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If I can’t make America great by living the way of Christ, then I want no part in that greatness. And I don’t think God does either.” We should all shout a hearty AMEN! to this comment from Pastor Chris Gilmore on the Huff Post blog.

There is a time for everything under the sun, including a time for national humility. I’m afraid, this is that time.

Even so, enough with the insinuations of a rising fascism because Donald Trump wants to Make America Great Again. There is nothing wrong with that aspiration. The path to greatness is what is important to scrutinise, not the ambition itself. Living on this side of the pond there is little toleration for any sense of American greatness. Certainly I understand but usually it smacks of some ingratitude to me. America has been generous in internationally-unparalleled ways and paid dearly for freedoms people enjoy all over the globe. And yes, sadly America has fallen so so so far from her height and she is dead wrong if she thinks greatness has anything to do with great military strength. But my point is patriotism and national pride don’t always equal fascism. I enjoy Scottish national pride, and Irish pride, and Greek national pride, and the pride of wherever else I am. My family has wonderful memories of sitting late at night with friends from the Rosebud Sioux Tribe laughing at their jokes about how much better they are than the Oglala Sioux Tribe on Pine Ridge. National identity and pride aren’t necessarily bad things.

No, we shouldn’t baptise patriotism and replace the cross with the flag. However if the church is to be a House of Prayer for Nations then carrying nations to the altar for mercy and blessing is what we are called to do. Really, it is no different than the high priest of Israel having twelve precious stones representing each tribe on his breastplate as he goes into the Holy of Holies.

When I read the passages of the Bible that speak of all nations bending their knee before the Lordship of Christ I don’t see anything that would indicate they must first give up their national identity, calling and culture. Like the Twelve Tribes that made camp each under their individual banners around the Tabernacle in the Wilderness, national identity is part of God’s beautiful diversity in the earth. Each nation has redemptive gifts, purposes and callings.

The promise to Abraham was national greatness: “I will make you into a great nation and I will bless you; I will make your name great and you will be a blessing.”  (Gen. 12:2) And the promise wasn’t just for one nation; from Abraham’s great nation would come a company of great nations (Gen. 17:5-6; 35:11). Where it gets really fascinating is in Genesis 49 where Jacob blesses his twelve sons and speaks prophetically about who they will become as great nations at the time of the end of the age (Gen. 49:1ff).

Through migrations over four thousand years these blood descendants of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob are now scattered all over the earth– God even promised their sons would sit on the thrones of nations, would possess the gates of their enemies –both things identifiable even into the modern age. God’s promises to the descendants of David came true. They did and still do sit on the thrones of nations and historically they have and still do control the main geo-political gates of the world; Gibraltar, the Suez Canal, Singapore, and Hong Kong to name a few.

I’m sitting in Aberdeen, Scotland as I write this only 55 miles north of Arbroath. In the fifteenth century, Mary Queen of Scots traced her royal lineage back to King David and this was made evident in the Scottish Declaration of Independence, also called the Declaration of Arbroath, which expressly states:

Most Holy Father and Lord, we know and from the chronicles and books of the ancients we find that… the Scots… journeyed from Greater Scythia by way of the Tyrrhenian Sea and the Pillars of Hercules, and dwelt for a long time in Spain… Thence they came, twelve hundred years after the people of Israel crossed the Red Sea, to their home in the west where they live today… [The Scottish Declaration of Independence reprinted in The Declaration of Arbroath, The National Trust for Scotland, 1970.]

It is apparent that five centuries ago the Scots considered themselves blood descendants of Abraham and were aware of the specific migration routes that brought them to their new homeland. Elsewhere I’ve written on how we have lost any awareness who we really are; just like Hosea 1:10 said would happen. More on that from me here: I call it Recognition Theology. Yep, I made up that term and others are now using it.

With regard to America, of particular interest is to look carefully at where the people of Joseph ended up (vs. 22-26). Later Joseph’s blessing was divided between Ephraim and Manassah, making a 13th tribe, if you will. The prophetic fulfilment and end time placement of the nations in Genesis 49 is one of the most exciting Bible’s studies one can do. You’ll never look at world news the same.

Whether or not any of that is agreeable to you, or even makes sense, at least get the point of this post which is to say God blesses nations to be a great blessing. Greatness should be an aspiration because greatness is God’s intention for nations that call on his name. The opposite of greatness is mediocrity or worse. The path to greatness is humility and servanthood.

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It is okay with Pastor Jeffries if governments more reflect the values of Genghis Khan than, say, Jesus.

12,000 member mega-church Pastor Robert Jeffress of First Baptist Church in Dallas doesn’t think the values of Jesus belong in the White House. Hear it yourself here or read it yourself here:

“But as far as his worldview, Trump’s worldview, you know… I was debating an evangelical professor on NPR and this professor said, ‘Pastor, don’t you want a candidate who embodies the teaching of Jesus and would govern this country according to the principles found in the Sermon on the Mount?’ I said, ‘Heck no.’ I would run from that candidate as far as possible, because the Sermon on the Mount was not given as a governing principle for this nation…. “Nowhere is government told to forgive those who wrong it. Nowhere is government told to turn the other cheek. Government is to be a strongman to protect its citizens against evildoers. When I’m looking for somebody who’s going to deal with ISIS and exterminate ISIS, I don’t care about that candidate’s tone or vocabulary. I want the meanest, toughest, son of a you-know-what I can find. And I believe that’s biblical.”

Oy.

Trump is as much a Christian as Obama, in my view. Regarding an issue very important to me, to all the other little people like me all over the world, and to Jesus, neither Obama or Trump are men of peace. Hillary has become a stunningly corrupt, bought and arrogant tool of those who give the world’s bad guys free weapons and the rest of us bloody war– the elites, Wall Streeters, globalists and central banksters who for centuries have made war to make more money.

Lance Wallnau made a comment recently that we should all think long and hard about; “Christ in you is the hope of glory, not Christ in the White House. What do you think, should we really give up hope on any sort of notion of a Christian (Christlike) nation? The Sermon on the Mount is what Christlikeness looks like.

My friends on the Christian Right (who BTW consider me a grand disappointment) have long been saying we need to elect people who represent “Biblical values.” Apparently we now learn from Pastor Jeffries those are not the values of Jesus. Apparently it is okay with Pastor Jeffries if governments more reflect the values of Genghis Khan than, say, Jesus. The Sermon on the Mount, he believes may work on a micro level but not in a macro application.

In Pastor Jeffrees re-reading of the infamous Sermon on the Mount he in so much imagines Jesus ascended the Mount to say: “These are some strategies that I commend to you for little matters. Honestly, for the more complex conflicts I have nothing for you in terms of heavenly wisdom or strategy so go ahead and ‘do unto them what they’ve do unto you’ and I’m okay with whatever response seems and feels right for you at the time. Not to worry, forgiveness comes easy with me, and grace cheap.”

When will the Christian Right wake up to how inconsistent they are in valuing all human life? Bombs away, Jesus love you!

Ya, ya, ya… here comes someone to remind me of Romans 13 (someone who apparently has never read Romans 12: if your enemy is hungry, feed him… overcome evil with good, etc).

How many times do I have to say this?… In Romans 13:4 Paul was writing to believers in Rome saying they need to revere Roman authority as God gives governments even the authority of the sword. He was not telling Christians that they are justified to forsake the mercy path when they one day get in power. Why then are so many Christians today defending the values of the Romans and the ethics of Nero?

For those genuinely conflicted on the application of the Sermon on the Mount to anything beyond an individual Christian life I offer the following (which will soon appear in a book I’m now putting the finishing touches on: Tolstoy’s Novel Idea: Obey the Sermon on the Mount).

From chapter seven of my forthcoming book:

The two main interpretative questions for the Sermon on the Mount, again, are; Is it liveable? and; To whom is it for? Over the centuries, very few interpreters of the Sermon on the Mount have given the Sermon application beyond the individual believer. The contention is that the ethic was given to individuals, not to nation-states. Yet, Tolstoy challenged this entirely and sought to settle this centuries-old ambiguity with a simple appeal to the words Jesus actually used in Matthew 5:43-44 (and what they would have meant to his original hearers); “You have heard that it was said, ‘Love your neighbour and hate your enemy.’ But I tell you: Love your enemies…” Tolstoy explained: [N]eighbour in the Hebrew language meant, invariably and exclusively, ‘a Hebrew.’” Considering the lengths he went to describe the thoroughness of his study of these words, that he seems to imply Jesus spoke this originally in Hebrew, not Aramaic, is peculiar. His justification may be it is the same word and meaning as in Luke 10:29 where the “neighbour” is a Samaritan– someone a Hebrew would have clearly not regarded as a neighbour. Finding the same meaning in Acts 7:27, his conclusion is “‘neighbour’ in Gospel language, means a compatriot, a person belonging to the same nationality. Therefore the antithesis used by Jesus in the citation, ‘love thy neighbour, hate thine enemy,’ must be in the distinction between the words ‘compatriot’ and ‘foreigner.’” Tolstoy contended his supposition was further confirmed when seeking the Jewish understanding of enemy. “The word enemy is nearly always employed in the Gospels in the sense, not of a personal enemy, but, in general, of a ‘hostile people.’”

Based on the words Jesus used, Tolstoy’s conclusion is that it is not possible that Jesus intended his teaching to be applicable only on the interpersonal level. Jesus never differentiated between loving a neighbour and loving a neighbouring nation. Tolstoy spoke of “the widening sphere of love” and believed a nation could be loved too….  Tolstoy believed obedience to the teachings of Jesus worked on both the micro and the macro level. Goodness on a small scale does not somehow become badness on a larger scale and he decried the notion that badness on a small scale could be construed as goodness on a larger scale…

Shalom.

IMG_6283Back in our youth ministry days we would make beaded Gospel bracelets to help youth understand and share their faith. The dark bead represents sin and life in spiritual darkness and separation from God. Red represents the blood of Jesus shed on the Cross for our sin. White is the result…. our sins washed white as snow. We are forgiven and cleansed by His Blood. Green represents the season of spiritual growth and fruitfulness. Gold is for rewards in heaven. (The Baptists like to add a blue bead for Baptism.)

Last fall I decided to start wearing my old bracelet again– so I’d be reminded to keep the Gospel central during my sojourn back into academia. Honestly I’ve been mildly bothered that the bracelet is hardly eschatologically correct. Today I wandered around a bead shop and came up with this new one.

IMG_6283The colors are the same until you get to the green bead. At this point I’ve added a tri-colored bead: red, green and white to symbolize the three colors of martyrdom which I speak of in my Fall Away Factor Book. Here’s the backstory there:

A Celtic monk in the seventh century named Cambrai, in what we call the Cambrai Homily, outlined three categories of martyrdom designated by colors; red, green and white. Red martyrdom refers to when blood is shed; when they lop off your head or throw you to the lions. If Christ is indeed first, our safety and security is at least a distant second. Interestingly, the Celtic saints never faced a period of red martyrdom but they still knew the call of Christ was to lose your life to find it. So Cambrai spoke also of green martyrdom to refer to those who leave behind comforts and pleasures, deny their flesh, assuming vows of poverty and chastity or living simply and frugally. White martyrdom is the separation from loved ones. It’s kissing your family goodbye before getting on a ship to sail to a faraway place to spend your life reaching the people God calls you to reach. (The term white martyrdom was first used by St. Jerome, a desert hermit in the third century).

IMG_8095If I were writing the Fall Away Factor book again today I’d add a fourth color of martyrdom, gray. Following Jesus and following the Church are not always the same thing. Gray martyrdom represents excommunication, being shunned and regarded as dead. Gray martyrdom is when following Jesus means you disaffiliate and break with the traditions of man. Jesus took a different path than the religious leaders of his day. Martin Luther was defrocked. Tolstoy was excommunicated. Gray is for hearts of stone.

After the gray bead, I’ve placed a thin gold bead for the reward we receive in heaven. But it’s a thin bead because heaven as we know it is only the temporary abode of the dead. In short order, the dead are raised and we are back living with Jesus here on the earth. This I represented in the earthen bead. The meek will inherit the earth.

This is a repost from a 2015 article I wrote at at one of my other blogs, now dormant.
There is much chatter these days around our church about the sense that economic hard times are right around the corner. One doesn’t have to even tune in to the prophetic/apocalyptic voices or the Bible passages on the matter, the headlines from secular media sources are all around us. Take this recent one for example…. How You And Your Money Will Be Parted During The Next Banking Crisis
We should be as familiar with terms like “bail ins” and not rely on bail outs. Respected friends of mine are saying things like, Take the hit and pull your 401K now, there are possibilities on the horizon, plausible ones, that could vaporize your 401K and other digital monies and create unprecedented civil unrest and hardship. Pray about where to give that money away. Free each other and your church.
Do with that what you want, I’m just repeating it here. Giving financial advice isn’t my purpose here. Sounding an alarm is. I wrote the following for another purpose and decided to share it here.
Forthrightness on the Possibilities of Hard Times Ahead.
Nobody likes alarm clocks, especially when sounded in society. Like alarm clocks, alarmists can be irritating and annoying. It is a challenge to sound an alarm without being an alarmist.
Even so, elected officials should be shooting straight with us and being forthright about challenges and concerns on the horizon. The elected position I hold is to represent people not be a representative of big government, big banks or big business. We are living in a time when that trinity is not being forthright. We should be hearing, “Hey, there are possibilities on the horizon, plausible ones, that could vaporize your 401K and other digital monies and create unprecedented civil unrest and hardship.” Instead we are hearing nothing. We scoff at the preppers in our midst yet are oblivious to the fact big government agencies are prepping in enormous and unprecedented ways. What are they getting ready for and why is it wrong for us to wonder or prepare ourselves?
In the words of an ancient king, “a prudent man sees danger and takes refuge, but the simple keep going and suffer for it.” The main points outlined here are things I feel need to be said from an official capacity.
1. Citizens are not the first on the list for actual, factual information. 
There is little transparency and the average Joe is not in the loop. Government agencies presently doing large scale stockpiling and military exercises are hardly being forthright with Americans. We live in a surveillance state where the government watches our every move. The Founders intended that it be entirely the other way around. Government is increasingly hard to trust and believe. Agencies may be talking honestly among themselves about threats, but citizens are marginalized and mocked when they raise concerns and connect dots.
2. South Dakota is not a top priority for Federal anything in times of national crises.
South Dakota is a dependent state– for every dollar we send to Washington, two come back. An economist in Pierre told me several years ago that a twenty percent reduction in Federal funds would put us back in the Stone Age.  For three years I have proposed the idea of forming an Economic Contingencies Work Group to ascertain the effects of a significant and extended national economic crisis on South Dakota and to make recommendations to the state and general population on how to best prepare for, and manage, an economic crisis (see HB1086).
Many of my colleagues in the legislature have signed on to these proposals and believe strongly in them. But it takes the legislative leaders and the Governors office to make it happen. Some members have scoffed… Hickey, we don’t go by the Mayan calendar up here. Instead they have chosen to form work groups to study wine distribution in our state, and to further beat the transgender issue to death. We are heading into days when transgender issues will be the least of our worries. Why can’t we talk about how there are reputable economists saying: a crisis that dwarfs the crisis of 2008 is coming.
It is foolish to think what happens in other countries can’t and won’t happen here. Haven’t we learned yet bailouts are not for citizens?
3. South Dakota, it is time to rise to new levels of neighborliness and readiness.
fema.gov is saying… have a bug out bag; three days of food and water, a hand crank radio and prescriptions, etc, etc. A Department of Homeland Security employee told me DHS recommends 90 days food supply for their employees. What are we not being told? In the absence of any official word from Pierre, I’ll offer the following…. that every household in South Dakota consider the following.
  1. 90 days food supply – enough for you and others. Start with 3 days, then 7…
  2. alternative water sources
  3. Stash $500 cash (in small bills) to weather a fews days without ATMs
  4. Passports for everyone, kids especially
  5. Make this a-summer-to-save-and-sell, not spend and borrow. Cut up your credit cards and get out of debt.
  6. Adopt the poor and elderly. Talk to your neighbors.
  7. Find a community to connect with; Vets, moms, church, etc.
4. Our business community needs to talk about benevolence and what it means for them to take care of their own.
A CEO at Avera mentioned to me they have an economic contingency plan so they can continue a level of care if/when Federal reimbursements are reduced or stop. This is encouraging and maybe there are more thinking along these lines. State leaders and business leaders need to have these conversations. My hope is that people, not profits, will be our priority.
5. Get your church ready for its finest hour. 
  1. Appeal to Heaven. Return to your spiritual roots. The tree planted by water has no fear of drought.
  2. Repent for squandering these years of plenty.
  3. Ask, who is my neighbor? Prepare for an influx of people to the area. How can we host them? Address any hostilities toward them.
  4. Teach enemy love now so we don’t just shoot back and do unto them what they do unto us.
My challenge to every spiritual leader in our state is to talk in your communities about what it means that things might not always be as they are right now.
6. Resist the extremes of fear and denial.
There are more dollar crash deniers out there than climate change deniers. Decide what makes sense for you and your family and ignore those who have no grid for things to radically change.
There are a variety of things that could shake our nation economically and socially and I’m not going to speculate what I sense coming. History is a good guide, so are simple things like math and gravity. Those with open eyes can connect dots without venturing off into conspiracy theories. Some of this is self-evident– we reap what we’ve sown. My emphasis here is more on when than what. If there was no urgency there would be no press release today. My personal sense is, at minimum, we have the summer to get ready for an economic shaking. After economic humility comes military humiliation as our enemies are moving into position to pounce.

My in-box last night contained notes from friends alerting me to a matter Glenn Beck is presently underscoring in his media world. I’m delighted this is all getting revisited. Below I decided to paste a redacted chapter section from my forthcoming book The Fall Away Factor. In chapter three I listed not standing with Israel as a significant factor in the Great Apostasy foretold in 1 Timothy 4:1 and elsewhere. Most of the chapter is a denouncement of Replacement Theology. The part I’m pasting below is the latter third of the chapter where I introduce the reader to what I dub Recognition Theology, which is what Glenn Beck is basically putting forth. Another recent book on the topic is Timothy Ballard’s book: The Covenant: America’s Sacred and Immutable Connection to Ancient Israel. You can also read a related post from me on this topic here and here. The best source are the four books by my friend Steven M. Collins which I cite in the footnotes below. His books are available here.

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Out with Replacement Theology, in with Recognition Theology

In my view, Israel issue is the greatest oversight in the history of Christianity. Hosea 1 is a passage on a previous list I mentioned of one hundred fifty chapters in the Bible relating to the end of the age. Hosea 1:10 tells us the Israelites will be innumerable at the end of the age. “Yet the Israelites will be like the sand on the seashore, which cannot be measured or counted.”

We know God made promises to both Isaac and Ishmael regarding their descendants. We also know that today there are nearly 400 million Arab people in the various Arab tribes (Ishmaelites). Yet, it’s commonly stated that there are somewhere between 12-14 million Jews today (only .002% of the present population of the world). The math here is straight forward and stunning actually: 400 million Ishmaelites today and only 14 million descendants of Isaac. Did God keep his promise to Ishmael but not Isaac or could it be God did keep his promise and the descendants of Isaac are a far larger group today than those we presently recognize as Jews.

Considering a world population now exceeding six billion people, we are either still a millennium or longer away from the end of the age or God’s covenant promise did not come true. Or, more likely, God considers “Israelites” to be a far broader group than merely the Tribe of Judah. Either we are still many, many generations from the end of the age, or there are more blood descendants of Abraham than are presently recognized right now. In fact, that is what we read next in Hosea 1:10. “In the place where it was said to them, ‘You are not my people,’ they will be called ‘sons of the living God.’” For reasons known to God, the true identity of masses of people at the end of the age is presently veiled.

The next verse speaks of an end-time reunification of the people of Judah and the people of Israel. “The people of Judah and the people of Israel will be reunited…” From the time of the divided kingdom, the designations Judah and Israel ceased to be synonyms either in Scripture or in historical records. These verses in Hosea suggest the identity of the House of Israel will be veiled and not recognized until that latter time when the tribes are reunited.

During the reigns of Jeroboam and Rehoboam, the twelve tribes (thirteen counting Joseph as Ephraim and Manasseh) divided into two kingdoms. Two/three tribes made up the southern kingdom of Judah, ten tribes made up the northern kingdom of Israel. Soon after that we find passages in the Bible that speak of the “Jews” going to war against “Israel.”[1] They were separate peoples from this point forward and this is a critical point in correctly understanding Biblical prophecy.

Recognition Theology[2] is a term I coined a few years ago to refer to the unveiling of the identity of millions of the blood descendants of Abraham who presently do not even know who they are. The reason I call this Recognition Theology is because in the providence of God, he has kept this veiled until its forecast recognition or unveiling at the end of the age.

Recognition Theology contends that numerous nations and peoples, including America, are absolutely identifiable and recognizable in Bible Prophecy[3], archeology, genographic migration studies and haplotype studies.[4] The promise to the descendants of Abraham was that they would grow into “a nation and company of nations.”[5] No doubt the nation Israel is that nation. However, as that verse clearly indicates, the descendants of Abraham were not limited to that nation. We know that Israel today is by and large made up of descendants of the tribe of Judah and Benjamin, as those were the two tribes that returned from the exile. Interestingly there is a company of approximately one hundred “Christian” nations today, most of whom support Israel.

In 586 B.C., when the First Temple was destroyed and twelve tribes were exiled from the Holy Land, it is estimated that they numbered around ten million. During the time of Nehemiah and Ezra, only a remnant returned (43,000 families which may number approximately 250,000 people). The remnant was mainly, though not exclusively, from the tribes of Judah and Benjamin. Millions of blood descendants of Abraham, almost entirely from the other ten tribes, assimilated into the surrounding pagan nations. Over the last twenty-five hundred years these covenant people migrated and literally populated a number of the nations on earth today. At present, only God knows exactly who and where they are, but we are certain that his promise for those people is irrevocable.

Imagine that millions of the blood descendants of Abraham, those we now consider the lost ten tribes, assimilated into pagan nations and migrated far from home. They did not vanish or disappear from the face of the earth, nor did the unconditional and irrevocable (Abrahamic Covenant) promises of God for their future get forfeited or canceled. God knows their identity in him even though they have no recognition of it. Jesus and his disciples were sent to the lost sheep of Israel.[6] Their whereabouts were not unknown. They were lost in a spiritual sense. These tribes and people groups have since increased into many large nations—innumerable, exactly as prophesied —increasing even more by adopting many “foreigners” into their national (covenant) family. And precisely as the Bible predicted, the descendants of David still sit on the thrones of nations[7] and possess the gates of their enemies.[8]

God’s promises to the descendants of David came true. They did and still do sit on the thrones of nations and historically they have and still do control the main geo-political gates of the world; Gibraltar, the Suez Canal, Singapore, and Hong Kong to name a few. In the fifteenth century, Mary Queen of Scots traced her royal lineage back to King David and this was made plainly evident in the Scottish Declaration of Independence, also called the Declaration of Arbroath, which expressly states:

Most Holy Father and Lord, we know and from the chronicles and books of the ancients we find that… the Scots… journeyed from Greater Scythia by way of the Tyrrhenian Sea and the Pillars of Hercules, and dwelt for a long time in Spain… Thence they came, twelve hundred years after the people of Israel crossed the Red Sea, to their home in the west where they live today…[9]

It is apparent that five centuries ago the Scots considered themselves blood descendants of Abraham and were aware of the specific migration routes that brought them to their new homeland.

Queen Victoria, the Duke and Duchess of Kent, the abdicated King Edward the 8th, the Duke of Windsor, and notably, Winston Churchill recognized vast populations of Israelites (blood descendants of Abraham) as distinguished from those presently identified as Jews or Judahites. Of the various other notable examples, my favorite is President Harry S. Truman. That historic afternoon of May 14, 1948, State Department officials informed President Truman the new nation would be called Israel, which surprised him, as he noted that he thought they would name it Judea after the people, not Israel after the land.[10] Obviously he was aware that what we call Israel today is mainly populated by the tribe of Judah.

This is an enormous and fascinating study, potentially permanently changing how we read the Bible. However, to continue on this will detract from the point of this chapter. Many will fall away at the end of the age because of an animosity toward Israel, fed by a total lack of awareness as to how this nation and company of nations fit into God’s end-time plan.


[1] 1 Kings 12:21, 2 Chronicles 11:1

[2] Recognition Theology has several related but not-identical sub-streams including Two-House Messianics, British Israelism, Israelite Identity and various others who have interest in the identity of the so-called ten lost tribes of Israel. Recognition Theology vigorously rejects Replacement Theology, Mormon Theology, anti-Semitic or racial supremacy and Aryan race movements and other aberrant racialized theology variations. Recognition Theology celebrates the God who grafts the foreigner into his family and keeps every promise to raise up children of Abraham to be innumerable, a nation and a company of nations, blessing them to be a blessing to all nations.

[3] If this interests you please read a superb article by my friend Steven M. Collins called The United States of America in Biblical Prophecy available here – http://stevenmcollins.com/html/usa_in_prophecy.html I also highly recommend his four books which deal exhaustively with this topic – Volume One: The Origins and Empires of Ancient Israel; Volume Two: Israel’s Lost Empires; Volume Three: Parthia – The Forgotten Ancient Superpower and It’s Role In Biblical History and Volume Four: Israel’s Tribes Today.

[4] Entrine, Jon. Abraham’s Children: Race, Identity, and the DNA of the Chosen People. Grand Central Publishing, 2007.

[5] Genesis 35:11

[6] Matthew 10:6, 15:24.

[7] Jeremiah 33:17.

[8] Genesis 24:60.

[9] The Scottish Declaration of Independence reprinted in The Declaration of Arbroath, The National Trust for Scotland, 1970.

[10] The May 14, 2007 issue a Newsweek included an exclusive book excerpt entitled; “A Case for Courage.” The excerpt was from a chapter called “I Am Cyrus” about Truman and the birth of Israel from leading presidential historian Michael Beschloss’s book, Presidential Courage: Brave Leaders and How They Changed America 1789-1989.

Here is another chart from me relating to the theme of persecution and martyrdom. These realities have been my focus this season of Lent in my Martyrs Guide to Life message series. Earlier charts included The Skyrocketing Cost of Discipleship and the Degrees of Persecution.

To be in the clutches of something is to be in the grip or hold of something; a strong clasp, tight and sudden. This word describes the last week in the earthly life of Jesus… “the Son of Man is going to be betrayed into the hands of men” (Matthew 17:22).

Reading the last week of the earthly life of Jesus, an analogy occurred to me to help illustrate Jesus in the clutches of persecution. For three years he had slipped through various clutches but the last week he succumbed to them. Think of the chuck of a typical household power drill. The chuck is basically a clutching mechanism comprised of three hardened steel jaws held by a tightening sleeve or collar. When you turn and tighten the collar/sleeve, teeth turn a spiral scrolling gear which self center each jaw together equally and mercilessly around a drill bit.

Clutches of Persecution

The three jaws which gripped Jesus were; 1) the whims of people, 2) the religists or religious rulers of the day, and 3) the secular authorities. Knowing that ultimately our battle is not against flesh and blood, the surrounding sleeve or tightening collar relates to evil principalities in heavenly places which were orchestrating all these hostilities toward Jesus.

Here’s a key point: as intense as the clutches of persecution are, notice the entire tool is in the hands of the Lord and he is using it for his purposes. He is building something even when it seems the adversary is tearing it all down.

When I read the last week of the life of Jesus I don’t read any panic at what the devil is doing. I get a strong sense of resolve in what God is doing. The persecuted derive stamina from the perspective of sovereignty. It may feel like and appear that we have been snatched into the merciless hands of others. However, even in persecution, God does not let hold of us.

Bonhoeffer reminded us of the Cost of Discipleship. For a few weeks now in a series I’ve titled Martyrs Guide to Life, I’ve been talking about the Skyrocketing Cost of Discipleship. Basically I’m referring to the forecast Jesus gave us in Matthew 24:9-14.

In light of the fact that more have died for their faith in Christ in the last century than in the first twenty centuries combined, and in light of the fact that the Bible forecasts a greater age of martyrdom at the end of the age, it seems helpful to talk about the skyrocketing cost of discipleship in a latter age of (unprecedented) persecution. By unprecedented I mean to underscore how the latter age will be far more intense and global than the first two centuries which we typically consider the “Age of Persecution.”

Yesterday I posted a new chart I’ve titled Degrees of Religious Persecution to illustrate how there is a discernible continuum with persecution from mild to moderate to severe. (Actually mild is normal as persecution is an indicator all systems are normal.) Here I offer a chart to illustrate the skyrocketing cost of discipleship.

skyrocketing cost of discipleship chart

Obviously, I don’t subscribe to the Left Behind bestselling notion that we will be rescued via a Pre-Trib Rapture. Extensively in other places I’ve shown that to be a recent, extra-Biblical and dangerous error as it leaves us ill-prepared for what is coming. My chart is based on a Classical or Historic Pre-millennialism understanding that the Rapture and the Second Coming are different stages of the same event.

Pastor Dietrich Bonhoeffer was stripped naked and hung by his neck on April 9, 1945 in Hitler’s concentration camp at Flossenbürg. In his now classic Cost of Discipleship he wrote: “When Christ calls a man, he bids him come and die.”

The world is increasingly a dangerous place for Christians. Globally, in unprecedented numbers, Christians are being beaten, imprisoned and killed. Yet here in America, pastors preach “dying to ourselves” to people sitting in comfortable chairs and then they serve them jelly donuts and Starbucks after the service.

Though there is this uniquely American deception among Christians that Jesus suffered so we don’t have to, or that we will escape it—the Bible actually says the opposite: “Everyone who wants to live a godly life in Christ Jesus will be persecuted.” (2 Timothy 3:12) It’s time to revisit the central Christian message of suffering for Christ. Even in free nations religious liberties are being taken away.

This season of Lent through Easter as Christians worldwide remember Jesus’ suffering, death and resurrection, Pastor Steve will underscore how the LIFE of Jesus is revealed in ridicule and mistreatment, mockery and martyrdom. You won’t leave forlorn, fearful or depressed.

We are hard pressed on every side, but not crushed; perplexed, but not in despair; persecuted but not abandoned; struck down but not destroyed. We always carry around in our body the death of Jesus, so that the life of Jesus may also be revealed in our body.” 2 Corinthians 4:8-10

Messages are free for downloading or streaming here.

Here are some of the highlights of the first three messages in the series:

– This aversion to Christian suffering and persecution is extra-Biblical and uniquely American.

– There is a grace for suffering and persecution; martyrdom is a spiritual grace/gift. How could it be a gift? Certainly that would be a gift no one would want?! Spiritual gifts aren’t toys to play with they are graces for spiritual breakthrough. There is a grace to give up your life for Christ. Martyrdom is the one spiritual gift you aren’t sure you have until you need it and it’s the only spiritual gift that you can only use once.

– The propellant behind the grace of martyrdom is love. Martyrs are sustained by grace and propelled by love. (1 Cor 13:3, John 15:13)

– Martyrdom is simultaneously a holy detachment and a holy attachment as we love Jesus not so much our lives. (Revelation 12:11)

– You can’t even be a disciple without taking up your cross and following him. (Mt. 16:24)

– Martyrdom was the expectation of the early Christian Church, not the exception.

– The cost of following Jesus is about to skyrocket. There have been 45,400,000 twentieth century Christian martyrs – more in the last century than in the previous twenty centuries combined. We typically refer to the first century as the Age of Persecution or martyrdom. However, the Bible teaches the latter age of martyrdom will be far worse and we are in that latter age of martyrdom. (Matthew 24: 9-14)

– Lots of wasted human life these days. Yet there is no such thing as a martyr dying in vain.

– If grace is what sustains a martyr and love is what propels him, loyalty is what describes him. The epitome of love and loyalty is martyrdom.

– If grace sustains martyrdom and love propels it, loyalty is what describes it and willingness is what allow it. Martyrdom isn’t accidental or unavoidable, it’s a choice. It’s choosing to follow Jesus down the path he took. Hebrews 11:25 says “Moses chose to be mistreated along with the people of God rather than to enjoy the pleasures of sin for a short time.”

– Fear of death is not a Christian concern. In the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus said “do not worry about your life…  who of you by worrying can add a single hour to his life?” He was saying don’t worry about preserving or prolonging your life.

– When the martyr dies, who wins and who really loses? Tertullian said: the death of the martyr is the seed of the church. Something greater comes forth. But we think of death as a horrible defeat. That’s not how God sees it. Precious in the sight of the Lord is the death of his saints. (Ps 116:15).

– This confidence in facing death comes from good theology. This fear of death among Christians is evidence of a shallow theology. Many have ungodly beliefs about death and dying.We have this ‘fraidy cat view of death, that it is this travesty. We see it as final, as the worst thing that could happen. God views it very differently. Jesus took the sting out of death for the believer and the believer doesn’t have to face the dreaded second death (Rev. 2:11).

– Self-preservation is not a Christian virtue. It certainly is a human instinct but it is not a Christian virtue. A Christian virtue is… greater love has no one than this, that he lay his life down for others…

– Letting go comes natural for the martyr as they lived a life of faithful giving in the little things.

-If you can’t give your stuff, you won’t give your life. If you can’t give your money, what makes you thing you’d be willing to pay the skyrocketing cost of discipleship?

– Giving your life to Christ means giving your life up for Christ.

A friend of mine wrote the following little paragraph and sent it to me with this PDF: United States-Israel Enhanced Security Act of 2012.

Obama signed this Act into law on the weekend of Tish B’Av 9 –date of the “bad report” from the 10 spies, date of destruction of Solomon’s Temple in 586 BC, date of destruction of Herod’s Temple in 70 AD, date England expelled the Jews in 1290 AD, date Spain expelled the Jews in 1492, the date WW1 began, the date of the “Final Solution” of Hitler, and the date Ariel Sharon abandoned Jewish settlements in Gaza.

It is now official US statutory law to divide the land of Israel.

If a building has not collapsed on you, it is a merciful call to repent. Luke 13:4-5”. – John Piper Twitter feed, 9/11/12

The theology behind that statement is: when disasters happen, it’s not why did some die? It’s more the question… we all deserve death, why do the rest of us or, why do so many survive? It’s a mercy that life goes on considering our national rejection of God.

Lots of “Remember 911” and “Never Forget” posts today on Facebook and Twitter. Of course we never will and we are praying today for those who lost loved ones that day.

As I was praying for America today I thought I heard a still small “repent or repeat” type word. The Sunday after September 11th, I said “if in six months the only change in our nation is we have tighter airport security then all those people died in vain.” America didn’t turn to God. We responded with a Isaiah 9:9,10-type defiance. Read The Harbinger. So additional shakings have come, economic shakings for example, and more will come. It’s simply Amos 4:6-12. God may not cause every calamity, but he certainly uses them for our good.

At the 9/11 Memorial ceremonies today don’t hold your breath today waiting for our President to say “radical Islam built this” though it certainly did. Obama’s pastor once said “America’s chickens came home to roost.” The Bible has repeated accounts of God lifting the hedge of protection off Covenant nations and letting invading merciless pagan nations be instruments of his judgment. We can’t say for sure can we? Certainly even in judgment there is mercy and I love the stories of angels at Ground Zero and fully believe God’s grace was felt by victims and sufficient in those horrible moments.

I’ve been saying for five years now, America needs an Amos – there is no more relevant book of the Bible to our nation right now than Amos. Amos was prophet to the prosperous northern kingdom, Israel.  Like America, Israel thought they had reached an untouchable status. They were deluded in a false security that all this wealth and nice living can’t be taken away. Wow, were they wrong.

“…established forever like the moon, the faithful witness in the sky.” Psalm 89:37

Each year, hundreds of millions of dollars are spent on church services, programs and activities catered to every age group. And yet, what kind of “Christian” is the result? Are we producing hit and miss cultural Christians who are really functional atheists and spectators?  Or, are we producing “faithful witnesses” as they are called in the Book of Revelation.

Tomorrow I start a new three-part message series called Faithful Witness which is focused on the caliber of believer the Bible says will reflect God and prevail in the hard times to come. A faithful witness is one who shines bright in the darkness, as Psalm 89:37 says, like the moon. They will be unwavering, established and bold during a coming time when darkness rules.  They will testify to what they’ve seen first hand. As “night” falls over the nations of the earth, they will be faithful to embody and announce the entire Gospel of the Kingdom, not just the parts of it that are easy or that people want to hear.

Sixty-five years ago today (April 9, 1945), German pastor/theologian Dietrich Bonhoeffer was hung in the Flossenbürg Concentration Camp for his participation in an assassination plot against Hitler. With this anniversary in mind today, Thomas Nelson Publishers released the first new biography of Bonhoeffer in forty years — Bonhoeffer: Pastor, Martyr, Prophet, Spy by Eric Metaxas.

(((If you missed it, click here for my earlier post/pics on my recent visit to the Bonhoeffer home in Berlin.)))

Fox News did a story today on this newest Bonhoeffer book:

“There were many German churchgoers, whether they were Christians or not I don’t know, but they went to church and somehow they made peace with the Nazis,” Metaxas says. “They thought there was nothing wrong. Bonhoeffer had such a devoted faith he knew without any question that the Nazis were anti-Christian and they were evil, and if he didn’t stand against them he would have to answer to God.”  Bonhoeffer believed he was called by God to help those who wanted to assassinate Hitler. “Bonhoeffer was not a pacifist,” Metaxas says. “And that will be news to a lot of people who think of Bonhoeffer as their hero, as some kind of pacifist.” He was willing to be involved in a plot to kill Hitler. “He wasn’t helpful as a gunman; he was helpful with contacts all around Europe,” Metaxas says. “He had the ability because he had ecumenical church contacts to work as a double agent, and that is what he was, he was a double agent.”

Read that first sentence again, the part about church-going “Christians” making peace with evil. Bonhoeffer was a prophetic voice to a church paralyzed by false grace, cheap grace.  Metaxas writes:

What was left in its wake was the murder of 6 million Jews and a legacy that has tarnished the Christian faith in Europe. But the legacy that Bonhoeffer leaves future generations is of the untold dangers of idolizing politicians as messianic figures. Not just in the 1930s and ’40s, but today as well. “It’s a deep temptation within us,” says Metaxas. “We need to guard against it and we need to know that it can lead to our ruin. Germany was led over the cliff, and there were many good people who were totally deluded.” Bonhoeffer, says Metaxas, was a prophet. He was a voice crying in the wilderness. He was God’s voice at a time when almost no one was speaking out against the evil of the Nazis.

Good church-going people in Germany were deluded and led over a cliff,,,, by four hundred years of a Lutheran theology of non-engagement with society. As I say in my earlier post:

Bonhoeffer criticized Luther for two things; 1) focusing the Reformation only on the church (whereas Zwingli sought to influence – salt and light – all of society). Bonhoeffer believed Luther’s views on this set the stage for the German Church of the 1930’s to stay out of Hitler’s business. In the 1000+ plus pages of Reformation history I’ve read this month, I’ve had the sense that had Zwingli been in Germany and not in Switzerland, the Holocaust wouldn’t have happened. Bonhoeffer also was one of the earliest voices in the German Lutheran Church to renounce 2) the anti-Semitism and treatment of the Jews.

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