decade shows that their efforts have borne fruit.

“The most important thing is that the Catholic Church had a monopoly on belief for many years, and that monopoly broke most particularly after the Second World War,” said Roberto Blancarte, sociologist of religion and professor at El Colegio de México.

According to Blancarte, there were simply not enough priests in Mexico to meet the needs of all the people. At the turn of the century, there was only one priest for every 6,000 Mexicans, a staggering deficit that left a pastoral void in regions poorer and farther afield than major urban centers. Protestants stepped up to fill that void, sending pastors to rural, indigenous areas.

Today, Mexico’s northernmost states have significant Protestant populations thanks to American influence around the border. The far southern Mexican states of Chiapas and Tabasco have populations that are upwards of 35 percent evangelical, the most of any Mexican states. These are also the states with the largest indigenous populations, Blancarte points out.

“The big change was not missionaries themselves, but the translation of the Bible into native languages,” said Blancarte, referencing efforts by evangelical groups including SIL International. “That allowed many people to read the Bible directly and to have local ministers who develop, in their own language, their own services.”

Experts also saw popular Pentecostal-style worship appealing to indigenous believers’ backgrounds in ecstatic spirituality and magic, as well as ritual Catholics who still adhere to syncretistic spiritual beliefs.

For decades, the growth of Protestantism has corresponded with the decline of Catholicism in other Latin American countries, with dramatic changes in places like Honduras, Nicaragua, and Brazil. Even up until several years ago, Mexico was seen as an exception to the trend.

Now, as Protestantism rises in the majority Catholic country, so do the proportion of Mexicans without ties to organized religions. In the 2020 census, those with no religion rose from 4.7 percent to 8.1 percent. Another 2.5 percent consider themselves a believer but don’t have a religious affiliation.

The religious shifts have begun to foster a greater sense of pluralism and, for some, tolerance. They’ve also influenced the political sphere, according to Blancarte, with evangelicals becoming more visible and powerful, despite there being no monolithic evangelical voting bloc.

“We are still a minority, but we are a majority within this minority, and this gives us some force and the government is starting to look at us to see what we think about certain issues,” said Cirilo Cruz, president of CONEMEX, the National Evangelical Fellowship of Mexico.

Cruz also cautioned against the tendency to be seduced by political power for the sake of having influence and prays that evangelical leaders handle their new position in Mexican society carefully and prophetically.

“We need to be careful in regard to how we grow,” said Cruz. “That our DNA will be biblical. That our DNA will hold values, principles, and ethics emanating from the Word of our God.”

There is little data yet on the trajectory of Mexico’s Protestant community during the ongoing coronavirus health crisis, but church leaders have been adamant about continued evangelization in the midst of the pandemic.

“As for Mexican Protestants, in this time of the COVID-19 pandemic, we have understood that our call is to continue preaching the good news of salvation,” said Markham, “to bring love and hope to a world that is collapsing.”

Christianity Today

How We Should Handle A Compliment

Roses For Jesus

(The following true story is from our first pastor’s wife.)

Roses For Jesus

Around 1975, during one of his visits in our home, Dr. Charlie Culpepper * noticed that I stumbled awkwardly when I was given a compliment. He gently exhorted me to think differently. And he couldn’t have used an example that would have left more of an impression on me because I loved “The Hiding Place,” Corrie Ten Boom’s story of her years in Holland and prison during World War II.

Having been a personal friend of Miss Ten Boom, Dr. Charlie said she told him that after returning from the Nazi prison camps, she was taken aback by the overwhelming response that she received from those with whom she shared her testimony. She found it difficult to accept the admiration or praise of others for herself, and so she would turn away with no response when complimented.

Her reasoning was that she must remain “humble” for she unmistakably knew that it was the grace of God that had sustained her through those most difficult years.

But she realized that she was offending those who had offered her their appreciation. So, she asked her heavenly Father what she should do. And the Lord said to her, “Corrie, you know it is Me they see in you. So, take their compliment as a 🌹rose, and tell them ‘Thank you!’ And then as you walk through your day, gather the roses you are given, and at the end of the day, bring your bouquet to Me.”  🌹🌹🌹🌹🌹🌹🌹

From that day forward, she said she was excited to have a bouquet of roses to bring to her Lord, full of rejoicing that He had been evident in her life!

Oh my! How many times have I been reminded of that story! You see, the passage in James 4:10 says, “Humble yourself before the Lord – and He will lift you up in honor!” He’s not trying to “bring you down” – No! He will lift you up!

True humility is recognizing that He has given you His Authority in this earth, and that everything you are is because of Him! Yes! Jesus deserves all the “glory” the “honor” and the “praise!”

Today, I say to you my friend, receive the “rose” when others see “good” in you and remember that they are simply seeing “Jesus in you!” No need to make a speech about it! Simply say, “Thank you,” and save the rose for Him!🌹

The Apostle Peter, who went through it all – pride, defeat, suffering, discipline from the Lord and from Paul – learned true humility and wrote at the end of his life, “Praise God for the privilege of being called by His name!” (1Peter.4:16).

Shelia Hart Artt

*Dr. C. L. Culpepper was a Southern Baptist missionary in China in 1920s and 40s who was a leader in the Shantung Revival. In 1971 he wrote The Shantung Revival detailing how God prepared the missionaries for the revival and then used them and the Chinese Christians to bring revival to the precious people of China and Korea. The book is available on Amazon. You would be blessed by what God did. He would like to do the same today with you and me.

You Are Not Alone

I will not, I will not cease to uphold or sustain thee, I will not, I will not, I will not forsake someone in a state of defeat or helplessness in the midst of hostile circumstances.

This Greek amplification of what God said in Hebrew 13:5 tells us that Christians are not alone. He is with us in the midst of our trials and hard times.

IF we feel alone in the midst of our troubles, who moved? Are we like the first Adam who because of his sin ran and hid from God’s presence?

Yet, even when Lord Jesus corrected the Laodicea believers for their lukewarmness (Rev. 3:14-19), their delusion concerning their true condition as a result of kicking Jesus out of their rebellious hearts, He FAITHFULLY stands at their heart’s door knocking (Rev. 3:20) PROMISING if they will let Him back in their heart as Lord, He and the repentant believer can have fellowship again.

Oh, dear Reader we need to thank God for His faithfulness to us and His mercy toward us! Let us rejoice because our God is so GOOD to us!

Carl

The More We know

The more we know of God, the more unreservedly we will trust him; the greater our progress in theology, the simpler and more child-like will be our faith.

― J. Gresham Machen (1881–1937, New Testament scholar and educator in the early 20th century) – Berean Call

Paul rebuked the Corinthians for their willful ignorance that kept them from understanding the resurrection of our earthly bodies. Throughout the book of 1st Corinthians he uses the term “do you not know” nine times and he uses it twice in Romans 6 plus he uses other terms in his writings to ask or imply the same question.

What am I missing in my spiritual walk because I give large chunks of time to unprofitable things, interest that will not build me up spiritually? For example, faith comes by hearing and hearing by the Word of God. I need more faith, then I should be spending more time knowing God as revealed in His Book, the Bible.

God, please forgives us for our willful ignorance.

Man has made it complicated to understand and follow Jesus but it is not so. Paul warns us not to be led astray from the simplicity and purity of devotion to Christ (I Cor. 11:3).

Therefore, keep learning about your mighty God and amazing Savior Jesus. Keep growing. Get yourselves in order spiritually. Build yourselves up in Christ.

For He is coming back to get you or you are going to Him. Let us purify ourselves therefore.

Blessing on you,

Carl

Second Century Church Services

The following description of a second century church service was written by Justin Martyr (100 AD -167 AD), who was born in Old Testament Shechem about the time that the Apostle John died. He was one of the most able Christian men in that period of time. He wrote a Defense of Christianity that was addressed to the Roman Emperor and died a martyr’s death at Rome. To show how Christianity had spread in the second century he wrote, “there is no race of men where prayers are not offered up in the name of Jesus.”

“On Sunday a meeting is held of all who live in the cities and villages, and a section is read from the Memoirs of the Apostles and the writings of The Prophets, as long as time permits. When the reading is finished, the president, in a discourse, gives the admonition and exhortation to imitate these noble things. After this we all arise and offer a common prayer. At the close of the prayer, as we have before described, bread and wine and thanks for them according to his ability, and the congregation answers, “Amen.” Then the consecrated elements are distributed to each one and partaken of, and are carried by the deacons to the house of the absent. The wealthy and the willing then give contributions according to their freewill; and the collection is deposited with the president, who therewith supplies orphans, widows, prisoners, strangers, and all who are in want.”

Another ancient writer, Pliny The Younger* (61 AD – 112 AD), provides another description of an early Christian church service in his letter to the Roman Emperor Trajan (98 AD – 117 AD) concerning when to put Christians to death. Pliny, as governor of Bithynia (part of modern day Turkey) and an enemy of Christianity wrote the following in the early second century:

“But they affirmed that this was the sum of their fault or error, that they were accustomed, on a stated day, to meet together before day, to sing a hymn to Christ in concert, as to a god, and to bind themselves with a solemn oath not to commit any wickedness —but on the contrary, to abstain from theft, robbery, and adultery —also, never to violate their promise, nor deny a pledge committed to them. These things being performed, it was their custom to separate: and to meet again at a promiscuous [meaning composed of all sorts of persons], innocent meal….”

He also described in the same letter how wide the influence of Jesus was in that region and the effect persecution was having on idol and emperor worship:

“…I have recourse to you for advice; for it has appeared to me that the subject is highly deserving of consideration, especially on account of the great number of persons whose lives are put into jeopardy. Many persons of all ages, sexes, and conditions are accused, and many more will be in the same situation; for the contagion of this superstition has not merely pervaded the cities, but also all villages and country places; yet it seemed to me that it might be restrained and corrected. It is matter of fact, that the temples which were almost deserted begin again to be frequented**; and the sacred solemnities which had been long intermitted are again attended; and the victims for the altars are now readily sold, which, a while ago, were almost without purchasers. Whence it is easy to conjecture what a multitude of men might be reclaimed, if only the door to repentance was left open.”

Bless our Father in Heaven for His early servants who were faithful under persecution and passed down to us the words of the Apostles, Paul and the other New Testament writers so we could know Christ and be saved!

Rejoice and be glad, your Savior is coming again!

Carl

*Pliny, The Elder, his uncle, died attempting to rescue people in Pompeii after the Mount Vesuvius eruption in AD 79.

**Though some had denied Christ and returned to idol and Emperor worship, many chose martyrdom instead of denying Christ and others escaped persecution. In 200 years, Christianity would be a recognized and accepted religion in the Empire though persecution would return later under other Emperors.

Jesus Chosen Over Animistic Beliefs

Member of Animistic Indigenous Village in Mexico Embraces Christianity, Brings Family to Christ
A man from a tribal animistic village in Oaxaca, Mexico abandoned the traditions he grew up with and gave his life to Christ despite great persecution from other tribal members.   Reynaldo said he had followed the animistic rituals for years but did not really understand why he did them.  

“In many cases I didn’t even know why I was doing the animist rituals, except ‘to not anger the spirits,’ and a life full of doing that never fulfilled me,” he said, according to Christian Aid Mission, a nondenominational organization that helps plant churches indifferent parts of the world.

The village is one of the few communities in Mexico that have so far resisted Western influence. For 500 years, it has kept its traditions intact, and tribal members like Reynaldo who deviate from animistic practices were met with hostility. Yet it did not stop him from pursuing his new life in Christ.

“I’ve decided to follow the Lord whatever the cost,” he said.   His efforts were greatly rewarded: his wife, children and parents also gave their lives to Jesus, and they were all baptized together, along with four other members of the community.

An indigenous missionary named Mariano worked in the village for 11 years. After a long time of labor, the ministry has now turned the work over to a local believer named Pedro, the village’s first convert to Christianity, who has become the local pastor to lead the small congregation of about 20 believers.   “We told the local village authorities that Mariano now will only be three days a week in the community, and that going forward he will support the local leadership from outside so they can grow and get stronger,” the director said, adding that Mariano’s departure saddened the community leaders.

Oaxaca is considered as the world’s most ethnically diverse place. There are more than 200 languages and dialects spoken in the Mexican state, and about half of its indigenous inhabitants do not speak Spanish, which is why indigenous missionaries take a long time to study the dialects.    While the challenge in such places involves breaking through tribal traditions, in some parts of Mexico, evangelical Christians endure intense persecution from the Catholic church. About 80 percent of the country’s population is Catholic.

In April last year, Nate Lance of the International Christian Community said some Christians were being forced to convert to Catholicism.   “When they refuse to recant their faith, they are expelled from the community,” Lance told Fox News.   In many cases, Christians are beaten or imprisoned or punished in some other way, such as cutting off their utilities.

Lance condemned the Mexican government’s lack of inaction to address the issue,
particularly when the Constitution allows for freedom of religion in the country.  

https://www.gospelherald.com/articles/70234/20170426/member-animistic-indigenous-village-mexico-embraces-christianity-brings-family-christ.htm
Source: Berean Call

A Small Portion

If God has given you but a small portion of the world, yet if you are godly He has promised never to forsake you (Heb. 13:5). Providence has ordered that condition for you which is really best for your eternal good. If you had more of the world than you have, your heads and hearts might not be able to manage it to your advantage.

— John Flavel (1627-1691, English Presbyterian clergyman)

What Constrains Us?

For the love which Christ has [for me] presses on me from all sides, holding me to one end and prohibiting me from considering any other, wrapping itself around me in tenderness, giving me an impelling motive, having brought me to this conclusion, namely, that One died on behalf of all, therefore all died, and that He also died on behalf of all in order that those who are living no longer are living for themselves but for the One who died on their behalf….

(II Corinthians 5: 14-15 Wuest Expanded Greek Translation (Emphasis added))

“What such should do, for whom Christ died; namely, that they should live to Him. This is what Christ designed, that those who live, who are made alive unto God by means of His death, should live to Him that died for them, and rose again for their sakes also, and that they should not live to themselves, v15.

We should not make ourselves, but Christ, the end of our living and actions: and it was one end of Christ death to cure us of this self-love, and to excite us always to act under the commanding influence of His love. A Christian’s life should be consecrated to Christ; and then do we live as we ought to live when we live to Christ, who died for us.”

(A Commentary of the Whole Bible – Matthew Henry, 1700s)

In Matthew 23:25, the Lord rebukes the scribes and Pharisees for being self-indulgence. Will He have to rebuke us, His children, for our excessive or unrestrained gratification of our appetites, desires or whims? Let us be diligent to examine ourselves and repent of this sin, if we find ourselves guilty of it.

Let us thank Him for His great love for us, which was revealed on the Cross, and rejoice in it.

May His mercy and grace be abundant to you in this New Year!!

Carl

India Pastor Shot and Killed in Street

Three unidentified men shot and killed a pastor in the east Indian state of Jharkhand while he was returning home with his wife after baptizing new believers, according to a report.

Pastor Salim Stephen Surin, a part-time evangelist in Rania village of Jharkhand’s West Singhbhum district, was killed on Dec. 8, the U.S.-based persecution watchdog International Christian Concern reported Friday.

“They killed my husband in front of my own eyes,” Tarsis, the wife of the slain pastor, was quoted as saying. “I was terrified seeing my husband collapse having been shot in the chest. I started to think about my children and loudly cried out to God to save me and take care of my [two] children.”

Tarsis said she pushed one of the three men who shot her husband, after which he pointed the gun toward her. “I ran into the thick bushes and the nearby forest. I probably walked for more than 10 hours to reach my home. I purposely did not take the road to avoid the attackers.”

At the time of the attack, the pastor and his wife were on the couple’s motorbike returning from Putikda village where the pastor baptized five people.

Later that evening, local travelers discovered Surin’s lifeless body lying on the road. 

To read the rest of the story, click here.

Dear Reader: Please pray for the Christians in India who are experiencing persecution. Thank you. Carl

When Thou Risest…..

(The following is an excerpt from a tract written by Reformer John Wycliffe (1324-1384); hence, the ole English vocabulary. Hope you are built up and encouraged by the words of this precious saint. Carl)

“First, when thou risest, or fully wakest, think upon the goodness of thy God; how for his own goodness, and not for any need, he made all things out of nothing, both angels and men, and all other creatures, good in their kind.

The second time, think on the great sufferings and willing death that Christ suffered for mankind. When no man might make satisfaction for the guilt of Adam and Eve, and others more, neither any angel might make satisfaction therefore, then Christ, of his endless charity, suffered such great passion and painful death, that no creature could suffer so much.

 Think the third time, how God hath saved thee from death and other mischief, and suffered many thousands to be lost that night, some in water, some in fire, and some by sudden death, and some to be damned without end. And for this goodness and mercy thank thy God with all thine heart, and pray him to give thee grace to spend in that day, and evermore, all the powers of thy soul, as mind, understanding, reason, and will; and all the powers of thy body, as strength, beauty, and thy five senses, in his service and worship, and in nothing against his commandments, but in ready performance of his works of mercy, and to give good example of holy life, both in word and deed, to all men about thee.

 Look afterward that thou be well occupied, and no time idle, for the danger of temptation. Take meat and drink in measure, not too costly, nor too lickerous, and be not too curious thereabout. But such as God sendeth thee with health, take it in such measure, that thou be fresher in mind and understanding to serve God. And always thank him for such gifts.

 Besides this, look thou do right and equity to all men, thy superiors, equals, and subjects, or servants; and stir all to love truth, and mercy, and true peace, and charity; and suffer no men to be at dissension, but accord, if thou canst, in any good manner.

Also, most of all, fear God and his wrath; and most of all, love God, and his law, and his worship: and ask not principally for worldly reward, but in all thine heart desire the bliss of heaven in mercy of God, and thine own good life and think much of the dreadful doom of pains of hell, to keep thee out of sin; and on the endless great joys of heaven, to keep thee in virtuous life; and according to thy skill teach others the same doing.

 In the end of the day, think wherein thou hast offended God, and how much, and how oft, and therefore have entire sorrow, and amend it while thou mayst. And think how many God has suffered to perish that day, many ways, and to be damned everlastingly, and how graciously he hath saved thee; not for thy desert, but for his own mercy, and goodness, and therefore thank him with all thine heart. And pray him for grace that thou mayest dwell and end in his true and holy service, and real love, and to teach other men the same doing.”

Excerpt from A SHORT RULE OF LIFE, FOR EACH MAN IN GENERAL, AND FOR PRIESTS, AND LORDS, AND LABOURIRS IN SPECIAL, HOW EACH SHALL BE SAVED IN HIS DEGREE Reformer John Wycliffe (1324-1384)  (paragraph structure added)