Category Archives: Apologetics

Sobering

In few countries is the failure of Christian humanism more apparent than in Thailand. There, after 150 years of missionaries showing marvelous social compassion, Christians still make up only two percent of the entire population. Self-sacrificing missionaries probably have done more to modernize the country than any other single force. Thailand owes to missionaries its widespread literacy, first printing press, first university, first hospital, first doctor, and almost every other benefit of education and science. In every area, including trade and diplomacy, Christian missionaries put the needs of the host nation first and helped usher in the 20th century. Meanwhile, millions have slipped into eternity without the Lord. They died more educated, better governed, and healthier—but they died without Christ and are bound for Hell.
– K.P. Yohannan

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Christians, buck up!

Bamboo- the more you cut it, the more it grows.

As I have traveled and talked with a lot of people in the first of my worlds during the last couple of months, many have expressed concern over the way things are going in this country, not just politically and economically but more specifically they find a growing intolerance of the Christian faith. Many feel fearful thinking about what may lie ahead. But today I was challenged that we need to buck up, because we serve a mighty God who is perfectly capable of providing for His own.

Today in Sunday school there was a guy from China speaking. He was apparently raised as an atheist as most Chinese are now days. He said he enjoyed reading western literature (for college?). He noticed there were a lot of quotes from the Bible and references to Jesus in the  literature he was reading. He became curious about the Bible and wanted to get a copy to read. But they had been destroyed during the cultural revolution of 1967-77 and he couldn’t even find a copy in the library. Eventually he did get ahold of an old beat up Bible from a friend, one which had survived the cultural revolution. He read it and began to wonder if maybe there really was a God. He then came in contact with some Christians in one of the Three-Selves church (the gov’t official church) and he became a Christian. A few years later he went to seminary, a Three Selves (3S) church seminary in Nanjing and also studied abroad. Later he became a professor at a seminary and taught for nearly a decade.

There are two kinds of churches in China, the official government sponsored 3S Church (about 15 million people) and the house churches (about 60-70 million). The 3S stands for Self-governing, Self-supporting, Self-propagating. It sounds good but the problem is that it is controlled by communism.

He said that on the surface the 3S church may look to Amerian tourists to be “free” and very similar to American churches with choirs, etc. But the difference is that the 3S churches are government controlled. The government decides who can attend seminary and who can be ordained and even who can be baptized. He said that in the 1990’s came what is called the “reconstruction of theology” movement in the 3S seminaries. It basically changed two things 1) justification by faith and 2) authority of Scripture.

According to this movement, all religions must be compatible with socialist society, and must not be exclusive. So instead of preaching that mankind is sinners and needs to be justified by faith they must preach that the important thing is to be nice to other people. In essence they created a new doctrine: man is justified by love.

The other thing is that they would teach that the Bible is just human words. They are not allowed to preach from Revelation or about the judgment, and not too much about sin.

Anything sounding familiar? It struck me as he talked that perhaps that is where this country is also going – to a centrally controlled or government controlled church, dictating what can and cannot be preached, moving towards a theology of justification by “love” with ridicule, harassment and possibly even persecution for those who do not conform or who believe the Bible is God’s authoratative Word.

He said that he realized that teaching went against the clear teaching of the Bible and eventually he decided that he had to stay true to Scripture and leave the 3S church, and his job. He began meeting in his house with 4 other believers. Eventually they were cramming 60-70 people into their small living room! They divided and became two and those two also eventually divided until now there are 13. He said they focus on Bible training, worship and prayer. They don’t have buildings and they don’t have complex structure.

He also told me later that because of his Hebrew and Greek background he is helping with the new Chinese Standard Bible translation that is being done in simplified Mandarin. The New Testament is now available and the Old Testament is in process.

He didn’t say much about persecution other than to say that it seems less now than it had been in the recent past. When questioned, he said that yes they are monitored, their phones and emails are monitored. He said small groups may stay under the wire as long as they stay small but once a group gets to 100 people or more it gets a lot of attention from the authorities.

One of his companions told me that he doesn’t like to speak about his own persecution, he doesn’t like to think of it as a big deal. But she said he had spent time in prison because he started writing articles against the reconstruction of theology movement. He was also a leader of a group of home churches. When he leaves home he has to always be prepared to possibly not be able to come back. She said he did not call his family on this trip because their phone will be monitored. (I think he will be speaking at a conference next week in Chicago). But his attitude is that he will not be fearful because the God of the universe takes care of him. He will not fear the authorities because he is on the right side and they are the ones in danger.

It is a real encouragement to me to hear Chinese believers like him telling of their ministry and their desire to continue to follow the Lord despite the harassment, and even threat of persecution and imprisonment. I find it humbling and at the same time immensely encouraging and challenging. They have survived communist persecution and thrived. So come on, folks, let’s buck up! Our brothers witness that God is taking care of His children in China. And that same God can certainly take care of His children in this country too, no matter what happens!

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Filed under Apologetics, Bible, Biblical truth, cross-cultural, discernment, God's sovereignty, scripture twisting, signs of the times, sola scritura, suffering

The Jesus of our imagination

I just watched a youtube video of a pastor of a megachurch scolding some members of his congregation for wanting more in-depth Bible teaching. He excoriated them for being “fat” with spiritual knowledge and seemed to assume that that knowledge wouldn’t be used. He said we just need to know “Jesus” and didn’t need to worry about stuff like propitiation or justification but instead we should invite people to  church [presumably his] so they can know “Jesus”. It made me wonder what “Jesus” they will know? Seems to me that justification, propitiation, sanctification, and all those other big words are vital parts of understanding who the Jesus of the Bible is.

A lot of people do seem to be following a Jesus of their imagination. I remember talking with a guy who was cutting my hair who said that as long as you loved everybody and believed in “Jesus” you were okay. He thought people should just live how they wanted to and not be accountable for anything as long as they “loved”. (Unfortunately I have observed that actions which one person thinks of as “love” are not always perceived as “love” by others – but that’s another topic!) A young woman recently justified shacking up with a boyfriend by saying that “Jesus” understands how much she “needs” a man and wouldn’t condemn her for doing that.

Seems to me though, that one of the problems with everybody just imagining a “Jesus” they like, sooner or later somebody’s “Jesus” will conflict with somebody else’s “Jesus”. One “Jesus” is okay with indiscriminately mowing down the enemy combatant and civilian alike saying that “Jesus” will sort them out. Another man’s “Jesus” is okay with aggressive fund raising for a non-existent orphanage. Another person’s “Jesus” becomes the rallying point for political documents, actions, and causes while still others have a “Jesus” who is the rallying point for political documents, actions, and causes which are the polar opposite.

Can the “Jesus” we imagine really save us from the wrath of God? Can a “Jesus” of our imagination transform us? Can we trust a “Jesus” of our imagination? When circumstances change or we become old or sick and our minds and imaginations are numbed with pain, fatigue, weakness, what will become of the “Jesus” of our imagination?

Let us not “imagine” Jesus, let us know Him!

Philippians 3:8-11  What is more, I consider everything a loss compared to the surpassing greatness of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord, for whose sake I have lost all things. I consider them rubbish, that I may gain Christ  and be found in him, not having a righteousness of my own that comes from the law, but that which is through faith in Christ–the righteousness that comes from God and is by faith. 10 I want to know Christ and the power of his resurrection and the fellowship of sharing in his sufferings, becoming like him in his death, 11 and so, somehow, to attain to the resurrection from the dead.

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Filed under Apologetics, apostasy, Biblical truth, signs of the times, sola scritura

On Christian Government

Some folk talk about “taking over” institutions for God – like education, economics, arts, government, etc. But this is not a new idea. Interesting what some who have gone before thought of the idea:

Voices from the past…
Joseph Augustus Seiss

“Not yet has the sovereignty of this world become the Lord’s (Ref. Revelation 11:15: ‘The kingdom of this world has become the kingdom of our Lord and of His Christ, and He shall reign forever and ever!’).

All earthly governments, principalities, and powers, from the beginning until now, are uniformly represented in the Scriptures as wild beasts, having no lawful owner, and full of destructive savageness and offensive uncleanness. A lion with eagle’s wings, a bear crunching bones and flesh, a four-winged and four-headed leopard, a nondescript with many horns, dreadful and terrible and strong exceedingly, having great iron teeth to devour and break in pieces; these are the prophetic symbols of the greatest and most lauded of them. (Cf. Rev. 13:1-2; Daniel 7:2, 7; Rev. 12:3, 9; Dan. 7:8; 11:36; Rev. 17:3; 13:4, 12)

“Even the premiership of Daniel himself in one of them does not alter its general character. It is but folly and fanaticism for men to talk of Christian states and governments in this world. Christian and good men may be concerned in their administration, and Christian ideas may sometimes temper their enactments, but earthly states and governments themselves are not Christian, and in the nature of things cannot be. They are all the products of devastated nature’s wilds, and full of savage nature’s passions and ungodliness. Fix it as we may, such is the result. The best-planned institutions and the wisest laws are ever disappointing their framers. The very law which God Himself promulged from Sinai’s thunder-shaken heights was ‘weak through the flesh,’ and did not serve to keep the Jewish commonwealth from like apostasy to that of other nationalities. To this hour there is nothing so great a desideratum among men as good and just government, nor another department in which the native evilness and God-antagonizing passions of men are so potent and defiant.

“True, the kingdom is by right the Lord’s. All authority and power originates with Him and belongs to Him. Government is His own ordinance. But since the apostasy of the race to Satan’s standard, usurpation, falsehood, and other powers than the rightful sovereign of men and nations, have held and directed the sway in this world. Many revolutions have been wrought, and men have labored, and sacrificed, and bled, and died to achieve them, believing that now they would secure the precious boon for which the race has signed and cried for ages; but it was only the turning of the sick man on his bed, who keeps his pain however he may change his place.

“In our day especially people are looking and laboring for a grand jubilee of nations, shaped to popular rule, and compacted by common laws, interests, and creed, in which enlightened ideas shall be the king, and all the world be one (Editor’s Note: Seiss published his commentary in 1869-1881 in three volumes, but several American libraries give the year of publication as 1865– all the more astounding since it is penned at the close of the American Civil War); but the result will be only a more horrible beast than any that preceded it, a leopard with bear’s feet and a lion’s mouth, full of heads and horns and names of blasphemy; the very embodiment of hell, whose infamies so outrage High Heaven as to bring the great day of God Almighty upon the world. No, no; your revolutions, and reforms, and progress of liberal ideas, and overturning of old creeds, and grand conventionalities in revision of the Decalogue, and internationalities for the redemption of the world without Christ, and glorious philosophies ruling out a personal God and exalting self and passion in His place, and all your glittering ideals to which to reconstruct society and relocate the highest interests of man, much as they may promise, and successfully as they may draw the heart and energy of the world after them, are but the nurslings of Satan’s bosom in which this world lies, and the inspirations of his foul breath.

“Dream, and prate, and preach, and glory as men may, the devil is de facto the god and king of this world. His mantle may be often changed, and every day may exhibit a new garb, but the presiding genius within is still and always the devil, with all his pride, and malice, and spoliating falsities. And so it will go on, ‘wicked men and seducers waxing worse and worse,’ till the last trumpet sounds.

“But then shall come another order; not developed from below, but enforced with sudden and resistless power from above. How, we will see when we come to consider the details of ensuing chapters. Meanwhile, however, the fact itself is sure to the exultant voices in heaven. God is king, and the sovereignty hath He given to His Son, Jesus Christ. And having given the world six thousand years in which to choose and settle upon its proper allegiance, and finding after all only an intenser and more malignant apostasy, He causes the final trump to sound, breaks in with His Almightiness, and enforces His rightful dominion. A kingdom comes which breaks in pieces, and consumes all other kingdoms, and stands forever. Laws are given to be changed no more. And the true Anointed reigns on earth in an empire of sinless, deathless life and peace, to the ages of the ages. The government is changed.” (Joseph Augustus Seiss, 1823-1904, The Apocalypse, An Exposition of the Book of Revelation, Kregel, Inc., Grand Rapids, MI, p. 274.)

from http://www.searchlight-missions.org/7thtrumpetcd15.asp

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