Christians can’t give up on North Korea

The summit between President Donald Trump and North Korean dictator is off, as in, not going to happen. Well, maybe it will. Trump seemed to leave the door open in a recent news conference. North Korea’s official response seemed to leave the idea of a summit on the table as well. Unfortunately, no one knows for certain, except maybe some diplomats in SecState Pompeo’s department. Obviously, you and I are not privy to that information.

It’s easy to get discouraged as a Christian when it seems like everything is headed back to status quo. If you’re a regular reader of mine, you know I’m interested in this situation (I actually wrote about this as early as late 2010). I believe that a peace accord and normalization of relations between Washington and Pyongyang would produce fruit in the kingdom. In fact, I believe that a well-executed summit, and its subsequent deals, could mean a world-wide outpouring of the Spirit.

North Korea, in being one of the absolute worst places in the world to be a Christian, is a linchpin in future kingdom growth. I don’t mean kinda-Christians either. I mean actual believers in Jesus Christ who live for God through the Holy Spirit every day. I mean the kind of Christians that I could only hope to be. The kind we find in many persecuted countries around the world. Back to the point: If North Korea accepts terms, even some of them, and the United States accepts that we’ll have to give in on some measures, then we might just see the kind of real growth that would spur the next revival in the world.

I believe this like I believe that David killed Goliath with a small rock. I believe it like I believe that Noah built a big boat and outlasted a flood. I believe it like I believe Jesus Christ rose again on the third day.

My hope is that you believe it too. If you don’t, please think it over.

We cannot give up on the idea of peace between the Koreas, even if it never leads to reunification. I understand that it’s not all Trump’s fault that the summit was called off. I understand that it isn’t all Kim’s fault that it was called off. Both are to blame and neither are to blame. This is a game that has been played for over 60 years.

That shouldn’t stop us from praying for North Korea, or the freedom of her oppressed people. It shouldn’t stop us from having empathy for the downtrodden. We have to break through the idea that North Korea is the enemy and focus on the fact that North Korea has millions of people who have never heard the gospel.

Pray for North Korea and for peace between Pyongyang and Washington. And then pray that our mission agencies have a plan for getting more evangelistic efforts into the country and that they enact them.

Please read a little about efforts to reach those in North Korea with the gospel by going to this great article in the Atlantic.

I would love your thoughts…and as always, you can sign up to receive updates on my social commentary by going HERE.

Praying for the North Korean Summit

I’ll be honest, I want a peace deal with North Korea. I think it’s in our best interest as a country and I think it’s definitely in the best interest for the gospel moving forward in the North. As an American, I’m not at all for giving in to Kim Jong Un. But I am for praying that peace actually happens.

Sometimes it’s difficult to separate my feelings for America and my feelings for the gospel of Jesus Christ. I don’t know if you have that problem, but I do. Sometimes I equate the two, sadly, and I have to remember that the two are not the same. The gospel should always trump loyalty to my country.

In this case, however, what is good for the gospel is good for the country. An agreement between the United States and North Korea would signal the eventual end to the saber rattling that distracts American service men and women, provides some stability in that region of the world, and would encourage the North to join the region’s trading partners. While I suspect that they would never become the former foe-turned-trading-friend like Japan or Germany, I do believe we could at least get to an Iran type situation. Yes, still rattling sabers and making threats, but not a belief that all-out war may break out at some point.

It would also allow America the opportunity to press upon the North the importance of religious freedom. Even if this never got more real than what happens in China, I believe that it would be good for the gospel message. Christianity could stop looking like an American religion to the leaders in the North, which would hopefully equal less persecution and more freedom of expression for Christians and would-be Christians in that country.

Do I think that either of these things is a sure bet? Not at all! We have a very self-assured leader in America who is honestly liable to say anything at any time, and often that equals saying the very thing that upsets a particular partner (in this case, the North). We are facing a leader who believes that he is an equal because of his nuclear arsenal (an inaccurate and inflated belief). This understanding doesn’t even account for the fact that an accord between the North and America wouldn’t automatically equal freedom of religion.

So we pray. We pray for the very reason that this is still a long-shot. We pray because we’ve been down this road before, and North Korea balked when it last had a chance to do the right thing. We pray because this would be another way for the Lord to get the glory (as long as we evangelicals don’t give the glory to Trump if it’s successful). We pray because the gospel is more important than any national barrier; the salvation of souls more important than any patriotic position.

Some ways to pray:

  1. Pray that the summit will happen, and that it will be successful. Both of those things are far from guaranteed as of this writing.
  2. Pray for an official end to hostilities on the Korean peninsula.
  3. Pray for people on both sides of the table. Pray that their egos are softened, and their hearts open to change.
  4. Pray for Christians currently living in North Korea. Pray for an end to their suffering and for freedom for them to live as Christians in the open.
  5. Pray for a revival in both North Korea and America.

If you pray for one thing each day this week, then by Saturday morning, you’ll have prayed solidly for North Korea all week! Join me in this effort, and we will all see great things happen.

I would love your thoughts…and as always, you can sign up to receive updates on my social commentary by going HERE.

Sailors in trouble for the Bible

Navy Investigates Sailors Imposing Christianity

IMG_0024In case you missed it, our old friends at the Military Religious Freedom Foundation filed a complaint on April 6 alleging that Sailors are proselytizing in Japan by having a Bible on the POW/MIA memorial table. According to the MRFF, that amounts to pushing Christian beliefs onto unsuspecting persons. The seven-page complaint was filed on behalf of 26 service members and DoD civilian employees who were offended by the display. They suggest that the Bible present (representing the strength gained through faith to sustain those lost from our country, founded one nation under God) forces people to agree with the display.

The San Diego Union Tribune reported on the story. This is probably a slam dunk. While I found several instances of the Bible being present in the display, including the Navy Live website, I doubt it will remain that way for long. Makes me wonder if anyone from the MRFF will come hunting for my rank because my daughter put a Bible on our display in Navy housing (the irony here is that my daughter used an “Apologetics” version of the Bible). I don’t know the legal ramifications for that, and I’m not particularly interested to learn them. Nevertheless, I’m sure we’ll learn soon that the Navy has decided to officially remove the Bible from this display and update the protocol.

I want to make three points about the complaint.

  1. The MRFF is a nuisance. I’ve written elsewhere about how they file complaints on behalf of non-Christians who have gotten their feelings hurt. The only thing I’m wrong about in that statement is that apparently, “Christians” also get their feelings hurt. Everyone’s opinion counts but the Bible-believing Christian, in the MRFF’s eyes.
  2. I don’t think they’ll be a nuisance for long. By saying that, I don’t think they’ll go away. Instead, I think they’re going to become a bigger tool used by the adversary to hinder Christianity in the military. I think this because, in this complaint, one of the things they want is for the Navy to investigate the situation and to, “assign appropriate disciplinary measures to those responsible.”
  3. The founder of MRFF states that 16 of the 26 persons in the complaint self-identify as Christian. I’d be curious to know more about this Christianity of theirs. I’m very disturbed that they handed the leadership of the Okinawa hospital over to the wolves. While I don’t know if they tried to get the Bible removed from the desk and felt they had no alternative (which they did…plenty of alternatives), or why they would have wanted it removed in the first place, but complaining to an unbeliever, who will make a spectacle of the Bible instead of treat it with respect, is a bad move.

To be perfectly clear, the MRFF is about removing Christianity from America’s military. Just like China’s decision to prevent the online sales of Bibles, the MRFF should not scare true believers. God understands fully what has happened here, knows the ramifications, and is at least one step ahead, at least eternally speaking.

For additional research, look at the following locations that include the Bible in the presentation:

Navy Live

American Legion

VFW

Wikipedia

Would love your thoughts…and as always, you can sign up to receive updates on my social commentary by going HERE.

Beijing doesn’t want your Bibles

China has made a move that most dispensationalist Christians would say they’ve seen coming for years. Beijing has banned online sales of the Bible in a move certain to put additional pressure on the Chinese underground church. You can read the NYTimes article here.

With Christianity’s gradual increase in China, though our faith still only makes up roughly 6-10% of the total population, the communist government has continued to ramp up its plans to dampen the fire. A regulation preventing the sale of Bibles online (they are already heavily regulated in physical form) is just the latest move. China used to meet the underground church with blunt force, often arresting pastors and levying fines against parishioners. In more modern times, Chinese authorities pressure discovered churches to join the Three-Self Patriotic Movement (China’s authorized church).

I’ve read the tenants of this authorized faith and on the surface, it doesn’t sound half bad.  However, my biggest concern is that the state authorized church means that the state, which is certainly not friendly toward Christ and his church, can stamp it out any time it pleases. More likely, of course, is that it just keeps the communist thumb on them to prevent the sort of growth that appears to be happening in the underground church.

According to the NYTimes article, a Vatican source suggests that this could be the opening salvo in a new, broader crackdown. Again, the dispensationalists would have no problem believing this to be true. As a premillennialist, I certainly believe this is very possible. While China has been fairly open on some economic issues in order to become the powerhouse that Russia could never be, Beijing has not shown the same interest in religious matters.

China is listed as #43 on the Open Doors World Watch List for 2018. One would assume that it will at least hold on to that number with a move like this, or even move up a number of slots. I’ll update this as further events unfold.

I should add that I don’t want this to scare or anger any of my readers. Our ultimate (and only) hope is in God. I do not believe he is surprised by any of this. Indeed, as a premillennialist, I believe that he is fully aware of every move that the Chinese government is making, just as he is aware of the Soviet efforts before them. I am not advocating any action on our part except to pray for those affected. We do not know them, but we are brothers and sisters and will get to meet them someday. It is our duty and our privilege, and as such I call on all Christian believers to pray for those affected by the curtailment of Bible sales in China.

A final thought as I close: America is beginning its slow move to this end as well. Bibles are still easily available, but I’ll show you tomorrow just how fragile the situation is becoming in America.

As always, you can sign up to receive updates on my social commentary by going HERE.

Pray for North Korean Athletes!

342px-Olympic_rings_without_rims.svgThe Winter Olympics, hosted this year in South Korea, suddenly provide American Christians an opportunity to do personally what we’ve only been able to do in abstract for years: Pray for North Korean people’s salvation.

Plenty of intrigue surrounds the North delegation to the South Korean-hosted games. Everything from the history of their involvement (last time Seoul held the games, the North blew up a plane and tried to one-up their neighbor), to Vice President Mike Pence’s refusal to stand for the North Korean delegation (not intended to spite the North), to the grim reality that North Korean athletes will be tackled if they attempt to defect weight heavily on the games. Here’s an overview of what you can expect to see with the North’s involvement in the games.

All gamesmanship aside, these olympics present a unique opportunity. While it isn’t the first games that the North has participated in, it is the first time the North and South have integrated on this scale. Just think about a Christian on the South Korean women’s hockey team and her ability to give short snippets of the gospel to her North Korean partners! Their minders (government officials who are specifically designated to translate, provide security, and keep the athletes in check), cannot be with them on the ice, BUT THE GOSPEL CAN!

Christians in the free world have a responsibility to pray for the lost, and reach them when we can. Here’s a very unique opportunity, both to pray and to witness, for those who are given the glorious opportunity!

We should also pray for Vice President Mike Pence, a professed believer, who has an amazing opportunity to calm the rhetoric of our two nations and instead, as a Christian, present the gospel to the North Korean delegation. What an opportunity!

As always, you can sign up to receive updates on my social commentary by going HERE.

Expendable Christians

People are dying for their faith around the world. Over 3000 of our brothers and sisters are dead now because of their bold faith in Jesus Christ and their unwillingness to balk at his obedience, according to the annual Open Doors Report. They are the expendables in the kingdom. Sadly, If you’re anything like most western Christians, you glossed right over that number.

So let me say it again:

Over 3000 Christians are dead because of persecution.

Something that has bothered me for a long time is the simple fact that people are dying for their faith around the world and I rarely face any trouble for my faith. More to the point: 3000 people died for their faith last year while I live in almost serene comfort.

We live a sheltered spiritual life in America. I don’t know of many people who don’t accept that fact, but it doesn’t matter. It’s fact: We live in spiritual comfort compared to those who face real persecution for their faith.

Jesus was clear in Matthew 5:10-12 when he said, “Blessed are those who are persecuted for righteousness’ sake, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. Blessed are you when others revile you and persecute you and utter all kinds of evil against you falsely on my account. Rejoice and be glad, for your reward is great in heaven, for so they persecuted the prophets who were before you.”

This is what it means to be an expendable. For the cause of the Kingdom, I accept being subjected to ridicule, pain, hardship, and persecution for God’s gain. And yet, because we are likewise blessed beyond measure in the Western world, we live in relative peace and comfort. Reconciling this is sometimes difficult for me.

As a freelance writer with a career outside of writing, I get the opportunity to pursue projects that I feel are important. This is one of those projects. The end product is still taking shape, but it will have a lot to do with foreign aid from Washington and what our role, if any, is as Christians supporting persecuted believers in hazardous countries.

More to follow on that, obviously.

I want to encourage everyone to go to Open Doors USA and download the annual report. Yes, you have to give them your email address to get it, but it’s worth it. And, if you can, donate a little bit of change to support the work of Open Doors. The organization took in over 20million dollars in 2016 (latest information I have) and only 4million was used for expenses, meaning over 16 million USD went to support the persecuted church.

I’m just bothered that I live in relative safety while 1 in 12 of my brothers and sisters are in danger.

As always, you can sign up to receive updates on my social commentary by going HERE.

The Most Important Post on Religious Persecution in the Military You’ll Ever Read

Retirement Prayer
Yours truly giving a prayer at a retirement ceremony!

Let’s settle this now: THERE IS NO WIDESPREAD RELIGIOUS PERSECUTION IN THE MILITARY.

A lot of well-intentioned Christians say that we can’t share our faith in the military, or that the Obama administration took away our religious freedom, or that we are accommodating Muslims but not Christians.

It’s just not true.

I think some people genuinely misunderstand what’s really going on. But I also think that some people are preying on the fears of others. For those who are doing so, read this next sentence carefully: KNOCK IT OFF!

No one is taking away our Bibles! President Obama didn’t care if I talked about Jesus or not! And if the President did want me to stop talking about Jesus…and tried to stop me…could I stop? OF COURSE NOT! I have to share my faith in Jesus or I violate Christ’s command (Matthew 28:18-20)! And for those who believe that Trump is the modern American savior of religious freedom, I can’t wait to laugh at you when his term is over.

I admit freely that I have faced some ridicule from my peers in the military. One time I will say it was actual persecution. But I have not experienced, nor has anyone else I know, any widespread persecution in the military. Yet the story keeps getting told that we aren’t allowed to share openly about our faith in Jesus Christ. It’s time to fix this misunderstanding for good.

Pattaya Day 04 006
Services held on Easter morning in 2009…on the ship! Freedom is wonderful!

NO PERSECUTION

First, there is no noticeable persecution in the command structure of the military, certainly not the Navy. In the very few cases where I have been told that it is wrong to talk about my faith, it’s come from peers, never from a command level. In fact, at the command level, I’ve almost always been ENCOURAGED to talk about my faith in order to support the spiritual development of the crew. Of course this has to be at the right time and the right place…same as your work setting.

When I was a Petty Officer 3rd Class, I requested special liberty in a foreign port to paint a church. Not only did the command approve my request (and therefore get me out of duty), they awarded me the Junior Sailor of the Quarter honors for my work! That was in 1998.

IMG_8391Now I’m a Chief Warrant Officer. Knowing that I’m a Christian, my executive officer (XO) came to me and asked me to lead prayers on the loudspeaker each day and lead services on Sundays as we had no chaplain. If the command didn’t want me to talk about my faith, my XO could have just stayed quiet! But he sought me out!

It doesn’t matter if it’s 1998 and I’m a PO3 or 2017 and I’m a CWO3…THERE IS NO PERSECUTION!

RIGHT TIME RIGHT PLACE

Secondly, I share my faith intelligently at the right time and the right place. It’s more about respecting those I’m witnessing to than obeying some non-existent regulation. It is true that we are “always on” duty, and that someone could make the argument that I should never share my faith because we’re always “at work.” Again, no one has. Still, as a sign of respect for my fellow humans, I try to be mindful of work time.

In his excellent book on the subject of sharing Jesus, William Fay talks about sharing with coworkers “on the clock.” In his book, he says, “I do not believe you should take time to present the gospel at work.”* However, he does believe it’s perfectly acceptable to start a conversation that will later lead to a salvation testimony. I’ve done this several times and then, even though we are technically never off the clock, I find times when we’re “off watch” to talk about my savior.  It’s all about right time…right place. It’s no more difficult to be a Christian in the military than it is for you at your office.

BLESS THOSE WHO ARE PERSECUTED

Third, even if I was facing persecution, I could not stop. You know, there was one time when a guy told me I shouldn’t talk about the Bible in a work setting. I looked at a fellow believer, someone who should have stood with me, and said, “Even if I was wrong for talking about God, would it matter? What better way to lose my career than because I talked about Jesus Christ!”

Jesus said that we should be grateful when we are persecuted for our faith (Matthew 5:10-12). Yet I get the feeling that Christians in America want to avoid persecution at all costs! Why is it that we fear persecution? Why do we spend all of our time screaming about how we have the right to talk about Jesus or pray in his name? Why???

There are entire countries where people are ACTUALLY PERSECUTED for their faith. America is not one of them!

S D Smith Protestant Lay Leader

WHY THE LIE?

So, if reports of persecution are overblown, why do we keep hearing about it? Again, I think that many people hear something about persecution and assume it’s true. They don’t mean to misrepresent the facts, but they spread these untrue rumors anyway.

I propose three reasons for this.

First, this is about power. We want it, plain and simple. We don’t care if individual hearts are changed…we want our “Christian Nation” back. So we’d rather “vote our conscience” than share our faith.

If there is persecution in sharing our faith, we can scream about how our Christian Nation is against us and we need to vote more. Very seldom do I hear that we need to share the Gospel more…it’s always that we need to get out and vote and/or demand our rights. This frustrates me to no end, especially because the road to revival isn’t in the voting booth, but in the hearts of humans.

Second, the American form of Christianity is about being safe, not about restoring a fallen world to a right relationship with our Creator. We weaken men and women by telling them that their highest calling is to their families and the local church. That’s cute, but not in the Bible. Our claims of persecution keep the weak in faith where they are…in a pew in a musty sanctuary instead of boldly spreading the gospel.

Third, and most importantly, and with a much more damaging eternal consequence, I think we are quick to complain about persecution because we are afraid to talk about Jesus. We will scream about Jesus at the top of our lungs to people who don’t want to listen, but we refuse to talk about him with those who need him most.

I am scared to share Jesus too. I’m afraid of rejection just like you are. But I can’t refuse to share the Name of Jesus and then tell people that I’m being persecuted as an excuse. I have to earn persecution.

If I should ever be disciplined for this post, or for being upfront about my faith, then so be it. I will gladly exchange this wonderful career for my savior’s honor. You can scream “Told you so!” all you want if that happens.

Just imagine though, what Jesus might say to you if there is little to no persecution and I’m right. I doubt it will be, “I told you so.”

Just before going to press, my dad shared with me the story of an Air Force officer who is under investigation for having a Bible on his desk. At first I thought I was reading a Babylon Bee article, but after some research, it seems legit. Is he being persecuted for his faith? A form of it, yes. Notice, however, that he’s facing this persecution as a consequence of his actions, not as a threat before his action. It’s cause and effect. The cause is his Bible on his desk. The effect is the investigation.

Much as I like to discount the Military Religious Freedom Foundation, it appears to be a legitimate attack. I’m not sure how I get away with what I’m doing except to say that he seems to be focused on the USAF.

I’m rambling. Despite the fact that this is a form of persecution, I want to reiterate the point that there is no widespread persecution of Christians in the military. Like what I’ve experienced, these are one-off events.

The scriptures tell us not to be afraid. In his book, Underground Church, Reverend Robin Meyers says, “Our gospel teaches us not to fear death, which has lost it’s ‘sting’ as Paul puts it, but we do.”** We cannot use fear of persecution, no matter how minuscule or severe the threat, as a faith ejection button. Instead, we are to live the way of those who went before us…reckless in our faith and the cause of Christ.

Stop talking about persecution and start earning it, if you dare.

* Share Jesus without Fear, page 22.

** Underground Church, page 155

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