Sunday, February 21, 2010

ZEALOUS For the NAME of the LORD


I have a confession to make: I'm very angry these days! You might think, 'What James? Angry? But you're a Christian! Christians aren't supposed to be angry, but remain steadfastly in a state of joy and peace, right?'

Aside from the fact that the LORD Jesus got angry in the Temple, when He saw the corruption that was there, and the religious authorities were actually the ones impeding true worship from taking place; and the fact that scripture does say:

EPH. 4:26
Be ye angry, and sin not: let not the sun go down upon your wrath 

And in Proverbs it has this to say about angry people -
Prov 29:22, 24
An angry man stirreth up strife, and a furious man aboundeth in transgression.
Make no friendship with an angry man; and with a furious man thou shalt not go:

So its wise that we not associate with such that have uncontrollable tempers, and seem to always be angry. However, there is a time and a place for anger or righteous indignation just so long as it is righteous, and it doesn't lead to sin.

So what has me so worked up? We'll get to that in a bit, but before we do, I'd like to talk about religion in the Judaic system established by God in the Old Testament (particularly the Pentateuch), that is, the ways of the LORD and about man-made religion.

The ways of the LORD in the beginning was very simple; God came and had fellowship with Adam and Eve in the cool of the evening, there in the Garden of Eden. In this love relationship there was just one rule (a one rule 'religion', if you will): don't eat the forbidden fruit! That would be the proof of their faithfulness, devotion and love for their Creator.

Not that there was anything inherently sinful in the fruit of that tree, any more than the fruit of any other tree, I'm quite sure. It was in the disobedience of God's command that Adam and his wife sinned. Once they discovered that what Satan had promised the woman, that they would be "like gods, knowing good and evil", and a means to acquire wisdom (GEN 3:5-6) was a lie. When they had transgressed the Law of God, they then took it upon themselves to sew fig leaves together and make aprons in order to cover their own nakedness.


They attempted to create a means to cover their sins using their own wits and ingenuity, and here is the first example of man-made religion!

God came along and after questioning and dealing with the two of them, made coats of lamb skins; it must have been astonishing and dismaying to Adam and Eve to see something die (for the first time) and see its blood shed! The price for sin against God meant someone had to pay for such a spiritual debt! Here was the lesson that they learned, for the offering to atone for sin, blood must be shed.

Then there was the scene with their two sons, Cain and Abel. No doubt the spiritual lesson of the parents would have been taught to their kids, and so Abel and Cain would know about blood sacrifices for sin.

Yet when these two men made their offerings, Cain's was refused, for it was an offering of grain, which of course was without blood. One question that's been posed before: How did they know which offering was accepted and which was not? Did a holy fire come down out of heaven and consume the sacrifice much like in the day when Elijah challenged the prophets of Ba'al? That's a question I should like to ask Abel when I see him in heaven!

Interesting to note that in both of these instances, vegetative growth was used rather than the blood (from the meat) of animals in order to present an offering for sin!

Propelling into the future at break neck speed, we come to the deliverance of Israel from bondage in Egypt, and to the Mount of the LORD and the giving of the Law from God to Moses. He was up there for a long time apparently, and the people of Israel grew restless.

They decided to make a golden calf(s) and proclaimed that "these be your gods"! to the children of Israel. See EXOD 32:7-8. More false religion. The LORD didn't take too kindly to this horrendous infraction against His Holiness, and it brought down His righteous indignation! Even Moses, meekest man in all the Earth was full of wrath against these people prone to sin!

The Tabernacle (the design of which was given to Moses as well, at the giving of the Law) was erected once again during the time of their voyage to Israel, and every thing connected with the Tabernacle and worship of God was carefully prescribed by the LORD; He gave them explicit instructions on how, where and why they were to worship the LORD, even right down to the incense and the sort of altars they were to be built.

In LEV 10:1-6 we see how the LORD dealt with the sons of Aaron who took it upon themselves to light a 'strange fire' which the LORD did not ordain! Those two men were slain by the fire of the LORD for their misconduct! God takes it VERY, VERY seriously how He is to be approached, worshipped and represented before the people of God!

In EXOD 20:25 it states:
And if thou wilt make me an altar of stone, thou shalt not build it of hewn stone: for if thou lift up thy tool upon it, thou hast polluted it.

The LORD Jesus Christ is referred to as 'the ROCK' in scripture, as well as that 'stone cut without hands'. I find it interesting then, that if any sacrifice is made on an altar of stone, its not to be of hewn stone, but natural; in other words any changing of the rock's appearance through human effort would pollute it and any sacrifice offered upon it.

God will not accept any human design, imagination, efforts in works or elaborate religious creations in regards to the justification He Himself provides for the salvation of mankind!

In NUM 25:1-11 There is an account where Israel committed whoredoms with the pagan nation of Moab (this seduction was performed by the counsels of Balaam, who advised Balak to have the Moabite women go into the camp of Israel and lure their men); in the throes of erotic passions, the Moabite women would bring out their idols, and they would pay homage to these false gods.

This wasn't even done under cover of darkness, nor behind the backs of Moses and Aaron; note vs. 6:

And, behold, one of the children of Israel came and brought unto his brethren a Midianitish woman in the sight of Moses, and in the sight of all the congregation of the children of Israel, who were weeping before the door of the tabernacle of the congregation.

Because of this, a plague from the LORD broke out among the children of Israel, but it was suddenly stopped. How? Did they have an ecumenical meeting with Baalpeor and the leadership of that nation? Did they have a consensus and seek out common beliefs so that they could dialogue and come to a mutually agreeable belief system whereby they could join together and form a peaceful religious association so that they might better their world?

No. Read in vs. 7-8:

And when Phinehas, the son of Eleazar, the son of Aaron the priest, saw it, he rose up from among the congregation, and took a javelin in his hand;
And he went after the man of Israel into the tent, and thrust both of them through, the man of Israel, and the woman through her belly. So the plague was stayed from the children of Israel.


Harsh action? Cruel punishment? An unjust deed?

Listen to what the LORD had to say about this!


NUM 25:10-13
And the LORD spake unto Moses, saying, Phinehas, the son of Eleazar, the son of Aaron the priest, hath turned my wrath away from the children of Israel, while he was zealous for my sake among them, that I consumed not the children of Israel in my jealousy. Wherefore say, Behold, I give unto him my covenant of peace: And he shall have it, and his seed after him, even the covenant of an everlasting priesthood; because he was zealous for his God, and made an atonement for the children of Israel.

Because one man had the zeal, the love for, and awesome reverence for the LORD and His Holy Name, he took it upon himself to stand up for righteousness and bring a stop to the whoredoms and spiritual adultery that had infested the camp of Israel. He slew those who were guilty of High Treason against the LORD GOD Almighty, Creator and Judge of all the Earth! For that, the plague ceased at the command of the LORD, and He blessed Phinehas!

Much later, after the reign of King David, and his immediate successor, Solomon, the nation of Israel found itself divided into two separate houses, that is, the house of Israel, and the house of Judah, and these two houses of the divided kingdom were at odds with one another. The house of Israel fell into idolatry and was eventually judged; Judah remained faithful at first and intermittently afterwards, but later they likewise succumbed to idolatry and left the living God for the false gods of the pagan nations around them. Both houses were judged and carried away to Babylon in the days of Daniel the prophet.

Yet generations prior to this point, God sent prophets (Isaiah, and Jeremiah to name two of them) to warn and to plead with the people of Israel (the nation) to return to the LORD, and not forsake His Law; to return to Jerusalem and worship Him in Spirit and in Truth, and not to seek out Bethel in the northern region of the house of Israel (Bethel was a city established as an alternate to Jerusalem where people could worship YHWH as well as the other gods of the pagan nations). The LORD didn't take too kindly to having to share His people in their affections for other gods!

Amos 5:5-6
But seek not Bethel, nor enter into Gilgal, and pass not to Beersheba: for Gilgal shall surely go into captivity, and Bethel shall come to nought.
Seek the LORD, and ye shall live; lest he break out like fire in the house of Joseph, and devour it, and there be none to quench it in Bethel.


In the days wherein the LORD Jesus Himself walked the streets of Galilee and Jerusalem, the Pharisees were exulting in the Law as though they could work out their salvation by their own efforts, and attempt a justification by the Law! Yet the purpose of the Law was to reveal our sinful hearts in light of the Holiness of God's Law!

This is why the LORD Jesus was so angry with these religious leaders! They were perverting the Word of God, the Law, and using both towards their own selfish ends of monetary gain, and the reception of reverence from others. Read MATT ch. 23 to read the rebukes of Love Incarnate towards these religious leaders!

The church has been born, grown, established now for about two thousands years, and in today's current world, the situation is the same!


The WORD of God has been altered, polluted by the heinous hewing away of scriptural truth by liberal scholars and their hammers and chisels of blasphemy.


New Age and Emergent church organizations and groups are likewise taking away or adding to the WORD of God in the creation of a pseudo-Christian religion!

Dialogues between so-called Christian leaders and all other world religions are seeking harmony, focusing on common ground and a mutual consensus whereby they can tackle and solve global problems such as poverty, hunger, global warming, etc. and claim that THIS is what the Gospel of Jesus Christ is all about?? These leaders of 'the church' are encouraging meditative practices that are not only unbiblical, but born of occult wisdom from the very same ancient cultures which God had judged in days gone by!

Instead of the LORD Jesus Christ being revered and worshipped, there's talk among such people about the 'Christ-consciousness' and the worship of false Christs as well as themselves!

Instead of the Body of Christ, there is the world church comprised of pseudo-Christians, Hindus, Muslims, Buddhists, animists, nature worshippers, etc.

Instead of the WORD of GOD there is a homogenized amalgam of globally spiritual beliefs and world views, that are primarily Hinduism at its core.

Instead of prayer there is mysticism; also contemplative prayer, a euphemism for mantra meditation, a totally Hindu concept.

Instead of transgression of GOD's Holy Law being called sin, its the failure of recognizing the divine within ourselves, and our lack of self esteem and adhering to old, out-dated belief systems (like the Bible) that's being called sin.

Instead of repentance from sin and towards God, the repentance of today is understanding the failure to recognize our full potential, and in dwelling too much about 'pie in the sky in the by in bye' heavenly mindedness that we become no earthly good, and lack commitment towards a global P.E.A.C.E. plan!

Instead of the preaching of the Gospel for salvation and being born again in Christ, there are mystical meetings where people gather in order to become 'enlightened' to the truth that God is in all, and thus we are part of God and really... we ARE God!

If this isn't enough to cause me to become angry (and it most certainly IS!), there is the added effrontery that comes from pastors and Christian leaders who not only keep silent in their protests against these things, but who actually voice their approval and praise! They're commending the very things that they should be condemning!

WHY AREN'T THE PULPITS HERE IN AMERICA THUNDERING WITH THE CONVICTION OF OUR HOLY GOD IN LAYING CHARGES AGAINST THESE PAGANIZED PROSTITUTIONS AND APOSTATE LEADERS?!!

WHY are they not teaching about and exposing the LIES and HERESIES of these movements?!!

WHY are they focused on building their own fiefdoms and kingdoms within the four walls of their own high-tech, seeker friendly, popular and prosperous sanctuaries?!

WHY are they carrying on in such a happy-go-lucky, "isn't our church wonderful?" Laodicean mood when these heretical dogmas, doctrines of demons, seducing spirits, and apostate leaders are creeping in and infesting the body of Christ with this plague of paganism?!

WHO WILL STOP THIS PLAGUE? WHO WILL STAND FOR RIGHTEOUSNESS with the HEART OF A PHINEHAS? WHO WILL STAND FAST IN THE FAITH ONCE DELIVERED TO US?

Heed the words of Jesus Himself:

LUKE 18:8b
...Nevertheless when the Son of man cometh, shall he find faith on the earth?


And for these pastors and Christian leaders, does this aptly fit as a rebuke to any of them? Hear the LORD's lament and scathing declaration through Isaiah the prophet:

ISAIAH 56:10
His watchmen are blind: they are all ignorant, they are all dumb dogs, they cannot bark; sleeping, lying down, loving to slumber. Yea, they are greedy dogs which can never have enough, and they are shepherds that cannot understand: they all look to their own way, every one for his gain, from his quarter.

Note, these watchmen are blind... not seeing, perceiving, understanding the very dangers they should be warning our congregations about! They love spiritual slumber, ease, comfort and don't want to be bothered about controversy in the world that is narrowing its aim upon the church. They are bent on their own gain, greedy but never having enough, selfishly motivated and careless regarding the sheep.

See also EZEK 34:1-10

Who among God's faithful churches will stand in this terribly sad day of apostasy, and will remain true to the LORD, even if it means losing their tax exempt status, even if it means government fines, even if it means losing their church building because they refuse to comply with a government sanctioned DEPARTMENT of PEACE edict (potentially what's in store in our future -- an article at The TRUTH Under FIRE)

...even if it means a prison sentence, even if it means losing one's own life here in America the once-free nation, upon which God had shed His grace.

May the LORD raise up such an army of dedicated saints who will wage no war against flesh and blood, but only against principalities and powers of wickedness that are gaining a greater strangle hold on this world as well as the church at large.

UPDATE- 10/26/10: In addition to this admonition, I have also included this fiery, holy message by Leonard Ravenhill: ZEAL, LOVE ABLAZE.

Prayerfully yours,
brother James FIRE

Monday, February 15, 2010

Have You Slain Your Giant Today?

Giants, dragons, griffins, satyrs, gods and demi-gods . . . the very stuff of myths and folklore, and not to be taken seriously; or are they? 

Well probably not the griffins and satyrs (...maybe) but what about dragons? Or giants?
Is there any substantiation that these could have been real?
Those of us who know our Bibles (and take the Word of God seriously) know that it speaks of giants, AND dragons, but is there any corroboration in history, any documented evidence?

There certainly seems to be for dragons in the way of 'dinosaurs', a term actually created in the mid 19th century, in 1842 by Sir Richard Owen and derives from Greek δεινός (deinos) "terrible, powerful, wondrous" + σαῦρος (sauros) "lizard".

Prior to that point, people simply called them dragons.


Controversy over a Japanese fishing boat catching a dead creature of unknown origin is suspected of being a recently living plesiasaur, a four flippered sea-going dinosaur with a long neck, and razor sharp teeth.


See an article on this at the link provided here:

In scripture there are two primary passages that speak of such creatures:


JOB 40:15-24; and JOB 41:1-34 (note particularly vs. 18-19. Apparently this beast was fire-breathing!)So what about giants? Is there any factual information that would support the idea of huge man-like beings of monstrous proportions as described in the Bible? You might just be surprised . . .


Of course Genesis ch. 6 speaks of giants, or in the Hebrew, the "Nephilim" meaning, "the fallen ones" who were "mighty men of renown", that is to say, men of incredible prowess and gifted warriors.

After the Flood of Noah, these giants re-emerged, particularly in such passages as NUMBERS 13 during the time when Israel was delivered from bondage in Egypt and found their way (eventually) into Canaan land. To their dismay, they found giants in the land and in whose presence them felt like "grasshoppers in their sight". One such giant was King Og whose bed was nearly fifteen feet in length! See DEUT. 3:11

Later, in 1 SAM 17:1-54 David the son of Jesse, is sent by his father to deliver provender for his other sons who were encountering the Philistines in a time of war, and when he came upon the battle scene, he witnessed a warrior of huge proportions who mocked the men of Israel and the God they served with blasphemous words.


David challenged the giant named Goliath, who stood at 9 feet high or higher, but he didn't stop there! If you read the passage, David gathered five stones for his sling, and one must wonder whether or not the lad was a poor shot, and wanted extra ammunition just in case his first sling went astray.
Such was not the case however; if you do the reading, you will discover that Goliath had some brothers! This boy who would be king was ready to take on all of the sons of Anak!

These stories of giants however to you and I may seem academic at best, for there are no such things as giants in today's world -- not according to the mythic proportions of days gone by at any rate (unless you believe those video clips that've been posted in this article).

Its interesting to note that there is a subtle hint in scripture about our future, and such so-called giants that might just be seen once again before the end of the world.

Note in DAN 2:43 it states:
And whereas thou sawest iron mixed with miry clay, they shall mingle themselves with the seed of men: but they shall not cleave one to another, even as iron is not mixed with clay.

Can you identify the "they" in that passage? They can't be human, for its with the human race "they" are mingling with! The word "mingle" can mean "intertwine" and that makes me think about the double helix of the genetic code. Could this be in fact a repeat of GENESIS 6, and the deeds of diabolical angels thereafter?


Bizarre notion I know, but then if one reads the book of Revelation and what's to transpire on this Earth at that time, this idea doesn't seem so bizarre after all.
What is this all about? Where am I going with all of this? you might ask.

This article actually deals with some relevant issues, struggles and challenges we as Christians are facing today. These are about giants of a different sort; events, problems, occurrences of calamity that loom over us, as tall as mountains and cause us to tremble and fear.

Bankruptcy, foreclosures, the loss of a job; a doctor's visit in which cancer is brought up, or some other dire medical situation that involves your child of four years of age, an impending divorce; perhaps your giant is manic depression, or anxiety attacks, or a worrying nature, or maybe its a nightmarish drug (or other)addiction, etc.
Giants of these sort come in all shapes and sizes, but they are all bigger than what we can handle; though we may try, in the power of our own might, determination, and intelligence, too often we fail.

Let's get back to the situation David found himself in when he arrived on the battle field:

There he was, bag in hand full of cheese sent by his father, and he hears the jibes and ridicule of this terrifying giant - -

1 SAM 17:10-11
And the Philistine said, I defy the armies of Israel this day; give me a man, that we may fight together. When Saul and all Israel heard those words of the Philistine, they were dismayed, and greatly afraid.


King Saul was head and shoulders above all the men of Israel, and he was himself a gifted warrior. Why didn't he challenge this giant? Or any of his mighty men of valor? They were keenly observant of this giant's size, his armor, and the greatness of his weapons.

Yet when David saw the giant and heard his words, he grew hot with offense, for this "uncircumcised Philistine" was not merely mocking the armies of Israel, but defaming the God represented by such!
He saw past the insults and mockery and became offended on God's behalf!
More than this, he realized that if God was with him, what could a giant do to him? Even one as ferocious as Goliath!

1 SAM 17:23-24, 26
And as he talked with them, behold, there came up the champion, the Philistine of Gath, Goliath by name, out of the armies of the Philistines, and spake according to the same words: and David heard them. And all the men of Israel, when they saw the man, fled from him, and were sore afraid.
And David spake to the men that stood by him, saying, What shall be done to the man that killeth this Philistine, and taketh away the reproach from Israel? for who [is] this uncircumcised Philistine, that he should defy the armies of the living God?

David approaches King Saul and declares that he will go fight the giant, and one could almost see the smirk on the King's face as he told David, "you're just a kid, David, and this is a warrior who has been trained since he was a kid himself!" Yet after David rehearses the various events wherein he himself slew a bear, and a lion that was preying on his sheep, Saul attempts to place his armor on David, but the lad wasn't prepared to do battle with such weaponry (for as Saul pointed out, David was no warrior - - yet!).

Such weapons of the world would be unnecessary, as David had a weapon far, far greater than anything that could have been provided for him out of the arsenals of Saul's army!
Look at this encounter between the warrior and the lad:

1 SAM 17:42-45
And when the Philistine looked about, and saw David, he disdained him: for he was but a youth, and ruddy, and of a fair countenance. And the Philistine said unto David, Am I a dog, that thou comest to me with staves? And the Philistine cursed David by his gods.
And the Philistine said to David, Come to me, and I will give thy flesh unto the fowls of the air, and to the beasts of the field.
Then said David to the Philistine, Thou comest to me with a sword, and with a spear, and with a shield: but I come to thee in the name of the LORD of hosts, the God of the armies of Israel, whom thou hast defied.

OK let's stop right there. . .

Goliath ends up cursing David by his gods, and furthermore refers to him as a "stick" (. . . of a boy no doubt).
What's David's response? Does he spell out the doom of the giant by bragging how good he is with a sling shot, and all its going to take is a single stone to take him down?

No! David says no such thing! He proclaims that Goliath comes to him with sword, spear and shield - - powerful weapons of course, but in defiance of such worldly weapons, David trumps the giant by saying:

"I come to thee in the name of the LORD of hosts, the God of the armies of Israel, whom thou hast defied."

The name of the LORD is a strong tower scripture says.

Names are important in the Bible for they reveal things about the persons so named: their character, their abilities, their nature. The LORD is a God of justice who will not tolerate the blasphemy of His Name, nor will He relinquish His children who walk in righteousness to be trampled down and oppressed by the enemy. He is a faithful Shepherd who will protect His flock, provide for them, and see to it that they will conquer in His Name, IF ONLY THEY WILL PLACE THEIR TRUST IN HIM, REGARDLESS of circumstances and situations!


Both armies probably looked on this scene and thought, "That poor boy, he doesn't know what he's gotten himself into!" But David approached this challenge full of faith in His God, and jealous for His Name, not tolerating it to be blasphemed and ridiculed, and saw things from a different perspective:

He looked at this giant as before the Living God of all creation, and thought, "That poor giant, he doesn't know what he's gotten himself into!"

Hear his words:

1 SAM 17:46-48
This day will the LORD deliver thee into mine hand; and I will smite thee, and take thine head from thee; and I will give the carcases of the host of the Philistines this day unto the fowls of the air, and to the wild beasts of the earth; that all the earth may know that there is a God in Israel.
And all this assembly shall know that the LORD saveth not with sword and spear: for the battle is the LORD'S, and he will give you into our hands.
And it came to pass, when the Philistine arose, and came and drew nigh to meet David, that David hasted, and ran toward the army to meet the Philistine.

David proclaimed that not only was Goliath doomed, but the entire Philistine army! He knew that this battle wasn't really his, but the LORD's! He counted on God, that He would deliver him from peril, and also grant him victory - - he trusted in God.

He witnessed the giant arising and going into the offensive, but David didn't merely stand his ground, he hasted to meet him and ran towards the army to confront this giant!
In our challenges in life, do we do that? I don't know about you, but I try to worm my way out of difficulties, and avoid trouble any way I can. When confronted with problems and predicaments, I ponder at length and try to come up with a viable solution.

Our first and foremost resort should be to take such things before the LORD, and acknowledge that ANY TRIAL, ANY CRISIS has been allowed by Him for a REASON!

What would that reason be? The LORD in His infinite wisdom and understanding knows precisely why we face what we face in this life; its there for the purpose of His own glorification in our lives, just as God was glorified that day on the field of battle, when David let loose that sling, and that stone sailed through the air and sunk into Goliath's skull, right between the eyes!

One gets the impression that had David misfired, and the stone went whizzing off in the opposite direction, the Spirit of the LORD would have re-directed that missile, doing a 180 and slam into the giant's head any way!
David then turned the very weapon that would have spelled his doom, and its own bearer, having slain Goliath with his own sword!

Isn't it just like God to use the power of the enemy against him, and establishing the victory for His children who only have to show up for the battle, "stand still and see the salvation of the LORD"! Just as Moses admonished the children of Israel when they were backed up against the Red Sea with no route of escape, and the armies of Pharaoh charging in on racing chariots, bristling with weapons, with a blood lust on the Egyptian soldiers!
Presumably, none of those soldiers were very good swimmers!

There's an expression I've heard a few times in the past couple of weeks:
"If God brings you to it, He will bring you through it!" The Bible says it another way:


PSALM 107:6-28 Is a passage that has this expression four times!
Then they cry unto the LORD in their trouble, and he bringeth them out of their distresses.

Again this is stated in:

PSALM 143:11
Quicken me, O LORD, for thy name's sake: for thy righteousness' sake bring my soul out of trouble.

Trials and crisis are a way in which the LORD poses a question of us, His children:


"Do you trust Me?" He, the GOD of TRUTH, and HOLINESS is by far, beyond any comparison, unequalled by any and all, the most TRUSTWORTHY Person there is!

In our lives, He will prove this to us, to you, and to me! Such methods used by our King is to bring along some giants that would cause us to break out in a cold sweat and steal our breath away.
In such times as these, remember what we read and pondered in this article and say with David to your own personal giant:

"I come to thee in the name of the LORD of hosts, the God of the armies of Israel . . . (and of the church of the LORD Jesus Christ no less!)"

The purpose of giants is to slay them! So, have you slain your giant today?
May the LORD bless you in the Power of HIS MIGHT this day!

agape,
brother James FIRE

Saturday, February 6, 2010

Messages From Martyrs


Once again I would like to bring up the issue of Christian persecution as its growing at alarming rates all over the world.


How many Christians would you guess have died as martyrs this last year? Believers in Jesus who died for their faith?

5,000? 10,000?

How many Christians are being persecuted right now for their faith?

2 million? 20 million?


The actual answers may just astound you. I have three reports from two different sources: The Berean Call and Gospel For Asia:

First stop: Communist China -

CHINA CHRISTIANS SENT TO LABOR CAMPS [Excerpts]

Police in northern China have sentenced five Christian church leaders to two years of "education through labour" after they protested against a police raid on their church, a rights group said Wednesday.

The punishments came after a Shanxi province court last week sentenced five other leaders of the same church to up to seven years in prison for trying to protect the unregistered church from demolition, said ChinaAid, a US-based Christian rights group.

"To arbitrarily send five innocent citizens to labour camps is in direct violation of international human rights covenants," the head of ChinaAid, Bob Fu, said in a statement.

The statement said the case, in the city of Linfen, showed Chinese authorities were intent on suppressing religious freedom.

Up to 1,000 followers of the unregistered 60,000-member Fushan church in Linfen held a protest prayer meeting a day after police raided church buildings on September 13, the rights group said.

Following the protest, police began rounding up church leaders, it said.
"Education through labour" is a punishment meted out by police that does not require judicial procedures such as a trial. The punishment has long been criticised as arbitrary and susceptible to abuse.

The government says China's official churches have 15 million Protestants and five million Catholics. But there are believed to be many millions more worshipping in "underground" or "family" churches, which refuse to submit to government regulation.

http://www.mysinchew.com/node/32304

Second stop: somewhere in India -

New Believers Attacked by Family
February 4, 2010

When Soumil Dutta, Shreyas Das and Saaz Das decided to surrender their lives to Christ, their families turned on them.

Their attackers beat them in an attempt to intimidate them in to denying Christ, but the three young men remained steadfast.

After the beating and threats did not work at home, the relatives tracked down Gospel for Asia–supported pastor Dadra Thackeray. Since it was through his church that these new Christians heard about Jesus, they threatened Dadra with extortion, saying they would make him pay 100,000 rupees ($2,164 US) for each person who became a believer through his church.

Our GFA field correspondent noted that the Lord is using Pastor Dadra in a great way to reach many souls for the Kingdom in the village where these three believers live. Pastor Dadra needs prayer for protection for him and his family, and that he will have grace and wisdom to handle the situation wisely.

He also asks for prayer for the new believers who are being treated badly by their family, that the Lord will also protect them and strengthen their hearts so their faith will remain strong.

The family members and the others tormenting them, who are still furious about the choice these young men have made, need prayer as well, that they will come to know the love of the Lord and realize the truth about Jesus.

http://www.gfa.org/news/articles/new-believers-attacked-family/?cm_mmc=GFA-_-Email-_-377991-_-100204-prayer-new-believers-beaten

Pastor Dadra is serving in Assam, India. Learn more about the state he's working in.

Third stop: The Middle East, Israel and Egypt -

BEATEN BUT UNBOWED [Excerpts]

A recent visitor to Jerusalem, Majed El Shafie, bore witness to [anti-Semitism and the persecution of Christians] at a reception and press conference held at the Van Leer Institute on December 14.

Shafie and his colleagues formally introduced his Toronto-based international human rights organization, "One Free World International."

Shafie knows a great deal about Christian persecution: He converted from Islam to Christianity in his Egyptian homeland when he was 18.
"During my years in law school in Alexandria," Shafie explains, "the persecution of Christians was going on all around me and it made me wonder why it was happening. For the first time in my life I started to think about it. I started asking questions of my best friend Tamer, who was a Christian, and I started reading the Bible. I started making comparisons between the Bible and the Koran....Of course, converting from Islam to Christianity -- or to any other faith -- is dangerous business in Muslim lands.

Under Shari'a law such conversions are understood to be a capital offense - enforced by the death penalty in some states, and bringing about various abuses and vigilante tactics in others. Nonetheless, Shafie was outspoken about his new faith."

After I converted I wrote a book about the difference between Islam and Christianity which soon caused me to be arrested and imprisoned. There were three charges. The first charge was that I was trying to make a revolution against the Egyptian government. The second charge was that, because I was seeking equal rights for Christians, I was accused of trying to change the state religion to Christianity. The third charge was that I worshiped Jesus.

So in fact I looked at the judge and I said, 'Guilty as charged.'"

Shafie was imprisoned and tortured. Even today scars on his back testify to the violence he endured. After a lengthy hospitalization, he was placed under house arrest in Alexandria, and it was from there that he escaped and made his way to Israel.

Finally in 2002 Majed got approval to enter Canada....Shafie's December 2009 trip to Israel was, in part, a gesture of thanks to a country that gave him a new beginning. He also took the opportunity to affirm his personal support of Israel as a free nation and to take a stand, in solidarity with Israel, against anti-Semitism.

Shafie appeared at his press conference with two Canadian members of Parliament, Scott Reid and Mario Silva, both of whom are actively engaged with issues related to human rights and anti-Semitism. Dr. Frank Dimant, executive vice president of B'nai B'rith Canada, and Timothy King, a One Free World board member, also shared the podium with them.

The speakers agreed that "anti-Zionism is the new anti-Semitism."Shafie went on to say that the report on the IDF's Cast Lead operation in Gaza by the head of the UN fact-finding mission, Justice Richard Goldstone, serves as a disturbing example of anti-Zionist rhetoric.

Shafie underscored specific facts about Hamas's tactics and the IDF's response that were not mentioned in the Goldstone report:

"We needed to know from his report that Hamas was using civilians as human shields. We needed to know from his report that for I don't know how many years Hamas has been shooting thousands of rockets into Israel.

We need to know from his report that before the Israelis bombed any target in Gaza, they sent thousands of fliers into the area and told the people to get out - 'We're going to bomb here in two hours.' Goldstone's report is a disgrace!"

After speaking about anti-Semitism and anti-Zionism, Shafie then began to discuss the plight of persecuted Christians. One Free World reports that in 2008, 165,000 Christians were killed worldwide because of their faith, claiming, "Every three minutes a Christian is being tortured in the Muslim world... between 200 million and 300 million Christians are persecuted in the world, of which 80 percent are in Muslim countries and the rest in communist and other countries."
(Gilbert, "Beaten But Unbowed,"
The Jerusalem Post, January 1 - 7, 2010, p.18-19).

Lastly, from the ministry of Voice of The Martyrs, I'd like you to meet a prisoner in Pakistan, who was sent there because she believes just as you and I do: in the LORD Jesus Christ, her LORD and SAVIOR.

Her name? Asia Bibi - here is her story:

Asia Bibi, a 37-year-old Pakistani woman from the village of Ittanwali, was arrested by police on Friday, June 19, and faces possible blasphemy charges. Asia is the wife of 50-year-old Ashiq Masih, and their family is one of only three Christian families in a village of more than 1,500 families.

Many of the local women work on the farm of Muslim landowner Muhammad Idrees, including Asia. During their work many of the Muslim women have pressured Asia to renounce Christianity and accept Islam. In June, the pressure became especially strong.

On Friday, June 19, there was an intense discussion among the women about their faith, with the Muslim women telling Asia about Islam. Asia responded by telling them about her faith in Christ. Asia told the Muslim women Christ had died on the cross for our sins, then asked them what Mohammed had done for them, according to VOM sources. She told them Jesus is alive, but Mohammed is dead. “Our Christ is the true prophet of God,” she reportedly told them, “and yours is not true.”

Upon hearing this response the Muslim women became angry and began to beat Asia Bibi. Then some men came and took her and locked her in a room. They announced from mosque loudspeakers that she would be punished by having her face blackened and being paraded through the village on a donkey. Local Christians informed the police, who took Asia into custody before the Muslims could carry out their plan. She is currently being held at the police station in Nankana city.

Christians there urged the police not to file blasphemy charges, but police claimed that they must go forward due to pressure from local Muslim leaders.

The Voice of the Martyrs urges Christians around the world to pray for Asia Bibi and her family. Further, we call on the Pakistani government to insure that the rights of Christians like Asia are protected.

There are others we can pray for as well: many others - to read and pray for these brave saints, please follow this link -

http://www.prisoneralert.com/ (on this page, please scroll down until you see "Prisoner Archives on the left side of the page, right under the story of Asia Bibi)

To view the VOM web site, please follow this link -

http://www.persecution.com/

May the LORD Jesus bless and keep us, and grant us a heart of unparalleled compassion for the persecuted saints in this world.

agape, grace & peace,

brother James