Archive for the ‘Persecution’ Category
Always bearing about in the body the dying of the Lord Jesus, that the life also of Jesus might be made manifest in our body. For we which live are alway delivered unto death for Jesus’ sake, that the life also of Jesus might be made manifest in our mortal flesh. (2 Corinthians 4:10,11)
This fourth chapter of 2 Corinthians is the apostle Paul’s statement of power for ministry. He shows us in these stirring verses that God is not looking for brilliant men, is not depending upon eloquent men, is not shut up to the use of talented men in sending His Gospel out in the world.
God is looking for broken men, for men who have judged themselves in the light of the cross of Christ. When He wants anything done, He takes up men who have come to an end of themselves, and whose trust and confidence is not in themselves but in God.
There were those who were calling in to question the apostleship of Paul himself, for he did not seem to them to be what an apostle, according to their estimation of the office, ought to be. There was not the pomp nor the dignity they would expect; he did not come to them with great swelling words, there was no making anything of what he was after the flesh, no drawing attention to his natural ability or education; and in this the method of the apostle Paul was in very vivid contrast to the method pursued by many today who pose as servants of our Lord Jesus Christ. This man went through the world a broken man, a lowly man, a man seeking only the glory of the Lord Jesus Christ and the blessing of souls, a man who might have occupied a very high place among the great and distinguished of earth. But he was a man who for Jesus’ sake had turned his back upon all that, and could say:
God forbid that I should glory, save in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ, by whom the world is crucified unto me, and I unto the world. (Galatians 6:14)
That Cross spoke of the deepest shame and ignominy, and Paul gloried in it because through the work that took place upon it, his soul had been saved, and he had learned that the preaching of the Cross, while it is “to them that perish foolishness,” is “unto us which are saved . . . the power of God” (1 Corinthians 1:18). And so he went forth, content to be broken in order that the light of the grace of God might shine out.
You will notice in verse 6 that . . .
God, who commanded the light to shine out of darkness, hath shined in our hearts, to give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ. But we have this treasure in earthen vessels, that the excellency of the power may be of God, and not of us. (2 Corinthians 4:6,7)
It is easy to see what he has in mind. He is thinking undoubtedly of that very striking incident of which we read in Judges, when Gideon and his three hundred men took their lives in their hands, were delivered unto death, as it were, and went forth against the vast armies of the Midianites. Surely, no other army was accoutered [equipped] as this one. They carried in one hand a trumpet and in the other a pitcher, and in this pitcher was a lamp. The light of the lamp was not seen though it was already lit. It was not seen as long as it was in the earthen jar. They surrounded the army of the Midianites in the middle of the night, and suddenly at the command of their leader, the jars were crashed to earth, and the light shone out, and the Midianites sprang up startled. They heard the crash and saw the light, and thought that they were surrounded by a tremendous army, and they turned their swords upon one another. It was God through Gideon that led the army to victory. A broken pitcher in order that light might shine out! The apostle says, as it were, “That is it! If you want to be a light for God in a world like this, be content to be broken, to have your hopes, your ambitions, all dashed to pieces, and then God can take you up and use you in order to carry the light of Christ to darkened hearts.”
How are we broken? By affliction, by trouble, by the discipline of the Lord, sometimes by sickness, by pain and anguish. All these are the divine methods for breaking God’s pitchers in order that the light may shine out to His praise and glory. Men may misjudge us, misrepresent us, persecute us bitterly; we may not have enough food to eat or water to drink; we may be cast down; we may suffer all kinds of sorrows; but it is all right if it breaks us in order that God may be able the better to use us. And so he says, “We are troubled on every side, yet not distressed; we are perplexed, but not in despair; Persecuted, but not forsaken; cast down, but not destroyed” (2 Corinthians 4:8,9); for in all these experiences, we are simply “bearing about in the body the dying of the Lord Jesus, that the life also of Jesus may be made manifest in our body.” He “came from Godhead’s fullest glory down to Calvary’s depth of woe.” We sometimes sing a little hymn that always stirs the heart. I remember hearing Dr. Torrey say he believed of all the hymns that were used in his meetings around the world, it was the one that seemed to be most blessed of God to the people. It is:
“I surrender all,
I surrender all,
All to Thee, my blessed Savior,
I surrender all.”
But that hymn never had the appeal it ought to have for my own heart until one day I found myself changing that chorus. I was thinking of Him who though He was . . .
in the form of God, thought it not robbery to be equal with God: But made himself of no reputation, and took upon him the form of a servant, and was made in the likeness of men: And being found in fashion as a man, he humbled himself, and became obedient unto death, even the death of the cross. (Philippians 2:6-8)
He surrendered all,
He surrendered all,
All for me, my blessed Savior,
He surrendered all.
And then my heart said, “O Lord, it will be easy to sing it the other way now, for what have I to give up, to surrender, in comparison with what Thou didst give up in order to redeem my guilty soul from going down to the pit?” It is as you and I realize from day to day what it all meant to Him that we can bear about in the body the dying of the Lord Jesus. Dying day by day to our own hopes and ambitions, dying to the good opinion of people, dying to human praise and adulation, to everything that the natural heart grasps, dying in the death of Jesus to it all, because He died for us in order that “the life of Jesus may be made manifest in our body.”
You will notice that verses 10 and 11 are very much alike, and yet the great difference is this: verse 10 suggests something that we do deliberately, consciously, whereas verse 11 is something that God does for us. What is it we are called upon to do? “Always bearing about in the body the dying of the Lord Jesus”—reminding ourselves every day that Jesus died for us, “bearing about in the body” and because He died for us, we are gladly to put ourselves in the place of death for Him.
Looking back to the Cross, the apostle Paul could say:
I am crucified with Christ: nevertheless I live; yet not I, but Christ liveth in me: and the life which I now live in the flesh, I live by the faith of the Son of God, who loved me, and gave Himself for me. (Galatians 2:20)
But this has to be put into practice daily by putting my tastes and ambitions in the place of death. That is my part. But here is God’s part:
We which live are always delivered unto death for Jesus’ sake, that the life also of Jesus might be made manifest in our mortal flesh. (2 Corinthians 4:11)
You tell God that you are willing to take the place of death with Christ, and He will see that it is made good; you tell God you are going to trust Him, and He will test your faith and show you what it means to trust Him; you tell Him that you are ready to surrender everything to Him, and He will put you in the place where you will begin to find out what full surrender really means. I do not know of anything that it seems should have such an appeal to the Christian heart along this line as the frequent remembrance of our Lord Jesus Christ in His death, and I think it is because He realized it is so easy for us to forget, that He said to His disciples when He gave them this memorial feast,
This do in remembrance of me. (Luke 22:19)
And the Holy Spirit said:
As often as ye eat this bread, and drink this cup, ye do shew the Lord’s death till He come. (1 Corinthians 11:26)
Every time we are called upon thus to remember the Lord, it is a new challenge to ask ourselves, “Am I simply remembering Him in a cold, formal, intellectual way because it is customary, or am I truly in my heart remembering the One who went down beneath the dark waters of death for me, and am I truly ready now to always bear about in the body the dying of the Lord Jesus?”
What a poor thing it is to come together in assemblies to participate in the communion of the Lord’s Supper and then go out from the building and forget what it all really means, forget that our Savior died, that we are linked up with the One who died, and that He has left us an example that we should follow His steps—that is, we should always bear about in the body the dying of the Lord Jesus. This seems to me to be linked very intimately with several Old Testament references to which our attention is drawn in Hebrews 11. We read:
By faith Joseph, when he died, made mention of the departing of the children of Israel; and gave commandment concerning his bones. (Hebrews 11:22)
Did you ever stop and ask why the Holy Spirit selected that particular incident to dwell upon? He has instanced something that you and I would probably have passed over altogether. What did Joseph do? “Gave commandment concerning his bones.” In Genesis 50:25, we read where Joseph, talking to the children of Israel, says:
God will surely visit you, and ye shall carry up my bones from hence. So Joseph died, being an hundred and ten years old: and they embalmed him, and he was put in a coffin in Egypt.
That is the close of Genesis. What an odd way to close the book! But God wants us to think about the bones of Joseph. They are there in a coffin in Egypt, but they are to be carried to Canaan.
In Exodus 13, we find that the children of Israel who have been sheltered by the blood of the Passover lamb are starting out for Canaan, and we read:
Moses took the bones of Joseph with him: for he had straitly sworn the children of Israel, saying, God will surely visit you; and ye shall carry up my bones away hence with you. (Exodus 13:19)
Who was Joseph? He was the savior of Israel. If it had not been for him, they had all been destroyed in the famine, but he was their savior, and now he says, “When you leave Egypt to go to Canaan, you carry my bones with you.” When they left, they were very careful to do as they were told, and all the way across the sands of the desert wherever that great caravan went, they were always bearing about in the body the dying of Joseph.
I think I see that great procession winding its way up over the hills; and the Amalekites and the Midianites looking at them in wonder say, “What is that strange dark casket?” Presently, they call an Israelite and ask him, and he says, “We were once in greatest distress; if God had not had mercy upon us we would have been left to die, but He raised up a savior for us, one of our own people; his name was Joseph and he delivered us; Joseph saved us. But our savior died, and we are marching on to the land that our God has given us, and until we get there, we carry with us the memorial of death, the bones of Joseph. We can never forget him; he died, but we have the memorials still.” And by-and-by when they reached the land, when they arrived at the place that God Himself had selected for them, we are told that after everything else was properly attended to,
The bones of Joseph, which the children of Israel brought out of Egypt, buried they in Shechem, in a parcel of ground which Jacob bought of the sons of Hamor, the father of Shechem for an hundred pieces of silver: and it became the inheritance of the children of Joseph. (Joshua 24:32)
There was no need to carry the bones of Joseph through the wilderness any more, for they were at home now. And, beloved, you and I are passing on through the wilderness of this world, we will soon be at Home, but until we reach there we are called upon to bear about in the body the dying of Jesus, and as we remember Him in the breaking of bread and the drinking of the cup, we should challenge our own hearts: Are we simply looking objectively toward that Cross and saying, “There our Savior died,” or are we seeking day by day to practically make it manifest that His death means more to us than all that this world glories in?
NEW BOOKLET: FAITH UNDER FIRE—Are You Growing in It or Fleeing From It? by Cedric H. Fisher is our newest Lighthouse Trails Booklet. The Booklet is 10 pages long and sells for $1.95 for single copies. Quantity discounts are as much as 50% off retail. Our Booklets are designed to give away to others or for your own personal use. Below is the content of the booklet. To order copies of FAITH UNDER FIRE—Are You Growing in It or Fleeing From It?, click here.
By Cedric H. Fisher
God’s Word gives us examples of faith in the fire, faith in the flood, faith when outnumbered by the enemy, faith when facing an indomitable foe, faith in prison, faith during torture, faith when destitute, hungry, and thirsty, faith on stormy seas, faith to lose everything and faith to receive it all back again, faith to procreate though infertile, and faith to die. Every instance of faith thus described is manifested in adversity or great need. To find examples in Scripture of faith operating in a peaceful and bountiful climate would be a difficult task. I’m not sure there are any at all.
The Bible likens God’s way of purifying the faith of a believer to the refining process of gold. Peter writes:
. . . that the trial of your faith, being much more precious than of gold that perisheth, though it be tried with fire, might be found unto praise and honour and glory at the appearing of Jesus Christ. (1 Peter 1:7)
The refining process of gold requires that it be heated to a molten condition whereby the impurities (dross) float to the top and are skimmed off. The prophet Malachi describes this process as an illustration of how God purifies the believer:
[A]nd he shall sit as a refiner and purifier of silver: and he shall purify the sons of Levi, and purge them as gold and silver, that they may offer unto the Lord an offering in righteousness. (Malachi 3:3)
Some might contend that the peaceful climate is the result of faith. That may be true, but it is not faith in operation. Good health is the result of exercise, but it is not exercise. If our comfortable status is faith, then the testings of faith would not require adversity. Further, there would be no biblical examples of godly men and women exercising faith to overcome adversity.
The obvious truth is that the appearance of faith tends to be relatively dormant in times of peace. We are sustained by the benefits of our relationship with God. However, when a true Christian believes he can go through life without any adversity, such a person is being set up to be “channeled.” Now, what I am referring to by “channeled” is this: when someone tries to avoid adversity, he is actually setting himself up to be manipulated and channeled by Satan who is always at work to make it difficult and painful for devoted believers to obey God’s will.
Let me elaborate on this line of thought. If a Christian believer intends to be a light that shines in darkness, he becomes a target of evil entities. If he stands up for and speaks the truth, he will suffer. If he accepts, assimilates, and defends the values of godliness, he will suffer. If he refuses to go with the flow of nominal Christianity or worse, apostasy, he will suffer. If he refuses to deviate from God’s Word in a time of great compromise, he will suffer. If he has a prophetic calling, he might even lose his life for Christ’s sake.
Consider this scenario: A professing Christian has witnessed the suffering of a fellow believer who is being a true witness for Jesus Christ. The professing Christian has tried to do the same and experiences similar sufferings and consequences. As a result, he decides to avoid manifesting any fruit of Christianity that causes contention, rejection, or persecution. He is considered one of the nicest, most gregarious, kindly, friendly, and positive people. Everyone loves him and speaks well of him. What’s more, he is flexible and capable of mingling with any belief system. Nearly everyone enjoys associating with him, and he has excellent rapport with all of them. Secular and religious people of all stripes laud him as an example of a true Christian. And he does not want to lose that status, so he makes every attempt to make sure he doesn’t end up suffering again.
However, such a Christian does not match the examples of what the Bible describes as true Christianity, nor does he match the example of Christ Himself. In reality, such professing Christians, in their efforts to avoid the consequences and sufferings of true Christianity, are being “channeled” by Satan and his imps. Upon seeing this compromising attitude, these adversaries of our souls can re-circumvent lives (i.e., change the direction one is going) by causing situations that re-direct that person in his walk because he wants to avoid suffering, ridicule, and rejection for standing in and defending the faith.
These re-directed channeled Christians have, in effect, turned down their light to a non-offensive level. In fact, they are not actually lights at all, but shadows; they lie somewhere between light and darkness. The path they walk weaves around every uncomfortable and inconvenient situation; they walk in a state of delusion because deceit has become the norm for them. Christ warned about this type of fruitless follower.
Woe unto you, when all men shall speak well of you! for so did their fathers to the false prophets. (Luke 6:26)
The apostle Paul described what would befall the ones who truly desire to live godly in Christ. “Yea, and all that will live godly in Christ Jesus shall suffer persecution” (2 Timothy 3:12). Peter also wrote about the suffering of true followers of Christ. He mentioned the suffering of believers eighteen times in his first letter.
Beloved, think it not strange concerning the fiery trial which is to try you, as though some strange thing happened unto you: But rejoice, inasmuch as ye are partakers of Christ’s sufferings; that, when his glory shall be revealed, ye may be glad also with exceeding joy. (1 Peter 4:12-13)
Isn’t it interesting (and tragic) that so many modern-day Christians believe it is strange to suffer and that it is not God’s will. They believe they are supposed to be constantly happy, blessed, healthy, wealthy, and peaceful, while enjoying life in this temporal realm. The terms “happy,” “blessed,” “peaceful,” etc, are relative. Those emotions are based on a life ordered by them, not by God. They avoid all negativity. They have no productivity because it is inconvenient.
Heretics find a willing audience in these individuals because they never resist darkness. To do so would be too uncomfortable and painful. Their lives are empty, swept, and ordered (Matthew 12:44). They’ve maintained a shiny neon shell of godliness, but there is no substance inside. The will of God is not included in their order. Standing up for truth, being a true light that exposes evil, obeying God when the price is rejection, or worse, harsh persecution, are not in their order of things to do.
The focus of that type of professing Christian is on milking God’s Word and kingdom of all the benefits without incurring the costs of genuine relationship. They are “professors,” but not possessors. They never exercise faith because they avoid the situations where faith is needed. There is no sense of true victory in them. There must be constant stimulation from a source other than God and His Word.
I think of the so-called present-day “Christian” music and how so much of it lacks the substance to build one’s faith. This faith-less music does not exhort people to repent, fully surrender to God, pray, and refrain from lifestyles that caused their defeat. Instead, the great majority of the songs put the entire responsibility of ones deliverance from sin on God; and while it is true that only God can break the bondage to sin, it is also true that “without faith it is impossible to please [God]” (Hebrews 11:6). The backslider and hypocrite are treated as helpless victims instead of rebels who need to acknowledge their sin and repent. We certainly need His forgiveness, but He has made it clear that repentance, denouncing our sin, and surrendering to His will is our responsibility. (Remember the old hymn, “Kneel at the Cross”?) And you sure won’t hear too many songs in today’s churches that talk about the sufferings of Christ that we must also be prepared to endure. In the apostle Paul’s letter to the Philippians, he so eloquently describes the role and the results of our willingness to suffer for Christ’s sake:
But what things were gain to me, those I counted loss for Christ. Yea doubtless, and I count all things but loss for the excellency of the knowledge of Christ Jesus my Lord: for whom I have suffered the loss of all things, and do count them but dung, that I may win Christ, And be found in him, not having mine own righteousness, which is of the law, but that which is through the faith of Christ, the righteousness which is of God by faith: That I may know him, and the power of his resurrection, and the fellowship of his sufferings. (Philippians 3:7-10)
Christians who do not exercise their faith but rather run from it end up in a miserable and decrepit spiritual condition. And allowing such a thing to happen does not honor God at all. For one thing, it ignores and rejects all He has given us for victory, the “precious promises” He gives us for living godly lives consecrated to Him. To such people, the substance of faith is more a happy thought or luck charm than it is a supernatural infusion of iron will to fight the good fight and win:
[W]hereby are given unto us exceeding great and precious promises: that by these ye might be partakers of the divine nature, having escaped the corruption that is in the world through lust. And beside this, giving all diligence, add to your faith virtue; and to virtue knowledge; and to knowledge temperance; and to temperance patience; and to patience godliness; and to godliness brotherly kindness; and to brotherly kindness charity. For if these things be in you, and abound, they make you that ye shall neither be barren nor unfruitful in the knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ. (2 Peter 1:4-8)
The damage of the so-called “positive confession” aka “Word of Faith” heresy has been to strip out the heart of a warrior and replace it with the heart of entitlement-mindedness. Even committed followers of Jesus Christ can be affected by this fallacy if they are not watchful. When they suffer and feel alone and rejected, they wonder if God has abandoned them. That is actually an opportunity for faith to go from embers to blazing brilliance.
As long as we are humans and children of God, we need the trials. When distraction and disfocus dim our view of God’s glory or our humanity incrementally cools us to a temperature less than hot, we need the fiery trials. In essence, we must embrace them. Paul said he actually took pleasure in them (because he knew the benefits of them):
And he said unto me, My grace is sufficient for thee: for my strength is made perfect in weakness. Most gladly therefore will I rather glory in my infirmities, that the power of Christ may rest upon me. Therefore I take pleasure in infirmities, in reproaches, in necessities, in persecutions, in distresses for Christ’s sake: for when I am weak, then am I strong. (2 Corinthians 12:9-10)
From my own experiences during fiery trials, I can testify that the pain, the angst, and other suffering are conquered the instant I surrender to the flames. It is like falling backwards off a steep cliff into the hands of God. There is no parachute and no stopping halfway. If He doesn’t catch you, then you will hit the bottom and die. That is literally the goal of faith—to trust God with your life and everything in it. All that is not put into His hands is unprotected and causes us angst and suffering. However, when all is surrendered, we receive a deep serenity that the fire will not burn anything except what needs to be consumed. That’s when the gold shines.
Wherein ye greatly rejoice, though now for a season, if need be, ye are in heaviness through manifold temptations: That the trial of your faith, being much more precious than of gold that perisheth, though it be tried with fire, might be found unto praise and honour and glory at the appearing of Jesus Christ: Whom having not seen, ye love; in whom, though now ye see him not, yet believing, ye rejoice with joy unspeakable and full of glory: Receiving the end of your faith, even the salvation of your souls. (1 Peter 1:6-9; emphasis added)
Remember, the destiny of Christ was a cross. Our destiny is also a cross. Only when we accept that destiny, will we understand. Newness of life has its birth and growing pains. But the heart of a believer in Jesus Christ holds this proverb by its roots:
For I reckon that the sufferings of this present time are not worthy to be compared with the glory which shall be revealed in us. (Romans 8:18; emphasis added)
In the meantime, let us not grow weary of the trials and tribulations of this life, knowing that God is doing His work within us for His glory:
But he knoweth the way that I take: when he hath tried me, I shall come forth as gold. (Job 23:10)
Below is the content of the booklet. To order copies of FAITH UNDER FIRE—Are You Growing in It or Fleeing From It?, click here.
For more by Cedric Fisher, click here.
NEW BOOKLET: Remembering the Persecuted Church and Why We Need to Pray by Susan Moore is our newest Lighthouse Trails Booklet. The Booklet is 18 pages long and sells for $1.95 for single copies. Quantity discounts are as much as 50% off retail. Our Booklets are designed to give away to others or for your own personal use. Below is the content of the booklet. This booklet contains photos. To order copies of Remembering the Persecuted Church and Why We Need to Pray, click here.
per-se-cute (transitive verb): to oppress people; to systematically subject a race or group of people to cruel or unfair treatment, e.g. because of their ethnic origin or religious beliefs.1
My family and I had been burdened and praying for the Soviet Union for many years. Then, in 1994, our dream came true—a door opened for us to serve as missionaries in Moscow, where we were able to encourage the saints and help disciple the harvest of new believers that the end of the Cold War had afforded. In 1996, we were asked to travel to Rybinsk, a rural town ten hours (by train) north of Moscow on the Volga River. We were to deliver children’s Bibles and other Christian literature to the House of Prayers Evangelical Christian Baptist Church. During our three day visit, we stayed in the guest room of Pastor Kravtsov and his family. In this single-story wooden house with a large vegetable garden, the pastor and his wife raised five children and held secret worship services every Sunday for the better part of twenty-five years.
I asked Pastor Kravtsov if I might ask him a few personal questions. The translator interpreted, and it took no encouragement for him to nod his approval. “Tell us when you started your walk with God,” I asked. His eyes sparkled as he began to reflect.
“I have carried my cross since childhood,” he said, “from the first years of my life. My father was arrested for preaching about Christ. Most of what I know of him has been told to me. He was killed in 1933. I was only 3 years old at the time.
“But I do remember my grandfather. Because of him everything [the spread of the Gospel] started in our village. During the First World War, he was captured by the Austrians. A few years later, he came back as a believer—not an Orthodox believer, but a Christian Baptist. For that time, 1917, that was something new. People in our village somehow felt the presence of the truth, and they started coming to his house. And his house became a house of prayer. I can hardly imagine that in this little wooden house every Sunday for twenty-five years from different parts of town, believers would come to worship in spite of the high risk of persecution.”
I asked my brother, “What has been the most difficult time in your life as a pastor?”
“This was the time of the greatest persecution of the church—the ’50s, ’60s, and ’70s,” he told me. “I would not live a day without someone from the KGB harassing me or tempting me to compromise my faith. In 1965, a brother from the United Baptist Organization came from Moscow and asked me to be the recognized pastor here. At that time, I was preaching and leading the people but was not called pastor. My wife and I stayed awake the whole night discussing the difficulties of this decision. The KGB already knew about the offer, for the following day they came and informed me that if I decided to be the pastor, they would take me straight to prison. My wife said to me, ‘Leonid, to be a pastor is a calling from God. You need to make up your mind if you will follow. God knows. He will take care of your family if they put you in prison.’ God did protect me, and I did not go to prison for some time.”
On the last day of our visit to Rybinsk, I stood near the back of the narrow church hall of the House of Prayers. There were about 300 other saints standing with me: Women in dark-colored dresses, scarves covering the hair of the married ones; men in white shirts, buttoned to the top. All were solemn, yet somehow the sense of joyous awe was palpable. This was the close of the more than two-hour church service we had just shared together. Sixty-two-year-old Pastor Leonid Kravtsov was serving Communion from a stoneware chalice—personally, individually—to all 300 members of his Baptist congregation. As I waited for him to reach our pew, I reverently surveyed my surroundings, noticing the wall of honor covered with the faded images of church members who had served prison time for their faith in Jesus Christ during the harsh years of Communist repression. A poster depicting this mural had hung on the kitchen wall of our California apartment in years gone by. We had used it as a family reminder to pray for the health and safety of these believers as they languished in prison and labor camps. At that moment, I found it difficult to believe I was actually standing there sharing in the oneness of the communion of saints with such courageous believers.
We Should Pray Because God Answers Prayer
We should pray for persecuted Christians because God answers prayer. I have first-hand evidence of this. In 1978, we started praying for Lida Vashchenko and her six relatives who sought asylum in the United States Embassy in Moscow. Known as “the Siberian Seven,” for five years, they feared for their lives if they stepped foot outside the sanctuary that the embassy provided. Due to political pressure from the West and God’s intervention in answer to prayer, they were allowed to emigrate in 1983 and settled in Washington State.
In that same year Christian musician Valeri Barinov was institutionalized in an insane asylum for his “crazy” insistence that Jesus Christ was alive and a personal friend of his. A prayer campaign was launched on his behalf, and today he is living free in England.
God’s answer to prayer results in captives being released. He also answers prayer by bringing spiritual and physical comfort to those who are suffering as a result of their faithfulness to Christ. Soviet prisoner Mikhail Khorev, at a time of deep despair and suffering, had even thought about praying for his own death. Then one morning, everything changed. He was summoned by the authorities from his dank and cold cell and allowed to shower and change into fresh clothes. What was the cause of this sudden kind treatment? He had no idea. But later he discovered the secret.
I did not know about the international attention to my case. The letters that had been printed in Vestnik Istiny had attracted a lot of attention. Many believers all over the world were praying for me and the other Christians in Russian prisons. Pressure was put on the governments to do something about our situation. That was the reason for my reprieve. But God orchestrated all of it, I am sure. His perfect will was being done.2
In August 2016, Russian president Vladimir Putin resurrected an old law which prohibits the free preaching and sharing of the Gospel. Those in violation of this new law will be issued severe fines. In the 1960s and 1970s, Georgi Vins, a young Baptist pastor in the Soviet Union, was in a similar situation. By the time it was over, he had spent eight years (starting at the age of 32) in Soviet prisons. Vins, a leader in the underground church in the Soviet Union until he was imprisoned, recounts one prison experience in his book The Gospel in Bonds. After being classified as a “Red Stripe” prisoner (one who was at risk of escaping the labor camp), Vins was subjected to the cruel treatment that this designation entailed. Even though he assured his captors that as a Christian he was compelled to obey any rules they inflicted which were not directly contrary to the Word of God, the Christian prisoner was awakened every two hours throughout each night, this after the usual ten-hour day of back-breaking hard labor. The additional undeserved harsh treatment nearly broke his spirit. He wrote:
Never had I felt so forlorn, so abandoned in that strange prisoner world. It was as though nothing existed except the desolate camp, nothing but prisoners and guards, pressure and slavery.3
Then one day without explanation, the red stripe was removed, and he was allowed to resume the routine of a “normal” prisoner. Vins sang hymns of praise to the Lord, his Deliverer.
Life was easier without that red stripe. I felt as though I were already halfway to freedom! Years later, I learned that Christians in my country and around the world had prayed for me and petitioned the Soviet government on my behalf. How thankful I am that they remembered the prisoners, including me.4
We Should Pray Because the Bible Tells Us To
Jesus warned His disciples that those who follow Him will face persecution. The Book of Acts records the beginning of the fulfillment of this prediction. Some of the apostles were arrested and beaten. Stephen was stoned to death. James, the brother of John, was executed by sword. John Foxe recounts the martyrdom of James:
No sooner had Herod Agrippa been appointed governor of Judea, than . . . he raised a sharp persecution against the Christians and determined to make an effectual blow by striking at their leaders. . . . when James was led to the place of martyrdom, his accuser was brought to repent of his conduct by the apostle’s extraordinary courage. His accuser fell down at the feet of James requesting his pardon, professing himself a Christian, and resolving that James should not receive the crown of martyrdom alone. Hence they were both beheaded at the same time.5
Shortly after this, King Herod put Peter in jail, chained between two guards with additional guards posted outside the cell door:
Peter therefore was kept in prison: but prayer was made without ceasing of the church unto God for him. (Acts 12:5)
I don’t know about you, but I have always found the account of what happens next in this story to be somewhat amusing. A bright light shone in the prison, an angel appeared, and Peter’s shackles fell off. But the angel had to poke Peter to wake him up. Peter must have still been half asleep for we read the angel’s sharp commands as though Peter couldn’t figure these things out for himself. “Get up! Now get dressed! Put your shoes on! Now your coat. Come on, follow me!” And the angel led him out of prison and into the city and then left him.
Peter then made his way to a home where he must have known the believers would be gathered. But the very saints who had been praying for Peter could not believe it was him knocking on their door. Much confusion ensued before they opened the door and let him in. The Scripture says, “They were astonished.”
I think I am a bit like that too. I pray for the persecuted church, for captives to be delivered. God hears. God answers! And then I am astonished.
The writers of the New Testament epistles understood our reluctance to pray such lofty prayers, so they left us exhortations to “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) because when “one member suffers, all the members suffer with it; or one member be honoured, all the members rejoice with it” (1 Corinthians 12:26). There are others:
Finally, brethren, pray for us, that the word of the Lord may have free course, and be glorified, even as it is with you: And that we may be delivered from unreasonable and wicked men: for all men have not faith. (2 Thessalonians 3:1-2)
For we would not, brethren, have you ignorant of our trouble which came to us in Asia, that we were pressed out of measure, above strength, insomuch that we despaired even of life: But we had the sentence of death in ourselves, that we should not trust in ourselves, but in God which raiseth the dead: Who delivered us from so great a death, and doth deliver: in whom we trust that he will yet deliver us; Ye also helping together by prayer for us. (2 Corinthians 1:8-11)
Put on the whole armour of God, that ye may be able to stand against the wiles of the devil. For we wrestle not against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this world, against spiritual wickedness in high places. . . . Praying always with all prayer and supplication in the Spirit, and watching thereunto with all perseverance and supplication for all saints. (Ephesians 6:11-12, 18)
We Should Pray Because Persecution Continues
We should pray for the persecuted church because the need is greater today than ever before. In fact, reports from organizations whose mission is to keep track of persecutions committed against Christians worldwide reveal that more than twice as many Christians were killed for their faith in 2015 than in the previous year—which makes 2015 “the deadliest year for Christians worldwide.”6
When the statistics are broken down, the numbers are staggering. Whether by firing squad, stoning, beheading, being burned alive, or some other horrific means, it is documented that thousands of Christians suffer some form of violence because of their faith (including beatings, rape, or destruction of property) every year worldwide.7
According to a 2016 report from a persecution watch-dog group, North Korea ranks number one in countries that persecute Christians:
For the 14th consecutive year, North Korea was listed at No. 1 on the World Watch List, again making it the greatest persecutor of Christians in the world with a persecution rating of 92 out of 100. As the Kim regime continues its intolerance toward religion, between 50,000 to 70,000 Christians are suffering in regime labor camps.8
A 2013 news article titled, “North Korea Executed 80 People for Watching TV and Owning Bibles” reports on religious persecution in the Communist country:
The North Korean leadership forces its citizens to embrace the Juche ideology “which mixes Marxism with worship of the late ‘Great Leader’ Kim II Sung and his family . . . Practicing the Christian faith is illegal in North Korea, where merely owning a Bible is considered criminal. . . . any person caught with one is sent—along with three generations of his or her family—to prison.9
Sadly, some North Korean believers choose to keep their faith a secret. Still others courageously flee their homeland in an attempt to find safety in neighboring China. There, they not only find themselves unwelcome refugees, but they are placing kind-hearted Chinese Christians at risk as well. In 2016, Chinese Pastor Han from the city of Changbai was hacked to death. Authorities said his murder was to warn Chinese Christians not to assist North Korean Christian refugees.10
In fact, China has stepped up its efforts to quell the rapid spread of Christianity. A recent tactic of razing churches under the guise of “zoning conflicts” resulted in Chinese Christian Ding Cuimai being buried alive as she attempted to block the bulldozing of the church she attended.11
One article revealed that persecution in China against Christians has exploded:
China’s sentencing of Christians exploded more than 10,000 percent from 2013 to 2014, according to a new report from China Aid Association, an organization that exposes religious freedom and human rights abuses.12
According to this article, the persecution has intensified due to the growth of Christianity in China:
In response to the growth of Christianity in China, the Chinese government has instituted various campaigns to persecute both house churches and government-sanctioned TSPM churches throughout China by harassing, abusing, arresting, and, in many cases, sentencing pastors and church members to prison.13
Because we have all seen the ghastly images on the news, it comes as no surprise that nations in the Middle East and Africa—such as Iraq, Iran, Syria, Sudan, and Nigeria—are leaders in nations where Christian martyrdom most often occurs.
One report states that Islamic extremism is the main source of persecution in 41 of the top 50 countries—that is, 82 percent of the world’s persecution of Christians is being committed by Muslims. As for the top ten worst countries persecuting Christians, nine of them are Muslim-majority—that is, 90 percent of nations where Christians experience “extreme persecution” are Muslim.14
In the regions of Iraq where ISIS has gained a stronghold, Christian families are aware of the life or death choices they may be forced to make. As the Koran instructs, all non-Muslims must choose one of three choices: convert to Islam, pay a tribute fee (which is most often their home, business, and all possessions), or be put to death. Along with this, their daughters may be forced to marry ISIS fighters, and their sons may be compelled to join the fight. Faced with such unimaginable decisions, most choose to join the growing flood of refugees fleeing their homeland.
Needless to say, I could give pages and pages of examples of persecution against Christians. Satan and his minions have waged war against the saints down through the ages using governments, ideologies, and false religions as their earthly instruments. A quick read through the table of contents of Foxe’s Book of Martyrs will bear this out. Christians face danger and difficulties for worshipping as they desire in a large portion of the world. Islamic ideology is spreading throughout the globe, seeking to eradicate or neutralize those perceived to be a threat to the progression of their religion; it is clear to see that Satan’s methods have not changed down through the centuries; he has merely chosen Islam as his newest tool.
And I heard a loud voice saying in heaven, Now is come salvation, and strength, and the kingdom of our God, and the power of his Christ: for the accuser of our brethren is cast down, which accused them before our God day and night. And they overcame him by the blood of the Lamb, and by the word of their testimony; and they loved not their lives unto the death. (Revelation 12:10-11)
We Should Pray for Those Who Persecute
Let us not forget to pray for those who persecute. Unless such wretched souls repent and turn truly to the Lord, they will spend eternity in Hell. The Bible says, “Bless them which persecute you: bless, and curse not” (Romans 12:14). And Jesus said:
But I say unto you, Love your enemies, bless them that curse you, do good to them that hate you, and pray for them which despitefully use you, and persecute you. (Matthew 5:44)
This poem by Georgi Vins is a good reminder for us to pray for the persecutors as well as the persecuted:
To My Persecutors
My persecutors, I do not curse you,
And at this hour under the burden of the cross
I pray for you and bless you
With the simple humanity of Christ.
I am pure before you: by word and deeds
I have called you to good and to light.
I have so much wished that your hearts
Would be possessed by the lofty ideal of love.
But rejecting this kind summons
You answered with rabid enmity.
My persecutors, I do not curse you,
But I am saddened by your fate.
The immortal examples of history
Speak of the futility of persecution—
The fires of love and abundant faith
Burn enthusiastically through the whole land!
My persecutors, I do not curse you,
And at this hour under the burden of the cross
I pray for you and bless you
With the simple humanity of Christ.15
—Georgi P. Vins
Anyusha Prison Camp, 1968
What Can We Do?
What can we do in the face of such overwhelming evil as persecution for our faith?
First, we can remember that God is on His throne, and in the end, He will make things right.
And when he had opened the fifth seal, I saw under the altar the souls of them that were slain for the word of God, and for the testimony which they held: And they cried with a loud voice, saying, How long, O Lord, holy and true, dost thou not judge and avenge our blood on them that dwell on the earth? And white robes were given unto every one of them; and it was said unto them, that they should rest yet for a little season, until their fellowservants also and their brethren, that should be killed as they were, should be fulfilled. (Revelation 6:9-11)
We can identify with those who are suffering, as the Bible instructs us. It helps to remember that each number in the statistics represents a real person. Stay informed and learn the names, faces, and stories behind the numbers; though many of them will never be known by you and me, God knows each and every one.
We can remember that the battle the persecuted church is facing is a spiritual battle. And the weapons of our warfare on their behalf are spiritual as well.
The weapons of our warfare are not carnal, but mighty through God to the pulling down of strong holds. (2 Corinthians 10:4)
And therefore, we must pray without ceasing.
Persecution—Will We Be Ready?
At the 2015 Parliament of the World’s Religions held in Salt Lake City, where speakers such as Brian McLaren, the Dalai Lama, and Marianne Williamson spoke to over fourteen thousand attendees, eye witnesses reported that in the midst of this interfaith event, there was an overstated hostile sentiment regarding Bible-believing Christians. One eye-witness stated:
The Christian view of “salvation” has the inclusion/exclusion message of “we are in—they are not.” The interfaith movement cites this as an evil. In other words, to say salvation is by Christ alone, and there is a Hell and there is a Heaven is not accepting of other faiths. It is exclusive, unaccepting of other religions, especially because they believe “God accepts all, God is in all.” The Christian orthodox view of Heaven and Hell will no longer be tolerated as they says it divides humanity.16
Christians in the Western world should realize that persecution and martyrdom have been the norm for countless believers in the past centuries of Christianity and now in much of today’s non-Western world. The question we have hanging over our heads is, will Western Christians have what it takes to stand for their faith and even die for their faith? With all the comforts and freedom Western believers have enjoyed, will this ease of being a Christian believer help or hinder our ability to live (or die) for our faith. Suppose a government threatens to take away our homes, our jobs, and our comforts if we refuse to stop standing for the truth of the Gospel and sharing it with others—would we be willing to lose all for the sake of Christ? It’s a question every Christian needs to ask himself. In the meantime, let us remember the persecuted church, and let us continually pray for those believers who make up this important and suffering segment of the body of Christ.
Yea doubtless, and I count all things but loss for the excellency of the knowledge of Christ Jesus my Lord: for whom I have suffered the loss of all things, and do count them but dung, that I may win Christ. (Philippians 3:8)
Many are my persecutors and mine enemies; yet do I not decline from thy testimonies. . . . Princes have persecuted me without a cause: but my heart standeth in awe of thy word. (Psalm 119: 157, 161)
To order copies of Remembering the Persecuted Church and Why We Need to Pray, click here.
(Susan Moore is a free-lance writer and researcher who has done editing, formatting, and researching for Lighthouse Trails and other discernment ministries, such as The Berean Call and Understand the Times, for many years.)
1. Encarta Dictionary
2. Harvey Yoder, A Small Price to Pay (Berlin, OH: TGS International, 2006), p. 226.
3. Georgi Vins, The Gospel in Bonds (Eureka, MT: Lighthouse Trails Publishing, 2014), p. 43.
4. Ibid., p. 46.
5. John Foxe, Foxe’s Book of Martyrs (Eureka, MT: Lighthouse Trails, 4th printing 2014), p. 22.
6. Samuel Smith, “2015 Deadliest Year for Christians Worldwide, Open Doors’ World Watch List Finds” (Christian Post, January 13, 2016, http://www.christianpost.com/news/open-doors-world-watch-list-2015-deadliest-year-christians-killed-for-faith-jesus-christ-154875/#LkRkiwVfOjTUWLw6.99).
9. Sharona Schwartz, “North Korea Executed 80 People for Watching TV and Owning Bibles” (The Blaze, November 12, 2013, http://www.theblaze.com/stories/2013/11/12/reports-north-korea-executed-80-people-for-watching-tv-and-owning-bibles).
10. Bob Unruh, “North Korea suspected in fatal attack on Chinese pastor” (WND, 5/7/2016, http://www.wnd.com/2016/05/north-korea-suspected-in-fatal-attack-on-chinese-pastor/#x21TjPoZ2Ybroa7g.99).
11. Brynne Lawrence, “Church Leader’s Wife Dead After Buried Alive During Church Demolition (China Aid, April 16, 2016, http://www.chinaaid.org/2016/04/church-leaders-wife-dead-after-buried.html).
12. Bob Unruh, “Sentencing of Christians explodes 10,000% in China” (WND, April 25, 2015, http://www.wnd.com/2015/04/sentencing-of-christians-explodes-10000-in-china/).
14. Raymond Ibrahim, “Muslims Claim Lion’s Share of Christian Victims” (WorldMag, March 7, 2016, http://www.frontpagemag.com/fpm/262036/muslims-responsible-worst-year-modern-history-raymond-ibrahim).
15. Georgi, Vins, The Gospel in Bonds, op. cit., p. 13.
16. Lynette Irwin, “Eye Witness Account at Parliament of the World’s Religions 2015 Reveals Growing Animosity Toward Biblical Christians” (Lighthouse Trails Research blog, October 21, 2015, http://www.lighthousetrailsresearch.com/blog/?p=18411).
To order copies of Remembering the Persecuted Church and Why We Need to Pray, click here.
By Heather Clark
Christian News Network
A Canadian pastor is standing firm after being ordered to allow gay-straight alliances to be formed at his Christian schools.
According to reports, on Sept. 2, Alberta Education Minister David Eggen sent a letter to Brian Coldwell, the chairman of the Independent Baptist Christian Education Society and pastor of New Testament Baptist Church, to demand that he allow the alliances at his two schools as per provincial law.
Coldwell runs Meadows Baptist Academy and Harvest Baptist Academy in Parkland County.
Earlier this year, Eggen sent a letter to school boards throughout the province, advising that officials must draft and submit policies by the end of March surrounding how they would accommodate homosexual and transgender students.
But Coldwell told CBC News that he would not comply.
“I have a duty as a pastor to protect the flock of God,” he said. “And there is no way under heaven I’m going to allow gay activists to come in here and basically undermine our ministries and our religious freedoms or confuse and corrupt our children.” Click here to continue reading.
Prospective Jurors Conflicted in Trial of Man Accused of Helping Ex-Lesbian Flee Country With Daughter
By Heather Clark
Christian News Network
BUFFALO, N.Y. — Several prospective jurors said that they could not separate their personal beliefs on homosexuality from the nation’s laws on the matter as jury selection was underway on Tuesday in the case of a Virginia man accused of aiding an ex-lesbian turned professing Christian who fled the country with her daughter in 2009 to escape a court order.
Senior U.S. District Judge Richard Arcara told those sitting in the jury box that throughout the trial of Philip Zodhiates they would hear terms such as “civil union” and “rights in parenting,” and that they must be “treated no differently” than heterosexual relationships. As in customary in criminal trials, jurors, he said, must look at the case through the lens of the law and not their personal views.
“I can’t listen to your law if it’s against my law,” said prospective juror Christina Anderson during the selection process, advising that she took issue with the nation’s “new laws” on homosexuality.
“You can’t put it aside?” Arcara asked.
“No,” Anderson replied. Click here to continue reading.
NEW BOOKLET: How to Know if You Are Being Spiritually Abused or Deceived—A Spiritual Abuse Questionnaire
NEW BOOKLET: How to Know if You Are Being Spiritually Abused or Deceived—A Spiritual Abuse Questionnaire by Chris Lawson is our newest Lighthouse Trails Booklet Tract. The Booklet is 14 pages long and sells for $1.95 for single copies. Quantity discounts are as much as 50% off retail. Our Booklets are designed to give away to others or for your own personal use. Below is a portion of the content of the booklet. The full booklet has 101 questions. To order copies of How to Know if You Are Being Spiritually Abused or Deceived—A Spiritual Abuse Questionnaire, click here.
By Chris Lawson
Do you know a loved one, a neighbor, or a co-worker who is in a cult or an abusive church or group? Or perhaps you yourself are in such a situation. The Spiritual-Abuse Questionnaire in this booklet will help shed light on this issue.
Spiritual abuse occurs when a leader, a church, or a belief system, whether well intentioned or not, dominates, manipulates, or castigates individuals and even entire families through fear tactics, mind control, or some other psychological or emotional abuse.
Sadly, the mask of spiritual abuse deception can be worn by anyone. The following two Scriptures are reflective of what happens when the position of authority is abused within a spiritual/church setting (e.g., self-exaltation, heavy-handed leadership, etc).
The prophets prophesy falsely, and the priests bear rule by their means [by their own authority]; and my people love to have it so: and what will ye do in the end thereof? (Jeremiah 5:31)
I wrote unto the church: but Diotrephes, who loveth to have the preeminence among them, receiveth us not. Wherefore, if I come, I will remember his deeds which he doeth, prating against us with malicious words: and not content therewith, neither doth he himself receive the brethren, and forbiddeth them that would, and casteth them out of the church. (3 John 9-10)
It is my hope that this booklet will help people who have been through or are experiencing things similar (or worse) to what my family and I personally experienced years ago.
If you have been spiritually abused, take heart; the true Jesus desires to help and heal you as He has helped countless others.
Spiritual Abuse Questionnaire
This questionnaire is designed to help the reader think through a number of areas he or she may have never seriously considered before. As you read each question, circle either YES or NO. When you reach the end, go back through the list and prayerfully consider the questions you have answered YES to.
Answering YES to any of the following questions may be an indication of an unhealthy problem in your group or with your leaders. Answering YES to more than just a few questions is a definite cause for concern.
If this is the case, it is recommended that you take a much closer look into your group or organization’s history, purpose, and goals. Observe closely the methods, activities, and lives of the leaders. Are they using abusive and manipulative tactics on people?
The basic Yes or No questions of this questionnaire enable the reader to think critically on his or her own—something generally not allowed in abusive systems.
IMPORTANT NOTE: Please note also that while this booklet can be a useful tool in helping to bring clarity to difficulties in a church or ministry, the questions offered here should also be tempered with careful thought and godly counsel. Answering yes to just a few questions does not automatically mean you are in a cult or abusive situation. One thing for certain is that every church or group is composed of fallible people who are not always as loving as they should be. Nor should we expect to be in a place where there is no authority over us. Be reflective, therefore, to your answers to the following questions with the goal of being fair to both your church or group and to yourself.
QUESTIONS ABOUT YOUR CHURCH OR GROUP’S LEADERS
- Are you in any way fearful of your leader(s)? YES / NO
- Does your church or group revolve around one main charismatic personality who is the final arbiter of “truth”? YES / NO
- Do your leaders make claims of being “Anointed,” having “Elijah’s Mantle,” having “Apostolic Authority,” etc.? YES / NO
- Does the main leader or the leaders in your church or group always insist that they are right? YES / NO
- Does your group, church, or movement employ a corrupted modern-day version of the Moses/Aaron style of leadership where the pastor/leaders allegedly—by themselves—hear directly from God, like Moses? (This form of leadership is unlike the balanced plurality of elders found in the New Testament.) YES / NO
- Does the pastor/leader of your group, church, or movement surround himself with “people-pleasers” rather than with qualified men whose personal and public lives maintain the biblical leadership characteristics as found in I, II Timothy and Titus? YES / NO
- Is you group, church, or movement set up like a pyramid, with a hierarchy—with one single man at the top? YES / NO
- Are you discouraged or prohibited from freely asking questions about the background of your leader(s) and your group? YES / NO
- If so, are you looked down upon and considered to be divisive? YES / NO
- Would you be rebuked or chastised/punished by your leader(s) if you researched the background and history of the group and its leader(s)? For instance, would doing a background check on your leader be considered “disloyal” or “sinful”? YES / NO
- Are you discouraged or prohibited from freely discussing teachings, “prophecies,” or so-called new revelations that your group leader(s) has/have stated in the past or present? YES / NO
- Are you allowed to ask your leader(s) questions regarding their background in ministry, education, teaching, policies, etc.? If not, why? YES / NO
- Do you view those who are assisting your group or church pastor/leader as ones who simply “do what they are told” rather than people who can rationally think for themselves and if need be would not be afraid to confront the main leader(s) if questionable practices/teachings arise? YES / NO
- Are the leaders of your group, church, or organization above reproach (without blame) in morals, ethics, teaching, and the handling of your groups finances? How do you know? YES / NO
- Do any of your leaders have a criminal record? YES / NO
- Would your leader(s) allow you to freely ask questions or research their background in order to find out if they have a criminal record? If not, why? YES / NO
- Has anyone in your group ever tried to persuade you to NOT research the personal background of the leaders? YES / NO
- When issues are brought up about abusive situations, do your leaders say, “You just need to have more faith!” or, “You are being disloyal to leadership!”? YES / NO
QUESTIONS ABOUT YOUR GROUP AND ITS TEACHINGS
- Do you feel your group twists or takes Scripture out of its historical context and consistently or often misapplies Bible verses? YES / NO
- Does your group or church “allegorize” and “spiritualize” Scripture instead of utilizing a literal, grammatical, historical approach to interpreting documents, like you would in any legitimate Bible college or court of law? YES / NO
- Are you told what you will believe; and is questioning authority and doing further research on your own, aside from the group, discouraged or frowned upon? YES / NO
- Are you guided through the Bible by your leaders but at the same time not allowed to study the Scriptures on your own, apart from the group or organization’s own published materials? YES / NO
- Do your leaders claim to receive “new revelations,” a special “anointing,” and so-called “words” or messages from God? YES / NO
- Do your leaders withhold or avoid providing you and your group with a written “Statement of Beliefs” or “Statement of Faith”? YES / NO
- If you attend a group that is a recognized charity organization, have the leaders illegally withheld from you the organizations written bylaws when you have asked for a copy? YES / NO
- Is it difficult to get a straight answer from the group leader(s) on the group’s teachings? YES / NO
- Is your group secretive about any of its teachings, practices or meetings? YES / NO
- Does your group take “oaths” or have you commit to unrealistic expectations? YES / NO
- Are your leaders ever “harsh” in tone with you, or do you ever feel like an animal that is “driven hard”? YES / NO
- Have you been taught, told, or commanded not to share any of the teachings, doctrines, or practices that your group is involved in? YES / NO
- At any time of involvement with your group, have you ever been instructed to cut all ties with the past, with relatives (spouse, children, in-laws, etc.), or with friends? YES / NO
- Do your leaders favorably quote and endorse known false teachers and false teachings in their own sermons/teachings, messages, and materials? YES / NO
QUESTIONS ABOUT YOUR GROUP OR CHURCH’S POLICIES
- Does your group have any written or unwritten policies that allows leaders to use threats, pressures to conform, bribes, intimidation, verbal abuse, out-loud shaming, physical abuse, sexual abuse, or substance abuse, etc.? YES / NO
- Is foul language (cussing) or public humiliation used in any way as part of the public or private teaching within your group? YES / NO
- Would you say that your church or group has an extreme policy or guidelines for “disciplinary actions”? YES / NO
- Is, or could, your group’s policy on “discipline” be dangerous, illegal, or abusive in any way? YES / NO
- Do you think law enforcement officials would have a problem with the disciplinary guidelines and/or practices of your church, group, or organization? YES / NO
- Does your group restrict you from “visiting” other churches? YES / NO
QUESTIONS ABOUT YOUR GROUP’S LITERATURE AND MULTIMEDIA
- Do you rely completely, without question, upon the literature and information that your church/group gives you—for your own spiritual growth? YES / NO
- Will you be disciplined if you ever, at any time, listen to, read, or view literature and multi-media materials that are not from your group, church, or organization? Materials could include such things as books, journals, tracts, magazines, newsletters, CDs, DVDs, audio cassettes, videos, websites, etc. YES / NO
- Are you only allowed to use study aids, books, etc. that are from your group or organization? YES / NO
- Have your leaders ever told you that all Bible study materials outside of your group are considered worldly, bad, apostate, “of the devil,” or evil? YES / NO
QUESTIONS ABOUT MORALS AND ETHICS, HEALTH, AND CONSCIENCE
- Are you emotionally dependent on or require the “approval” of your leaders for what you do—what you eat, what you wear, where you go, what you say, who you spend time with, who you marry, the music you listen to, etc.? YES / NO
- Do you feel as though your life (or ministry) is being “micromanaged” by others? YES / NO
- Are your leaders cruel, vindictive, intimidating, or overbearing? YES / NO
- Do any of your leaders justify sexual immorality by telling you or anyone else things like “God told me it is okay for us to do this,” or “The Lord revealed this to me,” or “No one will ever know”? YES / NO
- Have you ever been instructed, led, forced, or coerced into any type of sexual activity with any of your group’s leaders—or anyone else in the church, group, or organization? YES / NO
- Are you or have you ever been commanded, forced, coerced, extorted, or manipulated into financial giving, tithing, “sowing your seed-faith offering,” etc.? YES / NO
QUESTIONS ABOUT MAKING PERSONAL CHOICES
- Do you feel you are manipulated when making personal choices about diet, clothing, time commitments, church/group service, tithing, friendships, dating, spouses, purchases, etc.? YES / NO
- Are choices ever made by any of your leaders that go against your own conscience? YES / NO
- Do authority figures within your group ever demand answers from you or use threats to get their way? YES / NO
- Do your leaders or the group-dynamics implemented in your group make you feel as though you cannot come and go as you please; meaning, you feel as though you’re expected to be at all or most of the meetings, and if you are not, you are in trouble? YES / NO
- If you are experiencing abuse in any way, very likely you are fearful or nervous about leaving your group, church, or organization. Are you fearful in any way that if you left, you would be hounded and harassed? YES / NO
- Do your leaders, or the group itself by consensus, make choices to involve you in things that you don’t like or would prefer not to be a part of? YES / NO
- Are you pressured, manipulated, or coerced into making decisions—any decisions at all—regarding anything with the group and its leaders, members, and activities? YES / NO
- Do you feel guilty or “dirty” after making decisions because . . . “that is just what our group does”? Or, is the proverbial “red flag of conscience” waving inside of your heart and mind saying, “This is just not right at all,” or, “This is weird” or, “We should not be doing or allowing this!”? YES / NO
- Is pressure put upon you in any way to avoid “outside information” about your group—like online reviews, assessments, and critical essays that contain quotes from your leaders and/or your organization’s published resources? YES / NO
- Are you fearful that if you make an accidental “wrong choice” your leaders will punish you or purposefully humiliate you in front of your peers, family, or the group/church congregation? YES / NO
- Have you ever been punished or abused in any of the following ways: Physically abused, out-loud verbal shaming in front of others, given the non-verbal “silent treatment,” given coded non-verbal abuse such as “the look,” financially mistreated or extorted and as a result suffered financial repercussions, sexually abused in any way, emotionally manipulated, purposefully betrayed, been the victim of sexual innuendos, spousal divisiveness, etc.? YES / NO
- Are spoken or unspoken must-obey “dress code rules” implemented in your group, and, if broken, will this lead to “disciplinary action”? (This is beyond simple personal modesty in dress in social, cultural, and cross-cultural settings.) YES / NO
- If you are a woman, are you taught or commanded that you absolutely must wear long skirts, have long hair, avoid all make-up, and wear a head covering in order to please God? Will you be chastised or considered “carnal” if you do not comply with these rules? YES / NO
- If you are a woman, do your group leaders tell you that you are to submit to your husband no matter what he does to you or tells you to do even if it is illegal or physically, sexually, or emotionally abusive to you or your children? YES / NO
- If you are a husband and father, are your church leaders overly involved in telling you what to do with your wife and children (beyond the normal parameters of biblical counseling and advice)?
This has been a portion of this booklet. In the full booklet, there are 101 questions. You may purchase a copy of the booklet in its entirety by clicking here. The cost for one booklet is $1.95 (quantity discounts for 6 or more copies)
LTRP Note: Earlier this month Putin, the leader of Russia, brought into existence a law which prohibits the free preaching and sharing of the Gospel. Those in violation of this new law will be issued severe fines. In the 1960s and 1970s, Georgi Vins, a young Baptist pastor in the Soviet Union, was in a similar situation. By the time it was over, he spent eight years (starting at the age of 32) in Soviet prisons. Below is an account of his father’s own persecution and the years leading up to Georgi’s persecution and imprisonment for his faith. Christians today in the Western world should realize that persecution and martyrdom have been the norm for countless believers in the past centuries of Christianity and even in much of today’s non-Western world. The question we have hanging over our heads lately is, will Western Christians have what it takes to stand for their faith and even die for their faith? With all the comforts and freedom Western believers have enjoyed, will this ease of being a Christian believer help or hinder our ability to live (or die) for our faith. Suppose a government threatens to take away your home, your job, and your comforts if you do not stop standing for the truth of the Gospel and share it with others, would you be willing to lose all for the sake of Christ?
From The Gospel in Bonds
In 1926, an American missionary named Peter Vins left the United States for the mission field of Siberia. Young Peter had finished his seminary training in Kentucky, then for a time pastored a church of Russian immigrants in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. There he fell in love with a Christian woman and asked her to marry him. She agreed, and the two announced their engagement. However, when Peter told his fiancé that God was calling him to Russia, she refused to go along. Her ultimatum to him was “Either me, or Russia.” So, broken-hearted, Peter called off the engagement and departed for Russia alone.
In Russia, the Lord’s blessing was on Peter Vins. People responded to his preaching, and many joined the church. Also, before long, a Russian woman who was a dedicated Christian attracted his attention. Peter began courting young Lydia Zharikova and married her in 1927. In 1928, in the city of Blagoveschensk, Lydia bore her husband a son whom they named Georgi.
However, Peter Vins’ hopes for a long life of ministry in Russia were not to be: the NKVD (secret police, forerunner of the KGB) began arresting Russian pastors and closing churches. They gave Peter Vins a choice—quit preaching and return to America or give up his American citizenship. He decided to stay and relinquished all rights as an American. In 1930, he was arrested and given a three-year term.
When Peter was released, the authorities probably expected him to be too intimidated to continue teaching the Bible. But they were wrong. He continued meeting with small groups of believers, encouraging and edifying them despite the dark days of persecution. After a short time of freedom, he was re-arrested and held for nine months. A third arrest soon followed when dozens of fellow Christians were seized in the same night. This time he was sentenced to ten years of labor camp without the right of communication with his family. He never returned.
Years later, in answer to Lydia’s repeated requests to authorities for knowledge about her husband, she received a statement that Peter had passed away in a labor camp on December 27, 1943. However, almost six decades later, in 1995, Georgi Vins was permitted to go to the KGB archives in Moscow and read the file the NKVD had kept on his father. Labeled “Top Secret,” its pages revealed that the authorities executed his father with a bullet in August 1937 at the age of 39.
Georgi committed his life to the Lord and was baptized in Omsk Baptist Church in 1944. Two years later, Lydia moved with her son Georgi to Kiev, Ukraine where he graduated from the Kiev Polytechnical Institute as an electrical engineer.
In time, the Lord brought a young Christian woman named Nadia into Georgi’s life. Their friendship grew into love, and the couple married on January 27, 1952. As the years passed, the Lord blessed them with five children of their own.
However, even though Soviet law required him to hold a secular job, in 1962 Georgi was ordained as a Baptist evangelist. Following in his father’s footsteps, he began preaching at meetings of the persecuted church.
In the early 1960s, many laymen and pastors of “registered” Baptist churches (i.e., churches which the Soviet authorities allowed to function legally but only under supervision and within harsh guidelines that contradicted the Scriptures) determined to worship freely without the yoke of government interference in the life of the church. They began meeting independently in private homes, apartments, and even in the forests. Georgi Vins became one of the leaders of the movement, making him a special object of concern for the KGB. In 1966, he was arrested in Moscow and sentenced to three years imprisonment. He spent one year in Lefortovo Prison and two more performing hard labor in prison camps in the Ural Mountains.
After his release, Georgi Vins resumed his ministry. However, when he learned that the authorities were preparing a new case against him, he went underground, living clandestinely while traveling and ministering. In 1974, he was arrested again, this time sentenced to ten years. The story you are about to read is Georgi’s account of his years spent in Soviet prisons.
d to ten years. The story you are about to read is Georgi’s account of his years spent in Soviet prisons.
(From the Prologue of The Gospel in Bonds by Georgi Vins)