CHURCHES GROW UNDER PERSECUTION

A new peer-reviewed study published last month in the academic journal Sociology of Religion demonstrates that churches grow under persecution.

The study’s findings, outlined in Christianity Today by authors Nilay Saiya and Stuti Manchanda, buck conventional wisdom. In places where Christians enjoy official support from national governments, religious faith tends to decline. Conversely, Christianity spreads most successfully in countries with legal commitments to religious pluralism and in places that actively discriminate against and persecute believers.

These are the countries with the fastest growing Christian populations (the states with low/no official support for the faith are in bold): Tanzania, Malawi, Zambia, UgandaRwandaMadagascarLiberia, Kenya, DR Congo, and Angola.

And here are the countries with the fastest declining Christian populations (the states with moderate/high official support for the faith are in bold): Czech RepublicBulgariaLatviaEstonia, Albania, MoldovaSerbiaGermanyLithuania, and Hungary.

Hungary, for example, is an officially Christian nation. Even still, faith is waning: Although a majority of Hungarians identify as Catholic, only 12% regularly attend church services and just 14% describe religion as “very important” in their lives.

It is worth noting, as author Rod Dreher has, Prime Minister Victor Orban’s governance in Budapest is very much aligned with politically conservative Christian views. As such, the country has passed legislation to that end.

Nevertheless, Saiya and Manchanda argue that, in pluralistic societies, where religious ideologies coexist and must compete, for lack of a better word, Christianity — untethered from politics — often flourishes. Paradoxically, they found, “state favoritism of religion inadvertently suppresses it.”

That is due to the fact that, countries that are “officially Christian,” and even in the U.S., to an extent, Christianity may become less about a convictional relationship with Jesus and instead morph into just one aspect of a citizen’s larger national identity, resulting in faith being less about personal beliefs and more about cultural tradition.

On the other hand, the Christian faith has expanded most in Asian countries, where there’s no “official” faith and pluralism has been embraced: In contrast to Europe, Christianity in Asian countries has not been in a position to receive preferential treatment from the state, and this reality has resulted in stunning Christian growth rates. The Christian faith has actually benefited by not being institutionally attached to the state, feeding its growth and vitality.

Consider the case of South Korea, which in the course of a century has gone from being a country devoid of Christianity to one of its biggest exporters. It currently ranks as the second-largest sender of missionaries, trailing only the United States.

This example illustrates well the paradox of pluralism. Because South Korea is not a Christian country, Christianity enjoys no special relationship to the state. In fact, Christianity in Korea endured the brutal persecution of Japanese colonial rule, during which churches were forcibly closed down and their properties confiscated. Indeed, the church persisted through poverty, war, dictatorship, and national crises throughout Korean history.

Since World War II, Korean Christianity has grown exponentially, with tens of thousands of churches being built and seminaries producing thousands of graduates every year. Today, about a third of the country is Christian.

Christianity also seems to flourish — as it did for the early church leaders in Acts — in places where believers face discrimination and persecution.

The faith of those facing persecution for their convictions is often deeper and more profound, because the stakes are inherently higher when it’s not in one’s cultural best interest to embrace such beliefs.

Open Doors USA, an advocacy organization tracking Christian persecution around the globe, ranks Iran as the eighth-worst place in the world for believers. Despite facing “extreme” persecution — where the government has outlawed conversion from Islam, imprisons those who evangelize, and arrests people for attending secret house churches or sharing Christian literature — it’s believed there could be at least one million Christians in the Islamic country.

A similar phenomenon is believed to be unfolding in Afghanistan, which Open Doors lists as the second-worst place to be a Christian. There is only a small number of believers in the country, where it is illegal to convert from Islam, and those who do face certain imprisonment, violence, and potentially even death. Rula Ghani, the first lady of Afghanistan, is a Maronite Christian from Lebanon.

Outside the Middle East, the world’s largest persecuted body of believers is found in China, where the communist government continually discriminates against and harms Christians.

Chinese police destroyed several church buildings earlier this year, including one where 50,000 Christians worshipped.

Much to President Xi Jinping’s chagrin, Protestant Christianity has continued to grow exponentially in China, where the government estimates some 200 million of its 1.5 billion citizens are believers.

Fenggang Yang, a sociologist of religion at Purdue University, said in 2019 he believes more Protestant Christians will live in China by 2030 than any other country in the world.

“When Communists took power in 1949, there were one million Protestants living in China, compared with 58 million in 2010 and probably around 100 million in 2019,” he said. “Despite the government’s efforts to suppress, I don’t think it will stop the growth of Christianity in China. All the evidence I have collected shows it’s undeniable; it’s already happening.”

If these numbers reveal anything to Christians, it is that believers should place their trust not in conventional wisdom, but in the often paradoxical work of the Holy Spirit.

Russian philosopher Fyodor Dostoevsky once lamented the deeply misguided belief held my many Christians “that Christ cannot reign without an earthly kingdom.”

It would be folly for the Christian to spend his or her life building an impenetrable kingdom on earth. We know from Scripture such an effort would be in vain. Psalm 46 says, “The nations rage, the kingdoms totter; he utters his voice and the earth melts. The Lord of hosts is with us; the God of Jacob is our fortress.” And, in Matthew 24, Jesus told His disciples it is His authority alone that will stand the test of time: “Heaven and earth will pass away, but my words will not pass away.”

In Matthew 6, Jesus warned His followers against storing up treasures on earth, “where moth and rust destroy and where thieves break in and steal.” Instead, He told them to invest in the eternal Kingdom of God.

Our ultimate hope, redemption, and restoration comes not in the protection of the state, which is never certain, but through salvation in Jesus, with whom we are heirs to a Kingdom operating outside the space and time of this temporal world.

Article by Tré Goins-Phillips Editor of Faithwire

GOD CREATED INDIVIDUALS NOT SOCIETIES

Prior to the advent of Christianity individuals belonged to the city, body and soul. If an individual had any value at all it was only by reference to some organised collective. Christianity changed all of that, the proclamation by the apostles that God had become man obliterated this view that individuals had no value that had predominated in the ancient world.

If Jesus is a person as the apostolic and patristic fathers of the early church proclaimed and He died and was raised as a representative of the entire human race then we are infinitely more valuable than society and the state makes of us. Suddenly, our identity is in view, we were created by our Heavenly Father in His image.. Our separation from Him was of our own making i.e. our rejection of His lordship over our lives.

How liberating is the following verse.

There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free, there is no male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus.Galatians 3:28

This concept of the value of the individual is being attacked as society increasingly rejects God and His followers. People are increasingly identifying themselves and others in terms of the groups they belong to. The God group is of course being increasingly marginalised. It is from the group they obtain their solidity and source of meaning. Critical Race Theory and Black Lives Matter are good examples of this onslaught. The unique person made in God’s image that is underneath these labels, the person Jesus died on The Cross to redeem is lost. Jesus said that in the last days lawlessness will abound and that Christians will be persecuted. Sadly, many will fall away but the one who endures will be saved.

Then they will deliver you up to tribulation and put you to death, and you will be hated by all nations for my name’s sake. And then many will fall away and betray one another and hate one another… And because lawlessness will be increased, the love of many will grow cold. But the one who endures to the end will be saved.Matthew 24:9-10, 12-13

Start living your lives now with an eternal perspective. Trust God and His promises and He will use you for His purposes in these last days. The Holy Spirit will direct your steps and you will move in power with the gifts of the Spirit evident. You will truly be a light in a dark place. Many will be saved through your witness and acts of kindness.

Prophesied end times signs

A WIN FOR WOMEN, FREE SPEECH AND EXCHANGE OF IDEAS

Left-wing activists wasted no time in pursuing Australia’s new assistant minister for women, Senator Amanda Stoker. Threatened by her pursuit of truth and justice for women, they have come out against her for having ‘wrong’ beliefs. Stoker is unashamedly Christian and has also spoken out against the aggressive transgender agenda. Keyboard warriors and TV personalities have been quick to attack, not based on facts, but on prejudice against her political and religious beliefs. Prominent LGBT activist and actor Magda Szubanski tweeted, “This reshuffle has handed power to Amanda Stoker, another of the small but noisy ‘Christian Soldiers’ faction hijacking the national agenda. All because a few guys doing the wrong thing. And worse.”

Senator Stoker refused to be intimidated stating, “Those criticising me on Twitter aren’t into delivery, they’re into the tribal. I think it’s a narrow slice of people who have fairly extreme beliefs.” Stoker believes that all women should be represented in public policy, not just those with extreme beliefs. “It’s important that as a government we speak to the full range of women’s experience,” she said. Binary spokeswoman, Kirralie Smith, commended the Senator. “Amanda Stoker has handled her critics well. Being targeted and harassed for her political and personal beliefs exposes their agenda. Stoker has proven time and again her advocacy for women, free speech and the exchange of ideas. Bullies who aim to cancel her want to advance their agenda at the expense of women who refuse to toe the line of their radical ideology.”

Senator Amanda Stoker, Assistant Minister for Women with Prime Minister Scott Morrison

TIMING OF END TIMES WRATH OF GOD

When Jesus was addressing his disciples questions about His second coming, Jesus said, “the days of Noah would be like the days of His coming.”

For as were the days of Noah, so will be the coming of the Son of Man. For as in those days before the flood they were eating and drinking, marrying and giving in marriage, until the day when Noah entered the ark, and they were unaware until the flood came and swept them all away, so will be the coming of the Son of Man.” Matthew 24:37-39

Jesus therefore tells us that most people will be living their lives as if life is normal, nothing unusual is happening for them. However, we know for Christians this time will be a time of get distress, even great tribulation, when they reject the Mark of the Beast/Antichrist.

Then they will deliver you up to tribulation and put you to death, and you will be hated by all nations for my name’s sake. And then many will fall away and betray one another and hate one another. And many false prophets will arise and lead many astray. And because lawlessness will be increased, the love of many will grow cold.” Matthew 24:9-12

Jesus attests to the fact that the Flood narrative is an Old Testament account that parallels the return of Jesus. Does this even include parallels between the number of days of the Flood and the final Wrath? Does God’s Word tell us plainly how long the Wrath of God lasts, and will it be a surprise to almost everyone?

Nelson does a great job of answering all these questions and more.

RELIGIOUS PERSECUTION OF WOMEN

Persecution of Christian women worldwide has risen dramatically in the last year as a new study released by Open Doors International (ODI) found that forced marriages have increased by 16%, and physical violence against women has increased 31%.

Gender Specific Religious Persecution (GSRP) has risen to the highest level recorded in the three years since the report was first issued in 2018, as women face a higher potential risk of religious persecution than men. The report’s data comes from the top 50 countries on the group’s annual World Watch List between Oct. 1, 2019, and Sep. 30, 2020.

Helene Fisher, a global gender persecution specialist for Open Doors International and one of the authors of the report, told The Christian Post that the increased threat to women is often because women have fewer rights in most of the top 50 countries for religious persecution. “Because [women] have fewer rights and fewer protections, they’re just an easier target,” Fisher said. “They can also be targeted with impunity, which means that if there is a population that doesn’t want the Christians to thrive, they can go after the women and girls and there aren’t consequences for those aggressors. So, it is a question of the women and girls having fewer rights for legal protections. [Women] are more vulnerable in the society, and they are just the easiest way to disable the Christian population.”

People pray as they gather for a ceremony on Christmas eve at Central Brooks Memorial Church in Karachi, Pakistan, December 24, 2016.

The five most common “pressure points” among women in the top 50 countries on the World Watch List for religious persecution are forced marriage, sexual violence, physical violence, psychological violence and forced divorce. Each category increased since last year’s study.

Ninety percent of the top 50 countries where Christians are most persecuted report forced marriage as a pressure point, and 86% of countries report sexual violence.

Targeting women, the child bearers, and forcing them to convert is a tactic used to destabilize the future generation of the Church, the development of families and the raising of Christian children.

Trafficking women as a form of religious persecution is on the rise, particularly in Asia and Africa, the report finds. Christian refugees or internally displaced peoples are especially vulnerable to this.

“Trafficking as a form of religious persecution continues to pose a threat in all regions on the World Watch List and it is rising, particularly in Africa and Asia. Globally, 17 countries (up from 10 the previous year) reported incidents of trafficked women and girls,” the report adds. “Countries engaged in conflict were most likely to report instances of sexual violence and trafficking.”

Research from the World Watch List shows more than 340 million Christians globally endure high levels of persecution and discrimination for their faith, which amounts to one in eight Christians around the world.

Jesus told us that persecution of Christians will increase in the last days before His return. It is just one of the end times signs He has given us. Israel, apostasy in the church, Covid and increased lawlessness are other very significant signs.

THE BLACK LIVES MATTER STORY

This is a must see video to really understand what is happening in the USA. Juan Riesco grew Nini’s Deli from its humble origins to #1 in Chicago on Yelp before the Black Lives Matter movement cancelled it in early June 2020. His parents, immigrants from Cuba and Mexico, started the small business. Juan took the reigns during a transitional period in his life, in which he converted to Christianity, after living as a homosexual in San Francisco. After the death of George Floyd, the Black Lives Matter movement promoted posting a black square on social media to show solidarity with the cause. When Juan failed to take this step, hundreds of people went online to accuse him of racism. Juan gently responded to each individual by explaining that he was a Christian and could not endorse the anti-Christian beliefs of the Black Lives Matter organization, but that he did believe black people, as well as all people, mattered to God. The next day hundreds of protestors showed up to protest Nini’s Deli. Juan preached the gospel to them. The next day thousands of people showed up. Juan received thousands of death threats and had to flee the city in the middle of the night to escape. Juan lost his corporate contracts and Nini’s Deli closed. Even as he lost his business and experienced betrayal by friends, Juan’s faith in Christ and resolve grew. Juan considers the story of Nini’s to be a victory story as many have come to Christ and been inspired by his courage.

LAST DAYS PROPHESIED EVENTS

YouTube bans LifeSiteNews, removes all of the website’s Pro-Life Videos

Amazon has removed a conservative author’s book, Ryan T. Anderson’s, “When Harry Became Sally from the web store. The best-selling book about the transgender movement was removed without offering Anderson any notice or explanation.

Ryan T. Anderson, president of the Ethics and Public Policy Center, discovered Sunday his book, “When Harry Became Sally: Responding to the Transgender Movement,” had been removed from the web store.

Target removes Abigail Shrier’s book critical of Transgender Agenda: Irreversible Damage: The Transgender Craze Seducing Our Daughters

As Big Tech continues its efforts to censor conservative voices, YouTube has banned the website LifeSiteNews from its popular video-sharing platform and removed all of its pro-life videos. 

This isn’t a temporary ban; every single one of our videos is completely gone,” the website’s staff wrote. “Thankfully, we have backups of all our videos, but this means hundreds of thousands of people have lost access to our truth-telling content.”

Photo by Chris McGrath/Getty Images

LifeSite tells CBN News, “We have faced increasing censorship from YouTube in the last three months. They flagged several of our factual videos on the COVID-19 vaccine as violations of their Terms of Service. As a result, we were given two strikes and suspended for multiple weeks, unable to post any new content. We were informed at that time that if another violation occurred within 90 days, we would be removed permanently.” 

YouTube suspended the website over a video titled “Catholic Christmas traditions to instill faith in your kids.” The video also was also tagged with a “medical misinformation” stamp before YouTube removed the video. 

In a statement to CBN News, LifeSite’s Marketing Director Rebekah Roberts said, “The truth is, we’ve been anticipating this for some time. YouTube and other tech titans are simply not interested in allowing anyone to dissent from their state-approved, liberal, totalitarian ideology. Fortunately, we’ve already taken pre-emptive measures to ensure the truth will continue to reach the ears of those most in need of it in these dictatorial times. We are active on various other platforms like Gab, Telegram, and Rumble, and encourage others to join us there.” 

Jesus gave us due warning as to what is ahead as the world increasingly rejects God and all He commands. The wrath of God will be poured out on an unbelieving world prior to Jesus second coming to rule and reign on this earth for 1000 years.

Then they will deliver you up to tribulation and put you to death, and you will be hated by all nations for my name’s sake. And then many will fall away and betray one another and hate one another. And many false prophets will arise and lead many astray. And because lawlessness will be increased, the love of many will grow cold. But the one who endures to the end will be saved. And this gospel of the kingdom will be proclaimed throughout the whole world as a testimony to all nations, and then the end will come. Matthew 24:9-14

PERSECUTION COMES WITH THE TERRITORY

What an entire generation of Christians do not understand is that refusing to align your language, choices, and actions with scripture is a blatant denial of Christ Jesus. Attacks on the doctrine of scripture are attacks on the Kingdom of God. Likewise, if we deny His word, we also deny Him. We cannot claim Jesus as our own and also continue to endorse the world’s philosophies. As the years continue to pile up in our postmodern society, so do the excuses Christians make about why they are willing to deny Jesus and His doctrine.

We would all do well to meditate on Jesus’ warning in Luke 9:62. He says, “No one who puts his hand to the plow and looks back is fit for the kingdom of God.” Here, Jesus is reminding us all not to “look back” at the worldly life we left behind. In doing so, we err like Lot’s wife did in Sodom – not trusting God’s provision. When we take our eyes off the prize and look back at the world we left behind, we declare ourselves unfit for the kingdom of God.

Christians, a day is coming when you will be forced to make this very decision: plow forward or look back.

But false prophets arose among the people, just as there will be false teachers among you, who will secretly bring in destructive heresies, even denying the Master who bought them, bringing upon themselves swift destruction.” 2 Peter 2:1

Then they will deliver you up to tribulation and put you to death, and you will be hated by all nations for my name’s sake. And then many will fall away and betray one another and hate one another. And many false prophets will arise and lead many astray. And because lawlessness will be increased, the love of many will grow cold. But the one who endures to the end will be saved.Matthew 24:9-13

God’s word warns us of many last days false prophets and teachers and apostasy in the church, all evident now and proof we are living in the last days. Prepare your heart now, you will be tempted to deny your Lord and Saviour. You need to consider the cost of following Christ but also the cost if you turn your back on Him. Your eternal destiny is at stake. We need to be prepared to lay down our lives for the sake of the Kingdom of God. Remember, that it is “He who endures to the end that shall be saved” Matthew 24:13

Let us meditate on the apostle’s words. “Indeed, I count everything as loss because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord. For his sake I have suffered the loss of all things and count them as rubbish, in order that I may gain Christ and be found in him, not having a righteousness of my own that comes from the law, but that which comes through faith in Christ, the righteousness from God that depends on faith—that I may know him and the power of his resurrection, and may share his sufferings, becoming like him in his death.Philippians 3:8-10

While our current persecution might be light, in comparison to what other brothers and sisters are experiencing in the world, it is still persecution. The doctrine and truth of God’s Word is being put to shame in our culture. It is time for you to decide if you will heed the call. Will you follow Christ or is the cost too much for you to bear? Far too long has the church been idle, ignoring this question. Will you take the yoke and plow the field for the Kingdom of God? Yes, there will be a cost for following Christ. But in such work, you will find joys and wonders of which you never dreamed. Pray that when you are forced to decide between plowing forward or looking back, you will choose the yoke of Christ. Pray that you will be a faithful slave of Christ. It is time for Christians to start owning that title.

Much of this post is taken from the article entitled Doubling-Down on Christian Persecution: The Cost of Following Jesus  JANUARY 19, 2021 by Jack Lee http://www.patheos .com

CHRISTIANS MURDERED FOR FAITH ROSE 60% IN 2020

The watchdog organization Open Doors USA says levels of Christian persecution are at a record high around the world, revealing that the number of Christians murdered for their faith rose 60 percent in 2020. Biblical prophecy of the end times prior to Jesus return predicts increased persecution of this magnitude along with pestilences, famine and increased earthquakes in “divers” places. All of which are taking place in our time.

Open Doors announced the 2021 World Watch List this week, ranking the top 50 countries where it is the most dangerous to be a follower of Jesus Christ. Their latest data indicates one-in-eight Christians now suffer for their religious beliefs worldwide. 

In a broadcast carried on CBN News YouTube, Open Doors USA’s CEO David Curry said, “A shocking number this year is that 340 million Christians suffer high levels of persecution and discrimination.” The top 10 countries on the World Watch List include North Korea, Afghanistan, Somalia, Libya, Pakistan, Eritrea, Yemen, Iran, Nigeria, and India. “The big surprise on the World Watch List 2021 is that extremists and governments are using COVID-19 as a justification to increase persecution against Christians and we see this in several places,” Curry told CBN News. 

“In India, where local governments are using pressure on Christians to withhold food and medical care – over 115,000 incidents of this that we can document,” explained Curry.  “It’s also extremists like in northern Nigeria.  Boko Haram which is attacking Christian villages, knowing that there is nowhere for them to go and they’re taking food and medical supplies. We’ve documented this.  This is happening more and more and that’s on top of the other incidents of persecution. So, there’s this level of intensity that’s been added to because of COVID.”

Curry explained, “There’s 100 million Christians right now in China, and they (the regime) are using their technology to surveil the church. They’re watching their every move. They’re seeing when they go into church. They’re using facial recognition. They’re looking at their searches online. They have a massive surveillance system which is monitoring religious practice in China and it is absolutely chilling, and I think it poses the greatest threat to human rights.” Also, according to the report, extremist attacks spread further throughout Sub-Saharan Africa, from Nigeria and Cameroon to Burkina Faso, Mali, and beyond. In Nigeria alone, 10 Christians a day are murdered on average due to their religious beliefs. 

END TIMES PERSECUTION

The rise of violent extremist groups throughout Africa, as well as the constant attacks against Christian communities in the continent’s most populated country, has religious leaders fearful that “the next jihad” is underway.

“I know one thing has never really changed: No one gives a damn about Africa except for their natural resources or if there is going to be a big party because there is a peace treaty being signed,” said Rabbi Abraham Cooper, director of the global social action agenda of the Simon Wiesenthal Center, a leading Jewish human rights organization with over 400,000 family members. 

Cooper teamed up with Rev. Johnnie Moore, a commissioner on the U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom and president of the Congress of Christian Leaders, to author the new book The Next Jihad: Stop the Christian Genocide in Africa. The book was written after the unlikely duo traveled together to Nigeria earlier this year to meet with dozens of Christian victims of terrorism from five different regions. “After our journey there, we want the world to know that you haven’t heard half of it,” the faith leaders said in a joint statement. “The terrorists’ aim is to ethnically cleanse northern Nigeria of its Christians and to kill every Muslim who stands in their way.”

Their trip came as thousands have been killed by Boko Haram (an Islamic militant group in Nigeria’s northeast with a splinter faction that has claimed allegiance to the Islamic State) and radical Fulani herdsmen who have in recent years increasingly raided predominantly Christian farming villages in the country’s Middle Belt.

In the natural this genocide is horrific and fearful but for Christians who truly understand God is working out His plans and purposes in His world and want to be in the centre of His will for their lives understand the truth of this Scripture.

 “And not only that but we also glory in tribulations, knowing that tribulation produces perseverance; and perseverance, character; and character, hope.  Now hope does not disappoint, because the love of God has been poured out in our hearts by the Holy Spirit who was given to us.”    Romans 5:3-5