Tuesday, April 28, 2015
Dear Antioch Church Family,
This past Sunday, I preached about the increased persecution Jesus said will precede His return to earth. In the days leading up to this message, I was deeply, deeply impacted in my own spirit by the things God laid upon my heart to share with our congregation. I believe this word is especially timely and important for all of us to hear and prayerfully reflect upon. If you were not able to be in service with us, I encourage you to take time to view the video of my sermon by clicking here or on the photo above or to listen to the audio from my message by clicking here. If you would like to view the entire service, including worship, then click here instead.
While Christians in other countries are experiencing brutal treatment for their faith, even to the point of martyrdom as in Syria, etc., we make a very serious mistake if we assume that our culture and/or legal system in America guarantees us that we will not experience very negative consequences for honoring our biblical convictions or that somehow the hostility we encounter can be avoided if we are winsome enough or gentle enough or "relevant" enough. In biblical passages such as John 15:18-21, Jesus made it crystal-clear that nothing could be further from the truth! Thankfully, passages such as 1 Peter 4:12-19 also give us a biblical template to follow as we respond to any form of persecution.
Here are links to two very different news items that drive home the reality of the increasingly hostile environment in which we find ourselves as believers right here in the USA:
Click on the following link to read an excellent article from Christianity Today entitled, "The Wrong Kind of Christian." It is subtitled, "I thought a winsome faith would win Christians a place at Vanderbilt’s table. I was wrong." It is drawn from the recent experience of InterVarsity Fellowship at Vanderbilt University and the shocking discovery their leadership made that no matter how engaging they tried to be, they were ultimately unwelcome in the Academy.
In another vein, the video clip below puts a very human face on a question every Christian must answer. As we live out our convictions both personally and professionally, where do we draw the line in spite of what it may cost us?
Regardless of whether or not one agrees or disagrees with where these two believers "drew the line" in the operation of their business, it very moving to think that this sweet couple, with no malice or hate toward anyone, have lost their family livelihood because they took a stand for their religious convictions, and that this has taken place in America, a country whose primary historical reason for existence is grounded in the search for freedom of religion. Other news reports have stated they have received threats of physical and sexual assault, even death. Even if you have read or watched other news items concerning this case, I strongly encourage you to take the time to view this clip by clicking here or on the photo below. They need our prayers!
In spite of developments like these, I have some very, very good news: If we respond to persecution in the right way, it will never destroy us, instead, it will make us stronger and cause our witness to be even more effective!
At the end of my message Sunday, I shared a testimony I read many years ago concerning a Chinese preacher who gave his own child to his persecutor and who later discovered his son had also become a mighty man of God. I want to thank Nickie Geldenhuys for taking the time to track that story down on the Internet. The article he found is from a much more recent publication and differs in some details from the one I read in that it contains some photos and speaks of a bus instead of a train, etc., but the "moral" of the story remains the same: Responding in a godly way through the power of the Spirit to ungodly treatment sets the stage for God to do amazing things! I'll insert the text from the article at the end of this email for your convenience.
Teresa and I love you and thank God for the privilege of serving you. The very, very best is yet to come for Antioch Church and we are glad YOU are going to be a part of it!
Don't forget our Midweek Prayer Service tomorrow night from 6:00-7:30pm. It is the most important event in the life of our church each week!
I look forward to seeing you there!
|Pastor Mark Brand|
|Antioch Church, Dallas, TX|
Antioch Church - Helping people everywhere know Jesus and love others…!
A Christmas Miracle in China
It was the greatest miracle that ever happened to Brother Duan, and he would not have experienced it had his bus not broken down. Traveling from a northern to a southern province of China one chilly December day, he happened to be passing through Henan Province when the engine of the bus expired in its futile battle with the cold.
On a whim, Duan trudged off through the fields, leaving the other passengers huddled inside the bus. He was a house church leader in northern China. Now 77- years old, he still had no home to call his own. The truth is, he was deeply depressed. He was on his way to mediate a dispute among church leaders and was weary of all the infighting that seemed to be harming the house churches. And he was lonely
As he crossed the frozen field, Duan thought longingly of his beloved wife who had died years earlier. He wished she was alive to listen to him and give her sweet counsel. And then the thought of his little son came into his tired mind, and an even darker cloud settled over his heart.
He found a village and knocked on a door. A little cross was notched on the door-post. "Is there anyone here who loves the Lord?" he asked. "I would love some fellowship tonight."
The door was opened by a man in his fifties, and Duan was warmly welcomed inside. His feet were washed in a basin-the custom of welcoming a stranger to their home, and he was fed hot congee and steaming vegetables. He noticed that the family members were excited. It turned out they would be traveling to a neighboring town to hear a dynamic Bible teacher from a large city. "What’s his name?" asked Duan. "Brother Wang," they replied.
As they made their way to the meeting, they told Duan stories about this mysterious Brother Wang. It was clear they loved him dearly, and one of the men explained why. "We once held a training seminar here and heard the police were coming to arrest us. Brother Wang helped everyone escape, except our main pastor. When the police arrived, Wang dared to bargain with them. He offered to go to prison if our pastor, whose wife was eight months pregnant, would be allowed to go free. The officers accepted his terms, and Brother Wang spent the next three years in prison."
"How old is Brother Wang?" Duan asked. When told he was in his early 405, Duan's face showed great pain. "What’s the matter?" he was asked. "Are you ill from your trip'" "No, I'm not ill," he replied, "just very sad. l once had a son, whom l knew for just two months. He's dead now, but if alive he would have been 42 today My wife called him the 'Christmas Child' since he was born at Christmas time. l called him 'Isaac ,' because we had despaired for so long of having a child."
There was silence as they rode in the open cart under the stars. Brother Duan told the incredible story of how he and his wife had been evangelists in the 19SO's. They refused to join the government-approved Three Self church, and an unbeliever named Wu kept accusing them of political and criminal offenses. It was only a matter of time before they were imprisoned or killed, but what would happen to their baby boy? One night, Duan's wife heard a strong voice in a vision, saying, "Give your son to your enemy " Knowing nothing about this, Duan read Genesis 22:2 the following morning: "Take your son, your only son, whom you love, Isaac, and go to the region of Moriah. Sacrifice him there as a burnt offering on a mountain I will show you."
Sharing their impressions, the couple decided on a course of action that had caused Duan to wince in pain every day since. They gave their boy to Wu and his wife-who was childless-even as Wu arranged for the couples arrest.
It wasn't until I 978, when Duan was released from prison, that he learned what had happened to his wife and son. She had died in the terrible famine of 1958, and his son had disappeared along with the Wu family under the rubble of a devastating earthquake in 1975. Said Duan as the rickety cart approached the meeting place, "God judged me for being so irresponsible with my little son." As they arrived at the place where the evangelist was to speak, a crowd of 200 people was already packed into the house. Like many others, Duan had to sit in the courtyard and listen to the teacher through an open window.
When Brother Wang began preaching, Duan felt a terrible shock. It was like hearing himself! He began to tremble with fear. Even the phrases the teacher used sounded familiar. Confused, he staggered up to the window to see the preacher, causing a commotion as he fell over people. The preacher stopped, and there was a moment of shocked silence as the two stared at each other. The crowd was hushed as they realized the amazing physical likeness between the two men.
'Tm sorry for interrupting your excellent message," Duan began. "You see, I had a son who would be your age right now. If he had lived, he would have looked and sounded just like you."
Brother Wang began to tremble violently. Suddenly, his legs buckled beneath him, and he had to be caught before he fell to the floor. Clutching his pounding chest, he sobbed, "Are you Daddy Duan?" Everyone wept as father and son were reunited. The preacher told how he had indeed been brought up by Wu, who was so impressed by Duan's selfless act that he had become a strong Christian.
'Tm not your father," Wu used to say to him. "Your real father is a great man of God, full of grace and love. He gave you to me, and I give you all my love and the encouragement to put God first, just like your real dad would have done."
Wang's adopted parents had moved away from the earthquake zone before the tragedy, but both had died of cancer in their 60's. Wang became an evangelist and tried to find his real father, but Duan had changed his name so many times to avoid arrest that he had proved untraceable.
As father and son continued to hug and weep, the elder of the church stood up and declared, "It's December. We have seen our sermon tonight: Christ came into the world to save sinners - that is the essence of Christmas. Just as Duan handed his only son into the care of his enemy, so God handed over His own Son to us sinners. Let us rejoice in their reconciliation and ours, too."