New Terror Threat Could Mean More Persecution of Christians

Alshabaab

New reports have come out this morning about heightened alerts of terror attacks in the United States in response to a new threat by an Al Qaeda linked group. A video has surfaced where a leader of Al Shabaab, is calling for attacks on shopping malls in the United States, Canada, and Great Britain. This is the same group that was responsible for an attack on a shopping mall in Kenya where 67 people were killed. Witnesses said that gunmen in the Kenyan mall would ask the hostages questions to determine whether or not they were Christians. If the hostages were Christians and would not denounce their faith, they were killed. This type of persecution is typical for Christians living in the last days. When Jesus’ disciples asked Him for signs of His Second Coming, He told them that the persecution of Christians would be one evidence that His return was soon coming. He said in Matthew 24:9, “Then they will deliver you to tribulation, and will kill you, and you will be hated by all nations because of My name.” He said in the next verse, “At that time many will fall away and will betray one another and hate one another.” I think it is clear that as the return of Christ draws closer, it will not be popular to be a Christian and standing for Christ will be costly. There will be many church attenders and “religious” people who deny faith in Christ in response to this persecution.

Mark 13:32-33  says, “But of that day or hour no one knows, not even the angels in heaven, nor the Son, but the Father alone. Take heed, keep on the alert; for you do not know when the appointed time will come.” While Jesus said we do not know the day or hour of His return, He also told us to keep alert and to take heed. He is basically saying, “I have told you the signs that will come before My return so watch the news and read the papers. Be aware of what is going on and ready for My return.” While we do not know the exact date of Christ’s return, and it could still be some years off in the future, there are signs happening all around us that reveal His return could certainly be soon. Let’s pray for our Christian brothers and sisters who are being persecuted all over the earth. Let’s spread the good news of the gospel. Our days may indeed be short and Christ’s return could very well be soon.

Prayer for our Leaders

nationThe wonderful church I pastor is having a prayer emphasis this week, and today we are being reminded to pray for our government leaders. I invite you to join in with us as we pray for our nation. 1 Timothy 2:1-2 states, “First of all, then, I urge that entreaties and prayers, petitions and thanksgivings, be made on behalf of all men, for kings and all who are in authority, so that we may lead a tranquil and quiet life in all godliness and dignity.” In this call to prayer, the Apostle Paul begins by challenging believers to pray for all people, but especially for government leaders. Think for just a moment about Paul’s world. The government for which Paul was urging prayer was not a government filled with godly leaders. As a matter of fact, they were just the opposite. At that time, Nero was the emperor of Rome, and Nero was far from receptive to Christianity. History tells us that he persecuted Christians ruthlessly. He found great pleasure in torturing believers and trying to ridicule Christians publically.  Being a Christian in the Roman Empire at this time was not very well received, but in this context, Paul urged Christians to pray for government leaders and to even thank God for them. The underlying message is that whether we agree with political leaders or not, we are commanded to pray for them.

I would say that God lead Paul to cover nearly every aspect of prayer by using the words “entreaties and prayers, petitions and thanksgivings.” You can easily look at these four words and see them almost as synonyms, but that is not exactly accurate. While the Greek word for “prayer” simply means to talk to God and “petition” means to request something from God, I want to focus for a moment on the first word that is used: “entreaties.” This word means to plead or beg. It carries with it a sense of urgency and desperation. We live in desperate times, and in these times, we are commanded to plead with God on behalf of our leaders. The decisions political leaders make impacts our nation and the world. It is easy to be angry at a leader or disgusted, if we do not agree with them. One thing I have learned is that it is hard to passionately and consistently pray for someone with whom we are angry. Before we pray for our political leaders, we may first need to repent of our attitudes before God and surrender our minds and hearts to the reality that we are in a spiritual battle, and urgent prayer for our political leaders is a key weapon on this battle field. So, today I urge you to pray for our president, our congressmen and women (both nationally and in our state), and our local leaders. Pray for their salvation, if they are not Christians, and pray that they would lead our nation in a way the reflects the truth of God. Pray that God would help them to turn a deaf ear to those who would influence them to govern contrary to God’s truth. Ask God to help us as a nation to be a champion for human rights and that our national leaders would take a stand against the persecution of Christians around the world. Pray for a revival in Washington.

Fifty Shades of Shame

I know I’ve posted something already today on prayer, but I’ve got share some thoughts about this new movie.

shame2Fifty Shades of Grey opened up this weekend and has already been awarded the record of the highest earnings of any film ever that opened up during the month of February. The film that did hold this record was The Passion of the Christ. Maybe we should just let that sink in for a moment. I can’t help but feel that this fact alone reveals the spiritual warfare aspect of this movie. Box office receipts for this opening weekend of Fifty Shades could be as much as $100 million. Did you catch that? $100 million! So, who is going to see this movie? Evidently a lot of people. Here’s the interesting thing. I’ve read a few reviews about the movie, from both Christian and secular sources, and I haven’t found anyone yet who says the movie is a great movie. So, even with bad reviews, the theatres are full this weekend of people wanting to see a movie that glamorizes the abuse of women and promotes a perversion of sex.

I entitled this article Fifty Shades of Shame because first of all, shame on Christians for reading this book, and now, going to see the movie. While I can’t know for sure whether or not Christians have done this, I’m guessing that this movie is going to make nearly $100 million this weekend with the help of curious believers. Christians could make a huge statement to Hollywood if we refused to see movies that do not promote themes that are wholesome and promote healthy relationships.

It is also shameful because few people seem to be calling this lifestyle what it is – a perversion of what God intends. We live in a time when everyone seems to be saying that anything goes and everything is okay. Everything is NOT okay. Everything has consequences, and the consequence of perversion is never ultimate fulfillment. In a day where the abuse of women is recognized as wrong, Hollywood and our secular media seems to be having a hard time calling these producers out for creating such a film. This movie should be the greatest flop in the history of Hollywood because American people do not want to promote such outrageous behavior and organizations across the country, both secular and Christian, take a stand for women and healthy relationships. What happened to the character of our nation? Why are we going to reward the film maker and the author of such shameful material?

While I could say more, I would like to address one final area of shame. Shame on Christians for not willingly promoting a biblical view of relationships, marriage, and even sex through our conversations and practices. Marriage is a beautiful thing, and sex is a wonderful gift from our Creator who designed the whole thing. While we need to be circumspect in how we talk about this subject, there are places that the topic of sex and relationships should be talked about, and when we talk about it, it should be in glowing terms. The problem is that for many Christians, relationships and sex are not glowing because we do not have the kind of marriages we should have. God intends marriage to be a joyful experience filled with happiness, support, encouragement, and fun – yes fun. Maybe young people would not be drawn to this perversion if the model they see in their parents and in this culture was one that showed the fulfillment and joy that is experienced in healthy marriages. Let’s let this Hollywood perversion challenge us not to settle for anything less in our marriages than God’s best so that we can model for the world the true shade of love and commitment.

Communicating with God

communicationThere once was a time in my life when you wanted to communicate with someone, you could call them, and hope they were home. The invention of the answering machine was a marvel, and a caller could leave a message expecting a return phone call in a day or two. Even the pager was a great improvement, but the return phone call was still delayed at times. Today’s technology does open the door for instant access, but we all know that concept is not exactly accurate. The person you are calling may not be available, or his or her phone battery may have died. Voice mails can be left, but they may go unnoticed for a few days. I am so glad that in communicating with God, there is no delay. When we pray, we don’t have to leave a message and hope our Creator gets around to it in the next few days. Prayer is an instant line of communication with our Heavenly Father Who is waiting to hear from us. The prophet Jeremiah was reminded of God’s availability with this command from God found in Jeremiah 33:3: “Call to Me and I will answer you, and I will tell you great and mighty things, which you do not know.” Do you see the command in this passage? God urges us, and commands us, to call out to Him through prayer. The promise of this passage is that He will answer and tell us things that we did not know. Our knowledge and understanding are limited but God’s is fathomless. Our perspective is fixed, but God’s is eternal. The SonRise Baptist Church family, of which I have the privilege of serving as pastor, is beginning a week of focused prayer. I invite anyone reading to join with us in calling out to God. Begin now making a list of things beyond your ability to either understand or resolve. Call to God. He will answer you and show you unimaginable things which you do not know.