A World at War

Fierce

What General Weygand called the battle of France is over. I expect that the battle of Britain is about to begin. Upon this battle depends the survival of Christian civilization. Upon it depends our own British life, and the long continuity of our institutions and our Empire. The whole fury and might of the enemy must very soon be turned on us.

Hitler knows that he will have to break us in this Island or lose the war. If we can spitfirestand up to him, all Europe may be free and the life of the world may move forward into broad, sunlit uplands. But if we fail, then the whole world, including the United States, including all that we have known and cared for, will sink into the abyss of a new Dark Age made more sinister, and perhaps more protracted, by the lights of perverted science.

Let us therefore brace ourselves to our duties, and so bear ourselves that if the British Empire and its Commonwealth last for a thousand years, men will still say, ‘This was their finest hour.’

So said Winston Churchill on 18th June 1940 as Hitler prepared to try to destroy England.

“Upon this battle depends the survival of Christian civilisation.”

Almost 80 years later and the battle is somewhat different. England, Europe and most of the West is now a “post-Christian” society. The strange rattle in assorted London cemeteries and mausoleums is likely the interred who fought, led and died in that Battle of Britain turning in their graves.

The battle in 2016 is no less fierce than the one in 1940. It is more insidious. The tide of other faiths streaming into the West led to a need for “tolerance” that the countries they were leaving did not and do not reciprocate. Calls for sharia courts to be established in England were even heard from Rowan Williams, then Archbishop of Canterbury, just a couple of years ago.

What’s happened? Where are the people seeking to preserve Christian civilisation now?

Churchill lived at a time where Faith was an integral part of what it meant to be British. Strong role models through his youth and service, he called the nation to prayer during the war. Somehow I can’t imagine May doing that. Or Trump. Or Corbyn. Or any of the “leaders” dumped on an unsuspecting public today.

96953-calvaryencausticFaith is not considered important today. People who lived lives of honour and Faith in the past were respected and revered as leaders. Today they are considered weak at best, and the accomplishments men and women of Faith achieved in history are often sidelined, at least the part their Faith played in their resolve. Wilberforce is remembered as the man who abolished the Slave Trade in the British Empire, but outside a few who saw “Amazing Grace” with Ioan Gryffod, most people have no idea Christ played such an important part in that fight. “Chariots of Fire” is remembered for the soundtrack – awesome though it is – and Harold Abrahams’ achievement, but the sacrifice of Eric Liddell and the battle he fought for the principle of his Faith to not race on Sunday because it was a day for God is barely remembered. This for a man who ended up dying overseas as a Missionary.

The battle is fiercest where it seems quiet. Like a river seems tranquil where it is deepest, it often hides dangerous and powerful currents underneath. The devil has done an amazing propaganda job. He has convinced most of the West he doesn’t exist. Those of us who still believe in a literal Hell and Heaven seem to be in the minority, and are usually lampooned for saying so. For the record:

Yes, I believe in a literal Heaven and Hell.

No, I don’t believe “everyone goes to heaven” (see Luke 13)

No, I don’t care if that makes people think me a fool. Rather men think that than God.

Jesus was a fierce man. We lose sight today in the Reformation and Renaissance paintings, cherubic Jesus as a baby, spotless and freshly pressed white robes as an adult. Where is the force that started a stampede in the Temple? The warrior who set His eyes on Jerusalem?

Where is the army of the Church?

Sleeping.

Wake up. One word used to describe Jesus is “δύναμις” “dunamis”. The root of the word Dynamite. Explosive, forceful and unstoppable power. Hardly “meek and mild”. Meekness and weakness are not synonyms, in fact to be truly meek requires great strength of character. Humility is portrayed as self flagellation, which is actually a form of inverted pride and drives us away from God. Declare yourself to be what God says you are: no more and no less. Be exactly who He says you are, and don’t doubt it.

No matter the colour of skin or cast of features. No matter the gender. Remember the first to declare the Gospel of the Resurrection were women – Jesus chose a reformed hooker to tell Peter. Women had no legal standing in law then. Their testimony was ignored as unreliable. So Jesus turned things on their head and had His Resurrection declared by Mary first.

Fierce intention.

Planned aggression.

War engaged.

Standing Up

Being a Witness for Christ isn’t always easy.

In fact, in today’s climate it can be downright precarious.

The biggest issue right now is understanding the idea of “persecution”.

Huffington Post recently ran an article titled “8 Countries Where Religious Freedom Is Actually Under Attack”, the understanding being that persecution does not happen in the West, especially America, because nobody holds a gun/sword/knife to anyone’s throat/head and tries to force them to deny their faith or die.

And if that is all you understand persecution to be then they are right.

But 2 Timothy 3:12 says:

Indeed, all who delight in pursuing righteousness and are determined to live godly lives in Christ Jesus will be hunted and persecuted [because of their faith]

(Amplified)

So we are faced with the need to redefine persecution. No, maybe decapitation and baking a cake are not physically the same. I’m not saying they are. But where is the line? What makes someone a sufferer of persecution?

Any action which forces someone to adhere to a rule that contravenes their belief in Christ can be deemed persecution. I admit, the clerk who refused to issue the marriage license was not my favourite person, but it was a valid stand she took. When she accepted the job, same-sex “marriage” was not an issue. The terms changed after she began working there. She was not the only person, surely, who could issue the license. So why was she forced to violate her beliefs for the sake of someone else’s or lose her job? Similarly, the couple who declined to provide a cake did so because of their beliefs. By standing by their faith over the hypocrisy of the World that tried to force them to provide their service to someone standing in opposition to their sincerely held beliefs, they have lost their business and reputation.

How is that different to the Romans forcing a sacrifice to Mars or Venus 2000 years ago? They lost their means of putting food on the table, paying for their homes, cars and any other obligations they may have had.

Because they stood up for what they believe in. They weighed the possible outcome – loss of their material goods – against what Christ said “Do not lay up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy and where thieves break in and steal; but lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust destroys and where thieves do not break in and steal. For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.” (Matthew 6:19-21 NKJV). They chose to follow this command rather than compromise.

Western Persecution is insidious in nature. It convinces people that if there are actual demons they’re all in the Middle East or Africa. More often it presents itself as “reason”. “Logic” dictates that the resurrection couldn’t be true. And logically it’s crazy to think. But consider for a moment that at least 120 people saw Jesus after the crucifixion. The sightings were noted by non-Christian sources such as Pliny and Josephus. The disciples were prepared to die for the sake of not shutting up about it. In fact, of the Apostles (including Paul), 11 out of 12 were executed for talking about it. Only John died of old age, but wait: he lost everything financially that he had and died in exile. He was no longer a fisherman with a boat. Talking about Jesus and refusing to compromise cost him his business first.

Sound familiar?

Things never start at maximum throttle. Any movement trying to derail Christianity will first have to undermine the idea of Christianity. So a Just God becomes a “Loving God”, which He is, but then the idea gets warped. We end up with “How can a ‘loving God’ condemn people to Hell?” and rather than point out the system of Free Choice He set up in the Bible it gets capitulated into “He wouldn’t” and POW there goes the need for repentance. Everyone suddenly gets a “Get Out of Hell Free” card and so there’s no fear of the coming wrath and judgement. It’s been going on so long now that we can’t grasp the idea that there can be a coming Judgement. Next, trivialise the ideas. Armageddon and Judgement Day are suddenly movie titles with Bruce Willis and Arnie, and Satan looks a lot like Gabriel Byrne.

We are living in the situation where we see people expecting Salvation without sacrifice, Christianity without Christ, Forgiveness without repentance and heaven without hell, just like William Booth predicted. What began as a minor blip is now the substantive belief system of the majority. Alarmingly, many evangelicals are stuck in it as well. It may be what makes Trump’s cohorts so dangerous. They at least recognise there’s something wrong. (No clue how to fix it, but it’s a start!)

So what do we do?

Firstly, we must look at ourselves. Examine our own life and get any plank out of our eyes. It’s not easy, but if we are going to be Ambassadors of Christ it is absolutely essential.

Secondly, quit compromising. True, not everyone who disagrees with us is persecuting us, but equally true, it doesn’t mean none of them are. If standing for Christ will risk everything it might just be the right thing to do.

Finally, brace for impact. We need to anchor deep to weather the storm coming. So many Christians I’ve met have fallen silent at best and away from God completely in some cases because they have never built ready to weather a storm. The storm itself cannot kill us. It cannot take what is most precious, but we can surrender it. It is vital we don’t quit when things get tough. “Therefore take up the whole armor of God, that you may be able to withstand in the evil day, and having done all, to stand.” (Ephesian 6:13)

Stand firm and be a Witness of Jesus Christ.

A People Afraid

Fear plays a huge part in life today. It always has in some way or another.

But there’s a new wave now, more alarming than at any time in my life.

Instead of selecting leaders based on their strength of character and courage, we have begun to select them based on their fear-based rhetoric.

Cowardice has become the order of the day. Men and women elected because they personally are terrified of everything.

Oh, they won’t admit it. They claim their position on immigration or terrorism or gun control is coming from their place of strength, but the truth is they are afraid, and they reach out to others who they can build that same fear in.

Fearful leaders are inevitably tyrannical in their rule. Mugabe in Zimbabwe, Saddam Hussain in Iraq, Idi Amin, Stalin, Lenin, Mao, Putin, and the most obvious one of all, Adolf Hitler:

Martin Niemoller documents an extreme example of this. He was a German pastor who took a heroic stand against Adolf Hitler. When he first met the dictator in 1933, Niemoller stood at the back of the room and listened. Later, when his wife asked him what he’d learned, he said, “I discovered that Herr Hitler is a terribly frightened man.” Fear releases the tyrant within.

Fearless Chapter 1: “Why Are We Afraid” by Max Lucado

It takes a special kind of person to be so consumed with fear that they can infect an entire nation with it. But it takes special circumstances for that country to be so gullible that they fall for it.

Someone posted on Facebook a few months ago, just after Donald Trump had made his first comments about watching Mosques, registering Muslims and stopping Mexican illegal immigrants, a picture of a bowl of M&Ms. The bowl was huge, the caption read “There are 100,000 chocolates in this bowl. 10 of them will kill you if you eat them. How many will you eat?”

Fearmongering at it’s basest level.Ten out of 100,000. The storyline below went on to say how the refugees were being infiltrated by ISIS terrorists and how as a result none of them could be trusted etc, etc.

And people bought into it.

Christians bought into it.

A Spirit of Fear has gripped the world in a way not seen in 80 years. And it’s tearing the world apart.

There is no fear in love; but perfect love casts out fear, because fear involves torment. But he who fears has not been made perfect in love.

1 John 4:18

9/11 set in motion a chain of events that has caused the creation of enemies far more deadly than Saddam ever was. George W and Tony Blair flat out lied about the reasons for going into the Gulf War. Thousands of young soldiers on both sides were killed or mutilated as a result. Both men had no military experience personally, something the leaders in the Second World War all had. Perhaps as a result fear was a factor in the decision to go to war. The need to appear strong and decisive in the face of the attack has haunted the globe since.

This week saw a horrific event in Nice, France. Another mass murder by a man it is said was a “radical Islamist”. The events in Europe are increasing, as is the level of fear reported. The Brexit victory was driven by scaremongers who after they won vanished so quickly it was more scary than their win. Apparently they had not considered the possibility of victory, and what to do with it. They just spouted fear-filled rhetoric.

Donald Trump talks of building a wall on the border with Mexico and banning all Muslims from entering the USA. Pure fear talking, but the terrified people respond to it. Recently there have been reports of African-American men being told to “go back to Africa” by whites, who apparently have no clue about why the Black population went to America in the first place – they are simply afraid.

I live in South Africa, a country well known for violence. Prison of FearI’m white, my wife isn’t. After the end of Apartheid legalised interracial marriage – a fear-based ban by a terrified minority – it looked like things would be ok. Fast forward from 1994 to 2016 and I get strange looks from people when I walk with my wife. I generally ignore them.

But Government in South Africa since Mandela has become corrupted by fearful men. Policies have become law that prevent non-Blacks from getting top jobs, or sometimes any job. Instead of investing in the education of the masses the terrified politicians have lined their own pockets and tried to protect their fortunes. The result is increasing crime, unemployment and poverty.

All because of fear.

But the Bible says:

 For you did not receive the spirit of bondage again to fear, but you received the Spirit of adoption by whom we cry out, “Abba, Father.”” (Romans 8:15)

The phrase “Do not be afraid” appears in some form or other hundreds of times in Scripture. I was once told the count is 365 – once for each day of the year – but I have never counted myself. It does seem to come up a lot though.

The early Church feared the Freedom they had been given Spiritually. Some of them made a return to old sacrificial offerings, others began to insist new converts be circumcised – something that might drive men away from the faith! Paul writes in several of his letters reminding his readers that the Law of the Old Covenant has now been replaced by the Law of Faith in Jesus, and lived his life with no fear of man.

Through the centuries there have been thousands of Christians martyred for their faith. They lived with no fear of men or Man’s laws because they are free in their Spirit. It’s the 21st Century now, and still Christians are persecuted across the world. It takes many forms, from beheadings in the Middle-East to ridicule in the West. Anything that seeks to silence our voice for Christ is persecution.

But the truly fearful people are the ones who seek to silence us, and the ones who allow their voice to be silenced. When Paul was told he would be imprisoned if he refused to stop talking about Jesus, he kept talking. The result was that he then ended up teaching the prison guards about Jesus. Everywhere he went, in every circumstance, Paul talked about his friend, Jesus, who knocked him off his donkey and forgave him for everything.

We need to be the same. Especially in a climate of fear such as we have today.

We are called to be Peacemakers.

Not cowards.