Sunday, December 21, 2008


"I hope nobody calls me a hero, because I know the facts about the bitterness that blazed in my heart that year. I knew, for example, that I was supposed to forgive my captors but the truth is that I often hated them not only for snatching me away from my family and the simple comforts of a life I loved, but also for forcing me to see a side of myself I didn't like. There was a Gracia I barely knew existed: fearful Gracia, selfish Gracia, bitter Gracia, angry-at-God Gracia. Every once in a while, Martin and I talked about the fruit of the Holy Spirit as listed in Galatians 5 and how much we wanted to see love, joy and peace in our lives. 'All I see is sadness and grief and sorrow,' I'd say. 'How can we produce the opposite?' We couldn't force joyfulness or loving action or a peaceful mind. The Holy Spirit had to grow these things within us. I begged the Lord at times, 'Please just give me some peace. I can't find it in my own heart. I can't find long-suffering. I feel anything but gentle right now. Please work some gentleness into my life. Give me some joy in the middle of this horrible situation.' And he did." Gracia Burnham, In the Presence of My Enemies.

Dear brothers and sisters,

The key to joy in suffering is to embrace the suffering as God's will for you. Yiu Zhenling, known as Brother Yun, committed his life to Jesus Christ at 16 and began to memorize the Bible, one chapter per day. In his first year as a Christian he led 2,000 people to Christ. He began the underground church in Communist China and became the country's most-wanted man. Imprisoned three times, he was interrogated, threatened, kicked, brutally beaten and tortured with electric batons almost daily. But, like the apostle Paul, Yun's attitude was, "I am not your prisoner. I am a prisoner of the Lord!" He saw everything that happened to him as a privilege, not just allowed but caused by a loving Father who used these things to draw him into the sufferings of Christ, with the promise of the glory of Christ to follow.

From Yun's first day in Nanyang Prison, God led him to "fast and pray for the advance of the gospel, that thousands of souls would experience salvation, and that the house churches throughout China would be victorious. Yun did not touch food or water for 74 days. "In those days," he told his biographer, "I was just like a baby sleeping in the arms of his mother, peacefully suckling at his mother's bosom. My spirit was full of joy and thanksgiving as I magnified the Lord. Yun's toughest time was on the 38th day when the devil hissed in his ear, "Yun, Jesus fasted 40 days. How can you as a servant do more than the Master? Will you try to outdo your master?" Yun was in such intense spiritual battle he considered suicide. But the Lord spoke Revelation 3:8 to him, "I know your deeds. See, I hve placed before you an open door that no man can shut. I know that you have little strength, yet you have kept my word and have not denied my name." When he heard these words, Yun said his heart was filled with joy. "I felt like a little boy whose father has taken a stand for him against bullies." At that moment he had a powerful vision of a series of iron gates opening, one after another.

At the end of his fast, Yun weighed 66 pounds. His mother and wife could not recognize him. "During the long fast, my days were full of struggle, miracles, dreams, visions, and revelation from the Lord. I experienced his strength every day. My body was getting smaller and smaller, but my spirit was enlarged and strong." After all this time he was finally brought to trial. "I was bound and taken to the court in a motor-tricycle, with armed guards on either side of me. My cell mates were praying earnestly for me. I felt great joy in my heart. The (court) said I would receive either life imprisonment or the death sentence. I was amazed when the judge announced, "Yun, we sentence you to four years' imprisonment with hard labor!" Only four years! I couldn't believe it! I was full of joy because God had given me hope for future ministry throughout China. The Lord had more work for me to do! As I was driven back to the prison I had a feeling of overwhelming joy and thankfulness for the Lord's mercy."

Yun said those four years went fast and once free he worked tirelessly to evangelize, disciple and train others to win souls. As a result of his refusal to curtail his activities, he was arrested many times and imprisoned twice more. The second time, God commanded him to repent. He was battered, bruised, broken, in a prison cell with murderers and rapists who hated and abused him and God was telling him to repent? Why didn't he just give Yun comfort and reassurance of his love? But Yun realized he harbored contempt for the men in his cell and he repented. Repentance released in him a whole new level of closeness with the Lord and realization of what God was doing in his life. As a result of his obedience, he started seeing the men in a new way, with God's eyes. He started praying for them and sharing his meager food with them. The Lord used him to heal some of them and eventually they all came to faith in Jesus Christ. Their cell became heaven on earth. "One day I was sharing the gospel with a group of prisoners. The joy of the Lord was in my heart. Several guards commented, 'Look, this criminal is even happier that we are, and we are free!" As a result, some of them also believed. After his release from prison Yun would say he missed the time with those men so much he longed to return and visit them. "My first four years had been like Joseph when he was thrown into prison, slandered, and persecuted. But my second term was like Joseph when God exalted him and placed him in a position of influence and authority."

Outside the prison, Yun's steadfast example and his refusal to betray or implicate others gave Christians courage and fanned the flames of revival. His prayers while fasting were being answered exponentially. With no promise of financial support, new Christian workers went everywhere openly risking persecution by preaching the gospel. "We are not afraid of going hungry or of being beaten," they said. "We are willing to die for the gospel! We are only afraid of going without God's presence. Please pry he will be with us every day." By January 2000 the house churches estimated their members numbered 58 million!

Meanwhile, imprisoned a third time, Yun hit bottom spiritually and emotionally. He had escaped once and refused to promise not to try again so guards mercilessly beat his lower legs with batons, breaking and crushing the bones. "I lay on the ground screaming like a wounded animal. Excruciating pain surged through my body and mind. All I could do was try to focus my thoughts on the Lord Jesus and his suffering on the cross. I thought I was going to die but the Lord sustained me." He was so crippled his legs were "black and unusable. I couldn't even stand up, let alone walk." He had to be carried to the toilet--and to the room where he was tortured every day. Crushed in spirit as well as in body, he cried out to God, "I can't take it any more!" And the Lord answered, "Do not throw away your confidence. It will be richly rewarded" and "Surely I will deliver you for a good purpose."

Then, on the morning of May 5, 1997, the Lord told Yun, "This is the hour of your salvation. Go now! The God of Peter is your God!" The vision God had given Yun of iron gates opening, one after another, became a reality. The man who could not walk, could hardly crawl, stood up and walked, as if in a dream, out of the Zhengzhou Number One Maximum Security Prison, climbed into a taxi and asked to be driven to the home of Christian friends. Just like Peter, he stood at the door while a young girl, seeing who was there, left him standing while she ran inside to tell others that their brother was free! One eye-witness wrote, "I couldn't believe it when I saw Yun walking out! There were probably thirty prison guards in the yard at the time, but no one noticed Yun escape! He even walked right past several of them," and another wrote, "The prison authorities had mocked the Lord and Yun when they smashed his legs. They said, 'We'd like to see you escape now!" The Lord is always up to a challenge!"

Yun did not realize until afterward that the Lord must have healed his legs in his cell. "I marveled at God's goodness and faithfulness to me," he writes. "To this day I consider my escape from prison the most amazing experience of my life. That night I slept like a content newborn baby in the arms of my Lord."

When I think of the promise of Jesus Christ that we will do even greater things than he did on earth, I think of Brothr Yun. His autobiography, The Heavenly Man, written with Paul Hattaway and pulished by Monarch Books, reads like "Second Acts."

In Scripture, if we embrace it as Jesus did, suffering and joy are bonded together: "Jesus. . . for the JOY set before him endured the cross, scorning the shame." (Hebrews 12:2)

Read these verses together. They are written to you and me: "Dear friends, do not be surprised at the painful trial you are suffering, as though something strange were happening to you'" (I Peter 4:12) "To this you were called, because Christ suffered for you, leaving you an example that you should follow in his steps. (I Peter 2:21).

For those of us who follow Jesus in suffering, the joy to which we can look forward, the anticipation of which motivates us to endure, has several component parts:
     --It produces Christ-like character: Consider it pure joy, my brothers, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith develops perseverance." (James 1:2-3)
     --It exhibits God's glory and presence: "But rejoice that you participate in the sufferings of Christ, so that you may be overjoyed when his glory is revealed. If you are insulted because of the name of Christ, you are blessed, for the Spirit of glory and of God rests on you" (I Peter 4:13-14).
     --It promises us the kingdom and its rewards. "Blessed are those who have been persecuted for the sake of righteousness, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. Blessed are you when people insult you, persecute you, and falsely say all kinds of evil against you because of me. Rejoice and be glad, because great is your reward in heaven, for in the same way they persecuted the prophets who were before you." (Matthew 5:10-12) and "Blessed are you when men hate you, when they exclude you and insult you and reject your name as evil, because of the Son of Man. Rejoice in that day and leap for joy, because great is your reward in heaven." (Luke 6:22-23)

So, as Much-Afraid did in Hannah Hurnard's classic, Hind's Feet on High Places, let your response to suffering be not only acceptance but Acceptance-with-Joy. Embrace it! For "the JOY of the Lord is your strength" (Nehemiah 8:10)

One of the desires of Jesus' heart, as he told the Father just before his crucifixion, is that his joy be made full in us (John 17:13)
Let it in: "Rejoice in the Lord always. I will say it again: "Rejoice!" (Philippians 4:4)

        "If our Heavenly Father does not permit it, who can do anything to you?" Brother Yun

Friday, December 19, 2008


Dear brothers and sisters,

In persecution, we have the opportunity to depend on God alone and in response, He provides for us. God provides His presence and leading. He promises to go through persecution with us and give us peace. He promises to fill our mouths with His words when we are put on trial: "When they arrest you and hand you over, do not worry beforehand about what you are to say, but say whatever is given to you in that hour; for it is not you who speak, but the Holy Spirit," Mark 13:11.

This provision may not look like what we expect. For Vek Huong and Samoeun Taing, abandoned by the Khmer Rouge in the jungles of Cambodia, the answer to their prayer for a "special meal" on their anniversary appalls us. But after two months of starvation, with nothing to eat but bark and grass, they thanked God for the "feast" He provided: the heads and skins of four dead rats. Part of God's gracious provision was certainly the ability to see His love in a dead rat. Part of this provision was certainly the perspective which produced gratitude.

God provides protection. On April 17, 1975, the entire population of Phnom Penh, Cambodia, was forced out of the city by the Khmer Rouge (Communists), including doctors, nurses, hospital patients. Women died giving birth by the side of the road. Everyone was evacuated except those who were shot. Altogether, two million "enemies of the state" were murdered at the command of Pol Pot, up to one-third of the population of Cambodia. This included not only those who had worked in the previous government but the rich, the religious and those considered well-educated-- teachers and college students, anyone who spoke a foreign language, even people who wore glasses. Vek Huong and Samoeun Taing were well-educated, Christian, spoke English and were on staff with a foreign Christian organization, Campus Crusade for Christ. Yet God protected their lives.

God provides direction. God directed the Taings (with their infant son) to go to Battambang, a city on the border of Thailand. At the train station in Pursat, solders were rounding people up and putting them on a train for Battambang. Vek Huong wrote afterward, "A Khmer Rouge soldier said to me quietly, 'For some reason, I feel concerned about you and want to warn you not to take the train to Battambang. You are being lied to. They'll drop you off in the jungle, and you'll die of starvation. Why don't you stay with me?' I knew I had to follow what I believed to be God's will. I thanked the soldier profusely for his kindness, but said that I felt we must go on. As Samoeun and I stepped aboard the train, the soldier shook his head, and as his eyes followed me, they were filled with sadness, communicating fear of what might lie ahead for us. Eighteen miles before Battambang the Khmer Rouge ordered everyone off the train--and told us we were to be left there, just as my soldier friend had predicted. The area was thick jungle. . ."

God provides food: In the jungle, Vek Huong and Samoeun "became concerned over the lack of nutrition (6-month old) Wiphousana was receiving, since our small daily portions of rice could be supplemented only by boiled leaves and grass. So we prayed. One day I thought, 'Why not try fishing for Wiphousana in the paddies?' It was really a laughable idea, because the largest fish ever seen in the shallow waters was two to three inches long at the most. But the first day I tried it, I caught a fish that was 8-10 inches in length. And every day for the next two months, God provided a fish about that size--just one fish every day.'"

God provides allies: (After two months of near starvation, the Taings escaped to the train station to try to press on to Battambang.) "A guard at the station reminded us that those traveling without a Khmer Rouge permission slip were often killed on sight. I replied to the guard that we didn't have permission but if we stayed in the jungle we would die anyway. A train pulled into the station but it was filled entirely with Khmer Rouge soldiers! Suddenly a soldier jumped off one of the cars and ran over to us. It was the soldier who in Pursat had warned us about taking the train to Battambang! As he ran toward us, he called out to Samoeun, 'Sister, sister! Where have you been?' He told the guard we were his relatives. He gave us his ID and a permission slip, and we climbed on the train with him. We rode to Battambang in safety--and wonder."

Four years after the fall of Phnom Penh, the Taings made it across the border from Battambang to a refugee camp in Thailand from which they could let CCC know they were alive. Subsequently Vek Huong Taing became Founder and National Director of Cambodia Campus Crusade for Christ for twenty years. (Excerpts from Taing, Ordeal in Cambodia.) Since this book was written, Taing and his wife have directed New Life Missions, conducting major evangelistic meetings, leadership conferences, symposiums, and seminars across the provinces and boundaries of Cambodia. They have trained national pastors, staffs, evangelists, teachers, church workers, and dynamic leaders that now share their faith across Cambodia.

God provides healing: Dorothy Sun of China wrote, "I loved singing. My mother was a Western-style opera singer so I dreamed I would be a soprano soloist. During my imprisonment in the early 60s the police compelled us to praise the Communists and Mao Ze Dong with songs. I disliked those songs and disagreed that Mao is the savior. I have my savior Jesus. Instead of singing I was just shouting. The guard forced me to drink half a cup of pure vinegar with a mixture of grayish and red pepper powder. I vomited it out but two inmates pushed me down and opened my mouth with their hands, forcing me to swallow. They did this every night. After one month my voice became very hoarse. I almost totally lost my ability to speak, let alone being able to sing. At nights I said to my Lord, 'The only thing I had was my voice, which I dedicated to You since I was little but now that has also been taken away by Satan.' My voice was hoarse for over twenty years. In October, 1984 [after her release], the rehearsals of the 'Messiah' began (at church). . . my favorite opera. . . Whenever the choir had rehearsals I went there to listen. During the final rehearsals when the congregation joined with the choir, I could not control myself. I began to sing with them. It seemed that angels and a heavenly army also joined in singing with us. My tears tumbled down. I didn't care about my hoarse voice. But, suddenly I felt something eased and opened my throat so that I could sing notes higher and higher without difficulty. I could even hear my own voice and it wasn't hoarse anymore! Ever since then I have been singing hymns with my revived voice in my ministry to serve, praise and glorify the Lord!" Excerpted from Sun, Clay in the Potter's Hands.

Persecution is sometimes every bit as hard on the families of those sentenced to prison or slave labor camps  for their faith. When Brother Yun was imprisoned for four years his wife and mother were rejected by their neighbors. But God fed them. With Yun's son, born three months after Yun's sentencing, the two women were left to run a farm by themselves. Deling, Yun's wife, writes, "Things were desperate! We had no clue what we were doing. We decided to plant sweet potatoes, but didn't know how to do it. I found out later that we should have planted the roots about two feet apart. I had planted them just a few inches apart! All summer long our neighbors mocked us and made fun of us! I was the butt of many jokes. Then in autumn, they started cursing because their sweet potatoes were only the size of tennis balls. Ours were almost the size of basketballs! It was a great miracle and everyone knew God had taken care of us. Our neighbors respected us more and didn't view my husband as a cursed criminal any more. They saw 'the distinction between the righteous and the wicked.' Malachi 3:18.

She continues, "Just a week before wheat harvest, a severe hailstorm struck. Ice the size of tennis balls fell from the sky. I rushed outside when the hail started and some of our neighbors' wheat fields had been completely flattened. Yun's mother and I fell to our knees and cried out, 'God, have mercy on us!' A great miracle happened. Our field was the only one protected by the Lord. All our wheat was standing upright, untouched by the hail. Everyone else's fields had been obliterated. People came out of their homes after the storm subsided and saw how the Lord Jesus Christ had protected us. It was another powerful testimony to them." Yun, The Heavenly Man.

God takes care of His people who have been widowed or orphaned for their faith. In 2001, Martin and Gracia Burnham, missionaries to the Philippines with New Tribes Mission, were kidnapped at gunpoint by the Abu Sayyhaf, a terrorist group with ties to Osama ben Laden. They spent a year on the run with the terrorists in the jungle, facing near-starvation, constant exhaustion, frequent gun battles and cold-hearted murder. Gracia was freed a year later and returned to "normal" life back in Kansas with their three children--and a gaping hole where her husband had been. He had been shot in the attempt to free them both. But God provided through individuals, church groups and merchants who built and furnished a home for them, bought them a van and "the Lord continues to meet our needs." Burnham, In the Presence of My Enemies, 2004.

We do not need to fear what we or our loved ones may experience. Casper ten Boom and his middle-aged daughters Corrie and Betsie helped Jews escape the Holocaust in Holland during World War 2. For this, the sisters would be sent to Ravensbruck concentration camp in Germany. Betsie would be taken Home from there in September, 1944. Corrie would be released three months later, on Christmas Day, and would survive until her 91st birthday, ministering around the world. In The Hiding Place (later made into a movie), Corrie records her memory of an event when she was six which gives us a perspective on our loving heavenly Father's promised provision:

     "At last we heard Father's footsteps winding up the stairs. It was the best moment in every day, when he came up to tuck us in. We never fell asleep until he had arranged the blankets in his special way and laid his hand for a moment on each head. Then we tried not to move even a toe.
     "But that night as he stepped through the door I burst into tears. 'I need you!' I sobbed.  'You can't die! You can't!'
     "Father sat down on the edge of the narrow bed. 'Corrie,' he began gently, 'when you and I go to Amsterdam--when do I give you your ticket?'
     "I sniffed a few times, considering this.
     "'Why, just before we get on the train.'
     "'Exactly. And our wise Father knows when we're going to need things, too. Don't run out ahead of Him, Corrie. When the time comes that some of us will have to die, you will look into your heart and find the strength you need--just in time.'"
     Nearly fifty years later, her father was imprisoned and God took him Home ten days later. Corrie and her sister Betsie were in the same prison he was (although they hadn't known it) when they got the news. I'm sure her father's words came back to Corrie at that time, to comfort her in her loss.

God will provide everything we need--when we need it.

And God provides JOY in Persecution! (See next letter, 5th of 5)

"We ought to give thanks for all fortune: if it is 'good,' because it is good, if 'bad' because it works in us patience, humility, and the hope of our eternal country," C.S. Lewis to his good friend Don Giovanni Calabria, 10 August 1948.

Thursday, December 18, 2008


For those of you for whom persecution loomed in our future as a sure thing when we heard the outcome of the election, has that sense of clarity and urgency faded? Do you now feel those presentiments were irrational, exaggerated, even nonsense? Please think through the following decisions anyway and keep this in case the need for it ever seem imminent.

Dear Brothers and Sisters,

In considering the suggestions which follow, ask God what HE wants you to do.

How can we prepare for persecution practically? We wrote about starting with a First Aid kit, a cell phone and charger, a radio with plenty of batteries, money, an escape plan. There are good ready-made emergency kits which include meals, cooking pans, canned heart, waterproof matches, water in plastic bags, can opener, Polarshield emergency blanket, flashlights, etc. Keep anything perishable in the First Air kit up-to-date. Include prescriptions, an out-of-state contact, a change of clothes including shoes and warm jacket. And a Bible. If you have to clear out fast, have the kit handy so you can grab it and go. Keep one in your car and one in the house. When the Khmer Rouge took over the capital of Cambodia on April 17, 1975, the entire population of the city had only 24 hours to evacuate. Vek Huong Taing, his wife and 2-month old son had to leave their home forever with only the belongings they could fit in their car.

Assess your valuables--jewelery, art, information about accounts, savings, etc. When the communists invaded European countries during World War 2, people's homes were seized and burned and they were left with nothing. Dorothy Sun's family in China had government agents break into and ransack their home again and again, until they had nothing left of value. What would you want to keep with you? What would you want to hide or to entrust to someone whose home may be safer than yours? (A sympathetic non-believer might be safer than another Christian.) What would you want to give away? What do you want to sell so you can use the money in some redemptive way?

Family keepsakes, pictures. Of course soldiers and rioting mobs don't care about personal possessions they can't sell but they may confiscate or destroy them anyway. Even a hole in the ground might be safer than keeping them in the house.

How about Bibles? If it becomes illegal to possess one, where will you hide yours? Is there some place you could store lots of them? How about a box of bilingual Bibles if you live near the Mexican border, so they could be given out to people in need if others are confiscated?

Journals and personal letters. A warning to those who keep journals (I am one of them!) as well as those who write personal letters or keep those written by others. If you want to take risks yourself, that's one thing. But be careful of putting fellow believers in jeopardy. Incendiary comments about the government, for instance, can be used against you later. Brother Yun referred to China once in his diary once as the "harlot" of the book of Revelation. He served considerable prison time for that indiscretion.
     But journals and letters can also be a primary source of information about clandestine meetings, other Christians, etc. Yun vowed he would never be a Judas and he never was--but his journals implicated others and were used to send some of them to prison. Be careful to avoid specifics, like names and addresses. If the church really ends up going underground (and at least one network of workers is already being developed in case this happens) your journal could betray friends. Remember the Word War 2 motto, "Loose lips sink ships" and edit yourself accordingly. It is good to know as little as possible about names and addresses of people who come to underground meetings, so you cannot give them away, even under pressure. Use nicknames. Be careful what you keep, including emails like these. Eliminate identifying information. That includes mailing lists. If you have a mailing list of Christian friends, keep it on a floppy you can grab and take with you or destroy if necessary.
     The news we Americans get from just about any secular source--TV, newspapers, public schools--is biased and bound to become more so. Avoid it. Personally, I recommend you throw your TV out the window and get your news selectively from the internet or from the radio. Saves time, saves exposure to the world system God tells us not to love. That way YOU get to choose the news you want to know about rather than having people with other agendas choose what to offer you. You don't have to tolerate insipid talk shows waiting for a crumb of substance or wave through commercials and previews which inflame lust for things you don't need, people you can't have and values God condemns.
     Jerry and I never watch anything live unless it's continuous coverage of the recent fires, for instance, a rare sports event or something on BBC. If we watch any show (currently, just one per week) we record it first so we can fast-forward through commercials. We don't have cable, by choice. You may strongly disagree with me but it's the lobster-in-the-pot thing again. It's "riding the culture to the bottom." I watched a half-hour sitcom the other day with a friend who was in the hospital and I was disgusted at how far down TV has gone in the four years we've been having a life instead of watching other people's fake lives. This change probably isn't as obvious to those of you who watch more frequently.

We have also canceled our newspaper. It is so biased the "news" articles read like opinion pieces. Also, reading it is time-consuming. We don't need to know every negative thing happening in the world. I don't think it's good for us. In Romans 12:2, Paul tells us not to be conformed to this world but to be transformed by the renewing of our minds. I John 3:4 speaks of purifying ourselves as He is pure. I believe we are better off spending our time reading our Bibles for the news!

In fact, since my "paradigm shift" of November 4th, I am no longer going to involve myself in trying to change legislation or write letters of protest to editors. You may be called to do that, but I no longer feel called to improve this world--or at least not by appealing to anyone less than the Almighty for change! I feel called to pray for and help prepare His people for what's coming.

Spiritual and practical: Do you tithe your income? Try tithing your time. Give God 10% of your money and 10% (2.4 hours) of your day! You'll be blessed!

Think through possible scenarios, the "what-ifs," and make practical decisions.

If persecution comes, will you stay or run? It's okay to run away (Matthew 10:23a). Paul was lowered through a window in the city wall in a large basket to avoid those who were plotting to kill him (Acts 9:25 and 2 Cor. 11:33). The two spies sent to scout out Jericho had made a similar escape hundreds of years before. Jesus himself slipped through the fingers of his enemies more than once. If persecution builds gradually, at what point will you leave? When you hear on the radio there will be a crackdown on "intolerance" and those churches, Christian daycare centers and private businesses which refuse to hire, say, homosexuals, will be fined or their leaders jailed? Or not until Gestapo-types are breaking down doors in your neighborhood at the dead of night and hauling off your Christian or Jewish neighbors in trucks?

Where would you go? Who would take you in? You may want a place that's off the beaten track, with someone who is under the radar. Do you know of one?

Who could you trust? Maybe the person you trust to provide shelter for you would not be the same one you could trust to keep a secret about house churches or the location of other hiding places.

Who would make a good out-of-state contact?

If your church agrees to be registered by the government, will you stay and be registered, too? Or look to fellowship underground? Brother Yun wrote, "The government (in communist China) . . .allowed 'open, legal' churches in a bid to control Christians and to promote their own political agenda inside the churches. We see the (registered church) believers as caged birds. Yes, they are able to sing to the Lord, but their environment is controlled and their wings are clipped. They are free to sing only within the restrictions imposed on them. In the house churches we enjoy the freedom to fly around wherever God leads us and to sing from the depths of our hearts. We have been released from the cage and we never intend to return!"

If you stay, will you help hide others? If you don't, will anyone? In The Heavenly Man, Brother Yun became the most wanted man in China because he had helped form the underground church movement and knew everyone in it. Despite imprisonment, torture, isolation, threats against his family, the government couldn't break him. They didn't want to kill him because he had so much information about so many others. One day, though running for his life, he was able to sneak back home to check on his elderly parents, who were long-time, well-respected community leaders. They had just been kicked out of their house and were sitting on the curb with what was left of their worldly goods. Everyone knew and respected them, had been helped by them. But not one neighbor had the courage to risk his own safety by taking in Yun's parents, even for a night!

If so, how? Where will you hide them? Diet Eman helped hide hundreds of people in Holland during World War 2. (Remember The Diary of Anne Frank and The Hiding Place?) her book Things We Couldn't Say, is full of wisdom she gained by experience from hiding people. Some apartments had walls so thin it wasn't safe for refugees to talk out louse. Some good-hearted people insisted on taking in so many refugees that they were all endangered just by the amount of mail being delivered to that address or by the number of times passersby heard the toilet being flushed.

What if you need to communicate "danger" or "safety" to those in your house without others understanding?  Choose select code phrases or gestures to communicate certain situations to friends. Dorothy Sun's family stood a broom on the balcony whenever soldiers were in their house, to mean "Danger!" and warn other family members not to come home yet. Prisoners communicate with each other somehow. Do you know Morse code?

If you are interrogated, will you lie? Corrie and Bettie ten Boom said no. When officers came into their kitchen demanding, "Where are the Jews you are hiding?" one of them said, trembling, "Under the table." The officers were furious. They could see the table and no one was under it! They thought the women were mocking them. They left in disgust. But the truth was, under the table was a hole covered by a rug, leading into a cellar where Jews were curled up, frozen with fear. God protected them, even though the owners of the house told the truth.

On the other hand, Brother Yun said yes. He used a friend's passport to escape into Thailand. They changed the information inside but they could not change the photo. At the airport, God told Yun not to say a word until He told him to--and God never told him to. So Yun kept silent, just showing the passport to one security guard after another. Each one looked at the picture in the passport, then looked at him and protested, "This isn't you!" Yet each time, they let him through--until he was on the plane and out of the country! God protected him even though he used forged papers. Years later, a friend who had worked at that airport told Yun, "When you went through the airport, we had just installed a voice recognition device. If you had said a word, because your voice was known and police all over the country had records of it, you would have been arrested." God protected him even though he deceived the guards.

Diet Eman survived by deception, too. She spent years in a prison camp for helping Dutch Jews escape Holland. As a matter of fact, the ten Boom sisters were in the same camp for awhile and Diet saw them sharing their Bible with inmates and telling them about Jesus. From the beginning Diet determined she would just try to survive (not minister), that she would pretend she was dull-witted and that she would never let the German guards know she understood their language. She knew so much about underground churches, pastors and attendees that she would have been a mine of information for the Germans and could have inadvertently betrayed many. So she made up for herself a name, a family, and a "back story," involving a birthplace and home on a remote island so hr "facts" could not be checked out. She reviewed her lies daily to anticipate any questions prison guards might have, so she would not contradict herself or blurt out the truth under interrogation. She succeeded in convincing them of her story and they dismissed her as feeble-minded. She spent her years in prison scrubbing floors and toilets and was eventually released without having betrayed anyone.

Revoke any ungodly vows you have made because of fear. (God will bring these to your mind if you ask Him to.) I could never___________. I could bear anything but ____________. if I were ever tortured, I'd (tell them everything they'd want to know.)

Make godly vows aloud before God and the enemy that, by God's grace, you will not love your life until death (i.e., even when faced with death, Rev. 12:11).

What if you are tortured or threatened with torture unless you betray others? Determine now to be faithful to Christ and his body. Vow not to be a Judas, not to betray Christ or each other. Brother Yun vowed he would never betray a brother or sister and he never did. Of course we can't know what might happen, what the process to force betrayal might entail or how well we might handle it. But if we start now with a determination, like Brother Yun's, "never to be a Judas," I believe it will make loyalty more likely. When pressure comes is no time to struggled with or work through that decision.

The hardest theoretical question for me is, What if my loved ones' lives were at stake, especially those dependent on me or too young to understand and make their own stand for Christ? What if the choice were between them or Jesus? One woman, in her children's presence, was told they would be tortured if she didn't renounce Christ. She cried out, "No children would replace Christ!" The guard immediately turned to the children and said, "See, your mother has abandoned you! Your mother doesn't love you!" She made the right choice but her children never forgave her. No torture they could have experiences would have been as painful to them as the way she expressed God's priority over them. Mother and children survived and years later, she was able to track down her son. He wanted nothing to do with her. She had broken his heart; now he broke hers. When I told Jerry this, he suggested when confronted with this choice, the mother could have cried out something like, "Jesus, protect my children!" and thus express her allegiance to the Lord without their feeling rejected. That was comforting to me.

Settle these things now.

The Bible talks about stripping down to essentials, like a soldier does. Be ready to move out. Hold everything you own in an open hand, not a clenched fist. In order to stay focused and fit, what do you need to strip away? Gluttony? Gossip? Grudges? Laziness? If you're tied down to possessions, cut the fat. Get rid of anything weighing you down or holding you back. Keep your eyes on him and let what doesn't matter fall away.

Know that:
1. Some whom you trust will let you down. Just as lately I was grieved to hear about Franky Schaeffer's repudiation of his faith, you may someday grieve because believers you trusted and looked up to will sell out as persecution comes. Someone will lie to save his or her own skin, someone will abandon the faith, someone may betray you. We have to keep our eyes on the Lord and remind ourselves that for a Christian, everything works together for good. Brother Yun saw every beating he was given as coming from the hand of a loving Father to draw him closer and teach him something precious. We NEVER have to be prisoners of any human agency or government. If we are taken prisoner we can choose to consider ourselves, like Paul, prisoners of the Lord. Not one thing can be done to us that he does not allow for our good and his own righteous, loving and glorious purposes. To suffer for him is a privilege. We can serve him in prison as well as at home, maybe better. Like Diet Eman and Dorothy Sun, we can launder our family's clothes or launder uniforms for prison guards, scrub toilets for Jesus in our home or in a labor camp. It makes no difference, as long as we do it for him. Our bodies may be incarcerated but our spirits can still be free.

One things I learned from these books is that the body doesn't matter. It is expendable.  But the soul is not. The body is going to decay anyway. You'll get a new one. The soul which never dies is more important than our mortal lives. It is one of Jesus' many paradoxes that in order to live, we have to die to self; in order to produce fruit, we have to first be planted. We're going to die anyway, unless the Lord comes--why not have our death count for him?

Brother Yun was beaten unconscious many times and committed his spirit to God at least three times, thinking he was dying. But the spark of life within him was stronger than his body and they could not put it out. He survived 74 days, by his own choice, without food or water. You and I know--and he knew--that no one can survive that long without water, but he did! His weight dwindled to 66 pounds. He had to be carried by another prisoner to the room where he was given a daily beating. He didn't care what they did to his body as long as he did not give in to them.

2. God will not let you down. He will not abandon you. Yet do not be surprised if at some point, it feels like he has. Expect darkness. He will still be there but expect times when it doesn't feel like it. Yun went through a couple of really low periods, despite his amazing faith and resilience. At some point he (and each of the others I read about) cried out to God, "Why are you doing this? Have you forgotten me? Do you care?"

Who is sufficient for these things? But our sufficiency is of Christ. Millions of Christians throughout history have been faithful to Christ until the end of their lives despite all kinds of suffering. Read Acts 11. We can do it too. We can do this! Pray for each other. Pray for yourself. We have a host of witnesses cheering us on.

Greater is He who is in you than he who is in the world.

Your reward in heaven will be great.

"Our screen saver is filled with a series of photos that (my husband) and our son took as they hiked the Grand Canyon, about two years ago. I sit and watch it as the photos scroll by, relishing in the Majesty of our great God. And then my spirit cries for all that is about to be lost. And then I can hear Him say, 'But I will make all things news again.' And I know that what He will do on the earth will be better than the former." CF, wife, mother, grandmother, Southern California.

Next time: Provision in Persecution

Wednesday, December 17, 2008


"Bittersweet days. How exciting/frightening to be living in the midst of so many fulfilled prophecies!" RW, wife, mom, grandma, Bible teacher and artist, Southern California

Dear Brothers and Sisters,

Surrounded by wildfires, this seems a good time to discuss preparing for persecution. We need to plan ahead for the probability of persecution just as we plan ahead for the probability of natural disasters. (In the middle of the fires we also got a small earthquake!)

One friend who read my first letter on persecution said she, as a teacher, is already suffering persecution and she gave examples. Her experiences are painful and unjust and I sympathize. But when I speak of persecution I'm including something systematic and organized, government policy (or mob/vigilante groups), carried out by soldiers or police. Something like Poland and other European countries experienced under the Third Reich.

The Religious Liberty Commission has issued four Persecution Categories:

Level 1. "Life can be difficult for Christian minorities and harsh for converts." In places where human rights are poor and Christians are a minority, but where politics is secular or relatively progressive and religion is largely nominal, life can be difficult but not severely or pervasively. We're already starting to feel this in America. This is the environment, for instance, in which my friend the teacher lives. Public schools are a secular place. She as a Christian--and a white person--is a minority in Southern California and is suffering accusations from other minorities who feel denigrated or insulted when no slight is intended on her part. This (Level1) is the world in which many ethnic minorities, especially African-Americans, have lived since this country was founded and of course at times the level of persecution has been much higher. (Of course no one can "convert" to an ethnic minority. I suppose there are some who would like to "convert" out of one.) Republicans have experienced Level 1 persecution recently and they, in turn, have scrambled to distance themselves from George W. Bush to save themselves from more of it. (Poor W! History will show he did more good than he's getting credit for at the moment.) Homosexuals suffer as a minority. Although it is not a legitimate minority according to the Bible, there is no excuse for the slurs, jeers and physical assaults some "Christians" have subjected them to.

Level 2. "Christian minorities suffer systematic discrimination and persecution." This is one degree worse than the above category, usually because religion and politics are more entwined and religion is less nominal.

Level 3. "Persecution of Christian minorities is pervasive and severe."

Level 4. "Historically Christian ethnic minorities at risk of genocide." The Commission cites Iraq, Kosovo (Serbia), Northern Laos and Papua (Indonesia) as being at this level. Pockets of certain countries may be at different levels; levels of persecution in some parts of China and India are much higher than in others. Sometimes a country gradually moves from Level 1 to higher levels--or the reverse. Sometimes, as in Europe under Hitler, China under Mao Zedong, Cambodia under Pol Pot, persecution may start with Level 4.
Let us assume that under the "change" promised (or threatened) by President-Elect Obama, we "intolerant" Bible-believing Christians will continue to be subjected to increasing heat and pressure as we have been until now, like lobsters--only at an accelerated pace.

How do we prepare for gradually accelerated persecution?

Just like preparing for a natural emergency, start with a First Aid kit, a cell phone, a radio with plenty of batteries, money, an escape plan. (One 18-year old Westmont College student escaped the flames which devoured eight buildings on campus a few days ago with only "a laptop, a phone, a Teddy bear and a debit card." That sounds like a good balance!) Persecution may involve being denied some of the resources we are used to or some which will still be available to others but no longer available to Christians.

For instance one of these days, the Bible says, we will not be allowed to buy or sell without the "mark of the beast" on our hands and/or foreheads. Americans are already used to having our hands stamped at amusement parks but this will apparently be a more permanent and more personalized mark. Many of our pets already have something similar inserted under their skins so they can't get lost. The "mark" may have our name, address, phone, family, religion, church, pastor, health history, economic history--if I'm not mistaken, one of the books I read said this information is already on identification cards in China which every citizen is required to carry with him at all times.

Once considered outrageous and "sci fi," we have been easing into a society, through credit and debit cards, where implanting this information in our bodies will seem the logical next step. Not only does our own personal bank know practically every financial move we make, already keeps a record of every book we buy from them and Ralph's market knows every item of food we buy. It would behoove all of us now to pull back on our credit and debit card use, if we can, to get unentangled from dependency on them and to eliminate some of the paper trail. We personally are as high profile as any of you in this.

REMINDER: If the government ever requires a permanent mark on our bodies, DO NOT GET THIS MARK! Enough said, for now.

Okay. Long-range planning.

Soak. Get into God's word as you would into a Jacuzzi after a hard day. Memorize it for a future when Bibles may be forbidden or confiscated and memory may be all you have. If you have trouble memorizing, just read over and over, feed on, passages about the attributes of God, his power, his love and mercy, his sufficiency. His commands. His promises. Read psalms offering strength and hope. Read and sing spiritually nourishing hymns. You will be stocking your mind with food the Holy Spirit can draw forth when you are spiritually hungry.

(Note: A reader recommended a site (click on word highlighted in blue) in response to our recommendation to "soak" in the Word.)

Yoke. "Take My yoke upon you and learn from me. . . for My yoke is easy and My burden is light." Of all the "horses in the stable," we have been chosen to be yoked up with the only one who can really do this job! We're just petted children's ponies or old, tired-out nags. Why would HE want to be yoked up with US? What do we have to offer? But that's his invitation. "Get into harness with me. We'll do this together. I'll be right alongside you. I'll do all the work, hold you up and keep you going. And we get to spend time together! I'll make you lie down in green pastures. I'll lead you beside quiet waters. I'll restore your soul . . .I'll feed you in the presence of your enemies!" All this, while we are being fired at!

Rick Joyner, in The Final Quest, has a wonderful picture of how we can simultaneously be under active attack by the enemy and walking quietly in the garden with Jesus. Brother Yun, in The Heavenly Man, who was systematically starved, beaten and tortured with electric cattle prods over a period of years, had such precious times in the Lord's presence and with other believers while in prison that when he was released, he said he wished he were back there because he missed them.

Thank. Thank him for all that you have and thank him that if you lose it all, you will still have him.

Listen. "The Bible says, "My sheep hear my voice and they follow me." But it also says it is a "still, small voice." So we have to be still to hear it and we have to practice listening for it. Sin can block his voice--pride, conceit, arrogance. Fear (part of me has huge fear at the very thought of persecution). Anger. Self-condemnation. Deal with those, then try again. Learn to ask one question at a time and listen until you sense an answer. (As I was developing this skill, I sometimes asked a lot of questions at once and there would be silence. I realized God was waiting for me to back up and pick one.) Eventually we will be able to recognize God's voice from the enemy's.

For instance, the enemy condemns. God's Spirit convicts. Condemnation is a sickening cloud of self-blame, shame and depression, pressing down, hard to shake off. The condemnation of the enemy can come into our minds in the first, second or third person: "I'm bad, it's my fault, I deserve to be punished," "You're bad--" or "She's bad--." from lies we believe which he stirs up and pokes us with. Condemnation is never from God. "There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus."

The Spirit's conviction is clean and sharp as the thrust of a sword. It's the "wound of a brother." Conviction is specific and calls for specific repentance. Then it's gone.

A great deal of the psychological torment of persecution is accusation and condemnation. We need to learn to keep our shield up and let these things shoot on past us, not take them in. Satan is the accuser of the brethren. He is out to kill, steal and destroy. And he doesn't play fair; he kicks us when we're down. So we need to learn not to take his accusations seriously, not to debate him or defend ourselves and not to beat ourselves up for him, using his weapons. We can be condemned by the enemy and still be undergirded with the peace of a clear conscience.

God often speaks to his people in persecution. He can be very specific. He told Joseph, "Get up! Take the child and his mother and flee to Egypt, and remain there until I tell you; for Herod is going to search for the child to destroy him." When a judge sentenced Freddie Sun to 15 years in prison, the Lord told him he'd be out in five (and he was). The Lord warned Brother Yun, China's most wanted man at the time, as he was trying to escape the country, "When you enter the customs hall at the airport, say only what I instruct you to say." Yun got out of China safely--with an obviously forged passport. (Customs officers pointed out indignantly that the photo in the passport was of some other man who looked nothing like Yun! He just kept silent and the officers waved him through!)

Talk. Talk to God. (Prepare by pre-prayer!) Develop the habit of spending time with him, a relationship in which you can be honest with him even when you're angry or in despair. If you ever end up in prison or a slave labor camp for your faith, you'll find it helps. Find a psalm that expresses what you're feeling and read it to him. Pray for those who are already being persecuted around the world and for us, when it becomes our turn. Here are suggested ways to pray:

Pray God will raise up more leaders within the persecuted church and supply courage, strength and boldness for all the believers.

Pray the Gospel will continue to bear fruit in the nations officially closed to Christianity.

Pray for imprisoned Christians to sense the presence and comfort of the Holy Spirit, to count it an honor to follow in the Savior's steps, to be able to count their suffering all joy and see it as light affliction in comparison to the weight of glory to follow.

Pray for Christians who are beaten and tortured, that the physical violence and psychological torture will stop "not a minute sooner or later than God wants it to,"* and their bodies, minds, spirits and memories will be healed. Pray these brothers and sisters, like Jesus and Stephen, will forgive their tormenters.

Pray God will provide for families of those taken away and alleviate their worry for each other. Pray they too will forgive. Keep families and friends from betraying each other. Give Christians discernment to know whom to trust. Pray God will provide for all who have lost homes, farms, food, sources of water, income in ways that show them His fingerprints and remove fear from all who are threatened with loss or pain.

In Safely Home, a novel by Randy Alcorn, two former college roommates meet again after twenty years. Li Quan has returned to China where he is undergoing severe persecution. His American friend Ben Fielding visits him in prison and asks, "When I go home, Quan, what do you want me to tell people?"
Quan replies, "Tell them if they wish to help, send us Bibles. And pray for us. Pray that those witnessing our suffering will see that Zhu Yesu (Jesus Christ) must be real in order to sustain us. Pray that the rotten prison food will actually taste good to us. He has performed this miracle for me many times. Pray that the rags we prisoners wear in winter will keep us warm. Pray that the beatings and torture will not weaken us, but strengthen us in our faith. And that the enemy will not overcome us and our families with despair and discouragement. Pray that the prisons all across China will become centers of revival, and that Christians in registered churches will be bold, and that house churches will be invisible to the police but visible to everyone else. Pray that our sons and daughters will not be ashamed of their fathers and mothers in prison."

*Brother Yun, whose story is told in The Heavenly Man, writes, "I knew I'd be released from prison as soon as my ministry in that place was completed, not a minute sooner and not a minute later. . . The first time I went to prison I struggled, wondering why God had allowed it. Slowly I began to understand he had a deeper purpose for me than just working for him. He wanted to know me, and I to know him, deeply and intimately. He knew the best way to get my attention for a while was to give me rest behind bars.

"Whenever I hear a house church Christian has been imprisoned for Christ in China I don't advise people to pray for his or her release unless the Lord clearly reveals we should pray this way.

"Before a chicken is hatched it is vital it is kept in the warm protection of the shell for 21 days. If you take the chick out of that environment one day too early, it will die. Similarly, ducks need to remain confined in their shell for 28 days before they are hatched. If you take a duck out on the 27th day, it will die.

"There is always a purpose behind why God allows his children to go to prison. Perhaps it's so they can witness to the other prisoners, or perhaps God wants to develop more character in their lives. But if we use our own efforts to get them out of prison earlier than God intended, we can thwart his plans, and the believers may come out not as fully formed as God wanted them to be. . .

"Christians in China appreciate whenever believers around the world try to help them during times of imprisonment or persecution, but all efforts to help need to be bathed in prayer and rooted in God's will, otherwise it only seems to make things worse.

"The world can do nothing to a Christian who has no fear of man."

Yes, the thought of persecution is scary. It involves the unknown. It means having control taken out of our hands. Like the apostle Peter in his old age, it may involve "being taken where we don't want to go." It means injustice. It means being misunderstood. It may involve being falsely accused, with no way to clear our record. It may mean loneliness. It may involve pain.

But it also means we will be "following in His steps." It means knowing him on a deeper level through participating in his suffering. It means appreciating more what he did for us. It means being drawn into mystical union with the saints listed in Hebrews 11, some of whom were miraculously delivered, others who were only delivered through death. It means having that fellowship of faithful ones, from those murdered in the Colosseum of Rome to those who were martyred in Indonesia yesterday, watching and cheering us on from the heavenlies, eager to welcome us home when we've run our course.

Persecution may not kill us. All those I have been reading about--Diet Eman, Freddie Sun, Dorothy Sun, Brother Yun, Vek Huong Taing, Gracia Burnham--survived brutal persecution decades ago and are alive, thriving and active in ministry today.

Again, "The world can do nothing to a Christian who has no fear of man!"

"All we can do is pray like never before now. To be honest I believe very shortly the church in America will be thriving. From history we see the true church really shine when they are persecuted. Once this persecution starts in earnest everyone's prayer life will improve. God bless you richly." HB, husband, father and concert pianist, Illinois

"There is an intimacy with God we can anticipate and look forward to in suffering that those without God can never know. In all honesty, despite the grief I have for the worldly civilization we have lost, I am excited to know that God is going to draw His people out of their spoiled, selfish and childish ways into intimate fellowship with Him. I am strangely anxious with anticipation for the great works He will do in my heart and the hearts of my family through the path He will lead us. It is almost like Christmas. I know there are blessings in what is to come and I can't wait to open them!! No matter what happens I know that my God is good, He draws me ever nearer to Himself and His hand of protection is invincible." KT, wife, mother of three, Oregon

I see I'll have to save practical preparation for next time. . .

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

PREPARING FOR PERSECUTION - 1 (Post-election balance and the future)

Dear sisters and brothers,

Republicans, conservatives, Christian journalists and talk show hosts are weighing in on why Barack Obama won the (2008) election when we prayed so ardently that he wouldn't. One well-known pastor who prophesied that Sarah Palin would be the 44th Vice President, rather than admitting, "I was wrong and therefore I fail the Biblical test for a prophet," implied there hadn't been enough prayer, enabling the devil to thwart God's will. Another said, "We did 'give it our all'. . . Tragically, it ended in defeat."

Beloved ones, nobody thwarts God's will and He is never defeated (Job 42:2). Things are never out of His control for a nano-second. I'm sure as the disciples stood at the foot of the cross gazing through wet eyes at the body of Jesus, they said, "This wasn't supposed to happen! We didn't pray enough! The devil won!" To those with ears to hear, God just said, Wait. I'm not through yet!

Out of the "tragic defeat," God provided our salvation!

Our goal in praying about this election may have been to win justice for the unborn and call this nation back to morality. Those are good goals but they are earth-centered thinking. We are not earthly people. We are heavenly people. God's goals are infinitely higher. He has revealed a few of them to us in His word: He is calling out of darkness into light a people for His name and conforming these people to the image of His son. He is making us one--all believers in Jesus Christ, from whatever denomination and church--as the Father and Son are one. He is making distinctions clearer between the righteous and the unrighteous. He is putting into place all the elements which will bring about the "fullness of time" for His return. He is exalting and glorifying His word and His name. God could have used either candidate to accomplish His purposes. He can work through McCain's patriotism or Obama's radicalism. He can use peace and prosperity or persecution.

Like many of you, I prayed that God in His mercy might give us, the body of Christ, a reprieve, another chance to be about our Father's business, by keeping Barack Obama out of the White House. I sense darkness coming over America and I am convinced an Obama administration will greatly speed this process. But God raises up kings and pulls them down. I expect the man God has raised up will be His more painful discipline for us than McCain would have been, but if this is the means by which He can get us back on track and purify us individually and as a people, we say Hallelujah! As American Christians, it is our duty before God to honor and pray for this man and obey all the laws under his administration which do not conflict with the laws of God.

Please listen to John Piper's Heart in the 2008 Election on YouTube, which, though taped before the election, gives a needed perspective for those of us who were stunned, angry, fearful or depressed by its outcome. This puts our focus (back) where it should be. Many of us got caught up in and were really emotionally invested in this campaign. I kept having my own focus distracted and having to bring it back, again and again, to the reality of God's sovereignty and goodness. One thing God was doing as the election approached was waking us up--me, at least--to the freedoms we have taken for granted and how close we may be to losing them. I am already grieving their loss. This may be one of the last elections the United States ever has. God is waking us up to our gross abuse of His blessings, our self-indulgence, our pettiness.

But the battle did not "end in defeat" because this isn't the end. On the other hand, Biblically speaking, it may be the beginning of the end. This means, as my husband points out, that the coming of Jesus may be even nearer than we thought. When he prays before each meal, Jerry now adds, "Come, Lord Jesus!"

We are still to be about our Father's business as we prepare for His son's second coming.

We need to:     Wake Up    Grow Up   Stand Up     Look Up

We need to sweep out the idols in our personal lives and put God first.

We need to get back to basics, back to the Bible.

We need to listen.

We need to obey.

We need to get serious about prayer and spiritual warfare.

We need to see beyond ourselves.

We need to get our priorities right--time, money, possessions, use of resources--in light of this needy world.

We need to be grateful.

That's where I'm starting personally. I am re-committing myself to God's priorities, which are the same whoever is in power here on earth. I have peace about this.

There is more I want to share but I am going to cut it up into separate posts. Bear with me if you will. Some of this may not be for now but tuck it away until a day when it becomes applicable.

Sunday, November 9, 2008


Jesus said we would not know the day of His coming but we would recognize the "season" by the signs leading up to it. Like a jigsaw puzzle, it takes a long time to find where the first pieces go but as the puzzle gets closer and closer to completion, the pieces start to fit in faster. That's what we sense happening. The Lord's return is near!

Here is a transcript of a DVD listing 50 of those signs which have already been fulfilled.

by Dr. David R. Reagan,
Founder and Director, Lamb and Lion Ministries

"Signs of the Times" refers to Biblical prophecies predicting the "last days" or "end times" when Jesus Christ will come again.
     In the early '90s a pastor named Elbert Peake gave a message in which he said, "Sixty years ago when I began preaching, you had to scratch like a chicken to come up with two signs pointing to the return of Jesus Christ. There was not one single objective, measurable sign that Jesus Christ was coming soon. But I am no longer looking for signs. I am listening for a sound--the sound of a trumpet."
     Today there are a great number and variety of signs pointing to Christ's return. The first sign occurred on November 2, 1917. At the end of World War I the Ottoman Empire was carved up and Palestine (what is Israel and Jordan today) was given to Great Britain. On November 2, 1917, in the Balfour Declaration, the British government stated, "His Majesty views with favour the establishment in Palestine of a national home for the Jewish people." As a result of World War I, God prepared a land for His people, the Jews.
     F.B. Meyer, the leading evangelical pastor and evangelist of that time, immediately recognized the significance of the Balfour Declaration. He sent a letter to all the evangelical pastors in England, calling them to London for a meeting, saying, "The signs of the times point toward the close of the times of the Gentiles and the return of Jesus can be expected at any moment."
     Even before that meeting took place, the second sign occurred. On December 11, 1917, Gen. Allenby led the liberation of Jerusalem, taking the city without firing a shot. He had brought a biplane in a crate which he assembled to fly over Jerusalem, dropping leaflets demanding the surrender of Jerusalem in his own name.  The Arabs who occupied the city saw an airplane for the first time (which they thought was a bird) circling over their city, dropping leaflets that demanded their surrender to "Allenby" (in Arabic, literally, "the Son of God") and they panicked and ran away. Allenby chose to dismount from his white horse at the Jaffa Gate and walk into the city. Knowing the Bible, he declared, "There is only one General who is going to ride into this city on a white horse and that's the Lord Jesus Christ!" The Bible says that the Jews will be regathered from the ends of the earth, the north, south, east and west, and when they are in their own land, the Messiah will come.
     Since then, there have been 50 prophecies fulfilled that show we are living in the last days. There are so many and such a variety that I have grouped them into six categories:

1. Signs of Nature
    Luke chapter 21, verse 11 says in the last days there will be earthquakes, plagues, famines. We feel, "So what else is new?" But Matthew 24:8 points out that these are "birth pangs" and, like a mother's labor pains, they will increase in frequency and intensity. Between October '91 and November '04 the United States had 9 of the 10 largest natural disasters in its history, 3 of the 4 largest tornado swarms in U.S. history, as ranked by FEMA--and that was before Katrina!  

2. Signs of Society
    2 Timothy 3:1-5 says the last days will be just like the days right before the "days of Noah" and the flood. People will be lovers of self, lovers of money, boastful, arrogant, revilers, disobedient to parents, ungrateful, unholy. Humanism will be the religion, people's god will be money and their lifestyle hedonism. The result is despair. That is what we see around us. We are sliding into abortion, homosexuality, gambling, alcoholism, drug abuse, same-sex marriage, domestic violence, child molestation, school shootings.

3. Spiritual Signs
    Negative signs: false Christs, cultic groups, skepticism,deception, occultism, heresy, apostasy, persecution. Jesus said three times to watch out for cults. Mormons and Jehovah's Witnesses began in the 19th century. There was an explosion of cults in the 20th century. There are now over 1,200 cults in the U.S. alone, masquerading as Christian, quoting the Bible. David Koresh. Jim Jones. A man named Dr. Jose Luis de Jesus Miranda of Puerto Rico claims to be Jesus Christ. He has over 30 devotional centers and teaches that there is no devil, no sin. His gospel is "just enjoy life."
     Positive signs:
     --An outpouring of the Holy Spirit. Israel has "early rains" in the fall and "latter rains" in the spring. Spiritually, according to the Bible, the early rains were at Pentecost. The latter rains Joel 2 speaks of were to happen "when Israel is back in the land." It prophesies an outpouring of the Spirit in dreams and visions. One year after the Jews were back in the land, there was a visible manifestation of the Holy Spirit. In May 1949, Billy Graham began preaching the gospel in a circus tent in Los Angeles. Within one week, his face was on the cover of TIME, LOOK, etc. More people have now heard the gospel through Billy Graham's preaching than had heard it in all of history. Five billion have seen the Jesus film. The atmosphere of this planet is now saturated with the name of Jesus.
     Up until the beginning of the 20th century, all Christians--Catholics and Protestants--believed in cessationism, that when the last apostle died, the Holy Spirit went into retirement, the manifestation and gifts of the Spirit died out. But now we are seeing a new outpouring of the Spirit and every church believes the Holy Spirit is alive and well, indwelling believers and giving them spiritual gifts. First there were the Pentecostals, then the Charismatics and then the Third Wave when the Holy Spirit and his gifts were manifested in mainline churches.
     --Another positive sign is the revival of Davidic Praise Worship (started in Jerusalem in 1980).
     --The development of Messianic Judaism in 1967, immediately following the 6-day war. Young Jews are turning to Christ. Orthodox Jews know the prophecies of the Scriptures and are expecting their Messiah to come. They are not going to be surprised by the coming of the Messiah but they will be surprised by his identity. There is a refocusing of attention on Jerusalem and there will be a final war over the control of Jerusalem. In 1967 there was not one Messianic congregation (groups of Jews who believe Jesus is their Messiah/Christ) in Israel. Today there are more than 500 in the world, more than 40 in Israel alone. One and a half million Jews have come to Jesus since 1967.
     --Understanding of Bible prophecy in books like Daniel, Isaiah, Jeremiah. When the prophets wrote down the prophecies God gave them, some of them admitted that they didn't understand what they were writing. When they asked God to explain the prophecies to them, God told them, "These are not for you to understand. They are for the end times. When the time comes to understand them, the people of that day will understand."
     We are understanding prophecies now we've never understood--never could have understood--before. In 1909 the first Study Bible came out, the Schofield Study Bible. When Dr. Schofield wrote the notes about Ezekiel chapters 37, 38 and 39, he admitted, "I don't understand these passages. This says in the end times Russia will invade Israel." At that time Israel didn't exist and Russia was an Orthodox Christian nation. "But this will happen, because the Bible says so."
     In 1970 Hal Lindsey's book about prohecy, The Late, Great Planet Earth, became the #1 best-selling book (next to the Bible) and stayed #1 for ten years.

4. Signs of World Politics
    The Bible says there has to be a certain configuration of world politics in the end times. For the first time we see this pattern in place:
       --The threat of Islam, which will covet and try to take the land of Israel.
       --Re-establishment of the Roman Empire, as attempted by Napoleon, Hitler, Stalin. They never succeeded. It wasn't until a French businessman said, "There's no hope for an international empire unless we drop our national hatreds and replace them with an economic union, a common currency, a universal court"  that the configuration started to come together for a world government and world economy, in which the Anti-Christ will be revealed and Christ will return.
      --Threat of Eastern nations.

5. Signs of Technology
    These are signs no one ever understood before because technology didn't exist. But we understand them now, easily. For instance, one thing the Anti-Christ will do is kill God's two witnesses in Jerusalem (Revelation 11). The world will hate them and when they are killed, everyone will celebrate and exchange gifts. The bodies of the witnesses will lie 3-1/2 days on the streets of Jerusalem. Then the whole world will see God bring those two witnesses back to life and take them to heaven. How can the whole world see this? Since the 1960s, when satellites and TV were invented, it's easy to understand how.
     In September, '56, there were 17,500 students at the University of Texas--and only 5 of them were taking Russian. In January '58, 5000 students signed up for Russian. What had changed? Sputnik, in October '57. TV and satellite technology, nuclear weapons, computer technology, robotics enable us to understand the Bible.

6. Signs of Israel
    This sign is more important than all the rest. Israel is God's prophetic time clock. In the Olivet discourse there are four key prophecies:
         a. Israel will b regathered in unbelief, Isaiah 11:11-12. In 1900 there were 40,000 Jews in Israel. In 1945, there were 800,000. Today there are 6.1 million. There are now more Jews in Israel than in the U.S.
         b. The re-establishment of the state of Israel, Isaiah 66:7-8. The re-establishment of the nation of Israel is the cornerstone of end-time prophecy. The Bible says the state will be born before the birth pangs. How can that be? But it was. On May 14, 1948, David Ben-Gurion declared the birth of the state of Israel. The next day, the labor pains began with the six-day war and they will continue until Christ returns.
         c. The re-occupation of Jerusalem, Zecharaiah 8:4-8. On June 7, 1967, the Jews re-occupied Jerusalem and Rabbi Shlomo Goren, holding a shofar and a Torah, said, "I proclaim to you the beginning of the Messianic Age."
         d. Re-focusing of world politics on Jerusalem, Zechariah 12:2-3. Jesus said, Watch Jerusalem. When the Jews re-occupy Jerusalem, I'm coming back!

50 Reasons Why We are Living in the End Times

1. Increasing instability of nature, Gospel of Luke, chapter  21, verse11
2. Increasing lawlessness and violence, Matthew 24:12
3. Increasing immorality, Matthew 24:37
4. Increasing materialism, 2 Timothy 3:2
5. Increasing hedonism, 2 Timothy 3:4
6. Increasing influence of humanism, 2 Timothy 3:2
7. Depraved entertainment, 2 Timothy 3:4
8. Calling evil good and good evil, 2 Timothy 3:3
9. Increasing use of drugs, 2 Timothy 3:3
10. Increasing blasphemy, 2 Timothy 3:2
11. Increasing paganism, 2 Timothy 3:1-4
12. Increasing despair, 2 Timothy 3:1
13. Increasing knowledge, Daniel 12:4
14. Increasing travel, Daniel 12:4
15. Signs in the heavens, Luke 21:11 and 25
16. Explosion of cults, Matthew 24:11
17. Proliferation of false Christs, Matthew 24:5
18. Increasing apostasy in the church, 2 Timothy 4:3-5
19. Increasing attacks on Jesus, Romans 1:18
20. Increasing attacks on Bible, Romans 1:18
21. Increasing persecution of Christians, Matthew 24:9
22. Increasing occultism, I Timothy 4:1
23.Wars and rumors of wars, Matthew 24:6
24. Weapons of mass destruction, Luke 21:26
25. Computer technology, Revelation 13:7
26. TV, Revelation 11:8-9
27. Satellite technology, Revelation 13:7
28. Virtual reality, Revelation 13:14-15
29. Medical technology, Revelation 9:16
30. Population explosion, Revelation 9:16
31. Unification of Europe, Daniel 2, 7
32. Far Eastern military powers
33. Movement toward world government
34. Regathering of the Jews, Isaiah 11:10-12

35. Re-establishment of the State of Israel, Isaiah 66:7-8
36. Reclamation of the land of Israel, Ezekiel 36:34-35
37. Revival of Biblical Hebrew, Zephaniah 3:6
38. Re-occupation of Jerusalem, Luke 21:24
39. Resurgence of Israeli military, Zechariah 12:6
40. Re-focusing of world politics on Jerusalem, Zechariah 12:3
41. Russian threat to Israel, Ezekiel 38 and 39
42. Arab threat to Israel, Ezekiel 35 and 36
43. Denial of Second Coming, 2 Peter 3:3-4
44. Denial of creation by God, Romans 1:18-22
45. Outpouring of Holy Spirit, Joel 2:28-29
46. Translation of Bible into many languages, Matthew 24:14
47. Preaching gospel worldwide, Matthew 24:14
48. Establishment of Messianic Judaism, Isaiah 40:3-5
49. Revival of Davidic worship, Amos 9:11
50. The understanding of Bible prophecy, Daniel 12:8-9

Saturday, November 8, 2008


NOTE: Tomorrow, November 9, is the International Day of Prayer for the Persecuted Church. Pray for American Christians, too, that when we become part of the Persecuted Church, we will be faithful, bold and filled with joy.

Dear Brothers and Sisters,

A few weeks ago, a friend had me listen to a CD by Dr. David R. Reagan of Lamb and Lion Ministries, speaking on "50 Reasons Why We Are Living in the End Times." Ever since I attended Multnomah Bible College over 40 years ago, I have heard many people talk about our being in the last days but the evidence then never convinced me. This did.

Dr. Reagan organizes the Signs of the Times that point to the Lord's return into six categories: the signs of Nature, Society, Religion, World Politics, Technology, and Israel. The first of these signs was fulfilled by the birth of the state of Israel. Some of these signs were recorded by prophets who did not understand what they meant. But God told them, "The people to whom they happen will understand!" And sure enough, signs such as the ability of everyone in the world to see the death of the two witnesses in Jerusalem during the coming Tribulation are no mystery to us, living as we do in the era of satellite TV! You can order this CD for $12 at 50 Reasons.

I don't think it is coincidence that hard on the heels of that DVD, through two strangers and two friends on three different days, God put four books into my hands, all written by Christians who have suffered persecution, a subject I have feared and normally try to avoid. The books were Things We Couldn't Say by Diet Eman, The Man in the Fiery Furnace by Freddie Sun, Clay in the Potter's Hands by Dorothy Sun and The Heavenly Man by Brother Yun. Though I have many other books to read, I was drawn to read these first. Things We Couldn't Say is written by a woman who helped organize the Dutch underground in World War II. The other three are written by Chinese Christians who developed the underground house churches in China. These saints each suffered severe decades-long imprisonment, unrelenting hard labor and excruciating torture and deprivation under Mao Zedong throughout the so-called "cultural revolution," which was really a reign of terror and societal and cultural devastation.

I think the results of our recent election may mean we are on the cusp of the Great Tribulation and we Christians should prepare to go through it. God took each of the saints in these books through a time of tribulation; he did not remove them from it. If our pre-Tribulation theology is wrong (I'm "pre-Trib" but as Dr. David Hocking says, I can change my theology fast if the Tribulation starts and we're still here!) in a few years we may face real persecution for the first time. These books made me visualize what might lie in America's future under an Obama administration, even leading ultimately to a police state, with Christians and Jews having to go underground for their lives. I could see it! I could feel it!

I identify with C.S. Lewis, who wrote, in his Preface to The Problem of Pain, "I have never for one moment been in a state of mind to which even the imagination of serious pain was less than intolerable." It was, is, like standing on the high dive realizing it may be my turn now, my turn to be ridiculed, demeaned, accused, attacked, tortured. Over these past weeks I have found myself, in my daily prayers for the persecuted church around the world, starting to pray not just for them but for us: "Lord, make US faithful, give US boldness, keep US from betraying You or each other." I hope never to forget how that feels no matter what happens in this new administration. I hope to use whatever freedom remains to me to share Christ more boldly every single day.

I think the stage is set and everything is coming together for the appearance of the anti-Christ. President-elect Obama has the charisma, eloquence, agenda and profile consistent with someone who could become the anti-Christ. (Perhaps even the psychological profile.) I am not saying Obama is the anti-Christ but for the first time I can see clearly how someone like him will be exalted to a position of world-wide prominence--and Biblically, the time seems ripe. Obama is getting the uncritical respect, adoration and even worship of people around the globe. Front page headlines in major newspapers around the world greeted Obama's victory in our country as if it were their own. In his DVD on signs of the end times Dr. Reagan says all it would take to fulfill the Biblical prophecy of an international economic union would be for one man to replace the committee which now heads the European Union.

We all have friends who refused to see the disturbing facts about Obama's background, associations, beliefs and voting record, who insisted on voting for him regardless. They see him as bigger than life, almost divine. Don't these people seem bewitched? Have you read Frank Schaeffer's rave review of Obama? (If not, I can forward it to you.) He's the son of Francis Schaeffer who founded L'Abri and decades ago Franky led the Protestant pro-life movement. Now he's championing, idolizing a man who stands for abortion for any reason through all nine months of pregnancy and even beyond--but he's willing to ignore that in Obama! The devil certainly seems to have sown the prophesied "strong delusion" in millions of minds. Not only Black Muslim leader Louis Farrakhan calls Obama the "Messiah." Many Americans do, too. Is Obama the Messiah? Even if Obama is not Muslim, if his ethnic heritage is derived from Abraham through Ishmael, he would be eligible to be the Muslims' expected Messiah, our anti-Christ. The Left Behind books could become contemporary reality sooner than we know.
     Stay alert. If intolerance for Biblical values keeps growing and more and more pressure is exerted on Christians and Jews to tolerate what the Bible does not tolerate, when every other faith unites and merges into one world religion and we still hold to Jesus as the only way to God, expect persecution. If Obama is able to end poverty and bring about peace with terrorists and nations militant to us, if he begins to perform miracle-like acts which bring him almost universal awe and reverence, brace for persecution. If he then turns against Israel and is invited to expand his power over other countries, bringing about one world government, persecution will follow! "For you have been called for this purpose, since Christ also suffered for you, leaving you an example for you to follow in His steps" and "Beloved, do not be surprised at the fiery ordeal among you, which comes upon you for your testing, as though some strange thing were happening to you. . ." (I Peter 2:21, 4:12). God has long delayed America's participation in the persecution many of the world's Christians are experiencing. I believe this delay is about to end.
     The four books I mentioned read like Richard Wurmbrand's experiences in Tortured for Christ but I have come away from reading each one not with a gloom and heaviness over the atrocities they suffered but with amazement and relief, knowing that Christians, just normal, weak, scared Christians like I feel myself to be, CAN endure to the end, staying faithful to the Lord and that He WILL be sufficient! If the worst comes to worst from our perspective, it will just be a way God can draw us closer to Him and to the rest of the Body, teaching us more about Himself. Suffering really can be a means of blessing and cause for joy! Look at how often the Bible connects suffering with joy! In the meantime, I am dedicating myself to appreciating the freedoms we still have (though being more aware we could lose them almost overnight!) and taking advantage of them to share Christ in every way I can.
     In the letter or two to follow, I hope to share practical suggestions, culled from survivors of and victors over persecution, on how to prepare for it, including what could make you more vulnerable, what to avoid. I also want to send examples of God's grace under persecution and how persecution can bring joy.

May we be lights in the coming darkness! May God sweep across this country with a mighty revival!