Monday, May 30, 2011

Stages of Persecution

As I am thinking this memorial day about the sacrifices that are made to protect our freedom, I was pondering how a free people can become enslaved. I am particularly following the growing attacks on the religious freedom of Christians. I have observed a seven step pattern of emerging persecution. Each of these phases are cumulative. Each phase continues to be manifest even as a culture moves into the next phase. (I.E they are still ridiculing even as they plot genocide.)

This article uses the plight of Evangelical Christians to illustrate how persecution develops, but it is applicable to the persecution of any group.The seven stages of persecution are:
  1. Demonization Through Ridicule
  2. Picking the Fight
  3. Propagating Conspiracy Theories
  4. Official Thuggery
  5. Systematic Persecution
  6. Extreme Systematic Persecution
  7. Genocide

Demonization through Ridicule.
A conspiracy to disenfranchise a people-group first strives to create a negative perception of that group by ridiculing that group. Members of that group are subjected to negative stereotypes and made the butt of jokes. Although the disenfranchisement of Christians is the ultimate goal, at this point nothing is put out into the mainstream that argued for any restriction on rights. From the 1920's through the 1970's Evangelical Christians were often ridiculed.

Picking the Fight
In 1983, police raided and padlocked Faith Baptist Church in Louisville, Nebraska. The state maintained that it had a monopoly on education. The heavy handed tactics of the government galvanized Christians to stand up. Evangelicals believed the state to be a threat to religious liberty and organized politically to counter that threat. Group like thew Moral Majority proliferated. The Politicization of Evangelicalism became known as the Religious Right. The power of the Religious Right culminated with the candidacy of Pat Robertson for President in 1988.

Fights are picked in culture wars to test the waters. There was a huge outcry against the government intrusion into the church. The government backed down because they realized continued attacks would result in revolution. Those who wished to destroy the freedom of Evangelical Christians realized they must poisoned minds against Christians. During this phase, laws are twisted to create an atmosphere of hostility against Christians.

The purpose of picking a fight is so that the victim can be painted as an aggressor. It is similar to a bully picking a fight and his friends lying and saying the victim started it. If the victim is an despised individual or a member of a despised group, the victim is perceived to be a bully by the authorities and the surrounding culture. The true bully makes the victim look like the bully by propagating conspiracy theories.

Propagating Conspiracy Theories
Would be persecutors responded by denying that it was the state that was the threat. They argued instead that Evangelical Christians were a threat. In the 1990's Hillary Clinton began her conspiracy theories. She repeatedly asserted that there was a “vast right wing conspiracy.” She persisted in this to the point where she had her husband, President Clinton, commission an FBI investigation into whether there was a conspiracy to engage in abortion clinic violence. In spite of the exoneration of Evangelical Christians as the outcome of the investigation, conspiracy theories that allege that Evangelical Christians are out to set up a theocratic dictatorship abound.

At this point, there have only been isolated incidents of persecution. Mostly in the form of anti-Christian discrimination. While Christians at that time were rightly concerned about government attacks on religious freedom, the attacks were done primarily to provoke a fight so that the conspiracy theories could be launched. The purpose of the conspiracy theories is to change public perception about a group so that government attacks against that will not be seen as tyranny but as justified measures necessary to protect citizens. Paint the church as a bully, so when the church gets victimized no one will give them the sympathy due to victims, but will regard them as deserving the thuggery.

Official Thuggery
As public perception of a group become more negative, and particularly when that negative perception is accompanied with a growing feeling that the group is a threat, an environment is created that is favorable to official thuggery. This is where America is at concerning the persecutions of Christians. Police will routinely make illegal arrest in an attempt to stop Christian activity. The isolated attacks become more frequent, and part of a pervasive culture of hostility and Anti-Christian sentiment. I call this official thuggery because persecution of not systematically part of the law.

Systematic Persecution
Eventually Anti-Christian bias becomes part of the law of the land. A key difference between systematic persecution and official thuggery is that there is legal recourse against official thuggery. Official thuggery becomes systematic persecution when either the law is changed to take away those legal recourses or a society becomes so lawless that there is no rule of law. In Europe there is systematic persecution of Christians.

Systematic persecution can be with a velvet glove or with an iron fist. Velvet glove persecution target culturally undesirable activities of a persecuted group and uses political tools. This is where the European Union is right now. Christians are currently targeted only at the point where the Christian faith conflicts with the predominant culture. Punishment vary from discrimination to fines and imprisonment. Christians in Europe rarely suffer violence, and Christians who are willing to compromise their faith can get along in such a society temporarily.

Extreme Systematic Persecution
Systematic Persecution becomes more extreme in one or both of two ways. When persecution goes from political to violent, and when persecution targets not just culturally undesirable activities but also targets the very existence of a group. Communist and Islamist countries engage in extreme systematic persecution of Christian. Christians routinely suffer violence, and suffer regardless of attempts to fit into society. Christians are not targeted because of what they do, but who they are. This is what is typically thought of when the topic of persecution is brought up.

The most extreme form of systematic persecution happens when the persecutors attempt to wipe out a group from off of the face of the earth. The seven phases of persecution are like various stages of life of a persecuting spirit. One inevitable leads to the other if the persecution is not confronted.

Sunday, May 22, 2011

The Greatest Revival the World has Ever Known to Break out as Israel is Surrounded by the Nations

A slate of recent reports suggests that we are soon to enter into the time in history when Israel is surrounded by armies. Obama is shifting America's policy away from Israel and towards the Palestinians. This is coupled with revolutions in the Middle East that are resulting in the replacement of U.S. - friendly governments with more radical governments. Both of these developments are setting the stage for a major war where Israel is surrounded by a coalition of armies.

Psalm 118 gives some promises that apply to this time. He promises great revival and victory. The end-time revival occurs within the context of world war against Israel. It will involve both Jews and Christians. Great revival, the likes of which the world has never seen, will break out on the Temple Mount as Jews join with Christians in seeking God.

Both testimony of the enduring mercies of God and encouragement to testify to those mercies is given in verse 1-4. Both Israel and the House of Aaron are called upon to praise God. This is a universal call on all of God's people, both those who are God's people in Moses (The House of Aaron), and those who are grafted into Israel in Christ. Both the people and the priests are called.

In the remainder of the chapter, there is a call to prayer, praise, and proclamation. Psalm 118 is a special call to seek God during the time of greatest distress for God's people.

In verses 5-9, We see that God answers our cry for deliverance by “setting us in a large place” We are to trust in God and NOT in our political alliances with “princes.” During this time, God's people cease to trust in their political alliances and trust in the Lord. This trust results in assurance that God will strengthen us for the coming battle.

Verses 10-13 positively identify this as the end-time global war on God's people. Israel is surrounded by all nations. The global hostility to God's people extends to Christians as well. Jesus says in Matthew 24:7-9 that, among other things, that we will “hated by all nations for My name’s sake.”

There is confession of great victory in verses 14-18. We read repeatedly,”in the name of the LORD I will destroy them.” While God's people suffer much during this time, it is a time of victory. The people of God are militant about their faith in the face of war.

The remainder of the chapter is a call for God to “Open to me the gates of righteousness.” This is a call for God to open to pathway to His Presence. We will see that “The stone which the builders refused is become the head stone of the corner” Christ, who has been rejected by the Jews, will finally be recognized by the Jews as her rightful King. After almost 2000 years of rejecting Christ, the Jews finally call on them. When Christ departed from Israel, He told them in Matthew 23:38-39, “you shall see Me no more till you say, ‘Blessed is He who comes in the name of the LORD! ' ” Verse 26 contains that exact phrase. What Jesus is saying is that when God's people start to pray Psalm 118 in the time of global distress, then Christ will return.

Monday, May 16, 2011

Spiritual Adultery - Breaking God's Heart and Drawing His Wrath. A commentary on Hosea 1-2

Hosea commanded to take an unfaithful wife to illustrate spiritual adultery. Spiritual adultery is unfaithfulness to our allegiance and relationship to God. Whenever we look to something or someone else for those things we should look to God for. He is our King, Saviour, and provider, not the nations nor the corporations. Whenever we compromise ourselves spiritually or morally to get things from these worldly sources, we commit spiritual adultery

His adulterous wife, Gomer, has three children by Hosea:
  1. Jezreel (verse 4) – “I will avenge the bloodshed of Jezreel on the house of Jehu, And bring an end to the kingdom of the house of Israel
  2. Lo-Ruhammah (verse 6,7) - “For I will no longer have mercy on the house of Israel, But I will utterly take them away. Yet I will have mercy on the house of Judah, Will save them by the LORD their God, And will not save them by bow, Nor by sword or battle, By horses or horsemen.”
  3. Lo- Ammi (verse 8) - “For you are not My people, And I will not be your God.”

The cumulative effect is that Israel and Judah are judged, suffer disaster, and become disenfranchised from the rights that pertain to citizenship in the people of God. This disenfranchisement, however, is NOT permanent. Chapter 1 ends with a promise of restoration and regathering of Israel. In verse 10, we read that the very group that was labeled, “not my people”, are subsequently declared “sons of the living God.” When the nation of Israel is restored, they are no longer two nations as they were at the time of Hosea's writing but are once again one nation.

Chapter 2 begins with a command for the children to bring charges against their mother
In verse 1, the Lord is speaking to a select child or select children of Israel. He commands them to bring charges against their mother. This mother is Israel, but who are the children being addressed. To understand who the children are, we need to understand some other cross references to this imagery of Israel as mother.

Revelation 12 begins with the imagery of a woman clothed with the sun, standing on the moon and crowned with a crown of 12 stars. This is the image of faithful Israel. Her firstborn child is none other than Jesus Christ, who will rule all nations with a rod of iron. The story of the birth of Christ in Revelation 12 coincides with war in heaven. When Satan is cast out in defeat he wages war against the rest of her offspring which are those who have faith in Jesus Christ.

If the children of faithful Israel are Christ and those who have put their faith in Him, then these children are the same ones being addressed in Hosea 2. This passage is being addressed to us who believe in Christ. We are the children of the free woman described in Galatians 5:22-31.

In vss 24-25 of Galatians 5, however, we are told that there are two covenants and two Jerusalems: “the one from Mount Sinai which gives birth to bondage, which is Hagar— for this Hagar is Mount Sinai in Arabia, and corresponds to Jerusalem which now is, and is in bondage with her children.” The Jerusalem that is above corresponds with faithful Israel. The earthly Jerusalem who is in bondage is unfaithful Israel and is referring to those Jews who have rejected Christ.

The faithful children are to speak to the unfaithful children, both of the wannabe Christian and of Jews who have rejected Christ. The faithless Christians are in the same boat as the faithless Jews, having been brought into the family and then running away from the right ways of the Lord. The faithful children are to preach repentance so that the faithless do not suffer dire judgments which are briefly described in verses 3-5.

The charge being levied against unfaithful Israel, but also applies to the unfaithful church - is revealed in verses 5-7b and 9-12: She looks to her lovers for material things – spiritual adultery with the powers of the world. She prostitutes and compromises herself to worldly powers for wealth and power.

How many today make moral compromises on the job to get that promotion- whether it be lying, cheating, and stealing, or possibly literal prostitution where employees have sexual intercourse with their bosses?

How many people today make moral compromises by “voting for the lesser of two evils,” not realizing that caving in result in continued degradation of political norms towards the vile, the bloodthirsty, the corrupt, and the tyrannical? How many people buy into the political spin that lying politicians and their media bed partners feed them?

How many people today defile themselves with the abominations promoted by the media in their entertainment, not realizing the destruction that these debaucheries cause? Numerous marriages have been destroyed because idle minds were corrupted by so-called reality TV programs that paint a distorted picture of sex and relationships. Millions have indulged in pornography and, as a result, have fed the epidemic of sex trafficking and child rape.

How many millions have covered up their wickedness by going to the neighborhood abortionist and butchering the child that was conceived? We are in the midst of a holocaust that makes the Nazi holocaust look tame. Over 1 billion people have been slaughtered, mostly for convenience.

How many in the church or ministry have set their sights on building private empires, turning churches into self help centers rather than places to hear the gospel. How many pastors preach canned sermons that reak with worldly philosophy, psycho-babble and get-rich quick schemes rather than the true gospel? So many churches are ruined, preaching a Christ as a facilitator to help us live fulfilled lives rather a savior who brutally suffered to save us from the just judgment of God.

Why did Christ suffer? Because He loves us. He longs to have a relationship with us. Chapter 2, verse 14 gives  us a sad note For the days of the Baals to which she burned incense. She decked herself with her earrings and jewelry, And went after her lovers; But Me she forgot,” says the LORD People have used God and dumped Him on the side of the road much the way a wayward wife dumps her husband to pursue her lovers who end up turning on her.

The primary reason God's judgment falls on His own people is that we have broken His heart. While He is angry at the abominations that His people have committed, He is mostly heartbroken over our rejection of Him to pursue worthless lovers. He would rather have us reconciled to Him than the do His duty as the Supreme Judge of the Universe. For those who will not repent, there is fierce wrath awaiting them.
The remainder of the chapter is about God wooing His people back. In verse 16, we read that God restores the spiritual marriage. He will take away the idolatry and iniquity and restore the relationship. He must first break down rebellious people before He can rebuild in a way that makes possible a spiritual marriage.

Sunday, May 15, 2011

A Craving for the Presence by David Wilkerson - Part 1

Part 1 of a message from David Wilkerson. This message was presented sometime in 1998 around the time of the publication of his book, America's Last Call , which was published in 1998. God showed him the economic storm we are suffering today. He encourages to Crave for the Presence of God.

Monday, May 2, 2011

Israel Delivered by Her King- a commentary on Joel 3

In the previous chapter, we read about the dire predicament God's people were in, and the only hope for escape. If the people of God repent collectively in sacred assembly, then God will send revival and deliverance. This repentance followed by deliverance includes both the church and Israel. Joel 3 is a description of the final battle that is fought in Israel and how the Lord delivers her.

The Timing of  This Invasion
Vss 1-2 tells us the timing of this invasion of Israel by an international coalition. It happens “ in those days and at that time, When I bring back the captives of Judah and Jerusalem, I will ALSO gather all nations, And bring them down to the Valley of Jehoshaphat.” It happens in the same season that God returns the Jewish captives from the nations back to Israel. He also gather the Gentile nations to Israel to the battle of Armageddon.

Why does He gather together in Israel all of the Gentile nations? “And I will enter into judgment with them there On account of My people, My heritage Israel, Whom they have scattered among the nations; They have also divided up My land. ” The text says that all of these nations have divided the land and scattered the people. When has God both gathered the people back to Israel? When have ALL nations scattered the Israelites. The answer cannot be the Babylonian captivity, as only the nations within the Babylonian Empire participated in that dispersion. It cannot be the Roman occupation either, as only nations within the Roman Empire participated in that dispersion. It is only after the Jews reclaimed the land only to have it carved up through the so-called Middle East Peace Process that modern nations like Brazil, Japan, and the United States can incur guilt for dividing up the land and people of Israel.

Prophecy Against the Palestinians (verses 4-8)
There is a prophecy against the coasts of Tyre and Sidon, Philistia, and Edom. The prophecy is against the people who occupy these ancient land rather than the ancient people. Tyre and Sidon would include Lebanon and the Golan Heights, and Philistia would include both the West Bank and Gaza. Edom would include the West Bank and Eastern Jordan. These areas todays are the areas that have concentrated Palestinian populations.

God asks of them in verse 4 “Will you retaliate against Me? But if you retaliate against Me, Swiftly and speedily I will return your retaliation upon your own head;” The Palestinians are plotting to retaliate against God for bringing Jews back to the land. They are planning to disperse the Jews again. They are planning to sell the Jews “to the Greeks” (verse 6) At no time in history have the historic Philistines or Edomites sold them to the Greeks, but the term 'Greeks' is being used here as a reference to the Gentile nations. Modern day Palestinians are using propaganda and diplomatic tools to draw into their conflict with Israel the gentile powers who will carve up the land.

In verses 7-9, we see the judgment of the Palestinian people. They will become a dispossessed people. Because this battle is just before the Millennium, the Palestinians will be stateless people during the Millennium.

The Call to the Battle of Armageddon
Verses 9-21 is the call to the nations to the Battle of Armageddon. In this passages several signs accompany this battle to confirm that this war ends with the Battle of Armageddon. Each of these signs are also described in parallel passages that place these events near the time of Armageddon

  1. In verse 13 we read a passage that parallels Revelation 14:14-20 : “Put in the sickle, for the harvest is ripe. Come, go down; For the winepress is full, The vats overflow”.
  2. In verse 15 reads in a way that parallels several end-time passages: “The sun and moon will grow dark, And the stars will diminish their brightness.
  3. In verse 16, we read that the “The LORD also will roar from Zion, And utter His voice from Jerusalem; The heavens and earth will shake; But the LORD will be a shelter for His people, And the strength of the children of Israel.”, Paralleling several end-time passages.

In verses 18-21, there will be eternal blessings on Israel. There will be physical blessings on the restored Israel, and God will complete the process of restoration. God forgives Israel of blood-guilt not previously forgiven. Israel is chosen and restored not because she has merited it, but because of God's grace.

Happy Birthday King James Version of the Bible

Today is the 400th birthday of the King James Version of the Bible. Considered by many the most important book in the English language.

Sunday, May 1, 2011