Certain that most Bishirblog readers have seen many videos and news reports of the massive Syrian-refugee crisis. Pictures like three-year-old Aylan washed up on the shore, drowned while escaping. Thousands upon thousands of people fleeing for their lives from their homeland. The picture above is of refugees crowding streets under the shells of bombed out buildings in their capital of Damascus. I think this picture describes how intense and desperate their plight is. Inflated rafts spilling over with people fleeing war-torn Syria. The seventy-one suffocated bodies found in a refrigerated truck, all victims of human trafficking. Refugee camps stretched out acre upon acre of makeshift tents. People of all ages seeking asylum and refuge anyplace they can find. And a constant rejection from nation after nation which no one blames because of the unbelievable burden this would put upon their very own society.
The plight of the Syrian refugees is most difficult to watch. The temptation is to stop watching the reports and just turn a deaf ear. This is a humanitarian crisis. An immigration not duplicated since World War II and is a picture of things to come upon our world in the prophetic days ahead.
Europe is struggling to handle the nearly half a million refugees already there and the possibility of millions more. And now President Obama is saying that we are ready to take 10, 000 refugees and over the next year or so that number could swell to over 100,000. And many Americans are at unrest with that concerning who we really are allowing to enter our boarders.
“According to the U.N. refugee agency, 53% of the migrants are from Syria, 14% from Afghanistan, 7% from Eritrea, and 3% each from Pakistan, Nigeria, Iraq and Somalia. Seventy-two percent are men, only 13% women and 15% children. The problem is that not all are fleeing civil war. Some are fleeing poverty, others are fleeing dictatorship, others may be attempting to enter the boarders of other nations with a primary goal of propagating Islamism. And yet others may be seeking ways to enter nations to bring militant terrorism. It is important to mention that not all of these refugees are Muslim but by far the majority are. It is just as important to understand that many of the refugees are not terrorists minded but some are. But it should be considered that their cultures, customs, values and religious views will influence and change that society unless that society changes them.
At the same time of the Syrian refugee crisis we have watched our president propose a deal with Iran. Who would have ever thought a United States President would sign an agreement that leads to the development of nuclear arms with a sworn enemy of both the U.S. and Israel. It seems that President Obama is for pushing away Israel and bringing in her enemies. And not only Israels enemies but our very own. Seems most of our Senate and Congress have lost most of their common sense and are thinking with some very unsound minds. The unrest in the Middle East is real, and it is only going to get worse if America continues down the road we are presently heading down. It will only bring more unrest to the Middle East and to Middle America!
Dear Christian, I don't think we can look at these happenings and turn the channel. With all our Biblical understanding,our possession of the Good News, and the power of prayer we must get involved. As stewards of the gospel message we must get involved. As we study the Holy Scriptures we can see that all this is fitting into the prophetic plan of God and we have a hope in all this turmoil. We should not grow fearful but faithful. And we can offer hope to those around us who have no such hope at this hour.
What can we do for ourselves? What can we do for our own? What can we do to help the REFUGEES of THIS EARTH? What can we do to help even those who are a threat to America and to Christianity?
What can we do regarding the crisis in Syria?
NOT MUCH! Politically we can do very little. There is little you or I can do regarding the political powers at play in Syria and the Middle East. We can certainly call our elected officials and ask for decisive action to be taken toward ISIS. But from a political standpoint, that’s about the extent of it.
A WHOLE LOT! Spiritually we can do a lot! From a Christian standpoint, however, we can do much more. The fact is most of the millions of people fleeing Syria are Muslim. Most have never heard the gospel. Many are more tender to the gospel at this moment than they have been at any other point in their lives. We can pray for them. We can ask our Sovereign Lord to supernaturally thrust these refugees into the very places of refuge they need to be. We can continually support our missionaries who are attempting to reach the Muslim world. Presently we are praying about new missionaries and solid ministries we can lead our church into supporting, those who are helping to feed the body ( giving food & shelter) and the soul ( giving the gospel) of these refugees. We must look for ways ( individually and corporately ) to share the glorious gospel with many Muslims who are looking for spiritual and earthly help. I would encourage American Christians to see the plight of these needy people and invest in gospel ministries that have a focus on such in Europe, Middle Eat and in America. We must not miss this moment in history to share God's love and wonderful gospel of grace!
Tomorrow's Ramification's !
Today's events are all heading somewhere. European leaders have no good options right now. This surge of Muslim refugees has lead to a population that has changed the very culture, custom and ways of its people. And it will likely continue to bring real concern about the ability to support the influx of residents, concern for ISIS infiltration and the infiltration of religious views. Europe is changing and with it the their economy is at threat. The looming Iran Deal is only destabilizing the entire Middle East. Russia is flexing her muscles and China is considering her options in this world climate. All the time Israel is threatened with total annihilation.
With these size problems and no answers leaders will agree on, the stage is setting for a leader who has answers everyone likes—the Antichrist.
Eternities Realities !
As a patriotic American, I desire for our leaders to provide decisive action in these unfolding events that would protect our nation and restore the American interest in giving freedom to oppressed peoples around the world. We need a leadership that trusts not in human wisdom but divine wisdom. We need a leadership that is bible wise. In the next election, I’ll vote that direction the best I can.
But, if we look at world events with an eye only for ourselves, our children & grandchildren, we will become fearful and angry and isolationist causing us to lack a GLOBAL MISSION and miss the larger implications of prophecy.
We must maintain an ETERNAL MINDSET! All of today's Opportunities and Tomorrow's Ramifications lead us to remember Jesus is returning soon. This gives us hope and motivation to share the gospel like never before. As we read the Bible and watch the newscasts it challenges us to share the only HOPE this world has. Witness for Jesus Christ and live in the hope of his return because when he comes for His church we will be taken from all this mess to shortly come back and with Him to straighten out all this mess. He has all the answers, He is the Answer!
Tuesday, February 26, 2013
by John MacArthur
One of the major, early catalysts in the Protestant Reformation was a book by Jan Hus, a Bohemian Christian who preceded Martin Luther by a full century. The book was De Ecclesia (The Church), and one of Hus’s most profound points was proclaimed in the title of his fourth chapter: “Christ the Only Head of the Church.”
Hus wrote, “Neither is the pope the head nor are the cardinals the whole body of the holy, universal, catholic [i.e., true] church. For Christ alone is the head of that church.” Pointing out that most church leaders in his era actually despised the lordship of Christ, Hus said, “To such a low pitch is the clergy come that they hate those who preach often and call Jesus Christ Lord.”
Hus’s candor cost him his life. He was declared a heretic and burned at the stake in 1415.
More than a hundred years later, and already at odds with the papal establishment, Martin Luther read De Ecclesia. After finishing the book, he wrote to a friend, “I have hitherto taught and held all the opinions of Jan Hus unawares; so did John Staupitz. In short, we are all Hussites without knowing it.”
As the head of the Roman Catholic Church, the pope is often called the “Holy Father” and the “Vicar of Christ”—names and roles that only apply to God. He claims the ability to speak ex cathedra, exercising Godlike infallibility to add to and augment Scripture (Revelation 22:18). He wields unbiblical, unholy authority over his followers, usurping the headship of Christ and perverting the work of the Holy Spirit.
The Reformers understood that and declared it with unashamed boldness. As Martin Luther wrote to a friend, “We here are of the conviction that the papacy is the seat of the true and real Antichrist. . . . Personally I declare that I owe the Pope no other obedience than that to Antichrist.”
In his Institutes of the Christian Religion, John Calvin said:
Some persons think us too severe and censorious, when we call the Roman pontiff Antichrist. But those who are of this opinion do not consider that they bring the same charge of presumption against Paul himself, after whom we speak, and whose language we adopt. And lest anyone should object, that we improperly pervert to the Roman pontiff those words of Paul, which belong to a different subject, I shall briefly show that they are not capable of any other interpretation than that which implies them to the papacy (John Allen’s translation, book four, chapter seven).
The words of Paul that Calvin referred to were from 2 Thessalonians, where the apostle described the coming Antichrist “who opposes and exalts himself above every so-called god or object of worship, so that he takes his seat in the temple of God, displaying himself as being God” (2 Thessalonians 2:4).
That same understanding was later reflected in the Westminster Confession of Faith, which says, “There is no other head of the church but the Lord Jesus Christ. Nor can the Pope of Rome, in any sense, be head thereof; but is that Antichrist, that man of sin and son of perdition, that exalts himself in the church against Christ and all that is called God” (25.6).
That doesn’t mean that the pope is the final Antichrist. There have been and will continue to be, as 1 John 2:18 says, many false teachers who embody the spirit of Antichrist. As the American Puritan Cotton Mather wrote in The Fall of Babylon, “The oracles of God foretold the rising of an Antichrist [i.e., one or more antichrists who embody the spirit of the final Antichrist] in the Christian church. And in the Pope of Rome, all the characteristics of that Antichrist are so marvelously answered that if any who read the Scriptures do not see it, there is a marvelous blindness on them.”
In a sermon titled “Pray for Jesus,” Charles Haddon Spurgeon exhorted his congregation that “it is the duty of every Christian to pray against Antichrist, and as to what Antichrist is. No sane man ought to raise a question. If it be not the popery in the church of Rome and in the church of England, there is nothing in the world that can be called by that name.”
He went on to say:
Popery anywhere, whether it be Anglican or Romish, is contrary to Christ’s gospel! And it is the Antichrist, and we ought to pray against it! It should be the daily prayer of every believer that Antichrist might be hurled like a millstone into the flood and sink to rise no more. If we can pray against error for Christ because it wounds Christ, because it robs Christ of His glory, because it puts sacramental efficacy in the place of His atonement and lifts a piece of bread into the place of the Savior, and a few drops of water into the place of the Holy Spirit, and puts a mere fallible man like ourselves up as the Vicar of Christ on earth—if we pray against it because it is against Him—we shall love the persons though we hate their errors! We shall love their souls though we loathe and detest their dogmas, and so the breath of our prayers will be sweetened because we turn our faces toward Christ when we pray.
In another sermon, titled “Christ Glorified,” Spurgeon said:
Christ did not redeem His church with His blood so the pope could come in and steal away the glory. He never came from heaven to earth and poured out His very heart that He might purchase His people so that a poor sinner, a mere man, should be set upon high to be admired by all the nations and to call himself God’s representative on earth! Christ has always been the head of His church.
In 1 Timothy 2:5, Paul said, “For there is one God, and one mediator also between God and men, the man Christ Jesus.” The pope has assumed for himself a position of authority that does not need to be filled.
There are few things a Christian should fear any more than spiritual apathy. Every Christian pastor, shepherd, mentor, leader should fear it creeping into those they lead and influence but most importantly fear it silently moving into their own lives. Each follower of Jesus Christ most diligently seek to have a burning passion for the Lord and His purposes.
We must prevail over the natural bend of our natures of becoming apathetic in our passions for the Lord. One help in this is to be on the lookout for this dreaded sickness in our lives that if left unchecked in our lives will lead to lukewarmness toward or Lord. Once lukewarmness has taken over then it is a fast downward spiral casual, carnal and careless living bringing disastrous results in the life of God's children.
There are always signs of and steps to Spiritual Decline! So we must recognize and diagnose apathy before it’s too late? Below are symptoms of spiritual apathy in the individual believer and corporate church. Things to be on the LOOKOUT for in our lives and other followers of Christ.
1. LACK OF INTEREST IN ATTENDING CHURCH !
When there is a slacking of attendance, there is also a slacking in hunger for the preached Word of God. Understandably , there are times when things make it difficult to assemble. Vacations, sickness other factors. But when a forsaking attendance at church or studies becomes the trend rather than an exception, there is cause for spiritual concern on the part of a christian and spiritual shepherds of God's sheep.
2. LACK OF CONCERN FOR LOST PEOPLE !
When times of outreach are attended less and less, there is a spiritual disconnect between what we say we believe (that the Great Commission is our great priority) and how we act on that belief. All of us followers of Jesus Christ must regularly stop and evaluate our personal and corporate participation's in sharing the Good New's. And if we find ourselves sharing very little and perhaps NEVER then we must concern ourselves with such. It is time to passionately pray and ask the Lord to send us a revival of Himself and His purposes in our soul.
3. LACK OF DESIRE TO READ AND STUDY GODS WORD !
This is a very telling truth in our lives. If we pause and look at our schedules and desires and do not find times when we are opening God's Book of Truth we are in great need of passion for Him. The Bible is God and we need God. We need to run to God not run away. And make no mistake when we are not seeking God in His Word we are running away from God not running toward God. Apathy will rule our lives and lead us to living messed up lives. Messed up marriages, messed up children, messed up finances, messed up priorities, messed up health, messed up emotions, messed up everything's.
4. LACK OF PERSONAL AND CONGREGATIONAL WORSHIP!
The Bible commands us worship God with all our hearts. When a christian finds themselves never praising and never singing, it is a signal that passion for God is lacking and apathy is setting in. When Christian's come to church with a heart of praise, the opportunity to sing is welcome. We will not be able to help ourselves from sharing praise to others concerning who our Lord is and what He has done. Personally and corporately we will cease complaint and continue in praise. When we come to church distracted and bored it is a sign we are passionate about the things of the world more and the things of God less. When our singing is near nothing it reflects apathetic hearts but when we sing out with all our hearts it reflects the inward love we have for our Lord and His kingdom causes. The inside conditions will always be revealed by the outside manifestations.
5. LACK OF CONCERNS FOR THE NEEDS OF OTHERS!
Passionate and mature believers are concerned Christians. Scripture commands us to bear one an others burdens. When we don’t have burdens enough to seek to know what our brothers, sisters and all other peoples around us are going through, we’re slipping into self-focused apathy for sure. Apathy always leads to selfishness. We must regularly stop and examine ourselves to see if we are more SELF FOCUSED than OTHERS FOCUSED! Who do we think about most? Who do we pray for most? Who do we serve most? Who do we care for most? Is their any percent of our focus spent on others? If so how much? When is the last time I served widow/widower? When is the last time I sent a card of encouragement to a pastor/teacher/mentor. When was the last time we stopped to visit a shut in? When was the last time we helped in the nursery? When was the last time we stopped to speak to a child in church or the neighborhood? When was the last time you attended a funeral or a viewing? What is our focus?
6. LACK OF TIME SPENT IN PRAYER!
When we find that time spent in prayer has become something we find not so important the red flags should go up all over our souls. Prayer is a spiritual life sustaining resource. We can never live a passion filled life for our Lord without talking to Him, without spending time with Him in prayer. Prayer is where we are filled with Christ's person passion, power, purposes, and priorities. It is where we hear his voice and where we see His directions. Prayer is a must for followers of Christ to find passion for indifference. When we find ourselves praying individually and corporately very little we are already on the road to apathy and lukewarmness and strong doses of prayer is what is needed to to exit the present road which is headed for disaster and enter the roadways that will lead to blessing and passion for the ONE who died for us!
7. LACKING CONCERN FOR WORLD MISSIONS!
When a church becomes inward focused, they are no longer concerned for the fields white unto harvest. They lose their sense of eternal realities and of spiritual responsibility to reach the world with the gospel. We just came through Missions Conference 2015 and it was thrilling to hear our guest missionaries report and challenge us for world missions. It was just as thrilling for them to see the great dedication of hundreds of our church members who believe and are passionate about God's Great Commission. My pastors heart was blessed to see the heartbeat of so many in our church who great purpose and priority was the same as Jesus'. But at the same time it was a stark reality to this pastor that some of our flock have lost their passion for the greatest cause on earth. Other pursuits seemed more important and led many to pursue temporal things rather then eternal. We must regularly stop and ask ourselves how am I doing in my heart with God's Great Commission?
I know thy works, that thou art neither cold nor hot: I would thou wert cold or hot. So then because thou art lukewarm, and neither cold nor hot, I will spue thee out of my mouth. Because thou sayest, I am rich, and increased with goods, and have need of nothing; and knowest not that thou art wretched, and miserable, and poor, and blind, and naked:—Revelation 3:15–17
This passage has always been a WAKE UP CALL to every Christian including Pastors like myself. It is so easy to become apathetic and lukewarm. We must notice that it is Christ Himself who is making this WARNING! We must realize it was not a warning against wicked immorality or false teaching. It was a warning against lukewarm apathy in the life of true believers born out of pride and disobedience in seeking God with all our hearts. We must work diligently and regularly in WATCHING for the signals of apathetic lukewarmness in our lives and resist it and repent of it when it shows up. We must seek early detection's!
Today there is a strong emphasis in certain religious circles which insist that the follower of Christ should have a life which is one of unbroken joy, peace, prosperity and in general easy. Every day should be filled with miracles and constant supernatural manifestations of of God who delivers from disaster, disappointment, or any type of despair. And if one is struggling in any area of affliction, ( finances, relationships, health) it is because of their lack of faith in God. How can lacking in the believers life be explained? A few are healed but the multitudes are not. A few have miraculous answers to prayer for healing and prosperity, but many do not. Are all those in this category to give up and wallow in self pity and defeat? Are we to conclude that the large number who are not healed or delivered from poverty or some other lacking in life are only "second class children " in the Kingdom? Must the one who is not healed suffer with a sense of spiritual inferiority and doubt his amount of faith? Are they the children of God and does God have favorites? Or is it possible for the great majority who remain financially limited, physically afflicted, or any other lacking to make as great a contribution to the kingdom and bring as much joy to the heart of God and win as great an eternal reward as those who seem favored with supernatural deliverance here and now?
The answer to that question is YES. It is possible for the great majority of followers of Christ who seem to lack supernatural deliverance here and now to make a great (perhaps a greater) contribution to the Kingdom of God. Our God's ways are not man's ways. He is at WORK in the life of every one of His redeemed children. And He uses all types of things in our lives to fulfill that great work in our lives. Sometimes it involves what we would think were great additions of blessings. And often times He uses great subtractions of what we call lacking. It is very important for the follower of Christ not to become confused by thinking the blessings work good things and the lackings work bad things. This cannot be farther from the eternal truth. Both are used by our all knowing God in our lives. And depending on HIS WILL for each of His followers he determines the when and what He uses to accomplish His deep work in us.
Holy scripture declares, " For our light affliction, which is but for a moment, worketh for us a far more exceeding and eternal weight of glory; while we look not at the things which are seen, but at the things which are not seen: for the things which are seen are temporal; but the things which are not seen are eternal" ( 2nd Corinthians 4:17-18). The plain teaching of this passage is that one's sorrows are actually working for the faithful believer is predicated upon the faith that the unseen is the ultimate and supreme reality and that the present and visible is only relative and short lived.
This passage in 2nd Corinthians 4 is so important to understand and the word "affliction" is necessary to define. In reality Paul was speaking about any lacking that comes to a believer's life. It includes persecutions, oppositions, deprivations, hardships in any and every area. Any thing causing pain or distress in the physical, mental, relational, spiritual arena's. It implies any sorrow, suffering or heartache imposed by illness, loss, misfortune, etc. This affliction can be disciplinary for the erring saint as well as testing for the obedient ones, ( 2nd Cor 12:7, 2nd Cor 11:23-33, Psalm 119:67,71, Job ).
Every affliction that God allows can be used of God to work a far more exceeding and eternal weight of glory for the obedient and trusting child of God. If we accept this affliction , then the Lord is saying that the "pressure" from any cause, including bodily, mental, and emotional pain or suffering ( even if healing does not follow ), will work for us.
It is important for me to remind each of us that this is learned and will take time in our sanctification process. For one who is going through great pain today you will need to be patient with yourself as you LEARN this truth. God will work in you and bring you to this eternal truth, but it may mean you will have some difficult times before you finally find the peace in the truth. Also, for others who are who are walking through the pain of others it is important to understand those in pain need our patience in their "working out with God's working in". We must remember answers are always easier to give when you are not the one in the pain than to receive when you are in the affliction. Remember the book of Job!
2nd Corinthians 4:17-18 gives us an amazing truth which ultimately leads us to a very mature result. To know that God is working will mature the believer to trust God and embrace their affliction. When a believer who is suffering and has taken it to the Lord in prayer and is still experiencing lacking will find greater solace in trusting that the Lord is working a greater "eternal weight of glory". Therefore it should be cherished and not wasted by resistance and rebellion.
I must admit I have wasted much suffering and affliction in my times of misunderstanding, anger, self pity, lamenting, disappointment and depressions instead of seeking the method by which my suffering and sorrow could have been transformed into that " eternal weight of glory." Yet the great work of God inside me reminds me today that He permits sufferings to the saints only to work (create) for Him GLORY! No one ever becomes a saint without suffering because suffering, properly accepted, is the pathway to glory.
Terry has been the Senior Pastor of Liberty for 30 years. He and his wife, Karen, have 4 children, 11 grandchildren, and 1 spoiled dog named Cooper.