Thursday, February 27, 2014

North Korea Imprisons Australian Missionary

The persecution of Jesus Christ continues unabated, in His body on earth, the church.  Today we focus on the detention of an Australian missionary by the Communist government of North Korea.  Last week, following a United Nations report detailing the truly terrible human rights abuses by the North Korean regime (many of which are too gruesome to recount), the Christian world learned from several sources of the detention of John Short, a 75 year old Christian missionary, who, with his wife, has been ministering in Asia for a half century.


From Mark Hager Jr.'s report in Worthy News:

John, a career missionary based in Hong Kong, was traveling to the reclusive nation with a tour group and was arrested in Pyongyang, the North Korean capital. At the time of his arrest, he was in possession of Christian materials that had been translated into Korean.

During a Reuters interview, Karen Short said of her husband, “He won't be intimidated by the communists.”

“He's courageous, this is my husband's character,” she said. “I hope things get better – he's in God's hands, we both totally believe that.”

On Monday, the United Nations published a report which condemned North Korea for “crimes against humanity”, and called for the nation to be brought before the International Criminal Court (ICC).

The U.N.'s 372-page-report was based on satellite imagery and harrowing testimony gathered from more than 80 victims and witnesses over the past 11 months, which included many who survived after being sent to one of the North Korean prison camps. The report covered a broad range of crimes, which included charges of “extermination,” forced abortions, rape, and widespread abductions.

North Korea is widely regarded as one of the world's worst persecutor of Christians, with as many as 50,000 North Korean Christians believed to be imprisoned in concentration type camps around the country.

Based in Hong Kong, John Short has been arrested several times previously in the past 50 years, in China, for his evangelistic efforts; this is his first arrest in North Korea, and, ironically, came when he was simply visiting the country as part of a tour group.

An online group, iCommitToPray.com, is engaged in a prayer effort by individual Christians around the world.  As a sign of support, Christians can visit this site and leave a prayer, or merely their names, for John, which are forwarded to Karen. (There is no solicitation of financial contributions.)  At that same site, instructions may be found for contacting the North Korean government on John's behalf, as well as an inspiring audio interview with Karen.  If you're a believer, I hope you'll join this effort.

Brother Short now joins Asia Bibi, Saeed Abedini, and so many others who are literally imprisoned for their faith.  Those of us who are their brothers and sisters are commanded not to neglect them:  Remember them that are in bonds, as bound with them; and them which suffer adversity, as being yourselves also in the body (Hebrews 13:3).




Other sources:
Australian Christian missionary arrested in North Korea (Reuters)
North Korea Arrests Christian Missionary From Australia (New York Times) 

Monday, February 24, 2014

"Islam was not for me"

If the indescribably barbaric "religion" of Mohammedanism is ever to conquer the world, it will first have to murder its most effective and unanswerable critics: not Christians like me, not Jews or Hindus, not atheists, but those who have experienced Islam first-hand, as practitioners of the "faith," and turned away from it.  In this blog, we have already heard from such truly heroic figures as Mosab Hussan Yousef, the courageous and indefatigable Wafa Sultan,  and others.  We now hear from another such expert: Amil Imani.  An Iranian-born American citizen, Mr. Imani is an essayist, literary translator, columnist, and outspoken defender of human rights for the land of his birth.  He and his family escaped Iran after the radical Iranian revolution.  In his own words:

video

We will be hearing more from Mr. Imani in the future.  For now, his words in this video are absolutely essential, especially in light of the ever-worsening conditions in Iran.  His own website may be found here. We deeply appreciate his courage and honesty, and our prayers are with him and his former countrymen.

Thursday, February 20, 2014

Taking It Literally

One of the most frequent criticisms of Bible believing Christians is that "they take everything in the Bible literally."  Within the past week alone, I've seen repeated references, on Internet message boards, to "the Bible, that book with the talking snake."  The people who make such comments think they're being terribly witty, and they strut their unbelief like a professional model struts down the runway.  (Never mind the fact that they're only displaying their ignorance; the creature that talked to Eve in Genesis is never described as a snake, but as a "serpent," which is different.  God cursed this particular serpent by turning it into a snake, after which it never spoke again.) But such criticisms beg an important question: should the Bible be taken literally, or figuratively?  Is it meant to be taken literally, or as symbolism?  Concerning which, a few observations.


In the first place, much of the Bible can only be taken literally, even if the reader doesn't believe what he's reading.  The Bible is a historical account (past, present, and future) of God's dealings with man.  From a historical perspective, the Bible can be very detailed: for example, in Luke's account of the Nativity, we're told that it happened when Augustus was Caesar; and, to be more specific, when Cyrenius was Governor of Syria (Luke 2:1, 2).  That is an obvious reference to a very specific period of time, and it would be illogical to take it as a "figurative" or "symbolic" statement.  Similarly, the records of the kings, or the military statistics, found in the Old Testament are meant to be taken literally.  One can argue that they're not accurate history, if one is so inclined; but history is what they are.  

On the other hand, it would be foolish to adhere to an absolutely literal interpretation of every word in the Bible.  Jesus says, Verily, verily, I say unto you, I am the door of the sheep (John 10:7). As someone has pointed out, this doesn't mean that Jesus had hinges and a doorknob!  He was obviously speaking figuratively; but the meaning of what He said (that He is the only entrance to Heaven) should be taken as literal truth: Jesus saith unto him, I am the way, the truth, and the life: no man cometh unto the Father, but by me (John 14:6).

Everyone who doubts the Bible has their own favorite objections.  Are we to believe that Jonah literally survived three days in the belly of the whale?  Well, why not?  There have been other historical accounts of such things happening, and, although being swallowed by a whale would undoubtedly be fatal in most cases, we have no empirical evidence that death would be inevitable in three days.  In this particular case, it's worth noting that Jesus Christ Himself took the passage literally: He said, For as Jonas was three days and three nights in the whale's belly; so shall the Son of man be three days and three nights in the heart of the earth (Matthew 12:40).

But what about all the weird things that the prophets saw?  Are we to take them literally?  When Ezekiel saw the strange creatures, or the "wheel in the middle of a wheel" (Ezekiel chapter 1), were those real, literal objects floating in the sky?  As a Bible believer, I think they could have been, but I don't think it's necessary to believe that they were.  The chapter begins, ...the heavens were opened, and I saw visions of God (Ezekiel 1:1). Likewise, John had visions of many things when he was on the isle of Patmos, writing Revelation: but in both cases, the Bible clearly indicates that these were visions, given by God.  Do I believe that there were mysterious physical wheels hovering in the air over Ezekiel's head?  Maybe, maybe not.  But I literally believe that those were some of the things that Ezekiel saw.

This brings us to a crucial point, which was pointed out to me many years ago by a wise teacher: the words "literal" and "physical" are not synonymous.  Something can be literally true, without being physically true in the space-time continuum where we live.  A good example might be Moses' burning bush.  And the angel of the LORD appeared unto him in a flame of fire out of the midst of a bush: and he looked, and, behold, the bush burned with fire, and the bush was not consumed (Exodus 3:2). Was the fire literal?  Yes, it was certainly literal enough for Moses to see. Was it physical?  I think not, because if it had been, the bush would have been consumed.  



The notion of something being literal, but not physical, is hard for the Gentile mind to grasp, although I'm told that Jews have an easier time of it.  But it shouldn't come as any surprise to a man or woman who has received Jesus Christ according to John 1:12 and John 3:3-7.  We believe that the Holy Spirit of God lives within our bodies.  He is literally inside the body of every Christian.  But is His Presence a physical thing, that can be seen on an X-ray or in a blood sample?  Of course not.  In a similar, although horrible, manner, a man or woman can have unclean spirits, also known as demons, inside their bodies: but their literal presence isn't physical - - - it's spiritual.  And spiritual realities supercede even physical realities.  I don't often quote rock & roll songs, but years ago, a band called The Police sang "We Are Spirits in the Material World."  Every human being has an inherent knowledge of this truth, even if they fight against it, and declare themselves "materialists."  And it doesn't just apply to "religious" matters.  A young man thinks of a certain young woman, and suddenly realizes, "I don't just 'like' her; I'm literally in love with her!"  Well, of course his love is literal: it's just not physical, although it may be expressed physically.

When one approaches the Bible, and seeks with a sincere and humble heart to understand it, the best rule of thumb is this: Interpret any word or verse or passage literally, unless it is completely impossible to do so: for example, in the above illustration of Jesus having hinges and a doorknob.  If it says that, in Noah's time, the whole earth was flooded, accept that as a literal truth, and don't believe the intellectual pygmies, proclaiming themselves to be "scholars," who say it was merely a "local" flood.  When God says that Moses crossed the Red Sea, He doesn't mean "the sea of reeds," as the intellectual pygmies claim; if that's what He had wanted to say, that's what He would have said.

And if someone asks if you believe the Bible is literally true, simply smile, and ask courteously, "Of course!  Don't you?"


Friday, February 14, 2014

News of the Day: Animal Edition

Once again, we take a moment to consider some of the most timely and important news items from the strange, allegedly wonderful world in which we live.  This time, however, we turn our attention to the activities of the animal kingdom, and eschew the follies and frailties of mere men and women.  Why, we ask, must we concentrate solely on our own species?  Is this blog species-ist?  I trow not!

1.  At the Hogle Zoo in Salt Lake City, Utah, Eli the Ape correctly predicted the winner of the 2014 Super Bowl, several days before the event.  Eli, who is a mere 13 years old, has correctly predicted the winner of the Super Bowl for the past six years, thus demonstrating an intelligence and analytical ability not shared by most fans of the game.


2.  A seven year old giraffe named Marius was granted a stay of execution by officials of the Jyllands Park Zoo in Denmark.  The bloodthirsty zookeepers had previously announced that Marius would be killed in order to make room for a new female giraffe.  Fortunately, the female giraffe has not been acquired, and the plaintive cries and protests of giraffes worldwide were heard.  Observers speculate, however, that the fiendish zookeepers might change their minds, especially inasmuch as an 18 month old giraffe was recently killed and fed to the lions at the nearby Copenhagen Zoo.  Apparently, giraffe overpopulation is a problem taken much more seriously in northern Europe than Muslim immigration.

3.  A litter of four kittens, having broken in to the maximum security Great Meadows Correctional Facility in Fort Ann, New York, have triumphed over prison regulations and been adopted by both staff and inmates.  The four taffy-colored ferals have become much beloved of this ordinarily cruel environment, with veterinary care being provided by an outside benefactor.  It is not yet clear whether PETA or the ACLU will sue the prison for wrongful confinement.

4.  A 55 year old rabbit hunter in Digby County, Nova Scotia, was viciously attacked by a crazed owl as he checked his traps one night this week. "I kind of looked up at it jokingly and said to it, 'You bugger, you better not be eating my rabbits,'" recounted Kevin O'Neil.  A moment later, he said, "it swooped down and struck me right in the face. Feet first." O'Neil was treated for minor injuries by his wife, and the feathered sociopath escaped into the darkness.


5.  At the National Zoo and Aquarium in Canberra, Australia, greedy capitalist zookeepers are callously selling off the paintings of meerkat artists Makena, Sekai and Mbali.  Long known in meerkat art circles for their avant-garde stylings, the artists' work is now being confiscated and sold to the highest bidder, with no profit going to the animals themselves.  One hopes that this ruthless exploitation will not cause the artists to enter a Blue Period.

6.  It has been discovered that crocodiles can climb trees.  Those who believe in Darwinian evolution are breathlessly speculating what this might portend for a future species of airborne crocodiles.

7.  In a related development, a pair of baby albino alligators has been purchased by an aquarium in Paris, from a reptile collector in Florida.  The two youngsters (about a year old) are among only 30 such alligators known to exist; they cannot survive in the wild, and must be cared for in captivity.  Speculation regarding reproduction is premature, however; the alligators are so young that their sex can't yet be determined.


"I love Paris in the springtime...."

8.  An escaped camel was captured in northern Los Angeles County, California, after repeated complaints that it was chasing cars. Had the fleet-footed beast been loping through the streets of Hollywood, it probably wouldn't have been noticed.

9.  Sad news on the political front.  Hank, a Maine Coon Cat who ran for the United States Senate from Virginia in 2012, and who actually came in third in the race, has died.  Hank's campaign was dismissed by some as a prank, but Virginia's dogs took it seriously enough to create their own attack advertisement:


video

10.  In Rome, the Baalite imposter calling himself Pope Francis, who regularly says public "prayers" for animals, while neglecting to preach the Gospel of Jesus Christ to the world's human population, recently conferred his "apostolic blessings" on a parrot owned by Francesco Lombardi.  Signore Lombardi, a former male stripper, is now a star in pornographic films.  While the parrot is not to be blamed for his owner's occupation, it further illuminates the Pope's steadfast refusal to express disapproval of atheists, homosexuals, or, one presumes, anybody else.  Thus the ghastly antics of the Roman Catholic hierarchy continue, while the parishioners sit in darkness.




Tuesday, February 11, 2014

Words of Consolation

For as the sufferings of Christ abound in us,
 so our consolation also aboundeth by Christ. 
- - - 2 Corinthians 1:5 

There is a blessed proportion. The Ruler of Providence bears a pair of scales - - - in this side He puts His people's trials, and in that He puts their consolations. When the scale of trial is nearly empty, you will always find the scale of consolation in nearly the same condition; and when the scale of trials is full, you will find the scale of consolation just as heavy. When the black clouds gather most, the light is the more brightly revealed to us. When the night lowers and the tempest is coming on, the Heavenly Captain is always closest to His crew. It is a blessed thing, that when we are most cast down, then it is that we are most lifted up by the consolations of the Spirit. One reason is, because trials make more room for consolation. Great hearts can only be made by great troubles. The spade of trouble digs the reservoir of comfort deeper, and makes more room for consolation. God comes into our heart - - - He finds it full - - - He begins to break our comforts and to make it empty; then there is more room for grace. The humbler a man lies, the more comfort he will always have, because he will be more fitted to receive it. Another reason why we are often most happy in our troubles, is this - - - then we have the closest dealings with God. When the barn is full, man can live without God: when the purse is bursting with gold, we try to do without so much prayer. But once take our gourds away, and we want our God; once cleanse the idols out of the house, then we are compelled to honour Jehovah. "Out of the depths have I cried unto thee, O Lord." There is no cry so good as that which comes from the bottom of the mountains; no prayer half so hearty as that which comes up from the depths of the soul, through deep trials and afflictions. Hence they bring us to God, and we are happier; for nearness to God is happiness. Come, troubled believer, fret not over your heavy troubles, for they are the heralds of weighty mercies.  



- - - Charles Haddon Spurgeon
Morning and Evening