Chinese Christians Defend Their Church
Monday, April 7, 2014, 12:26 PM

church Chinese Christians Defend Their ChurchLast week, Tim Phillips, writing for The Telegraph, reported that thousands of Chinese Christians are mounting an extraordinary, round-the-clock defense of Sanjiang Christian Church in Wenzhou, China.  The Christians, including the elderly and, in some cases, disabled women, have now occupied the church to prevent demolition teams moving in and bull-dozing the church.  The 24-hour guard began when a demolition notice was posted last week on the newly-constructed church that took six years to build and cost up to 30 million yuan (approximately $4.8 million).  Construction costs for the church were donated by local families, many of whom have children living abroad.  Reportedly, the children also donated substantially for the church’s construction.  Chinese Communist officials declared that the church had been built illegally and posed “serious safety risks,” and further used red paint against the towering white façade to write “Demolish” and “Illegal construction.”  However, church officials said that the construction plan and design was approved by the Wenzhou municipal government, and in fact, was cited as a “model project” by the local government when the church was completed late last year.  The presence of an estimated 1,000 police, along with SWAT teams, and the arrival of bulldozers at the church triggered an angry, but non-violent, response among Christians in Wenzhou, a port city known for its large and vital Christian community.  (A link to a short video showing the church defenders congregating on the church steps is available here.)

Wenzhou, a wealthy city of seven million residents, is a major port south of Shanghai.  Some have estimated that 15 percent of the city’s population are regular church-goers, the majority of whom are Protestant.  Church members believe that their church was targeted after Xia Baolong, the provincial Communist Party chief, visited the region in January, and was upset by the prominence of a church built to accommodate thousands of Christian worshippers.  (Apparently, he was also offended that the church building and the cross atop it are too tall and visible for his socialist paradise.)  According to a Chinese government website, provincial officials then began a campaign in February to demolish any church buildings that violated local regulations.  Government officials are deeply concerned that Christianity is growing too fast and in an “unsustainable” manner.  (I am reminded of Pliny the Younger’s letter to the Roman Emperor Trajan in the early part of the second century A.D., asking for advice on how to deal with the Christian “superstition” that had infected the Roman provinces of Pontus and Bithynia.  Pliny writes, “For many persons of every age, every rank, and also of both sexes are and will be endangered.  For the contagion of this [Christian] superstition has spread not only to the cities, but also to the villages and farms.”  For the exchange of letters, please see the following link.)  Regular readers of Touchstone and Mere Comments know that most Christians in China worship in underground house churches.  China’s house church movement, which comprises approximately 90 percent of China’s Christians, endures unimaginable persecution, and the Christians are subject to regular crackdowns because house churches refuse to comply with Communist Party rules.  During one crackdown in 2000 in Zhejiang province, where the city of Wenzhou is located, hundreds of churches and temples were demolished.  However, what is unusual about this dispute is that the Sanjiang Christian Church is obviously not a house church, but is registered with the local government.

Despite threats, church officials have refused to take the cross down.  In an interview with The New York Times, Li Xile, said, “We are not taking the cross down.  It is a symbol of our love.  A church without a cross is just a warehouse.”  Wang Jianfeng, one of the people gathered on the church steps, said in a recent interview, “[Mr. Xia Balong’s] behavior is illegal.  He has abused his power.  The construction of the church is not against the law.”  A representative of the local government, Zhang Biyao, denied that the Communist Party was persecuting Christians.  Ms. Zhang said, “[The Christians] can believe.  This is free.  We can’t control them.”  But she said that the church was illegally built and was structurally unsound.  The local government merely wants to protect the “people’s safety.”  (Yes, it is always for the people’s good, isn’t it?)

Today, China’s human rights record is among the worst in the world, and China’s government is among the most vicious opponents of the Gospel of Our Lord Jesus Christ.  In 1949, Mao Zedong declared the establishment of the People’s Republic of China, and quickly sought to purge society of anything that would point to religion, causing China’s people to endure great hardship.  Mao’s Great Leap Forward in the 1950s and the Cultural Revolution in the 1960s and 1970s, left tens of millions of Chinese dead or victimized.  China’s system of “re-education” through labor camps detains hundreds of thousands each year without any hearing.  China’s “strike-hard” policy is presented by the government as a crackdown on criminals, but it has been hardest on Christians.  Today, through “strike-hard,” more Christians are in prison or under some form of detention than in any other country in the world.  Yet, the Church in China grows, with thousands of Chinese coming to Jesus Christ every day.  While Chinese Christians endure great persecution, it stands strong in its commitment to preach the Gospel of Christ no matter the cost.  Please pray for the Christians of China, and in particular, for the worshippers at the Sanjiang Christian Church, and for a peaceful resolution to this dispute.  If you wish to write to the Chinese Ambassador to the United States, you can write to him at the following address:

The Honorable Cui Tiankai
Embassy of the People’s Republic of China
3505 International Place, N.W.
Washington, D.C. 20008

A Bad Week for Planned Parenthood
Wednesday, April 2, 2014, 9:16 AM

On these pages over the past several years, I have written about the on-going misfortune of Planned Parenthood (“PP”).  Notwithstanding the fact that Mr. Obama was the first sitting president to address PP’s gala celebration (what could they possibly be celebrating?), it still had a rough week.  It started last week in Kansas when a federal appeals court ruled that the state does not have to keep funding two abortion mills.  Kansas enacted legislation that required its portion of federal family planning funds go to public health departments and hospitals, and not pay for abortions.  As a result, in 2011, PP of Kansas and Mid-Missouri filed a lawsuit challenging the requirement preventing PP from receiving federal family planning funds.  In its lawsuit, PP said that the budget provision would result in a $330,000 funding loss, and the likely closure of PP’s abortion mill in Hays, Kansas.  Incidentally, PP received $542,000,000 in taxpayer dollars during 2012, which is equal to $61,836 per hour, 24 hours a day for 365 days.  (For more information on PP, please see Joe Carter’s “9 Things You Should Know About Planned Parenthood,” available here.)

Then this past Monday, a federal court refused to place a hold on Arizona’s new law that requires abortion-inducing drugs to be dispensed according to federal Food and Drug Administration (“FDA”) protocols and the instructions on the label.  (Does that law seem so onerous?  Imagine that physicians should follow FDA guidelines for medications!)  Again, PP sought to block this law that would limit the use of abortion-inducing drugs.  As a result of the court’s ruling, the regulations went into effect yesterday.  Practically, this means that the FDA- approved RU-486, the abortion pill, can only be used within seven weeks of gestation.  Doctors who have prescribed it later than seven weeks have made an “off-label use,” which is not allowed under Arizona’s new law.  David Brown, an attorney for the Center for Reproductive Rights, said that he was disappointed with the court’s ruling.  With no apparent irony, Mr. Brown noted, “This law serves no purpose other than to prevent Arizona women from using a safe alternative to surgical abortion and force their doctors to follow an outdated, riskier, and less effective method [of surgical abortion].”  And to think we were told repeatedly that abortions were safer than childbirth.

Third, also this past Monday, a federal judge in Montgomery, Alabama, denied PP’s request to rule immediately in its favor in a legal challenge to the state’s law against the so-called “cut-and-run” abortionists.  Alabama enacted a new law requiring abortionists to have admitting privileges at local hospitals.  PP objected to the new law, noting that enactment of the law would end abortions at three-fifths of Alabama’s “reproductive health centers.”  Attorneys for Alabama argued that the law was necessary to guarantee patient continuity of care, and that there have been numerous documented serious complications and deaths to the mothers from botched abortions.  Instead, the judge ordered the case to trial to examine the constitutionality of an abortion restriction passed by the Alabama legislature in 2013.

Steven H. Aden, senior counsel at Alliance Defending Freedom, said the following in response to the multiple legal setbacks for PP:

Planned Parenthood’s efforts to put their profits ahead of the safety of women and children continue to fail.  From Arizona to Alabama to Kansas, America’s largest abortion seller has not succeeded so far in its opposition to common-sense laws that put women’s health and well-being ahead of Planned Parenthood’s bottom line.

I agree; every defeat for Planned Parenthood is a victory for women and for their unborn children. Lord, have mercy!

Just Another Day in Lahore, Pakistan
Monday, March 31, 2014, 9:20 AM

The New York Times reported late last week that a court in Lahore, Pakistan, found a Christian sanitation worker, Sawan Masih, 35, guilty of blasphemy and sentenced him to death.  This case began in March 2013, when during an argument with a Moslem “friend,” Mr. Masih was alleged to have insulted Mohammed, which, under Pakistan’s infamous blasphemy law 295(c), is a capital crime.  The New York Times, the newspaper of record, intoned that “it has often taken little more than the rumors of insults to Islam to incite lynchings and other violence.”  As if on cue, following the mere accusation against Mr. Masih, enraged mobs swept through the Joseph Colony, a Christian neighborhood in the city of Lahore, setting more than 170 houses and two churches on fire.  The riots caused great panic and fear among the city’s Christians, most of whom are desperately poor and do menial labor.  Hundreds of Christians fled the area.

A lawyer for Mr. Masih said that he would appeal the case to the Lahore High Court.  In a statement following the verdict, Mr. Masih insisted that he had been falsely charged as part of a plot by businessmen to use blasphemy allegations to drive Christians from the land in Joseph Colony so that it could be seized for industrial use.  “They hatched a conspiracy to push out the residents of the colony,” the statement said. “They contrived a case and got it filed by a person who was close to me.  I am innocent.”  Such things have happened all too often.  Human rights groups have long observed how Pakistan’s blasphemy laws are used to settle personal scores and to persecute religious minorities.  Sadly, many accused never go to trial, but are killed by vigilantes instead.  The vigilantes are almost never arrested, and if arrested, are never prosecuted.  As I have written on these pages, in 2011, Salmaan Taseer, the provincial governor of Punjab, was killed by one of his body guards after campaigning to have the blasphemy laws repealed.  Two months later, Shahbaz Bhatti, the only Christian cabinet member, who also criticized the blasphemy laws, was assassinated in Islamabad.

I don’t know about you, but I have a gnawing sense that many politicians are lying to me when they say that Islam is a “Religion of Peace.”  We are told that we cannot blame an entire religion for the actions of a few.  (Have you ever wondered why that same rule doesn’t apply to gun owners?)  As I am getting ready to send in another regular annual contribution to our Internal Revenue Service, I am disgusted about how billions of dollars of U.S.-taxpayer “aid” are sent annually to Pakistan and other Islamic countries that persecute Christians.  Regular readers of Touchstone and Mere Comments know that almost every day we read stories of Moslem men killing their sisters, wives, and daughters for the sake of their family’s “honor.”  We hear of Moslems rioting, as in this case, over some unproven offense; of Moslems murdering Christian and Jews (and frankly, plenty of other Moslems) because they aren’t “believers,” or are not “believers enough.”  We hear of Moslems burning schools for girls, and stoning teenage rape victims to death for “adultery.”  We hear of Moslems regularly performing female genital mutilation.  And all of this is done because the Koran and Sharia laws say that it must be done this way.  Let’s see whether Messrs. Obama and Kerry will say anything about the injustice against Mr. Masih.  But somehow I doubt it.  I was even surprised that it was reported in the New York Times.  At least, that is one man’s view.  Please pray for Mr. Masih and his lawyers as he now sits on death row.

World Vision US Causes a Mild Ruckus
Thursday, March 27, 2014, 9:37 AM

Several days ago, the US-arm of World Vision, the international Christian relief agency, announced that it would hire employees in homosexual “marriages.”  Prior to this change in policy, World Vision had an employee policy requiring sexual abstinence for all single employees, and faithfulness within the biblical covenant of marriage between one man and one woman.  Following the announcement by World Vision, as you can readily imagine, many Christian leaders and lay persons, and churches, responded with shock and great dismay over its decision to embrace an unbiblical practice.  Reasonably, I am thinking that at least some Christians wondered whether they could continue supporting World Vision’s popular child sponsorship program.  (My wife and I have sponsored children through World Vision for decades, and had this policy been left in place, I am certain that we would have terminated our child sponsorship support.  I suspect that other child sponsors would have as well.)  Although World Vision has annual revenues approaching $3 billion dollars, a policy change of this nature could have a potentially devastating impact on its operations.

However, late yesterday afternoon, World Vision US released a statement confirming that it had reversed its decision to hire employees in homosexual “marriages.”  In its statement, the board of World Vision acknowledged that “it made a mistake . . . We are brokenhearted over the pain and confusion we have caused many of our friends, who saw this decision as a reversal of our strong commitment to Biblical authority.”  As we know from Holy Scripture, marriage is exclusively the legal union of one man and one woman.  (Titus 1:6.)  Further, as unfashionable as it might be among some in Western Europe and the United States, biblically legitimate sexual relations are exercised solely within a heterosexual marriage, as we see in I Corinthians 6:9-10, Leviticus 18:22, Leviticus 20:13 and Romans 1:26-27.  As shocking as it may sound to some modern, secularized ears, even the notion of homosexual “marriage” is sinful and incompatible with biblical, Christian behavior.  I commend the Board of World Vision for promptly recognizing their error, and for reversing their policy.  Robert Pierce, World Vision’s founder, would have been mortified at this policy, but gratified that World Vision’s board reversed it so quickly.  As has been noted by many, eternal vigilance is the price of liberty.

Please Pray for Today’s Oral Arguments at the Supreme Court
Tuesday, March 25, 2014, 9:18 AM

Do people who own businesses have a right to shape their businesses according to their consciences and religious beliefs?  This is the question that will be heard in oral arguments today at the Supreme Court in two cases: Sebelius v. Hobby Lobby and Conestoga Wood Specialties v. Sebelius.  In both cases, the Supreme Court will decide whether the federal government violated the federal Religious Freedom Restoration Act (“RFRA”) when it threatened religious owners of for-profit corporations with multimillion dollar fines if they did not pay for insurance coverage of abortion-inducing drugs that the business owners believe terminate human life.  (Incidentally, RFRA is the original, federal version of the Arizona law, amendments to which Governor Brewer recently vetoed.)  With ironic timing, Mr. Obama will travel to Rome with his 900-strong posse, three airplanes, and 45 cars to meet with His Holiness Pope Francis on Thursday.  (I hope they eat some boiled whitefish and carrots together at the Casa Santa Marta.)  In a prelude to a potentially frosty meeting, the Vatican’s chief justice, Raymond Cardinal Burke, said in a recent magazine interview that Mr. Obama’s policies have been hostile toward Christians.  Cardinal Burke said that:

The policies of the president of the United States have become progressively more hostile toward Christian civilization. He appears to be a totally secularized man who aggressively promotes anti-life and anti-family policies. Now he wants to restrict the exercise of the freedom of religion to freedom of worship; that is, he holds that one is  free to act according to his conscience within the confines of his place of worship, but that, once the person leaves the place of worship, the government can constrain him to act against his rightly-formed conscience, even in the most serious of moral questions.

Well said, and quite on point, Cardinal Burke.  It seems that way to many of us here as well.  Please pray for today’s oral argument in the Health and Human Services (“HHS”) Mandate cases.  The stakes are very high as these cases test whether the United States will remain a pluralistic society that supports a strong religious liberty for Americans of all faiths.  I have linked to an important 11 minute video from The Becket Fund for Religious Liberty (available here) that shows why the HHS Mandate cases protect all people with sincerely held religious beliefs.  Please pray for each of the nine Supreme Court Justices as they deliberate on these cases, and for Paul Clement, the former solicitor general of the United States, who is arguing the cases for the owners and their companies.  Please also pray for the Green family, who owns Hobby Lobby and Mardel Christian Bookstores, and the Hahn family, who owns Conestoga Wood Specialties, who are challenging the HHS Mandate.  For as we have learned in Ephesians 6:12, “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.”  And oh, how dark and wicked these high places are.

Please Continue to Pray for the Ukrainian People
Friday, March 21, 2014, 11:17 AM

The First Lady, the First Children, and Mrs. Robinson, the First Grandmother, arrived yesterday in China for some “soft diplomacy.” Accompanied by an entourage of 70 persons, no reporters were allowed to join this troupe, and the trip was touted as a “weeklong feel-good tourist event.” (In other words a taxpayer-paid junket.) But this left Mr. Obama free to work on important issues facing our nation and world. Media reports have informed us that Mr. Obama and his staff have started planning a vacation for the Obamas on Martha’s Vineyard during the week of August 9th. Further, the Basketball-Fan-In-Chief also found time to opine the 2014 Men’s Final Four picks to ESPN. (His selections include the Louisville Cardinals, the Florida Gators, the Arizona Wildcats, and the Michigan State Spartans.) With the family away, he can now enjoy the remaining basketball games. He also found time to appear recently on television, including the Ellen DeGeneres television program (where she observed that “everyone’s very grateful” for Obamacare), and the hard-hitting and widely-viewed Between Two Ferns with Zach Galifianakis (who?). The situation in Ukraine, and the relationship among Russia and the former Soviet states grows more dangerous and contentious each day, as Russian forces seized a Ukrainian naval base, as well as Ukrainian naval ships.  But, never fear, things are all well in hand at the White House. Mr. Obama has now imposed new and even greater sanctions on Russia, including an Executive Order compelling Netflix to cancel Mr. Putin’s subscription.

Many are praying that God will use the recent events in Ukraine to bring others to Himself.  I received an email from “Ilya,” a lawyer and brother in Christ in Ukraine.  I wish to quote at length from his email as it was an encouragement to us, and also a plea to pray for the suffering people of Ukraine:

The events of the last month in Ukraine have become a vivid demonstration of the power of prayer of a global Christian community.  Numerous statements, trips, letters of support and phone calls of Christian Alliances, organizations, and leadership of many of the democratic countries have demonstrated that Ukrainian people are not alone in this strife for a better life, true democracy and rule of law.

These challenges showed the unity of Ukrainian people and the activeness of the church which responded to crisis though words and deeds. The chapels opened their doors for the wounded and injured, the sanctuaries served as shelters and safe houses, the priests stood like a live shield between angry demonstrators and riot police. Ordinary people left their jobs and volunteered in the churches, hospitals, field kitchens, while others provided free overnight lodging for those in need. The Revolution united all: East and West, young and old, rich and poor.

God has changed the situation dramatically. The new majority in the Parliament have committed to work tirelessly to implement the reforms and pass the laws that would improve the lives of ordinary Ukrainians and take the country out of poverty and corruption. Although the President fled to Russia, the Parliament voted for a Baptist minister, Dr. Turchynov, to serve as an acting President of Ukraine until the presidential elections take place on May 25. Under his leadership the country has started to make steps towards closer ties with European Union and United States.

Among the first steps to bring back the trust of the people was the order to tear down the high solid fence which separated the people and the Parliament building.  People welcomed this decision and applauded the fall of the Ukrainian “iron curtain,” which symbolized the new era of transparency and accountability of the new government. When it was obvious that people have won the battle for Kiev, the battle for Crimea has just started. While Ukrainians were celebrating the victory in Kiev, the armed groups of people at Crimean peninsula on the Black Sea were stirring up the population, the majority of which are ethnic Russian, to turn the region back to Moscow.  . . . People in Crimea are scared to death of such help and those who can, leave the peninsula in fear of war.

The Ukrainian government has been very reserved to such invasion and uses the language of diplomacy rather than language of war. Meanwhile Russia fueled the Referendum in the Autonomous Republic of Crimea while the world biggest democracies say they will not recognize the poll that is used to legitimize Russian occupation. Ukraine had asked the international     community to send observers to Crimea, but Russian military do not let them into Crimea. . . .  [Ukraine and Russia] are two friendly nations which share a lot of cultural, geographical and linguistic similarities that make us close to each other.  Evil powers and dishonest leaders through provocations, lies and greed set us against each other.  Nobody wants a war and one     way to stop is to repent before God and each other and love your neighbor as yourself.  I ask you kindly to pray for God’s intervention in this situation.  Only He is mighty and capable to stop the aggression and violence, and grant Ukraine unity and peace. —Ilya

Please continue to pray for our brothers and sisters in Ukraine, and while our leaders fiddle while Ukraine burns, let us never forget that it is only a miracle from God that can save that part of the world from the evil brutality of aggression and repression.

Abortionist Gosnell Claims Another Victim
Monday, March 17, 2014, 9:37 AM

On these pages, I have written about Kermit Gosnell, the Philadelphia abortionist, convicted last May of first-degree murder for the deaths of three babies at his abortion mill.  He murdered them by cutting their spinal cords with scissors.  He was also found guilty of involuntary manslaughter in the 2009 death of his patient, Karnamay Mongar, a Nepalese refugee, who died at his “clinic.”  Fearing the death penalty, Gosnell, then age 72, waived his right to an appeal.  In exchange, he was sentenced to life in prison without the possibility of parole.  Last Thursday, one of his employees, Sherry West, 54, was sentenced to serve five to ten years in prison for her role in Ms. Mongar’s death.   District Attorney R. Seth Williams laid out the case against Gosnell, his wife, Pearl, and their employees, in a 2012 grand jury report that revealed Gosnell profited $10,000 to $15,000 a day at his abortion mill.  Mr. Williams also informed the court that Gosnell also made $200,000 from writing 2,300 illegal prescriptions for OxyContin and other addictive drugs.

Ms. West pleaded guilty to third-degree murder and conspiracy, and admitted that on Nov. 19, 2009, she administered “some” of the Demerol overdose that killed Ms. Mongar.  According to media reports, after Philadelphia Common Pleas Court Judge Benjamin Lerner imposed the sentence, West sobbed for five minutes.  West said, “Nobody believes the truth anymore, nobody,” and asserted that she “treated patients like family” and “didn’t mean to do anything wrong.”  In fact, she said that she didn’t believe she did anything wrong during the 18 months she worked at the clinic.  In an attempt to mitigate her sentence, West’s attorney told Judge Lerner that Gosnell had a “Svengali influence” over his client, who was dealing with personal problems at the time.  (It’s not much of a defense, but if that is all he’s got, what can he do?)  West is one of nine Gosnell employees charged in 2011 for performing illegal late-term abortions at the abortion mill; two more are awaiting sentencing.  Steven Massof, 51, an unlicensed medical school graduate who worked for Gosnell from 2003 to 2008, was sentenced in February to six to 12 years in prison for his role in the killing of two babies born alive.  According to court testimony, Massof earned $200 to $300 in cash per week paid under the table.  (Not much, was it, to aid and abet murder, especially as compared to Gosnell’s $10,000 to $15,000 per day?)

Yes, Ms. West sobbed for five minutes.  As she said that she did nothing wrong and treated the clinic’s victims as her family, I presume she sobbed because she was going to prison.  But I have a hunch that she will be out of jail in no more than a few years.  But we, both as Christians and as members of our society, should truly weep for Ms. Mongar, and all of the babies murdered by Gosnell and his gang of sadistic butchers.  Please pray for Gosnell, West, and Massof that they will see what they have truly done, repent of their sins, and turn to Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior.  As I wrote last week, the Father of the Lord Jesus is a God of second chances if we are only willing to listen to God’s voice.  And yet, we must never forget the heinous barbarity of the abortionists’ craft.

Tragic Events Can Turn Into Second Chances
Friday, March 14, 2014, 9:46 AM

One of the greatest truths and encouragements in the Bible is that God uses deeply flawed men and women to accomplish His purposes.  The clear teaching of Holy Scripture is that man’s sinful nature must be battled moment-by-moment in our lives.  As one example, the flawed man Moses was used by God to lead the Israelites from their bondage in Egypt.  The Washington Post reported this week that Bill Gothard resigned from the ministry he founded, the Institute in Basic Life Principles, after allegations of sexually harassing women who worked at the ministry and failing to report child abuse cases.  According to the website, Recovering Grace, 34 women said that they had been sexually harassed, and four women have alleged molestation.  I have read many of their stories on that website, and each story is tragic.

Some of my readers might not be familiar with Bill Gothard.  During the 1970s and 1980s, Mr. Gothard regularly filled 20,000-seat auditoriums with Christians (mostly), but also non-Christians, who attended his weeklong seminar focused on applying Biblical principles to modern life.  During those years, more than 2.5 million people attended, and his seminars were particularly popular with home-schooling families.  I confess that I did attend on a number of occasions, first in college, and then several times after college.  I was first invited by an Eastern Orthodox sister from my college dormitory Bible study.  I found the seminar to be a transformative experience for me.  After attending, I remember that I stood before a large group of several hundred college students, most of whom were Christian believers, and encouraged them to attend an upcoming seminar.  To “close the deal,” I offered those who came that if they didn’t find it to be an important seminar for them, I would give them double their money back.  Of those in attendance that night, about 80 came to the seminar at McCormick Place in Chicago.  Fortunately for me, no one ever asked for their money back.  Further, some would later return to other seminars with their friends and family.  (One would pay the attendance fee the first time, and then you could attend subsequent seminars for free.)  One dear brother in the Lord, a college classmate and a close friend to this day, attended and later brought his father, a devout Christian believer.  His father later would bring his friends, some of whom were not Christians, but they became Christians at the seminar.  (Mr. Gothard would invite people to follow Christ on Thursday evening of the seminar.)

As I look back upon my life, besides my parents and Rev. Rosheger, my beloved youth pastor, there has not been a greater and more positive influence in my life than Mr. Gothard.  Of course, I never met him personally, and have no personal knowledge of the allegations against him.  While I have been blessed to sit under the teaching and ministry of some exceptional, godly clergy throughout my life, Mr. Gothard furrowed deep a path for me as a Christ-follower.  During times of youthful sturm und drang with my parents, I would remember his teachings on what it meant to obey practically one’s parents, and his teachings brought me very close to my parents until the day they died.  At a time when many churches were silent and confused about the so-called sexual revolution, he stood for sexual purity, and clearly articulated why God established His standard against promiscuity.  He taught me how to be a good employee, serving my employer with a Christian attitude, as Joseph served his pharaoh.  Mr. Gothard encouraged his attendees to study and meditate upon the teachings of the Book of Proverbs, and I believe that inculcation of those principles contributed to some modicum of success in my professional and business life.  His teachings on tithing and gifts, as well as avoidance of debt, influence me to this day.  On the bookcase in my home office still sit the seminar’s manual, and a number of his books.

Moses, the Bible teaches us, was someone who became nobody.  God took that nobody, and then made him someone for God’s glory and for His purpose.  Mr. Gothard, at 79, is almost the same age as when God called Moses at the burning bush.  We don’t know what the future holds for Mr. Gothard.  But we do know that our God, the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, is One of second chances.  Such has happened before.  God took a murderer, Moses, and made him the much-loved leader of the Israelites.  Ironically, it was Bill Gothard who taught me that about Moses.

North Korean Brutality
Wednesday, March 12, 2014, 10:21 AM

For the past twelve years, North Korea has topped the Open Doors World Watch List as the most repressive regime against Christian believers.  The United Nations Commission of Inquiry on Human Rights in the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (the “Commission”) conducted a systematic investigation of the ongoing atrocities in North Korea.  (The recently released reports in both the 35-page summary and the 372-page detailed report are available here.

The detailed report is difficult to read because of the brutality described therein.)  The Commission stated that “there is an almost complete denial of the right to freedom of thought, conscience and religion, as well as the rights to freedom of opinion, expression, information and association.”  The report concluded that the dictatorship of Kim Jung Un “considers the spread of Christianity a particularly severe threat,” and as a result, “Christians are prohibited from practicing their religion and are persecuted.”  Well, of course, the use of the term “persecution” by an agency of the usually sanguine United Nations is diplomat-speak for horrific abuse.  Severe punishment is inflicted on any person caught practicing their Christian faith.  The Commission noted in its report that between 80,000 and 120,000 political prisoners are currently detained in four political prison camps, “where deliberate starvation has been used as a means of control and punishment.”  The actual number of those trapped in the hellish North Korean prison camps is likely to be much higher.

Last week, South Korean newspapers reported that North Korean dictator, Kim Jong Un, had ordered the deaths of 33 people alleged to have received money for building 500 underground churches from South Korean missionary Kim Jung Wook.  As is customary in North Korea, the executions will take place publicly.  (You may recall that late last year, Kim Jong Un’s uncle and mentor, Jang Song-Thaek, was executed, along with his brothers, children, and grandchildren.)  The background of the South Korean missionary Kim is still unclear, as some sources claim he was arrested in North Korea last October, while others said he was kidnapped in China by North Korean secret agents.  Poignantly, North Korea Freedom Coalition Chairman Suzanne Scholte reminded the U.S. Congress just last week that the international community promised after Nazi Germany’s treatment and murder of six million Jews to never allow such atrocities again.  And yet, such atrocities continue unabated in North Korea.  In fact, it is a stunning reality that North Korea’s satanic political prison camps have been in existence 10 times longer than the Nazi death camps, and three times longer than the Soviet gulags.  Open Doors USA President David Curry said in a statement issued this past Monday, “Usually when persecution increases in a country, the heart of the gospel of Jesus Christ is rapidly spreading.”  Please pray for the lives of these 33 Christian believers awaiting execution, and please pray for the at least several hundred thousand secret Christian believers of North Korea.  Please also pray for the freedom of the American missionary, Kenneth Bae, who remains in North Korean prison.

The Plight of Pastor Behnam Irani
Monday, March 10, 2014, 8:44 AM

IMG 0080 150x150 The Plight of Pastor Behnam IraniBehnam Irani is an Armenian-Iranian Christian currently in prison in Iran.  He became a Christian believer in 1992, and has served as a pastor since 2002.  In December 2006, he was arrested for the first time for “crimes” against Iranian national security.  Such “crimes” involve holding house church services and inviting Moslems to follow Jesus Christ.  At his first trial, he was given a five-year suspended sentence.  On April 14, 2010, he was arrested a second time on the same charges as he continued to minister.  On that occasion, police officers broke up a house church service, and took him into custody.  Each in attendance at the church meeting was interrogated by security officers, and the police confiscated Bibles, Christian literature, and other materials, as evidence against him.  Following his arrest, Pastor Irani was imprisoned for two months, and then released on bail in June 2010.  At his trial in January 2011, he was convicted for his crimes, and sentenced to one year in prison.  As he approached the end of his prison term, as part of their psychological torture against him, prison officials told him that his sentence would be extended until at least 2013.  He is still in prison today.

During his imprisonment, Pastor Irani was subjected to sleep deprivation, and was beaten regularly by his fellow prisoners under the watchful eye of prison officials.  His health is failing.  He is losing his eyesight, has untreated Inflammatory Bowel Disease, is suffering from a serious ulcer, and is barely able to speak, and has great difficulty walking.  Under international pressure, Iranian authorities allowed him to undergo surgery on February 22, 2014.  According to media reports, the surgery was successful, and he returned to prison on February 26th.   His wife, teen daughter, and young son miss him very much.  If you, your church or study group, want to send him a letter of encouragement, please write to him at the following address:

Pastor Behnam Irani
Ghezel Hesar Prison
Karaj, Albourz State
Islamic Republic of Iran

Please do not send him any money or gifts.  I encourage you to quote Holy Scriptures in your letter, but please do not disparage the depravity and utter evil of the current government of the Iranian mullahs.  Pastor Irani wrote a deeply moving and powerful letter at Christmas 2011, reminiscent of St. Paul’s letters.  I commend the study of his letter, which is available here.  (I have also linked to a second letter by Pastor Irani describing prison life, and encouraging Christians to return to their first love of Christ, available here.)  Please pray fervently for our brother in the Lord, of whom this world is unworthy, and for his family who also suffer terribly during this difficult time.

« Newer PostsOlder Posts »