Posts Tagged ‘Russia’

True obedience or just looking good? 

“What is more pleasing to the Lord: your burnt offerings and sacrifices or your obedience to his voice? Listen! Obedience is better than sacrifice, and submission is better than offering the fat of rams.” (1 Samuel 15:22)

In our human attempts to look good in serving God, there is the temptation to perform certain religious duties rather than to truly obey God. Even good activities, such as giving money to charity, attending church services, or praying in public, are not as important to God as obeying His commands. Disobedience is an act of rebellion, disrespects God’s Word, and is based on looking good to other people rather than to God.

Jesus criticized the teachers of his time for similar practices. Matthew 6 notes three religious activities—fasting, public prayer, and giving to those in need. People often use these things to look good in front of other people rather than to honor God. The problem is not our religious activities or good works, but the disobedience of God’s commands and the desire for approval of people rather than the approval of God.

Charles Spurgen once wrote: “The first thing which God requires of his child is obedience; and though you should give your body to be burned, and all your goods to feed the poor, yet if you do not hearken to the Lord’s precepts, all your formalities shall profit you nothing. It is a blessed thing to be teachable as a little child, but it is a much more blessed thing when one has been taught the lesson, to carry it out to the letter. How many adorn their temples and decorate their priests, but refuse to obey the word of the Lord! My soul, come not thou into their secret.”

Many are up in arms after President Trump told Bill O’Riley in comparing the U.S. to Russia, that “America has killers.” Sometimes the truth upsets people. Especially when it’s an ugly truth.

Targeted killing is a modern euphemism used for the assassination (premeditated killing) of an individual by a state organization or institution outside a judicial procedure or a battlefield. According to a senior CIA official, from July 2008 to June 1, 2011, the CIA launched 220 strikes inside Pakistan. The agency said that some 1,400 suspected militants were killed, along with about thirty civilians. The United States government also carried out the “targeted killing” of Anwar al-Awlaki—A United States citizen who was killed without due process. And two weeks later also killed his 16 year old son without any proof that he was even involved in any terrorist activities. Mayor Marion Barry infamously stated, “Washington should not be called the murder capital of the world. We are the targeted killing capital of the world.”

In a speech before the CIA celebrating its 50th anniversary, President Clinton said: “By necessity, the American people will never know the full story of your courage.” This, of course, is the heart of the problem in the first place. An agency that is above criticism is also above moral behavior and reform. Its secrecy and lack of accountability allows its corruption to grow unchecked. http://www.pbs.org/wgbh/frontline/article/inside-the-cias-kill-list/

In an interview on ‘Face The Nation’ John Dickerson asked Vice-President Mike Pence, “Do you think America is morally superior to Russia?” Although Pence skirted around the question, the answer should have been an unequivocal NO.

So, do I think America is morally superior to Russia? 

Absolutely not! Not when U.N. workers and military personnel are allowed to rape women and children without any repercussions; or when 1 in 5 children are molested and raped in their own homes and the perpetrators are allowed to walk free; or when people are more concerned about a women’s right to abortion than they are about the homeless; when our children are taught how to protect themselves from unwanted pregnancies and STD’s instead of moral purity; and when Bible believing Christians are reduced to name calling and using vulgar language simply because they disagree with someone, then no, we are not morally superior to Russia—or any other country that places human wisdom above God.

When it comes to morals, we have the same age old problem that the rest of the world has: All of us have sinned and are deprived of the glory of God. (Romans 3:23) And when a nation collectively rejects God and His wisdom, “Their hands are on what is evil, to do it well; the prince and the judge ask for a bribe, and the great man utters the evil desire of his soul; thus they weave it together.” (Micah 7:1)

Every civilization that rejected God’s laws and instead depended on their own wisdom, fell into moral decay and then finally deteriorated into near destruction. So must we remain under God’s wrath? Are we all doomed for destruction? No! There is another way laid open for us. This is the righteousness of God—That while we were still sinners, Christ died for us. (Romans 5:8) It is by that faith by which we are delivered and spared destruction. A faith that respects Christ as a Savior, in all his three anointed offices as Prophet, Priest, and King; trusting in him, accepting him, and cleaving to him.

In this way Russians, Americans, Israelis, Palestinians, Mexicans—are all welcome to be partakers of God’s grace through Christ. There is no difference, his righteousness is upon all that believe. It is a free grace; there is nothing in ourselves or our own works that deserve such favor; it comes freely to us. But Christ bought and paid the price for that grace with his own blood.

So let us not trample the blood of Christ beneath our feet by giving in to the temptation to lash out; to pay evil for evil. But instead, let us be a light that will lead the world to our only hope: To repent of our wickedness and return to God’s ways. Remember: “When the righteous increase, the people rejoice, but when the wicked rule, the people groan.” (Proverbs 29:2 )

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So many believers here in the United States have become so apathetic towards spiritual matters that it is sometime hard to differentiate between believers and non-believers. And to make matters worse, many Christians are aggressively divided  on matters of doctrines that have nothing to do with salvation. This should not be!

Below is a follow-up email from my friend in Russia. His words should serve as an example for all of us in the states to use every opportunity God gives us to share the Gospel.

I think of you all every day and pray that God will give each of you boldness to share the love of Jesus with others. Jesus commanded us in Matthew 28:18-19, “Go into the world and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them into the name of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.” This is the very last thing Jesus said to his followers. It is the great commission. It is not the great suggestion. We must pray that God will use us to reach our neighbors. We live in a world of REAL spiritual darkness. I relay the following story to not only show you this darkness, but to encourage you in knowing that God is in control of everything and will lead us in and out of every situation. I did not previously share the experiences of this particular day, primarily because I did not want my parents and family to worry. Now, however, as I as I am preparing to again return to the states it is time to let you know more of the spiritually struggle that is going on here in Russia.

Not every witnessing encounter has an outcome that you would hope. We make our best plans and pray that God will use our efforts and the power of scriptures by His Holy Spirit to win souls to Jesus. Sometimes, despite our best preparations for these trips, God takes things in entirely different and unexpected directions. We were in Kazan, Tatarstan, Russia on our second witnessing trip in two weeks. The first trip was fruitful and we saw four people come to the Lord in one day. So we naturally wanted to return. This trip, however, was not only different; it unfolded as a nightmare that had some of us concerned about serious jail time and deportation.

When we arrived, we were met by our friend, Bill Parson, who would spend half the day with us before heading in to work. We began walking the busy pedestrian area south of the Riviera Hotel complex. This area was being renovated, but despite the construction was quite busy. We had shared the gospel with about eight people when we encountered Roman. He was a man who seemed pleasant enough, but after speaking with him for about ten minutes, he suddenly changed. His expression became so filled with hatred and rage that we decided to wish him a good day and to leave him alone. Roman, however, followed us for an hour at a distance, shouting curses and insults in the Tatar language. We decided to call it a day and try again the next day.

As we began to walk to our hotel, Roman attacked Alex, screaming and violently wrestling him to the ground. At first we didn’t understand what Roman was screaming and to be honest, we were a little stunned and confused concerning what to what to do. After a split second, we all joined in to pull Roman off Alex. It took all four of us to get him under control. Alex told us that Roman had been screaming the words “You can’t have him” in the Chuvash language. As quickly as he had become violent, Roman’s anger subsided. He was calm, but upset that four men were sitting on him on the sidewalk.

At that time, two policemen who had heard the commotion arrived and separated everyone. It was then that Roman claimed very calmly that we had attacked him!! As we all sat in the back of police cars, we wondered what we would do. Charges against us would certainly result in deportation for Bill and me and some sort of jail time for Saha and Alex. We were praying with every fiber of our hearts, minds, souls, and spirits. No witnesses would come forward to refute Roman’s claim. No one wanted to get involved.

We were all taken several blocks to the local precinct where Roman repeated his claim that we had attacked him. The police questioned each of us and we all said the same thing; that we were simply trying to share the gospel of Christ with Roman when he suddenly seemed to “snap”, and violently attacked Alex. We were there for several hours, answering questions as to why we would be talking to people on the street in the first place. We explained, as best we could, why we share the love of Jesus with others. We each explained what the gospel message was, pointed to our Bibles and quoted to the officers the scriptures that urge us to be witnesses for Jesus. We again and again explained why we feel compelled to tell others about the good news of Jesus but to our dismay, these policemen were a cold group. Mostly expressionless and callous, they offered virtually no response. I heard one officer shouting angrily at Alex in the next room. I began to wonder if we would all go to jail.

At that time, we were all put together into one room. Roman was brought into the room, and we were again asked to confess to attacking Roman and to explain why. Alex again said that we only wanted to tell Roman how much God loved him. Instantly, Roman, screamed, jumped to his feet, and flying across the table, lunged toward Alex. Four startled policemen were struggling to restrain him when Alex shouted, “In the name of Jesus, be silent and come out of him!” Roman was suddenly silent and relaxed as if he was sleeping. The police then saw that we had been telling them the truth. They then knew that Roman had indeed first attacked Alex as we had claimed. There was, however, a palpable sense of fear and confusion coming from the officers. The commotion had drawn several other officers into the room, their guns drawn. It was very tense. I knew they were wondering how Alex had so swiftly silenced Roman. I finally, at that time, understood the spiritual battle that had been going on. Alex spoke what we all had come to understand. He told the officers that Roman was obviously oppressed by a demonic force. Alex wanted to pray for Roman. The officers would not allow it and carried him to a different room.

In the end, Roman was taken to a hospital for observation and we understand that he was released the following day. As we were escorted from the police station and released, one of the older officers told us in an almost fatherly way that he was Russian Orthodox and that he was basically sympathetic to us. He then, however, then gave us the sternest of warnings. He said that if we were the cause of any additional commotions in Kazan, Bill and I would be on the first plane out of the country, and Alex and Sasha would be in jail.

This day did not seem to have a happy ending. We were free to go, but we wondered about the day’s events. In the end, we gave praises to God that we were safe. Despite all the problems; we had shared the gospel with six officers who were required to take our statements. I do not know what happened after we left, but we know and trust that God is in control.

It is important to share what Christ did with others. It should be the most important thing in every believer’s life. We are called to share because we love others as Christ loved us and died for us in order to pay for our sins. If we don’t love others in this way, then we are simply noisy gongs and clanging cymbals and of no use to our heavenly Father. Ask God how He can use you in your “world”. You may be the only Christian some of your friends, family, and co-workers will ever meet. God commands that we set our light on a hill and let it shine. We are never to hide it under a bushel basket. For there, what good does it do? Many of you know that I was a musician playing Christian music and concerts for many years all the while participating on the worship team at Trinity as well. Recently God showed me how all this was of much less value compared to the value of sharing the gospel one on one with even one of my neighbors. Every week, ask God who you can befriend in order to bring them the gospel message. Strike up conversations with people, always having an eye to the possibility of sharing the gospel. Ask God to use you in new ways. I guarantee that if you do this, God will use you in ways that you could have never imagined! God needs only a willing and submissive heart that is prepared to be obedient and to serve.

I look forward to seeing you all back in the Midwest. I plan to speak at several regional churches, telling them what our Lord is doing in Russia and through the believers here. May God keep you all from harm and danger, but above all from sin.

Blessings to you all,

Sharing the Gospel with Roman