Wake Up!

From Back to Jerusalem, Three Chinese Church Leaders with Paul Hattaway.

We have noticed that many Christians in the West have an abundance of material possessions, yet they live in a backslidden state. They have silver and gold, but they don’t rise up and walk in Jesus’ name. In China few of us have any possessions to hold us down, so there’s nothing preventing us from moving out for the Lord. The ministry of the Chinese church is like that of Peter at the Beautiful Gate. He told the crippled beggar, “Silver or gold I do not have, but what I have I give you. In the name of Jesus Christ, walk!” (Acts 3:6). We can’t afford any big programmes or fancy gospel presentations. All we have to give people is Jesus.

We are praying that God will use the Chinese church to help the Western church wake up and walk in the power of the Holy Spirit. It’s almost impossible for the church in China to go to sleep in its present situation. There’s always something to keep us on the run, and it’s very difficult to sleep while you’re running!

“Persecution” Reality Check.

A reality check for western Christians who think a little inconvenience in not being able to “go to church” is “persecution”.

“After the Communists came to power in China in 1949 most church buildings were demolished. The communists thought that if they took away the places where Christians met, there would be no more Christianity. Believers were forced to meet secretly, sometimes in groups of just two or three people, and often at times like 3 o’clock in the morning, when everyone else was asleep. For years there were no pastors to shepherd the flock, no Bibles to learn from, and no hymn books to use in worship. Sometimes these tiny illegal meetings would just consist of prayer, mutual encouragement and the taking of the Lord’s Supper.

“Every external symbol of our faith was completely stripped away by the government, but they didn’t realize that our strength didn’t lie in those things anyway. Our strength lay in one thing they could never remove – the resurrected Jesus Christ who lives in our hearts!”

(Testimony of Peter Xu Yongze from Back to Jerusalem)

Beware the Leaven of the Pharisees and the Sadducees

Jesus had a strained relationship with the religious leaders and authorities of His time. The following quote shows one of the reasons (see bold type) why He saw it necessary to warn His disciples about them.

… the scribes and the Pharisees began to assail Him vehemently, and to cross-examine Him about many things, lying in wait for Him, and seeking to catch Him in something He might say, that they might accuse Him

In the meantime, when an innumerable multitude of people had gathered together, so that they trampled one another, He began to say to His disciples first of all, “Beware of the leaven of the Pharisees, which is hypocrisy”. (Luke 11-12)

Is His warning equally valid today? If so who do we need to beware of? Who would be the present day Pharisees and Sadducees? What individuals or groups reflect the attitudes and behaviors of those bible-era opponents of Jesus and His gospel? What did the historical Pharisees and Sadducess do in their desire to oppose Jesus?

There is one example in the quote above “seeking to catch Him in something He might say“. They scrutinised everything (not with integrity like the later Bereans, who wanted to find whether Paul’s preaching was valid or not) but with the intention of finding fault with anything Jesus was saying. They just wanted ammunition with which they could accuse and condemn Him. Eventually, when they found none, they chose to take His words out of context and give them unintended meaning.

Another trait was their unwillingness to recognise and accept the miracles that Jesus did. Instead, again, they tried to find fault because Jesus didn’t do things according to their own traditions and teachings. They even attributed His works to the power of Satan. When everything else failed they resorted to outright lies.

Eventually they condemned Him because He told them the truth – truth they refused to accept.

I suggest that any present day equivalent of those religious leaders would demonstrate the same attitudes and same tactics as their historical counterparts and similarly deceive their undiscerningly devoted followers, steering them away from the the opportunity to enter and experience the fullness of the gospel and the ministry life that Jesus came to give those who genuinely follow Him.

“Woe to you … For you have taken away the key of knowledge. You did not enter in yourselves, and those who were entering in you hindered.” (Luke 11)

Beware of those who deny the power of God and its continuation in the present day.

Beware of those whose major “ministry” is finding fault with what others are saying and doing.

Beware of believing accusations made against others without checking the truthfulness of those accusations.

Beware of those who CLAIM to honour the word of God, and yet see the need to dismiss or reinterpret those parts of it that don’t suit their particular theological agenda and traditions.

Jesus answered [the Sadducees] and said to them, “You are mistaken, not knowing the Scriptures nor the power of God.
(Matt 22)

Beware of that same kind of blindness.

An Exhortation for All Followers of Jesus in Troubled Times

The following is from an Asia Harvest newsletter. A link for the full article is included at the end of the excerpt.

World events are only going to get progressively worse as the world spirals toward anarchy, before the great and glorious return of Jesus. He will come to bring judgment and to clean up the mess we have made: “Woe to the earth and the sea, because the devil has gone down to you! He is filled with fury, because he knows that his time is short” (Revelation 12:12).

How can a Christian strengthen their heart and mind to survive the dark times ahead? Our answer is one that you have probably never heard from a Christian organization before: do NOT ‘read’ God’s Word! People read newspapers, novels and webpages, but the Bible instructs us not to merely “read” the Word but to “Study to show yourself approved by God, a workman who needs not to be ashamed, rightly dividing the word of truth” (2 Timothy 2:15).

It’s not enough just to have a few favorite Bible verses, or to pick and choose bits of Scripture that make us feel good. To be healthy, a person needs to enjoy the full banquet of God’s Word, and not just grab a few snacks here and there. Throughout the Scriptures, we find the people God used greatly were those who diligently studied His Word, for example: “Ezra had devoted himself to the study and observance of the Law of the Lord, and to teaching its decrees and laws in Israel” (Ezra 7:10).

To survive the end times, we must study whole books of the Bible, and invest time each day in getting to know the Lord through His Word and in prayer. It’s time to get serious, or our faith will not survive the storms ahead. God’s Word will give us discernment and wisdom, enabling us to navigate through this life

We not only need wisdom as we live in this world, but we also must discern truth from error in today’s Church. Each day, thousands of pulpits and the airwaves are spewing out a false gospel that has stripped the Christian message of key words like repentance and holiness, and crucial teachings of the Lord Jesus, such as: “Whoever wants to be my disciple must deny themselves and take up their cross daily and follow me” (Luke 9:23)..

https://asiaharvest.org/an-exhortation-for-all-followers-of-jesus-in-troubled-times/

I’d also refer you to my article here: https://onesimusfiles.wordpress.com/2014/06/17/dont-study-the-bible/ which according the title may seem like a contradiction of the above, but just as context is vital in our understanding of scripture, context should be taken into account with this article. Read the whole article and not just the title.

INDIA: Pandemic Brings Unprecedented Growth

From Open Doors.

As India begins to ease restrictions on the world’s largest lockdown, millions of Christians remain side-lined as many local businesses and churches stay closed. Yet, the Indian church is rejoicing as more come to know Christ during the pandemic.

Open Doors local partner, Heena* says that Christians are continuing to struggle without stable income or fellowship with other believers. “People here do not even have money to buy food for their families. It’s really sad. It’s not just one story or four or five such stories, but the story of almost every family.

“Many people depend on small businesses or work as day laborers or small church services. All of them are affected and all of them don’t have food.”

Despite these hardships, God is using this pandemic to bring revival to His church in India. As Open Doors and local partners deliver emergency relief to the vulnerable and as churches broadcast their services online, the Indian church is seeing unprecedented growth.

“I believe the pandemic lockdown is being used by God to use His church in a new way,” one local pastor said.

See here for full source article.