WARNING Democrats poised to destroy religious liberty (yes, you read that correctly)

 

May 17, 2019 By Todd Starnes

 

If Democrats get their way, religious hospitals would be forced to perform abortions, Christian churches would be forced to host events that are contrary to the Bible’s teachings and Christian schools would be required to accommodate the preferences of transgender students regarding athletic teams and bathrooms.

Debate is expected to begin this week on the so-called Equality Act, legislation that would expand the 1964 Civil Rights Act to include sexual orientation and gender identity. It would also protect on the basis of pregnancy, childbirth or a related medical condition.

But it would also completely obliterate the 1993 Religious Freedom Restoration Act, a law that stops the government from encroaching on a person’s religious liberty. In other words, the Equality Act effectively puts a bullseye on every person of faith in the nation.

I write extensively about this issue in my upcoming book, “Culture Jihad: How to Stop the Left From Killing a Nation.”

Rep. Jody Hice, R-Ga., told “The Todd Starnes Radio Show” that the bill will “erode the First Amendment and totally destroy religious liberties.”

“This is an attempt to silence the Christian voice,” Hice said. “This is going to literally empower the federal government to force people to contrast their deeply held religious beliefs.”

“Christians will be forced to violate their beliefs if the Equality Act passes,” declared a headline on Christian Broadcasting Network.

Tony Perkins, the president of the Family Research Council, said no institution or person of faith would escape the Orwellian reach of the law and predicted a” catastrophic loss of religious freedom in America.”

“It is an egregious attack on the freedom to believe and live according to those beliefs. It would position the government to lord over churches and other faith-based institutions, dictating potentially who they hire, how their facilities are used, and even punishing them for not falling in step with a view of human sexuality that directly contradicts orthodox biblical teaching,” Perkins said.

Hundreds of pastors and religious leaders have already signed a letter warning that churches could be forced by the government to be opened up as public accommodations to host events and other celebrations against their conscience.

“This is extremely dangerous and I don’t think people realize how bad it is,” Family Research Council’s Travis Weber said on the “Todd Starnes Radio Show.”

When Democrats introduced the legislation last March they predicted that conservatives would “use fear” to stop the bill.

“We cannot allow claims of religious freedom to be used to discriminate against an LGBT individual,” Rep. David Cicilline, D-R.I., said.

In other words, faith-based flower shop owners, bakers, and even adoption agencies would be forced to engage in practices that might violate the tenets of their religious beliefs.

Weber told Starnes the Equality Act would not only gut religious liberty, it would also target biological women.

“It should be renamed the ‘Inequality Act’,” Weber said. “When you actually dig beneath the surface and see what it does to women, to children, to families across America (and) what it does to religious freedom – it’s actually incredibly unequal.”

Rep. Hice said he fears Democrats could use the bill, if it becomes law, to “totally silence and to some extent, potentially even criminalize the Christian voice when it comes to the issue of marriage.”

The House is expected to pass the legislation with some Republican votes. It’s unclear what will happen in the Senate. The White House has already stated its opposition to the legislation.

So as it now stands, the only thing standing between religious liberty and tyranny may be President Trump’s veto pen.

Adapted from Todd Starnes’ monologue on Fox Nation’s “Starnes Country” on May 15, 2019.

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The Essence of Evil: Sex with Children Has Become Big Business in America

 

Children are being targeted and sold for sex in America every day.”—John Ryan, National Center for Missing & Exploited Children

Children, young girls—some as young as 9 years old—are being bought and sold for sex in America. The average age for a young woman being sold for sex is now 13 years old.

This is America’s dirty little secret.

Sex trafficking—especially when it comes to the buying and selling of young girls—has become big business in America, the fastest growing business in organized crime and the second most-lucrative commodity traded illegally after drugs and guns.

As investigative journalist Amy Fine Collins notes, “It’s become more lucrative and much safer to sell malleable teens than drugs or guns. A pound of heroin or an AK-47 can be retailed once, but a young girl can be sold 10 to 15 times a day—and a ‘righteous’ pimp confiscates 100 percent of her earnings.”

Consider this: every two minutes, a child is exploited in the sex industry.

According to USA Todayadults purchase children for sex at least 2.5 million times a year in the United States.

Who buys a child for sex? Otherwise ordinary men from all walks of life.

They could be your co-worker, doctor, pastor or spouse,” writes journalist Tim Swarens, who spent more than a year investigating the sex trade in America.

In Georgia alone, it is estimated that 7,200 men (half of them in their 30s) seek to purchase sex with adolescent girls each month, averaging roughly 300 a day.

On average, a child might be raped by 6,000 men during a five-year period of servitude.

It is estimated that at least 100,000 children—girls and boys—are bought and sold for sex in the U.S. every year, with as many as 300,000 children in danger of being trafficked each year. Some of these children are forcefully abducted, others are runaways, and still others are sold into the system by relatives and acquaintances.

“Human trafficking—the commercial sexual exploitation of American children and women, via the Internet, strip clubs, escort services, or street prostitution—is on its way to becoming one of the worst crimes in the U.S.,” said prosecutor Krishna Patel.

This is an industry that revolves around cheap sex on the fly, with young girls and women who are sold to 50 men each day for $25 apiece, while their handlers make $150,000 to $200,000 per child each year.

This is not a problem found only in big cities.

It’s happening everywhere, right under our noses, in suburbs, cities and towns across the nation.

As Ernie Allen of the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children points out, “The only way not to find this in any American city is simply not to look for it.”

Don’t fool yourselves into believing that this is merely a concern for lower income communities or immigrants.

It’s not.

It is estimated that there are 100,000 to 150,000 under-aged child sex workers in the U.S. These girls aren’t volunteering to be sex slaves. They’re being lured—forced—trafficked into it. In most cases, they have no choice.

In order to avoid detection (in some cases aided and abetted by the police) and cater to male buyers’ demand for sex with different women, pimps and the gangs and crime syndicates they work for have turned sex trafficking into a highly mobile enterprise, with trafficked girls, boys and women constantly being moved from city to city, state to state, and country to country.

For instance, the Baltimore-Washington area, referred to as The Circuit, with its I-95 corridor dotted with rest stops, bus stations and truck stops, is a hub for the sex trade.

No doubt about it: this is a highly profitable, highly organized and highly sophisticated sex trafficking business that operates in towns large and small, raking in upwards of $9.5 billion a year in the U.S. alone by abducting and selling young girls for sex.

Every year, the girls being bought and sold gets younger and younger.

The average age of those being trafficked is 13. Yet as the head of a group that combats trafficking pointed out, “Let’s think about what average means. That means there are children younger than 13. That means 8-, 9-, 10-year-olds.

“For every 10 women rescued, there are 50 to 100 more women who are brought in by the traffickers. Unfortunately, they’re not 18- or 20-year-olds anymore,” noted a 25-year-old victim of trafficking. “They’re minors as young as 13 who are being trafficked. They’re little girls.”

Where did this appetite for young girls come from?

Look around you.

Young girls have been sexualized for years now in music videos, on billboards, in television ads, and in clothing stores. Marketers have created a demand for young flesh and a ready supply of over-sexualized children.

“All it takes is one look at MySpace photos of teens to see examples—if they aren’t imitating porn they’ve actually seen, they’re imitating the porn-inspired images and poses they’ve absorbed elsewhere,” writes Jessica Bennett for Newsweek. “Latex, corsets and stripper heels, once the fashion of porn stars, have made their way into middle and high school.”

This is what Bennett refers to as the “pornification of a generation.”

“In a market that sells high heels for babies and thongs for tweens, it doesn’t take a genius to see that sex, if not porn, has invaded our lives,” concludes Bennett. “Whether we welcome it or not, television brings it into our living rooms and the Web brings it into our bedrooms. According to a 2007 study from the University of Alberta, as many as 90 percent of boys and 70 percent of girls aged 13 to 14 have accessed sexually explicit content at least once.”

In other words, the culture is grooming these young people to be preyed upon by sexual predators. And then we wonder why our young women are being preyed on, trafficked and abused?

Social media makes it all too easy. As one news center reported, “Finding girls is easy for pimps. They look on MySpace, Facebook, and other social networks. They and their assistants cruise malls, high schools and middle schools. They pick them up at bus stops. On the trolley. Girl-to-girl recruitment sometimes happens.” Foster homes and youth shelters have also become prime targets for traffickers.

Rarely do these girls enter into prostitution voluntarily. Many start out as runaways or throwaways, only to be snatched up by pimps or larger sex rings. Others, persuaded to meet up with a stranger after interacting online through one of the many social networking sites, find themselves quickly initiated into their new lives as sex slaves.

Debbie, a straight-A student who belonged to a close-knit Air Force family living in Phoenix, Ariz., is an example of this trading of flesh. Debbie was 15 when she was snatched from her driveway by an acquaintance-friend. Forced into a car, Debbie was bound and taken to an unknown location, held at gunpoint and raped by multiple men. She was then crammed into a small dog kennel and forced to eat dog biscuits. Debbie’s captors advertised her services on Craigslist. Those who responded were often married with children, and the money that Debbie “earned” for sex was given to her kidnappers. The gang raping continued. After searching the apartment where Debbie was held captive, police finally found Debbie stuffed in a drawer under a bed. Her harrowing ordeal lasted for 40 days.

While Debbie was fortunate enough to be rescued, others are not so lucky. According to the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children, nearly 800,000 children go missing every year (roughly 2,185 children a day).

With a growing demand for sexual slavery and an endless supply of girls and women who can be targeted for abduction, this is not a problem that’s going away anytime soon.

For those trafficked, it’s a nightmare from beginning to end.

Those being sold for sex have an average life expectancy of seven years, and those years are a living nightmare of endless rape, forced drugging, humiliation, degradation, threats, disease, pregnancies, abortions, miscarriages, torture, pain, and always the constant fear of being killed or, worse, having those you love hurt or killed.

Peter Landesman paints the full horrors of life for those victims of the sex trade in his New York Times article “The Girls Next Door”:

Andrea told me that she and the other children she was held with were frequently beaten to keep them off-balance and obedient. Sometimes they were videotaped while being forced to have sex with adults or one another. Often, she said, she was asked to play roles: the therapist patient or the obedient daughter. Her cell of sex traffickers offered three age ranges of sex partners–toddler to age 4, 5 to 12 and teens–as well as what she called a “damage group.” “In the damage group, they can hit you or do anything they want to,” she explained. “Though sex always hurts when you are little, so it’s always violent, everything was much more painful once you were placed in the damage group.”

What Andrea described next shows just how depraved some portions of American society have become. “They’d get you hungry then to train you” to have oral sex. “They put honey on a man. For the littlest kids, you had to learn not to gag. And they would push things in you so you would open up better. We learned responses. Like if they wanted us to be sultry or sexy or scared. Most of them wanted you scared. When I got older, I’d teach the younger kids how to float away so things didn’t hurt.”

Immigration and customs enforcement agents at the Cyber Crimes Center in Fairfax, Va., report that when it comes to sex, the appetites of many Americans have now changed. What was once considered abnormal is now the norm. These agents are tracking a clear spike in the demand for harder-core pornography on the Internet. As one agent noted, “We’ve become desensitized by the soft stuff; now we need a harder and harder hit.”

This trend is reflected by the treatment many of the girls receive at the hands of the drug traffickers and the men who purchase them. Peter Landesman interviewed Rosario, a Mexican woman who had been trafficked to New York and held captive for a number of years. She said: “In America, we had ‘special jobs.’ Oral sex, anal sex, often with many men. Sex is now more adventurous, harder.”

A common thread woven through most survivors’ experiences is being forced to go without sleep or food until they have met their sex quota of at least 40 men. One woman recounts how her trafficker made her lie face down on the floor when she was pregnant and then literally jumped on her back, forcing her to miscarry.

Holly Austin Smith was abducted when she was 14 years old, raped, and then forced to prostitute herself. Her pimp, when brought to trial, was only made to serve a year in prison.

Barbara Amaya was repeatedly sold between traffickers, abused, shot, stabbed, raped, kidnapped, trafficked, beaten, and jailed all before she was 18 years old. “I had a quota that I was supposed to fill every night. And if I didn’t have that amount of money, I would get beat, thrown down the stairs. He beat me once with wire coat hangers, the kind you hang up clothes, he straightened it out and my whole back was bleeding.”

As David McSwane recounts in a chilling piece for the Herald-Tribune: “In Oakland Park, an industrial Fort Lauderdale suburb, federal agents in 2011 encountered a brothel operated by a married couple. Inside ‘The Boom Boom Room,’ as it was known, customers paid a fee and were given a condom and a timer and left alone with one of the brothel’s eight teenagers, children as young as 13. A 16-year-old foster child testified that he acted as security, while a 17-year-old girl told a federal judge she was forced to have sex with as many as 20 men a night.”

One particular sex trafficking ring catered specifically to migrant workers employed seasonally on farms throughout the southeastern states, especially the Carolinas and Georgia, although it’s a flourishing business in every state in the country. Traffickers transport the women from farm to farm, where migrant workers would line up outside shacks, as many as 30 at a time, to have sex with them before they were transported to yet another farm where the process would begin all over again.

This growing evil is, for all intents and purposes, out in the open.

Trafficked women and children are advertised on the internet, transported on the interstate, and bought and sold in swanky hotels.

Indeed, as I make clear in my book Battlefield America: The War on the American People, the government’s war on sex trafficking—much like the government’s war on terrorism, drugs and crime—has become a perfect excuse for inflicting more police state tactics (police check points, searches, surveillance, and heightened security) on a vulnerable public, while doing little to make our communities safer.

So what can you do?

Educate yourselves and your children about this growing menace in our communities.

Stop feeding the monster: Sex trafficking is part of a larger continuum in America that runs the gamut from homelessness, poverty, and self-esteem issues to sexualized television, the glorification of a pimp/ho culture—what is often referred to as the pornification of America—and a billion dollar sex industry built on the back of pornography, music, entertainment, etc.

This epidemic is largely one of our own making, especially in a corporate age where the value placed on human life takes a backseat to profit. It is estimated that the porn industry brings in more money than Amazon, Microsoft, Google, Apple, and Yahoo.

Call on your city councils, elected officials and police departments to make the battle against sex trafficking a top priority, more so even than the so-called war on terror and drugs and the militarization of law enforcement.

Stop prosecuting adults for victimless “crimes” such as growing lettuce in their front yard and focus on putting away the pimps and buyers who victimize these young women.

Finally, the police need to do a better job of training, identifying and responding to these issues; communities and social services need to do a better job of protecting runaways, who are the primary targets of traffickers; legislators need to pass legislation aimed at prosecuting traffickers and “johns,” the buyers who drive the demand for sex slaves; and hotels need to stop enabling these traffickers, by providing them with rooms and cover for their dirty deeds.

That so many women and children continue to be victimized, brutalized and treated like human cargo is due to three things: one, a consumer demand that is increasingly lucrative for everyone involved—except the victims; two, a level of corruption so invasive on both a local and international scale that there is little hope of working through established channels for change; and three, an eerie silence from individuals who fail to speak out against such atrocities.

But the truth is that we are all guilty of contributing to this human suffering. The traffickers are guilty. The consumers are guilty. The corrupt law enforcement officials are guilty. The women’s groups who do nothing are guilty. The foreign peacekeepers and aid workers who contribute to the demand for sex slaves are guilty. Most of all, every individual who does not raise a hue and cry over the atrocities being committed against women and children in almost every nation around the globe—including the United States—is guilty.

https://www.rutherford.org/publications_resources/john_whiteheads_commentary/the_essence_of_evil_sex_with_children_has_become_big_business_in_america

Olaudah Equiano’s Argument Against Slavery Was His Life Experience

The Igbo writer wrote honestly about the brutality of his experience—and of the Christian faith that sustained him.
ERIC WASHINGTON

Olaudah Equiano’s Argument Against Slavery Was His Life Experience

The word of God was sweet to my taste, yea sweeter than honey and the honeycomb. Christ was revealed to my soul as the chiefest among ten thousand,” wrote an 18th-century British seaman in 1789 as he reflected on his conversion that occurred five years previously. This Christian was a previously enslaved man known as Gustavus Vassa, who, through writing his own life story, became the founder of a literary movement known as slave narratives. His work was published under his birth name: The Interesting Narrative of the Life of Olaudah Equiano.

A resident of London during the 1780s, Equiano became involved in British abolitionism and was a vocal opponent of the slave trade and slavery until his death in 1797. His Interesting Narrative served as the foremost abolitionist writing of the day because he was an African voice that described the violence and degradation of the slave trade and of slavery itself. Equiano’s narrative spurred nine English editions through 1794 and was published in Dutch, French, and Russian.

Distinguishing itself from the arguments of abolitionists Thomas Clarkson and John Newton, Equiano’s Christian argument against the slave trade and slavery proved historically unique because he wrote about the horror of slavery, having experienced it firsthand. In his memoir, he drew connections between his traumatic life experiences and meeting God:

Now every leading providential circumstance that happened to me, from the day I was taken from my parents to that hour, was then, in my view, as if it had but just then occurred. I was sensible of the invisible hand of God, which guided and protected me, when in truth I knew it not: still the Lord pursued me.

Life in Igboland

Much of what we know today about Equiano comes through his own words. According to his Interesting Narrative, the author was born in what is now eastern Nigeria, in Igboland, in 1745. (Note: While historians have questioned his account, after reading their arguments and doing my own assessment of the documents, I am inclined to trust the veracity of Equiano’s story.) Unlike accounts of enslaved people that begin in the Western Hemisphere, Equiano introduces his readers to his homeland and people and focuses on the type of government established in his Igbo village, as well as his community’s marriage customs, arts, and agriculture.

According to Equiano, one of the Igbo community’s key beliefs was in a “Creator of all things” who “governs events, especially our deaths and captivity.” It was this Igbo predestinarian conviction among Igbos that likely made it easier for Equiano to accept the Christian doctrine of the Providence of God and is a major theme of the work.

His writings also compare Igbo and ancient Israelite practices, noting Igbo circumcision, and suggest that Igbo and Jewish naming practices are similar because the two cultures name their children in light of an important event or a notable circumstance surrounding one’s birth. In fact, the text goes so far as to argue that Igbos—all Africans in fact—originated from the Jews.

As one of only a handful of 18th-century Afro-British writers, Equiano makes the countercultural argument that Igbos (and Africans) are equal image-bearers to Europeans, and they live in functioning societies complete with a sexual division of labor, a robust system of justice, and a complex religious system. Equiano’s description of his people contains none of the stereotypes that Europeans employed to paint Africans as savages. Further, he refutes the idea that darker skin denoted inferiority, instead, drawing upon European writings that argued that climate produced dark skin. He also turns to the Bible, citing Acts 17:26: “God ‘who hath made of one blood all nations of men to dwell on all the face of the earth.’”

The End of Innocence

Equiano was 11 years old when Igbo-speaking slave catchers stole him and his sister away from their home. But he wasn’t immediately shipped off to the British colonies. Instead, he worked as a slave in numerous households in what is now Nigeria before reaching the coast. While enslaved in his homeland, kidnappers kept Equiano separated from his sister. In his memoir, he writes that he grew to the point where he yearned for death. While he did not record any harsh thoughts he had about his African masters and mistresses, Equiano had choice words for African slave catchers and called them “uncircumcised.”

After about half a year, Equiano arrived on the west coast of Africa, where he was sold once more to European slave traders, and then boarded a slave ship bound for the Caribbean. Equiano refers to his treatment by European slave traders in the Middle Passage as “a new refinement in cruelty” and paints a picture of a harrowing journey on board a slave ship.

No other slave narrative offers an account of the ship ride as lengthy or descriptive as Equiano’s; he describes the filthy living conditions he and fellow Africans endured, the suicide of a couple of captives, and other types of cruelties hurled at him and his shipmates. At the end of his account of the Middle Passage, Equiano pauses his narrative and addresses the reader: “Might not an African ask you, learned you this from your God, who says unto you, Do unto all men as you would men should do unto you?”

The slave vessel carried Equiano to Barbados, the eastern-most Caribbean island and an inglorious port of entry for thousands of captive Africans. Equiano remained in Barbados for only two weeks before embarking on another voyage to Virginia. He remained there briefly before he was purchased by Michael Henry Pascal, a lieutenant in the British Royal Navy. Under the ownership of Pascal, Equiano traveled to England, was baptized into the Church of England in 1759, and learned that his baptized state afforded him his freedom.

But this legality did little for Equiano. After serving his master for a number of years—even serving in the Seven Years’ War (French and Indian War)—Pascal decided to sell Equiano. Upon learning this, Equiano protested, arguing that Pascal had no right to sell him because he had “been baptized; and by the laws of the land no man has a right to sell me.” Unfortunately for Equiano, there was no law; he once more had to swallow the bitter pill of slavery in the Atlantic World. About a century before, British colonies had ruled that baptism had no bearing on the status of an enslaved African. Early in his time as an enslaved boy on a ship, Equiano became obsessed with learning how to read after he saw English people onboard pouring over books. During a stay in London in the late 1750s, Equiano worked for two sisters who sent him to school where he began to learn to read and write.

After living on the confines of Navy vessels in the Atlantic during the Seven Years’ War, Equiano was sold to a Quaker who transported goods and enslaved people throughout the Caribbean and in North America. Equiano initially worked on his owner’s small ship, traveling to different Caribbean ports to sell fruit, tumblers, and other items to Europeans. While Europeans often sought to cheat him out of his money, Equiano nevertheless soon amassed enough money to purchase his freedom in 1766.

Though Equiano gained his freedom in the Caribbean, he was also simultaneously confronted with the reality of the unimaginable violence perpetrated against slaves. As Equiano later recorded in his writings, this was a place where slave women were raped and where one slave was punished by being staked to the ground and having hot wax poured on his back. Although free, Equiano himself was nearly beat to death after visiting a local physician’s slave.

Equiano later recounted a conversation he had with a Mr. Drummond who boasted of selling 41,000 Africans into slavery. Drummond had once cut off a slave’s leg who had attempted to run away. Equiano confronted his action, asking Drummond how he would answer to God, and how did that accord with the Golden Rule. Drummond tersely responded that “answering was a thing for another world,” but his action prevented the slave and others from running away.

God’s Plan for Equiano

In 1773, Equiano returned to London after a harrowing voyage during which he almost died. His near-death drowning experience had turned his mind to his eternal destiny, and he later wrote that the voyage had “caused me to reflect deeply on my eternal state, and to seek the Lord with full purpose of heart ere it was too late.” He also explained that he “was determined to work out” his “own salvation, and in so doing procure a title to heaven.”

Equiano began attending Anglican churches and Quaker meetings, he studied Roman Catholic teachings, and he even considered Judaism. He then consented to just read the four Gospels “and whatever sect or party I found adhering thereto such” he “would join.”

The following year, Equiano attempted to help a formerly enslaved person win back his freedom after the man’s former master illegally re-enslaved him. Despite his efforts and those of other abolitionists, the man was taken back to the West Indies where he died.

Equiano was miserable after this news. He wrote, “Suffering much by villains in the late cause, and being much concerned about the state of my soul, these things … brought me very low; so that I became a burden to myself, and viewed all things around me as emptiness and vanity, which could give no satisfaction to a troubled conscience.”

It in the midst of his depression, Equiano returned to the sea, traveling back to England. During the voyage, he became introspective and began considering the ways in which God had predestined every good and bad step of his life: “I was from early years a predestinarian, I thought whatever fate had determined must ever come to pass.”

Through the cultural worldview he had learned as a child, Equiano found God at work in his life when he been enslaved and when he had been rescued from near-death experiences. He had survived these things to be able to finally receive the grace offered to him by Christ.

Though Equiano desired to return to Africa, he never did. “Whether the love of one’s country be real or imaginary, or a lesson of reason, or an instinct of nature, I still look back with pleasure on the first scenes of my life, though the pleasure has been for the most part mingled with sorrow,” he wrote. Though he admired England and its people and was a committed Christian, he was still an Igbo whom God had chosen. Equiano lent his voice and his pen to the cause of suppressing Britain’s role in the Trans-Atlantic Slave Trade. In 1797, he died in England, around the age of 52, without seeing the goal come to fruition. Yet the seeds he planted eventually bore fruit when Great Britain abolished the slave trade in 1807.

Eric Michael Washington is an associate professor of history at Calvin College, Grand Rapids, Michigan. His research interests are in African history and the history of Africans in the Atlantic World.

 

Original here

I Marked People for Death. Jesus Marked Me for Life

How a gang leader found salvation in prison.
CASEY DIAZ| APRIL 22, 2019

I Marked People for Death. Jesus Marked Me for Life.

In prison, I was a shot caller.

Shot callers have an elevated rank in the gang world. They are the power-brokers who determine who gets hurt (or killed) and who doesn’t. They command respect.

I started down this path as a teenager in South-Central Los Angeles, as a leader in the Rockwood Street Locos. I led the way when we invaded homes, broke into cars, ransacked convenience stores, and stabbed rival gang members. It didn’t take me long to figure out that the streets were bloody. Most of the time, it was kill or be killed.

Eventually, the LAPD caught up with me. I was sentenced to nearly 13 years for second-degree murder—along with 52 counts of armed robbery. I actually breathed a sigh of relief that those were the only charges the cops could pin on me.

Life Was Very Cheap

While awaiting transfer to New Folsom State Prison—a Level IV maximum security prison near Sacramento, California—I was housed with 120 murderers and violent criminals inside Pitchess Detention Center, north of Los Angeles.

At Pitchess, we segregated ourselves: blacks aligning with blacks, whites with whites, and Latinos with Latinos. Several dudes from two long-established gangs, 18th Street and Florencia 13, approached me about becoming a shot caller there.

One of my responsibilities was the control and distribution of shanks, the crude homemade knives used for stabbing another prisoner. I slept with all 13 of them under my mattress. When a riot went off, I made sure the right people got shanks. There were many violent upheavals at Pitchess, and inmates got stabbed and killed all the time. All it took was a wrong look at the wrong person, and you were done for. Life was very cheap.

After about six months, I was transferred to New Folsom State Prison. When the bus dropped us off at the main building, I saw guards pacing on catwalks, their arms cradling Mini-14s—small, lightweight semi-automatic rifles.

The warden, standing next to a phalanx of serious-looking guards in riot gear, cleared his throat. “I want you to look at the sign to your right,” he said. My eyes alighted on a white sign with red lettering that read, “No Warning Shots Fired.” “In case of a riot,” the warden continued, “we will not be aiming at your feet, we will not be aiming at your legs, and we will not be aiming at your torso. We will be aiming directly at your head to kill you.”

When the warden was gone, a guard approached me with a manila file in hand. “Diaz, follow me,” he ordered. I was led inside the prison to an interview room, where the guard introduced himself as a gang coordinator. “Listen closely, Diaz,” he said. “We know that you’re a banger and a shot caller, so we’re putting you in solitary.”

I would be cooped up in an eight-by-ten-foot windowless box, with all my meals slipped in through a slot in the steel door (or “gate”). Social interactions with other inmates (and guards) would be nearly nonexistent.

The only source of illumination in my cell was a heavy Plexiglas light that couldn’t be turned off, which made it difficult to get any sleep. And without a clock or wristwatch to consult, I had trouble distinguishing whether it was day or night. There was nothing to do—no TV, no radio, no books. Only the meals broke the monotony.

I had been told by prisoners in Pitchess that if you’re not strong-willed, then solitary confinement could absolutely break you. There were times when I wondered if I would keep my sanity.

‘Jesus Is Going to Use You’

After about a year at New Folsom, I heard the guards come by my cell with an announcement: “Protestant service. Any inmate wanting to go, stand by your gate.”

I had heard the same announcement for Catholics. Religion wasn’t something I was interested in. I knew next to nothing about Jesus, only that he was the one on all those crucifixes.

One time I was lying on my bed, listening to the voices outside. I heard an older woman say, “Is there someone in that cell?” She sounded Southern and spoke with a syrupy drawl. “Yes, ma’am,” the guard said, “but you don’t want to deal with Diaz. You’re wasting your time.”

“Well,” she answered, “Jesus came for him, too.”

She approached the cell: “Young man, can I speak with you?” Looking through the open slot in my gate, I couldn’t see anything except for the guard’s boots and a pair of spindly legs.

“How are you doing?” she asked. “I couldn’t be better,” came my sarcastic reply. “Young man,” she said, “I’m going to pray for you. But there’s something else I want to tell you: Jesus is going to use you.”

By now, I was certain she was crazy. Couldn’t she see I was locked away in solitary confinement? “I don’t think that’s going to happen,” I said. But she persisted: “Young man, every time I’m here, I’m going to come by and remind you that Jesus is going to use you.”

A year or so later, I was lying down in my cell, daydreaming, when I turned toward the wall opposite my bed. On that wall, something strange was happening. A movie was playing, a movie about my life. I saw myself as a young child, walking the old neighborhood at 9th and Kenmore. I witnessed incidents from my early days with the gang—everything in picture-perfect detail.

Then I saw a bearded man with long hair carrying a cross. As he trudged along, a mob of angry people shouted at him. When he arrived on top of a knoll, rough-looking men nailed his hands and feet to the wooden beams and raised the cross so it stood between two other men on crosses.

What got to me most was when this man looked at me and said, “Darwin, I’m doing this for you.” I shuddered. Apart from the guards and my family, no one knew my real name. Everyone called me Casey—my nickname for as long as I could remember.

Then I heard the sound of breath leaving him. At that moment, I knew he had died.

That’s when I hit the floor in the middle of the cell. I started weeping because I knew, somehow, that this was Almighty God, even though I didn’t understand what he had done for me. After hitting the floor, I knew I had to get on my knees. I started confessing my sins: God, I’m sorry for stabbing so many people. God, I’m sorry I robbed so many families.

With each new confession, I felt another weight come off my shoulders. When I finished, I knew something major had happened.

I asked to see a chaplain, who opened his Bible and explained who Jesus was and told me that what I experienced in that cell was salvation. He handed me a Bible and urged me to start reading.

I’d spend five or six hours reading that Bible, then fall asleep, wake up, and do some push-ups and calisthenics before picking up where I had left off. I didn’t understand half of what I was reading, but that didn’t bother me.

That was the start of my journey of faith. Eventually, I was released from solitary confinement and returned to the mainline prison population, where I was beaten for being a Christian and turning my back on my fellow gang members. But I was okay with that, because I was no longer a shot caller. I had found a new calling: telling other inmates about Jesus.

Casey Diaz is the author of The Shot Caller: A Latino Gangbanger’s Miraculous Escape from a Life of Violence to a New Life in Christ (Thomas Nelson). He lives in Los Angeles, where he owns a sign-making business and serves as a part-time pastor.

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Symbols of the Holy Spirit

by Jack Hayford

And immediately, coming up from the water, He saw the heavens parting and the Spirit descending upon Him like a dove. (Mark 1:10)

The Holy Spirit doesn’t seek to be mysterious, but He is the most mysterious of the Godhead. We can read in the Word about the Father, and we can read about the Son who came and walked among us. But Jesus tells us that when the Spirit comes, He will not speak of Himself; that “whatsoever he shall hear, that shall he speak: and he will shew you things to come” (John 16:13 KJV).

 

The workings of the Holy Spirit are invisible, glorious, and gentle, and within them, He never tells us about Himself. He comes to glorify Jesus—helping us to see Jesus more, to understand Jesus better, to respond to Jesus more obediently, and to love Jesus with a deeper heart of commitment.

So the symbols of the Holy Spirit become essential to our gaining an understanding of what He’s like, not only in an objective way of analyzing truth, but also in the subjective way that He comes to penetrate our lives—ways in which the reality of the invisible penetrate the visible. When we talk about the Holy Spirit as rain, for example, the purpose isn’t to think, “Oh, the Holy Spirit is like rain.” The purpose is to get wet.

In each of the following seven ways, the Lord desires to move into our realm. Just as the Holy Spirit manifested for a moment in a dove and lighted upon Jesus, He wants to penetrate you and me with the glory of the invisible God that becomes visible in us—to flood His life into ours that we might then overflow it to others.

The Holy Spirit Comes as Rain

Rain has a dual implication. First as refreshing where there has been dryness and barrenness (Joel 2:23-29). Second, as restoration where there has been loss (Isa. 28:11-12).

The “pouring out” Peter refers to at Pentecost (Acts 2:17) is not an abstract use of the word; it has to do with “latter rain” that brought about the hastening of the harvest and fruitful crops. The Lord is saying that He will send rain to fields [people] that are totally barren as a promise of hope.

Needing to be refreshed doesn’t mean that I’ve backslid or sinned. When the lawn endures a hot day, it dries up and needs the refreshing of rain. The Holy Spirit, coming as rain, comes to bring refreshing and restoration.

The Holy Spirit Comes as Rivers

Rivers are channels or conduits to places where the refreshing of water is needed. John pinpoints that the work of the Spirit as “rivers of living water” was to become available after Jesus’ ascension (John 7:37-39). The Holy Spirit is manifest in rivers in order that the rain not only be a refreshing upon you, but also that the Lord would make you an overflowing tributary of His Holy Spirit fullness, life, and love to others.

The Lord wants people to get in touch with who He is, and that takes people who will let the rivers of living water be awakened in them and then gush out of their lives. So the Holy Spirit is manifest in rivers.

The Holy Spirit Comes as Wind

The Holy Spirit, coming as wind, depicts His power and His guidance. When Jesus tells Nicodemus about the new birth experience (John 3:8), He tells him that it is not like a tangible birth where you can see the baby is born and check the clock for its time of arrival. The work of the Spirit breathes into a life, and something transpires that people cannot recognize. There’s a dynamism but also a gentleness, like the wisp of a breeze. You can’t necessarily see where it came from or where it goes, but all of us can attest to times when God has come and dealt with us, and no human being knew how it happened.

At Pentecost (Acts 2:3), it wasn’t a wind that blew in; it was the sound of a rushing wind—like a hurricane. That sound, not the sound of the people speaking in tongues, is what drew the crowd in. The Holy Spirit as sovereign God is dynamic, irresistible, and unstoppable.

The Holy Spirit Comes as Oil

The anointing—the oil of Scripture—is directly related to the Holy Spirit’s work in our life (2 Cor. 1:21-22). The Holy Spirit’s anointing makes us sensitive (1 John 2:20). How many times have you sensed something was wrong, or something was right, but you didn’t know why or how you knew? The Holy Spirit, by His anointing and presence, confirms what He is—the Spirit of Truth, of Holiness, of Wisdom. Obeying the Holy Spirit means that He will give us wisdom when we need it in the practicals of our everyday life.

All the primary offices of Scripture—prophets, priests, and kings—involve anointing. And all of these are offices to which all of us are called. As prophets, we are called to speak the Word of the Lord. There are times when the Holy Spirit will give you words of comfort, exhortation, or sensitive counsel to say to other people. As priests, the Lord wants to anoint us for worship to renew us, so that our worship doesn’t become stale, habitual, or formal. And as kings, we don’t just get anointed once for all. It takes fresh anointing from the Holy Spirit for the dominion of His Kingdom and the authority of His life to happen through us. When it does, we can move in confidence about how to rule our homes and our businesses, and how to deal with our kids and our relationships. God’s not going to anoint us with the ability to rule when we try to manage things our own way.

The Lord also wants to anoint those who have been overcome by the spirit of mourning with the oil of rejoicing. That anointing brings the lifting of our heads with the refreshing of seeing beyond today—not with superficial optimism, but with a deep abiding of hope that has been begotten in us by God.

The Holy Spirit Comes as Wine

Ephesians 5:18 draws an analogy for the symbolism of the Holy Spirit as wine. In the Gospels, Jesus describes the new work of God, conveyed by the ministry of the Spirit, as new wine coming into old vessels. So it’s a perfectly appropriate symbol in light of the Word. Still, let me ask you, what does it take to excite your life? The issue isn’t just alcohol; the issue is, how much of what the world offers does it take to get you going?

The Bible doesn’t say we are disallowed from enjoying a number of the things that come with life, but you can find out how much a person is living the Jesus life by how much they need the stimulants of the world. The separated, holy Christian life is not a call to isolation but to insulation. You live in the world, but His Spirit in you keeps out the world’s pollution.

The Holy Spirit Comes as Fire

At Pentecost, the Bible says that tongues as of fire appeared over the heads of each of those who gathered together (Acts 2:3).  The Holy Spirit comes as fire to work something deep into the substance of our lives that will shape things around us, rather than us taking on the shape of the world. As fire, He works in a dual way: to probe the inner recesses of our life and to refine us as gold or silver is refined in the fire; and to temper our personalities by causing there to be the penetration of fire into our system.

The purifying fire burns out the Adversary. When the three Hebrew children were thrown into the furnace, not only were their lives spared, but also their clothes didn’t burn. But the ropes holding them in bondage burned. The Bible speaks of the Holy Spirit being “a spirit of judgment and burning” (Isa. 4:4). Judgment has to do with deliverance, in the way the judges of Israel led people out of bondage. The Holy Spirit, coming like fire, burns away any binding grip that the Enemy has imposed on us.

The Holy Spirit Comes as a Dove

The Holy Spirit, coming as a dove, is gentle and a symbol of peace. What the dove did is important as well—the dove came and rested on Jesus (Matt. 3:16). The Holy Spirit wants to come and rest upon you and me. Not sweeping throughout the world as a tidal wave of revival, but to come to each of us personally.

Today, I want to ask you to invite Him by saying, “Holy Spirit, come upon me.” In fact, for the next week, take one symbol of the Holy Spirit each day and invite Him to do that freshly in your life. Let Jesus minister the richness of the Holy Spirit to you. The Bible says it is Jesus who baptizes with the Holy Spirit (Mark 1:8), and He will:

  • Pour rain on you
  • Open rivers in you
  • Breathe wind into your life
  • Anoint you with oil
  • Fill you with holy wine
  • Refine and temper you with fire
  • Send the Holy Spirit to come to you
Copyright © 2008, 2010 by Jack W. Hayford, Jack Hayford Ministries

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Worth a Thousand Years of Waiting

THE STAGGERING RISE OF THE CHURCH IN IRAN

May 11, 2019 by Afshin Ziafat
Pastor, Frisco, Texas

Robert Bruce, a Scottish missionary to Iranian Muslims in the late nineteenth century, wrote home to his supporters, “I am not reaping the harvest; I scarcely claim to be sowing the seed; I am hardly ploughing the soil; but I am gathering out the stones. That, too, is missionary work; let it be supported by loving sympathy and fervent prayer.”

For many years, Iran was one of the most difficult regions of the world to reach with the gospel. A significant development occurred in 1979, however, with the Islamic Revolution in Iran. The ruling monarch, Shah Mohammed Reza Pahlavi, was overthrown, and in his place an Islamic Republic was birthed, led by the Ayatollah Khomeini. Sharia law became the law of the land, and Muslim clerics became the heads of state.

Many in those days believed the revolution would lead to a time of flourishing in Iranian society. The new regime made great promises about rights and economic progress, as Iran was finally free from the influence of the West. The laws of man would be replaced by the laws of God, they claimed. Under the Republic, conversion to any other religion was considered apostasy and could be punished with death.

Door Opens

As we near the fortieth anniversary of the Islamic Revolution, however, we see that the prayers of many Christians over the years have been answered, and the climate in Iran is vastly different. The gospel has spread throughout the land in unprecedented fashion despite increased persecution of Christian believers. To use the words of the apostle Paul, “A wide door for effective work has opened . . . and there are many adversaries” (1 Corinthians 16:9).

As of 1979, there were about five hundred known Christians from a Muslim background in Iran. In 2005, it was estimated that there were 40,000 ethnic Iranian Christians (not including ethnic minority Christians who live in Iran). That number grew to about 175,000 Christians in 2010, according to the Joshua Project. Today, the average estimates of Christians within Iran range from 300,000 to upwards of one million, according to some missions experts. Operation World, a missions research organization, continues to list Iran as having the fastest-growing evangelical church in the world. In fact, more Iranians have become Christians in the last twenty years than in the previous 1,300 years, since Islam came to Iran.

Four Reasons for Growth

Several factors have contributed to the rapid growth of the church in Iran. Here are four of the most important.

1. DISILLUSIONMENT WITH ISLAM

Since the time of the revolution, the Islamic regime, which promised much in the way of economic development and freedom, has not delivered. Rather than prosperity and growth, the economy stagnated. The people also have been oppressed — women punished for not covering their hair, and others punished for speaking out freely in protest. As a result, the country has isolated itself further from the rest of the world.

Ironically, because the Islamic Republic in Iran has tied religion and state so closely together, the people’s disappointment with the government has led to great skepticism of Islam. Consequently, Iranians have become increasingly open to hearing the Christian message.

2. PERSECUTION

The rise of persecution against Christians in Iran has served both as a sign of the rapid growth of Christianity within the country and as fuel for further growth. In the 1990s, several key leaders of the church in Iran were killed. One of the most famous martyrs, Mehdi Dibaj, gave a defense before the Islamic courts prior to his death that has become a rallying cry for many Christians in Iran. Dibaj declared,

I would rather have the whole world against me, but know that the Almighty God is with me; be called an apostate, but know that I have the approval of the God of glory. . . .

Life for me is an opportunity to serve him, and death is a better opportunity to be with Christ. Therefore I am not only satisfied to be in prison for the honor of his Holy Name, but am ready to give my life for the sake of Jesus my Lord and enter his kingdom sooner, the place where the elect of God enter to everlasting life.

Examples like this have emboldened the church as the faithful remember the words of Jesus, “Because you are not of the world, but I chose you out of the world, therefore the world hates you” (John 15:19). In 2010, many church planters and leaders were arrested. I had the privilege of visiting with one of these faithful brothers after he served five years in prison. He recounted the moment when he received news that many of his colleagues were being arrested.

Briefly, he considered fleeing. But then he remembered the words of Jesus from John 10, that he is not the hired hand who sees the wolves coming and flees, but he is rather the good shepherd, who lays his life down for his sheep (John 10:11–12). He told me he went home knowing it would lead to his arrest, but he saw prison as an assignment by God to be a ministry post for him to reach many within prison.

This persecution has served to motivate further evangelistic zeal among Iranian Christians. These faithful servants are modern-day examples of Paul, who once wrote, “Most of the brothers, having become confident in the Lord by my imprisonment, are much more bold to speak the word without fear” (Philippians 1:14).

3. THE DIASPORA AND USE OF MEDIA

A countless number of Iranian Christians have been scattered around the world. Many of these saints sense a unique calling to continue supporting the work of gospel advancement within Iran from the outside.

The advancement of technology through the Internet and satellite TV has made the Christian message more accessible to Iranians who may have never even met a Christian. The diaspora Christians have been active in broadcasting the gospel and Bible teaching into Iran. In the last decade, social media also has been a powerful tool to reach Iranians and teach them the truths of Scripture.

4. BIBLE DISTRIBUTION

Although persecution has not produced the results that the Iranian authorities wanted, they have continued to work hard to stamp out the message of Christianity. The Bible (especially the New Testament) is banned literature in Iran.

But the people have been hungry for the word of God. There have been over two million New Testaments printed in recent years for dissemination in Iran, and about 180,000 entire Bibles have been distributed within the country. As Paul told Timothy, “The word of God is not bound!” (2 Timothy 2:9).

Three Ways to Pray

These are some factors that have contributed to the rapid growth of the church in Iran. But ultimately, the kingdom of Christ is spreading within Iran because God’s Spirit is moving powerfully. Though there has been great progress, the need for prayer and support continues to be great. Would you join me in praying for Iran — its people and leaders? Here are three ways you can pray for the church.

1. COURAGE

Although the number of house churches and believers is growing every day, the opposition continues. Iranian Christians continue to be arrested and charged with acting against national security. House churches continue to meet secretly while shifting their meeting times and locations to stay undetected. Christians continue to evangelize, knowing they are putting their lives at risk.

2. UNITY

Since most of the activity of the church is done secretly, the Christians are isolated from each other. Iranian leaders are forced to work covertly and therefore apart from each other. Security concerns make collaborative efforts difficult, even among ministries outside of Iran that work within the country. All of this creates obstacles for unity.

3. TRAINED LEADERS

The nature of the underground church is such that, many times, house-church leaders are unqualified and untrained, and sometimes, there is no pastor in the group and the gathered believers are being fed solely through satellite TV. Some of the teaching that the church absorbs is not sound theology. Iranians don’t have the same access to Christian literature and training as many believers do throughout the rest of the world. There are ministries who are already working hard to meet this need by making quality training available for leaders, and we need to pray for this work.

These words of Jesus may sum up the situation best in Iran: “The harvest is plentiful, but the laborers are few; therefore pray earnestly to the Lord of the harvest to send out laborers into his harvest” (Matthew 9:37–38). Let’s pray the Lord of the harvest continues to send his laborers throughout Iran, so that millions more Iranians find forgiveness, peace, and the hope of glory through the gospel of Jesus Christ.

 (@afshinziafat) is lead pastor of Providence Church in Frisco, Texas. His passion is to teach the word of God as the authority and guide for life, to preach Jesus Christ as the only Savior and Redeemer of mankind, and to proclaim the love of Christ as the greatest treasure and hope in life. He and his wife, Meredith, currently reside in Frisco with their three children.

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AUDIO Should We Expect Revival or More Social Decay?

 

Interview with John Piper
Founder & Teacher, desiringGod.org

Audio Transcript

What’s coming to America? Can we anticipate widespread spiritual revival? Or should we expect a deepening social degeneracy? It’s a question from a listener named Cole. “Hello, Pastor John. I’m a 21-year-old recent college graduate, and I’ve noticed over the past few years among younger believers, especially in the college setting, a lot of encouraging talk of revival. Everyone seems to be expecting an awakening (i.e., a lot of nonbelievers repenting and coming back to God).

“However, the more I read Scripture, it seems like we should actually be expecting things in this world to get worse. There are so many instances in the Bible where it says that ‘in those days’ there will be more egregious sins, even within the church, and a lot of deceptive teaching and people walking away from the faith. Should we really be expecting revival? And where did that notion come from? Or should we be expecting the number of believers to dwindle until the coming of Christ?”

I surely do not want in any way to discourage prayer for and God-given expectation of a great move of God in our churches, our denominations, our cities, our ministries, our nations, or the world. But I want to provide a biblical orientation, perhaps, for how to think about such prayers and expectations. I’ve got seven positions for you to think about, and I’ll just briefly try to show that they’re biblical.

1. Widespread Rebellion

Cole, this age — until Christ returns to establish his kingdom — will draw to a close with an intensification of evil and a great outward rebellion against God. The reason I say that is mainly because of what the apostle Paul said in 2 Thessalonians 2: “Now concerning the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ and our being gathered together to him, . . . that day will not come, unless the rebellion comes first” (2 Thessalonians 2:13). I think rebellion is the right translation there, as opposed to just kind of a gradual drifting away.

“We have no authority for saying there can be no great revival.”

Paul continues, “The rebellion comes first, and the man of lawlessness is revealed, the son of destruction, who opposes and exalts himself against every so-called god or object of worship, so that he takes his seat in the temple of God, proclaiming himself to be God” (2 Thessalonians 2:3–4). Paul concludes, “For the mystery of lawlessness is already at work. Only he who now restrains it will do so until he is out of the way. And then the lawless one will be revealed, whom the Lord Jesus will kill with the breath of his mouth and bring to nothing by the appearance of his coming” (2 Thessalonians 2:7–8).

My conclusion from that is that a great rebellion and a singular figure of great arrogance, claiming to be God, will arise at the end of the age. Then the Lord comes and slays him by the sword of his mouth. That’s position number one.

2. Lawlessness at Work

This time of intensified evil and rebellion was already happening in some measure in Paul’s day. He says, “The mystery of lawlessness is already at work” (2 Thessalonians 2:7). There’s a man of lawlessness coming, there’s a great rebellion and lawlessness coming, but the mystery of lawlessness is already at work.

John says in 1 John 2:18, “Children, it is the last hour, and as you have heard that antichrist is coming, so now many antichrists have come. Therefore we know that it is the last hour.” We have been living in the last hour for two thousand years. That’s the biblical perspective since the time of the apostles. But a final upsurge of lawlessness and rebellion and a man of lawlessness is yet to come.

3. The Gospel Still Advances

There’s no teaching in the Bible that I’m aware of that says a great rebellion will come by a steady, irreversible decline of the church through history. We have no authority for saying there can be no great revival.

The gospel has advanced in the last two thousand years in history mainly by great awakenings and great declines. I just assume that’s the way it’s going to happen until Jesus comes. There will be seasons of remarkable awakening, and there will be seasons of sad decline. We have no teaching about a gradual worsening with no interrupted blessing.

4. Hot and Cold

Jesus describes the progress of the gospel to all the nations in and through the very time when the love of many grows cold, which means that not all have grown cold at the end of the age, because it will not be cold people who take the gospel to the nations at the cost of their lives.

“Jesus describes the progress of the gospel to all the nations in and through the very time when the love of many grows cold.”

I’m getting all that from Matthew 24. This is Jesus talking: “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 . . . because lawlessness will be increased” (Matthew 24:912).

That sounds a lot like the man of lawlessness and that season of outbreak at the end. Matthew continues, “Because lawlessness will be increased, the love of many will grow cold. But the one who endures to the end [he’s not going to be cold] 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 24:12–14).

That gospel, proclaimed in the face of great tribulation, is not going to be proclaimed by cold people, but by white-hot people. Many may grow cold at the end, but not all, because only those with a passion for Jesus will endure to the end through the martyrdom required to finish the Great Commission. Therefore, there will never be a time when the church is completely cold and ineffective. She rises with faith and passion and mission, and she declines in church history, but there’s never a time when there are not people who are red hot for God and pursuing his mission.

5. All Nations Will Come

Is there biblical warrant for knowing and believing that a great revival — with millions repenting and coming to Christ, and a great purifying of the church — is going to happen? Can we expect this with biblical certainty? My answer is that I don’t know of any such promise in the Bible.

There are many promises, for example, in the Old Testament that all the nations will worship the Lord. But that may simply refer to the time when Christ has established his kingdom in person on the earth. For example, “All the ends of the earth shall remember and turn to the Lord, and all the families of the nations shall worship before you. For kingship belongs to the Lord, and he rules over the nations” (Psalm 22:27–28).

Amen — come, Lord Jesus! That’s going to happen. I don’t think we can assume that refers to a great revival on this side of the second coming. It certainly is an encouragement to press on with world evangelization, because Jesus underlined that promise that people from every tribe and tongue and nation are going to be saved because they’re bought with the blood of Jesus. Here’s Revelation 5:9: “You were slain, and by your blood you ransomed people for God from every tribe and language and people and nation.” They are going to worship — all of them, sooner or later, are going to worship the Lord.

6. Promised Revival

There is one great awakening that we may expect, and that is a great turning of the Jewish people to the Messiah, Jesus. That’s what Romans 11 promises: “For if their rejection means the reconciliation of the world, what will their acceptance mean but life from the dead? If the dough offered as firstfruits [that’s Abraham and his people] is holy, so is the whole lump [Jewish people as a whole], and if the root is holy, so are the branches” (Romans 11:15–16).

“You and your church could be among the wide-awake, white-hot servants when Jesus comes.”

Even more clearly, he says in Romans 11:24, “If you [i.e., the Gentiles] were cut from what is by nature a wild olive tree, and grafted, contrary to nature, into a cultivated olive tree [that’s the Abrahamic covenant, and here comes the key sentence], how much more will these, the natural branches [i.e., ethnic Judaism], be grafted back into their own olive tree.”

That much more, in my understanding, is a great movement of God in this world. Then Paul adds, “A partial hardening has come upon Israel, until the fullness of the Gentiles has come in. And in this way all Israel will be saved” (Romans 11:25–26). I take that mean corporate Israel turns remarkably, amazingly, to their Messiah, Jesus. That is a great awakening I think we should work toward, prayer toward, and hope in.

7. Torch the Glacier

Lastly, how should we live? This is how I’ve done my ministry for the last forty years. This is my conception. Picture the end coming like a glacier over the world, because it says, “The love of many will grow cold” (Matthew 24:12). It doesn’t tell us how fast it’s coming. It doesn’t tell us whether it can come and recede. It’s just coming. There is no requirement — none — no biblical warrant, mandate, or demand that your church or your city or even your people or nation be frozen by the glacier.

Instead, we should live by God’s command for white-hotness, not his providence. We don’t live by trying to sniff out God’s providence. We live by the commands of Scripture, not his providence that brings cold on the earth.

Who knows? You and your church could be among the wide-awake, white-hot servants when Jesus comes. My picture for ministry is that wherever I’m speaking, wherever I’m living, wherever I’m pastoring, I’m going to torch the glacier. If it looks like a glacier is coming over Minneapolis, I’ve got my torch of the word of God, and I’m poking it.

Picture me now, poking it up into the glacier, and I’m melting big holes in the glacier so the glory of God is shining through. Who knows? Perhaps enough churches poking holes in the glacier would make your city a vibrant, white-hot witness being found faithful when he comes.

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