“When enduring all this persecution…” Pilgrim’s Progress conversations (4)

While enduring all this persecution, Christian and Faithful remembered what their faithful friend Evangelist had told them about the suffering that would happen to them. This strengthened their resolve to bear all the abuse and await patiently the outcome of their situation. They also reminded one another for their mutual comfort that whichever one of them suffered death would have the best outcome. Therefore each secretly hoped that he might be the one chosen for that fate. Nevertheless, each committed himself to the wise plans of Him who rules all things, and so they were content to remain in their current condition until it should please God to use them otherwise.

Then at the appointed time they were led to their trial, which was planned with only one purpose in mind—the condemnation of them both. First they were brought before their enemies and formally charged. The judge’s name was Lord Hate-Good. Their indictments were the same in substance, though somewhat varying in form. The contents were as follows: “That they were enemies to, and disturbers of, trade; that they had made commotions and divisions in the town and had won a faction over to their own most dangerous opinions, in contempt of the law of the prince.”1

Personal reflection

pilgrims-progress

One of the tragic fruits of cultural Christianity, at least as it’s stood in the West for the last 50-odd years, has been our being lulled into a false sense of security. We expect the culture to be “for” us, when it’s only natural that it would be against us. After all, the gospel is an offense to those who do not believe. When it takes root, things inevitably start changing, from business practices to sexual ethics.

So is it any wonder, then, that (as we’ve just seen in New York) churches can be barred from renting public spaces and lease agreements can be cancelled? Is it any surprise that someone holding to a traditional view of marriage would be forced to resign from his position in the name of keeping corporate America “inclusive, safe, and welcoming to all”?

Is it any wonder, then, that we seen so many Christians fail under the weight of the temptation to compromise, to give in and go along with the cultural scene?

Christian and Faithful endured their trial, one met his end. This is not (yet) the world we face in North America. But it could be, eventually. If we can barely whether the storm of cultural distaste, how can we stand against true opposition? Lord, grant us mercy.

Reading with Ryken

The episode of Vanity Fair became so famous in the cultural history of England and America that it has held the status of a proverb and familiar metaphor for the cheap and trivial. On the story level, Bunyan does two things to make the episode come alive in our imagination. First he draws upon his great descriptive ability to paint a verbal picture of a crowded local fair or concentration of street booths for selling trinkets and entertainment. He secondly creates a plot conflict of the utmost intensity as the evil crowd victimizes a pair of helpless travelers. This expands into a false trial with a stacked jury. Everything in the episode makes our blood boil in protest against what is happening.2

Next week (in a couple of weeks, actually)

The next discussion of The Pilgrim’s Progress will be centered around chapters eight and nine.

Discussing together

This reading project only works if we’re reading together. So if there are things that stood out to you in this chapter, if there are questions you had, this is the time and place to have your say. Here, again, is a bit of insight from Ryken to help guide our discussion:

There is no more modern or contemporary chapter in Pilgrim’s Progress than this one. Our day specializes in the cheap and tawdry, and Vanity Fair in effect gives us an outline into which we can fit manifestations from our own culture. What links are suggested to you? Equally, the unwillingness of an unbelieving society to allow Christians to live their religious lives in peace is something that every Christian faces; what have been the examples of persecution and discrimination in your own life and observations? The temptations to a life of wealth and earthly success are also always at hand in the modern world; what forms have they taken for you? On a broader cultural scope, what are the current manifestations of the “prosperity gospel” that By-ends and his friends represent?3

Post a comment below or to link to your blog if you’ve chosen to write about this on your own site.

Links I like

If They Were Killing [Liberals]

Matt Svoboda:

“45 liberals- including women and children- were killed, several tortured to death.” Can you imagine the outcry? It would be the only thing passed around on Facebook as every media outlet would be all over it. Of course you haven’t heard this story because it didn’t happen… to liberals. It did happen to Christians. In late October one of the worst massacres of Christians in a long time happened in Syria. 45 Christians- including women and children- were killed, several tortured to death. We don’t need to ask the question why are Muslim extremists killing Christians. We know that answer. We need to ask the question, why isn’t it being reported?

Am I Faking It or Trying?

Barnabas Piper:

Faking and trying often look quite similar. Both require going through the motions of something we either don’t know how to do, or have no intention of doing, well. When I’ve gotten dragged into soccer games on various youth group or missions trips I look like I’m playing because I’m running around and kicking the ball when I have to, but I’m faking it because I really don’t like soccer. When I’m stuck in a meeting I don’t want to be in I look like I’m making the effort and engaging because I’m writing stuff down (usually emails or iMessages) and occasionally nodding at a point someone makes, but I’m pretending.

Kindle deals for Christian readers

Christian Focus has a number of titles by John Owen on sale by $3.99:

Dads, Write in Your Bible

Jonathan Parnell:

It’s no secret that the word of God and prayer are a personal means of grace that spill over for the good of those around us. And how much more for a patriarch? We read the Bible not just for ourselves, but for our families, for our friends, for our community. We know that God doesn’t transform his people into dead-ends, but into rivers of living water, and therefore, deciding on a route and digging in on that resolve has more in view than our own souls. And this year, as you settle your plans, here’s another aspect to consider. Dads, write in your Bible.

5 ways you can bomb a sermon

Adam Ramsey:

Preaching is a high calling and hard work. I started preaching weekly to a group of high-school students when I was just 20 years old. Like me, a huge percentage of preachers learn the ropes and discover their voice while teaching young people in some form of student ministry. And unless you’re some sort of prodigy (you’re probably not), the brutal truth is you will likely look back on your first couple hundred sermons as something comparable to the earnest delusion of most American Idol auditions.

Why we need to pray for the persecuted Church

Now it is evident that no one can terrify or subdue us who have believed in Jesus over all the world. For it is plain that, though beheaded, and crucified, and thrown to wild beasts, and chains, and fire, and all other kinds of torture, we do not give up our confession; but the more such things happen, the more do others and in larger numbers become faithful, and worshipers of God through the name of Jesus. For just as if one should cut away the fruit-bearing parts of a vine, it grows up again, and yields other branches flourishing and fruitful; even so the same thing happens with us.1

For many of us in the West persecution is a foreign concept; but for millions of our brothers and sisters in Christ, it’s daily reality. “In this past century alone, more Christians were murdered for their faith than any other century in human history, an estimated 200 million.”2

They face persecution from both society and governments—sometimes as severe as detention and imprisonment, or as “minor” as culturally accepted harassment. They experience property damage, displacement from homes, physical assault, and death. All because they’ve put their faith in Jesus Christ.

So what can we do? We can pray. Tim Keesee writes:

When we pray for persecuted brothers, we don’t only seek their deliverance, though that’s legitimate. We pray for their boldness (Acts 4:29; Ephesians 6:19-20). We pray for the further glory of Christ, something accomplished both by life and by death, from the pulpit and from the prison cell (Philippians 1:12-21).  God’s purposes are sometimes accomplished through suffering. A courageous Christian journalist in Turkey once told me that if human rights organizations had existed when Joseph was unjustly imprisoned in Egypt, they would have sought his immediate release. But God had a higher purpose than just delivering Joseph.  God’s design was not only to deliver Joseph but also deliver nations (Genesis 50:20).3

Both Justin Martyr and Keesee give us an important reminder: We pray for that our brothers and sisters in Christ would be strengthened to endure their trials—and we pray that the Lord would continue to grow His church.

Two resources to help you pray:

1. Sign up for Persecution.org’s prayer list for regular updates on prayer needs.

2. Use the 31 day prayer calendar put together by Frontline Missions to guide your prayers:

Prayer-Calendar1-980x757

You can download it here.

Of Whom the World is Not Worthy: Persecution in India

Francis Chan and Cornerstone Church recently shared this difficult but important message about the persecution of Christians in Orissa, India. An edited transcript follows:

For the last year, I’ve been hearing about the persecution of the pastors and missionaries and just the Christians in India, in the Orissa area, and my heart’s been stirred towards it.

Just recently, I saw a video fo the persecution, and I just wasn’t ready for it.

I thought I understood what was going on over there, and then I saw the video and… I wanted to throw up when I was done watching. It caused me to question everything in my life—I mean everything. Everything about me, everything about church.

When I saw these men of god being beaten… I’ve never seen someone being beaten to death, I’ve never seen people getting mobbed. I’m not even sure I’ve ever seen death in a violent manner. And when it’s the real thing, it just makes you sick. You knew it was going on, but… I can’t explain it.

It made me really sick to think of people that may lift me up because I have a gift of communication or some other Christian who has an ability to sing or play an instrument and how we lift these people up as our heroes, or great writers when these are the ones that… their lives look like Christ.

When I talk to the people in India that are going through it… they’re not asking for money, they’re just asking that we would remember them, that we would pray for them. They’re saying many people are converting out of Christianity out of fear. People are saying, “Look, if you get out of Christianity, we won’t do this to you.” People are scared, and they’re saying “Would you pray for us, for courage.”

And I don’t know what emotions go through your mind when you see some of these images, but what they’re asking for is, “Would you channel that toward prayer for us?”

I mean, you’ve listened to me speak for the last three or four minutes…

Could you spend the next three or four minutes praying for our brothers and sisters in India?

[Read more...]

Sunday Shorts (11/22)

“”You will be hated by all for my name’s sake”

Video footage of house church raid in Vietnam:

Voice of the Martyrs provided this report from church members:

On Sunday, August 23, 2009, we were still gathering together for service meeting since this is necessary spiritual need. At 3 p.m., many district security officers came into my house. At that time, we were having service meeting, they came and stopped and dismissed us. We stopped and explained to them we had made the application of permission already, but they still blustered. Several of them towed Brother — out to the house and had him sit on their motorbike. They did the same way to —. They oppressed him ruthlessly and towed him; they did not allow for him to speak a word. And other women were towed away also. They did take away one guitar but they did not make a report to taking away guitar. After arriving at the district police station, they made the report with the accusation:  “They are gathering together illegally.” They used the abuse words and threatened Brother —: “If you came back this place again; you will be beaten.” … and at 6:30 p.m. they released us.


Ray Ortland’s Blog Joins The Gospel Coalition

Pastor Ray Ortland has joined the Gospel Coalition as their newest blogger. Fellow TGC blogger Justin Taylor describes Ortland’s blog as “edificiation on steroids.”

If that’s not a ringing endorsement, I don’t know what is.


Matt Chandler on Celebrity, Burnout and Diversity

Dustin Neeley, an Acts 29 pastor, interviewed Matt Chandler during a recent A29 event in Louisville. Here’s one of two videos from that interview:

HT: The Resurgence


In Case You Missed It…

Here are a few of this week’s notable posts:

The Seed of the Woman and the Seed of the Serpent: Consequences, continuing the Saturday series featuring George Whitefield’s classic sermon

It: How Churches and Leaders Can Get It and Keep It, reviewing Craig Groeschel’s very interesting book on church growth

What do you appreciate about your pastor, looking for ways to encourage our pastors

The Ultimate Christian Novel, Tim Challies’ satirical take on Christian fiction—Cassidy: Amish Vampiress of the Tribulation