From Open Doors USA:
“On April 15 all of North Korea will celebrate the “Day of the Sun” in honor of Kim Il-Sung’s 100th birthday. To the outside world, the picture will be one of prosperity and wealth; that North Korea is a great place to live under their caring leaders. But outside of the media’s eye the vast majority will continue to quietly suffer extreme poverty and starvation.
For Christians, as the birthday celebration draws near, their fear has increased as their actions are watched closer than before. They know that outwardly they must participate in the nationwide celebrations to avoid arrest …but in their hearts they will be celebrating the true “Son” Jesus Christ.
North Korea is the most hostile country in the world to live and practice the Christian faith. Estimates report that 25 percent of the Christian population is suffering in labor camps for their refusal to worship founder Kim Il-Sung’s cult religion called Juche. Enormous statues of the “Great Leader” are prominently displayed throughout the country. Kim Il-Sung is exalted and revered as a god to be followed with obedience. Citizens are required to bow down to pay their respects, wear a lapel pin with his image on it and prominently display photos of both Kim Il-Sung and his son Kim Jong-Il (both deceased).
As North Korea celebrates the “Day of the Sun” let us unite our efforts by drawing on the power of the Holy Son, Jesus Christ. Show your solidarity on April 15 by praying for believers in North Korea and taking a day off of food – or perhaps one meal – to remember the suffering of the North Korean people.”
To register to receive information on how to pray for North Korea, sign up at the Open Doors website. (On April 15 they will be posting hourly updates from their Facebook and Twitter accounts to keep you engaged in prayer.)
(HT: Randy Alcorn)
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“In other parts of the world, the battle is much more graphic. In China, for example, claiming to be Christian is a life or death decision. The book The Heavenly Man: The Remarkable True Story of Chinese Christian Brother Yun shares the remarkable story of Christians in China who have developed home churches and in their devotion and commitment to Christ have watched the power of God explode and thousands become Christian. He and his fellow believers have suffered greatly but remained enthusiastic and faithful in spite of it. They are part of a movement called “Back to Jerusalem.” It is a missionary movement, and they are winning thousands to Christ as they retrace the Silk Road from China back to Jerusalem, sharing the gospel as they go. As he says in his book, they are an army of brokenhearted Chinese men and women who have already been through years of hardship and deprivation for the sake of the gospel. In worldly terms, they have nothing and appear unimpressive. But in the spiritual realm they are mighty warriors for Jesus Christ.
They have also started a college where they receive training in the following subjects:
- How to suffer and die for the Lord. We examine what the Bible says about suffering and look at how the Lord’s people have laid down their lives throughout history for the advance of the gospel.
- How to witness for the Lord. We teach how to witness under any circumstances…on the bus or trains, in the back of a police van or on our way to be executed.
- How to escape for the Lord. Sometimes we need to be in prison to witness and sometimes we know the devil sends us to prison to stop our message and it becomes our jobs to set ourselves free.
This is not exactly the curriculum of a normal or average college or seminary! But then again, there is nothing average or normal about pursuing a life of devotion to God at this level. The point is this: God is calling from our midst a group of students who in days ahead will pursue such a life of uncommon commitment and it will only be by wisdom that the Lord will allow any of us into such a life of significance.”
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Kevin DeYoung asks:
Why do Christians die? Why do churches die? Why do Christians go hungry, endure tragedies, get cancer, and face persecution? Why do pastors fall into great sin and cast shame upon their churches and disgrace upon the gospel?
Why do some churches grow loveless and cold? Why do other churches forsake the truth of Scripture? Why do church members fight among themselves? Why are there so many hypocrites in the church? Why does everything seem to go wrong for good believers even as they try to follow God?
DeYoung asks many more why questions.
Then he provides four answers to all of these “whys.” 1) God is sovereign 2) We live in a fallen world. 3) We are sinners and 4) The devil hates the gospel and all those who love and obey the gospel. He points us to Revelation 12 to support this final answer.
His article concludes with this timely reminder:
Let us not forget that underneath and behind all the battles in our time is a giant cosmic battle that has been going on for (almost) all time. And, this Christmas season, let us not forget that a child was born to rule the nations with a rod of iron and crush the head of that dastardly dragon.
Read all of “Hell Bent”!
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As we prayed for the persecuted church this last Sunday, I mentioned the cases of an Iranian pastor and a Pakistani woman who are facing death sentences in their countries. I would urge you to keep praying to our God and petitioning officials as possible for the lives of these two individuals. Click on the links below to learn more about these two cases.
Pastor Youcef in Iran
Asia Bibi in Pakistan
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Posted in church, tagged church on November 7, 2011 |
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“Your church’s greatest enemy isn’t the government, the culture, Hollywood producers, or the liberal media. Scripture states and history confirms that churches are strengthened under persecution and adversity. If our churches are to be destroyed, or rendered ineffective and stagnant, that will happen at the hands of her own people…One of my greatest fears for the church I pastor is that we would unwittingly abandon the vital principles that keep us healthy, growing, and strong. The day we cease clinging to those principles is the day we grow cold and dishonour God before a watching world.”
–John MacArthur in John MacArthur: Servant of the Word and Flock by Iain Murray, p. 153
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Posted in church, tagged church on September 26, 2011 |
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Recently I along with two other pastors were asked about what we thought should be the priorities of a local church, especially a young or a new church? One of my friends took this groups of eager students through the book of Titus briefly and pointed out very clearly what that book taught about new churches especially.
Shortly thereafter I also read this post by Terry Enns which I summarized for the students the next day. I love the fact that Terry brings out the sufficiency Scripture for church ministry!
There have always been many diverse and divergent ideas about the priorities of ministry. The temptation is often to take a pragmatic approach to “make the church grow.” Now having dancing pink elephants may make the church grow, but will that methodology honor Christ?
Reading 2 Timothy again this morning, I was reminded that the church has often made ministry more difficult and complicated than necessary.
There are 33 imperatives in the four chapters of 2 Timothy.
All of them appear in 1:8 or after. That is significant because in 1:3-5 Paul reminds Timothy of the faith that he has in Christ. And because of that faith (“therefore,” 1:8), he is to conduct himself in particular ways. In other words, the imperative calls to obedience are a result of his faith, not a condition of it. He is not earning grace with his labor, but he is demonstrating the grace he has received through his living.
There are also several imperatives that are personal in nature in the concluding verses; these are Paul’s personal desires for how Timothy might serve him in his final days (4:9-21) — “Make every effort to come to me soon…Pick up Mark and bring him with you…bring the cloak which I left at Troas…Be on guard against [Alexander]…Greet Prisca and Aquila…Make every effort to come before winter.”
Beyond this, there are 27 commands in the rest of the book that were to shape not only Timothy’s ministry in Ephesus, but also inform the church today how we are to conduct ourselves:
- …join with me in suffering for the gospel according to the power of God (1:8)
- Retain the standard of sound words which you have heard from me… (1:13)
- Guard, through the Holy Spirit who dwells in us, the treasure which has been entrusted to you. (1:14)
- …be strong in the grace that is in Christ Jesus. (2:1)
- …entrust [the things you have heard from me] to faithful men (2:2)
- Suffer hardship with me… (2:3)
- Consider what I say… (2:7)
- Remember Jesus Christ, risen from the dead, descendant of David, according to my gospel, (2:8)
- Remind them of these things… (2:14)
- Be diligent to present yourself approved to God… (2:15)
- But avoid worldly and empty chatter… (2:16)
- …“Everyone who names the name of the Lord is to abstain from wickedness.” (2:19)
- Now flee from youthful lusts (2:22)
- …pursue righteousness, faith, love and peace…(2:22)
- But refuse foolish and ignorant speculations… (2:23)
- But realize this, that in the last days difficult times will come. (3:1)
- …Avoid such men as these [who hold to a form of godliness, although they have denied its power]. (3:5)
- You, however, continue in the things you have learned and become convinced of… (3:14)
- …preach the word (4:2)
- be ready in season and out of season (4:2)
- reprove (4:2)
- rebuke (4:2)
- exhort, with great patience and instruction. (4:2)
- But you, be sober in all things (4:5)
- endure hardship (4:5)
- do the work of an evangelist (4:5)
- fulfill your ministry. (4:5)
Of these, twelve commands relate directly to the teaching and proclamation of Scripture either for the purpose of evangelism or equipping. And three more commands relate to avoiding those who distort and pervert the clear teaching of Scripture. More than half the commands of Paul to Timothy about how to do ministry in the church affirm the priority of clearly teaching and upholding the Scriptures.
This is the work of ministry — to teach the word of God in such a way that men become men of God. Is it any wonder that this is one of the two priorities of elders in the church (Acts 6:4)? Is there any question about the fundamental work of ministry? We are to shepherd God’s people with the Word of God. The Scriptures are preeminent in all we do in ministry.
Praise God, church life is not really that complicated!
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“No church has a money problem; churches only have idea problems”–Robert Schuller who founded and pastored the Crystal Cathedral which is now filing for bankruptcy.
Read Albert Mohler’s article on this whole fiasco where he argues that actually there is some truth to what Schuller said in that the real story at the Cathedral is not their financial crisis but their theological crisis!
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One man openly writes about the “perils of wannabe cool Christianity”:
“Increasingly, the “plan” has taken the form of a total image overhaul, where efforts are made to rebrand Christianity as hip, countercultural, relevant. As a result, in the early 2000s, we got something called “the emerging church”—a sort of postmodern stab at an evangelical reform movement. Perhaps because it was too “let’s rethink everything” radical, it fizzled quickly. But the impulse behind it—to rehabilitate Christianity’s image and make it “cool”—remains.
There are various ways that churches attempt to be cool. For some, it means trying to seem more culturally savvy. The pastor quotes Stephen Colbert or references Lady Gaga during his sermon, or a church sponsors a screening of the R-rated “No Country For Old Men.” For others, the emphasis is on looking cool, perhaps by giving the pastor a metrosexual makeover, with skinny jeans and an $80 haircut, or by insisting on trendy eco-friendly paper and helvetica-only fonts on all printed materials. Then there is the option of holding a worship service in a bar or nightclub (as is the case for L.A.’s Mosaic church, whose downtown location meets at a nightspot called Club Mayan).
“Wannabe cool” Christianity also manifests itself as an obsession with being on the technological cutting edge. Churches like Central Christian in Las Vegas and Liquid Church in New Brunswick, N.J., for example, have online church services where people can have a worship experience at an “iCampus.” Many other churches now encourage texting, Twitter and iPhone interaction with the pastor during their services.
But one of the most popular—and arguably most unseemly—methods of making Christianity hip is to make it shocking. What better way to appeal to younger generations than to push the envelope and go where no fundamentalist has gone before? . . .
If the evangelical Christian leadership thinks that “cool Christianity” is a sustainable path forward, they are severely mistaken. As a twentysomething, I can say with confidence that when it comes to church, we don’t want cool as much as we want real.
If we are interested in Christianity in any sort of serious way, it is not because it’s easy or trendy or popular. It’s because Jesus himself is appealing, and what he says rings true. It’s because the world we inhabit is utterly phony, ephemeral, narcissistic, image-obsessed and sex-drenched—and we want an alternative. It’s not because we want more of the same.
via The Perils of Hipster Christianity and Why Young Evangelicals Reject Churches That Try To Be Cool – WSJ.com.
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From Shepherds Press:
Do you love the church? This question is one of the most important questions you will ever answer. An answer in the affirmative is binding. It is similar in importance to the affirmative answer given in a wedding ceremony. The pastor asks the question, “Will you take this woman to be your wife?” If the answer is “Yes,” at least two important things happen. The first is that you make your new wife happy. The second binds you to a committed relationship of service and sacrifice to your wife for the rest of your life.
Surely, the question of loving the church is not that important, is it? Granted, most people, even most Christians, would not think so. But, in fact, it is just as important, if not more so. In I Peter 2:17, the Holy Spirit commands that you are to love the brotherhood. In Ephesians 4:11-16, we read that your spiritual growth is directly tied to the investment that you make in the body of Christ. If you want to be a good husband, wife or parent (by God’s perspective) you cannot do this without the church. Your church commitment should be to a church that is biblical and is in full agreement with the historic essentials of Christian faith. But having taken that step, your sacrificial love to the church must be one that is unwavering. Your spouse and your children will only be harmed if you are unfaithful to God’s command to love the church. Shepherd Press has just released a new title that addresses this very question.
John Crotts has written a practical and accessible study on the importance of the church. As Crotts indicates, loving the church is not merely an option, but it is a command. Christians are to love each other corporately and individually. Much modern day teaching has emphasized the individual aspect of Christian love. But there is little that demonstrates how important it is to also love each other corporately.
If you have ever had questions about why church membership is important this book has the answer. If you have been at a loss about how to explain the importance of regular church attendance this book will help you find your way. Perhaps you have friends or children who have been disaffected by church; Loving the Church can help. Loving the Church is not stuffy but refreshing. It takes common everyday questions about the church and gives practical answers that will stick with you. John Crotts successfully uses the casual setting of a coffee shop to make God’s instruction about his church easily understandable.
To read a bit more about this new title and how to get a free ebook with any order, read the rest of the article.
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If you haven’t seen this, Michael Horton weighs in with some helpful words on the concern over Rick Warren being invited to speak at the Desiring God National Conference.
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