According to Jesus, discipleship begins with complete allegiance to Him as Lord. Even the bond of familial love must yield to the eternal relationship of divine love accomplished for us in Christ!
Shockingly, Jesus said, “If anyone comes to me and does not hate his own father and mother and
wife and children and brothers and sisters, yes, and even his own life, he cannot be my disciple. Whoever does not bear his own cross and come after me cannot be my disciple.”
There’s no record of Jesus possessing any particular animus against fathers, mothers, sisters, or brothers. On the contrary, his statement here is not against families as much as it is for disciples. Why would Jesus issue such an ultimatum to his would-be disciples? Because he loves them! His gospel really is theonly means of escaping a perishing world under God’s sentence of death. If one wishes to escape sin and death, he or she must flee to Jesus Christ alone. It’s all or nothing. Life or death.
And Jesus is life.
This past May, Kuluseni Iguru Tenywa found life. He was so glad to be rid of his demons! For years, Tenywa had been tormented by demons. He says he was oppressed by them until he received Christ at a local gathering of Christians. While all of heaven surely rejoiced at this one sinner becoming a follower of Christ, those living in his village in Uganda were enraged against him. Before his conversion, 53 year-old Kuluseni Tenywa had served as the Imam of his Muslim village.
After his conversion, everyone in the village turned against him—everyone, including his wife and his four children. According to Morning Star News, his wife berated him, calling him an infidel and refusing to offer him food. By late June, a mob—led by Tenywa’s brother-in-law—had come for him. They destroyed portions of his farm and his store and intended to take decisive action against him. Desperate, Tenywa felt he had to flee for his life. He ran from his village, from his home, from his family on June 27. He has not seen them since.
Kuluseni Iguru Tenywa has thus far proved himself a faithful disciple of Christ. His life reflects the sober reality Jesus himself unfolded for his followers: “And a person’s enemies will be those of his own household” (Matt 10:36). Sadly, the world has turned against this brother, but if God be for Him, who can stand against him!
Would you please take a moment to pray for this brother in Christ? His wife and children need our prayers, too. You can read more of his story here.
Regardless (politically) of whether one supported or denounced the Bush Administration’s actions in Iraq, the consequent actions and inaction have made the situation in Iraq positively intolerable. Since the summer of 2014, Christianity has been systematically destroyed in Iraq:
“Virtually the entire Christian population, and every trace of its unique 2,000-year-old civilization, has been eradicated from the ISIS-controlled Nineveh Province, the historic homeland of Iraqi Christianity. The vast majority of Nineveh’s Christians–like the vast majority of Yazidis–has been completely dispossessed and driven from their homes into Kurdistan or across the borders.”
Being driven from your homeland is bad enough. Unfortunately, that injustice is miniscule by comparison with the dizzying array of cruelty unleashed on Christians by the Muslim terror group known as ISIS. According to witnesses who have survived and escaped these ungodly horrors, ISIS terrorists have been raping women and girls, while killing their husbands, fathers, and brothers. Girls as young as 9 have reportedly been raped.
Nina Shea recently published an expose of these atrocities against Christians and Yazidis in Iraq. In this report, she quotes an interview with one Christian woman who escaped:
“That night I was married to eight different men and divorced eight times. Each man raped me three or four times. When all this was over, we were taken back to the room where all the girls were being held. They made us walk naked through the big room where all the men were sitting. We were barely able to walk. This scenario was repeated every week–it was like a nightmare.”
Shea documents these unimaginable crimes NOT for the sake of aggrandizing bad behavior. Shea isn’t trying to shock her readers to gain more hits for her article. Her chronicling this evil is to circumvent a further injustice. Some are encouraging us to look away from the genocide of Christians in the Middle East.
As Shea notes, “In a June 15 report concerning ISIS’s genocide in Iraq’s Nineveh Province, a small but highly influential international group, the Independent Commission of Inquiry on the Syrian Arab Republic,insists that ISIS does not intend to destroy the Christian community, which would mean that, under the genocide convention, the terror group has not waged genocide on that minority.”
Shea points out that news agencies and governments may take comfort in the claim that ISIS isn’t really committing genocide because they allow Christians to remain in the land, as long as they pay the jizya tax. But this is geopolitical fool’s gold. Beyond the fact that paying such a tax is a carte blanche form of extortion, this claim to allow Christians to remain is simply not true.
From the article,
What ISIS refers to as “jizya” is extortion and ransom from a few disabled or elderly individuals, and others who did not escape in time. Those who did not escape have been killed or forced to become jihadi “brides,” human shields, slaves, hostages, or Muslims against their will. They are barred from practicing their Christian faith.
And more to the point,
“The State Department’s former counterterrorism expert Ambassador Alberto Fernandez describes the Raqqa jizya document as essentially a pathetic “Salafi Caliphate publicity stunt”:
‘[T]here are no images whatsoever of what could be described as normal Christian life in ISIS-controlled territory–no functioning churches, no monasteries or working priests, and no Christian families or Christian schools–all of which had existed throughout Islamic history.’”
Shea’s article has much more detail and much more to say concerning the danger of buying into ISIS propaganda. Christians have been targeted violently and need for us to be sober-minded, praying, and doing what we can to halt their destruction.
 The terror group prefers to be called IS, referring to their claim of having established an Islamic State. The official name used by the U.S. government is ISIL. Many Arabs and some governments (like France) believe Daesh is the best term to use in referring to the group. Daesh is an intentionally pejorative term.
After the Obergfell decision this past year, Christians have tried to cope with a new definition of marriage. What does this new definition mean for church Marriage Retreats? for childcare? or for conversations in youthgroups about sexual intercourse?
So many questions have risen since June 26, 2015, when the Supreme Court verdict was released. If two men can be legally married, then why not two men and a woman (bi-sexual marriage)? Why is the number two sacred in marriage? Why not three women? Why not one man and four women who consent? The questions erupt more quickly than do convincing replies.
While the culture rakes through the labyrinth of questions, Christians have an unparalleled opportunity to preach the truth to a world increasingly used and discarded by the sexual revolution. Whatever the law does, the gospel keeps converting sinners by the grace and power of God.
That is essentially the point of a chapter Chris Morgan and I wrote in a new book titled, Ministry in the New Marriage Culture (B & H 2015). The book contains chapters on childcare, youth groups, preaching, counseling, and many other topics. Our chapter pleads for Christians to stay focused on the main thing: Christ and His gospel. I’ll leave you with a quote from the chapter and a link to The Gospel Coalition’s post from our chapter in the book:
The more we’re marked by unity, holiness, and love, the more our lives can ably paint the picture of how life ought to be, and the more our countercultural kingdom community can effect change in one another and in the broader society as salt and light (Matt. 5:3–16).
These gospel realities ground our confidence in all situations. And these realities ground our confidence in a secular age because Christ has defeated the biggest challenge—sin and death (1 Cor. 15). Everything else pales in comparison.
The Republic of Korea is now a thriving economic power, one of the “Asian Tigers” of production and wealth generation—a leader in automobile manufacturing (Hyundai, Kia), telecommunications devices (LG), and consumer electronics (Samsung). South Korea is now a global force, maintaining the 12 largest economy on earth.
Approximately 1/3 of the adults in South Korea are Christians. In fact, the largest Christian congregation in the world exists in Korea—the Yoido Full Gospel Church on Yoi Island in Seoul. In 2007, the population of the Yoido church exceeded 830,000. Yes! the congregation of this one church is equal roughly to the population of San Francisco. Korea and Christianity appear to be getting along quite well.
It was not always the case that Korea and Christianity could peacefully coexist. In the 18th and (especially) the 19th centuries, Koreans were terribly intolerant of Christians. By the end of 1866, the Christian population of Korea totaled about 20,000. That year, Christians were martyred by the thousands; estimates put the total number of Christians killed between 8-10,000.
Today, Christians in Korea remember those who paved the way of faith with their own blood. In Jeoldusan, on the spot where hundreds of martyrs were killed, there is now a Museum-Shrine to Korean martyrs. Detailed records in the museum tell the story of how Confucian leaders killed Christians so their “errors” would not catch on and lead Koreans “astray.” Yet Christianity did catch on in Korea—eventually.
In 1962, Christians made up only 5% of the population of South Korea. Now, as I said above, over 30% of the population is Christian. What a difference 50 years can make! How have Christians made such a difference in Korea over the past 50 years? The secret may well be in the faith their Christian forefathers showed over the last century, suffering intense persecution but maintaining a witness to the truth through it all.
Consider the faithful witness of Saint Andrew Kim Taegon. By the age of 25, he had become Korea’s first Catholic bishop. And at the age of 25, he was martyred for his faith in Christ. In the face of his imminent execution, he proclaimed,
“This is my last hour of life, listen to me attentively: if I have held communication with foreigners, it has been for my religion and for my God. It is for Him that I die. My immortal life is on the point of beginning. Become Christians if you wish to be happy after death, because God has eternal chastisements in store for those who have refused to know Him.”
In the face of death, Christians maintained the hope of life. Over time, the Christian answer to death proved much more powerful than either Confucianism or the ancestor worship of Korea’s tribalism. The real world problem of death demands an uncompromising solution. Christ alone satisfies death’s demand. The Korean martyrs left decades of powerful testimonies affirming the Resurrection.
Though we Christians may lose the temporal battle for life to the power of our enemies, we cannot finally lose at all. Where is death’s victory? Has it not been swallowed by the resurrected life of our Lord Jesus Christ? Death no longer stings the believer.
So whatever battles appear to be lost, let us remember as Andrew Kim Taegon did to press on by faith in our Jesus who has been raised from the dead. Who knows what the Lord may do in 50 years or in 150 years? We know already what he has done to death in the death of Christ. Our sure hope is Christ, who began a good work in us and will keep it until His final, victorious return. Thanks be to God for our indescribable gift.
Are reporters biased? Sure. But reporter bias is not the most troubling problem when trying to get “the News.” Reporters are merely “field hands” or “harvesters.” They aren’t the farmers who actually own the fields. The owners are the editors. Just as farmers decide what crops will be planted on their lands, so, too, editors decide which reports will end up in their papers (or on their web pages, podcasts, and TV shows). Editors are the ones really in control.
Editors are in charge of deciding what is and what is not news. A chilling—sad and sobering—reminder of the power of a news editor was on display this week as the world marked the 70th anniversary of the liberation of Jewish prisoners from Auschwitz.
About 300 Auschwitz survivors returned to the dreaded site of their incarceration to mark Tuesday’s official 70th anniversary of the death-camp’s liberation. In conjunction with this emotional anniversary, the Daily Telegraph published a story about how their paper got the scoop on the rest of the world concerning the Nazi program of mass killing.
An exiled Polish Jew–Szmul Zygielbojm –worked feverishly to find out information about what was happening to Jews in Poland. His main motivation was to save his own family—a wife and son who remained captive to the Nazis in Poland. With more intrigue and drama than a Tom Clancy novel, Szmul Zygielbojm was finally able not only to get information about gas chambers and daily death tolls to the Daily Telegraph, but, even more impressively, he was able to get eyewitness accounts of mass killings smuggled out of Poland on microfilm hidden inside of a key.
At great personal risk, he carried out his plan and disclosed the entire, unimaginable affair to a newspaper reporter for the Daily Telegraph. Triumphantly, he waited for the world to revolt at the horrific news of the Nazi atrocities.
But the outcry of injustice never came. No one noticed the story when it was first published on June 25, 1942. By the following April, Szmul Zygielbojm was both incredulous and in despair over what must have seemed like a sub-human lack of concern for suffering Jews (including his own family). By May of 1943, his family was dead. And in Szmul’s mind, his life was over, too. He wrote the following note before he killed himself:
“The responsibility for the crime of the murder of the whole Jewish nationality in Poland rests first of all on those who are carrying it out.
But indirectly it falls also upon the whole of humanity, on the peoples of the Allied nations and on their governments, who up to this day have not taken any real steps to halt this crime.
By looking on passively upon this murder of defenceless millions of tortured children, women and men they have become partners to the responsibility”
No one can blame Szmul Zygielbojm for his cynicism and for pointing the finger of blame at all who were living happily while Jews were being slaughtered by the thousands. One of the main culprits, however, may well have been the editors at the Daily Telegraph. The truth of the matter is that Szmul had given them credible evidence of the worst mass murder in history, and they buried it in a small article on page 5. What if the mass killing of 1,000 Jews per day had been given front page, headline status in June of 1942? Might it not have awakened Europe sooner to the gravity of the Nazi problem?
I have documented below a fine article by Roy Greenslade concerning the Szmul Zygielbojm affair if you would like to read more about that sad set of circumstances coming out of WWII. For my purposes here, I ask this simple question: What are the editors of “the News” not telling us today? What page 5 stories ought to be on the front page?
Christians are not targeted by a single nation for extinction, the way the Jews were targeted by the Nazis. But Christians are targets of violence around the world. I think I understand why American news outlets put the Christian story on “page 5.” But Christians need no longer to depend on daily news editors to know what is really important, right?
A fantastic contrast is displayed in Isaiah 46: the difference between carrying around man-made gods or realizing that God Himself carries mankind through history. God’s people realize that God alone is Lord and that we are dependent wholly upon Him. He cares for us, and He carries us. He bears our burdens. He begins the good work in us, and He brings it to its eternal completion in Christ.
Conversely, those who refuse or reject God end up making gods for themselves. Expedient as this idolatry is in the beginning, it becomes quite burdensome over time. It’s one thing to make an idol; it’s quite another to keep it. As reality bears down, the idol becomes harder and harder to keep alive. In the end, one must either admit that we are created and sustained by God, or we must believe against mounting evidence that truth is what we demand it to be —a god of our own making.
The pressure is mounting in America. There was once room for the Bible’s God in civil discourse and common morality. Since the sexual revolution, however, the god of sexual freedom has demanded no boundaries. Even the common sense notion that marriage includes a husband and a wife is an unbearable burden. The God of the Bible seems too demanding now for most Americans. Consider a few recent examples.
A couple of years ago, I noted how the Democratic National Convention separated itself from Christianity preceding their election-year rally in Charlotte. For some reason, the DNC shunned welcome baskets from a group of Christian churches welcoming them to town (the Charlotte 714 project). Have Republicans now rejected biblical morality, too? One must wonder whether the recent non-vote by the U.S. House of Representatives wasn’t a similar signal being broadcast by the Republican party—that Christian views of life and marriage really are now out of bounds in a sexually boundless America.
In his visceral rejection of the Republican-led House of Representatives’ inaction, Russell Moore hurled,
“I am disgusted by this act of moral cowardice. If the House Republicans cannot pass something as basic as restricting the abortion of five-month, pain-capable unborn children, what can they get done?”
Beyond the question of what the Republicans might get done, my question is what does this inaction mean for Christianity in America? It’s painfully obvious that one ought not hurt a helpless baby in the womb. If we can no longer appeal to Congress for moral action on behalf of innocent babies, then for what can we as Christians appeal?
Will we dare speak up for marriage? Family? Chastity? Recently, a fire chief in Atlanta was suspended without pay simply for believing that some forms of sexual expression are “perversions” of the heterosexual (and biblical) norm. Even more ominously, judges in my home state of California have decided—as a code of ethics—that it would be improper for a sitting judge to be affiliated with an organization that discriminates on the basis of sexual orientation. From the Los Angeles Times,
California’s judicial code of ethics bars judges from holding “membership in any organization that practices invidious discrimination on the basis of race, sex, gender, religion, national origin, ethnicity or sexual orientation.”
Presently, this new code of ethics reaches to private organizations like the Boy Scouts—but not yet to churches. Churches are the only exemption left, but for how long will churches be exempt? Denny Burk offers this sober assessment:
In other words, the Court knows that it has a standard that churches and other religious organizations violate. That is why they grant them an exception. But on what basis would they continue such an exception? If they really view churches as discriminatory without rational basis, there would be no reason for the exception to stand. That would effectively preclude Christians and other people of faith from serving as state judges in California.
So Christians may not be able to be judges in California, big deal! Why does that matter? It matters because such an exclusion would mean no Christian interpretation of the law—thus no biblical morality—in California. Despite what folks say, all legislation is ultimately moral legislation. Morality is the only thing laws can legislate. And the direction of California is toward legislating a morality without a Christian component. (See Romans 3:10-18 for a picture of such a “morality”).
In this piece, Dreher contends that the division within the Roman Catholic Church has reached a crisis point. It is no longer clear whether one can be both Christian and American. Here is the article’s conclusion:
He found that the older people around the table — those 50 and older, say … still seemed to believe that the public order could be saved, despite the direness of the moment. Those younger people — including Catholic scholars — had a more radical view of what could be saved, and what could not. To put it more bluntly than it probably should be, if the question is, “Can you be both a good Christian, and a good American?”, the answer is increasingly looking like no, you cannot.
The unified view, as I recall, was that we are no longer living in normal times for American Christians, and they (we) had better wake up and understand which way the wind is blowing, and adjust.
The wind is obviously blowing against the Biblical view of morality. A similar article was recently posted by Dr. Mark Coppenger in the Canon and Culture series from the ERLC. In this article, Dr. Coppenger argues that “Therapeutic Nihilism” rules the day. Feelings in general (and sexual feelings in particular) rule the day rather than the more open Judeo-Christian philosophy of days gone by. Coppenger argues for an unashamed return to the “discursive” Judeo-Christian philosophy of American history. His case is compelling.
Nevertheless, I fear the first article gets it exactly right. The sexual revolution is more radical than any of us realize, and the appetite of foreign gods is never satisfied. Pagan gods must be fed continually and propped up incessantly. Because they are not real, they must coerce complete adherence. No dissension is allowed—especially if those dissenting voices echo the one, true God of days gone by.
What does this mean for Christians? It means we ought to accept the reality that we are no longer a “moral majority.” We are the minority sub-culture of American morality. Thus, we must first get our own houses in order. The first priority of American Christianity ought to be ecclesiology. We must have healthy churches. Our culture desperately needs a viable alternative to offer those over-burdened by propping up the foreign god of the sexual libertines. The family of God has to be a refreshing alternative to the dysfunctional families decimated by the god of this age.
Second, Christians must genuinely live mundane lives as salt and light. Our king is still on His throne. We need not fear the future—even if it means we shall suffer the wrath of those devoted to a false god. Our Christ will never be unseated from His throne. We must lovingly point others to His majesty. We must speak of the true freedom found in Christ. We must always shine the light of our good works and good words into the darkness of a lost people so they may continue to have hope.
Finally, we must realize that neither the gospel nor our Lord Jesus has failed. Christ will build his church, and the gates of Hell will not prevail against it. One person at a time, Christ will build His church. One brick at a time, the new temple in Christ’s kingdom is still being built through sinners believing in Jesus. One letter at a time, a new history is being written as Christ brings today and tomorrow toward its ultimate goal of a new heaven and a new earth converging around Him.
So what are Christians to do? Obey Psalm 46:10, “Cease striving and know that I am God.” Or, to use the phrase of a famous hymn: Be Still My Soul,
Be still, my soul; thy God doth undertake
To guide the future as He has the past.
Thy hope, thy confidence, let nothing shake;
All now mysterious shall be bright at last.
Be still, my soul; the waves and winds still know
His voice who ruled them while He dwelt below.
In the end, if the Bible is true (and it is), and if Isaiah 46 is right (as it most certainly is), then the false gods of sexual liberation will prove to be too much of a burden to bear. When that happens, Christians and their God—and their God-glorifying communities—will be a remedy of welcomed relief for those who are weary and heavy-laden, for those who wish to find rest for their souls and learn from Jesus the way to abundant life.
Christmas is over. The new year has begun. For me, my wife, and my family, Christmas was a wonderful retreat. For the only time during the year, our family is complete at Christmas. All siblings are nestled in one place for this one week of the year.
What presents did the little ones get? I might remember one or two of them, but for me, the presents aren’t that important. It’s the presence of my children all together—that is the true treasure to me. It’s sad when the older children must go their ways back to college, back to their homes in other states. So, I’m sad, yet satisfied with the great joy of having had time together as a family.
This satisfying joy of having family all together has been denied to Asia Bibi. Asia, our sister in Christ, has not enjoyed the presence of her family—her husband and five children—for more than 5 years now. For more than 1,800 days in a row, she has been in prison in Pakistan. Imagine what it must be like to suffer alone day after day, night after night.
When I take trips for my job—complete with comfortable hotels—I long to be with my wife, to be in the presence of my children. I can’t wait to get back home, especially if I have been away for three, four, or five straight days. Asia Bibi (Aasiya Noreen) has been alone—without her family—for more than one thousand, eight-hundred days.
Is there any hope for her sanity? Is there any hope for her escape or release? Sadly, even if there were, she would not be safe. Just two weeks ago, a man was released in Pakistan after spending a couple of years in jail on a blasphemy charge (like the charge against Asia). He was shot multiple times. An angry mob surrounded his body and would not allow the family to bury him in the local cemetery.
Other Christians in Pakistan have been killed on the mere accusation that they “blasphemed” the prophet Muhammad. Pakistan is not a safe place for Christians.
Lately, a new angle of hope has emerged for Christians in Pakistan. Oddly enough, lawyers are looking to Sharia Law for help to defend Christians against the death penalty in blasphemy cases. In Sharia law, there is a principle called Tazkiyah al Shuhood. This principle insists that witnesses must be highly credible if their evidence is used in a crime that is punishable by death. Asia Bibi’s lawyer appealed to this principle in an effort to raise the bar of evidence against her. Because her case was punishable by death, her lawyer argued from the principle of Tazkiyah al Shuhood that the witnesses needed to meet a higher standard of credibility than mere accusation before their testimony could be used against Asia.
To this point, his argument has not prevailed. However, there is a glimmer of hope in this strategy because it appeals to Sharia law. Unfortunately, the majority of Pakistani Muslims support the blasphemy laws and the death penalty for those whom they believe has transgressed it. Thus nothing has changed for Asia Bibi so far. But maybe this new legal strategy will prevail.
Ultimately, her real hope is found solely in Jesus Christ,
24but Jesus, on the other hand, because He continues forever, holds His priesthood permanently. 25Therefore He is able also to save forever those who draw near to God through Him, since He always lives to make intercession for them (Hebrews 7:24-25, NASB).